Crusader Mk.I
Italeri Kit No. 6432
1/35th Scale
First Look Review by Peter Brown

Third in Italeri's Crusader tank series, this represents a very early Crusader Mk I or, as they were officially known between June 1940 and July 1941 and in fact for some time after, "Cruiser Tank Mk VI". It has many similarities but a few crucial differences from the earlier kits. Italeri produced kit no 6385 in 2001 and listed it as "Crusader II" on the box and "Crusader I/II" on the instruction sheet which is confusing as it is in fact a Mk I though to a slightly later standard than their new version. This newest release is a variation on that and a further derivation of their original Crusader III kit no 219 first released back in 1976.

Sprue A and the tracks are common to all three Crusader kits, while sprue B is the same as kit 6385 and still has one turret part left over from the original Mk III kit. Sprue C is based on the one in kit 6385 and has been changed and expanded, in the "Crusader II" kit there was a big area of empty space which has been filled with new parts. While the bulbous mantlet cover is deleted we now have the open-style mantlet fitted to early tanks, early headlight arrangement of central lamp in a large box and smaller sidelights, felt-element air cleaners, flat wheel covers for the roadwheels - though only for the outer wheels, more will be need for the "inners" - and finally the half-length sandshields of the style first used on A13-series tanks and fitted to the first Crusaders used in the Western Desert. There are several parts marked as not to be used, which in one case is fortunate as will be explained later.

The new parts are neatly done, the early mantlet and air cleaners, wheel covers and sandshields saves the effort of building them, though some will have already done this for themselves. One problem common to all the Italeri Crusaders is the raised section or "step" on the front mudguards which was not on the original tanks though it did appear on the Aberdeen Proving Ground's Crusader III before its recent rebuild. This means parts 16C and 17C and also 103C and 104C will need some attention. The instruction sheet also tells us to remove the mounting plate for the towing hook, the bolts which held them will need replacing in the same places.

Something which the mould makers have missed is the bulge on the left-hand side of the turret which early tanks had. Re-using older parts means there are some compromises though are not major and mostly it is just a case of leaving parts off. The first batch of Crusaders did not have stowage bins on the turret rear face and only carried one set of stowage bins on the mudguards, also the auxiliary fuel tank on the hull rear was not carried. Leaving off parts 74B, 75B and 76B cures the turret bin matter though the locating lines for it need to be carefully scraped off, though a few extra rivets and the round access cover then need to be added which means a little work and reference to photos. Here the Polish photo book comes into its own. Do not fit side bins parts 24C and 26C or the fuel tank and its rack 55A, 56B and 59C through 63C inclusive.

Tanks in North Africa usually carried a wide rack for two-gallon "flimsy" cans across the rear of the hull, angled back over the rear air louvres and this needs to be made and fitted. British tanks at this time carried the No 9 radio set, one aerial rod needs to be fitted on top of the mounting part 78C as well as leaving off the rod on the other side part 98B and the other unused rod next to it on the sprue which appears from nowhere on the kit instructions between stages 11 and 12. Adding the wide exhaust outlet above the lower air louvre will also fix something missing from all the Italeri Crusader kits.

Two small handles parts 39C are supplied to fit onto the glacis, these do not appear on any photos so leave these off and also fill in the locating slots for the later headlamp style guards on the front edge of the hull. The nice detail on the headlamp lens for part 44C is wasted as photos show a plain cover over them, this will mean some tricky filling work. Main gun barrel is the same as in kit 6385 and is far too thick, it could be thinned down or replaced by an aftermarket part. The only interior detail provided is a very basic gun breech. One final small detail is a plug in the form of a flat pyramid shape fitted on the driver's cab in place of the pistol port part 37C, this appears on several of the first batch of tanks though some had a plain plate with bolts, as per the surviving tank at Puckapunyal.

ItaleriA small decal sheet is provided with markings to go with colour notes for four vehicles. Trawling through my books, I found several small changes need to be made to accurately reproduced the vehicles shown.

The box-top option depicts one of the first Crusaders to see action in North Africa, with 6th Battalion Royal Tank Regiment during Operation "Battleaxe". Photos show the first batch of tanks used were in a Caunter-style scheme, the arm of service number 52 is technically right for 6RTR at the time though I have not seen photos showing it used. These early tanks did not have wheel covers so leave off parts 21C. It would have the flimsy rack, and this batch of Crusaders had an unusual style of air intake cleaner which will need to be scratchbuilt. As I write this I have yet to be certain what it was, apart from the fact that it was a plain box fitted slightly more forward that the types depicted in the kit.

Second scheme depicted is for an "unknown unit" during Operation "Crusader", this looks as if it was based on photos of a knocked out tank. Those published one I have seen are taken from the back so no unit markings can be seen. Given units taking part it could have been from 2nd Royal Gloucestershire Hussars (though note that photos of their tanks show some at least had the later full-length sandshields) or either 3rd or 4th County of London Yeomanry. A photo of tank T.15548 was used by Italeri as publicity for the model, this tank was fitted with the later oil-bath air cleaners with the distinctive round intakes. Luckily, all the parts for these were left as unused on sprue A.

The "Test Trial" vehicle is the first production Crusader T.15546 which was tested in January 1941. It did not have sand shields so leave off parts 106C and 107C, fitting the unused parts on the corner of the C sprue plus parts 105C on the lower edge of the mudguards without shortening. Crusaders as built were painted in plain green G3, the tanks issued to 22nd Armoured Brigade from February 1941 were to this standard with open mantlet and early headlights, some had wheel covers and some did not.

Final option is a tank of 4th County of London Yeomanry, again based on photos of a tank captured by the Germans. This tank also had the early box-style air cleaners. The 63 on green arm of service marking would seem correct for them, no other markings are visible in the photo not even the white-red-white recognition stripes and turret serial is obscured by a German air-ground recognition flag which gives another option for a tank in German service.

As supplied, this kit depicts an early standard of Crusader as used in late 1941. Photos show Crusader I with early mantlet and central headlight but fitted with full-length sandshields as early as November 1941, while an early tank with half-length sandshields was photographed in July 1942. Many Crusader I in the Desert also had the later, bulbous mantlet cover as per kit 6385 and that kit is easier to convert to the later Mk I standard, unless you want to model a very early tank this latest release will have limited appeal. The inclusion of the oil-bath air cleaner parts mean that as with kit 6385 it could be used as the basis for the later anti-aircraft tanks using available conversion sets with the small machine-gun turret left off and a blanking hatch fitted or to convert to a Gun Tractor. Early features mean it could be used for parts to scratchbuild an early Covenanter or A13-series Cruiser.

The Sprues

Click for larger view, close new window to return to review
book Crusader and Covenanter Cruiser Tanks 1939–45
New Vanguard 14
Osprey Publishing
David Fletcher.
ISBN 1 85532 512 8

Classic AFV's No.1
An Airfix Book
By John Milsom, John Sanders and Gerald Scarborough.
Patrick Stephens Ltd.
ISBN 0 85059 194 5

First published in 1976 and may be hard to find these days.

Page Created 26 December 2003

Click Browsers BACK button to return to list
Home / Reviews / Vehicle Reviews / Italeri