Nicknamed Einbaume, or ďdugout canoesĒ because of their small size, the Type II coastal U-boats were the first submarine designs built by Germany as she rearmed following the First World War. The Type IIs were produced in four basic subtypes, known as Types IIA, IIB, IIC, and IID. Each subtype represented a modest development of the basic design incorporating changes in the tower, deck armament, etc. All had similar appearance and performance except the final Type IID with its slightly redesigned hull. These small boats embarked a crew of 23 men and carried a mere five torpedoes.
Despite their limited offensive capabilities, the Type II boats served the German navy faithfully from the mid 1930s through the end of World War II. Initially intended for coastal operations in the Baltic to protect the iron ore sea routes to Sweden, they were also employed in the Atlantic and the Black Sea as well as forming the backbone of the U-boat training schools. As second-rate combat subs and training boats the diminutive Type IIs were moderately successful, but they have always been overshadowed by their larger, more famous Type VII and Type IX U-Boat brethren.
Back in the last century (1999!), Mirage Hobby of Poland issued the first of their line of Kriegsmarine subs, the Coastal U-Boats Types IIA, IIB, IIC, and IID. Many of us then were very pleased because the Type IIs had not been previously released in injection molded plastic. And at less than US$8.00 each they were very affordable. Recently re-released by Mirage, these subs are once again readily available.
The hull shapes are basically accurate, with the conning towers and decals especially well done. The Types IIA, IIB, and IIC have, like the prototypes, the same basic hulls with superstructure and weapons differences. The plastic in all those kits is the same with alternate conning tower and weapons parts. I was impressed that Mirage Hobby didnít succumb to the temptation to reuse the earlier hull on the Type IID to save tooling costs; it was a noticeably different shape, and they nailed it pretty well. Also, the decals were outstanding with full markings for two boats in each kit including petite crests and naval ensigns.
The faint plank detailing of the decks and the rather crude renditions of the drainage openings in the hull sides were a little disappointing. The drainage vents are only depicted by indistinct dimples on the hull sides, and they arenít even in line. These could be fixed of course, but it would be a major job requiring filling in and reopening the dozens of tiny oval holes on four different boats. Mirage later issued separate photo etch upgrade sets for their Type IIs which included hull panels for the corrected limber holes. These sets were very nice, but you had to buy them separately to fix something Mirage really should have done right the first time! As far as I am aware, these photo etch sets havenít been reissued this time around.
Simple kits with low parts counts, these little beauties assemble quickly into attractive 4 inch long models. I liked these diminutive subs very much, but with those limber hole problems I decided to build them all more or less straight out of the box.
U-1 (Type IIA)
The first model was the U-2 (Type IIA). I used the alternate decals provided in the kit to build it up as U-1. The U-1 was the very first U-boat of the Ubootwaffe, commissioned in 1935 just after Germany renounced the Versailles Treaty. She made two patrols during the war but achieved no successes. The boat was lost with all hands off Norway after hitting a British mine in March, 1940. The only modifications I made to the kit were to add safety rails on the conning tower with copper wire, wire supports for the net cutter, and ultrathin copper wire rigging. I also tossed the crude kit anchor and replaced it with a Tomís Modelworks photoetch brass part. U-1 is depicted as she appeared shortly after commissioning in 1935 with the dramatic white conning tower over dark gray (Testors RAF Ocean Gray) hull and darker gray (Testors European 1 Gray) underwater hull with a white and red rescue buoy on the deck. U-1 also sports the very cool black/white/red Reichsmarine naval ensign provided in the decal sheet.
U-23 (Type IIB) 1938
The U-23 (Type IIB) is depicted in basic prewar gray as she appeared in 1938 when commanded by Kapitšnleutnant Otto Kretschmer, who later went on to become the top scoring U-boat ace. Commissioned in 1936, U-23 was one of twenty Type IIBs, the most numerous Type II variant. In 16 war patrols she sank a total of 7 ships including two warships, as well as damaging two others. After service in the Atlantic, U-23 served with the 21st Unterseebootsschulflottille (U-boat School Flotilla) from July, 1940 until September, 1942. The mostly out of the box construction of the model was similar to the U-1 except for the Hellgrau (Testors Light Ghost Gray) color and Kriegsmarine battle ensign.
U-23 (Type IIB modified) 1944 (made from the U-60 kit)
Instead of building the third Type IIC as U-60, which was virtually identical in appearance to the Type IIB U-23, I built it up as U-23 as she appeared during her Romanian deployment to show how the appearance of that boat evolved over time. The history is interesting: After her Atlantic service, the U-23 was stripped down to just the hull, transported by barge and overland by truck to be reassembled at the port of Constanza, Romania. There she served with with the 30th Flotilla in the Black Sea against the Soviet Navy. By 1944, U-23 was refit with two 20mm deck guns and a small platform abaft the conning tower, and she wore the distinctive two-tone graded camouflage typical of the Black Sea boats. The guns and platform were from the kit, the railings were Eduard 1/400 photoetch brass parts.
U-141 (Type IID) (built from the U-149 kit)
Commissioned just after the start of the war, U-141 served most of her career as a training boat with the exception of four patrols in the Atlantic between May and September 1941 during which she sank four ships and damaged another. Returning to training duties for the remainder of the war, U-141 was ultimately scuttled on May 2, 1945 at Wilhelmshaven.
The U-141 model was built similarly to the other kits, with a few wire rails and rigging as well as photoetch rails for the deck. The colors are those she wore during her 1941 North Atlantic deployment, with dark gray (Testors RAF Ocean Gray) stripes over light gray (Testors Dark Ghost Gray) camouflage and a Testors European 1 Gray underwater hull.
Highs: Inexpensive, accurate in outline, interesting subjectsLows: Vague depiction of drainage slots on deck and holes on hull sidesVerdict: It is nice to see a model manufacturer release something a little out of the ordinary. These Type II U-boats aren't perfect, but then again, when was the last time you had this much fun for less than ten bucks?
About Tim Reynaga (TimReynaga) FROM: CALIFORNIA, UNITED STATES
I am married with three daughters and a son, and I work as a regional workforce policy advisor for the State of California. My wife is an elementary school teacher.
Iíve been building models since I was five years old (my first model was a NASA lunar module bought for a dime from a magazine ad). ...