|The Admiral Graf Spee
and her sister ships Admiral Scheer
and Deutschland (later renamed Lutzow)
were popularly known as "panzerschiffe" (pocket battleships). This was due in
part to their carrying a main armament of 11" guns, an unusually heavy weapon for a
cruiser. The Graf Spee sailed on Aug. 21 1939 to a holding area in the South
Atlantic, where she waited until commencing her first wartime mission as a surface raider.
Merchant vessels were first stopped, searched and then sunk by gunfire, but not before
their crews were removed, a bit of chivalry seldom seen in the Battle of the Atlantic.
During her brief operating history, the Graf Spee sank 9 merchant ships totaling
On Dec.13 1939, Graf Spee encountered three British cruisers (Exeter,
Ajax, and Achilles) sent to track her down. A fierce gun engagement, the Battle of the River Platte, ensued. She
inflicted heavy damage on her adversaries, but she too was hit and needed repairs. So the Graf
Spee broke off the engagement and sought refuge in the neutral harbor of Montevideo,
Uruguay. Under Neutrality Law (and pressure from the British) she was allowed only 72
hours for repairs. Her captain, Erich Langsdorf, incorrectly believed that vastly superior
naval forces awaited him once he departed Montevideo. Rather than shooting it out with
what he thought to be an overwhelmingly superior force, he ordered the Graf Spee
scuttled in the River Platte estuary. Assuming full responsibility for his command
actions, Cpt. Langsdorf shot himself shortly thereafter and was buried with full military
The Iron Shipwright kit depicts Graf Spee as she appeared at the
time of her 1939 scuttling. The 1/350th model is a stunning one-piece full hull
casting that scales out very close to actual dimensions. As a full hull model there is of
course no need to mate upper and lower hull pieces, the tradeoff being some easily
filled voids along the keel. It should also be noted that IS left off the bilge keels. The
modeler will need to scratch build them from styrene strip. A large one-piece hull casting
tends to trap air in the vicinity of these bilge keels, so omitting them means less
filling and cleanup; and fabricating them from strip is not difficult
The smaller resin parts are among the most delicate Ive seen, especially the 15cm
gun houses. Exercise care while cleaning these parts, as they are fragile and break
easily. (Note: ISW will replace parts for any reason, an important consideration for
someone as fumble fingered as myself). The white metal parts were well cast and required
minimal cleanup. The etched brass is up to ISs usual high standards. The
superstructure rails are pre-sized to the proper dimensions, though the generic main deck
rails require the modeler to do his own measuring and cutting. There is sufficient extra
rail to allow you a second chance should you make a mistake. I suggest that you use a pair
of dividers to transfer deck dimensions to the uncut etched brass rails.
The stairways are three-dimensional, which I find more realistic and preferable to the
flat type. Consider trimming the rather large radar antenna to a more "scale"
size and shape. The kit includes three sizes of brass rod for constructing the masts,
while the yards and footholds are etched brass pieces. The kits brass chain can be
blackened using a product called Blacken-It
by A-West. This product is
available at most hobby shops or from Micro Mark.
Criticisms? Three of any significance, the first being five small
voids on the superstructure and main deck, all of which were easily filled with putty. The
second was the prop shafts, which seemed too small. I scratchbuilt new ones that looked
more "in scale". Finally there are the instructions, which I found to be sparse,
though I was still able to build the kit easily enough using minimal references and
Breyers "Pocket Battleship Admiral Graf
Spee", a 48 page picture history included with the kit. Note: the instructions incorrectly show
the large yard on the mainmast above the small yard, not below as
it should be.
Opening a new kit is akin to sitting down to a fine dinner. Will it be a pleasant
experience or will I reach for the antacid? Let me say that the Graf Spee is one
of Iron Shipwright's best kits thus far and a pleasure to build. It goes together
far more readily than most 1/350th cruiser kits. I can recommend it to any ship
modeler new to resin kits and desirous of attempting a larger warship. Youll be very
pleased with the result. I built mine in the more colorful prewar fit. I may yet purchase
another Graf Spee so that I can display her in the camo pattern worn at the time
of her 1939 scuttling. Either way this is a fine kit of a famous and important German that
was a pleasure to assemble - if not eat.
Note: the references used in
evaluating this kit were "German Warships
1815-1945" by Erich Groner and Sigfried Breyers "Battleships and Battlecruisers 1905-1970").
See the Iron Shipwright web page for ordering info
Commander Series Models, Inc.
Iron Shipwright Division
551 Wegman Road
Rochester, NY 14624
Phone: 1-888-IRONSHIP (1-888-476-6744)