At the beginning of the 20th century, France was considered to have the leading submarine fleet in the world.  While submarine development and design was still in its infancy from a practical standpoint, France was ahead of the other major naval powers in terms of development and construction.  By the end of 1901, she had 11 boats either in service or on order with some actually operational and others strictly experimental. In the previous century, several submarine designs were developed on drafting tables but only a few were actually built for trial purposes.  Some ideas were far-fetched and fanciful while others were functional but did not perform as hoped during testing. The Confederate Navy’s Hunley was credited with the first submarine kill during the American Civil War, but it was at the cost of the submarine and her crew.   France made great strides in the later part of this century with the Gymnote, Gustave Zedé and Morse, but it wasn’t until 1899 that the precursor to the modern submarine was launched.  The Narval, designed by Maxime Laubeuf, had features that were used in submarines well into World War II.  These included a dual propulsion system (in Narval ‘s case steam for surface and electricity for underwater) and a double-hull.  She also carried torpedoes, stored externally in four Drzewiecki drop-collars.  These were essentially slings that held the torpedo at a desired angle before firing.

At the outbreak of the Great War in 1914, France had dropped to second to the Royal Navy in terms of submarines both in service and on order.   One of those submarines in service was the one-off Mariotte (Q 74).  She was launched in 2 February 1911 at the Arsenal de Cherbourg.  Designed by Radiguer, she was single-hulled with a raised foc’sle deck which gave her an interesting profile – almost like a vessel from a Jules Verne novel.  She was commissioned in 1913 and was stationed in the Mediterranean.  Mariotte had a rather uneventful career until she joined French submarine squadron operating in the Dardanelles.  Several Royal Navy and French submarines managed to evade the mines and submarine nets blocking the narrow passage to break into the Black Sea to attack Turkish ships.  The Mariotte was not so lucky.  She was sunk by Turkish shore batteries on 27 July 1915 when became caught in anti-submarine nets.  Today her wreck can still be seen in the shallow waters off of Nara Point.

Specifications

Displacement

530.7t surfaced - 627t submerged

Dimensions

64.7m x 4.3m x 3.8m or 210’ 3” x 14’ 1” x 12’ 6” (length/beam/draft)

Machinery

2-shaft 4-stroke 6 cylinder engines plus electric motors 1,400bhp/1,000shp

Speed

14.26 knots surfaced – 11.66 knots submerged

Range

1,050 nautical miles @ 10 knots surfaced, 100 nautical miles @ 5 knots submerged

Armament

4-450mm (17.7in) torpedo tubes – 2-450mm torpedoes (Drzewiecki drop-collars) total 8 torpedoes

Complement

29

(References: Submarines of World War Two by Erminio Bagnasco and Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1906-1921.)

The Kit - The Mariotte is the second World War I submarine kit from the St. Petersburg-based U-Boat Laboratorium.  Based on my experience building it, it is an overall very good kit but not without a few very minor issues. There is really only one resin part to this kit, the very distinctive full hull.   There is an excellent amount of detail cast into the white resin hull including limber holes, hatches, torpedo tube doors, planked decking and the ship’s nameplate which is a common feature on French ships of this era.  The poor photos I took of this part do not show just how detailed the hull is.  The resin is light and not too dense but it is sturdy.   The kits hull definitely captures the fine lines and curves and razor sharp prow on the real thing.  An interesting feature I noticed is several lightly-recessed location holes, almost like little dimples, in various locations in the hull casting.  These correspond with where the numerous photo-etched parts would go, like the rudders and planes and railing stanchions.  While the instructions do not tell you to do this, my guess would be to drill this out slightly to accommodate the stubs provided on some of the photo-etch parts.  While in theory this may be a good idea, in practice it is not necessarily fool-proof. The only small parts provided with the kit are turned brass components for the propellers.  By small, I mean nearly microscopic!  Two each of the propeller nose cap, tube bearing (they look like washers) and shaft tube which need to be sandwiched together with the photo-etch blades to make a pair propellers.  This process is definitely not for the faint-hearted.  A pair of very soft brass rod pieces is provided for the shafts but I suggest substituting them for better quality brass rod.

The photo-etch parts included with the kit provide the numerous rudders, hydroplanes and associated guards, as well as the upper and lower deck railings, ladder, propeller blades, shaft struts, mooring bits, mast and flagstaff and a shield that I honestly do not know what purpose it serves.  Also provided are photo-etch versions of the ship’s name plates which I opted to use instead of the cast-on version.  It would be much easier painting and finishing the brass versions than the resin ones.  The etch is crisp and sturdy but well detailed.  I did notice that one of the struts had a slight tear in it from maybe too much etchant.  I applied some CA glue with the hope of fortifying it. The 4 pages of instructions provided with the kit are very well done.  The cover page provides a brief history of the Mariotte, some specs and a dockside photo of the actual sub.  Two pages of blow-up computer generated assembly diagrams are provided which clearly shows where all the parts go.  The last page has a pair of color plan and profile views as painting instructions.  One of the views shows the mottled camouflage pattern the Mariotte wore at the time of her loss.  No paint references are provided but the colors are straight forward.  I decided to play it safe and paint the model without the camo scheme.

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Model Construction - The hull casting was very clean with the only exception being a little bit of resin over pour along the keel and at about the mid-point the keel was not fully formed.  I chopped in and around this section, cleaned it up and filled it with a bit of square styrene stock and gap-filling CA glue.  This area and the rest of the keel was sanded smooth and I drilled a hole to accommodate a bit of brass rod for display purposes.  The next step was to drill out the various part location depressions with a #80 drill bit.  I also sanded off the cast on nameplates since I was going to use the etched versions. I next separated the photo-etch parts between those that were going to be painted gray from those that were going to be painted anti-fouling red.  Using scissors and photo-etch shears I cut apart the brass fret into sections to keeping the parts attached until use.  I also cut out the section with the nameplates to paint separately. I don’t think the standard French Navy gray used in World War I was too different from that being used on today’s fleet so I used White Ensign Model Colourcoats Modern French Navy Gray for this model.  I airbrushed the hull and selected photoetch this color.  For hull bottom and related photo-etch parts I used Colourcoats WW2 Royal Navy Anti-Fouling Red.   Green was commonly used on French ships from this era but I am not when this practice ended so I went with the standard red. I brushed on two coats of Testors Model Masters Insignia Blue on the brass nameplates and after letting it dry for several days, I lightly sanded the parts using 800 grit paper to remove the blue paint from the raised lettering and border to let the brass appear from underneath.  Lastly, I used Testors Radome Tan to paint the narrow wooden deck section and dry brushed some thinned black watercolor to bring out the planking a bit.  I gave the hull a coat of Tamiya gloss and applied some very thin black stripe model railroad decals to make the boot-topping.

The next step in assembly was the one I was dreading: the propellers!   I had visions of one of the beautiful teeny tiny brass parts plinking out of my tweezers never to be seen again like Jimmy Hoffa.  I thought hard about how best to approach this and came up with a very workable idea.  I took a piece of cardboard and applied some looped over masking tape to make it double-sided.   I then took a small drill bit and made a hole into the cardboard through the piece of tape.  Into that hole I place the cone piece nose down so that the back with nub would stick up.   I then attempted to thread the photo-etch blades onto the nub but the opening in the blades was not quite wide enough.  I carefully made it wider with a micro-drill bit (it may have been either a #74 or #73 bit) and I was then able to fit the blades through.  Next followed the tube bearing which sandwiched the blades against the cone.   I then took the shaft tube, glued some brass rod in the opening for the shaft, applied a little drop of CA into the other opening and stuck on to the propeller assembly.  I pulled the cone out of the hole in the cardboard and presto! – You have a propeller/shaft assembly.  I repeated the step for the next assembly and I was quite proud of myself since I managed to do this without dropping or losing any of the brass parts. After getting this done successfully, the rest of the model was going to be a piece of cake!  Well almost, but it went together fairly easily.   I attached the photo-etch struts as indicated in the instructions and glued on the assemblies to the hull.  While working with the strut that had the tear it eventually broke in two but I was able to work around it.  I should note here that the Mariotte had staggered propellers with starboard side fitted a little further aft then the port side.   This is also evident from the hull which has the locations to glue the struts and shaft clearly marked.   I brush painted the shaft and parts leading to the struts and touched up the struts with the anti-fouling red.  I then proceed to glue on the stern rudder and planes keeping enough of a nub apply some glue and stick into the holes I drilled.  However, when trying to glue on the port side plane the upper part of the strut was in the way so that I couldn’t put it flush against the hull.  I had to carefully pull off the upper strut, attach the plane and then bend the strut a little more and glue it back on just below where the locator is on the hull.  The rest of the planes and rudders went on without a hitch.  The stern topside rudder had the letters “MA” painted in white, so I applied a little clear gloss and then used white lettering from a Microscale decal set.

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Next step was the railings and here is where I ran into another minor problem.  As you can see from the image of the photo-etch fret, some of the individual railing stanchions have nibs to place into the locator holes.  These need to be trimmed to a minimal amount.  But when I tried to line the railings up with the holes they were slightly off.  This was more evident with the rear railings.  The first two holes working my way back lined up fine but the further aft I went the more off they were.  It was only a slight difference but enough that I had to trim off the nibs on most of the stanchions.   Since resin shrinks, this make locator hole alignment with individual railing stanchions just about impossible to do  Once I accommodated for this, the railings went out without any further problems and I filled in the holes with little dabs of CA and touched up the paint where needed. Photo-etched part #10, which is the shield, has sides that need to be folded over and the part is glued to the deck as indicated by the positioning holes.  However, this part was too wide to fit on the deck between the railings.  I bent the part flat again and then I was able to cleanly snap off the sides. I then trimmed the brass shield using a pair of etch shears just enough that it would fit – I took more off the side without the opening since it is off-center.   I then glued the sides back on after the main part was glued to the deck. The main mast was glued into place but the flagstaff suffered the same malady as the strut and it broke in two trying to remove it from the fret.  I substituted brass wire and attach a French flag from the Gold Medal Models decal sheet.   The model received a couple of light dustings of matte finish to finish it off. Overall, it was a fun build despite some of what I would consider to be minor issues.   The Mariotte had a certain flair to her and the kit builds into a nice little model.  I would recommend it any fan of submarines or of ships from this era.  While it appears to be an easy build, it would be better suited for someone with at least more moderate modeling skills.  

Felix Bustello

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