The Battle of the Atlantic remains one of the most-popular subjects in World War Two history. Historians debate whether Germany really threatened Great Britain with starvation, especially after the cracking of Enigma meant the Allies could intercept U-boat wolf packs. Still, the appalling conditions and the hair-raising nature of undersea combat make the battle compelling to those of us who have studied the war. The consummate bravery of the crews of the ships and submarines on both sides is undeniable, as is the sheer horror of the conditions (out of 40,000 German submariners in WW2, 28,000 perished).
Revell of Germany has done more than its part in bringing the battle alive for modelers by releasing excellent kits (at reasonable prices) that recreate the ships and submarines which stalked one another across the Atlantic and even into the Indian Ocean. Revell has released BoTA subs and ships in several scales, but they have laid pretty much sole claim to the 1/72nd category: two Type VII U-boats, a recently re-released Flower
-Class Corvette (upgraded with a wooden deck and photo etch), an E-boat and now a Type IX U-boat (likely the first of two).
Somewhat larger than the workhorse Type VII, the Type IX was intended for more-distant patrols off the coast of the United States, in the Caribbean & Gulf of Mexico - in fact, all the way to the South Atlantic off Brazil and along the convoy routes round Cape Horn. Slightly over 280 were launched (vs. over 700 Type VIIs), and possibly the most-famous U-boat of all (at least among the few surviving ones) is a Type IX: U-505, captured in June, 1944 and eventually housed inside Chicago's Museum of Science & Industry
Carefully-packed to prevent breakage in one of the usual long Revell of Germany turquoise ship boxes are:
10 sprues of cream-colored styrene
The hull in four pieces
three deck pieces
A sheet of US and Kriegsmarine paper flags (sans swastikas)
A spool of black twine for rigging
The Type IX had at least five variants, and even within the Type C, there were changes over the course of the war. The kit represents the "late" U-505 at the time of its capture, after it had undergone a refit in July 1943. Among other changes, the refit added the Balkdongerät
(a bulge on the keel that used hydrophones to triangulate the position of ship propeller sounds), and removed the 105mm deck gun. Early in the war, U-boat doctrine was to surface and sink a target with the deck gun, both to save torpedoes and allow the ship's crew to take to their lifeboats.
But early German successes against ships sailing alone had driven the Allies to convoy most of their ships. This provided safety in numbers, much like herds of wild animals group together to provide numbers against powerful predators. As the Allies ramped up military production, they added escort vessels to the convoys, including corvettes, destroyers, and later escort or "jeep" carriers providing air cover and anti-submarine capabilities. Surfacing under such conditions usually led straight to the bottom, so doctrine changed and the deck gun became dead weight.
The kit's box art even shows Wildcats from the "jeep" carrier USS Guadalcanal
circling the U-505, which surfaced after being depth charged by the destroyer escort USS Chatelain
. The U-boat was captured by a boarding party from the USS Pillsbury
Increased Allied air patrols, both from escort carriers and long-range land-based aircraft like the B-24 Liberator, and Short Sunderland and Catalina float planes also meant U-boats needed more anti-aircraft protection. The 505 as shown in the kit was fitted with the Type IV Turm
(or "tower") sporting increased AA arrays (3.7cm and 2cm FlaK guns). The term Turm
refers to the various configurations of anti-aircraft guns mounted behind
the conning tower, with at least three major variants.
There are hints in the parts trees that Revell of Germany may release an early version of U-505 at some point in the future.
The first impression one has opening the box is the sheer size of the kit. While dwarfed by Revell of Germany's enormous Gato
Class US fleet submarine model in 1/72nd scale, the Type IX is still an impressive model. The detailing is decent, though you may want to consider opening up the flood holes like on the real boat. The kit includes many features, though will leave ample room for after-market upgrades. The kit is neither as complex (nor as expensive) as the earlier Type VIIs Revell of Germany has released in 1/72nd scale.
However, changes such as opening up the flood holes are not steps for the faint-of-heart, and I recommend proceeding carefully. The amount of "hidden" detail on a Type IX is less than on the Type VII, but still enough that a rudimentary pressure hull will be required. Unlike the Type VII, the Type IX's saddle tanks were internal, and so there is less involved here to take the build to a higher level. I strongly recommend checking out Model Shipwrights' member Glenn Cauley's website of his build of the early U-505
before leaping into that vortex. A fund of information can be found at the Accurate Model Parts website in several pieces researched by Dougie Martindale
, including one on U-505
For those who want to build the boat straight out of the box, they will be pleased with the amount of detailing. The molding is crisp, with RoG's usual low amount of flash and seam lines. Knock-out holes are also few in number from my observations, though the parts will need some clean-up work (see the flash, for example, on the propellers). Small touches like the Seetakt
mattress-shaped radar screen are included, though the styrene is a bit clunky for my tastes. Most sub modelers I have heard from seem to think the kit's production values are good, and I have not heard about any glaring inaccuracies in the shape, etc.
The build looks fairly straightforward with few issues, and not a lot of small parts. The hull sections do not come together at a seam or other natural "break," so care should be taken when assembling or else stand by with filler putty. The instructions are the usual RoG type with illustrations and few words.
decals & painting guide
Revell has chosen to embrace the U-505, and that is the only variant provided. However, I'm not at all clear the decals represent the correct coat of arms. The painting is simple with black below the waterline and gray above. White Ensign Models
an extensive line of Kriegsmarine colors, including all the variants for U-boat camouflage. There is talk of AM decals coming. As always, check your references if you plan to build a different Type IX than the late 505.
The earlier Type VII kits spawned a light industry of wooden decks, brass photo etch and resin upgrades & conversions, and there is every indication this kit will do the same. Several manufacturers have already released upgrade sets, including:
1.) three from Eduard
(53106, 53107 & 53108)
2.) a complete brass deck and fixtures and replacement 105mm deck gun from RC Subs
3.) periscopes and FlaK barrels from Schatton-Modellbau
4.) brass fittings, including propellers from Tehnoart Models
The Griffon Model Type VIIC FlaK upgrades
will also work on this kit.
has announced upgrades and interiors similar to the ones they produced for the Type VII boats, and Nautilus
is said to be preparing a wooden deck.
The RoG kits in 1/72nd scale bring some detail and size to vessels that tend to disappear in smaller scales. The production values of the kit are excellent, especially given the price (less than $100). Options for super-detailing are there for those inclined to go the extra lengths. And for those of us who love the Battle of the Atlantic, the kit is another great addition to the others out there.