At the end of WWI most of the ships of the Imperial German Navy were either scuttled by their crews at Scapa Flow or confiscated by the Allies in reprisal after the scuttling. The once powerful German fleet was reduced to just a handful of light cruisers and pre-dreadnoughts.
After WWI under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles, the German Navy was restricted to a total of 15,000 personnel, of which no more than 1500 were permitted to be officers. Germany was forbidden from having any submarines and their surface fleet was limited to:
• Six pre-dreadnought battleships • Six light cruisers • Twelve destroyers • Twelve torpedo boats
After having lost most of her best ships, work was begun to rebuild the fleet with ultramodern ships using the latest technology. In 1934 the keel was laid for the first of a new class of fast, powerful destroyers. In June of 1935 many of the previous restrictions on German naval strength went away at the conclusion of the Anglo-German naval Treaty which limited Germany’s naval strength to 35 percent of that of the Royal Navy with no other limitations on the quantities or types of warships.
Z Class Destroyers The new Z Class destroyers used three main weapon types however the most common type was the 12.7cm gun which was mounted singly in turrets. The basic layout usually consisted of one or two turrets forward and three turrets aft. Later models would feature larger 15cm main guns. A few of the last Z Class Destroyers produced were fitted with a large twin turret in the most forward position, which obviously enhanced firepower but affected handling characteristics due to the additional weight.
Secondary armament usually consisted of four twin 3.7cm twin flak guns (which sometimes varied from ship to ship) as well as single, twin and quadruple mounted 2cm flak guns. Towards the end of the war many German warships had their flak armament significantly enhanced under and upgrade program called “Project Barbara”. Each destroyer had two quadruple torpedo tube mounts, one in between the exhaust funnels and the other just aft of the funnels. Two depth charge launchers were placed on either side of the aft superstructure along with two depth charge racks on both sides. They seldom carried more than 30 depth charges which was far less than their allied counterparts. Mine laying took up a large part of the duties of the German destroyer fleet and they carried two types; the EMC type which featured 7 contact detonators and the EMF type which detonated based on the magnetic field generated by a ship passing nearby.
This particular kit (originally produced by Skywave) represents the type 36A (MOB) Z31 class of German destroyers, specifically Z37, Z38 and Z39. Check your references carefully as Z37 did not receive some of the modifications included with the project Barbara upgrades. As built, they had 15cm guns with the twin gun configuration in the foremost turret. You can build the ships either in their original configuration as they appeared in 1943 or as they appeared in 1945 after getting the additional flak guns mounted under project Barbara. Tamiya has added two small sprues with the extra flak guns to give you the option of building one or both ships with the Barbara configuration.
This kit contains two complete sets of plastic injection molded parts which will allow you to build two complete destroyers. There are a total of 6 sprues and one small paper sheet for the flags.
The instructions are a single two sided sheet with some history and a painting guide on the front, and two steps for the assembly on the back. Step 1 is broken out with two options; 1A is for the 1945 Barbara upgraded configuration, 1B is for the original 1943 outfitting. Step 2 combines together all the subassemblies and remaining parts. The Barbara configuration consists of one twin 15cm turret, two single mount 15cm turrets, six twin 37mm cannons, four single 37mm cannons and two twin 20mm cannons.
The kit appears to be fairly accurate when compared to my references. The shape of the front upper hull is just a little off and will not be noticeable to most. The 2cm flak guns appear a little too thick, due no doubt to molding limitations with 1/700 scale ships. There are no gun shields provided for the additional flak gun mounts so you may want to get aftermarket PE replacement parts.
The one piece waterline hull is well engineered with part of the superstructure molded in so as to avoid having some seams in tricky places. The detail is adequate and meets the standards which most 1/700 ship builders have come to expect and they will look nice when completed.
The only real issue with this kit is the appearance of the main turrets. The Z Class Destroyers did not have enclosed main turrets on their destroyers; the back was completely open which exposed the gun crews to the elements which I would image made them a miserable place to be when conducting operations in inclement cold weather. The kit turrets are molded as solid, enclosed blocks and therefore don’t appear like the real thing at all and even the basic shape is off. The kit turrets contain slots on the top from the middle of the turret forward which the barrels mount into which is completely wrong! The real turrets had their guns protruding from the front of the turret with the slot going up to the top of the beveled front edge. The tops of the turrets themselves were completely enclosed. This is disappointing to say the least.
Kit assembly is fairly straightforward and should be within the skill set of most modelers. Two paint configurations are diagrammed on the back of the box, one solid light gray scheme as commissioned or the blue, dark gray and light gray disruptive scheme applied later.
A paper sheet is included for the flags however the flag centers are just a white circle, the swastikas are missing. If you want the swastikas you’ll need to either draw them on there or find replacement flags. As most of us should know by now, the swastika symbol is illegal so often times the swastikas are omitted to permit the kits sale in Germany.
Conclusion This is a nice, affordable 1/700 waterline kit which includes two complete Z Class 36A MOB destroyers that can be built as commissioned in 1943 or after the project Barbara upgrades in 1945.
Osprey New Vanguard 91 – German Destroyers 1939-45 By Gordon Williamson, Illustrated by Ian Palmer
Highs: Nice rendition, reasonably priced, two complete destroyers can be built.Lows: Completely inaccurate main gun turretsVerdict: Nice addition to anyone’s 1/700 fleet.
About Scott Espin (Spiff) FROM: NEVADA, UNITED STATES
I have been an avid student of military history for over 35 years, especially World War II with my focus mostly on German military equipment (tanks and aircraft). I'm especially interested in anything relating to the Eastern Front and North Africa.
My Dad ignited my passion for modeling when I...