by: Rick Taylor [ ]
The BL 8-inch howitzer Mark VI was a heavy British howitzer on a mobile carriage used during World War I. It was designed by Vickers and entered production in March 1916. It was produced by four British suppliers and by Midvale Steel in the United States. It featured a 117.7-inch-long (2.972m) built-up tube on a conventional box trail with a fixed spade at the rear of the trail.
It used a hydro pneumatic recoil system and two pneumatic counter recoil cylinders. The breach was an interrupted screw type with an Ashbury style single motion opening breach block mechanism. The distinguishing feature on the piece are its large, open spoke, all steal “traction type” wheels. The box trail allowed it to elevate to 50 degrees; but, limited it’s traverse to four degrees right and left. To overcome the limited traverse and limit displacement after firing, it employed a triangular steel and wooden firing platform which allowed the trails to be shifted 26 degrees right and left. The firing platform travelled with the piece on its own set of wheels. Like other designs up to this point it employed a limber for towing behind an artillery tractor. It weighted 8.74 tons and fired a 200-pound (91kg) high explosive projectile to a range of 10,745 yards (9,825m).
In World War I, it was used by the British, Canadian, Australian, United States, and Russian forces. At the time of the Armistice, the United States had four 24-gun coastal artillery regiments in action on the western front equipped with this weapon and an additional three regiments in training in the theatre. The Commonwealth forces had 40 6-gun batteries equipped with this weapon in action on the Western front.
Early in World War II, the United States transferred its remaining war reserve stock of howitzers to the United Kingdom under the Lend-Lease Act. Some of these were reconfigured to 7.2-inch howitzers and employed in combat by the British. The United States gave 32 American built howitzers to Finland when they were invaded by the Soviet Union. After the war, Finland put the remaining 8-inch howitzers into reserve stores until scrapped in the late 1960s.
This is the first offering of this subject in 1/35th scale. Roden, of the Ukraine, released a 1/72nd scale version in 2018. Resicast offers a 1/35 BL 8-Inch Mark II in resin which was a completely different howitzer.
The production kit is packaged in a sturdy two-part box. Inside are the instructions and a small photo-etch fret sealed in plastic, and all the sprues sealed in another plastic bag. No decals are included as artillery pieces rarely had markings.
The black and white instructions are eight pages in length. The first page gives a history and statistics in English, German, and Ukrainian. Next comes the color scheme based upon Vallejo paints and diagrams showing all the sprues and part locations. The instructions are clear and provide ten steps to assemble the howitzer and carriage. An additional four steps cover the assembly of the limber and firing platform which can be assembled in firing mode or travelling mode. The painting instructions show a dark green British Expeditionary Forces example, and a US Army Expeditionary Forces example in the three-color olive, brown, and black camouflage scheme. The black and white instructions make it difficult to differentiate between the black and brown. The box art is no help as it illustrates a British example. You will have to rely upon other references to determine where the black ends and the brown begins. Printing this page in color would have resolved the confusion.
The kit consists of six sprues and a separate box trail molded in grey styrene. The metal road surface of the wheels is molded in vinyl which must be wrapped around the four-part molded wheels. The small photo-etch fret contains four data plates for attachment to the carriage. The parts count is a modest 118. The molding is straight forward – none of the slide molding or tiny delicate parts that we see on artillery pieces from other manufacturers. The bolt and rivet details are crisply molded. There is a small amount of flash on a handful of pieces and noticeable mold parting lines that will have to be carefully scraped and sanded off. A handful of the parts, mostly on the optional firing platform and limber exhibit sink marks. Ejector pin marks are mostly hidden by assembly. The barrel and upper carriage are two-part assemblies and will require careful filling and sanding to eliminate the seams. The breach block is a very simple molding – only three parts compared to ten on another manufacturer’s kit that uses the same style of breach block.
Sprue and part count break out:
A – 15 Barrel, lower carriage & spade
B – 31 Upper carriage, breach block, and trail details
C – 19 Limber and firing platform
D – 21 (x2) Wheels
E – 4 Firing platform and limber
F – 1 Box trail
G – 2 Wheel treads
P – 4 Photo-etch placards
This kit should be a fast, easy, and enjoyable build – no tiny flying parts, or parts so delicate that they break or bend when removing them from the sprue. Congratulations to Roden for tackling this overlooked yet important subject. It fills a hole in everyone’s collection of World War I artillery pieces. This kit was purchased by the author.