Revell 1/72 S-100 Schnellboot.

KIT: Revell 1/72 S-100 Schnellboot.
KIT #: RV 5002
PRICE: €17.00
DECALS: Ten options
REVIEWER: Pierre-Andre Boillat
NOTES:  

HISTORY

 Built by the Lürssen company in Bremen-Vegesack, the Schnellboot (fast craft) design was originally based on a 1927 private motor yacht. In post-WWI years, German naval construction was severely limited by the treaty of Versailles, so the Germans put great care into the few, mostly light types they could build.

 The “Schnellboote” or “S-Boote” were the primary attack crafts for coastal areas, and took over the role of the classical torpedo boat. Several only slightly different classes of S-Boats were built between 1929 and 1945.

 Operating in coastal waters, the offensive S-Boote (called E-Boats - Enemy boats - by the Allied), were a very effective weapon. They took over the role of the torpedoboats after those ships were more and more used for duty normally fulfilled by destroyers.

 Graced with sterling seagoing qualities, the Lürssen Schnellboot was heavier, larger, better armed and more powerful than the Allied opposition. The feature that made it most formidable was its ability to cruise at maximum speed in the roughest sea, something lighter crafts like the british Vosper couldn’t do. The S-Boot was also equipped with two variable-pitch, so-called “Lürssen-Effect” rudders installed in the wake of the outside propellers that further improved manoeuvrability and speed.

 The fast attack boats were used in almost all theaters of war, the Baltic Seas, the Mediterranean or the Black Sea (sometimes travelling from one front to the other on Europe’s many canals and rivers), but their main operational area was the English Channel where they attacked coastal shipping, especially during the night. Their operational record was quite successful, the S-boats sinking over 40 warships (including 12 destroyers) and far over 100 merchantmen, while damaging 14 other warships (including 2 cruisers) and 15 merchantmen. But this was not achieved without heavy losses, especially in the later years of the war. Being vulnerable to air attacks and without any radar, the E-boats lost the surprise factor in their night attacks and had to abort more attacks than they could bring to an end.

 One little known fact is that a majority of S-boat missions were in fact mine laying operations, but as the boats could only carry up to 6 mines, they only had a limited success.

At the outbreak of World War II, only 18 S-boats were in service, but between 1940 and 1945 about 230 more were built, the surviving ones surrendering to the Allied at war’s end.

 The Lürssen shipyards continued to build successful fast attack crafts after the war. Several captured S-boats were used by many other navies after the war (including the Royal Navy, which says a lot about the type’s qualities), two of them eventually joining the newly formed German Bundesmarine as late as 1957.

THE KIT

The model represents a late-war S-100 with the typical “Kalotte” armoured bridge and non-standard 20mm Flakvierling. The four-barrelled AA cannon was a favourite of the Schnellboot-crews due to its superior firepower, and (according to the rumour) quite often “liberated” or bartered by crafty sailors from harbour defence AA units. However, the kit offers different armament options including the standard 37mm Flak 36. Released in 2006, it’s a modified re-issue of a former kit.

 The usual side-opening soft box contains 164 parts on 8 sprues of light grey plastic, one piece of transparent plastic sheet, a bobbin of strong brown thread and a nice decal sheet for the 10 proposed options. Depending on the version and armament, many parts won’t be needed – special attention is required while reading the instructions, which, can be quite confusing. But this is maybe due to the fact that I’m not familiar with ship models.

 Detail level is quite good for the scale, fit is very nice, and as far as I can say, the general accuracy is excellent. As for the price, it’s moderate for a model of this size and quality.

CONSTRUCTION

As my latest completed ship model was the Airfix HMS Nelson built in 1989, this sure was a complete change from my usual aircraft and tanks. As I quickly noticed it would be impossible to build, then paint, I assembled the hull and main deck, painted them after a light filling and sanding job, then worked in pre-painted sub-assemblies that were installed one after the other, from bow to stern. As I said above, everything fits pretty well, and while the chosen method requires patience, the S-100 is not a difficult kit. Just keep enough quantities of the listed colours to make the distance (I had to mix mine directly in Tamiya bottles, and mark these according to the instructions sheet – which, adding to the difficulty - names them by letters).

Once all major items and the armament (including the depth charges) were in place, I installed the railings. Speaking of railings, it must be said that most Schnellboote had them covered with thick canvas in order to protect the deck (and crew) from spray and waves coming from the side. All assembled kits I have seen on the Internet had this feature, but photos show it was not always the case. As I didn’t want to hide those pretty torpedoes and deck details too much, I chose to do without. The railings are a little thick for the scale, but in my opinion, they’re acceptable.

 The provided super-strong thread is supposed to be used as anchor rope, to attach the life rafts, to simulate antenna wires and to shut the openings in the railings (there’s surely a marine word for that). Of course, it’s much too thick for most of these jobs, so I replaced it with better suited material.

 The trickiest part on the whole project is the single transparent part, which represents the windscreen on top of the armoured bridge. It’s a piece of plastic sheet with the frames printed on you have to cut (I used small nail scissors), bend to shape with flat pliers, then glue in place (I did it with tiny drops of superglue).

COLORS & MARKINGS

The S-100 came basically in one colour: “Schnellbootweiss”. But although it means “Fast craft white”, it’s in fact a very light grey. Earlier in the war, some E-boats sported interesting, crew-applied wave-pattern camos. According to the few colour pictures I had, I mixed a much lighter colour than what the instructions sheet said. It seems that late-war boats were a wee darker than their 1939 counterparts, which were actually off-white. The other colours are largely guess-work based on the documentation, too. They don’t seem to be too far away from the real thing, though.

 Most pics of assembled models show a red hull below a black waterline, but my whole documentation – and the instructions sheet – indicates an all-black hull below the waterline, so I kept this option.

I chose to model a boat of the 4th flotilla based in Rotterdam in may 1945. When all painting was done, I sealed the model with acrylic gloss, then added a wash of white-spirit-thinned oils, that was subsequently cleaned away with more white spirit and a soft brush (the method I use on tanks). Eventually, some areas were highlighted with fresh Schnellbootweiss, and the whole job was coated in acrylic flat. The Kriegsmarine flag (with swastikas borrowed from a 1/72 fighter) decal was installed on a piece of aluminium cut from a beer can.

CONCLUSIONS

Not being a ship expert, I can’t really say how accurate this kit is. However, it seems to me like a reasonable description of a late-model Lürssen Schnellboot’s sleek and aggressive lines, and will look pretty nice beneath other marine subjects in the same scale, like its older brother the classic Airfix E-boat, a British Vosper, or set on a waterline harbour diorama alongside a sea-plane or the Revell Type VII U-boat (if you have a lot of room). Anyway – it was a pleasant break from my usual stuff, the results were rewarding, and I highly recommend this kit. 

REFERENCES

 Deutsche Bundesmarine website.

 Various pictures of built models on the Web.

 Steve Wiper – “Kriegsmarine Schnellboote” – Warship Pictorial Nr. 15.

Pierre-Andre Boillat

July 2008

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