To understand the Russian naval order of battle in the Russo-Japanese War, is a matter of understanding the three Russian Pacific Squadrons employed during the war. The First Pacific Squadron was the force stationed at Port Arthur at the start of the war. Composed of the best-trained and best-led warships of the Imperial Russian Fleet, by December 1904 it was no more. What had not been sunk outside or in Port Arthur, had been interned in neutral ports. The Second Pacific Squadron was centered around four of the five new battleships of the Kniaz Suvorov Class, whose crews were still too green to be efficient, as well as less combat worthy older ships, such as Oslayaba, Navarin and Sissoi Veliki, which joined the Squadron off of Madagascar. Sent from the Baltic to relieve Port Arthur, the squadron was approaching Madagascar when Port Arthur fell. The base had fallen long before the Squadron arrived at Tsushima in May 1905. Then there is the Third Pacific Squadron.
Formed when the fall of Port Arthur became obvious to the Russian Admiralty, the collection of "…ancient, rusting coast-defense vessels…"was sent out to reinforce the Second Pacific Squadron for a unique purpose. "All of these old ships could be used to attract the enemy’s fire and consequently diminish the number of projectiles which might otherwise strike the modern ships." (The Fleet That Had to Die, page 88.) When informed that he was to await the arrival of the Third Pacific Squadron, Admiral Rozhestvensky, Commander of the Second Pacific Squadron, told his aide, "Telegraph to St. Petersburg, that I wish to be relieved of my command." And then he retired to his bunk, exhausted, ill, depressed and suffering a breakdown of morale. His request was denied.
Among the officers of the Second Pacific Squadron, although some applauded the additional firepower of the reinforcements, they were "…forgetting that their obsolete guns had an absurdly short range and that their antiquated engines would reduce the speed of the fleet even further." (The Fleet That Had to Die, page 89) Unlike the Second Pacific Squadron, which had to round Africa on it’s way east, the Third Pacific Squadron would use the short cut of the Suez Canal. In an act of insubordination, Rozhestvensky ordered the Second Pacific Squadron to leave Madagascar before "the self-sinkers" of the Third Pacific Squadron could join.
The Third Pacific Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Nebogatov, consisted of his flagship, Imperator Nikolai I, three coast-defense ships, Admiral Ushakoff, General-Admiral Graf Apraksin & Admiral Senyavin, and the cruiser, Vladimir Monomakh, which was the oldest of them all. One of the captains was assured by the Port Admiral of Libau, "You’re only being sent to make a demonstration. You’ll soon be home again. You don’t really think you’re going to fight?" (The Fleet That Had to Die, page 115).
Try as he might, Rozhestvensky did not evade the juncture with the Third Pacific Squadron. Upon hearing that the Third Pacific Squadron’s "archaeological collection of naval architecture" would join them at Kamranh Bay, French Indochina (Vietnam), Rozhestvensky’s flag lieutenant stated, "It’s all over. We’ve not managed to escape." (The Fleet That Had to Die, page 123). As Rozhestvensky was coaling the squadron with the intent to leave for Vladivostok before the union occurred, he discovered that Aleksandr III did not have enough coal and all the colliers were empty. That ended his efforts to evade the "self-sinkers". Twenty-six days later on May 9, 1905, the Third Pacific Squadron, including "…the cruiser Monomakh, a tall-hulled survivor from the days of sail,", finally caught up with Rozhestvensky’s force.
The Vladimir Monomakh, Cruiser 1st Rank was a quarter of a century old, when that juncture occurred. Laid down in 1880 she was originally equipped with a heavy full rig of sail on three masts and bowsprit. Cruisers of all nations were generally so equipped in that period in order to extend their cruising range. Completed in 1885, she was modernized in 1897-1898 with five 6-inch/45 (152mm) and eight 4.7-inch/45 (120mm) replacing the original four 8-inch/30 and twelve 6-inch/28 ordnance which was by then obsolete. The main mast was landed and a searchlight platform was placed atop the stump. When new, the 5,593-ton cruiser reached 15.2 knots. She was far slower 25 years later, despite the refit. On May 27, 1905 at Tsushima Vladimir Monomakh was relegated to the starboard, unengaged side of the Russian line, guarding the fleet train and so avoided to pounding that the Second Pacific Squadron received. However, when night fell, the Japanese torpedo boats came in. Vladimir Monomakh, mistaking her attacker for a Russian destroyer, was hit by one torpedo but her crew kept her afloat. The next morning, she, along with the survivor’s of the Third Pacific Squadron, surrendered in the face of overwhelming odds, although Admiral Oushakoff fought on until she was a blazing wreck. However, Vladimir Monomakh was too far-gone to be saved and sank at 14:30 before she could be towed to port. ( References: The Fleet That Had to Die, by Richard Hough; Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905; The Battle of Tsu-Shima, Warship Volume II, by N.J.M. Campbell)
Statistics of Vladimir Monomakh
Laid Down at Baltic Works: 1880; Launched: 1882; Completed: 1885; Sunk at Tsushima: May 28, 1905
Dimensions: Length- 296 feet, 3 inches (87.12m); Width-
48 feet (14.63m); Draught- 24 feet (7.32m);
In 1885- Four 8-inch/30; Twelve 6-Inch/28; Four 3.4-Inch;
Four 3-pdrs; Eight 1-pdrs; Three 15-Inch TT (aw)
(Compound): Belt- 6 - 4 1/2 Inches; Battery- 4
- 3 Inches; Complement: 480-490
Fitting these two masts was only one of the delights of the Combrig kit. Sami Arim of Navalis Models has produced a series of stainless steel photo-etched frets for 1:1200 and 1:1250 scale models. Among the photo-etched frets released are two frets with ratlines for sailing ships in the small scale, one set of large ratlines and one set of small ratlines. The ratlines included in the large ratlines fret, work perfectly with the masts of the Combrig Vladimir Monomakh. Although you don’t need them to build this excellent model, they really do provide the finishing touch to make the model "pop".
As has become standard with the models from Combrig, the parts for Vladimir Monomakh were perfect right from the box. Crisp, high quality castings, with no pin-hole voids, absolutely flat hull and fine detail on the smaller resin parts are the norm for Combrig. The barrels for the QF guns are extraordinarily thin and fine so care must be used in working with them to avoid breaking the delicate barrels. The fineness of these parts is one of the highlights of this kit but one that requires patience and care in assembly.
Another highlight among many for this kit is the architecture of the ship, captured in the Combrig model. With the casemate positions protruding from the hull sides; the raised foc’sle and quarterdeck linked with gangways along the side above the lower gun deck; the flying bridge between the funnels; the bowchaser; the recessed sternwalk and the conning tower in front of the funnels, the Combrig Vladimir Monomakh has enough odd design features to engross anyone interested in the designs linking the age of sail with the age of steel steam warships. Indeed the layout of a lower gun deck with gangways linking a raised foc’sle and quarterdeck was typical design feature of warships in the age of sail. The boat storage arrangements with the boats stored on skids above the gun deck was another example of the design of sailing warships carrying over to the age of steam.
The Combrig kit is easy to build. The most important tip that I can give you is to position the gun mounts on the lower gun deck before attaching the upper deck. In retrospect this may seem obvious but it is quite easy to attach the upper deck without thinking through the optimum building sequence. The first step I took was to attach the upper deck and that was a mistake. There will be no problem attaching the gun mounts if it is done before attaching the upper deck. Because of my error, I had to use a goose neck tweezers in a time consuming effort to fit the guns into position underneath the overhanging upper deck. Additionally, to have the guns swung outboard, you will have to use a pin vice to drill out holes in the bulkhead for the barrels to slip through. That greatly complicates fitting the guns if the upper deck is already in place. Also, there are a few QF gun positions on the gun deck, between the 152mm gun positions.
In addition to the Navalis ratlines, I used White Ensign Models railings, anchor chain and inclined ladders, as no photo-etch fret is included in the kit. Combrig gives you a solid sternwalk rail, which would replicate canvas-covered rail but P-E railing looks better. The railing went on easily with railing being cut and folded for the casemate positions first and then longer runs being cut to connect the straight runs between them and the solid shielding at the bow and quarterdeck at the stern. Since the Vladimir Monomakh has cast aztec steps at the inclined ladder positions, I removed these with a hobby knife and cleaned the area before attaching the photo-etched inclined ladders. There were twelve inclined ladder positions that I replaced in that manner. The upper deck QF guns should go on after attaching the railing to minimize the chance of breaking the thin barrels of those pieces. After the hull was done, the masts were stepped, then the ratlines, cut to the right length and width, and finally the rigging, which was stretched sprue.
For painting, I chose an all white scheme. A photo from 1897 showed Vladimir Monomakh in that scheme but that was when she still had three masts. At Tsushima she had a black hull with the typical golden yellow funnels of the Baltic Fleet. Since the Combrig kit shows the ship in her Tsushima fit with only two masts, a black hull would be correct. The painting instructions call for the hull to be black (черные). I do not know if she ever had a white paint scheme after she was reduced to two masts. However, I put the cruiser in all white because I wanted to experiment with some weathering techniques. I grant that I over-weathered the ship but I wanted to try some ink washes and watercolor pencils. Although Vladimir Monomakh would have been heavily weathered and extremely dirty at Tsushima, after the incredible voyage from the Baltic, it is doubtful if her captain would have allowed her appearance to deteriorate so much in a peace time white scheme.
One other question that cropped up was the presence of fighting tops. Did she retain these after she was reduced to two masts? The profile on the instructions shows fighting tops on the fore and mizzen masts but these parts are not included in the kit. I scratch built these and added them to the masts. An inset drawing from Warships of the Russo-Japanese War; The Russian Fleet by S. Suliga and a color plate from a Russian monograph on the Vladimir Monomakh, also by S. Suliga, show her without the fighting tops at Tsushima, so she probably did not have the fighting tops after the main mast was removed.