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The Story of a Stuart


"Bellman" - the M3 Stuart in question
(Photo: SANDF Archives)

by William Marshall

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The US General Stuart M2 light tank, or “Honey” as the British called it. First entering in production in 1941 as the M2A4 model, which soon became the improved M3 light tank. The M3 was supplied to the British in Egypt in 1941 as the basic light tank.  



British designations for this tank was:  

British designation

US designation

Stuart MK 1


Stuart MK 2

M3 Diesel

Stuart MK 3


Stuart MK 4

M3A1 Diesel

Stuart MK 5


Stuart MK 6


The weaponry of most Stuart’s were basically the same, a 37mm gun ans Browning co-axial machine gun. The British removed the sponson-mounted Browning machine gun to create more crew space. The British named it the "Honey" because of its reliability, speed and ease of handling.  

It served in the British Army in many roles such as; a cruiser tank; in the reconnaissance role and as an armoured escort.  Later in Italy during 1944/5 some were modified and used as AOP's by the artillery, having their turrets removed and becoming troop carriers or gun tractors.


The 7th Armoured Division 

The 7th Armoured Division of the British Army also known as the "Desert Rats”, was the first to enter the desert war against the Italians in 1941, they soon earned the nickname "desert rats". 

During 1941 the 8th Hussars, 4th and 5th Royal Tank Regiments were brought together to form the 4th Armoured Brigade. (See Chart 1 for the organisation) 

The "formation sign" of the 7th Armoured Division was originally a white circle inside of a red square. The white circle soon acquired a red jerboa (desert rat) as part of their emblem. Bellman was originally allocated to the 8th Hussars who formed part of the 4th Armd Brigade. 

At the start of Operation “Crusader” on the 19th of November 1941, Bellman was one of about 51 M3s taking part in the battle. 

During the ensuing battle, tanks were knocked-out, recovered, repaired and supplied to any unit who had the greatest need. Thus in this confused situation it is virtually impossible to pinpoint a tanks true unit. 

At 15h30 of the second day Bellman was knocked out by the 5th Panzer Regiment about 5 miles north-east of Gabr Saleh and was left behind during the retreat.


Chart 1: Basic organisation showing the main units only



Basic Colours


The current colour offering from Academy seems to be based on colour drawings that were published in Fine Scale Modeler in November 1997. A number of very good looking models are featured all over the Internet with the latest offering on HyperScale titled "Stuart Honey" by Steven Palffy. Colin Shea also features a very interesting conversion in FSM of July 1999. All offerings seem to have one flaw, to a greater or lesser degree, the colour schemes depicted. 

Bellman was originally supplied to the British painted in a overall colour of dark green - possibly middle bronze green or an American equivalent - or even possibly in British olive drab. I have my doubts about American olive drab as this was a brownish green colour and should showup as a lighter colour in black and white. This colour can be seen as the green rectangle behind the WD number. 

The original green colour is also visible on the attachment points of the sandskirts that seem to have been lost, quite recently, before the tank was knocked out. The colour is also visible where shell splinters have knocked of the paint on the left-hand slide.  

British vehicles at this stage of the war were painted in a "Caunter" type of scheme. This comprised of three basic colours: 

  • BSC 61 Light Stone as the basic colour, (a sand colour).

  • BSC 28 Silver grey, (light green-grey)

  • BSC 34 Slate, (dark green-grey)

Nowhere, have I come across any blue or blue-grey colour. I think that it would make an interesting subject to try and determine where this dreadful colour came from, anybody interested? 

I see two colours on this tank - the overall light stone, and possibly slate or silver grey but not both. This seems to be a sub-Caunter scheme of which there are quite a number of variants to be seen.


Basic Colour

I believe that Bellman was only painted in overall BSC 61 Light Stone with a sub-caunter type secondary over spray of BSC 34 Slate. I do not find any evidence of BSC 28 Silver Grey, even after placing the photos under extreme contrast and brightness tests (BSC 28 usually shows up when one does this, see photo 3)


Picture No. 3: Bellman - the basic colours (Photo: SANDF Archives)


Picture No. 4: Showing the contrast and brightness test.




Serial number (WD): The serial number on the side of Bellman clearly shows T. 28037 and not T.28035 as shown in the FSM drawings and also as depicted in the Academy kit. Sorry guys you will have to remove the T.28035 serial as this is dreadfully "wrong".


Picture No. 5: Bellman - The basic colours



All B Sqd vehicles had names starting with the letter B as was British tradition. The name "Bellman", in white letters 6" high, on the right-hand side of the turret is in a green rectangle similar to the background colour of the WD numbers, although it does not seem to be as dark as the serial numbers background.


Picture No. 6: Close-up of the name clearly shows the original US basic Olive Drab or British equivalent in a masked rectangle


Tactical Marking

The B sqn tactical square is most probably in red or orange, it does not quite match the dark red of the white/red/white bar on the turret. This gives me the impression that it may be orange or dark yellow, this may not be in line with practice at that stage but what is? What paint was available in the workshop? I also think that the square tactical marking was painted first, then all the rest, even an overpainting of this tac emblem. After the painting was completed the tac emblem was scraped clean with a sharp object, to reveal the red square, you will see that there are scraping/scratches on this emblem even through to the original US colour. This may also explain why the name Bellman and the white/red/white and tactical square are super-imposed over each other.


Picture No. 7: The close-up reveals that scratch marks on the tactical marking is clearly evident. 


Armour Recognition Insignia

This is the only part that seems to be in line with what we know to as correct. The white/red/white bars give a good solid foundation for judging the colours. I also think that the white/red/white emblem is painted on the front of the hull, compare the red of this emblem to those on the side. It would also serve as an addition recognition marking and would not compromise the tank in any way as this emblem is usually not seen in a hull-down position. Clearly visible in this view, is the 7th Amd Divisions badge on the right track sand guard and nothing on the left - it may have been censored but why only the AoS marking and not both?


Picture No. 8: Close-up of the hull showing, in the author’s opinion, the RAC white/red/white recognition markings, similar to those on the side, the Jerboa insignia but no Arm of Service No - it may have been censored?



The Test


I took colour chips supplied by Mike Starmer in the UK and colour matched them into a palette. These were then superimposed onto the original drawing in three different shades. The basic colour, one shade up and one down to allow for weathering, shades, film, etc. This was then converted to grey scale and a visual comparison made.  Colours that did not match were deleted. The closest possible match was used for the colour art drawings. I like the results speak for them selves, although it may not be an acid test that can be proved beyond reasonable doubt in a court of law. I do think it may be quite accurate and may give a higher degree of accuracy that the horrible blue colours that one finds on many a model.


Colour Table


The colour table showing the basic colour chips.


Test Photo 1

These were then superimposed onto the original drawing in three different shades. The basic colour, one shade up and one down to allow for weathering, shades, film, etc.




Test Photo 2

This was then converted to grey scale and a visual comparison made. 



Test Photo 3

Colours that obviously did not match were deleted. The closest possible match was left on the photo.



Test Photo 4

Possible colours are now superimposed on the photo to see whether they will match the original.



Test Photo 5

When converted to grey-scale one can see that they blend in quite nicely. Taking into consideration all the arguments regarding computers and their ability to be totally unreliable regarding colours, I am quite happy with the results. Surely it seems more accurate and it looks better than the horrible blue colours as suggested by the model manufacturers.




Conclusion - The Author's Opinion


Colours and Markings:

1.  The serial or WD number was T.28037.

2.  There was no Arm of Service Marking other than the 7 Armd Div insignia on the track sand skirts.

3.  The name Bellman has a US Olive Drab background.

4.  The hull front was painted with the RAC flash.

5.  The tactical red square was painted first and then scraped clean at a later stage, possibly due to lack of red paint

6.  I only see two colours on this tank, BSC 61 Light Stone and BSC 34 Slate.

7.  The sand skirt brackets show the basic US Olive Drab colour to good effect.


Colour Test: 

1.  The test has been done taken into consideration the limitations of the computer generated colours.

2.  The colour test is not cast in concrete and is not the ultimate beyond reasonable doubt test.

3.  The test only proves that these colours could possibly have been used.

4.  If any other photo’s appears which can disclaim any of the results found, please pass them on.


Academy Box Art Picture

Academy box art showing the wrong WD number, that blue colour and some doubtful arm of service markings.





Fine Scale Modeler: Issue July 1999, A Honey of a Conversion by Colin M. Shea. Page 38.

Fine Scale Modeler: Issue November 1997, British Stuart 1 by George Bradford. Page 56.

Military Modelling: Vol 29 No 6 (1999), Desert Honey by Steve Zaloga. Page 23.

Military Modelling: Dec 1994, British Military Vehicle Markings of the Second World War. Page 57.

Armour Camouflage and Markings, North Africa 1940 -1943 by G. Bradford, Arms & Armour Press, 1974

British Armoured Units and Formations (1940 - 1946) by Duncan Crow, Profile Publications Ltd,  1971.


Text & Images Copyright © 2003 by William Marshall
Page Created 04 February, 2003
Last Updated 19 April, 2004

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