"Originally, Alfred von Tirpitz, founder of the Imperial German Navy, had scorned submarines. When the subject came up in the Reichstag in 1901, Tirpitz announced. ‘We have no money to waste on experimental vessels. We must leave such luxuries to wealthier states like France and England." Castles of Steel 2003 by Robert K. Massie at page 126.
The Imperial German Navy was a very conservative organization. It preferred investing time and money in ship types that had already proved their worth. It was hesitant about building something new of an untried type. As a result of these characteristics the Kaiser’s navy was the last major navy to adopt the submarine.
Germany ordered its first submarine in 1904 and Germaniawerft of Kiel took a leisurely two years to build it. The resulting U-1 was a small 238 ton boat of 139 feet armed with one bow mounted 18-Inch torpedo tube. It was strictly experimental, as the German Navy was still unconvinced about the worth of this new fangeled weapon system. On August 4, 1906 the U-1 was launched and was completed in December. It was used purely for experiments and training. The first German U-Boat is still in existence as a museum exhibit at the Deutsches Museum in Munich. The next boat U-2 was another experiment. At 149 feet in length and 341 tons displacement, she was slightly larger but the armament was significantly increased to four 18-inch torpedo tubes, two bow and two stern. Launched June 18, 1908. From the start the German Navy used double hull, twin propeller designs, except for some subsequent small coastal submarines. Two more, larger boats U-3 and U-4 entered service in 1909. Displacing 421 tons and 168 feet in length, the boats were no longer experimental and carried the same amount and arrangement of torpedo tubes but added a 37mm deck gun.
The U-5 Class
U-8 fell victim to the RN destroyers Maori and Gurkha in the Dover Straits on March 4, 1915. She had penetrated the heavily guarded straits initially. There were series of anti-submarine nets attached to buoys on the surface. If a submarine became entangled with the nets, the buoys would bob up and down and destroyers or trawlers would close in with explosive sweeps. U-8 had become entagled with the nets in going in. "Suddenly she lurched to a dead stop, her propellers thrashing the water in vain, as her bows tangled in a line of indicator nets. The brightly painted buoys on the surface danced wildly as the U-Boat struggled to tear free but, before the patrolling drifters could get to the scene with their deadly explosive sweeps, U-8 had wrenched herself clear and was feeling her way gingerly through the minefields guarding the Straits." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 70. U-8 having successfully penetrated the barrier, quickly claimed five steamers, before returning home.
U-6was an early intended victim of a submarine on submarine attack. She was sunk off Norway by the British submarine E16 on September 15, 1915. The boats of the class jumped to 188 feet in length and 506 tons. The following classes through the U-9 to U-12, U-13 to U-15, U-16, U-17 to U-18 were about the same length and displacement, although the last two did jump to 204 feet and 564 tons. From the experimental U-2 to U-18 all of the boats had been equipped with four 18-inch torpedo tubes with two in the bow and two in the stern. These boats were all equipped with Korting heavy oil engines. The German Navy refused to use gasoline engines due to the high safety risk of this form of fuel. The heavy oil engines were safer than gasoline engines but had their own drawbacks. They produced clouds of smoke that revealed the submarine’s location during the day and clouds of sparks that revealed the submarine’s location during the night.
The HP-Models U-5 kit is one of the easiest builds that you will ever encounter. In fact if you have problems building the U-5, then you can’t build anything. Why? The HP-Models U-5 consists of one piece. The one resin piece in the box is the combined hull and conning tower. Actually there are two additional pieces but those are the periscopes that must be fabricated from 0.5mm wire. So you get the box, one part and two pages of instructions with this kit. One page shows the attachment of the wire periscopes and the other page has a profile and bow or stern on view of the submarine. The profile does provide guidance for a little more detailing as there are some radio deck poles/antennae that are shown on the profile and can also be added with the periscopes. This rig plus the accompanying support wires, exhaust stack wires, radio wires, conning tower railing and ensign staff will add a lot more character to the small model. Now, if you can find a way to model a shower of sparks coming out the stack of the heavy oil engines, you might be on to something.
The U-19 Class
September 5, 1914 -"Meanwhile, out to sea, Captain Otto Hersing, in U-21, spotted the 3,000-ton light cruiser Pathfinder on patrol off Abs Head, ten miles southeast of May Island. Although his submarine was pitching and rolling in a stormy sea, Hersing maneuvered until he was within 1,500 yards – just short of a mile – and fired one torpedo. The torpedo hit and the explosion detonated the ship’s forward magazine. Four minutes later, Pathfinder plunged to the bottom, taking with her more than half her crew of 360. U-21 escaped having achieved the war’s first sinking of a British warship by a German submarine." Castles of Steel 2003 by Robert K. Massie at pages 127-128.
In January 1915 U-21 navigated through the mine-strewn English Channel, turned north from Land's End and sortied into the Irish Sea. In his raid off of Liverpool Hersing sank three ships, including the 6,000-ton collier Ben Cruachan, and shelled an airfield on Walney Island. Now there is a twist, a U-Boat assaulting the RAF.
On May 17, 1915, sometime after the actual event, the Admiralty was informed that a U-Boat had been spotted on the surface in the Straits of Gibraltar, heading east. Eight days later the boat appeared off of Anzac Cove of the Galipolli peninsula. The boat was the U-21 dispatched from Ems for operations in the Aegean. The idea had come as a request from the Turks, who needed something capable of taking on the combined Franco-British Fleet at the Dardanelles and Gallipoli. Hersing, who just happened to be in harbor at the time was asked to take the mission. Leaving Ems on April 25 and took the long way, north of Scotland. Although U-21 rendezvoused with the steamer Marzala off of Spain to refuel. The fuel carried by the steamer was too thick for the diesel engines to use. Down to 25 tons of fuel from the original 56-tons, U-21 was forced to operate at the best cruising speed on the surface, as much as possible, including passing Gibraltar. On May 13 U-21 linked up with an Austro-Hungarian destroyer outside the port of Cattaro in the Adriatic and was towed into port with only 1.8-tons of fuel remaining in her almost empty tanks. The 18-day, 4,000 mile trip was the longest voyage undertaken by an unescorted submarine up to that time.
On May 25, 1915 the sea was smooth as glass off the Gallipoli peninsula. British battleships formed a gun line in bombarding Turkish positions. The British did not known that they had company, Otto Hersing and the U-21, newly arrived from Germany. Hersing slipped under the destroyers and crept closer and closer to the battleships. "The periscope inched up, broke surface with a gentle whisper of spray, and swivelled slightly to left and right as Hersing surveyed the scene. ‘HMS Triumph stood in thundering majesty, broadside to us, and only three hundred yards away. Never had a submarine such a target." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 94. The U-21 fired one torpedo but in spite of his experience, Hersing had to watch as the torpedo hit the bow of the Triumph. It was then that the destroyers came swarming in.
"It was foolhardy,’ he admitted later, ‘but I had to risk it. Diving as deeply as we dared, we shot right under the sinking battleship. It might have come roaring down on our heads…and then the U-boat and its huge prey would have gone down together in an embrace of death. But that crazy manoeuvre saved us.’ Fortune, they say, favours the brave and none can deny that Hersing and his crew were brave men, not for them the slaughter of innocent ships but as with the torpedoing of the Pathfinder in the early days of the war, he preferred the challenge of another warship, pitting his skill and courage against an enemy alert and capable of defending himself, and his valour brought its deserving reward. U-21 streaked beneath the sinking giant, emerged into the safe waters beyond, before the battleship had time to sink and then, swinging in a wide arc to avoid the avenging destroyers, Hersing guided her safely away." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at pages 94-95.
Both the Turkish and ANZAC infantry stopped fighting, stood up, got out of their trenches and watched, until Triumph had disappeared into the glassy Aegean, and only then did they jump back in their trenches and start shooting at each other again. The next day U-21 lay on the bottom and that night surfaced to recharge her batteries. Hersing had heard that the Russian protected cruiser Askold was operating in the area and started to search for her. There was no sign of the Russian so U-21 doubled back to the location where she had sunk Triumph. "Once again his luck was in. Standing off from the gaunt yellow cliffs, and guarded by a swarm of torpedo-boats and small craft, the battleship Majestic was covering a fresh landing with her 12 inch guns. It was an opportunity too good to miss and Hersing closed on his quarry with the skill of an experienced hunter." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 97. To avoid the dangers of hanging around and watching, this time U-21 immediately dove after firing a torpedo and started crawling away from the scene. The torpedo hit Majestic and in four minutes she capsized.
"At 6:40 on the morning of the twenty-seventh, a seaman on watch called an officer’s attention to the periscope and conning tower of a submarine not far away. The officer looked and said, ‘Yes, and here comes the torpedo.’ ‘There was a great muffled roar and the old ship quivered and shook in a terrible way. The masts and yards swayed as if they were coming down on top of us….A huge volume of water shot up two hundred feet in the air on the port side….There was only one thing to do and that was to swim for it….The water was gloriously warm.’ The battleship rolled over and sank in shallow water, leaving her green keel protruding from the surface. There she remained for months, in full view of both armies." Castles of Steel 2003 by Robert K. Massie at page 493.
Instead of returning to Cattaro U-21 went up the Dardanelles to Constantinople. "German propaganda had ensured that the Turks were aware of Hersing’s spectacular achievements off Gallipoli and Enver Pasha himself led the capital in the welcoming celebrations. ‘A paladin encased in steel, he had smitten down, under their very eyes two of the great sea-dragons which belched death upon the Turkish soldiery." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 100. After a month of repairs U-21 returned to Gallipoli, where she sank the French ammunition ship Carthage. However, the big ships were gone and Hersing had two close calls. U-21 was almost rammed by a trawler and dove into a British minefield. She returned to Constantinople, where she was reinforced by smaller UB and UC boats, which were transported in sections by rail to Turkey. U-21 became part of the new Black Sea Flotilla. After the Gallipoli expedition was evacuated by the allies, U-21 returned to the Atlantic. She sank more merchantmen but never again achieved the spectacular success that she had enjoyed in those three days in May 1915.
The U-21 survived the war and was ordered to surrender to the allies. Unlike the crews of the big German ships, the U-Boat crews still had high morale, some U-Boats sailed to Sweden for internment, some went back to Germany. "Others, like the irrepressible Otto Hersing, took their own measures to salve their honor. His U-21 was ordered to surrender but, quite fortuitously, she sprang a leak and sank while in the tow of a British ship. It was not difficult to guess from Hersing’s sardonic smile when he told the story that the leak was more inspired than providential." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 221.
The HP Models U-21 kit doubles the parts count from the U-5 kit. You get two resin parts, rather than just one. Again you receive a one-piece hull with conning tower & forward dive planes and also you get the 88mm deck gun. The U-21 deck has some nice scribed detailing that should pop out with a black or dark gray wash. Again there are two pages of instructions. One simply shows attachment of 0.5mm wire for periscopes as in the U-5 and the other shows a profile and plan of the boat. Based on the profile and plan, there are a considerable number of extra details that can be added to U-21 without significant problem. These involve adding wire or rod poles, wire ensign & jack staffs, photo-etch railing and photo-etch propeller & dive-plane guards. You probably won’t have a match for the dive-plane guards but because of their square design, photo-etch railing with lower bars removed, may be just right for both the forward and aft guards. The propeller guards are just a simple triangle. Add support stays, rigging, railing and radio antennae and your once seemingly simple model can exhibit a significant degree of complexity.
The U-151 Class, U-Kreuzer
Otto Hersing of the U-21 was a gallant officer, who whenever possible exhibited humanity and compassion for the crews of the merchantmen that he sank. Kapitanleutnant Gansser, who originally commanded U-33 and then U-156 was from a different mold. He was ruthless. In the Mediterranean he had machine gunned a lifeboat because it had taken him two hours to chase down and sink the fleeing merchantman and in March 1916 had torpedoed a hospital ship in the Black Sea. Although very successful as the 13th highest scoring U-Boat Ace with 140,000-tons of allied shipping to his credit, he was listed as a war criminal by the allies. In spring 1917 Gansser was transferred back to Germany and given command of the big U-156.
In May 1917 the seven big U-Kreuzers became part of a new offensive. This one was directed at the eastern seaboard of the United States to south of the equator. In November 1917 three of the U-Kreuzers, U-151, U-152 and U-156 operated together as a pack. In December Gassner with the U-156 entered the port of Funchal and shelled the town. The U-156 continued to operate in the area of the Azores and after cutting five Atlantic cables went on a spree of merchantman destruction. "Gansser launched a vicious offensive against everything that crossed his path. The British steamer Britannia and the Portuguese lugger Briziela were dispatched on 8 December and four more luckless ships were torpedoed off Portugal on 4 January. The attacks on the British sailing vessel W.C. M’Kay and the steamer Artesia were sufficiently brutal in the execution to warrant Gansser’s inclusion on the British government’s official list of war criminals and there seems little doubt that U-156’s commander carried out a deliberate terror campaign in an attempt to scare shipping from the area." The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray at page 189-190.
In 1918 the command of the U-156 was transferred to Richard Feldt. In an operation involving all of the surviving big U-Kreuzers, the target was American shipping and the eventual tally was 110,000 tons of merchantmen, plus one large warship. This mission accounted for the largest USN loss of the war, as U-156 crossed the Atlantic to lay mines in the approaches to New York City. On July 19, 1918 the armored cruiser USS San Diego, ex-USS California 14,000-tons, was steaming down the coast of Long Island, bound for New York City to become an escort for a convoy that was forming. Off of Fire Island she struck a mine laid by U-156 and quickly sank. Because of the close proximity to land only six of the crew of 1,250 were lost. U-156 did not long survive. She was returning to Germany from having laid her mines, when 130 miles off of Bergen, Norway, she hit a mine in the Northern Barrage, laid by the USN to seal the northern entrance to the North Sea, and was lost with all hands. It is ironic that the greatest success against the United States Navy came from a mine laid by the U-156 and that she in turn succumbed to the same weapon, laid by the USN. (U-Boat history from Castles of Steel 2003 by Robert K. Massie; German Warships of World War One 1970 by John C. Taylor; The Killing Time, The German U-Boats 1914-1918 1972 by Edwyn Gray)
This fat baby has plenty of character. You can’t go wrong with the beamy and high hull. The four deck guns, two 5.9-inch and two 3.4-inch are in a echelon arrangement on the flared gun deck amidships. To top it off there is even a depression on the port forward hull for a ship’s boat. A ship’s boat on a submarine? Now there is something you don’t see everyday. As with the U-5 and U-21 there are two pages of instructions. One show parts placement and includes the 0.5mm wire for periscopes. As with the others, the second sheet has a plan and profile, and as is also true with the other two, this is where the modeler can find the information to add an extra layer of detail. There is even more supports and rigging on the U-156 than on the U-21, which presents an open ended invitation for detailists.
These three World War One German U-Boats are very simple to build. Ranging from one to seven parts, the challenge comes into play in the extra detail attached by the modeler and the painting, especially in drawing out the deck detail. Casting quality is average with the U-21 getting the highest marks for deck detail. Although simple, the models represent key milestones in the evolution of German submarine design. As such, they merit consideration for inclusion into the 1:700 scale fleet of any submarine grognard.
The U-6, U-21 and U-156, as well as a pack of other HP-Models U-Boats of the Kaiser, are in stock with Pacific Front. If you want any item from the extensive HP-Models 1:700 scale lineup, Bill Gruner will probably have it in stock.