The Z-31 destroyer was a German destroyer of the class designated 1936A, consisting of fifteen ships built in two batches. The first batch, numbered Z-23 to Z-30, were 120 meters long. They had reliability problems with their engines and difficulty in rough seas because of the bow shape and weight of armament forward. The second batch, called 1936A (Mob) and numbered Z-31 to Z-38, were 127 meters long and had a new steam turbine which was more reliable than engines used previously, giving the ship a top speed of 37 knots. The construction of the latter ships was simplified. These ships were to carry 5 15cm (5.9 inch) guns, making them closer to a light cruiser than a destroyer. The Z-31 was laid down 1 Sept 1940, launched 15 April 1941 and commissioned 11 April 1942. The forward turret on these ships was to carry two 15cm guns, but at the time of her commissioning these turrets were not available, so the Z-31 went to sea with a single 15cm gun turret on her bow, and three more aft of the torpedo tubes.
The Z-31 spent her entire career with the German Navy deployed in the Baltic Sea and at Norway. On 30 and 31 December, 1942, she participatd with other German warships on an attack on British convoy JW51B, probably still carrying the single gun forward turret. In 1943 the forward turret was replaced with the two gun design. On 6 and 7 September 1943, she particpated in bombardment of an Allied base at Spitzbergen. On January 28, 1945, she participated in the last battle between British and German naval forces in Norway, and the second to last British/German naval engagement of the war. In that action, she and other German destroyers raced for German waters. They were intercepted by the British, and in the short battle, Z-31 was badly damaged, with the forward turret being destroyed and over 50 crewmen killed. She was able to make it to Germany and the ruined turret was removed, replaced by a 10.5cm anti aircraft gun. She participated in escort and covering operations until the end of the war.
The Z-31 was taken by the British as a war prize, given to the French, renamed Marceau, and served in the French navy until 1958, when she was sold for scrap and broken up.
Dragon now offer the Z-31 as part of their 1/700 Smart Kit series.
The kit comes in a top opening box with the Z-31 underway. Inside the box are a full hull and a waterline hull, 7 sprues in grey styrene, one etch fret, a small decal sheet and a display base.
The two hull parts are well molded, including surface details and portholes. After photographing the sprues I test fit the deck section to the hull and it fit very nicely, with no gap.
The "B" sprue has the main deck, again with good molded on detail, and various superstructure details.
The "D" sprue has the main bridge parts, masts and various fittings. Each of the superstructure parts was made with multi part slide moding, allowing for excellent all around detail. You will need a magnifying glass to see some of it clearly.
A small "E" sprue with additional mast parts.
Foure "K" sprues, with the single 15cm gun mounts, 3.7cm and 2cm AA guns and mounts, square life rafts, life boats and small fittings. The gun mounts are again slide molded with all around detail that is very small. The 15cm guns have the muzzles bored out. Details is very fine.
The photoetch fret has radar screens, detail fittings for the superstructure and funnels, gun shields and life boat jacks. Unlike the larger scale armor smart kits, this is quite an extensive set. Some of the parts have optional plastic replacement, others are in addition to plastic details.
The decal sheet has hull markings and two flags, at rest and "in action". The swastika is not included on the flag, but comes in two parts to be added for the detail modeler.
The instructions are line drawings, fold out type, with assembly called out in 13 steps. They are somewhat busy, but not too crowded. Two painting schemes are provided, one for 1943, showing a disruptive scheme of dark gray over light gull gray, and the other for 1944, with dark gray deck and light gull gray vertical surfaces, dark gray at the water line. A paint chart included provides color numbers for GSI Creos aqueous hobby and Mr color lines, as well as Model Master enamels.
Molding of the plastic is excellent overall. There is no flash visible. There are some mold seam lines that appear more prominently on the tiny parts, particularly the round parts such as guns and masts, and may be difficult to clean up, but I did not see any sink marks. Attachment points are generally as small as possible and many parts are attached at the sprue by a flat portion, allowing easy removal witha sharp knife. As I mentioned above, you will need magnification to really see a lot of the care Dragon has put into the kit, as well as to properly remove some of the parts from the sprue.
There are a couple of issues with the kit. First is the armament. The kit only includes the sinlge 15cm gun mount forward, limiting it to 1942 deployment. As such, the paint schemes provided should both include the double gun turret, though the paint scheme for 1942 appears to be similar or the same as 1944, with light gray vertical surfaces. The guns and lower portion of the twin gun turret are included on the "K" sprue, but not the turret upper so you won't have the parts to make the twin gun turret. In French service as the Marceau the single 15cm gun turret was restored to the forward position, but the 3.7cm guns were replaced wtih 40mm Bofors and a radar mount was added in place of the searchlights behind the rear funnel. In looking over the instructions, I did note that in step 1, one turret is constructed with part K27, which does not exist in my sample. The turrets are all part K28.
In conclusion, my overall impression is that the plastic in the kit is excellent in quality, with very good detail, and the instructions are fairly good as well, but the lack of the twin gun turret means it can't be built correctly as depicted, representing the 1942 configuration. It will still make a very good model, but unless you can source the twin gun turrret upper, it is accurate only by 1942 standards.
This kit is readily available, with a price ranging from $20.99 up to $29.99 US, so shop around.
I used www.navypedia.org
as reference sources for this review.