The Black Sea Dreadnoughts were a class of three units with the Imperatritsa Mariya being the name ship of the class. Financial and other constraints meant that they were not as fast as originally intended, nor did they receive the 14-inch guns that were initially envisaged. Commissioning two dreadnoughts moved the balance of power in the Black sea to the Russian side and enabled the fleet to bombard Turkish and Bulgarian shore installations. Imperatritsa Mariya capsized at Sevastapol as a result of a huge internal explosion caused by unstable propellant.

Imperatrisa Mariya was launched in 1913, completed in 1915 and lost in October 1916. She was armed with twelve 12-inch and twenty 5.1-inch as their secondary armament and was based on the externally similar Baltic dreadnoughts of the GANGUT class; the main immediate difference being that the centre forward main turret points in the opposite direction to Imperatritsa Mariya.

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I gleefully bought the Combrig kit of the Black Sea Dreadnought Imperatrisa Mariya and shortly thereafter acquired the Polish/English bilingual version of the AJ Press Encyklopedia Wojennych monograph dedicated to the ship complete with drawings and photos. I thought this would be an easy and quick build.

Unfortunately, the drawings in the above monograph did not match the kit. Specifically the distance of the aft mast from the aft superstructure as well other minor discrepancies didn't match. This was verified by photos of the actual ship within the book. The kit came with a drawing also to be found in the book Dreadnoughts of the Black Sea (Russian text) by B.A. Eisenberg and W. W. Kostritchenko. I got my copy from Pacific Front Hobbies. The kit agreed with these drawings as well as the photos I could find so I chose this route as being more verified. 

The strange thing is that while initially it seemed I had lots of information, it actually transpired that most of the photographs were from long distance or were fuzzy/poor reproductions or sisterships and as such, some guesswork was involved.

On inspecting the kit the first thing that was apparent was how empty and devoid of surface detail the deck seemed, no vents or coal scuttles. In addition the decks were planked athwarships at intervals in common with many ships of the Imperial Russian Navy. This was penciled in lightly so as not to overwhelm the fore and aft planking. That would be easy if one started with a totally flat deck without vents and barbettes...however!

I used the original design drawings printed in the AJ Press book and photos as a guide to placing the flat circular vents, these were made from model railroad tubular rivets and 'washout plugs for the vents. I simply drilled a hole, installed the shaft of the rivet (but not quiet flush to the deck) and put a small dab of white glue to give a convex top for coal scuttles. A dab of white glue on the deck, painted gray and ringed in pencil was sufficient. 

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I next turned my attention to the forward and aft bridge structures. All solid splinter shields were removed and replaced with brass or railing with canvas dodgers as appropriate. The upper bridge platform did not extend sufficiently far forward so the side splinter shields were extended and a new floor made. The lip at the top edge was added in thin brass wire. The second platform did not appear to extend far enough aft around the funnel so this was also enlarged with a new floor. All the stairway apertures were cut and the stairs installed. The vertical stanchions on the forward bridge twixt the decks were cut from brass PE 1/350 pulley sets with the gusset plates being painted white glue. The aft tower structure had numerous stair levels. These were very fiddly to make and install but add greatly to the overall effect. A new larger aft platform was made to allow mast to be set the correct distance from the aft tower. 

It was while assembling the forward tower structure that I realized that in comparison to photos, the forward and centre funnels were too short in relation to the towers. Once again I SHOULD have planned ahead and spotted it at the dry fit. I nevertheless decided to extend the funnels in situ as they were now inextricably attached to the deck and fwd Bridge tower. With the motor tool I ground off the two funnel tops and extended them with alloy tube wrapped in gummed paper to bring the diameter up correctly. The photos show how I made the new funnel top flanges with wire circles and white glue. 

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The kit came complete with a small etched fret containing among the railings (clunky) the distinctive bow crane used I believe in paravane operations. At first sight it seemed great, checking with photos showed it needed work. The side members were supplied as solid but the photos show a fine lattice work. I cut down the existing top and bottom and added lattice sides cut from the GMM Chiyoda crane set and laboriously fiddled them to shape. I scratch-built the pullet gantry on the bow, as the supplied part was overscale. This added greatly to the delicacy of the bow.

The etched boat cranes as supplied were overscale and did not have enough lattice work according to photos. I used some Toms Modelworks  IJN carrier radio masts doubled to give depth. The forward mast lookout was used from the kit but was cut open to give see through effect and installed on new metal masts. The torpedo net was thin elastic cord dry-brushed to bring out the weave. This worked quite well once the booms were installed and rigged.

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The model was painted in WEM Colourcoats and weathered using ground pencil lead dust applied with a stiff paintbrush and worked well. The ship never got old, just sooty! All rigging is stretched sprue tightened with smoke as per my usual method.

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