The Battle of the North Atlantic during World War Two lasted longer and consumed more lives than any naval campaign of the war. For three years the U-Boats of Germany held the advantage and the question of Britainís survival was always at stake. Then in 1943 the pendulum swung and the hunters became the hunted. The backbone of the U-Boat force was the Type VII Boat.

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The German U-Boat force of World War Two was a modern force. Germany had been prohibited from building submarines as a result of the Treaty of Versailles. For 17 years there had been no German U-Boats. U-1, the first of the new boats was not fitted-out until June 1935, three months after Germany had repudiated the Versailles Treaty. Consequently the Kriegsmarine was not saddled with old boats. The new building program was designed to test a number of types of construction grouped as; small coastal boats around 250 tons; coastal minelayers around 500 tons; ocean-going boats of 500-750 tons; ocean-going minelaying boats of around 1,000 tons; and cruiser submarines of 1,500 tons. The Type VII was developed for the requirement for the smaller ocean-going boat. 

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Commander of Submarines, Karl Doenitz, preferred the smaller boat as he wanted numbers over individual size. He proposed using the submarine on the surface to attack at night and to submerge to protect from air attack during the day. The Type VII packed a considerable offensive punch at the price of habitability. Over 700 Type VII U-Boats were built by Germany during World War Two in a number of series. It is the most numerous and uniform group of submarines in history. The first Type VII was the U-27 Type VII A, launched in June 1936. Ten Type VII A boats were constructed. The larger Type VII B, were introduced with U-45 in April 1938 with 24 of the series being built. The war had already started when the Type VII C was introduced. 

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The first Type VII C was the U-69 (ex-U-99), which entered service in April 1940. During the war 661 Type VII C boats were built. A further variant, Type VII C-41, of which 27 were built, entered service in August 1943 with U-292. These boats had a reinforced hull which gave them a greater allowable depth than the original Type VII C. As the war progressed the Type VII C boats received more and more anti-aircraft weapons. This started with increasing the size of the conning tower/sail to allow more mounting points and culminated in eliminating the deck gun to increase the AA capability. Starting in 1943 Type VII C boats were fitted with the schnorkel but by then the odds were stacked against them. 

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Over 1,500 allied merchant ships were sunk by Type VII boats during the war, with most of those being victims of Type VII C boats. Additionally, Type VII boats claimed the HMS Courageous, HMS Royal Oak, HMS Ark Royal, HMS Barham, and HMS Eagle, as well as a host of cruisers and destroyers. To go with its victories, the Type VII boats had losses commensurate with the flagging fortune of the U-Boat service. 437 Type VII boats were lost in action, others were lost in port to bombing and 165 were scuttled or surrendered at the end of the war. (The bulk of the history is from Submarines of World War Two by Erminio Bagnasco)

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Resin Casting
This resin 1:350 scale model of the Type VII C U-Boat is produced by Combat Subs. If you are not familiar with the line of submarine models produced by this company, Combat Subs is one of the brands produced by the Japanese Company, Pitroad. Coming from that company, you know that you will receive a quality kit and their Type VII C U-Boat does not disappoint. The first item noticed is how clean the casting is. There is extraordinarily little clean up with this kit, just a few pour stubs. The hull is very well executed with the flood holes and deck grid pattern being precisely captured. The four torpedo tube doors at the bow and one at the stern are well defined. 

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One of the best points about this kit is the optional conning towers/sails provided by Combat Subs. As the war progressed the Type VII C boats were given more AA guns which required increasing the size of the conning tower. Combat Subs provides two different conning towers in this kit. The smaller one is for the 1940 version of the boat, which mounted a single 20mm on a platform. The larger one is for the 1942 version, mounting a single 37mm and twin 20mm guns on two platforms. To attach the 1942 conning tower, it will be necessary to sand flat the deck hatch aft of the conning tower position, as the lengthened sail covers this position. The optional conning towers are also nicely cast, although both have minor seam lines that will need to be smoothed. The fourth resin piece in the kit is a display cradle. 

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White Metal Parts
All of the smaller parts are of white metal. These parts include the fore and aft dive planes, twin rudders, deck gun, 37mm gun with shield for 1942 version, single 20mm gun for 1940 version, twin 20mm guns for 1942 version, early radar for 1942 version, and various pedestals. These parts are well detailed and only require minimal clean up as well. This consists mostly of removal of the wire thin metal pour vents. Combat Subs also provides a brass rod for propeller shafts and periscopes. 

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Other Parts
A small rectangle of plastic is provided in the kit. So far I have been unable to determine its purpose. The instructions do not seem to show this or anything to be fabricated from it. Combat Subs provides a small decal sheet which contains a flag and unique conning tower insignia for nine individual U-Boats (U-69, U-94, U-95, U-201, U-377, U-404, U-552, U-588, and U-596)  There are no railings of any type for the conning tower gun platforms, so they are best added from photo-etched brass. 

A large one-page instruction sheet accompanies the kit. Written in Japanese about 60% of the sheet consists of drawings. The drawings consist of an isometric view of the parts placement, plan and profile of the 1940 version with an inset of the 1942 conning tower, parts matrix. The matrix shows a drawing of every part and assigns an alphanumeric designation, which is used in the assembly. Because of the low parts count, the instruction drawings are sufficient to allow construction without confusion. The only thing unclear was the use of the small plastic card. Also included is a separate small paper sheet which conning tower insignia goes with which of the nine U-Boats represented on the decal sheet. 

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Combat Subs has a fine kit of the most numerous U-Boat class of World War Two, the Type VII C. Quality casting of resin and metal parts is evident throughout this model. If that wasnít enough, the inclusion of the optional conning towers and decal sheet really make this kit shine. Even members of the Airedale and Gun Club sets should find building this kit enjoyable.

The Combat Subs 1:350 scale Type VII C U-Boat, as well as other submarine models in the Combat Subs series, is available from Bill Gruner at Pacific Front.