by: Frank Portela [ ]
Originally published on:
"This review is of Pit-Road's 350th scale release of the then-largest submarine in the world, the French Surcouf. A fine full hulled resin model kit with metal details."
The French took advantage of the submarine omissions within the 1922 Washington Naval Treaty which limited the production of BattleCruisers, Battleships and Aircraft Carriers by planning for three underwater cruisers. These so called corsair submarines where designed to engage ships in both surface and sub-surface combat. Of the three planned submarines, France completed only one, the Surcouf, then the largest submarine in the world. She was armed with eight fore 550mm (22”) and four aft 400mm (16”) torpedo tubes. For surface combat, she was armed with twin 203mm/50 Modele 1924 guns, fitted within a pressure tight turret forward of the conning tower. The turret’s director had a 5m (16’) rangefinder with the capacity to view targets 11km (6.8mi) away. The guns 39km (24mi) range could be achieved with use of the Besson MB.411 observation plane. The reconnaissance float plane was stored in the hangar built aft of the conning tower. The Surcouf carried sufficient fuel for 20,000km (10,000 nautical mile) and supplies for 90 days.
When Germany invaded France in June 1940, Surcouf rested in Brest in the midst of refitting. By July with the Germans having pushed aside allied forces, she made her way across the channel to Portsmouth. On July 3rd 1940, Churchill, fearful of the French fleet falling into German hands launched Operation Catapult, which forced the French fleet world wide to continue the fight against Germany or risk capture or scuttling. With negotiations failing, Churchill ordered the attacks on the French fleet at Mers-el-Kebir in French Algeria and blockaded the fleet in Alexandria. Ships lying at ports in Canada and England where boarded by armed marines. In Plymouth and Portsmouth, on the night of July 3rd 1940, British armed Marines boarded the Surcouf. The crew of the Surcouf fought against the boarding British marines, culminating in the deaths of two British seamen and one French warrant officer. The attacks on the French fleet severely strained relations with the French governments, and Churchill’s fears of the French fleet switching sides proved unfounded as the French scuttled their own fleet in Toulon on November 27th 1942 to avoid German capture.
In August 1940, the Surcouf, having had her refit completed by the British, handed her over to the Free French Navy for convoy patrol. The Surcouf joined operations in the Atlantic, ferrying French diplomats to Canada and helping to take control of the Saint-Pierre and Miquelon islands, south of Newfoundland, Canada for Free France.
Surcouf was sunk on February 18, 1942 about 130km (80miles) north of Cristobal Colon, when the American freighter SS Thompson Lykes, en route to Guantanamo Bay made contact at night with the partially submerged Surcouf. There were no survivors.
Displ.: 3250 tons (surfaced)
4304 tons (submerged)
Length: 110m (361’)
Beam: 9m (29’6”)
Draught: 7.25m (23.8’)
Propulsion: surfaced: two Sulzer diesel engines (7600 hp)
submerged: 2 electric motors (3400 hp)
Speed: 18.5 knots (34.3kph) surfaced
10 knots (20kph) submerged
Endurance: 90 days
Range: 18500 km (10000 nautical miles) at 10 knots (20kph) surfaced
12600 km (6800 nautical miles) at 13.5 knots (25kph) surfaced
110 km (60 nautical miles) at 5 knots (9kph) submerged
Armament: 2 x 203mm/50 Modele 1924 guns in twin turret
2 x 37mm anti-aircraft guns
4 x 13.2mm anti-aircraft guns
8 x 550mm (22”) torpedo tubes w/ 14 torpedoes
4 x 400mm (16”) torpedo tubes w/ 8 torpedoes
Aircraft: 1 x Besson MB.411 floatplane
Pit-Road’s typical high quality in plastic models is equally evident in this resin kit. The resin parts have minor air bubbles but nothing some CA glue or filler can’t fix. The one piece hull has the structural keel and very thin bilge keels moulded on. The remainder of the resin kit is comprised of larger separate resin pieces and two resin blocks housing smaller more detailed resin parts. The larger resin parts include the conning tower/float plane hanger, pressure tight turret, turret base, rudder and the display base. The two resin blocks contain the range finder housing, float plane hanger door, the aft torpedo launchers, the MB.411 float plane, crane, the single centre float and the float plane deck cradle.
The metal parts include the 203mm guns, the 37mm AA guns, the aft and fore horizontal hydro-planes, searchlight, rudders, and float plane details. The kit also provides brass rod for the propeller shafts.
Pit-Road provides a one page instruction sheet in Japanese. The painting guide is also in Japanese but uses the Gunze colour codes.
G8 for the propeller shafts
G10 for the propellers
G28 for the 203mm guns
G33 for the water line stripes
G35 for the above water hull
G79 for the lower hull
What’s not in the kit...
No decals are included in the kit, which wouldn’t normally be an issue except that the box top photo shows a completed Surcouf with markings on the conning tower.