The battleship arms race was in full flower well before HMS Dreadnought was laid down in 1905. Since the mid 1890s all naval powers that dreamed of greatness had been building battleships with ever greater frequency. In 1894-1895 Japan defeated Imperial China and became the new power in the Pacific. Imperial Russia had supported China in this war and with the elimination of China as a naval power, Russia chose to greatly expand its Pacific Squadron. To increase the tempo of new construction, the Russian Navy went on a buying spree for construction of warships in foreign yards. A number of cruisers were built in Germany, the Csarevitch was ordered from France and Crampís Shipyards of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania received an order to build a battleship for the Imperial Russian Navy, the Retvizan.

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The name, Retvizan, commemorates the victories of Captain R.V. Kroun against the Swedish Navy in 1789-90. While commanding the 24 gun Merkurey, Captain Kroun captured the 44-gun frigate, Venus, on April 29, 1789. Captain Kroun was then given command of the Venus and in 1790 captured the 64-gun ship of the line, Retvisan. The name remained in use in the Imperial Russian Navy. After completion, the battleship, Retvizan sailed for Kronstadt in the Baltic, where she was commissioned in 1902. She was immediately sent to join the 1st Pacific Squadron in Port Arthur.

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Retvizan was present at Port Arthur during the initial sneak attack by Japanese torpedo boats on the night of February 8/9, 1904 that started the Russo-Japanese War. She took one torpedo hit in this attack but then was docked and repaired. This damage and damage caused on March 10 from one hit by indirect fire the Japanese battleships on Port Arthur was repaired by June 20, 1904. On June 23 the 1st Pacific Squadron sortied from Port Arthur with six battleships (Csarevitch, Retvizan, Pobieda, Peresvet, Poltava & Sevastopol), five cruisers (Bayan, Askold, Diana, Pallada & Novik) and ten torpedo boats. Admiral Togoís fleet intercepted and action started at 3 PM when Novik broke up an attack by the Japanese destroyers. Togoís battleline closed to around 14,500 yards. When the Japanese closed, the Russian squadron would change course away to keep the distance. This kept up until after 11 PM the Russian squadron arrived back at Port Arthur. Only Sevastopol was damaged, by striking a mine.

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At 8:30 AM on August 10, 1904 the Russian fleet again sortied from Port Arthur and was intercepted by Admiral Togo. This action became known as the Battle of the Yellow Sea. In command was Rear Admiral Vithoft in Csarevitch, second in command was Rear Admiral Prince Ukhtomsky in Persevet. As before the other four battleships (Retvizan, Pobieda, Sevastopol, & Poltava) were present. Also included were three cruisers (Novik, Pallada, Askold & Diana), a number of torpedo craft, minesweepers and the hospital ship, Mongolia. It took around two hours to sweep for mines and at 10:15 AM the minesweepers and some torpedo boats returned to Port Arthur. The 1st Pacific Squadron then increased speed from 8 to 10 and then to 13 knots by noon. The fleets started exchanging fire at long range at 1 PM, when the Russians were 25-30 miles from Port Arthur. For hours the fleets steamed a generally eastward direction exchanging ineffectual fire, at the ranges of 8,000 to 11,000 yards. The second phase of the action started around 5:45 PM at 7,500 yards when both sides concentrated fire on the lead battleship in the otherís line (Mikasa & Csarevitch).

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The Russians scored the first two hits as at 5:56 a 12-inch shell hit the port side of one of the barbettes on Mikasa and jammed the turntable. At 6:12 PM a 12-inch shell hit Mikasa on the bridge. Half of the bridge personnel were injured, including the fleet chief of staff and the captain but not Admiral Togo. After this hit Admiral Togo went into the conning tower. Range kept decreasing. Around 6:15 PM the single most critical hit was scored by the Japanese, when a 12-inch shell hit the conning tower of Csarevitch, killing Admiral Vithoft, wounding the captain and jamming the steering gear of Csarevitch. This broke up the Russian line as to avoid collision, some battleships steered out of line. Range was now down to 3,500 yards. Apparently the Russian plan was to break out of Port Arthur and proceed to Vladivostok. Around 8 PM Admiral Ukhtomsky, now in command, displayed the signal "Follow Me".

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The bulk of the 1st Pacific Squadron returned to Port Arthur independently. The Japanese did not pursue, probably because of the damage to the Mikasa, which had 111 casualties. Because of damage to Csarevitch, she could not withdraw with the rest of the squadron. Instead she steered south at 4 knots and made the neutral German port of Tsing-tau at 11 PM on August 11, where she was interned. Rear Admiral Reitzenstein, commanding the cruiser squadron in Askold, ordered his cruisers to continue the breakout. Novik reached Tsing-tau but left before being interned. Askold made it to Shanghai. Diana also escaped to internment at Saigon but Pallada returned to Port Arthur.

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In the battle Retvizan acquitted herself well; "Speaking of the action of August 10, 1904, the correspondent tells us that the Retvizan, which had received the concentrated fire of the Japanese Fleet, "does not seem to have been damaged in any vital spot during the engagement, nor were any of her guns put out of action, though one of her turrets was damaged." Her injuries were apparently confined to riddling of her funnels and destruction of her superstructure and bridge." The Naval Annual 1905, at page 167

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The ships that returned to Port Arthur stayed bottled up. The Japanese tightened their siege and started hitting the moored battleships with large mortar rounds. On November 23, 1904 Retvizan was sunk in shallow water by 11-inch siege mortars. In December the remaining battleships, including Retvizan, were scuttled and On January 2, 1905 Port Arthur surrendered. Retvizan was raised by the Japanese in September 1905 and commissioned as the Hizen. She was scrapped in 1923 as a result of her obsolescence and the terms of the Washington Treaty. (The bulk of this history comes from Warships of the Imperial Russian Navy by V.M. Tomitch and The Naval Annual 1905, edited by T.A. Brassey) (Shipís History was originally posted in the review of the 1:700 scale Combrig Retvizan. Click to see the review of the 1:700 Combrig Retvizan.)

VITAL STATISTICS

LAID DOWN: July 17, 1899 LAUNCHED: October 10, 1900 COMPLETED: December 1901 SCRAPPED: 1923

DISPLACEMENT: 12,700 tons DIMENSIONS: Length- 382 ft 3 in (116 Ĺ m); Beam- 72 ft 2 in (22m); Draught- 25 ft (7.6m)

ARMAMENT: four 12" 40 cal (2x2); twelve 6" 45 cal (12x1); twenty 3"; twenty 47mm; eight 37mm; four machine guns; two 2 Ĺ inch for landing party; two 18" underwater torpedo tubes.

ARMOR: 9" belt (7 Ĺ feet wide x 250 feet long), casemates 5-6 inch; turrets and conning tower 10 inch; deck- upper 2 inch, splinter 3 inch.

PERFORMANCE: Speed- Designed 18 knots; On Trials 18.8 knots; SHP- Designed 16,000; Actual 16,121; Machinery- two vertical triple expansion steam engines; 24 Niclausse boilers

COMPLEMENT: 28 officers & 722 men

 

RESIN CASTING
Since I heard that Combrig would produce their first 1:350 scale kit, I have looked forward to seeing what quality they would bring to this new scale for them. After examination of all the components of the Combrig Retvizan in 1:350, I can state that it is an excellent kit.

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Upon opening the large box, the first parts that are noticed are the two halves of the hull. The hull is split at the waterline, which allows the modeler to have the choice of building the kit as waterline or full hull. Both halves of the hull are not the solid blocks of resin that is almost universal in 1:350 resin kits. Both sides are hollow. Combrigís clever design of the hull, enhances certain aspects of the kit. Typically, when one gets a 1:350 resin kit, a resin pour runner or casting block must be removed by cutting and the hull smoothed with sanding. With traditional two piece hulls, there will often exist significant gaps that must be filled after sanding to achieve a flush fit for the two halves. The employment of hollow halves of the hull eliminates this, sometimes substantial, cleanup. The resin is poured into the mold from the inside of the hull halves. There is no resin runner, plugs or resin overpour to remove, since the resin pour plugs are on the inside of the hull halves. The result is a extraordinarily smooth hull right from the box. The lower hull has a slight lip that can quickly and easily be sanded flush with the upper hull if the modeler wishes to build a full hull model. With my copy of Retvizan, there is maybe a one-millimeter difference in length between the upper and lower hulls, with the lower hull being minimally longer than the upper along the waterline juncture. This also is quickly and easily remedied upon attaching the two halves. Neither half has any warp but it looks like minimal filling would be required to acquire a seamless mating of the top and bottom halves.

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The bottom half of the hull comes with clean, nicely done bilge keels and an extremely well executed rudder post. The upper hull has a great deal of detail cast integral to the casting. The detail on the hull sides include the drop down panels of the casemate guns, rung ladders, torpedo tube doors, reinforced anchor inlets, stern walk platform with supports and stern walk doors, torpedo net boom attachment points, hull strakes and other fittings found on the original Retvizan. The casting captures the mixture of smooth curves and angular casemate positions. The top of the hull casting is also given the detail treatment. One unique feature is the inclusion of open stairwells, four on the forecastle, four on the quarterdeck and one amidships. This gives the unique option of building the model with the deck hatches open, showing the inclined ladders descending into the hull, or closed. Bollards, boat chocks, splinter shielding, skylights, coal scuttles, cleats and other deck fittings are all done with care and crispness. There were absolutely no voids to be seen. The only repair needed was to replace a few boat chocks that were broken. Hull portholes will have to be drilled out.

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With Combrigís 1:700 scale models, decks and platforms are often cast with solid shielding for railed positions. With this kit all positions that had open railing are open for installation of the photo-etched railing in the kit. If the modeler wishes to portray them as canvas covered, this can be accomplished with Krystal Micro-Klear or tissue paper. If you wish to add a canvas covering to the stern walk, the same process should be utilized. The bridge piece has fine detail on all sides, the top and the bottom. The funnels are hollow to a depth to create the depth necessary to replicate the originals. Cranes show crisp machinery and wheels found in the prototype fittings. The six-inch secondary guns have bored-out barrels. The two fighting tops each come in two pieces, with the bases having finely cast open bracing. A couple of the braces were broken and one topmast has a curve that can be straightened with heating. Look at the detail on the binnacles or on the back of the searchlights in the photograph. It is the best that I have seen for those pieces of equipment. Indeed, Other than normal breakage or the topmast warp, I failed to find even one piece that I would consider substandard.

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Normally I might devote a sentence to the shipís boats in a review but with the 1:350 Combrig Retvizan the superb castings of these ordinary parts deserve a much fuller description. There are two sizes of steam launch and each one is packed with cast on detail. Each steam launch comes with a photo-etched propeller and shows the small smokestack stored horizontally across the boat deckhouse. There are five sizes of oared boats each of which shows the bottom planking. About the only thing missing are boat oars. Up to now, I have considered the boats included with the model of HMS Dreadnought, produced by Steelnavy/Rhino Models to be the best. The boats included in the Combrig Retvizan are of at least equal quality, if not better.

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PROBLEMS
The only problems that I see with the kit come not from the execution of the parts on the kit but on omissions. I see two significant omissions that can be, for the most part easily cured. There are no deck hatch pieces to cover the open well going into the decks. This can be provided by cutting appropriate length plastic strip or by adding appropriately sized deck hatches from frets produced by GMM, LíArsenal, Toms or WEM. If you portray these hatches as open, you will have to add the support struts. The second omission is that the torpedo net and booms are not present in the kit. Booms are easily done with plastic or metal rod but the net itself requires a little bit of work. My favorite method of providing netting in a 1:350 kit of a warship with torpedo netting is by tightly rolling open weave fabric, that can be obtained easily and cheaply at sewing stores and larger general hobby stores, such as Hobby Lobby. The netting is tightly rolled to the requisite length, white glue is liberally applied and then the rolls are allowed to dry and harden. Once dry there is still enough flexibility in the fabric to allow curving the net to the hull and final trimming. Other modelers may have a different process but that is what has successfully worked for me in the past.

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PHOTO-ETCHED FRETS
The Combrig Retvizan comes with two stainless steel photo-etched frets. Certain parts have three-dimensional relief that can be seen in the accompanying photographs. My favorites are the Russian Imperial Eagle on the bow scroll, the stern walk detail and the amidships framework. Chain railings show the chain realistically drooping between each vertical stantion. The same care and eye for detail displayed in the resin casting is equally present in the design and production of the photo-etched frets. As with the resin pieces, the photo-etched parts are state of the art.

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INSTRUCTIONS
The instruction pamphlet comprises six large pages. The first page is the shipís history and statistics, written in Russian, English and Japanese. The second page features a parts matrix showing all parts that come with the kit. The next three pages show clean, large drawings of each step required to complete the kit. The last page shows a four toned plan and profile for painting and rigging and a keyed color chart, written in Russian and English. The instructions are logically and professionally laid out. I do not foresee any shortfall or pitfall to them.

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VERDICT
The 1:350 Combrig Retvizan is a top-drawer multimedia kit. The parts design and appearance are exceptional. They are so nicely done, you almost donít want assemble the kit. However, it is clear that the sum of the parts will be more than their individual high quality. When I heard about the first Combrig 1:350 kit a year ago, I eagerly anticipated seeing how the Russian company would carry off this project. I anticipated a good kit but not one that is perfect. I canít say that this is a perfect kit, the omission of the deck hatches and torpedo net parts preclude that statement, but I canít find any significant flaw. I can say that the Combrig Retvizan did substantially exceed my already high expectations. It is a stunner!

(To see the Combrig Retvizan as a completed model, click to see Quintin Trammellís Retvizan, a beautiful build of the kit.)

The 1:350 scale Combrig Retvizan is available, along with the rest of the extensive Combrig line from NNT and other major retailers.

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