"Almost simultaneously with the commencement of the sixteen-point turn, Konig received a hit from a 13.5-inch shell fired by Iron Duke which struck the ship abaft the aft superfiring 12-inch gun turret, causing a lot of structural damage and filling a number of compartments with clouds of smoke and gas." (Jutland The German Perspective, 1999, by V. E. Tarrant, at page 157)
Admiral John "Jackie" Fisher was a man of a monochrome existence. There were not even grays in his world as everything was in either black or white with no intermediate shades. This was true in his friendships and hates as well as in his theories on ship design. He hated Admiral Charles Beresford and all of his clique of associated officers with great passion, which was returned those recipients in equal measure towards Fisher and his followers. In warships his idea of perfection was the battle cruiser Invincible, not the battleship Dreadnought. He valued speed and heavy guns over everything else, including armor protection. For guns, he wanted only the largest number of the biggest guns that he could cram into a hull. To chase away torpedo boats, he would have some small caliber quick firing (QF) pieces. However, he was decidedly opposed to any medium caliber guns larger than the 4-inch QF. Accordingly in his tenure as First Sea Lord of the Admiralty from 1904 to 1910, all new capitol ship designs had no larger secondary guns than the 4-inch QF.
The HMS Dreadnought, laid down on October 2, 1905, carried out Fisher’s views. It carried only 12-inch and 4-inch guns. With the Dreadnought a new arms race was started. Although the Royal Navy had the initiative, other navies, especially the High Seas Fleet, saw this new type of all big gun battleship as way to have a clean slate. From time to time politicians would try to reign in the expense of the naval arms race, but this was limited and usually to no avail. When Dreadnought was laid down the 12-inch gun was still the standard large gun, as it had been with predreadnought battleship construction. For another four years the 12-inch gun still was supreme, although it jumped in length from 45 to 50 caliber. The Royal Navy laid down sixteen capitol ships mounting the 12-inch gun. These ships were divided among seven classes, all armed with 12-inch and 4-inch guns: Dreadnought (1); Invincible (3); Bellerophon (3); St Vincent (3); Indefatigable (3); Neptune (1); and Colossus (2). However, the long barreled 12-inch/50 mounted in the St Vincent class and thereafter were not the guns that the Royal Navy had envisioned. Sure, the longer length gave the shells a greater velocity but this translated into poorer accuracy. The greater velocity wore out the rifling in the barrels far more rapidly than with lower velocity guns. With rifling worn, accuracy suffered greatly and replacing barrels more often was expensive. Also, since the Germans had gone from the 11-inch to the 12-inch gun as their main ordnance, the Royal Navy needed another edge in gunnery.
That edge was the 13.5-inch gun. This highly successful piece of ordnance gave the Royal Navy that for which they were looking. The first warship to carry this was HMS Orion, laid down on November 29, 1909. The increase in firepower was so marked that the ships of the Orion class were called superdreadnoughts. However, with escalating technological change and building tempos from around the world, the 13.5-inch gun had a short reign as the primary ordnance of the Royal Navy. The Royal Navy constructed sixteen capitol ships carrying the 13.5-inch gun in a 2 1/2 year span. These were: Orion (4); Lion (3); King George V (4); Iron Duke (4); and Tiger (1). The last to be laid down was Tiger in June 1912. In another four months the 13.5-inch gun was eclipsed as the primary ordnance of the Royal Navy, as in October 1912, the Queen Elizabeth, mounting 15-inch guns was laid down. However, in August 1914 when World War began not all of the 13.5-inch gunned ships were completed and those that were finished formed the most potent core of the Grand Fleet. Indeed one of the last class of 13.5-inch gunned battleships, HMS Iron Duke, was the flagship of the Grand Fleet.
The Iron Duke class was the third and last class of British battleships built with the 13.5-inch gun. After the four ships of the Orion class, the four ships of the King George V class were directly based on the previous design and improved on that design and corrected errors. One such correction was the placement of the foremast. With the Orion class, the foremast was placed behind the forward funnel. This was done for the sake of economy. With the foremast in that location, a boom from the center leg of the tripod could be used to move the ship's boats and separate kingposts would not be necessary. This short-sighted idea shorted the gunnery efficiency of the class. The foretop at the top of the foremast was a key position for accurate gunnery of Royal Navy battleships. Observers would spot the fall of shot and make corrections and later rangefinders were placed up there to take advantage of the height. In the Orions, placing the tripod and foretop behind the forward funnel, made this key position untenable, or at least very uncomfortable, in most combat situations. Fumes and heat greatly degraded the abilities of the foretop personnel to perform their duties. The King George V class corrected this problem and again placed the tripod behind the bridge and in front of the first stack. This class started that classic look of British battleships that featured a single foremast with control top. This handsome profile would be maintained all the way until the homely Nelson and Rodney introduced the tower superstructure.
The previous two designs had no casemates for secondary guns on the sides of their hull. All of their 4-inch secondary guns were mounted in the superstructures. However, there was a growing discontent within the Royal Navy over the effectiveness of the 4-inch QF secondary guns. Since the Dreadnaught, RN battleships used 4-inch guns as secondary armament. However, torpedo boats and especially destroyers had leaped in size. Many if not most officers thought that the 4-inch guns lacked the punch to stop a torpedo attack from the larger destroyers. In June 1909 the chief-constructor, Sir Phillip Watts, always a believer in heavy secondary guns, wrote to Admiral Mark Kerr. He specifically sought Kerr’s views on a heavier secondary gun for future battleships. Obviously, Watts was cherry picking his respondent. Jackie Fisher was still adamant against secondary guns heavier than 4-inches but he was retiring from his post as First Sea Lord in 1910. Kerr was for the return of the 6-inch gun as secondary but then Watt’s already knew that before he wrote Kerr. "You remember that I am the father of the scheme of night defence that does away with the 4-in. guns etc. and substitutes shrapnel shell in the primary armament guns for the demoralization of the enemy’s flotillas…"The use of shells would shower an enemy’s ship with shrapnel, even if it could not penetrate the armor. Also, shell splashes of short rounds were sufficiently large that it was thought that the water would disturb the enemy’s gun layers and perhaps put their telescopic sights out of action.
Kerr noted that the Germans liked to employ their destroyers and torpedo boats in conjunction with their battleships. He emphasized that a battleship should not have to shift her main guns from enemy battleships on to destroyers to defend against torpedo attack. Once Fisher was retired and could not stop the shift, it was decided to go back to the 6-inch gun for secondary armament. This had not been mounted in a British battleship since the King Edward VII class. Basically the RN was happy with the King George V but wanted the heavier secondary guns. In order to mount the heavier armament, it was necessary to lengthen the hull 25 feet over the previous design, divided equally fore and aft. Beam was increased by a foot and casemate positions were again designed for the hull for the majority of the secondary battery, which also were better protected than the secondaries of the previous designs. The class had a lower freeboard than any other RN battleship and therefore the hull mounted secondary guns could not be worked in heavy seas.
The secondary guns had gun shields, which revolved with the gun and drop down hatches, which sealed the gun ports from water. However, these hatches kept washing away and great amounts of water would be taken in through the low placed open ports. "Early in the War it was found necessary to unship the ports altogether, as the sea washed them away constantly. Water then had free access to the inside of the ship through the opening between the revolving shield and the ship’s side, and, except in fine weather, water entered freely. In bad weather the water, as deep as three to four inches, was constantly below through open hatches, to the great discomfort of the ship’s company, who were continually wet, and to the detriment of efficiency. Arrangements were devised on board the Iron Duke to overcome this trouble. A partial bulkhead was fitted in rear of the guns to confine the water which entered the ship, and watertight india-rubber joints provided between the shields and the ship’s side." (British Battleships, 1972, by Oscar Parkes, at page 548) The aft 6-inch gun ports were completely worthless. Only a few feet above the waterline, they could never be worked in any sea state. These were removed and mounted on the superstructure.
One other change was the augmentation of the torpedo armament, from three to four tubes. In addition to the casemates in the hull, the Iron Duke class can be easily distinguished from the King George V class by the funnels. The King George V class had handsome flat-sided funnels, while the Iron Duke class had smaller thin, round funnels. Also the Iron Duke class big heavier tripod foremasts. Displacement was 2,000 tons heavier over the preceding design. All four battleships were laid down in the space of five months, with Iron Duke and Marlborough in January and Benbow and Emperor of India in May. Problems with labor unions delayed the construction of all four battleships from two to six months. HMS Iron Duke, named after the Duke of Wellington, was laid down at Portsmouth on January 12, 1912 and launched on October 12, 1912 by the Duchess of Wellington. She was the first of the class to complete in March 1914 and promptly became flagship of the 1st Fleet under the command of Admiral Sir George Callaghan on March 10. She was the only member of the class to be equipped with anti-torpedo nets and booms but was only equipped with these during her builder’s trials. They were removed before she joined the fleet. Since fall 1913 the Admiralty had planned to use July 1914 as a time for a test mobilization of not only their best ships assigned to 1st Fleet but also the reserve ships assigned to 2nd and 3rd Fleets. By happenstance this test exactly coincided with the increasing tensions after the assassination of Arch Duke Franz Ferdinand. The mobilization was set to terminate on Monday July 29 with reserves traveling back home, the ships of 2nd and 3rd Fleets going back to the dockyard walls and the modern ships of the 1st Fleet breaking up and going about their business. With the political situation worsening, Callaghan aboard Iron Duke desperately asked for guidance from the Admiralty. Once demobilization occurred on July 29, it would take an enormous amount of time and money to regain the mobilized status. The government seemed unconcerned and scattered for weekend holidays. Even Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, left for a holiday on the North Sea coast in Norfolk.
On Sunday July 28 Churchill called in to talk to the First Sea Lord Prince Louis of Battenberg (later anglicized to Mountbatten) to check on the political situation. By noon he discovered that Austria had mobilized against Serbia and that the German High Seas Fleet had been ordered to concentrate south of Norway. Oops! Perhaps the Royal Navy should not demobilize. Churchill told Battenberg to do what he thought best. Battenberg ordered Callaghan to keep the combined fleet together. As the week progressed and one European state after another mobilized, Churchill became anxious of the open anchorage at Portland where the fleet was located. "At 5:00 that evening, the order flashed from the radio masts atop the Admiralty to the signal mast of Iron Duke: ‘Tomorrow, Wednesday [July 29], the First Fleet is to leave Portland for Scapa Flow. Destination to be kept secret except to flag and commanding officers." (Castles of Steel, 2003, Robert K. Massie, at page 19)
In another move Churchill decided to switch commanders of the 1st Fleet, soon to be renamed Grand Fleet. Callaghan was due to be replaced in December 1914 by the 2nd Sea Lord, Vice Admiral John Jellicoe, but Churchill decided to speed up the process. Against Jellicoe’s wishes he was ordered to relieve Callaghan, who was Jellicoe’s friend. At 0830 August 4, 1914 as the Grand Fleet was starting to steam out of Scapa Flow on its first of many sweeps, Admiral John Jellicoe started a relationship with one particular battleship, which would last for more than two years. On that morning his flag broke out upon HMS Iron Duke. In August Iron Duke spent only one day in port and only six in September. From August to December 1914, during which time the Grand Fleet would steam 16,800 miles, Iron Duke would consume over 14,000 tons of coal. Iron Duke was not always at sea, as that fall she developed condenser problems that had to be remedied. In the meantime Admiral Jellicoe was being worn down by his duties. He started suffering health problems. First it was hemorrhoids, which were corrected in an operation in January 1915. Then he was affected by other ailments. He tried to keep himself fit through exercise and could quite often be seen on the quarterdeck of Iron Duke exercising with a medicine ball. Jellicoe wanted to try out for the Iron Duke’s gun room Rugby team but was dissuaded by his staff. His health was not improved when Iron Duke accidentally rammed and sank the oil tanker Prudentia on January 12, 1916.
Intercepts had put the German High Sea Fleet on a sortie into the North Sea and Admiral Jellicoe was determined to catch them. On May 31, 1916 Jellicoe was in HMS Iron Duke and headed the 3rd Division 4th BS. The battleships were steaming in six columns of four battleships each. From northeast to southwest, these were the 1st through 6th Divisions. Iron Duke leading Royal Oak, Superb and Canada, was the third column from the northeast. Benbow was in the van of 4th Division and a third member of the class, Marlborough, led 6th Division of the 1st Battle Squadron, farthest to the southwest. Of the class, only Emperor of India missed the upcoming Battle of Jutland. All three members of the class that were at the battle flew admiral's flags, the fleet commander and two Battle Squadron commanders. Clearly the Iron Duke class was held in high regard. At 1850 Marlborough sighted Lion on Beatty’s run to the north. When Iron Duke signaled Lion as to the location of the German fleet, Beatty, who had not seen the High Seas Fleet since he turned north, only answered to the southeast. Jellicoe still had his ships in six columns, rather than a battle formation of one column. Jellicoe had two options. If he formed his column with the most southwestern column, headed by Marlborough, his fleet would already be in close gunnery as well as torpedo range. Instead he chose to form on the most northeasterly column headed by Ajax. This put the single column much further from the German battleships.
As it was, it was the battleship at the end of the line, Agincourt, which first spotted the German battle cruisers. She opened fire at 1924. At 1925 Thunderer, just ahead of Iron Duke sighted German battleships but did not open fire, as she was masked by Conqueror. Iron Duke opened fire at 1930, along with Benbow, Colossus and Hercules at Koenig class battleships and Lutzow. Iron Duke firing at a range of 12,000 yards hit Koenig class six times, while firing 90 13.5-inch rounds. She was aided when Koenig was illuminated by the sun for five minutes, during which time Iron Duke fired 43 of her rounds, in nine salvos, in a space of five minutes. Iron Duke was not hit and suffered no losses. At 1936 the ship lost sight of Koenig and ceased firing. However, Scheer mistook the speed of the Grand Fleet and in an effort to slip past his opponents made an about turn. This brought his ships right back into the guns of Iron Duke and the other British battleships. By 2012 there were again targets for Iron Duke and again Iron Duke pounded Koenig. Scheer again called for his fleet to turn away. To extricate himself Scheer ordered his battle cruisers to attack in their famous Death Ride and for his torpedo boats to attack. It was here that Jellicoe chose to turn away from the torpedo attack, rather than towards the attackers. This resulted in separating the range between the two fleets and Scheer broke contact. This decision was the main basis for criticism of Jellicoe thereafter and would haunt him to the end of his career. As it was Marlborough was hit by a torpedo and another passed between Iron Duke and Thunderer. By 2020 the Germans had again disappeared into the murk. As the two fleets steamed south into the gathering darkness, the Grand Fleet was east of the High Seas Fleet and in position to block their return to port. Jellicoe continued his southward course, intending to engage Scheer at dawn. During the night he saw gun flashes to the north of his battleships. He considered those to be attacks of German torpedo boats on his rear screen. However, it was Scheer, who had again reversed course to pass north of the Grand Fleet and thereby gain a clear path to port.
In August Scheer made another sortie with the High Seas Fleet. This time he made extensive preparations to use Zeppelins and U-Boats in conjunction with the main fleet. U-Boat lines of 26 submarines would be set up to pick off British units and with the ten Zeppelins Scheer could keep track of the Grand Fleet. On August 18, 1916 at 2100 the High Seas Fleet took to sea. However, the Royal Navy was aware of the movement and the Grand Fleet left Scapa Flow that day at 1600. Jellicoe was not with his fleet. He was resting at his father-in-laws residence in Dundee. He boarded the light cruiser Royalist and joined the Iron Duke at sea. Although the fleets never made contact, both sides drew blood. The battleship Westfalen was torpedoed by the British submarine E-23. However, the Royal Navy lost two light cruisers, both to U-Boats. Unlike the Jutland operation the U-Boat screens did at least succeed partially. The HMS Nottingham was sunk by three torpedoes from U-52 and HMS Falmouth was sunk by four torpedoes from U-66. The Zeppelin reconnaissance proved ineffective. I should not come as a surprise but it was very easy for the crews of the airships to misidentify surface ships. One Zeppelin spoted some light cruisers southwest of Scheer and reported them as battleships. As Scheer turned towards them, it probably saved his fleet a repeat of Jutland as the course he was on would have taken his fleet straight to the Grand Fleet 65 miles to the north. As it was it was not a Zeppelin that warned Scheer of the close proximity of the entire Grand Fleet but a U-Boat. Scheer, who planned to pick off a detail of the Grand Fleet and not fight the entire fleet, turned back to Germany.
The Admiralty was unhappy with the losses at Jutland and most politicians thought that Jellicoe should have bagged the Germans. Beatty was most critical behind the scenes and complained that victory was thrown away by Jellicoe’s caution. Finally Jellicoe was kicked upstairs and made First Sea Lord with Beatty taking command of the Grand Fleet. On November 28, 1916 Jellicoe’s flag came down from Iron Duke and Beatty’s rose up the halyards of Iron Duke. "When Jellicoe left Iron Duke, the crew cheered and wept and ‘stayed on deck watching his [departing] barge until she was lost from sight." Perhaps it was because Iron Duke was associated with Jellicoe but Beatty did not keep her as his flagship for long. In January 1917 Beatty transferred his flag to HMS Queen Elizabeth. However, Beatty and his wife, still worked against Jellicoe behind the scenes. This contributed to one of the shabbier, politically inspired scenes at the Admiralty. Sir Eric Geddes, who had run a railroad was appointed as First Lord of the Admiralty in May 1917. Geddes, who had no naval background, was a statistics nut and his staff tried to put everything into charts and graphs. Geddes was also a buffoon. He demanded to be made a Vice Admiral and wore his cap over his eye in imitation of Beatty. He ignored Jellicoe and the rest of the admirals and resented their opinion that his staff’s operation degraded the Admiralty’s performance. "The navy hardly knew what to make of this ‘masquerading’ admiral; Lord Esher, the backstage close friend of King Edward VII, Admiral Jacky Fisher, and almost everyone else of consequence in British political life, described Geddes as a figure from Gilbert and Sullivan: ‘a general today and an admiral tomorrow." (Castles of Steel, 2003, Robert K. Massie, at page 742) In timing equal to the high level of stupidity of this individual, Geddes fired Jellicoe as First Sea Lord on Christmas Eve 1917.
As far as his flagship, the Iron Duke remained a private ship for the rest of the war. After the breakup of the Grand Fleet, the Iron Duke was assigned to the new Mediterranean Fleet and again regained her rightful position of fleet flagship. From March 1919 until November 1924, she carried the flag of the fleet commander. From April to June 1919 Iron Duke operated in the Black Sea against Bolshevik forces. In September 1922 Iron Duke was called upon to help evacuate civilians from Smyrna and for two months operated against the Turks. In October 1922 hosted a conference at Mudania to end the Greek-Turkish conflict. In November 1924 Iron Duke was again supplanted by Queen Elizabeth as fleet flagship but this time became the flag of 3rd Battle Squadron and at the end of the month flag 2nd BS. She again became the flagship of the 3rd BS when the squadron was assigned to the Atlantic Fleet from March 1926 to May 1928. From May 30, 1928 to May 30, 1929 she underwent a refit at Devonport. Iron Duke became a gunnery training ship until November 1931. As a result of the London Treaty of 1930 the Iron Duke was demilitarized from November 1931 to September 1932. She was again assigned as gunnery training ship on October 4, 1932 and continued this duty until September 1939. With the start of World War Two Iron Duke became the AA and depot ship for her old home at Scapa Flow. On October 17, 1939 she has badly damaged during an air attack and was grounded. She was refloated but then beached again and was finally refloated on April 19, 1946. She was sold but it took over two years to completely demolish her.
The four units of the Iron Duke Class were very close in appearance to each other. Although Iron Duke had anti-torpedo nets and booms during builders trials, they were removed before she was commissioned. Iron Duke had a small range finder over the bridge. In 1915 and 1916 the aft hull 6-inch casemate guns were removed and remounted in the forward superstructure. Later the empty aft gun ports were plated over. Iron Duke had director control for the 6-inch guns placed on the lower bridge, whereas the other three of the class had these directors placed in the upper bridge. A torpedo control position was added just under the control top. By 1917 the control top was enlarged and a medium base range-finder added over the conning tower. In 1918 deflection scales were painted on B turret and on X or Y turrets. Range clocks were added to the front of the control top and aft superstructure. Coffee box towers were added to the aft funnel with a 36-inch searchlight added to each of the four positions. The range-finder baffles were also removed. Flying off platforms were added to B and Q turrets. A long signal strut was added to Iron Duke and Emperor of India to the forward starfish below the control top. Of course there were many more modifications made to Iron Duke post war, especially when she was demilitarized but that is beyond the scope of this review. (History from: British Battleships, 1972, by Oscar Parkes; British Battleships of World War One, 1986, by R. A. Burt; British Battleships 1919-1939, 1993, by R. A. Burt; Castles of Steel, 2003, Robert K. Massie; Jutland The German Perspective, 1999, by V. E. Tarrant)
Combrig Iron Duke
The Combrig 1:700 scale model of the Iron Duke is of the ship in her 1918 fit. If you wish to build the Iron Duke as flagship of Grand Fleet at Jutland, the Combrig Benbow kit would be a better choice, as that kit is of the 1914 fit. Combrig has released 1:700 scale kits of all four members of the Iron Duke class. For Iron Duke, Marlborough and Emperor of India the boxes state 1918 fits. All three 1918 fits differ significantly from the 1914 Benbow fit and the significant modifications were made after Jutland. As completed Iron Duke, had a searchlight tower aft of the second funnel. This was replaced by a four-position coffee box tower in 1918. The Iron Duke had the small initial control top that was enlarged in 1917. The aft hull casemates were plated over and a stump main mast added. The Combrig Iron Duke has all of these features added in 1917 and 1918. The Iron Duke has the 1918 features of the Emperor of India kit with some differences. It appears that the differences are just in the bridge and control top. The Iron Duke has smaller upper bridge houses than the Emperor of India and a differently shaped and equipped lower platform on the aft bridge face. Also the control top is different. Although of a different shape and smaller than the large top of Emperor of India, the Iron Duke control top is still much larger than that on the 1914 Benbow kit. The 1918 Marlborough is also different. Although it has the enlarged bridge of Emperor of India, it has the smaller control top of the Iron Duke.
The Combrig hull has the 6-inch casemates forward but for the aft 6-inch positions, there are just openings. The Benbow 1914 kit has casemate parts that fit into these openings but for the Iron Duke kit, there are parts that fill in these positions to replicate the fact that they had been plated over. There are no hinged doors over the forward casemates but that is correct since they had been removed by 1915. You will have to use a pin vice to drill locator holes for the 6-inch casemate battery. The torpedo net shelf is present as Iron Duke had this but landed her nets and booms before she was commissioned. Hull side detail has both the small round portholes, as well a few square windows aft. The instructions show a slot aft for the sternwalk but no such slot is present on the hull casting on any of the four Iron Duke kits. Accordingly, you’ll have to make some small adjustments to the sternwalk part to shape and fit it correctly. The sternwalk is an area where you can add extra detail. The part provided is a single walk with a solid bulkhead. Actually, the sternwalk had a fancy open railing rather than a solid bulkhead. Although the given part could be considered as the railing with canvas dodger, you may wish to consider removing the solid bulkhead and add photo-etch. Also you may want to add the under bracing to the platform. One other addition is the top awning. There is none in the kit and yet the Iron Duke had a covered sternwalk. One other area for the addition of detail is the bulkheads at the deck break. The casemate deck tapers in to a point at Q turret. If you look at the included profile, you’ll notice a number of portholes and doors on these bulkheads. None are present on the hull casting. These are easy additions. Use a pin hole drill/vice for the port holes and your favorite brass doors. Be careful in removing the hull casting from the box, as the waterline tip of the cutwater is very fine and can be easily broken. If the tip is broken, carefully check the box to find the broken-off tip for reattachment.
As with almost every ship model, most of the hull detail is found on the decks. Of course you can expect Combrig to provide excellent deck detail. The planking is not overdone and serves to showcase the other detail. On the forecastle are the three deck hawse for the anchor chains. These are somewhat shallow and depending upon the chain that the modeler wishes to use for the anchor chains, will not need to be modified. If you use photo-etch chain, they will be fine but if you wish to use three-dimensional chain, you may wish to deepen the hawse. Thin smooth plates simulate the metal plates on which the anchor chains rest. These run back to three base plates for the anchor windlasses. Another characteristic of Combrig castings are that fittings are separate pieces from the hull casting. On the forecastle there are four locator holes for the windlasses. Other forecastle decoration includes three sets of twin bollards, two deck edge open chocks and various access hatches. Aft of the thin breakwater, the upper deck extends to just forward of the amidships Q turret. The forward part of this deck has wooden planking but the aft one third is a metal deck and so has a smooth surface. Detail is found in three clusters, one in front of A turret, another batch between A & B turrets and the third batch on the oat deck between the superstructure and second funnel. There are 26 locator holes, mostly for separate ventilator parts. Cast on detail includes two twin bollards, four open chocks, and 20 access hatches/coamings. Additionally there is incised detail on the metal boat deck. Twelve of these are locator lines for brass boat chocks and four are incised panels in front of the second turret.
If you look at the photographs of the hull casting, you’ll notice that Combrig uses two architectural features to insure that the superstructure parts are correctly placed. First both major superstructure pieces fit inside open wells in the deck. For fine tuning of superstructure placement, Combrig provides a smooth deck with the exterior edge identified as the line between the planking and smooth areas. The main deck also has its share of detail. These include 18 locator holes for smaller resin parts, 26 access hatches, skylights and other deck coamings, six open chocks and six twin bollard fittings. Probably the most unusual of these features are the two fittings on each side of the forward edge of Q barbette. I am unsure of their purpose but they appear to be ventilator openings. All in all, you’ll find the detail provided by Combrig, both as cast on parts or separate parts, very satisfying.
Smaller Resin Parts
The resin sheet contains various decks and platforms. One platform fits over the rear portion of the conning tower level. Another is the upper deck for the aft superstructure. This parts contains the aft control position. Four more platforms form the upper part of the bridge. The foretop pieces are especially notable. The starfish is well formed with crisp and thin starfish supports. The enlarged control top is of an unusual round/square shape with deeply incised windows. Other parts on the sheet are the covers/wedges for the aft 6-inch positions, kingpost base, sternwalk, mainmast platform, as well as two small platforms for the tripod. If you look at the five turrets, you’ll see the characteristic design of the 13.5-inch, as well as 15-inch turret crowns. Most plastic models don’t get this design right, as they show the armor plates smoothly abutting each other. To the contrary, there is a noticeable drop from the rear of one plate to the next plate behind. For those familiar with the armor of the Roman legionnaire, this drop resembles the segments of the lorica segmentata of middle Roman Empire. Another characteristic is the three siting hoods on the forward crown. Unfortunately there are no blast bags on the turrets or gun barrels. The main gun barrels have the remnants of resin pour vents at the muzzle, which will have to be removed. In addition to the 13.5-inch and 6-inch gun barrels, two AA guns are included. A series of runners include a huge number of the smallest resin parts. The kit includes net booms but these are certainly not mounted on the ship in 1918. In fact they are only appropriate for the ship during builders’ trials. Other runners/sprues include directors, searchlights, ship’s boats, davits, boat chocks, masts, yards, windlasses, reels, ventilators, and anchors.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
The Combrig Iron Duke comes with its own ship specific brass photo-etch fret. You won’t use all of the pieces as two large lattice support structures are supports for the early searchlight towers found only in the Benbow kit. Iron Duke, Marlborough and Emperor of India all have the 1918 coffee box towers. The major brass parts for the 1918 version are the stack grates and an especially curious open position aft of the first stack. There are a significant number of open boat chocks, which will provide detail far greater than the average 1:700 scale kit. There are plenty of other parts, which include various cable reels, triangular supports, vertical ladder, anchor chains and various platforms. No generic items such as railing is included.
These are in the standard Combrig format but with two back-printed sheets. Page one has the ship’s history and statistics in Russian and a line drawing plan and profile. The plan and profiles are in 1:700 scale and are essential to determine the exact placement of many of the parts. They also serve to show a rigging scheme. Page two shows photographs of all of the parts included in the kit. Page three starts assembly with attachment of main superstructure, turrets and deck ventilator fittings. Each size of ventilator is identified by a number and the specific numbers delineate which vent goes in which ventilator locator hole. There are also five inset diagrams, which cover assemblies/attachment of brass boat chocks, forward superstructure, brass open structure, turrets, and aft superstructure. The last page has the final assembly. All of the major components are shown with one small inset for folding photo-etch bracing.
Finally Combrig has gotten around to the flagship of the Grand Fleet through 1916. The HMS Iron Duke had classic good looks and Combrig has reproduced those looks in this 1:700 scale kit. With numerous resin and brass parts, the kit can be intimidating to the uninitiated but it is a gold mine of detail. Sir John Jellicoe can sail again.