Britain's most produced tank during WWII was the Vickers Valentine, representing a full 25% of all tanks built. The Valentine made its combat debut in Operation Crusader in North Africa, 1941 and production ended in 1944 after 8,275 were built. All but 30 of the 1,420 vehicles built in Canada were Lend-Leased to Russia, along with 2,394 of the British built Valentines. It is said that when offered replacements, Russian crews asked to keep their dependable Valentines. No wonder then, that the Ukraine model company, MiniArt, was the first to provide a truly state of the art model kit of the Valentine, with one version kitted specifically as one of the Valentines that served on the Eastern Front. MiniArt has marketed a few variations of the Valentine to capture the subtle differences between them. These are all new tooled models – they are not re-releases of the old Alan, VM or Maquette models. Every serious Armor modeler should have a Valentine in his collection. I received the most produced variant, the BritishInfantry Tank Mk. III Valentine II with 1,500 built, in markings for North Africa and Tunisia. Separately are available the Valentine on Malta, the “Bishop “self-propelled 25 pounder variant and the “Archer” 17 pounder anti-tank SPG. For a few dollars more (far less than the cost of an aftermarket set), at least one Valentine kit comes with an engine filling the engine compartment. Each kit includes a different assortment of bonus crew figures from MiniArt, but none to my knowledge, were designed to fit the vehicle they come with (i.e. they won’t fit in their hatches without requiring some surgery).
Based on the A10 Cruiser tank to minimize production time and maximize use of proven components, legend has it that Vickers submitted its proposal for the Valentine just before St. Valentine’s Day 1938, and hence the name, Valentine. The small, two – man turret was too crowded, but the 2 pounder canon (roughly equivalent to the U.S. 37mm) was equal to or superior to most vehicles it would face in North Africa. Later Valentine marks would accommodate the larger 6 pounder before the Valentine was finally retired from years of reliable front line service.
This kit contains 657 light grey injection molded parts and a small photo etched fret. Each sprue is sealed in a poly bag to protect parts from damage or loss and the P.E. fret has a lightly adhesive film protecting front and back. There are 98 tiny track links per side. One of the first “How to Build Models” reference books I bought was from Shep Paine who advised to not waste time and effort on details that won’t be seen when the model is finished. Simple advice! Since the Valentine I was building would have desert sand shields and would hide the top half of the track run, I opted to only use what would be seen. Nonetheless, you could use a jig to ease assembly. I don’t recall his name, but I met a fellow at a recent Nationals that sold pre-made jigs that would save modelers hours of tedious work. Most of Cookie Sewells reviews echo my plea to manufacturers, to provide us with link-and-length tracks, or my favorite, something like DML’s single length track that looks like individual link and any glue can be used on it, as well as any paints. Back to my Valentine – the track links were crisply molded with no flash or injection marks to be cleaned up, just the attachment points to the sprue.
The eight page instruction sheets are good but still leave some questions. They begin inside the turret with no callouts for color. British WWII tank interiors were generally “silver,” or unpainted metal. A complete, multi-part gun breech and breech guard assembly is provided along with the coaxial 7.92 Besa machine gun, gun sights and headrests, periscopes (inside and out) and p.e. rivet heads though little of this will be seen. MiniArt has molded on the majority of rivet heads and has captured the Valentine ‘look.’ If you insist on assembling everything, (hatches are detailed on both sides to encourage you!),note in step 3 that you may have to open up the hole in part D66 to fit the recuperator cylinders. In step 4, test fit parts D18 and D19 before cementing. The front face of the excellent No. 19 Wireless Set should be painted dull silver while the outside of the ‘box’ may be silver or dark green, and the photo etched cage is dark green. When assembling the two turret halves trapping the mantlet subassembly, make sure the gun sight lines up on the outside. MiniArt used a slide molding technology so the 2 pounder muzzle is hollowed out but you have to hollow out the otherwise excellent Bren gun barrel. The fantastic turret race won’t be seen once the turret is in position. A P.E. cover is provided for the vent holes in the turret roof but the directions are vague regarding folding it. Consult any of the references listed. Pistol ports are molded closed ‘spot on’ on the turret exterior, but there is no interior to them. Nor are there seats for the crew, or 2 pdr ammo or Besa ammo, extra Bren 100 round drums or anything else to fill the turret. If you fit the commander or gunner – or close the hatches – all of that is moot. Otherwise, hey, you’re a modeler! Raid your ‘spares’ box or make a cottage industry manufacturer happy!
In step 12 the Commanders hatches are shown straight up. Photos in my references show that they also can lie done almost flat on the turret roof, which is how you want to display them if you want to see any of that interior or insert a crewman. You don’t often see photos of the Lakeman spring loaded antiaircraft mount on top of British turrets, but as a bonus, MiniArt includes it though they don’t show exactly how it connects to the Bren. The front cover illustration of the Osprey New Vanguard Matilda shows the Lakeman mount, as does Amber Books Western Allied Tanks 1939-45. Step 13 calls out two different parts as D46. The vertical one is actually D35.
The third crewman, the driver, has a well appointed compartment with instrument panels, seats and controls that you can see if you attach the hatches open (i.e. hinged at the bottom edge). If you close the hatches, save these parts for another project. There is no interior provided for the fighting compartment behind the driver. Nothing would be seen, any way.
MiniArt then directs you to build the wheels and running gear. In steps 15 and 19 you are supposed to attach a cap B10 on to B11, to attach B11 and ideally, allow it to move. The ‘studs’ on B11 are just too short on my kit and I had to glue B11 in position. “On-line” there was a debate about some of the wheels being wrong sized. One of my most respected authorities wrote that he believed MiniArt got it right and that’s good enough for me. The wheels are detailed on both sides, and most are provided as separate parts from the tires for ease in painting. The bogies with their prominent spring and shock absorbers, are nicely done with no clean up necessary on mine. The suspension system appears complicated but MiniArt made assembly simple. Assemble the top of the hull to the bottom at about this stage, to avoid breaking parts off during handling. For example, the track adjuster arm on the idler mountings will fit right into the pre-drilled hole in the hull at this time.
MiniArt has finessed the engine deck with separate parts for the cooling louver covers giving a realistic impression of the real vehicle. The engine access doors are poseable but no interior to this compartment are provided in this Valentine. It is available in one of the newest releases. Cookie Sewell pointed out in his review that the “…etched brass parts are integral to the kit and thus require mandatory use; sorry DML fans, no options.” Since there are no plastic part options for those provided as p.e., modelers like myself may opt to delete a few such as brackets for the muffler guard, wing nuts … This helped expedite the completion of the review. I may go back and use some of them but some are so tiny that I just can’t handle them without feeding the carpet monster. MiniArt has replicated the exhaust fishtail perfectly, with the 3 vertical plates visible. The headlights have separate blackout-rectangular-slit covers and the conduit for each light is molded on. In step 43, the front left fender is listed as part number D62 when it is actually part number D60.
The bonus figures are available separately as the British Armored Car Crew set no. 35069from MiniArt. The officer wearing a peaked visor cap should instead wear a black beret, as per the other two ranks, to fit in as a member of a Royal Tank Regiment Valentine crew during1942-43 North Africa. One is seated and the other two are in standing positions, which will require surgery to fit anyone into a hatch. MiniArt figure sculpting and illustrations are excellent, and comparable to some of the best available.
A four page color booklet is your painting guide for your choice among seven Valentine decal options, finished in overall sand (stone) or stone and dark brown,plus the figures. Colors are called out for Vallejo, Testors, Tamiya, Humbrol, Revell and Mr. Color.
“Culloden", C Squadron, 40th RTR, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, Operation Splendor, July 1942, overall sand with green remnants, black 10 is featured on the front cover of the Osprey New Vanguard Matilda previously referenced. It features a black number 10 on a green background within the red company C circle. The decal’s green circle is too bright a green, and should represent Britain’s early war dark green. This tank was over-painted for the desert, with its original green and #10 masked off. MiniArt correctly shows this in their booklet, and also shows the green as background to its name, “Culloden". This Valentine was commanded by 2/Lt. E.L. Wiard, commander of 10 Troop. He reached his brigade’s “…final objective under a hail of fire from the DAKs HQ and made prisoner.”
- B Squadron, 40th RTR, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, December 1941, overall sand, white 6
- "Mohawk", C Squadron, 40th RTR, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, December 1941 sand
- "Cheetah", C Squadron, 40th RTR, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, September 1942, sand with brown patches (according to MiniArt. Osprey says green patches), no number
- "Respond", A Squadron, 50th RTR, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, Tunisia1942, sand with brown patches, red HQ
- "Viking", Regimental HQ, 23rd Armored Brigade, 8thArmored Division, Spring 1942, sand
- ‘token’ captured tank, sand with black crosses, number T27414
Thanks to MRC - Model Rectifier Corp., which is now the US distributor for MiniArt kits. Thanks to MiniArt for seeing that British WWII AFVs had been long neglected, and for filling the need. MiniArt seems to be releasing every variant of the Valentine, and each and every kit is a welcome addition to every experienced modeler’s collection. I can highly recommend this Valentine to modelers comfortable with a high part count, link by link tracks and photo etched parts. I also commend MiniArt for releasing more and more British figures and AFVs that not long ago were a rarity. For those who might hesitate buying a $60 kit, keep in mind that this includes a figure set and much of the interior.
- Osprey New Vanguard #8 Matilda Infantry Tank 1938-1945
- Osprey Vanguard #23 British Tanks in N. Africa 1940-42
- Amber Books Western Allied Tanks 1939-45
- Squadron/Signal British Tank Markings and Names
- Chancellor Press, Tanks of WWII
- Mushroom Publishers, Warpaint- Color and Markings of British Military Vehicles- 1903-2003 Vol. 1
- Peter Brown’s Military Modelling magazine review (Vol. 40 No. 12, and Vol. 40 No. 10)