Built Review
Canadian AFV decals
Canadian AFV decals
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by: Tom Cromwell [ BARKINGDIGGER ]


Canadian armoured forces made up a significant part of Britain’s fighting strength in WWII, but their markings have been under-represented in model kits. Several after-market makers have offered vehicle sets or specific marking components, but this new sheet from Decalcomaniacs offers a one-stop shop of basic markings for a wide range of Canadian vehicles in various units.

As a dominion within the British Empire at the time the Canadian forces used the British system of markings. This meant a War Department census number on each side of the vehicle (and sometimes other locations too), a Formation sign and Arm-of-Service flash at front and rear, and geometric Squadron signs on turret sides. In addition vehicles might have nicknames, bridge-classification plates on the front, air-recognition symbols on top, and the red-white-red RAC recognition flash often seen on tank hulls.


Sealed within a zip-lock bag is a single 8”x5” decal sheet crammed with markings, and two pages of notes on units and vehicle types. Suffice it to say that many WWII Canadian units can be modelled from the combinations of Formation signs and AoS flashes. And in many cases you could cover several vehicles of each combo, and a couple-dozen different vehicles of differing units. However, the sheet does not contain all the necessary markings for typical vehicles and should be used in conjunction with other decals (air-recognition symbols, bridging plates, etc) to complete a model based on reference photos.

The sheet has four marking elements: AoS flashes, Formation signs, War Dept census numbers, and squadron symbols. All come as pairs, and in the case of Formation signs you get two, three, or even six pairs. I was pleased to see the Formation signs use the correct WWII-era maple leaf rather than the later one incorrectly seen in some AM markings.

Formation signs include:
• 1st Canadian Army Tank Brigade (later Armoured Brigade) (6 vehicles)
• 2nd Canadian Army Tank Brigade (later Armoured Brigade) (6 vehicles)
• 3rd Canadian Army Tank Brigade (3 vehicles)
• 4th Canadian Armoured Division (6 vehicles)
• 5th Canadian Armoured Division (6 vehicles)
• 1st Canadian Corps (2 vehicles)
• 2nd Canadian Corps (2 vehicles)
• 1st Canadian Army (2 vehicles)
• 1st Canadian Infantry Division (2 vehicles)
• 2nd Canadian Infantry Division (2 vehicles)
• 3rd Canadian Infantry Division (2 vehicles)
• 79th Armoured Division (3 vehicles)

Arm-of-Service flashes include:
• two vehicles’-worth of red Armoured Brigade regiments (50 – HQ, 51 - senior regimentt, 52 – second-senior regiment, 53 – junior regiment)
• one vehicle’s-worth of red 50, 51, 52, 53 with white bar
• two vehicles’-worth of green infantry regiment (60, 61, 62, 63)
• an assortment of green-over-blue recce regiments
• one vehicle’s-worth of blue-over-brown tank regiment flashes for Dieppe and Italy

Interesting oddities include one set of green-over-blue 157, the AoS for 79th AD Kangaroos in Northwest Europe.

Census numbers are given as pairs, with a mix of CT- and T-numbers for tanks and F- for other armoured vehicles. The data sheets don’t say what vehicles they go with, and my own references did not match any of them. Purists may want to check out the two reference books listed on the sheets.

Finally there are three sets of geometric squadron markings – in red, yellow, and blue. These correspond to senior, second-senior, and junior regiments. Each set has diamonds (HQ Squadron), triangles (A Squadron), squares (B Squadron), and circles (C Squadron) sized for use on turret sides. Oddly there are no white ones (Recce & “special” regiments), and since many photos show only a half-sized marking on the hull rear later in the war it is unfortunate that no small ones are provided.

On the Decalcomaniacs website Georg states that he uses an ALPS “dry ink” printer to create his decals – a technique that appeared in the model railroad hobby in the late 1990s. Some of the markings are a little grainy owing to the way they are printed. Normally a kit-supplied decal is silk-screen printed from thick inks of solid colours. With an ALPS printer the colours are made up from dots of cyan, yellow, magenta, and black just as with an ink-jet document printed on a home printer, so each decal needs to sit on a solid patch of white ink to get the right effect. (Try printing something on coloured paper at home and see how the lack of white background affects the colours!) This is ok, but it means if the white is out of register even a tiny fraction, you’ll see it peek out around the edges of the coloured parts of the decal. On my review set the white was low and left a fraction of a millimetre, as will be seen in the Formation sign I tested. I left it that way to show the issue, but trimmed the left side of the red AoS decal to remove this white edging. (I thought I’d also trimmed the bottom of the AoS flash, but didn’t do it tightly enough…) The white WD number of course wasn’t affected. The other effect of the mixed-dot colour method is that most colours come out rather grainy if inspected close-up (like the “gold” maple leaves), and complex detail can appear blurred. Again, white markings are not affected by this blurring.


The “proof” of a decal is in the using, so to speak. To test them I needed a model – enter a surplus Sherman transmission with its cast texture and raised casting numbers. I prepped this tranny with a coat of Tamiya Olive Drab followed by a coat of Micro Gloss, all run through my airbrush. Once it was dry I applied three test decals. First up was a Formation sign as normally placed on the left side (from the crew’s perspective), then an AoS flash in the form of red square with white “53”, and finally a random War Dept census number to test out the clear carrier film under the white numbers. In each case I applied some Micro Sol, then the decal, patted it dry with a tissue, and then added Micro Set.

These decals are printed on a solid 8x5” sheet of film, effectively creating one giant decal. I normally cut each marking close on three sides to eliminate excess clear film, and leave the fourth with some extra space for my locking tweezers. Before I dip them in water I carefully cut along this fourth side very lightly – enough to slice the film, but not enough to go all the way through the paper backing.

A word of warning – the ALPS printing process makes the decals inherently fragile. The ink is susceptible to scratches, and you need to be careful that you don’t accidentally damage adjacent decals when cutting one out to use. I find it best to carefully cut out the ones I need with a sharp knife free-hand, leaving a wide margin of film around them. Then, once off the sheet I can use a ruler and knife to trim the edges of each decal without having to lean across the whole sheet with the ruler. (I still managed to scratch one Formation sign on this sample despite these precautions.) Once sealed onto the model with gloss coat etc they are fine.

Others have reported that these decals release from the paper very quickly – I found that by the time I had brushed a drop of Micro-Sol on the model the decal was loose and ready to apply.

I was impressed with the thinness of the decal carrier film, which snuggled down into the textured surface and draped itself over the raised numbers beautifully after a single application of Micro-Set. What wasn’t so welcome was the way the dark base (OD paint) seemed to dim the white and other colours. Of course, I could add a second decal on top to get better colour, but in fact the dimming might work in my favour! Normally I finish my decals with a very thin over-spray of the base colour to tone down that “new car showroom” gleam most decals have, but the dimming has done that job for me.

Note that the decals have a matte finish. After they were dry I added a sealing coat of gloss, and then a coat of Micro-Flat, before adding a simple “mud” wash and a little dry-brushing of Earth to give some generic weathering. The result seemed to brighten up the colours a bit, and I am happy with the way they look. Better still, they look painted-on (except for a single trapped air-bubble I missed at the top of the Formation sign in my haste), so the clear film needn’t be trimmed too fanatically. I just wish the white was in register.


Despite being fragile and a bit grainy, these decals offer a big variety of unit markings on a single sheet. They settle down nicely, and once weathered this reviewer thinks they’re pretty good.
Highs: Covers lots of vehicles from lots of Canadian units. Multiple sets for most. Correct maple leaf style.
Lows: White out of register with colours. Slightly grainy. Very fragile.
Verdict: Worth having for Canadian armour modellers.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:35
  Mfg. ID: DM-050
  Suggested Retail: 12 USD
  PUBLISHED: Dec 15, 2011

Our Thanks to Decalcomaniacs!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Tom Cromwell (barkingdigger)

A Yank living overseas on a long-term basis, I've been building tanks since the early '70s. I relish the challenges of older kits (remember when Tamiya was "new"?...) because I love to scratch-build.

Copyright ©2021 text by Tom Cromwell [ BARKINGDIGGER ]. All rights reserved.


That's ok, Georg - I can trim edges with the best of 'em! (And thanks for the review sample. I've got a bunch of Canadian tank projects in the pipeline...) Tom
DEC 15, 2011 - 10:40 PM
Tom Looking at the pictures, there seems to be a pattern across the decals, is that the graininess you mention? Kevin
DEC 16, 2011 - 12:06 AM
Yeah, that's the grain from the printer. (Most of the colours are made by overlapping patterns of dots from the different ink cartridges, hence the patterned effect - kinda like the Pointalism art movement.) I think it appears a lot worse in the magnified photos than it is to the naked eye, so while it shows in the review I'm still quite happy with the actual results on plastic. (The curse of digital photography and zoom lenses!) But you may want to reconsider if you need a very clean "parade dress" model with no weathering to help hide the grain. The thing that impressed me is the sheer quantity of markings for only $12. Tom
DEC 16, 2011 - 12:42 AM
Thanks, Tom, for the speedy review. These decals do well once filters, washes and weathering is applied. And we're grateful to Georg they exist at all, eh? My only disappointment with the review is you didn't work the word "hoser" into the text, LOL.
DEC 16, 2011 - 04:43 AM
Take off eh! cheers
DEC 16, 2011 - 04:52 AM
He, He... My only regret is these Canadian decals didn't come with a bottle of Labatts! Tom
DEC 16, 2011 - 04:52 AM
Georg, I know we talked about the white bar under several of the markings, but I'm not sure I explained things well enough. You did change the proportions under the "41", "44" and "157" markings but it really should be done to all of the markings with the whte bar. The coloured square remained constant for all Commonwealth markings and the white bar, whether above or below, was added to that standard square. This means all of the markings with the white bars (except the three mentioned) are a tad too small (by the thickness of the white bar). This can be corrected on the next batch you print or you can even just print the white bars as separate things and have the modeller add them to the appropriate corps or army level unit signs. For may users these are probaly fine, but I just wanted to pass on that small tweak. I must say that I _am_ impressed with this release as it allows an awful lot of units to be depicted; pretty much every major combat unit in the Canadian Army of the time. All that's missing are the brown squares for the junior regiments in each infantry brigade. If you want, I can get you that information? Thanks!
DEC 16, 2011 - 06:54 AM
Paul, I did make that change (the white bars). The problem found on the sheet was due to wear and tear on the printer. Actually, these markings are for AFV's not transports, softskins, etc or any other of the support vehicles, there simply would not be room on the sheet. Regards, Georg
DEC 16, 2011 - 03:39 PM
Sorry, All, and Georg, I got the markings I was talking about wrong, it wasn't the "41", "44" and "157" , it was the h44, 465 and 459 markigns. These are correct., the tac sign square is if the correct size and the bar is above or below as required. It's the third row that still has an issue. The red square for those 50, 51,52 & 53 markings all should be the same size as the markings in the 8th row from the top. The white bar then being below those standard squares. Also, I'm, not quite sure what you mean by While the serial numbers are certainly for combat vehicles, any vehicle in the unit would have the same tac sign & formation sign, whether it was an "A" eschelon Sherman or a "B" eschelon Morris C8. These are great for any vehicle in the various Canadian divisions. Thanks so much for making them! Paul
DEC 18, 2011 - 01:35 PM

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