Oct 15
Robodaz

Available from Hobbylink Japan: http://hlj.com/product/TKO2027/Mil

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A Universal Soldier?

Considering how World War One ended, one would be forgiven for being confused as to how the British had, during the twenty two years in the run up to the ‘Second Round,’ missed all the lessons of tank warfare which the earlier bloodbath had taught.

Indeed, it is not unreasonable to say that in every way other than pure numerical superiority, the British had left their armored doctrine stuck in the fields of France, failing to recognize that the tank could do more than support infantry advances and scout.

Certainty, and uncertainty, seemed to cripple the British army as to what tanks were actually designed to do, especially in the wake of the rush to ‘arm the skies’ of the 1920s and ’30s and part of the problem there was the same old issue which has damaged the development of technology and ideas since the beginning: that it was the ‘old guard’ of the previous conflict who now ran the show from Horse Guard’s Parade and their view of armor was rather behind the times.

British soldiers enjoy a jaunt on a British Mark IV tank during World War IIn the Great War, most of the tanks that had made it into action were so slow that they were not in the main fielded en masse, but integrated into British infantry doctrine as mobile firebases – advancing with the troops, and suppressing enemy guns and hard-points as they were encountered.

This gave rise to the notion of the so called ‘infantry tank,’ the principle of which was sound considering the doctrine of the time: these were heavily armored, slow, and packing short-range artillery; they were designed to deal with more or less anything except other tanks (which was the job for artillery). What was strange is that, even in the 1920s, after the lessons of the Flanders Mud, planners still considered that the ‘next’ war in Europe would be fought in much the same fashion as the Great War had been envisaged – with a gradual advance of forces across the landscape, taking and holding ground as they went.

The tank, aircraft, and improvements in communications would prevent the sort of stalemate that had brought about the trench-lock which made World War One so debilitating in the West.

Such a position on the British part was rather short-sighted, especially considering the public way that French and American military planners were projecting a much faster pace to any ensuing conflicts.

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However, though it is certain that British thinkers of the inter-war years were largely infected with the malaise of the time when compared to their counterparts overseas, it must also be noted that no-one fully understood the potential of the tank at all well and, right up to the breakout of the the Second World War – with its massed armor battles, not a single force quite grasped the power of the focused armored forces which would be unleashed (rather as a gamble itself) in 1939.

Fire and Movement

Traditionally, Heinz Guderian is credited with ‘developing’ the concept of what the West would call Blitzkrieg (lightning war), but he himself might not have recognized the term, or even the concept itself which, in the years since the war, has come to represent a perfect union of air power to destabilize the enemy, tanks to break through their lines, and motorized infantry to hold ground taken as well as put down resistance.

He might have been more familiar with the term Bewegungskrieg (maneuverer warfare), which had been part of Prussian military doctrine since the 19th century, adopted from the ‘playbook’ of Emperor Napoleon’s Grand Army, and described as moving troops as quickly as possible to outflank opponents, forcing them into a ‘cauldron’ of battle where they could be cut to pieces.

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In the Franco Prussian war of 1870-1871, the importance placed on fast movement and the seizing of key strategic objectives allowed the larger Prussian force to dictate the course of the war at almost every turn, mobilizing so quickly that two entire French forces were crushed in battle before they had even effectively taken to the field.

The same thing was planned for the Great War, and might have succeeded, had chance favored the Germans a little more roundly.

And it makes sense that all the Germans did (though it is a pretty big ALL as it happens) was integrate the new armor technology into this thinking, creating not something new, but such a giant leap forward in the old Prussian model that it seemed revolutionary.

Indeed, looking at British Pre-war thinking on plans for dealing with a re-armed Germany, it makes it clear that the view from Horse Guards was that the British combined doctrine (not quite defense in depth, but approaching it) would be capable of dulling a swift attack, with a mass of infantry and heavy armor which did not need to move all that quickly, as the enemy was coming to them.

Even the fall of Czechoslovakia and Poland did nothing to change this, as the BEF was being prepped for deployment to the war zone (though it could well have been the case that it was impossible given the timescales) and the subsequent speed of the allied collapse to Dunkirk cemented the idea of the power of the tank in the minds of every military thinker of the time.

The British Bulldog that was Born in the USA

British attitude to tank doctrine after the fall of France was still rather muddled, with different arms of the military requiring very different things of their armored vehicles (light, medium, cruiser, infantry, assault, and ultra-heavy).

However, the forges of the desert and the practical realities of the foundries of Detroit left all on the allied side with the view that the twin keys to armored warfare were mobility and reliability.

Erwin Rommel had taught the Allies bloody lessons about the former on both the fields of France and the deserts of North Africa, especially with regard to the way he deployed his tanks in concentrated units, supported by mechanized grenadiers.

However, whilst the bloody nose received from the initial German expansion stung British pride, it was the harsh realities of relying on US material aid which persuaded those in charge of British armor that there was no room for the sort of design differences which had dominated tank thinking. Gone was the production of useless designs, such as the Covenanter, Crusader, Centaur, Cavalier, and early mark Matildas, among others. In came a more standard approach to role, and a far more limited range of, increasingly American designs (dominated by the M4 Sherman family).

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Even then, the tank still had to cope with the contradictions of its job. On the one hand, destroying enemy tanks required high velocity direct fire guns. On the other, dealing with buildings, soft targets, and enemy troops required lower velocity, large caliber guns with HE round capabilities.

The compromise which eventually won out – the 75mm MV in the M4 Sherman – was effective enough against German armour until the end of the war, as well as very effective against softer targets. By the end, the British had up-gunned the Sherman to take the 17 pounder AT gun, as the Firefly. This would have been joined by another, heavy, multi role tank named the Centurion which, though being too late to have any effect on WWII, went on define British tank designs in the post-war period – especially following its effective use in the Korean War.
 

All in One in None

The Centurion did not last forever, however, and the British army began looking for an alternative in the early 1960s.

With the threat of increasingly heavy Russian tanks in mind – especially the T-62 – the desire developed for a single tank that could finally unify the roles of medium and heavy tanks in one chassis. This was not met at all well, however, as the 120mm L11A5 gun chosen for this project, as well as the armor requirements imposed by the war office resulted in a vehicle that was rather underpowered for its 60-ton weight.

Still, for all its bulk, the Chieftain was an excellent tank overall, and remained in service with a number of forces ’round the world (especially in the Middle East, as this 2 in 1 kit represents) ’til the late ’80s and the introduction of the Challenger series, which benefited from the lessons learned during the life of the older tank.

We shall go further into the Chieftain’s story in part two, but for now…

Unboxing

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Interesting…

I’ve never handled a kit from Takom before…

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Very crisp detail here. Certainly on par with Tamiya and ahead of Dragon’s Black label.

Perhaps a little more simplified than I had expected (no interior details, for example) for the price, but I cannot complain, considering the wealth of parts and competent design overall.

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Ooooo. Track links. This is another new thing on me…

I’ve never owned a kit with this sort of tracking. I’m looking forward to this.

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An interesting kit, from an interesting company, as you can see.

Molding is well done, detail is crisp, and the part count is up there…

I doubt this will be a lemon, but let’s see how the old warhorse goes together!

Dr. Robodaz.
 

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