The Churchill Mk. IV infantry tank was the most produced version of the Churchill. It was used as a basis for a number of special models including the Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE), a combat engineer vehicle designed for destroying enemy fortifications. After the failure of the Dieppe landings, it was realized that there needed to be a way to effectively handle enemy defensive fortifications during an amphibious landing. The AVRE was developed by the Canadians and saw its first action supporting the landings on D-Day. The normal gun on the Mk. IV was replaced with a Petard 290mm spigot mortar that fired a 40lb round. A team of five combat engineers crewed the vehicle with a driver selected from the Armoured corps. The vehicle was very successful and was used until the end of the war.
Dragon previously released this kit as a Mk. III, with the Mk. IV sharing the same sprues with the spare road wheels and suspension units stowed on rear fenders appearing to be the only addition. Honestly, there’s not a lot of information about the Mk. III AVRE, so producing the kit as a Mk. IV makes more sense from a historical perspective. The new tooled and detailed side sponsons that first appeared in the Mk. III are included in this kit, as well as the older side sponsons found in the earlier versions of the Mk. III kit. One of the more noticeable features on the side sponsons is the addition of a nicely detailed H-shaped plate intended to be the bracket for mounting the mine clearing rollers, or plow devices found on a few Mk IVs in “Hobart’s funnies”. I assume this means Dragon will be releasing the kit with those attachments sometime in the future. In addition to the Petard mortar pieces, the kit comes with a number of barrels found on the earlier Mk III and Mk IV kits, so really you can build a choice of Churchill Infantry Tanks, other than the one featured on the box top.
The kit starts out building the new turret. This features the newly tooled Petard mortar. Building the complicated mortar in 1/72nd scale is quite tricky. The mortar itself consists of four parts and mounts to a small rod protruding through the mantlet. Make sure not to cut off the connecting arm when removing part G8 from the sprue. The mortar barrel consists of two pieces with a poor fit that are too thick for 72nd scale. You’ll need to carefully thin down the walls, first to make the tube opening round, and secondly to better represent the correct thickness. The mortar attaches ae two extremely small attachment points, and requires a lot of patience to allow the glue to set up. The rest of the turret goes together fairly easily, although my kit’s commander’s hatch pieces had some flash that required careful cleaning to get them to fit properly. The kit is advertised as being able to pose the turret hatches open, or closed. However, no interior details are provided for the hatches, so if you plan on showing them open, some details will need to be added.
In typical Dragon fashion, there are a number of items marked as “Parts not for use” in the instructions. These parts are shaded blue on the sprue diagrams. Again, in typical Dragon fashion, some of these parts are incorrectly marked. Specifically, parts A23 and A26 are marked as not for use, but will be used in the construction of the kit. Also, there are a couple of important pieces making up the drive gear that are incorrectly marked in the instructions. When assembling the drive sprockets and idlers, it calls for attaching A24 to A25, and A27 to A28. The correct order is to assemble A24 to A27, and A25 to A28. If you’ve built a Dragon kit before, these errors shouldn’t be unusual, so just pay attention.
The lower hull, running gear, and side sponsons all fit together without any issue. Once you get past the turret and mortar construction, the rest of the build goes together pretty easily. The kit comes with DS tracks, Dragon’s version of vinyl/rubber band tracks. These are really great to work with, and fit perfectly to the running gear. I ended up cutting about four links of track off each track length to get the proper fit.
The kit includes markings for 2 very similar vehicles in France 1944. The decals work very well, and were all in register.
Overall, the kit is well-detailed, with some delicate parts that need care during assembly, but the finished model is nice. I recommend this kit to anyone with an interest in this unusual, but popular British AFV. My thanks to Dragon USA and IPMS/USA for this review kit.