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In-Box Review
French Navy Submarine, Surcouf
Multi-media Kit
  • Surcouf_575

by: Frank Portela [ CLANKY44 ]

Originally published on:
Model Shipwrights

"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
Crew: 118
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

The Model


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.

Highs: A historic submarine released in resin with metal details, and priced in line with contemporary plastic offerings. Well done Pit-Road.
Lows: A waterlined hull option would of been nice. The instructions are basic and strictly in Japanese and offer no english guide in assembly or painting. The metal 203mm main guns are poor quality and considering the overall high quality overall should be repl
Verdict: A limited release from Pit-Road, if this subject matter interests you, act quickly. Highly recommended.
Percentage Rating
  Scale: 1:350
  Mfg. ID: 016
  Suggested Retail: $80 CDN
  Related Link: 
  PUBLISHED: Nov 21, 2008

About Frank Portela (Clanky44)

I'm an avid modeller, with about 20 odd years of experience. I belong to a very small group of modellers here in Guelph, Ontario that formed GPMG (Guelph Plastic Modelling Group) over 12 years ago. We have our annual show (WELCOME - Wellington County Modellers Exposition) in the spring. We pride ou...

Copyright ©2020 text by Frank Portela [ CLANKY44 ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of KitMaker Network or the British Bulldogs IPMS-UK group. All rights reserved.


Frank, Nice review. Now it is even harder fro me to resist getting one. I always like those “unique” items and this one sure fits the bill.
NOV 24, 2008 - 04:06 AM
Great review, Frank. I always wonder why companies include metal items that turn out to be not so great- metal things are a real hassle 95% of the time it seems, when a better part could have been produced in resin. Regarding not having the waterline option, the reason is basically due to resin issues. Whereas it's pretty easy to make a waterline option in styrene, resin is more of a problem thanks to the differing rates of shrinkage. True some resin manufacturers do the separate waterline thing, but mating the hull parts almost always requires a lot of filler and sanding (even more annoying when the lengths turn out differently). So, some resin companies just take an either/ or approach (as Pavel does at Admiralty). I'd be willing to bet this is Pit-Road's reasoning with this resin kit, as I have a few of their full hull plastic offerings that *do* have the waterlining option. Now thanks to your review, I'm intrigued by this kit...
NOV 24, 2008 - 04:54 AM
Hi Frank Excellent review of an excellent resin model! I always liked those resin Combat Submarines series from Pit-Road... also always found strange the inclusion of white metal parts instead of resin ones. Go figure! As for a waterline version, you can always use the technique Jim Baumann used for is K-boat (also 1/350 resin model from Pit-Road): A belt sander! Use with care and outside as you can see here: http://www.modelshipgallery.com/gallery/users/jim-baumann/mod-month/sanding%20hull%203.jpg Cheers and thank you for the review! Rui
NOV 24, 2008 - 05:09 AM
Thanks for the comments. Yes the guns are the most disappointing part of the model, but considering the amount of aftermarket 203mm turned barrels out there, there's got to be something resembling the Surcouf's guns, as for the full/waterline hull options, it's true that the shrinkage factor is different for all cast parts, and quite noticeable on something as precise as a compound curved hull. Darren at the Resin Shipyard will offer waterlined hulls for his models at a slightly higher cost and it might take a bit more time but the option is there. Considering how expensive most of these resin models are, I think they should all have the option,... just wishful thinking on my part. ...Now to find some reference photos of the Surcouf... Frank
NOV 25, 2008 - 02:18 PM

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