The Type VII U-Boat formed the backbone of Admiral Karl Doenitz’s submarine fleet during World War Two. Originally classified as a medium ocean going submarine at the start of World War Two, it was only medium in size when compared to the small Type II coastal U-Boats. Although the Type VII increased in size as new variants were introduced; from 211 feet for the VIIA, 218 feet for the VIIB and VIIC, to the 225 feet of the VIIC-42, they were rather small in their size, compared to the fleet boats of other nations. Even the fairly rare variants of the VIID at 252 feet and VIIF at 254 feet, were short compared to the 311 foot Gato and Balao Fleet submarines that were the backbone of the USN submarine campaign against Japan.
Between 1939 and 1945 Germany constructed more than 700 boats of the Type VII variants and this type, when supplemented with the larger Type IX came close to winning the Battle of the Atlantic. For years the World War Two U-Boat, especially the Type VII, has been a popular subject for warship modelers. Many of us still can remember opening the old Aurora U-Boat kit to be fascinated most of all by the black plastic in which it was molded. In that era of plastic kits, every other warship kit, submarine or surface, was cast in the standard gray plastic. But not the Aurora U-Boat. That model with its black plastic had an aura of menace and any kid looking at it for the first time could visualize it prowling the surface on a black night, either as a lone wolf or as a member of a wolf-pack, looking for fresh victims. This impression was only enhanced by the typically dramatic Aurora box art.
Following its success in producing an 1:72 scale Schnellboot, Revell of Germany took a big chance in upping the size, to produce a Type VIIC U-Boat in 1:72 scale. Since the first announcement of this kit, it was eagerly anticipated. Since its release it has proven to be a successful product. One sure sign of success in the production of any plastic model, whether warship, aircraft or AFV, is the appearance of follow-on third-party enhancements for the original kit. Those enhancements are starting to appear now for the Revell 1:72 Type VII. One of the first to surface, so to speak, is this, very substantial enhancement. Nautilus Models of Atlanta, Georgia has produced a complete deck replacement for the Revell kit, as well as providing replacement hatches, navigation light plates and bollards/bollard plates.
This set is impressive in its size just as the original kit is in size. By far the prime selling points are the replacement, laser cut wood decks. The wood used is a fine grained basswood, so that over-size wood grain does not interfere with the appearance of the product. As you look at the photographs of different portions of the deck, the detail packed into the deck design is readily apparent. The grate design, flood openings are cut completely through the deck pieces to accurately portray these features found on almost any submarine kit. To emphasize this point, a couple of the photographs show the forward deck and conning tower deck held up to outside light, so that the open areas are lit from behind. However, the flood openings are not the only details to be found on the Nautilus Models deck pieces. Access plates, fitting openings and even the anti-skid strips around the deck gun position are found.
It is easy to see how the decks are fitted to the kit, as the conning tower position is clearly indicated. The wood components include forward deck, aft deck, conning tower deck, deck hatch backing plates, deck joint backing plate, conning tower inside bulkhead planks and aft deck hatch ring. Now, you may wonder what was the purpose of the conning tower bulkhead planks. In arctic conditions, the uncovered skin of a lookout could freeze almost instantaneously with contact with the metal bulkheads of the conning tower, so wooden planks lined the inside bulkhead of the conning tower to prevent this. Your Revell 1:72 Type VII can now sport this feature with real wood, thanks to Nautilus Models. Granted, it is a small item but it does demonstrate the lengths that James Corley of Nautilus has gone, to allow the modeler to super-detail this U-Boat kit. Probably the most spectacular deck piece, although the smallest, is the conning tower deck. Because of the intricate small pattern grid of the deck, the piece is totally packed with detail, from the front edge of the conning tower to the wide, flared AA gun position. Absolutely no defects were found in any wooden piece.
Nautilus also provides a series of small resin replacement parts. Included are two large deck hatches, two smaller conning tower hatches, three navigation light plates, some bollard plates and 15 individual bollards. The hatches will need minor clean-up with a hobby knife and they will be ready for attachment. The bollards will have to be trimmed for length. The only defects observed were to two of the navigation light platforms, that had voids in one corner and a little putty would fix these. Other than these two parts and minor cleaning, all wood and resin parts look as perfect as could be reasonably expected.
Nautilus includes a one page instruction sheet in which it is clear that the parts, resin and wood, mostly replace the kit parts on a one to one basis. Contrary to the instructions, which state that three of each type hatch are included, only two of each hatch came with the set. However, this is all it takes for the model.