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Churchill Bridgelayer – Airfix kit re-working

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Churchill Bridgelayer

 Thanks mainly to inspiration and drawings provided by Dave Blomley, I had a shot at the Airfix Churchill Bridgelayer in 1/76th. I say ‘Airfix’, but in actual fact very little of the kit ended up being used

Left: Example seen at Royal Engineers Museum, Kent

 As Dave had pointed out, if you wanted a wartime ‘Invasion’ period Bridgelayer, then the bridge as supplied in the kit was not correct, as this was actually a post-war ‘No. 3’ type bridge with ‘solid’ treadway. The wartime bridge had a different treadway, constructed in an open metal lattice of small-section steel longitudinal beams with staggered welded cross pieces [see photo below]…something of a fiddle to reproduce in small scale!

 

Mk II Bridge unit at Duxford – note the open lattice structure for the treadway

 

The artwork on the Airfix box top and the kit painting guide shows the correct No. 2 bridge, but the kit provides the later No.3 – I wonder if the intention was there, but then the production difficulties of moulding the No.2 with its associated ‘lattice’ dawned on Airfix?…hum…

I chose to use the Italeri Mk III Churchill as the bridge carrier, rather than the now somewhat ancient Airfix Mk VII which is provided in the kit – Yes, I know that this brings in the issue of a 1/72nd – 1/76th ‘mix’, but preferred the newer Italeri kit, and it’s also is a better choice as many of the bridglayer tanks were based upon the earlier ‘square door’ Mk III hulls…

So, the tank supplied in the kit was not used and the bridge itself had to be radically reconfigured. The only unaltered ‘Airfix’ components actually used were the bridge carrying/deploying structure. These are somewhat simplified when compared with photos and drawings of the real thing, but I decided to live with what was provided.

  

The ‘sides’ of the Airfix bridge components were re-cycled after some careful cutting with a razor saw… The treadway was made using plastic strip fixed by cross-bearers…

 

 

The treadway was manufactured ‘flat’ with stretched sprue cross-pieces forming the ‘lattice’. Here the treadway is being held by pins to allow it to conform to the curve of the bridge during gluing…

 


One completed 30ft No.2 bridge section…

 

 

 

 

Hull assembly of the Italeri Churchill Mk III underway. Note the turret ring blanking plate with white plastic card cupola for the bridge operator.

  

 

The assembled tank with bridge bearers, deployment beam and hydraulic actuating ram assembly in place… and the completed No.2 Bridge…

 

 

I elected to finish the vehicle with the bridge raised up ready for final deployment.

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