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Blucher Sinking.jpg (18606 bytes)Among the most memorable of WW1 images is a photo of a capsizing warship, her sides covered with sailors trying to save themselves before she goes down. The ship is the German battlecruiser SMS Blucher, battered into submission and sunk at the Battle of Dogger Bank, 24 January 1915. The largest naval battle of WW1 up to that time, Dogger Bank was the first clash between Royal Navy and German battlecruisers.

Intended to be an improvement upon Scharnhorst class armoured cruisers, Blucher possessed neither the speed nor the armament of later generation German and Royal Navy battlecruisers. Aware of the soon to be launched HMS Invincible, thought to carry 9.2" main armament, the Germans fit Blucher with their superior 8.2" gun. In the event,  Invincible and the more capable Royal Navy battlecruisers that followed carried 12" (and larger) main gun armament, not to mention being faster than Blucher. The Germans immediately recognized Blucher’s limitations. Their subsequent battlecruisers were faster, more heavily armed, and better protected.

Blucher’s limitations may have doomed her at Dogger Bank. Unable to outrun her opponents, she was stuck at the end of the German battle line, where she was hit repeatedly by gunfire. A round fired by Princess Royal at a range of 20,000 yards penetrated her forward ammunition handling spaces, causing a disastrous fire. Confused Royal Navy signaling enabled more valuable German targets like BC Seydlitz, severely damaged and afire, to escape while Royal Navy gunners concentrated on the doomed Blucher. A flaming wreck, she fought on, but hits from at least 50 high caliber shells and 2 torpedoes sealed her fate. She capsized and sank shortly thereafter. 260 survivors were rescued by HMS Arethusa and escorting destroyers.

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(C) Michael Emmerich, German Kriegsmarine Encyclopedia, a great site!

Vital Statistics
SMS BLUCHER
Laid Down: 21 Feb 1907  Launched: 11 April 1908  Completed: 24 March 1910
Fate: Sunk at Dogger Bank, 24 Jan 1915
Length: 530'5" oa  Beam: 80'3" Draft: 26'3"   Displacement: 15,590 tons normal, 17,250 full load
Armament: twelve 21cm (6x2), eight 15cm, sixteen 8.8cm
Four 45cm submerged torpedo tubes 21" tubes (4x3)
Performance: 24.3 knots maximum  Range: 6,600nm @ 12 kts, 3,520 nm @ 18 kts knots
Complement: 847 officers & men (1,036 when sunk at Dogger Bank)

BlucherBrassPins.jpg (9358 bytes)The WSW 1:700th SMS Blucher is typical of the high quality we’ve come to expect from this German producer. The kit depicts Blucher subsequent to the fitting of a tripod foremast in 1913, the first German warship to be so fitted. The flawless waterline hull has extensive superstructure detail cast in situ, as well as anchors, chains, and rolled-up torpedo nets. No additional deck levels need be added. As if this wasn’t enough, fourteen lengths of brass rod protrude from midship. These are boat-deck supports. Stronger than resin, the integral brass rods are not only innovative but make for easier assembly.

Embedded in a paper-thin resin wafer are gun tubs, cross brace supports and the elevated boat deck. Bulkheads and gun-tub walls, realistically thin and in-scale, are sturdy enough to withstand normal handling without disintegrating. As in other WSW kits, main guns are cast integral with the turret and nicely tapered. The two funnels are highly detailed gems. I could go on, but suffice to say everything is sharp and designed for quick and easy assembly.

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Small resin parts embedded in paper-thin film

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Guns, gooseneck cranes, masts, boats
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So what are the kit’s shortcomings? The whippet thin resin mainmast and pole foremast will inevitably bend. It is just about impossible to create a long, whip-thin piece of resin that won’t warp. So use these pieces as templates to fabricate replacements from the included brass rod. This is an easy step, and a mandatory one if you plan on rigging your Blucher.

The assembly instructions make no mention of torpedo net booms, though the profile drawing shows them. There are locator plates just above the waterline of the resin hull, so trim brass rod to the proper length, affix one end to the locator plate and the other to the net. While on the subject of nets, there is no torpedo net shelf. I lack a set of Blucher plans, but I assume the nets rested on a shelf. It would be difficult to see this shelf under the stowed net in any event. But the more compulsive among you may want to simulate this part with a very thin piece of plastic strip affixed beneath the net.

A "resin purist", WSW eschews etched brass, and the Blucher kit is no exception. Etched brass railing enhances any 1:700th kit, though a superbly detailed model like Blucher will stand on its own without it. Nevertheless I plan on building my Blucher with railing from one of the aftermarket suppliers. The resin cross brace supports would also look better if replaced with etched brass or stretched sprue.

Directions consist of an illustrated parts list, two pages of exploded views, 1:700th plan/profile views and painting instructions. They are almost entirely visual, with no descriptive text. Though spare, they are adequate for such an easy kit, even for resin newcomers.

I have a weakness for WW1 era warships. Something about the protruding ram bow and black coal smoke speaks to me, as does this kit.  I recommend the WSW 1:700th SMS Blucher without reservation. It is easy to build and of high quality. Beginners will appreciate its ease of assembly, experienced modelers will marvel at its superb casting and detail. WSW kits are of such consistent quality that you can buy in complete confidence that it is money well spent. Their current focus on WW1 era ships, a particularly fascinating era in naval history, makes them all the more attractive.

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Parts list
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Exploded view #1
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Exploded view #2
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Plan/profile view & painting instructions

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