At the start of World War One Finland was part of the Russian Empire and had been so for over a century. With the Bolshevik revolution of October 1917, Finland broke free and was independent by 1918. With a population of only 3 million and limited financial resources, the country could not afford a navy of any size. Army expenditures dominated the limited defense budgets that could be afforded by the small nation. However, the late 1920s saw the Finnish Navy funded for two very interesting warships, the Coast Defense Ships of the Illmarinen Class.

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The Finns showed what could be done on the miniscule displacement of 3,900 tons for a capital ship. Illmarinen and Vainamoinen were designed around providing the maximum firepower on a minimum sized hull. They mounted four ten-inch (254mm) guns, firing a 495 pound shell. The main armament was capable of an amazing 50 degrees elevation. Additionally they mounted eight (4x2) 105mm guns, four 40mm AA guns and two 20mm AA guns. Guns were from the Bofors company of Sweden. The other two major components of naval construction, speed and armor were clearly subordinate to firepower. The two shaft Germania diesel engines provided 6,000 bhp for a maximum speed of 16 knots. The armor was skimpy with a belt 50mm-55mm, deck 20mm, turrets 100mm, and conning tower 120mm.

Laid down in August and September 1929, they were launched in 1930 and 1931. Both survived the "Winter War" with the Soviet Union of November 1939 to March 1940. With the German attack on Russia in June 1941, the Finns became allies with Germany. Illmarinen struck a mine and sank on September 13, 1941 (see photo of map). Vainamoinen survived World War Two and was ceded to the Soviet Union in 1947. She was renamed Vybourg during her service with the Soviet Navy. She was stricken and scrapped in 1958. (Bulk of history comes from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946)

Combrig produces resin kits in 1:700 scale of these two unorthodox Finnish warships. The Illmarinen is the only non-Russian warship kit currently produced by Combrig.

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All photographs of the Combrig 1:700 model of the Illmarinen are from Combrig. Historical photographs and title painting are from Gangut Magazine #25.

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