March 16, 1935 was a momentous date in naval history. On that date Germany repudiated the Versailles Treaty that had ended World War One. From thenceforth Germany would again build U-Boats. Although Germany had possessed a great surface fleet in World War One, it was the German U-Boat Fleet that was by far the most effective naval force of the Kaiser’s Navy. This was in spite of the fact that Germany was the last major naval power to start building submarines. Although Germany was on the cutting edge of submarine construction in the First World War, no German submarine had been built since 1918.
One could say that the new Kriegsmarine had a lot of catching-up to do and that was true to some extent. However, Germany was not as far behind as some might suppose. German naval specialists had actually designed, overseen construction and tested new submarines but not in Germany. Boats were built in the Netherlands, Spain and Finland that involved German designers in the 1920s and early 1930s and their acquired knowledge came back to the German Navy. One other benefit to the Kriegsmarine was that they were not saddled with quantities of obsolescent U-Boats that would hamper new procurement in a navy with an existing submarine fleet. The first new U-Boat, U-1, was fitted out at Kiel that same month, only 11 days after the repudiation of the Treaty. Clearly Germany had been working on U-Boats in secret.
The Kriegsmarine planned on developing five basic types of submarines, the small coastal boat of 250 tons, the coastal minelayer of 500 tons, the medium ocean going boat of 500 to 750 tons, ocean going minelayers of 1,000 tons and submarine cruisers of 1,500 tons. Of these, the most important type would be the medium ocean going submarine. The German Naval Staff preferred large boats but was opposed by the new Commander of Submarines, Captain Karl Doenitz. Doenitz was developing new operational theories that favored employment of smaller submarines. Further, because of total tonnage restrictions, he favored larger numbers of smaller U-Boats to smaller numbers of large cruiser type submarines.
The new theories were extrapolations of the German U-Boat experience of World War One. They called for unrestricted submarine warfare against the enemy’s merchant fleet not against the enemy navy. The design was to sink more merchant tonnage than could be replaced by new construction. Further more the anti-merchant campaign was to be directed from a central command on a strategic scale. Further tactics were refined, the submarine attack was to be made on the surface at night to use the surface speed and minimal silhouette of the U-Boat to best advantage. Another theory that was developed was the group attack, which gave rise to the Wolf Pack. This called for about 20 boats on a patrol line. For this to work numbers were necessary, not large submarine cruisers.
The best boat for this type of warfare was the Type VII, medium size submarine. This type packed high offensive punch on a small displacement at the expense of crew comfort. The Type VII led the U-Boat offensive in the Atlantic during World War Two. Doenitz wanted a fleet of 300 U-Boats. When the war started he had only 55 and only 20 of these were capable of operations in the Atlantic. The Type VII was a single hull, medium displacement submarine with two parallel rudders, whose forward dive planes could not be folded flush with the hull.. Between 1939 to 1945 the Type VII provided the greatest numbers of U-Boats for the Kriegsmarine. With over 700 Type VII submarines being constructed, the type was the largest uniform group of submarines ever to have been built.
There were small differences among the Type VII boats however. They were produced in different series. These series had the same common basic characteristics but varied in performance, function and conning tower configuration. The Type VII variants were the Type VIIA, Type VIIB, Type VIIC, Type VIIC-41, Type VIIC-42, Type VIID (minelayer) and Type VIIF (torpedo resupply boat).
The Type VII U-Boat has been a favorite among modelers and model producing companies. A significant number of the Type VII variants have been produced in 1:400 scale by the Polish firm of Mirage.
Toms Modelworks produces a brass photo-etched brass fret just for six variants of the Type VII submarine in 1:400 scale. On this fret are brass parts for the Type VIIB, Type VIIC TI, Type VIIC III Biber, Type VIIC TIV, Type VIIC-41 TII and Type VIIC-41 TIV.
Type VIIB – First introduced with U-45 with the launching of boat on April 27, 1938. This variant was a direct derivative of the Type VIIA. Of slightly greater dimensions and displacement than the earlier type, the Type VIIB had greater powered diesel engines and a greater fuel load. Maximum operational depth 472-feet (150m) and crash drive time of 30 seconds.
Type VIIC TI – First introduced with U-69, which entered service on April 18, 1940. Patterned after the Type VIIB, displacement again was slightly raised in order to add more internal storage space. Maximum operational depth 472-feet (150m) and crash dive time of 25 to 30 seconds.
Type VIIC TII Biber – An odd combination of a Type VIIC serving as a mother ship to mini-submarines.
Type VIIC-41 TII – U-292 was the first Type VIIC-41 and was delivered on August 25, 1943. This variant had a reinforced hull giving a greater diving depth. Maximum operational depth 590-feet (180m) and crash dive time of 25 to 30 seconds.
Type VIIC TIV & Type VIIC-41 TIV – These two are late war versions of the earlier variants with radar and additional anti-aircraft fittings.
With this fret you receive parts for five separate Type VII U-Boats in 1:400 scale. You can build one each of the Type VIIB, Type VIIC TI, Type VIIC III Biber, and Type VIIC-41 TII. However, you will have to decide whether to go with the Type VIIC TIV or Type VIIC-41 TIV as the parts are there for one or the other. That is still enough brass parts for almost all of the variants of the type. Since they are submarines, extraneous gee-gaws were kept to a minimum on the original boats. Still, there is enough intricate detail to create enough eye candy on each boat dolled up with this photo-etch. Toms gives you the rudders, dive planes, gun shields, antennae wire supports, bollard deck plates, gun supports, net cutters, platform rails, vertical rails, radar antennae and array, deck anti-skid plates, forward and aft antennae wires and sail side railing. Everything is there for the extra detail. Some parts, such as dive planes are there to replace plastic parts in the kits, but most are there to supplement. They add a far greater level of detail than would be possible with the stock kit. This is a very flexible product in the quantity and coverage provided.
Let loose the wolves of war for with the Toms Modelworks photo-etch fret #4019 for 1:400 scale Type VII U-Boat variants, along with the extensive line of Type VII U-Boat variants offered by Mirage Hobby in 1:400 scale, the gray wolves can go on the prowl again. With the Toms Type VII variants photo-etch brass fret, you'll have enough brass to outfit a whole wolf pack of submarines. With enough parts to fix up five U-Boats, Toms more than gives you your money's worth with this fret.