I’m a big fan of the Rubicon plastic kits, and their mid- and late-war Stuart kit fills a gap in my Allied collection. The same vehicle can be used as a gun-armed Stuart for Polish 1st Armoured in ’44-’45 and as a Recce Stuart for NZ 2nd Division in Italy ’43-’45.
The M5 Stuart in the late war
The M5 light tank was a development of the earlier M3 which had been in service since 1941. Known as the Stuart in British service it was popular with crews due to having a reliable and powerful aero engine which drew its air from within the fighting compartment. Since the British were at the time fighting in the desert this meant that the vehicle kept cooler than the British tanks they’d been using previously. The M5 replaced this radial engine with a twin automotive engine, but the Stuart kept its reputation for being reliable and comfortable.
What the crews were less impressed with was the 37mm main gun. Like the German 37mm guns this quickly proved just about useless and by the last couple of years of the war really only posed a threat to the lightest AFVs (such as Hanomags) and softskins. Since the role of a light tank was generally scouting and liaison this wasn’t felt to be a critical problem, and Stuarts rolled off the production line with 37mm guns right up to the end of the war. Like its big brother the Sherman, the Stuart was constantly modified throughout production, early M3s only being superficially similar to late M5s, so it seems odd they clung to the dodgy pre-war era gun. Having said that, in the Pacific and Burma the puny gun was no problem, because the Japanese tanks could be knocked out just by shouting “bang” at them anyway.
In the last couple of years of the war many British and Empire units in Europe ripped the turrets off in their own workshops, leaving a vehicle that was much lower profile and faster, with little practical loss of firepower. These modified vehicles were known as “Jalopies” or “Recce Stuarts”. At the time a lot of tanks and other AFVs were getting the same treatment, such as the Ram, Sherman and Priest, which were known as “Kangaroos” and intended to move infantry. As such you’ll sometimes hear turretless Stuarts called Kangaroos too, and while they were never used in large numbers like the other Kangaroos, some divisions did form ad hoc “assault” units of Stuart Kangaroos. They also found plenty of use as general purpose carriers (similar to a Universal carrier) and able to carry ammunition, men and stores in a compact, reliable, all terrain platform.
The Rubicon kit
True to Rubicon’s form this kit is bursting with options. There are mid- and late-production options for the hull and turret, and the turret itself can be removed and replaced with the ring mount for the MGs so you can “jalopy” it. The interior of the hull (well, mostly just the floor) is detailed so it won’t look rubbish with a big hole in it. A couple of crew miniatures wouldn’t have gone amiss, but I managed to make some myself out of a Perry tank crewman (the guy with the binos) and a Warlord plastic infantryman. There’s a slight size difference there, but I slapped a plastic Warlord helmet on the Perry bloke, which makes them match a bit better. They’re wearing the infantry helmets, not the tank ones but that’s not a biggy to me, infantry did get around in them too.
Assembling the kit took longer than I expected, there are actually quite a few parts. Like other Rubicon kits the tracks are all one piece, but the bogies have several other bits to add to them before the whole track assembly is ready. I left the tracks and the top and bottom halves of the hull unglued until I’d spray painted the whole vehicle and painted the tracks, then stuck it all together.
The kit also includes the option of mounting either a Cullen prong or a plate with tow hooks at the front. The tow hooks are probably the historically safer option (especially as I want to use it for theatres like Italy) but I put the hedgerow cutter on instead, because it’s awesome and makes the otherwise pretty lame Stuart tank a little bit like something from Mad Max.
Both hatches on the hull can be modelled open or closed. The two hatches on the turret are supplied as a single piece, if you want to model one open you’ve got to cut it down the middle. You also get a silly number of MGs for the vehicle. You get one M1919 for the turret AA mount, and another three and a Ma Deuce for the recce option. Thems a lot of guns, I went for the 50cal on the jalopy ring, as using the vehicle to bring a 50cal onto the table is a good option.
Fit of all the parts was excellent. The funny MG mount thingy on the right of the turret didn’t want to sit squarely, but I was able to persuade it. The turret hatches also required a bit of massage to seat properly, but that was it for the whole kit.
I added the crew miniatures and all the stowage you see on the model, except for the spare wheel which did come with the kit.
All up I’d say it’s a well thought out, versatile kit and well worth throwing your hard-earned at if you’re in the market for a Stuart.
The Stuart (Recce) in Chain of Command
The standard M5 Stuart is a pretty unmarkable vehicle in CoC. Its main bonus is being rated as “fast”, but neither packs enough firepower or enough armour to make it particularly scary to either infantry or AFVs. Taking the turret off gives you a vehicle that’s a lot harder to hit with AT weapons and still has machine guns. However, many units simply didn’t modify their tanks or didn’t do it until very late in the war, so sometimes you’re stuck with the basic light tank.
|Name||Armour||AP||HE||Secondary Armament||Speed||Notes||Support List|
|M5 or M5A1 Stuart||4||5||3||Hull and Co-ax MG||Fast||5|
|Stuart Recce/ Kangaroo||4||n/a||n/a||Hull and Pintle MG||Fast||Low profile, open turret||4|
|Stuart Recce with 50cal||4||2||HMG||Hull MG||Fast||Low profile, open turret||6|
I’ve included stats for a Recce Stuart with just 30cal MGs and one packing a 50cal on a pintle mount. The former is probably best used in the Kangaroo role, to carry a small infantry team, while the latter makes a very nasty wee tankette for shooting up enemy infantry. Enjoy!