Available from HobbyLink Japan: http://hlj.com/product/HSGZ21/Nav
They Shall Fear Nothing!
In 1906, the Royal Navy launched the ship based on the concepts of Vittorio Cuniberti which, though not the first ‘modern’ warship, did represent the ultimate evolution of the heavy gun ship – and a form which to a great degree is maintained to this day by the few ships which the navies of the world maintain – HMS Dreadnought.
In the years since the ending of the American Civil War, a number of countries had experimented with a series of transitional ship designs, which slowly began edging out the traditions of the past in favor of the main battery concept, which would define the battle-wagons of 20th century (at least until the introduction of reliable Ship to Ship missiles).
Prior to the Dreadnought, ships often mounted a small number of main guns, but a larger number of intermediate ordnance – often still in Broadside batteries of some sort – with the idea that this allowed such ships to engage a broad range of targets effectively.
Where the Dreadnought and its successors differed was that they sacrificed most of the secondary weapons (with the exception of point defense guns) to allow the ship to carry heavier, if not more, main guns.
With her revolutionary targeting array, the Dreadnought was able to bring five BL 12 inch Mk X guns on target with greater accuracy than any other ship afloat.
In addition, with uprated armor, the reduction of the secondary armament to little more than 12lb repeaters (26 in number) was not seen as an issue – in that the speed and accuracy of the main battery fire, out to ranges of 8000 yards in good conditions, would guarantee the ship’s safety against main threats.
Between 1870 and 1906, the battleships of the world were a weird and wonderful bunch to be sure.
These ironclads, which later took on the name ‘pre-dreadnoughts,’ were really experiments with armor, gun types, and uses on the great battlefield of the ocean.
As we discussed before, the earliest – such as La Gloire and HMS Warrior – were little more than armored sail frigates, which whilst effective, still clung to the military traditions of the ages. Others, such as the Monitor, represented a sense of pure experimentation.
None were perfect, because no-one of the period – until the time of Vittorio Cuniberti – seemed to have a clear idea as to what the then-heavy, slow, iron-clad gun platforms should be doing. Not fast or stable enough to hunt in the deep ocean, were they only to be for coastal defense? Or limited to shore bombardment?
The technology drove the direction however, and as the engines improved, the armor strengthened, and the guns developed, the place of the pre-dreadnoughts in the line of battle slowly began to take shape, and though the experiments continued to the end of the century, by the time of HMVS Cerberus and HMS Devestation the groundwork had been laid.
These ships were comprised of:
- One or more barbettes or turrets, in which primary weapons were mounted.
- A series of secondary batteries, most often in blister mounts or broadsides.
- Close-range tertiary batteries.
The principle was aimed at allowing these ships to engage a wide variety of targets and was drawn from the old gunning principles of the 18th century frigates, which had large caliber guns to hole hulls, medium calibre guns to wreck deckwork/rigging, and small caliber ordnance for point defense.
The principle was sound enough in the early days, in that massive guns were certainly still needed to hole the hulls of the modern iron ships, lighter guns could make short work of decking and exposed gun positions, and even these ships needed lighter yet guns as boarding was still seen as an issue.
However, the need to take these ships to sea and engage in the ocean deeps required a break from the idea of the Monitor-type ship and a move towards the sort of thinking which brought us the Majestic -class ships which would eventually lead to the ship under discussion today.
With closed turrets, steel belt all round, capable of fighting in the swell of the deep ocean and fast enough to actively hunt its foes, this was the best the age could offer, and it is from this pattern that the Japanese elected to base their own modern navy – including the beautiful Mikasa.
The first Sino-Japanese War (1894 – 1895) revealed to the Japanese the importance of armored ships when many of the French-supplied Chinese ironclads simply could not match up to the iron-built Japanese gunboats of the war.
Going back to the UK in the wake of the war, the Japanese began discussing the possibility of purchasing a series of deep-water warships which fulfilled all the same requirements that the Royal Navy set for themselves, especially in the wake of Russian expansion into East Asian waters.
A series of twelve ships (battleships and heavy cruisers) were ordered from the UK, and the final one of these built, The Mikasa (modeled on the Majestic class ship, HMS Formidable), was one of the best ships anywhere in the world in her time. Indeed, on delivery the Mikasa became the flagship of Admiral Togo Heihachiro and was in the frontline of battle when tensions between Russia and Japan finally boiled over in 1905.
When the Japanese blockaded the Port Arthur, Togo succeeded in mauling the Russian Fleet, but could not prevent them from breaking through the Japanese squardon. However, owing to the fact that the British had closed the Suez Canal to Russian shipping as a result of their war with Japan (as part of the the 1902 British treaty with Japan) the relief fleet from the Baltic arrived worn out and in poor shape.
When the Russian commander chose to sail through the straights of Tsushima to shorten his route, he was caught in a classic bottleneck in which the more experienced Japanese captains were able to sail circles round the Russians and bring the whole enemy fleet to grief in very short order.
More details can be read here.
Please note that this build is, though being posted, not quite done. I have ordered some secondary parts (new deck boats, anchor chains, torpedo screens and so on), so the model – though looking good – is still missing some small details.
The bracing in the hull serves not only to keep the decks stable, but also to mount the central superstructure.
Here we have the laser cut decking (many companies make these for many ships). They can be a little pricey, but as you will see they more than repay the investment.
The decking is self adhesive, and requires some care to mount, but for the most part it just pops directly over the kit as one assembles it.
Here we see an interesting feature of the Pre-dreadnoughts. No matter the improvements, these ships hold one last feature from the Golden Age – there is no central superstructure, as such, just forecastle and stern castle and a series of gun decks in between. When built, this is disguised by the engine blocks and the stacked ship-boats, but essentially this is not so different from centuries of warships…
The Forecastle and main bridge.
As with other builds I have opted for a clear undercoat here, and a series of washes to bring up the raw colors, as the model was molded in the correct shade of sea grey.
I do so wish that more companies made more transitions ships such as this, or even of the earlier barbette monitor of the 1870s and 80s.
This period straddles the two great naval realms, and we have so few examples from which to choose.
For the money, and even without the optional parts, this kit represents a good investment. Perhaps not as finely molded as some of Fujimi’s 1/30 scale ships, but still well done and complete enough in its build to set it apart.
Please note that I have not yet tackled the new Wave 1/200 version, as the price – though fair – is prohibitive.
This one is a keeper. For sure…