One of the most iconic tanks of WW2, the Churchill tank looked like something designed for the battlefields of Passchendaele, but fought right through to the last days of the war. When Warlord released a plastic one I felt like it was time I filled a big gap in my tank collection.
Read on below to find out how I’ve built this single kit with swappable guns so it can do duty as these four different Churchill variants:
The Churchill Tank
There’s been a lot written about the Churchill, so I won’t waffle on too much. The obvious spiritual successor of the behemoths of WW1, the Churchill was conceived with a similar mission. As an “infantry tank” the Churchill’s job would be to crawl across fields of shell-holes in support of an infantry attack, and blast any strongpoints holding the PBI up. Early versions had a howitzer in the hull, but the main concession to modernism was a fully rotating turret packing a small high-velocity gun.
During the war the chunky hull proved highly upgradable, eventually packing bigger and better guns in the turret (and losing the hull howitzer). In North Africa the dodgy 2pdr gun got replaced in the field with spare 75mm guns taken out of destroyed Shermans. The dual-role Sherman gun was found to be excellent, and these modified Churchills were known as NA75s (for North Africa 75mm) and gave the Churchill a major upgrade. Eventually new Churchills started being made with a British 75mm gun. This was the 6pdr AT gun bored out to fire the American 75mm ammo, the same gun fitted to the fancy new Cromwell cruiser tanks.
Other variants seen included a Close Support version, this switched the 75mm gun for a 95mm howitzer. This gave it greater bunker-busting power and a better smoke round. But if you really wanted to bash holes in a bunker you needed the AVRE (Armoured Vehicle Royal Engineers). A specialist engineering tank manned by sappers this fired a massive low-velocity HESH round from a petard mortar. This had short range and was slow to reload, with a man in the hull having to open a hatch and manhandle the large round in from underneath. The good armour of the Churchill allowed the AVRE to approach strongpoints and lob in this short-range “flying dustbin” round. The unique side doors in the hull also allowed sappers to debus and set changes on foot, using the vehicle as cover.
Building the Warlord Churchill
The two main producers of plastic 28mm tanks (Warlord and Rubicon) usually approach their kits in a slightly different way. Rubicon normally give you a crazy number of options in each kit, which makes this the most Rubicon-ish Warlord kit I’ve seen. With a bit of planning you can assemble a ton of different versions of the Churchill.
One thing does still separate Warlord and Rubicon though: the tracks. Warlord kits tend to have multi-part tracks, while Rubicon ones are cast in a single piece with the running gear. This kit is no exception, and in fact each track is four pieces. Not only do you get an upper and lower track, you get a little link piece to join them. Presumably this is due to the Churchill’s old-timey over-the-top tracks being difficult to cast in only two pieces.
The big advantage of having separate tracks is you can just spray paint them, which saves time. The ends mate up fairly well, although it’ll never be as seamless as a single piece casting like a Rubicon kit. Overall though the assembly is no bother.
Due to the “catwalks” fitted over the top of the tracks on these versions of the Churchill most of the track actually won’t be seen once the hull top goes on, so you can skip painting any detail on most of it.
I decided to use the more common cast turret for everything, so binned the welded turret but there’s no reason you couldn’t use that, too. This caused a slight problem, as I wanted to be greedy and make one of every type of gun in the kit. So that’s:
- Standard 75mm
- Petard mortar (AVRE)
- 95mm CS howitzer
The Petard mortar and the NA75 are easily done, as both come with all the bits you need. The problem is that the 95mm howitzer and the normal 75mm gun both have to be glued onto a mount. You do get two gun mounts in the kit, but one is for the cast turret and one is for the welded turret, and they’re slightly different.
However, with a bit of cutting, filing and swearing you can get the welded turret mount to fit ok into the cast turret. You can see the two mounts to the right. They’re almost identical, but subtly different.
So with all my gun options sorted I’d need a way to swap guns. Instead of magnetising the guns themselves I decided it was far easier to the magnetise the turret. The turret is a two-piece affair, and by adding some little neodymium magnets to the top and bottom I’m able to pop the top off and change to whatever gun I feel like packing today.
This is handy, but does mean I’m kind of stuck with the fairly visible seam around the turret. If you were going to just build one variant and glue the turret you could probably make that seam disappear completely (well, I hope so anyway, but Warlord’s plastic Sherman kit also suffers from some quite gnarly turret seams…)
The guns themselves can just sit in their normal mount, so can elevate. I normally like to glue these, as it stops them going droopy during games, but I can live with it for the huge advantage of having four different guns.
The best-looking gun is (IMO) the NA75. This doesn’t use the mount inside the turret, it just pokes in the hole and blocks it all up. I think it makes the tank look a lot meaner, plus the decals I’ve applied are for the North Irish Horse, who served in Italy and used a lot of NA75s.
The kit includes a commander miniature, but he’s pretty mediocre and I didn’t bother.
Paint-wise this kit is pretty quick. I sprayed it green, assembled and drybrushed the tracks and then picked out a few details (really just the tools and searchlight). I haven’t bothered with a lot of stowage on this kit. None of the stuff I had to hand looked quite right. I may go back and add something later.
The bit I spent most time on was pin washing the whole vehicle. There’s a ton of raised detail and panel lines, and lining it all with black ink (I use GW’s Nuln Oil) really did make it pop. I washed all the underneath with a sepia tone, then did the whole vehicle in Army Painter Strong Tone ink before drybrushing and getting stuck in with the weathering powders. I hit it fairly heavily with the latter, using quite a bit of a muddy colour, and then a light sandy colour, with no step in between. I was going for the kind of look I’d seen on vehicles in Italy, where they’re driving through both mud and light dust.