"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.

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. 

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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. 

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.)

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L’Arsenal 1:700 Casabianca
If you develop a feeling of Déjà vu when you see the L’Arsenal 1:700 scale model of the French submarine Casabianca, that would be no surprise. L’Arsenal previously released an 1:350 scale model of the same boat. (Click for Review of the 1:350 Casabianca) However, other than the obvious difference in size, the two kits are very different in one important aspect. The 1:350 scale model is a full hull model, while the 1:700 version is in a waterline version, which is the standard for this international scale.

Since most of a submarine is below waterline, even while she is riding on the surface, a model designer faces a difficult challenge in presenting an 1:700 scale version of almost any submarine. With the L’Arsenal 1:700 Casabianca Jacques Druel has come through with flying tricoleurs. There is only three resin parts in the kit, the hull and the two-piece deck gun. The hull of any submarine model presents the problem. A model designer must show hull structural details without having it overdone. 

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With the Casabianca Jacque has achieved this difficult balance. The detail is there in the form of very finely scribed lines. From the numerous access plates on the deck to the unique revolving torpedo mount on the stern, the architectural features of Casabianca are delicately brought forth. These details can become lost in the light cream colored resin but they are there. Clearly more noticeable are the conning tower deck detail, lines of free flooding holes, side torpedo mount indentations and flared forward gun mount. With only three resin pieces, a modeler might assume that the kit would present a quick and unchallenging assembly. However, on that score the modeler would be wrong.

Even with the deck gun in place, it is the pieces from the brass photo-etched fret that set the Casabianca apart from other 1:700 scale submarine kits. This fret is surprisingly large for an 1:700 submarine kit. The railing is not your standard three or two bar railing. Each piece is specifically designed for this kit and as the railing drops and then rises in height, presents an undulation that is very pleasing. Complementing the railing are 16 stanchions with support posts. L’Arsenal also provides a host of other minute detailed parts on the fret: machine guns, conning tower platform railing, small unique inclined ladders, periscope, auxiliary periscope, bow cable cutter, antenna mast and even railing inside the conning tower position. Attaching all of these intricate brass parts will be the challenge in building the 1:700 Casabianca

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L’Arsenal also provides a complete decal sheet to allow the modeler to not only build the Casabianca, but also a number of her sisters. Among them are Vengeur, Redoutable, Monge, Fresnel, Acteon, Acheron, Pegase, Protee, Le Heros, Centaure, L’Espoir and Sfax. Conning tower numbers and special flashing are provided for all of these boats. L’Arsenal provides four pages of instructions in English, which shows not only the assembly of the model but paint schemes, and decal placement for the different boats. The fourth sheet provides photographs of detail from the original boats. 

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Verdict
L’Arsenal provides a complete package with the 1:700 scale Casabianca. From the well cast and detailed resin parts, to the impressive photo-etched fret, to the beautiful decal sheet, to the comprehensive instructions, this model is totally first class. Although the Surcouf is much better known, the Casabianca contributed far more to the allied war effort, throughout the war, than any other French submarine. With the 1:700 Casabianca from L’Arsenal, this important boat finally has a model of the same high quality as the contributions of the original Casabianca during World War Two. 

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