Since the Treaty of Versailles had severely limited the German Navy after World War I, when the rebuilding began in the 1930s the process almost started from scratch, which meant that by 1939 the German Navy was among the most modern in the world. Although the adventures of such ships as the Bismarck and Tirpitz have received much publicity, Churchill admitted that it was the U-Boat menace that most worried him. In the past naval subjects have been largely ignored in this hobby, despite the often pivotal influence they had on campaigns, but this is now changing, and Revell have produced this welcome acknowledgement of the Kriegsmarine.
The set includes 15 poses, which is standard for many makes but quite a lot by recent Revell standards. As can be seen from the pictures, the theme of the set is the day-to-day running of the vessel rather than battle, with all the officers just standing and the lower ranks busy doing various jobs. The first two poses are of a sailor and officer on parade, but the rest of the figures are in more casual mode. The other officers are standing, perhaps on watch, while the crew are walking about, carrying tools etc. The last three figures are a gun crew, but only one man is holding his weapon while the other two have their arms down by their sides.
The sailor on parade wears the traditional 'square rig', a form of dress that could be worn for normal duties but became increasingly reserved for parade and formal occasions. The officer by his side wears normal uniform of peaked cap and double-breasted reefer jacket. The other officers wear either reefer jackets or leather coats, which were common apparel when on board. Two of them (the fourth figure in the first two rows) wear sou'wester hats, which was normal foul weather attire, but they are only wearing the normal coat when they would normally wear the full foul weather kit which was a large double-breasted knee-length over jacket and over trousers. The reason for this unusual mix of clothing is apparent on closer inspection - the third and fourth figures in the first row are the same man, but with a different head attached. This increases the apparent selection of poses at low cost, but produces a less than satisfactory bad weather figure. Exactly the same is true of the officer figures in the second row, except that the binoculars have also been removed. The crew wear working dress of various styles (a mixture of styles and materials was normal on board), and look pretty authentic. Many wear the popular Bordmutze side cap ('boarding cap'), and a couple wear the equally popular Pudelmutze, which was a simple woollen hat with a pompon. Although issue items were varied, civilian clothing was also often worn, particularly on smaller vessels, so this lack of uniformality is good. Several of the crew wear life jackets, and again several types were used, but the ones modelled here are correct. Finally the gun crew are correctly depicted wearing the normal steel helmet.
Revell quality has varied considerably over the years, but happily here we are looking at one of their better efforts. The figures are slim and well detailed, with good proportions and realistic stances. There is no flash or excess plastic to remove, and because the figures mostly have their arms by their sides the sprue looks sparsely filled, although we have no complaints about the 51 figures supplied. The box says these figures are designed for the Revell U-Boat and S-Boats, but are suitable for any vessel of the period. The crews of U-Boats and surface ships were similarly dressed, although there were some characteristics more common to one or the other, but these figures are indeed suitable for both. When used to enliven the Revell U-Boat, they certainly add a lot to an otherwise static and lifeless model, but to place the watch figures in the conning tower requires that their bases be mostly hacked away.
It is clear that this set is intended to 'decorate' the U-Boat and S-Boat models from Revell, making them more interesting as a presentation piece and giving the vessel some perspective. Given that aim the set succeeds well, but it is a pity that there are no action poses (apart from the gunner) to show the ship or submarine actually doing what it was intended for, to engage the enemy in combat. This is a well produced and mostly authentic set of figures, but not a particularly exciting one.