Japanese 15mm scale Japanese Midget Sub by Mick Yarrow Miniatures
Reviewed by Rob Morgan
The interesting venture by MY Navy in producing several WWII German and British semi-submerged coastal units to accompany their frogmen continues with the production of a ‘Type “A” Ko-Gata two man midget submarine sail on a sea-base. The model, two in a pack for £2 (Code GER11) is 30mm long and 20mm high, and my sample was clean of flash and nicely detailed.
The model is clearly based on the surviving example salvaged from the waters of Pearl Harbor after the war ended, and now preserved and displayed at the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force Naval Academy at Etajima. This is one of the first batch numbered Ha3 to Ha44.
The early example on display in Japan doesn’t have the net cutters and jumping wires which were carried on most of the later built boats, and the model also omits these. So it represents one of forty two of the earlier ‘Type ‘A’s’, and not the later 15 units with cutters. For an early ‘Type A’ file off the after, lowest, mast behind the periscope. Paint the model very dark sea grey overall.
The cutters can be added using a small double length of wire some 25mm long, drilled into the very front of the base and looped around the periscope and cemented to the after ‘lip’ of the sail, but the model looks well enough as it is, and is representative of the largest group.
Some 62 of the ‘Type A’s’ were built, of 46 tons, 23.9metres long overall with a limited range of 80 nautical miles surfaced, and capable (allegedly!) of 23 knots surfaced and 19 knots submerged at top speed, but most of their work was carried out at around two knots effectively. The single shaft 600hp electric motor limited the ‘Ko-Gata’s’ very significantly, since it had no self-charging capability. They were well armed with two 17.7” torpedoes in an over and under bow tube. The later group were in terms of machinery and capability identical to the first forty two, only fittings differed.
Five of the early boats, No’s 16,18,20,22, and 24 were used, as is well known in the attack on Pearl Harbor, and later three of them attacked the RN Battleship HMS Ramillies and disabled her at Diego Suarez during the operations to secure Madagascar from the Vichy French. Incidentally, in November 1941, Pierre Laval’s Vichy Government had agreed to the Japanese occupation of Madagascar and the establishment of a naval and seaplane base there- an unfought, yet potentially interesting wargames campaign there, I think!
Three more ‘Type ‘A’s’ of the first batch were involved in the attack on Sydney Harbour in May 1942, when USS Chicago narrowly escaped destruction. This was perhaps the most successful midget submarine operation of the war. The little ‘Ko-Gata’ subs were unable to operate in the conditions around the Aleutian Islands in the North Pacific, and though some were used, and beached at Guadalcanal and Okinawa, those ‘Type ‘A’s’ that survived to 1945 were used as part of the suicidal defence of the Japanese island archipelago. A few were used by the vaunted ‘Dragon Squadron’ based at Cebu in the Philippines in early 1945.
This is another unusual and interesting addition to the coastal and harbour wargames opportunities which several smaller UK manufacturers have tentatively ‘dipped’ into in recent months, and worth buying to experiment with. It will as a model also just about fit into 20mm scale, by the way. A single mini submarine against a harbour defence system? Potential for a solo game there, obviously.