AFRICAN CRUISER

John Bonanni revives Airfix’s classic 1/32 Crusader with scratch-built details, to create a loaded desert warrior

When the British Tank, Cruiser, Mk.VI (more commonly called the A15 Crusader) debuted in North Africa during Operation Battleaxe in June 1941, it suffered heavy losses to German anti-tank guns.

Faced with technical issues, thin armour, and an inadequate main gun, the Mk.I variant struggled in its role as a cruiser tank. After design changes and enhanced training, Crusader Mk.IIIs arrived in the desert in May 1942. The most noticeable change was the installation of a 6-pdr (57mm) gun, to help even the odds against German Panzer IIIs and IVs. But with the new weapon came sacrifices; turret space was reduced and the commander doubled as the loader. Engine reliability was improved, though, with the introduction of Nuffield’s Mk.IV Liberty engine.

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