To the best of my knowledge, this is Ukraine’s MiniArt Ltd’s second set of injection molded British Tank Riders, which is two sets more than from any other manufacturer! The first set, #5835071, British Soldiers Tank Riders, provided five men wearing uniforms with shorts, suitable for the Desert War, Tunisia, and other “hot” theaters. This kit contains 71 grey styrene parts that will create five Tank Riders wearing 1940 Pattern battledress appropriate for all other theatres in all but the hottest and coldest climates. I’ll get into a detailed report on the uniforms and insignia in a moment, but first some modeling basics re these figures.
MiniArt Ltd’s artist’s (A. Karaschuk) excellent illustrations of each figure tops the side-opening box. The illustrations show helmets with netting covers with foliage for natural camouflage and a medical dressing. None of this is included on the clean helmets but that is a minor point. Similarly, gun slings are shown but not included, but they are easily made if you want them. The illustrations are repeated on the box bottom where they are keyed for parts placement and colors. Paint numbers are color coded for Vallejo, Testor, Tamiya, Humbrol, Revell, and Mr. Color paints. A small black and white insert shows the two sprue trees and part numbers. Each figure is nicely molded, with distinct faces and accurate uniforms with raised blank patches that can be painted or used for positioning decals – which are not included. You’ll have to find them elsewhere or hand-paint them. There is minimal flash and some seam lines quickly cleaned up, and minimal putty is needed to blend torsos to legs.
The box illustrations show shoulder patches for the 11th Armoured Division: a side view of a black bull on a yellow rectangle. MiniArt molded a square, not rectangle, so if you want to produce the 11th Armoured Division patch you can adjust to fit the square or extend the sides to make it a rectangle.
My research showed the following British units used squares if you want to use the square shape:
- the 2nd Armoured Div (red w/ white knight’s helmet),
- the 6th (black w/ white armoured fist),
- the 7th Armoured Division (red or white w/ red desert rat – color changed during deployments),
- the 8th Armoured Division (black with black “go” in green circle),
as were a couple of Corps., Armour Brigades and most Infantry Divisions.
I realized that my references to WWII British uniforms, rank, and unit insignia is lacking. I served in Vietnam and know what insignia we wore then and there. I knew that our stripes pointed up in the center while British stripes were the opposite. I was fortunate that my friendship with IPMS member Cookie Sewell had led me to an introduction to Peter Brown, who is well known throughout the UK and Europe and would be the perfect “go to” person for us to learn about WWII British insignia.
The Sergeant in this figure set has a narrow, curved patch on the sleeve, just below the shoulder. Below that is the square/rectangle patch for the unit. Below that is a narrow, straight patch for Arm of Service. Below that about midway down the sleeve would be the private thru sergeant’s stripe(s). Down just above the cuff might appear another stripe or set of stripes as “service stripes” or “wound stripes.”
Here is how Peter explained it to me, referring to the figures on the box (my comments are italicized in parentheses):
“From the top of the shoulder of the Sergeant figure –
- Curved item – Regimental title, in this case K.S.L.I. which is King’s Shropshire Light Infantry. This should be white on red and was not as curved as many others as it was shorter.
- Rectangular item (or square) – Divisional (or Corps if appropriate) sign, here the black Bull on yellow of 11th Armoured Division. Note this always faced forward so came in two versions. (My 1st Air Cav Horsehead faced forward on my left sleeve while I was in that unit. It would face rearwards on my right sleeve if I next served in another Division).
- Single horizontal stripe –- this was in Arm of Service colours; infantry was red. One denoted "first" Regiment in a Brigade, two the "second," and three the "third," depending on Seniority which was based on when the Regiment was first formed. KSLI were "first" Regiment with 159th Infantry Brigade who were the infantry brigade of 11th Armoured.
“Sergeants’ stripes –
- All these should be on both sleeves. (Note that the US Army wore the rank on both sleeves, but not the unit insignia. In Vietnam, rank insignia was originally yellow, then ‘subdued’ black and finally instead of stripes on sleeves at all, a small black metal insignia was worn on the collar tabs).
- On the right sleeve, several inverted chevrons (near the cuff). These are "service stripes;" here, one white over four red denoting five years’ service including one pre-war. Basically, a regular soldier who joined around 1937-38.
- Left sleeve, one yellow vertical wound stripe.
- Of the other figures, the one on the left has service stripes for four years’ service, the others none but ALL have the basic unit insignia.
"More details are in Osprey’s Men-At-Arms 187 "British Battle Insignia 1939-45" or Bouchery’s "The British Soldier from D Day to VE-Day Vol 1" (Histoire & Collections, France 1998).
“As to uniforms etc, I assume you know they are depicted wearing 1940 Pattern battledress with all buttons exposed (the earlier version had them concealed under various flaps) and boots with webbing gaiters – see "British Battledress 1937-1961" Osprey MAA 112 or Bouchery.
“They have 1937 Pattern web equipment basic set – belt, cross-braces, utility pouches (intended for Bren magazines but useful for grenades, etc), water bottle in skeleton carrier, entrenching tool in carrier with the handle carried outside, short bayonet in frog, and the 1943 Pattern light respirator in the small, separate pouch – see "British Infantry Equipments (2) 1908-2000" Osprey MAA 108 or Bouchery. Most men carried the "small pack" on their backs with essentials, and riflemen often had ammunition in the disposable cloth "bandoliers" they came packed in to keep the pouches free for other items. Shovels or even pickaxes were often carried too.
“Helmet rims are a little narrow and were often covered as on the box art, weapons are No 4 Lee-Enfield rifles with the Sergeant having a Sten Mk II with skeleton butt. Usually, one man in a ten-man squad would have a Bren. (My Sergeant is holding his Sten at an angle. If seen straight-on, the magazine clips onto the left front at a right angle to the weapon. The angle of my photo may make it appear as if it clips onto the top of the gun).
“All typical for 1944-45.
“As to their "rides," 11th Armoured Division used Shermans in 1944 and converted to the Comet in early 1945. Attached IWM photo shows men of the 11th in 1945 on board a Comet.
“By the way, MiniArt’s website for the set has a better rendition of the box top.
“Hope this helps.”
I (Howie), too, hope this helps modelers who have decals or a steady hand and great eyesight who can now put properly marked troops with properly marked vehicles. Don’t forget that many units fought alongside other units or hitched rides from other units… and a lot of photos show few or no insignia!
There haven’t been many injection molded British Tank Crew or Riders available in 1/35 and, now that model and figure manufacturers have discovered that the Allies won WWII, there’s a wealth of subjects waiting to be modeled. MiniArt’s box shows that a set of Royal Engineers uncovering German mines will be out soon. Altogether, MiniArt now offers modelers the opportunity to bring their Allied AFV models to life.
This particular set is as good as any injection molded figures I’ve seen, and go together easily with little clean up. They are in excellent, accurate Tank Rider poses that you can effortlessly vary a bit. I highly recommend them. Thanks to MRC, who is the U.S. distributor for MiniArt kits, for the review sample, and to IPMS/USA for the opportunity to review it. MiniArt has been very busy releasing long sought-after figure (and diorama) sets, but there is still the need for more British and American crews! Thank you, MiniArt, for hearing us and fulfilling our needs.
I’d like to make some suggestions to MiniArt and other companies. It would be great if they’d include a small water slide decal sheet with unit and rank insignias. I’d bet that if the box top stated in large print, “DECALS INCLUDED for unit and rank insignia” (and if you provided alternative units), the kits would fly off the hobbyshop shelves! And either on the box or a paper insert, please identify figures if they actually represent a known person, or their rank or unit…and their equipment as well. “Someone” at the model company has done the research. Why not pass on that information to us? Finally, please have the box art truly show us what we’ll get (i.e. netted helmets, in this case).
- British Battle Insignia 1939-45, Osprey’s Men-At-Arms 187
- The British Soldier from D Day to VE-Day Vol 1 by Bouchery (Histoire & Collections, France 1998)
- British Battledress 1937-1961, Osprey Men-At-Arms 112 for uniforms
- British Infantry Equipments (2) 1908-2000, Osprey Men-At-Arms 108
- Fighting Men of World War II Allied Forces by David Miller
- World War II Combat Uniforms and Insignia by Martin Windrow
- Army Uniforms of World War II by Andrew Mollo
- The Armed Forces of World War II by Andrew Mollo
- British Military Markings 1939-1945 by P. Hodges and M.D. Taylor