Britsh Infantry Tank Mark IV
Churchill Mark III and Churchill AMRCR

Italeri Kit # 7019
Esci Kit # 8332,8049,8339
Preview by Stephen 'Tank Whisperer' Brezinski - sbrez1(at)comcast(dot)net
Edited by Rob Haelterman

With the new release of Dragon’s Churchill Mark IV tank I think it would be good to get to know the older 1/72 scale Churchill tank releases. The Italeri release, as many know, was first released by ESCI company back in the 1980s, I think. At the time it was one of the best 1/72-scale AFV kits available. So now let us see if it stands up to the detail and accuracy sought after in 2011.

The Infantry Tank Churchill was a slow, heavily armored tank, heavily influenced by the trench warfare of World War 1. What’s that adage about an army always preparing for the previous war? The ESCI/Italeri Churchill Mk III served with the Canadians at Dieppe, in Italy, Western Europe, and on the Eastern Front in service with the Soviets. It is characterized by having a welded hexagonal turret, 6-Pounder main gun and bow mounted machine gun.

There are a plethora of Churchill variants and upgrades and “Funnies” conversions we can model. This Churchill Mk III served from 1942 till the war’s end with various upgrades including additional armor and a 75-mm gun.

Please note that the part numbers I refer to in this review are for the ESCI instructions and may not match the part numbers for the Italeri re-release.

Box Art

Italeri’s box art depicts a Churchill in a partially forested hilly countryside; it reminds me of Italy. What frustrates the hell out of me regarding this box art is the bizarre carelessness for vehicle accuracy of some model companies! Let me explain. It has long been an annoyance that ESCI always appeared to have marketed this Churchill Mark III (variant 3) kit as a Churchill Mark IV; the Mark III has a welded turret and the Mk IV has a combination cast & welded turret. Italeri correctly markets the model kit on the box top as a Mk III, which is what is in the box, but Italeri’s box art shows a cast-welded Churchill Mk VII turret atop a Mk III hull! This turret IS NOT what is in the box! Many modelers won’t care, some sticklers for historical accuracy and collecting versions of a particular vehicle (like me) will care. This box art appears to show a Churchill Mk IX which may have appliqué armor on the side and the Mk VII’s turret but still retains the 6-pounder gun.

A true Churchill Mk VII has a redesigned hull and turret with integral thicker armor, armed by the 75-mm gun with muzzle break, and has a round escape hatch on the side. Those wanting a more correct Churchill Mk VII should try the Leva #72C05 or Model Trans Modellbau #MT72068 conversion sets.

Here is the box art for ESCI’s kit #8332 and looking at the exact wording of the title I can see where the misnaming has come from. The British developed four Infantry tanks used in WW2, i.e.: the Infantry Tank Mk II Matilda, the Infantry Tank Mk III Valentine, and the Infantry Tank Mk IV Churchill. Then each Infantry tank has variants: Churchill Mark I, Churchill Mark II, Churchill Mark III, and so on. This box shows the British “Infantry Tank Mark IV, Churchill Mk III”, so ESCI’s title is technically not wrong, it just is not complete and is a bit misleading.

We don’t see much of the turret roof but the slab sided welded turret is plain to see. The gun is the 6-pounder (57-mm) characterized with no muzzle break. At the bow is the single towing ring and the driver’s plate with a Besa machine gun. On the hull side is the rectangular side escape hatch and towing cable. The suspension is unique and complicated for a tank of the 1940s. There are 11 small steel roadwheels which I don’t think the artist got quite right: The twin roadwheels are too close together; to put it simple each wheel should sit on a ridge akin to railroad wheels on railroad tracks. Hanging down from the very rear and front of the track guards are rubber or fabric pieces which I understand are to inhibit dust clouds.

The Churchill is painted in a pale olive brown color. What is unusual is that there are no unit markings or vehicle number visible. Except for the missing vehicle markings it looks like a pretty accurate depiction of a Churchill Mk III tank, appearing in March of 1942.

The box art for this ESCI kit #8049 (or #8339) shows the same Churchill Mk III as above but with the AMRCR (Anti-Mine Reconnaissance Castor Device) developed in 1943 and produced in small numbers. The Churchill is finished in a green (bronze green?) color with markings. My guess is that the setting is in Normandy or Italy. I am unaware that this ESCI kit has yet been re-released by Italeri (October 2011).

A little bit of interesting trivia is that the British periscopes on the hull and turret were copied by the Soviets for use on their tanks.

Here is the box art for Dragon’s 1/72-scale Churchill Mark IV, Kit 7424. I do not yet have this model but greatly look forward to it. With this variant of the Churchill tank production was switched in mid-1942 back to an all cast steel turret but larger than the cast turret of the Mark I so as to accommodate the 6-Pounder gun. The hull is basically the same as with the Churchill Mk III with the rectangular side hatch, tow cable and 11 small roadwheels. Some differences I see in the box art are a peaked vent cover atop the side air intake and a jack block on the track guard next to the rectangular driver’s visor door. The only problem I note in the box art is that the 11 roadwheels appear to have rubber tires when my references show all steel roadwheels.
The tank appears to be a green olive color with markings and vehicle name. The location looks to be France, 1944.

The ESCI/Italeri Kit Parts
The ESCI/Italeri kit consists of about 51 injection-molded styrene plastic parts, not including either two stiff polyethylene band tracks or a sprue of hard link & length tracks. There are three parts for one crew figure. Molding and detail are quite good with no significant sink holes or flash.

Here is ESCI’s sprue for most of the hull parts. Assembly and even layout of the sprues appears very similar to that of the Hasegawa Churchill kit, but that is where any similarity ends. The Hasegawa and the ESCI/Italeri Churchill kits are different vehicles and totally different model kits.

At far left and right are the hull sides (parts 1 and 15) with the 11 attached all-steel roadwheels. The driver and radio-operator hatches are molded shut. Grab handles, handtools, spare track and the long tow cables are molded into the hull top and sides; unfortunately, this was standard for the time this kit was first released. At bottom right is a single mediocre crew figure with an oversize head. At bottom left are the exterior fuel drum (parts 13, 16 & 17), which I believe should not be mounted when the tank is in actual combat.

The second sprue containing the turret, suspension and track guard parts. This sprue and the one above are common to the Churchill AMRCR kit also. Here we see the octagonal shape of the welded turret. The commander’s hatch is open but the gunner’s hatch molded closed. Just left of the turret parts are the coil springs for the roadwheels (parts 29 and 30). The two rolled up tarps (parts 45) I would dispense with and make some better looking ones from tissue or epoxy putty.

This sprue is for the AMRCR (Anti-Mine Reconnaissance Castor Device) in kit ESCI kit #8049 (a.k.a. #8339). The parts look well done though, and sorry if this appears to be too picky, the rollers (parts 26) look too wide perhaps. The AMRCR includes this sprue in addition to the two sprues for the regular tank model.

For a nice assembly review of this Churchill AMRCR kit see John Kelley’s article at Cybermodeler website.

ESCI offered two types of tracks: stiff semi-flexible band tracks made out of polyethylene plastic (at right), and hard styrene link & length tracks (at left). The ESCI band tracks are often referred to as “vinyl” tracks but this material more closely resembles polyethylene or polypropylene to me, which does not take glue very well (like these ESCI tracks). Vinyl plastic is softer and usually takes super glue well.

The polyethylene band tracks are what I believe was first offered by ESCI, have mediocre detail, but are too stiff to wrap around the sprocket and idler wheels and the material defies most glues I know so the ends must be heated and melted together. I have managed successfully to work with these tracks though; first measure the locations where the track should bend around the sprockets and idlers, wrap these areas around a wood dowel and immerse the track and dowel into hot water (not boiling) till it holds the curved shape.

I understand the styrene link & length tracks are what are in Italeri’s re-release of the Churchill model. Compared to the band tracks these have better exterior detail but no interior side detail like the link hinges and the low track guide teeth. Since the top run of tracks is covered by the long track guard and hull sides we could leave off large sections of the track and use the extra track as appliqué armor on the tank?

The instruction sheet above is for the Churchill AMRCR but assembly of the basic Churchill tank is the same for all the ESCI kits. The mine roller drums will likely need some filler and filing to hide the seam, though in use these rollers may be caked with dirt and debris. The water-slide decal markings I believe are for Canadian and British vehicles but after a search I have not identified the Divisions or Brigades. Churchill tanks I have seen with these markings were regular Churchill tanks without the mine roller.

This photo shows my partially completed ESCI Churchill model built in 2001. You can see the the completed here.
A significant issue I see is that the front armor plate on the turret appears much too wide extending beyond the turret side. One other modeler’s ESCI Churchill I did not see this problem so It could be my mistake, but on the other hand the turret assembly is so straight forward I don’t see how this could be an assembly error? Cutting out a small part of the middle of the plate (part 46) and then gluing it back together without affecting the gun opening would fix this. The brass parts would be very helpful, such as for replacing the handles on the crew and engine hatches.

At bottom center is a small etched brass fret from Eduard that I do not believe is in production anymore. So far I have not yet found any currently available etched brass detail sets for the 1/72 scale Italeri or Hasegawa Churchill kits.

Model Trans offers a plethora of cast resin conversions for the Italeri kit, such as wading trunks, the Churchill AVRE, a Crocodile conversion, etc. I don’t yet have any of the Model Trans conversions for the Churchill tank but I have known Model Trans sets to be well cast and detailed.

MR Models, Armorscale and RB Models offer 1/72 turned aluminum gun barrels for the Italeri Churchill, also suitable for the Dragon and Hasegawa Churchill tanks and other WW2 British tanks.


THE CHURCHILL TANK, by Brent Perrett, Osprey Publishing Ltd. (1980). ISBN 0 85045 340 2

BRITISH AND AMERICAN TANKS OF WORLD WAR TWO 1933-1945, by Peter Chamberlain and Chris Ellis, Cassell & Co., (1969). ISBN 0-304-35529-1 Chris Shillito’s website on Allied armor.

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Article Last Updated: 28 December 2011