Master Box’s WW1 tanks started with two kits that might be termed “early” Mark I Male and Female tanks, both coming with steering tails and roof bomb screens. Even before the first ever tank combat operation, it was known that steering was possible without the tail wheels, and in combat they were found to be so prone to damage that they were quickly dropped. The roof top screens were reported to have been effective, but possibly regarded as obstructive in the operation and maintenance of the tanks, and these seem also to have been shortly abandoned.
So the Mark I tanks deployed to Gaza in early 1917 had neither of these features, but some were fitted with horizontal beams, width ways across the roof, and extending over the tracks; I believe these were to facilitate detaching and attaching the heavy gun sponsons that were removed for rail transport. This is the “Special Modification” referred to in the title of the Master Box kit that is the subject of this review.
The side opening box top art is by Auletta, who seems to work for many model companies, while on the back is a big four view full colour painting guide, although it only lists two colours: tracks in gunmetal / black and everything else Khaki. A large format booklet of instructions includes a potted account of the Mark I and something about its deployment to Gaza, although it doesn’t go into the reasons for the modifications the kit represents. Although the instructions list four sprues, A and D were attached together as one, and the parts are as follows:
- Sprue A – Male sponson and guns
- Sprue C – tank hull components
- Sprue D – detail parts, common to the “Somme Battle” kits, and around 75% redundant for this kit
- Sprue E – rubbery tank tracks
- Sprue G – the rooftop beams, i.e. the “Special Modification for Gaza” parts
- Decal sheet for six different tanks.
Although the instructions suggest using the decals for Sir Archibald
, according to information I could find, Otazel
was also a Male, and so can be used here. It does look however as if the decal for Ole-Luk-Oie
has been misspelled as Oie-Luk-Oie
, but it could probably be corrected with paint (see photo 16); this odd name, incidentally, is a rendition of the Danish name for the Sandman in the Hans Christian Anderson fairytale.
As alluded to above, much of the main sprue D is unused in this kit, so all the steering tail components and the parts for the roof screen are spare, and as those are relatively complex assemblies, what we have here is a much simpler kit that might be built in just a couple of hours.
As with the Somme kit we start with the front plate attaching to the hull bottom. This is followed by an instruction to drill two 0.7mm holes into the roof in order to accept the locating pins of the circular hatch; this is very strange, and doesn’t appear in the Somme kit. I wondered for a few seconds if there was any moulded on guidance on where to drill the holes, decided there wasn’t and that it was pointless anyway, and instead cut the locating pins off the hatch and cemented it in place. Refer to the box painting guide for the correct position (photo 18).
It was then apparent that the construction sequence has been revised compared to the Somme kit; in Jan Etal’s build log
, it was noted that the hull roof and bottom cannot be easily aligned unless the driver’s cab is fitted at the same time, something that doesn’t happen until step 10; in this kit the cab is fitted to the roof first.
I like the fact that the sequence alternates between assemblies, allowing cement to set while you do something else, so next is the hydraulic tail mechanism (the only bit of the tail used) is attached to the rear plate, as well as the armour plate that protects the hydraulics, though it might be better to leave that off until some painting is done. This is then added to the hull bottom (photo 19). I’ve seen some discussion about the large vent on the left of this plate appearing to be upside down, but from a photo of the rear of Otazel
I’d say that it has the correct appearance.
I’d suggest creating the sides of the body first (photo 20) so that when the hull top and bottom are assembled (21), the sides can be put in place while the cemented joint is still loose (22); this should help ensure that the hull attains the correct shape. Once the other side is fixed on it seems like we’re already half way finished (23).
There’s a few small details that can be added as you see fit, the sequence of assembly not being too important. As others have noted however, the plastic seems quite brittle, and I broke one of the exhaust covers (24) as well as the one piece towing bracket and pintle that attaches to the nose (25). I think this component is so small that it is probably easier to scratch one out of styrene sheet than it is to attempt to clean up the mould lines while keeping the part in one piece! …and that is what I did.
Guns and sponsons are simple enough to construct and everything lines up well, but there’s a few issues here. The guns had a fairly heavy mould line, with the two mould halves not quite making an exactly round barrel, so a fair amount of sanding and reshaping is needed (26). I also feel that the guns are tapered a bit too thin at the ends, and the necessary sanding tends to accentuate that appearance. The guns are placed inside the rotating shields, providing a good up and down movement if so desired. I was perturbed to note the presence of a gap at the top and bottom of the vertical slot from which the guns emerge (27); this is a quite noticeable inaccuracy and is compounded by the lack of the vertical gun site slits that should be to the right of the guns on both sides. It seems odd that the sighting slits were omitted as they are quite noticeable and wouldn’t be hard to replicate; actually, there’s also a missing pistol port on the forward facing plate just behind the guns.
Photos 28 to 30 show how the sponsons are constructed, and some care needs to be taken with the fitting of the sponson roof, as the mating surfaces have both a 45˚ angle and a couple of sprue attachment points to be removed; add in all those tiny rivets that run along both edges of the join and it’s quite a test of basic plastic modelling skills.
Another test comes along in the shape of the “Gaza” roof beams; the long horizontals are very fine, with nice detail, including proper see through holes at the ends, but both of mine developed small cracks during removal from the sprue (31). With this in mind, I cleaned up the mould seams from the vertical supports while still on the sprues. Although there’s no location marks on the hull roof, the positioning of these bars is fairly obvious and there’s also the painting guide to help.
At this stage, all the details are on, bar the lamps and the tail guard. I noticed the tail guard probably has a few rivets or bolts missing, as shown in red on photo 34. The lamps I left off for now with the idea of relocating them higher up on the cab to make way for some applique armour spare track links (of which I happen to have a few) and a palm tree trunk (I don’t have one of those, yet) both of which can be seen in photos of some of the Gaza tanks.
In photos 35 and 36 we are looking at the “controversial” Master Box tracks in comparison to the Airfix tracks, and they are remarkably similar, and even almost the same size, although the Master Box items are longer, the tank being noticeably bigger. So, controversial because in my view they are only a very small improvement over the Airfix items, that improvement being that they are slightly thinner. In photo 37 can be seen some of the attachment points that distort the tracks in several places.
Two holes have been thoughtfully provided in the bottom of the track runs to contain the track joins and avoid any nasty bulges. I didn’t actually join the tracks, but ran them around the top and then applied PVA glue along the bottom of the run (38) pushed the tracks on to the glue and then applied weight until the glue set (39). For the remaining photos the sponsons were blue tacked into place; as real sponsons were removable, I thought it might make sense and be easier to paint them separately.
This is an easy kit to build, with a relatively few parts that are all well-fitting, the only real complications, as noted, being the brittleness of the plastic for some of the smaller parts, and the care needed in cleaning up the guns and sponsons.
In terms of accuracy and detail, it surprised me that after the long chewed over inaccuracies of the legendary Airfix offering, there were still some minor detail omissions to be seen on this kit, as noted above, especially considering Master Box acknowledge the Landships web site and particularly Helen Lawson for providing some of the materials used to develop this kit.
That’s not to say that most of the glaring Airfix errors have not been fixed – the rivet spacing is now girder-maker pitch rather than boiler-maker (as on Mother
), the sponson roof detail is all there, the roof and roof hatch is correct, the cab is the correct width, track adjusters rounded instead of square and there are headlamps.
Finally however, there’s the tracks, with the disappointing decision to opt for rubber bands instead of moulded styrene sections. There’s several problems with the bands: they sit too snugly to the track runs so that there isn't that characteristic appearance seen in all photos of the real thing, where the tracks stand away, especially around the end “horns”, with a noticeable gap; also at the horn ends, the curvature is sufficient, and the track plates big enough, so that the plates clearly look curved, rather than like flat plates with a spiky looking appearance as they stand away from each other on the curve; finally, the tracks are tight enough that a subtle but noticeable indentation appears at the ends, where the centre is pulled in towards the groove that they are sitting on.
As an afterword, I strongly recommend accessing the Landships II website (link below) if you are interested in finishing and detailing this kit, as there are some fantastic reference photos in some of the forum posts of the tanks on operations in Gaza.
David Fletcher British Mark I Tank
Trevor Pidgeon The Tanks at Flers, vol. 1
Landships II website.
Mark I "Female" British Tank, Somme Battle period, 1916