Schnellbootes were the German equivalents of American PT boats or British Vospers. Development of this class of boats began in the late twenties, and the S-1 was commissioned in 1930. By the end of the war, 236 of these sophisticated and powerful weapons had been built. Late war examples were the Cigarette Boats of their day, with 9000 horsepower and top speeds near 50 knots.
Though I’m primarily an aircraft modeler, this title caught my eye for a couple of reasons - that colorized photo on the cover, showing a boat at speed with an exotic camouflage scheme, and the fact that I’ve got a 1/72nd S-Boat in my unbuilt kit collection. This monograph is printed in the landscape format popularized by the “In Action” series, but with 74 total pages (10 of them in color). Four pages of dense text summarize the history of these vessels - the rest of the boot consists of well-captioned photos, plans and color profiles. I’d describe the photo reproduction as merely adequate, though the color photos look quite nice. Many photos show useful details for the modeler. Camouflage colors and patterns get nice coverage, with color photos, 10 color profiles, and swatches representing the colors used on these boats. A very useful chart lists significant details for all the classes of S-boats. Plan and side views of the major types of boats are nicely drawn, and armament and torpedo drawings will be useful to the detail conscious modeler. Hull line drawings only cover the bow and stern regions of these boats. A full hull drawing in 1/72nd scale would have just fit as a centerfold - this would be very useful, though perhaps not as sexy as those camouflage color prints. Though there is some coverage of the prewar and postwar use of these boats, most the material focusses on the WW II years.
With 72 pages to stretch over 15 years and 236 boats, this book doesn’t try to be an exhaustive treatment of the material. But for many naval enthusiasts and modelers, this inexpensive and colorful title will get the job done. I paid about $15 for this book and it seems like a bargain for all the nice color, plans and useful photos.
One reason I bought this book is the 1/72 Airfix kit residing in my attic. It was purchased when it was new in 1975. This was in Airfix’s golden age - the kit has many, many well molded parts, a decal sheet with swastikas, a paper flag, and magnificent box art with explosions and sinking ships (no longer acceptable in our more delicate age). The model depicts an early war boat, with markings for S-10 through S-13. Sorry, no exotic camo for this boat - those exotic camouflage schemes were only applied to mid and late production models. The instruction sheet deserves a note - it is beautifully drawn, with great detail. Five slightly mushy crewmembers are included, as are depth charge racks and stowed torpedoes. There are canvas tarps molded as part of the boat’s railings, and these just aren’t convincing. The kit’s biggest problem is the hull shape. The S-bootes had a very sophisticated round-bottomed hull that greatly contributed to its speedy performance. Not having a ship builder’s eye, I probably wouldn’t have noticed this but the short review on the prinzeugen web site tipped me off. Comparison with the hull drawings, indeed, reveals a much too flat and uncurvy hull shape - start carving a chunk of wood if you really want it right.. Despite that flaw, I still keep the kit in my mental “Oldie, but a Goodie” list, and looking it over again rekindles that enthusiasm. And a dockside diorama would hide a lot of that flawed hull.
And to add fuel to that boat modeling passion, Revell of Germany has just released a 1/72 kit of the S-100, a late boat with an armored wheelhouse. A favorable review can be found at: http://www.steelnavy.com/RG-S100Hopp.htm
I’d bet that conversions to those camouflageable mid-war boats won’t be far behind.