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Pic 1, Pic 2, Pic 3, Pic 4, Pic 5, Pic 6, Pic 7,
Pic 1: There are two large 0.5mm thick brass sheets included with Andrea’s 1:32 scale U-Boat provide full deck areas and conning tower details. Here is one of them. Pic 2: Of thinner gauge (0.3mm), the third brass etch set offers non-slip deck area and smaller fittings, plates, etc. Posed alongside are the paper flag/pennant sheet and the excellent insignia supplied as dry-pressure decals. Pic 3: The resin content is first class from the virtually one-piece conning tower and the various control surfaces to the gun mount and periscope housings. The large circular items at top left serve as modest stands to hold the complete model for display. Pic 4: The white metal complement is equally impressive, dozens of smaller parts come in small pre-formed bubble packs; larger items include prop shafts, 88mm gun barrel and periscope tubes. Pic 5: The box art for the 88mm deck gun and crew kit offers some useful colour photos of the completed vignette. Pic 6: Contents of the gun set which includes a resin section of deck (centre) and three beautifully animated figures. Pic 7: Five of the 54mm U-Boat figures also produced by Andrea. Superb little models in their own right and exquisitely detailed. You’ll need to seek out your own refs when it comes to painting them, though.

Yet again we return to Germany’s WWII U-Boats in these columns – recent interest by kit and accessory manufacturers in the Kriegsmarine’s submarines has bordered on the obsessive of late, and if they hold no interest for you, dear reader, why not take a look around the rest of this issue and see what takes your fancy. I’m not complaining about the deluge of models you understand, for those U-Boat kits that have been appearing over latter months are generally to an extraordinarily high quality. But just what is their appeal? Where are the Allied submarine kits – the Royal Navy’s Spearfish; the American Gato class – for all us non-scratchbuilders? Like it or not, the U-Boat has continued to exert a hold on the human consciousness like few other modern war icons with the possible exceptions of the Dreadnought, Zeppelin, Spitfire, Stuka and Tiger Tank. Undeniably there’s an enduring fascination with WWII’s German military forces, fuelled by ‘History’ channels and publishers, the prolificacy of which is all too apparent as U-Boats continue to figure highly in the media. Of the many static scale U-Boat kits produced over past years, that of Spain’s Andrea Miniatures, first released in 2002, most surely rank as the finest, most comprehensive, and certainly the biggest, to appear thus far.

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Pic 8,
Pic 8: The sinister outlines of a Type VII U-Boat perfectly captured by the resin mouldings of the Andrea Miniatures kit. (All diorama photos: Andrea Miniatures – via Historex Agents).

This resin and metal kit is scaled to 1:32 which results in a finished model of considerable size: 197cm in length, 39cm deep and 18cm wide. Not particularly excessive for dedicated model boaters but to static modellers, used to smaller 1:350, 1:400 scales etc., it comes as a minor shock. They say size does matter but then so does quality, accuracy, ease of assembly and realism – happily Andrea’s U-Boat has all of these attributes in spades.

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Pic 9, Pic 10,
Pic 9: Clever mix of resin and white metal create the propeller shafts, rear diving planes and twin rudder configurations. Blades are separate metal castings. Pic 10: The 88mm deck gun is a beautiful little kit in its own right and available from Andrea as a separate item along with three crewmen.

A game of two halves…

Consider the hull. The unit is cast in two halves of laminated fibreglass polyester resin which are joined in the traditional manner of epoxy and resin using ‘soaked’ bandages for strength. The mouldings are very well detailed, Andrea claiming their hull carries over 10,000 rivet heads. No, I didn’t count them. The plating is precise, the drainage holes sharply defined but only partially recessed so you may care to carefully drill all these through. The manufacturers claim the hull is suitable for radio control installation and I’ve no reason to doubt them. Both your scribe and your editor would love to see working examples of these kits if any of you out there have taken up that particular challenge. Working or non-working you’ll need to incorporate some local strength within the joined halves as recommended by the kit instructions. At the very least such will be required to support the many excellent sections of photo-etched brass decks and plates. These, and many other detail parts: conning tower plating, gun platform, nifty nameplate, et al, are carried on two massive sheets of 0.5mm thick brass. This takes some cutting and care is required when wresting the various components from their frames. There’s a third sheet of 0.3mm thickness which offers fore and aft ‘non-slip’ deck sections, grilles, and a number of alternative (?) parts - their use depending largely on your own references for the instructions are somewhat vague in these and a number of other areas.'

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Pic 11,
Pic 11: Conning tower detail for the remarkable Andrea diorama that takes pride of place in the Madrid-based manufacturer’s main showroom.

‘Resin d’etre’

The largest cast resin piece of the kit is the conning tower which is one solid lump albeit beautifully detailed, and when ‘dressed’ with the many brass and white metal detail parts really comes alive. It bears a copyright placard deep down on the central floor which will be disguised by plating however, whilst careful drilling will be required on certain vents and slots to further accentuate them. Navigation lights are also moulded solid and purists may wish to replace these with coloured lenses, or even ‘grain of wheat’ bulbs if you can accommodate the necessary wiring in some way. Beautifully detailed inside and out this excellent resin casting is equalled only by the rear hull pieces, rudders, diving planes, propeller shaft mountings and parts for the periscope and UZO (U-Boat Ziel Optik), which are cast from the same material.

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Pic 12,
Pic 12: Crew figures are commercial items – not all necessarily Andrea’s – converted and adapted to populate the enormous dockyard diorama.

As well as the generous suite of resin items there are over 185 white metal castings spread over nine bubble pack and sponge-reinforced packaging. That’s another impressive feature I’ve not mentioned before, the kit comes carefully packed in a huge, rigid wooden box which provides safe shipping to your door. Your postman will need plenty of muscle when delivering it and - post assembly -you’ll have a handy container for your garden tools…

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Pic 13,
Pic 13: Great touches everywhere, including the workers on the hull: there are many more fabulous vignettes such as these.

The metal parts include guardrails, conning tower splash screen, propeller blades and shafts, diving plane brackets, a large number of conning tower fittings and details, control wheels and complete sub-kits for the forward 88mm deck gun and rear-mounted 37mm Flak M42U gun. There’s a lot more to it of course and the accompanying photo-spreads give some indication of the scope offered by the comprehensive kit content.

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Pic 14,
Pic 14: Rudder detail – the rear torpedo tube is at upper right.

Once main assembly is behind you, the addition of the conning tower is fairly straightforward but when it comes down to the smaller, finer, items you’ll need to pay close attention. The instruction manual is multi-lingual and relies heavily on photo step-by-step assembly procedures, keyed to numbers and paint codes. My copy was xeroxed which means many of these useful illustrations were none to clear, and I found certain areas could also have been expanded on. There are certainly a number of, literally, grey areas and in my opinion the instructions remain the only downside of an otherwise remarkable production. To complete their kit, Andrea supply a full colour sheet of flags and pennants (the Naval engine even includes the hakenkreuze!) which supplement the impressive ‘dry-rub’ decals offering compass dials and draught marks as well the Swordfish insignia of the 9th Flotilla, the ‘Snorting Bull’ of the 7th (as originally applied to U-47); along with the famous top-hatted snowman of Adalbert Schnee’s U.201 and the rampant lion. Far preferable to waterslides these ‘pressure’ decals, whilst demanding greater care in application, are waterproof, reveal no carrier film and are far easier to integrate with the paintwork and weathering. The placement of these and pennant disposition is clearly shown by the instructions and there’s a separate colour sheet that underlines these as well as providing alternative camouflage patterns.

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Pic 15: Seagull’s eye view of the U-Boat stern which is receiving plenty of miniaturized maintenance from the dockworkers. The attention to detail throughout is exemplary.

The Andrea kit is not cheap at £1,353.47 in the UK from Historex Agents, Wellington House, 157 Snargate Street, Dover, CT17 9B2 but quality costs and there is no doubt that the Andrea U-Boat is easily the best around. Scratchbuilders may note that the conning tower is available as a separate kit (S5S9) at £231.55 whilst there’s also a U-Boat 88mm deck gun (S5S10) at £81.90 which comes complete with three crew figures. Let’s take a closer look at this.

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Pic 16, Pic 17, Pic 18, Pic 19,
Pic 16: More conning tower detail – perfect guide for painting and weathering your model. We could have done with pictures like this in the kit’s instructions! Pic 17: Pulling the camera away reveals more intricate features: the wooden props supporting the hull; the crewman painting insignia on the conning tower; grappling with the loading of a G.7 torpedo – note the Mercedes 170V on the quayside. Pic 18: Starboard aspect of the forward 88mm gun position – the guard rails are provided as white metal items in both the gun and full kit. Note the realistic paint finish and weathering. Pic 19: Detail for the torpedo crew as one of the ‘eels’ is gingerly inched down the hatch into the cramped room below.

The multi-part gun itself of course is the same as that included with the full U-Boat kit – mostly of white metal with two resin pieces for the mounting. What’s different here are the three-man gun crew and a section of deck in resin with metal and resin sides to provide a partial section so as to display the complete models. The figures are exquisite, as you’d rightly expect from Andrea. Dramatically-posed, realistically-animated with separate heads and arms they will require careful painting. Shells and spent cases are also supplied for an extra touch. Full painting guides are offered on the illustrated instruction sheet which, again being xeroxed, is not always as clear as it could have been. Luckily the coloured photos on the box will help enormously. Last but by no means least, Andrea offer five separate 54mm scale figure ‘mini-kits’ offering additional crewmembers for their U-Boat. Reasonably priced at £12.00 apiece they include: S5-A28 commander; S5-A29 Deck officer; S5-A30 Engine crewman and two seamen available as S5-A31 and S5-A32. Beautifully cast, each figure includes separate parts as appropriate but no assembly notes which is hardly surprising since it’s fairly obvious where the various elements go together. Lack of painting directions is puzzling but if you already have a copy of Andrea’s Das Boot (see MB, September 2005) and/or their current all-colour catalogue, there are plenty of illustrations in both to help you. Reverting to the previously reviewed book for the moment; this was produced before the kit, the model shown being largely a prototype although it incorporated the conning tower kit released in 1996. Through the kind auspices of Raul from Andrea and Historex Agent’s own Lynn Sangster, we are able to present a selection of photos on these pages showing the remarkable diorama showcased in Das Boot. They will prove of considerable benefit for anyone contemplating the building of Andrea’s lavishly produced kits.

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Pic 20: The original conning tower kit prior to integration with the Andrea diorama’s scratchbuilt Type VII that served as the prototype for the full kit reviewed on these pages. Pic 21: General views of the mid section showing the various details to advantage – the conning tower is fully appointed in the kit. Andrea provide the Flak gun guard rails in metal and advise the use of solder rather that Cyano adhesives to construct it.

More details from or telephone them at Dover on 01304 206720.

References worth consulting

The Type VII U-Boat, Anatomy of a Ship (Conway/ISBN: 0-85177-933-6).
U-Boat 1935-1945 (Histoire and Collections/ISBN: 2-908-182-42-4).
Warship Pictorial 27, Kriegmarine Type VII U-Boats (Classic Warship Publishing/ISBN: 0-9745687-6-7).
Type VII U-Boats (Brockhampton Press/ISBN: 1-86019-8554).
U-Boat War (Squadron Signal Publications/ISBN: 0-89747-395-7).
U-Boats (Pegasus Publishing, Ltd./ISBN: 1-902620-04-6).
Das Boot (Andrea Press). The ideal companion. Had this superb book appeared after the kit’s release doubtless there would have been a dedicated photo-build therein (like the same company’s Fokker Dr.I Red Baron model/book combo) which would have really paid off considering the lacklustre assembly manual. Nevertheless it comes highly recommended to all modellers of the 1:32 scale U-Boat kit – a terrific reference package.

First published in Model Boats April 2006