This 1:72 release from Dragon enables modellers and collectors of either British Armour or Shermans, to add an example of the late war, British Rocket Firing field modification, to their collection. Based on the Sherman V (M4A4), the “Tulip” modification was carried out by units of the Coldstream Guards just before the Rhine Crossing in 1945. The Sherman V was a version of the Sherman which was modified to use the Chrysler A57 30 cylinder Multibank gasoline engine due to shortages of the preferred Radial or Ford V8 engines. Considered too complicated by the US army, almost all of the 7,500 produced were shipped via Lend-lease for use by Britain and its commonwealth allies.
The ‘Tulip’ modification was a very late field modification commonly first attributed to No2 Squadron of the Coldstream Guards. It involved fitting 2x 60lb air-to-ground Typhoon rockets to cruciform rails attached to the turret. While popular myth has this modification in use during the Arnhem / Operation Market Garden battles, it was in fact only carried out shortly before the Rhine River Crossing in 1945. Operational reports seem to attribute the rockets to having a big (negative !) effect on the target's morale but as the rockets had fixed elevation and a relatively slow flight speed I suspect their usefulness was very limited.
The kit contains over 130 parts (plus a handful of unused ones) supplied on 5 sprues and moulded in standard Dragon grey styrene. The upper and lower hull castings are one piece and well detailed. 1x PE sheet includes pieces for the light guards, brackets and hatch handles as well as lower hull fittings. One decal sheet and one set of rubber band tracks moulded in cream coloured Dragon DS, “glueable” styrene. The instruction sheet is of the diagrammatic style in 8 steps and although containing a couple of small errors, is fairly straightforward and easy to follow.
Details and Features
The kit appears very well moulded (as expected from Dragon) with few visible sink or ejection marks and very little flash. The basic vehicle and components are as supplied on Dragons standard Sherman V kit and shares a common detail sprue with the other Sherman versions produced by Dragon. The commander’s, driver’s and bow gunner/ radio operator’s hatches can be fitted open and have excellent detail, including periscopes and PE handles and latches as part options. No interior detail is supplied which is fine if crews are to be fitted to the open hatches, otherwise scratch-building or aftermarket bits are required to provide some interior. Tracks are well detailed and appear to be the T62 Steel Chevron type commonly seen on British Shermans. The 3inch or 60lb Rockets are 6 part assemblies and are well detailed and proportioned. Fit to the turret is an issue as no locating marks or pins are supplied.
Suspension units appear to be mid-production types with welded road wheels and have nice detail including casting/foundry numbers. They are assembled in 4 pieces and do have some fit issues which I will cover below. Finally the supplied PE sheet includes some very fine pieces, but for those looking for a simpler build, plastic parts are supplied for all the PE options. I attempted to utilize all the PE in the build review, which is not something I normally bother with – again more details below.
Markings and finishes for three vehicles are supplied and not surprisingly they cover 3 Coldstream Guards machines from the 1945 period; 2A, 2B and 9B from the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, Germany 1945.
While still a new release, this kit has been available for a few months so I decided to complete an Out of Box - plain build, with no paint or markings, to show the kit as purchased. I decided to use as much of the supplied PE as possible although some pieces are very, very small and were at the limit of what I could fit with the tools at hand!
Steps 1, 2 and 3 cover the building of the lower hull. As usual the bogie assemblies are tackled first. They are made up of 4 parts including a mostly concealed, spring unit. While looking deceptively simple, I had problems mating the two halves of the assembly together. I consider myself an average modeler and while the finished assemblies look ok there is a slight misaligned gap that I couldn’t eliminate while building – and with 6 sets of wheels I did get some practice. I suspect that the centre pin is a large part of the fit issue but wasn’t willing to shorten it. Either way the joint can be sorted by filling and sanding before painting. All other parts here went together well and easily. Fitting the PE towing eye mounts requires removing the moulded on parts – I used a pencil to mark datum lines so that the PE replacements could be correctly aligned.
The instructions suggest the tracks are fitted last but I didn’t want the handling during the fitting process to cause any damage to the hull details, so first fitted the top hull and then the tracks. Fitting these parts out of order was my choice but I’d recommend it as it gives a good base for further handling during assembly.
The top hull was a clean and accurate fit (as expected) but I had some issues with the tracks. I like my tracks to fit down snugly around the idlers and so glue them down as I go. I glue the links around the front sprocket first to get the teeth correctly aligned, then the top, rear idler and the bottom run/join last. When dry fitting the tracks I reckoned they’d be a bit too long and would give the model the “Sherman Sag”, which I dub the characteristic loose look of most single-band Sherman tracks. When fitted this proved correct and I had to cut off two links to get them to fit down snugly as I wished. I’m not sure if this issue was a one off due to shrinkage on the tracks I had or if it’s a general problem with the range. I must confess that I haven’t seen this issue raised with other reviews of the Dragon Sherman series so assume it may have been specific to my set.
Steps 4 and 5 involve the assembly of the upper hull hatches and fittings. The only major challenge here was fitting the PE (must invest in an Etchmate tool ! ) which I achieved using just tweezers to bend where required and fastened using CA gel and then thin CA around the joint for extra strength. The PE folded easily and bonded well the CA glue, with no real issues except for the small size, I’ll admit to at least one “carpet search” for an errant piece. The only departure from the plans here was that some of the tools require drilling location holes. I was loath to risk this on the nice hull preferring to file the locating lugs off the tools.
Sections 6 and 7 comprise assembly of the turret including rockets and mountings. There are a few numbering errors here in this section. Section 6c covers the gun and mantle assembly. The parts numbers here are incorrect. Sherman Vs were fitted with both the early M34 and the later M34A1 mantle. The kit provides both options but mixes up the part numbers, suggesting the use of parts 45, 46 and 42 (early M34 gun mount) while picturing the later and probably more correct for this version, parts 14 and 15 (later M34A1 gun mount). While either option is feasible, the parts don’t match the drawing and don’t explain the options correctly. Other parts fitted to the turret went together well with the PE again taking the most time.
Final assembly is the pair of 60lb rockets and mountings. The issue here is a lack of fitting or locating lugs for the turret mounts. The instructions suggest fitting the mounts to the turret and then the rocket and guide rails to that. All this leads to however is a failure to align the lugs on the rails with the holes in the mounts, resulting in a skewed look to the whole mounting. I suggest fully assembling the rockets, rails and mounts, then when dry, fitting to the turret. This allows the overall alignment to be set correctly but still requires some care to avoid covering the turret with glue!
And finally, I fitted two aerials representing the standard No 19 wireless sets A and B. While not strictly OOB I couldn’t resist …
In all, another detailed and crisp addition to the Dragon 1: 72 Sherman series. The Rocket armament gives the kit some uniqueness and distinctive character. A nice touch however would have been for Dragon to include some of the additional stowage typically seen on British AFVs, such as spare wheels, track links and bed rolls. Finally the fit issues were surprising but can be overcome and don’t detract too much from an interesting and fine looking Sherman.