"Twelve French submarines were being refitted at the French naval base of Toulon in November 1942, when the Germans took over. All but one were scuttled to prevent their falling into German hands; Casabianca (Capitaine de Frégate Jean L’Hérminier) escaped and joined the Allied naval forces in North Africa. Under General de Gaulle’s direction and with the full support of General Eisenhower, Commander L’H érminier began running agents, weapons and supplies into Corsica to build up French resistance to the Axis." History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume IX, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, Samuel Eliot Morison, page 305.

Hull Casting
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When most modelers think of the submarines of France during World War Two, they normally will think only of the giant submarine-cruiser, Surcouf. Other than Surcouf, the 1,500 ton type submarines were the largest of the French submarines to see service during World War Two. Displacing 1,384 tons standard, 1,570 tons normal and 2,084 tons submerged, with a length of 302 feet, they were indeed large boats. Also known as the Redoubtable Class after the first ship, the class was initially armed with nine 21.7-Inch and two 15.7-Inch torpedo tubes, one 3.9-Inch (100mm) deck gun and two 13.2mm AA machine guns. 

Hull Casting Detail
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In addition to being large submarines, the class was built in larger numbers than any other type of French submarine between the wars. Thirty-one were built in three series with an increase in power and speed between each series. The first series comprising 19 boats were authorized in the programs of 1924 (2), 1925 (7), 1926 (5) & 1927 (5) 6,000bhp for a top surfaced speed of 17 knots. The second series of six boats was in the 1928-1929 programs with 7,200bhp and 19 knots. The third series of 6 were in the 1930 program and increased the power to 8,600bhp and 20 knots. The class was hard hit during World War Two with 25 of 31 being sunk or scuttled but with two of the losses being from pre-war accidents.

Conning Tower
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Casabianca was in the third series. Built at A C de la Loire in Nantes, she was launched February 2, 1935. The only third series boat to survive the war, Casabianca had the most notable operations record of any French submarine in the war. After avoiding the fate of her sisters at Toulon, Casabianca had several successes against German coastal traffic in the Mediterranean. She was instrumental in achieving the seizure of Corsica for the allies and consistently ran risky and audacious resupply missions to the French Resistance. She was refitted in the United States in 1944, she was stricken in 1952. (History from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, Volume IX, Sicily-Salerno-Anzio, Samuel Eliot Morison, and Submarines of World War Two by Erminio Bagnasco.)

Smaller Resin Parts
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Resin Casting
The Casabianca is the latest release from L’Arsenal. This kit in 1:350 scale is beautifully cast with excellent, subtly done detail. The Casabianca has a cleaner hull form than most submarine designs of World War Two. Most of the detail is on the deck with numerous loading hatches. The two aft torpedo tubes were housed in a squared structure at the end of the deck., which makes for a very different appearance. In keeping with the cleaner appearance, there are much fewer flood holes than other designs.

The quality of the casting is outstanding, as is expected from L’Arsenal. There were no voids, no pinholes, no hairline or other minor cracks, no casting blemishes of any description. The only defect found was not a casting flaw but a broken rudder from shipping, which is cast integral to the hull.

The next largest resin part is the conning tower/sail. As with the hull, it is a very clean, almost streamlined shape. The part has admirably thin bulkheads and additional detail on deck and on the superstructure sides. The other resin parts consist of fore & aft diving planes, propellers & shafts, standard & small periscopes, chimney, anchor, twin 13.2 machine guns, display stands, and 100mm deck gun with mount. No defects were discerned in any part. The L’Arsenal kit depicts Casabianca as she appeared before additional antiaircraft guns and her US refit.

Hull & Conning Tower
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Brass Photo-Etched Fret
Magnificent!! Normally you wouldn’t expect to have many details for a submarine kit but the Casabianca from L’Arsenal is a very notable exception. Each French submarine had a nameplate on each side of the conning tower. The photo-etched fret from L’Arsenal provides twin name plates for each of the 31 submarines in the class. Each one is executed in deep relief and the nameplates are real eye-poppers. The fret also contains very unique railing that is very finely executed.

Other brass parts include different types of railing & supports for the conning tower, smaller parts for the machine guns & deck gun, cable supports, bow cable cover, anchor chain, dive plane supports, and antenna supports.

Brass Photo-Etched Fret
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L’Arsenal includes a beautiful set of decals for the Casabianca. Individual decals are provided for 16 of the 31 boats in the class. With the very prominent tricolor flashes used on some of the boats and the paint scheme which was Bleu Outremer, a very dark blue, red hull bottom and black boot-topping, the model will be very striking when finished.

Decals & Box Art
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The instructions for Casabianca are six pages in length. The first page is a short history, painting guide, bibliography and general instructions. Page two is a resin and brass parts laydown with each part being identified in text. Pages three and four feature clear drawings for construction of the kit. Page five shows decal placement for the various decal options. Page six has six detail photos of the prototype. Since there is a small number of resin parts to the kit, they are very easy to follow.

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L’Arsenal has produced a beautiful kit of this large French submarine. The inclusion of the individual nameplates for each of the 31 boats in the class in the relief etched brass fret and decals for 16 different boats confers tremendous flexibility of this detail not seen on any other submarine kit. Combined with the flawless casting quality, L’Arsenal provides an exceptional submarine model in 1:350 scale.

With its large size and clean, elegant lines, the L’Arsenal Casabianca 1,500 ton submarine will be a welcome addition to anyone’s submarine collection.