“Call me Ishmael.” So begins the early 19th
century novel Moby Dick by Herman Melville. It chronicled Captain Ahab’s quest
to find the great white whale. However, if you are looking for the greatest
Imperial Russian ship actually laid down and launched call him Izmail. The
Russo-Japanese War 1904-1905 was a watershed event in Russian history. It was a
catastrophic failure for the Imperial Russian Government and set the path for
revolution in 1917. For the navy it was also a catastrophe, as almost every
battleship in the navy was lost at
In 1909 the four ships of the
Consequently, as early as 1907 the Admiralty started
pushing for new armored cruiser designs. With the four
On April 22, 1911 the naval minister sent the Tsar a
memorandum on the importance of new armored cruisers in line with British
armored cruisers (battle cruisers), The Tsar approved the memorandum. With the
Tsar’s approval formal invitations were issued to Russian private yards. Based
on prior building costs it was anticipated that the new design would come in
around 40,000,000 Rubles per ship. The private yards high-balled their response
with estimates as high as 51,000,000 Rubles per ship. The naval minister
experienced sticker shock. Money and cost per ship was crucial because new
dreadnoughts for the Black Sea had to be ordered because
In March 1912 the request was presented to the Duma for the new construction and the naval minister personally appeared before the Duma and promised that no further funds would be sought for the design. The Duma did approve the construction of four ships with a maximum costs of 45,500,000 Rubles each. This promise and determination to stay within budget would further slow construction. After having been gouged with private yard estimates and now that the two St. Petersburg naval yards had space available due to the launching of the Sevastopol class ships, the bid invitations were expanded to include state yards and foreign yards. This had actually been done in August 1911 with invitations issued to six Russian yards and seventeen foreign yards. The design had morphed since the 1911 design. The armor belt had increased to 10-inches (254mm) while the maximum speed had dropped to 26.5-knots to compensate. Since the British had gone to 13,5-inch guns and the Americans and Japanese to 14-inch guns, the 12-inch gun was discarded and nine 14-inch guns in triple turrets selected. The secondary was to be twenty four 5-inch (130mm) guns and in anticipating the future there were to be four 2.5-inch AA guns.
Only three Russian and foreign yards responded in time. Two state yards
replied with seven designs from Admiralty Works and six designs from Baltic
Works. The private Putilovskii Works
12 designs, helped by the company’s German partner, Blohm and Voss. From the
Admiralty Works won with a design that basically inserted a
section with an additional turret to their three turret design. To accommodate
the increased cost of an additional turret other requirements had to be reduced.
Speed dropped a knot and the belt was thinned to 9.5-inches (242mm). Even with
these reductions price jumped by 7 million per ship. Since the naval minister
had promised not to go back to the Duma for more money, the additional expense
was found by reducing speed requirements for the Svetlana
light cruiser design, which were meant to operate with the new battle cruisers.
In September 1912 two ships (
Even before the start of World War One construction on the
four ships was delayed by a shortage of raw materials and certain fittings were
ordered from foreign yards. Among these were the crucial roller bearings for the
turret tracks, which were ordered from
The February 1917 revolution replaced the Tsar with a provisional democratic
was still the most advanced with 2/3 of the work done, except only 36% of the
armor present. To maintain jobs for the workers, in the summer 1917 it was
decided to continue work on Izmail.
The provisional government officially discontinued work on the other three in
October and after the Bolshevik revolution that fall work on Izmail
was halted in December 1917. The ships were ordered to be preserved for
completion at some undesignated future date. In the meantime the Soviets made
Designs were prepared to use the ships, other than Izmail, for 16,000-ton freighters or 22,000-ton oil barges. There was even a design to convert the battle cruisers into passenger liners. In 1921 the new “Naval Forces of the Workers and Peasants Red Army” considered one Izmail worth two Sevastopols. They wanted at least two of the ships completed and figured that there would be no strain to at least complete the Izmail. Vickers still had twenty-four 14-inch guns completed during the war and it was anticipated that Izmail could be completed in 24 months. The choke point was turret completion because the specialized factories were closed and had to be reconstituted and workers trained. It was decided to complete the Izmail as designed and look into redesigning the other three with twin16-inch gun turrets replacing the triple 14-inch gun turrets.
It was finally decided that the funds were not available
and on August 21, 1923 all of the ships except Izmail
were sold and towed off to
The Combrig Izmail
The 1:700 scale Combrig Izmail is a really fine kit. It is beautifully detailed and provides an excellent scale replica of this striking Imperial Russian battle cruiser design. Although the ship has all of the hall marks of an Imperial Russian Dreadnought design, four evenly spaced triple turrets on centerline, minimal superstructure and ice breaking bow, the ship is far larger than the Sevastopol class and has a dramatically tapered bow. From the two widely spaced anchor hawse and icebreaker bow there are many unique features to the hull sides of the Combrig Izmail. The secondary guns are arranged in double story casemates for the first three positions on each side, which concentrates armor but two guns can be taken out with one hit. You will have to use a pin vise to add locator holes for the secondary gun barrels. I would have preferred to have locator holes already present but by drilling their locations the modeler can select their training. There are minimal portholes but plenty of shelves and angles to the secondary positions to provide interest to the hull sides. To add further interest one of the secondary positions on each side aft extends beyond the hull sides.
Deck detail is toe-curling good. The deck paneling separated by metal lateral reinforcing strips is outstanding. There is plenty of forecastle detail with four anchor hawse, bollard plates, deck access coamings, open chocks and anchor windlass base plates. The graceful horseshoe breakwater is very thin and finely cast. Amidships is an assortment of ventilator positions clustered around the stacks and multiple coal scuttles, which will provide a striking contrast of metal scuttles against the wooden decking. Additional single and twin bollards provide more detail. Aft detail includes multiple deck coamings, twin bollard plates, single bollards, open chocks and a single stern anchor chain base plate.
The turrets are well cast and have locator positions on the turret crowns. Two of these on each crown is for beautifully cast two-piece QF guns. The main gun barrels are finely cast with a slight flare at the muzzle and hollow muzzles. Superstructure parts are minimal in number, consisting of two stack each of two pieces and a tall circular conning tower. The funnels are in two pieces because each has large platforms surrounding each funnel. There are a large numbers of platforms. One is a large searchlight platform, which separates the upper and lower aft funnel. There are four platforms connected to the conning tower. The upper two form flying bridges between the conning tower and forward stack and the lower two fit on the aft face of the conning tower. Additionally there is a navigation bridge atop the pilot house on the uppermost flying bridge. Altogether it presents a most unique appearance. The platforms appear to have splinter shielding but this would actually represent canvas covered railing. The platforms are cast on a very thin resin wafer and require minor cleaning to smooth the edges where they were attached to the wafer.
There are plenty of other smaller fittings. The largest in numbers and size are the tops of the various rectangular and square ventilators. The four anchor windlasses and eight searchlights are very well detailed. Other resin parts include crane bases, detailed anchors, masts, yards, small ventilators, mast platforms, various navigation fittings and equipment, boat chocks, eight open boats with two each in four different patterns and four large steam launches with two each in two different patterns. These parts are cast on runners and require only minor cleanup after they are removed from the runners.
Combrig includes a brass photo-etch fret with most of the additional parts that you’ll need for a very detailed model. What is not included is deck railing, however, it appears any two bar (three bar if you include the bottom scupper) can be used. You may wish to remove the solid bulkheads/splinter shields on the platforms in order to use open railing there. The largest brass parts are the cranes and lattice work boat towers. Included for the lattice towers are boat chocks that are fitted on the towers. Each funnel gets its own unique shaped funnel grate. Although railing is not included, Combrig does include inclined ladders and anchor chain. Other brass parts include platform support triangles, vertical ladders and crane pulleys.
The instructions are in the standard Combrig format. My sample came with two pages with printing on one side, rather than the standard one back-printed page format. Page one is the profile and plan of the ship. As usual these drawing materially assist the modeler in parts attachment locations, as well as rigging scheme. A short history is provided in Russian and English, as well as statistics in English. The second page has the actual assembly instructions with a bow starboard quarter view. There are separate small insets for the sub-assembly of the bridge/forward funnel complex, cranes, turrets, QF guns, boat tower and aft funnel.
The Combrig 1:700 scale Izmail is a large and striking kit. Armed with 14-inch/52 main guns, this Russian battle cruiser design had longer 14-inch guns than those found in any other navy. If it had not been for a twist of fate, they could have been ordered in 1911, instead of 1912, and completed shortly after the start of World War One. Four powerful Izmails and four