Matilda, Queen of the Desert

No, this isn't a post about drag queens taking a bus across the Australian outback, but notice that I've tackled and finished another 1:76 scale tank model. In this case it is an Airfix model of a Matilda Mk II Infantry Tank, which during the early years of the desert war during World War Two was a stalwart of the British Army in Africa and briefly earned the nickname 'Queen of the Desert' before being overtaken by faster and more powerful vehicles.
I've always thought that the Matilda was probably the handsomest looking British tank of the war, many of our other tanks having a rather Meccano-ish look to them compared to the muscle tanks of the US and Soviet armies and the blocky Teutonic swagger of German armoured vehicles. Of course, more formidable British tanks like the Comet came in at the very end of the war and the fearsome-looking Centurion was even then on the drawing board, but in the meantime, British tanks looked rather-down-at-heel compared to the competition.

A number of years ago I did attempt to build a 1:35 Matilda, but as is often the case with me and vehicles I got bored, it got shoved aside when an interesting figure or sci-fi project came along and so never got finished. This little effort though was easy enough to build – just two days – and then I painted it up in the appropriate desert camouflage, an interesting mix of Sand (Humbrol 63) Aircraft Blue (Humbrol 65) and Light Olive (Humbrol 86). Brick Red (Humbrol 70) was recommended for the exhaust, but I made do with GW Dark Flesh, which is about the same colour.
As the camouflage was to be painted on in wedge-shaped blocks, the easiest way of doing this was to mask off areas with tape. Because of the curved or detailed areas on the tank hull, sometimes I had to cut the masking tape into thinner strips for ease of use, but once in place it was easy to paint the space, though a couple of layers were required with the blue and green to cover the base coat of sand. Using tape in this way does however sometimes leave a 'seam' where the two colours meet, which became a problem when I applied the decals, so the seam needs flattening or carving back. This probably wouldn't be so marked a problem on larger models, but at this scale the seams do stand out rather.

The decals went on easy enough, being given a coat of Decal Soft to make them conform better to the lumps and bumps of the hull, the tank was then dirtied-down from its rather fresh-from-the-showroom look. Black patches simulating exposed metal were blobbed onto the model and given a more 3D effect with a lighter camo colour painted in a thin line just underneath them. I avoided applying too much rust and instead opted for a rather grimy albeit sand-blasted look, more appropriate for a tank working in dry desert conditions. Army Painter Soft Tone was painted all over the tank to give it the grubby look, then when this was dry Citadel Terminatus Stone was dry-brushed over the raised surfaces.
Normally, as mentioned in other posts I would mount models like this on a base made from an old blank mains socket cover, but I couldn't get into town for a few days, so opted for a thin strip of wood that I had lying about. This I coated with a thick layer of filler, which I sculpted into shallow waves like ripples in the sand. I placed the tank into this while the filler was still wet, making a line of tracks. I didn't fit the tank in place just yet, but let the filler dry then painted it up with the same sand colour that was used on the tank, finishing it off with a thin layer of Soft Tone ink. The tank was finally fitted in place with super glue.

So, yet again another nice little model for my collection. The model also offered the chance to decorate the Matilda in the colours of an Australia tank unit fighting the Japanese in the Far East. Modelling the tank in those colours and in a jungle environment might make for an interesting vignette if I buy another of these kits.