Review by Felix Bustelo
The design of the Deutschland class was debatably the most ingenious one to take advantage of the loopholes in the limitations set on German warship by the Treaty of Versailles. During the inter-war period, Germany was limited to capital ships of no more than 10,000 tons standard displacement. There was no corresponding limitation to the caliber of the main guns. Thus the Panzerschiffe or "Pocket Battleship" was born.
The Deutschland, Admiral Scheer and the Admiral Graf Spee were armed with six 11- inch guns in two triple turrets and eight 5.9-inch secondary guns in single mountings. Their main armament was superior to that found in contemporary cruisers and they were fast enough to outrun any battleship. In 1940, the two remaining ships (the Graf Spee was scuttled in 1939) were reclassified as heavy cruisers.
The Lützow had a troubled wartime career. At the outbreak of the war, the Deutschland (later renamed Lützow) was also deployed for commerce raiding in the North Atlantic. He only sank two ships and captured a third. While supporting the German invasion of Norway in 1940, he sustained three hits from 11-inch from Norwegian coastal batteries. While enroute back to Germany, he was struck by a torpedo from submarine HMS Spearfish. The Lützow under went repairs until January 1941. When he attempted to breakout in the North Atlantic, he was again struck by a torpedo, requiring further repairs until January 1942. In May of 1942, the Lützow has moved to Narvik to threaten Murmansk convoys. He ran aground while on a sortie against one such convoy. After further unsuccessful actions, the Lützow was retired but later recalled to provide support against Soviet advances in the Baltic. He was attacked by British bombers and suffered enough damage from near misses that he settled to the bottom and was used only as a stationary battery to the end of the war.
The Heller kit of the Lützow represents this ship after the major wartime modifications made to her and the Scheer. These ships initially had a straight stem bow. To improve sea keeping, an "Atlantic bow" was fitted with increased sheer. In additions, a cowling was added to the funnel top.
This kit is molded in a light gray plastic and is comprised of 185 parts. The kit measures approximately 18.45 inches (468mm) long and 2.16 inches (54mm) wide. Based on my references, the scale length is correct but the beam is a slightly wider. The parts are very cleanly molded with no visible flash, pinholes, dimples or any other blemish. The hull comes in two halves with a nice level of detail. The portholes are partial drilled out and depending on the modeler's preference, you can leave them as is or drill all the way through. The upper and lower boundaries of the boot top are marked, which will facilitate masking it for painting or for applying the decal version provided with this kit.
The superstructure parts are good and have a fair amount of detail but it could use some more. The smaller components, such as the boats, Arado AR 196 float plane, cranes and range finder are well done and some detailing will really make them shine. The are several "Aztec steps" molded inclined ladders that will need to be removed if you are planning to replace them with photoetch versions. A trademark of Heller kits are the plastic railings that are provided with each kit. I would discard them and use photoetch rails in their place. Also provided is a brass anchor chain.
The kit's armament is very good but the smaller anti-aircraft guns suffer a bit from being slightly overscale. While I admit that I am not an expert of this ship, a couple of references I checked indicate that the Lützow had eight 37mm guns in 4 twin mountings and as few as 10 and as many as 26 20mm single mounts. The kit provides two twin 37mm mounts and only four 20mm single mounts. This may be correct for this ship at the time of her major refit, when the "Atlantic bow" and funnel cowling were added.
A decal sheet is provided which contains black strip decal for the boot topping. Two sections of the black strip are slightly curved for the stern, which is a very nice touch. Also included on the decal sheet are markings for the floatplane, shields for the bow, the eagle symbol for the stern and several flags and ensigns. Since the swastika is a banned symbol in several European countries, including France, none are provided are replaced with crosses where they would normally appear. If you wish to be historically accurate with the flags and markings, you will have to find an alternate source for the decals.
The instruction booklet is very well illustrated with blow-up diagrams that breakdown the assemblies clearly. Again, I cannot really comment on the painting instructions, but I have seen photos of the Lützow late-war wearing a splinter camouflage scheme. The kit's instructions are for a simple overall color scheme.
This kit is a winner and with some photoetch detailing and accurate references will build into an excellent model. Gold Medal Models produces a 1/400 scale WW2 German Navy set which has specific as well as more general components that can be used on this model. I wish to thank Francis Reiser of Heller for providing this review sample.