"Her hull from stem to stern, her towering superstructures, her masts and boats, all were painted black; only the tall twin funnels amidships, of brilliant lemon-yellow black-banded at the top, contrasted with the dour purposefulness of the rest of the ship. Her name was heavily embossed in gold letters at bows and stern: Kniaz Suvoroff, after the great eighteenth-century Russian fighter and patriot who had quelled insurrections and fought ruthlessly against Frenchmen, Turks, and Cossacks. It was a name rich in bloody tradition; and in the epic voyage that lay ahead of her, she was to carry the flag of Admiral Zinovy Petrovitch Rozhestvensky."
The Fleet That Had to Die, 1958, Richard Hough, at page 15

The design of warships is often the result of a current military and political situation. Although the design of any warship is a series of compromises and trade offs, the task of the designer is always made much more difficult when it has to be rushed because of events. History is replete with this situation. The King George V Class battleship of World War Two was under-gunned with 14-inch guns because the Royal Navy could wait no longer to lay down new battleships. The class was laid down under the assumption that the 14-inch gun limitation of the 1935 extension of the London Treaty would be ratified by all signatories. When Japan refused to do so, the USN still could change the design of their new North Carolina Class to have 16-inch guns but it was too late for the RN to change the design of the KGV. Another product of a current military status, coupled with false information, was the Alaska Class of large cruisers of the USN. One reason these oddities were constructed was false contemporary information that the Japanese Navy was building their version of the Graf Spee and other super-cruisers. Of course Japan was not but the USN didn’t have time to take a wait and see attitude.

The same situation was also true as the 19th century turned into the 20th century. At the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 Japan had seized portions of China, including a port on the Yellow Sea, which became known as Port Arthur. Japan was pressured to remove her troops from Port Arthur and after she did so, Russian troops moved in and took over the port. Port Arthur was established as the home of the Russian Pacific Squadron rather than Vladivostock. The Japanese were furious with what they saw as duplicity on the part of the European powers and the political climate steadily worsened between Russia and Japan. In addition to looking to the east at the rise of the Japanese Navy, who had close ties to the Royal Navy, Imperial Russia also looked to the West. Long closely tied to France, the Royal Navy was the potential foe for Russia in the west. Russia ordered new construction from all of her own shipyards and when their capacity was taken up, turned to construction in foreign yards, including those of Denmark for the Boyarin, the USA for Retvizan and Varyag and France for Tsarevitch and Bayan

The Tsarevitch was constructed under the newest French design theories and displayed those ideas in an extreme form. There was of course the extraordinarily great tumblehome, small turrets, turrets for secondary and general "Fierce Face" look where the aesthetic appearance of the battleship was part of the design. Not only did the Russian Admiralty like their new French built battleship, they also had the right under their contract to get the plans and build Russian versions in their own yards. At this time Russian yards were finishing the construction that had occupied them and were pushing for new contracts. What better project than a Russian version of the Tsarevitch? Because of the tense political situation east and west, the Russian Navy ordered the single greatest order for battleships, as five of the new type were ordered from Russian Baltic yards under new contracts.

However, direct copies of the Tsarevitch could not be made because of circumstances. The Russian yards wanted work now, not when the Tsarevitch was completed, and only sketch designs were available for the French built ship. To wait for full plans would mean not only a lag before the ships would eventually join the fleet but just as critically vacant yards around Saint Petersburg. Other facts that caused a substantial difference between the French design and the subsequent Russian design was the state of manufacturing ability of the Russian yards and support infrastructure. Russian machinery was heavier than the French machinery and Russian built turrets were larger than those built in France. Both of these factors added to the weight of the Russian design. On July 7, 1898 the naval technical committee (MTK) ordered chief designer D.V. Skvortsov to use the French sketch design with all design specifications but with a heavier displacement to allow for the differences between Russian and French construction. Three weeks later Skvortsov had his design which was longer and narrower than the Tsarevitch and displacement increase to 13,225-tons from the displacement of 12,900-tons in the French design.

The MTK liked the design but nothing happened with in for almost half a year. In December 1898, it was decided to build two of the design at the New Admiralty Yard. By this time the competing Baltic Works Yard had their own modified Tsarevitch design. The MTK ordered both designs to be reworked to add a broadside 75mm anti-torpedo boat battery, which added even more weight and complicated the already complex designs. More trade offs were made in armor thickness and location. On March 23, 1899 the modified Skvortsov design was chosen and three battleships of this design were ordered, Borodino from New Admiralty, Imperator Aleksandr III from Baltic Works and Orel from Galernyi Island Yard, all laid down in May 1899. Although the Imperator Aleksandr III was ordered first on April 14, 1899, the class was called the Borodino Class, since construction began on the Borodino first. Two more of the class were ordered for the 1900 program, the Kniaz Suvorov and Slava, both from Baltic Works.

This of course was a huge order for the Russian yards and because of the size of the order and backlog of needed components, some items were ordered overseas, such as castings from Skoda in Austro-Hungary and German design Krupp armor from the United States. The weight of the ships kept on increasing throughout their construction and to counteract this, further reductions were made to armor thickness and locations. As a result the five ships of the Borodino Class were significantly lighter in armor than the original Tsarevitch. The Tsarevitch was built with a belt of 9.84-inches (250mm) at its thickest but on the Borodinos this was reduced to 7.64-inches (194mm). Not only was the belt thinner but it was also narrower, which would tragic results in May 1905. There were other omens and portents associated with this class. On May 3, 1904 Orel arrived at Kronshtadt to add her armor to the hull. Temporary hull sheathing was removed and unfortunately this allowed water to enter the hull faster than it could be pumped out. Orel gently sank to the bottom of the shallow harbor. She had to be sealed and refloated before she could get her armor. This was only part of the misadventures induced by short cuts in the completion and testing process for the battleships of this class. The reason was simple, Russia was at war with Japan. 

Hull Detail
Suv8689pro.JPG (8135 bytes) Suv8691bowpro.JPG (11929 bytes) Suv8692midpro.JPG (11200 bytes) Suv8693aftpro.JPG (10555 bytes)
Suv8698mid.JPG (10158 bytes) Suv8697bowdet.JPG (7684 bytes) Suv8699mid.JPG (8636 bytes) Suv8701aft.JPG (8434 bytes)

The Japanese launched a surprise torpedo attack against the Russian First Pacific Squadron over the night of January 26-27, 1904. From that point forward the completion of the ships of the Borodino Class was dominated by the need to do so quickly. Entire sequences in the standard acceptance program were omitted. Neither Borodino nor Kniaz Suvorov ran official machinery trials and Orel, delayed by her May 1904 sinking, never had gunnery trials. As the situation deteriorated in the east and after the First Pacific Squadron turned back to Port Arthur after the Battle of the Yellow Sea in an aborted attempt to break out, it was decided that the new Borodinos would be sent to war zone. As the ships completed there were minor differences among them in appearance. Borodino had visible funnel caps. Borodino and Orel had less curve to their stern than the other three that were built by Baltic Works. Kniaz Suvorov and Imperator Aleksandr III had tall compass platforms between their funnels. All the ships had a walkway connecting the quarterdeck to the amidships 75mm battery except Imperator Aleksandr III. Borodino had a solid splinter shield around the conning tower and the others had railings. The fifth ship Slava was still not ready to be added to the 2nd Pacific Squadron but the first four battleships of the Borodino Class would be the main striking force of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, as the relief expedition to Port Arthur was called.

On October 2, 1904 the 2nd Pacific Squadron raised anchor from the Russian port of Libau in the Baltic to start one of the greatest voyages in naval history. Almost bereft of friendly ports along the 18,000-mile journey, the Russian squadron was to steam half way around the world to the war zone, where Russian fortunes were fading. Commanding this expedition was Vice Admiral Z. P. Rozhestvenski and he chose as his flagship, the Kniaz Suvorov. The Kniaz Suvorov was ordered from Baltic Works on January 18, 1900 as one of the two members of the class of the 1900 program. Laid down on September 8, 1901 and launched on September 12, 1902, Suvorov was more than one year behind in the construction process from the three ships in the 1899 program. However, Suvorov was the fastest building of the class and caught up with the first three. Although laid down 15-months after Borodino, Imperator Aleksandr III and Orel of the earlier program, Suvorov was the first of the class to enter Russian service in July 1904. Named after one of Russia’s greatest generals, Prince Aleksandr Vasilevich Suvorov, it was hoped that the Suvorov would be as successful as her/his namesake, who had consistently beaten the French armies in the early Napoleonic Wars.

The Borodino Class had come in heavier than designed. Normal load displacement was designed at 13, 516-tons but the actual normal load ranged from Borodino at 14,091-tons to Imperator Alexandr III at 14,181-tons. That overage, which was within Russian design parameters, would have not have been that significant in normal operations but a 18,000-mile voyage was not a normal operation. As there were no Russian colonies along the way for rest and replenishment, the chief waypoints would be French colonial ports. Stopping at British colonies was completely out of the picture as Britain was adamantly pro-Japanese and anti-Russian in this war. As a consequence, the Borodino Class battleships had to carry coal, water, ammunition and other supplies far in excess of normal loads, as friendly ports were few and far between. When Borodino raised anchor on October 2, 1904 she/he displaced 15, 275-tons, over 1,000-tons over actual normal and 1,700-tons over design. Just imagine the effect of adding the weight of a small cruiser to the decks of a design. The stability of the Borodinos were greatly reduced and compounding that was the fact that the extra weight caused the armor belt to be submerged below the waterline. The class had light armor to start with but now even that was below the water. This was a disaster waiting to happen. 

Suv8703sprueB.JPG (29963 bytes) Suv8710fcd.JPG (17978 bytes) Suv8728fc.JPG (12842 bytes) Suv8711fc.JPG (14327 bytes)
Suv8712fcd.JPG (19153 bytes) Suv8713fcd.JPG (12892 bytes) Suv8714fcd.JPG (18611 bytes) Suv8709fcd.JPG (28821 bytes)

"On a hazy, still afternoon, with the harbor cleared at last of the launch-loads of wives and children and relatives, anchors were weighed, and the four Suvoroff-class battleships were towed out to the roadstead by eight tugs. They were so heavily overloaded that their lower decks were almost awash, and they had assumed the rakish appearance of coastal monitors. The flagship, the Borodino, and the Alexander III survived the dangerous shoals and were soon proceeding under their own steam into the Gulf of Finland. The Oryol, which was drawing nearly twenty-nine feet and had neglected to take soundings, was less fortunate, and the great vessel came to rest on a sandbank. The incident spoiled the majesty of the fleet’s departure, and greatly embarrassed the ironclad’s commander, Captain Yung. Admiral Birilioff, still in full dress uniform, hastened to the spot in a steam pinnace and took over the salvage operations personally, directing the tugs in one direction and then in another, while the entire ship’s complement of nine hundred men ran with shouts of mixed mockery and enthusiasm to and fro across the main deck in an attempt to rock her sixteen thousand tons off the mud. ‘Take care, boys’ they shouted to one another. ‘We may capsize the old tub if we don’t look out!" (The Fleet That Had to Die, 1958, Richard Hough, at page 27) It took another full day and the use of three dredgers before the Orel was free of the mud and hastened after the rest of the squadron. 

Before they left, the officers and crews of the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron had heard rumors that Japanese torpedo boats were operating in the North Sea. How that was logistically possible was not understood or examined. Russian agents were dispatched to Denmark, Norway and Sweden to uncover where the Japanese were. To justify their existence all sorts of outrageous rumors had been reported until it was firmly believed that the Japanese had somehow established a suicide squadron of torpedo boats operating in Northern European waters. Any sighting of an innocent fishing trawler was instantly elevated to a Japanese torpedo boat. Any unexplained event took on an ominous shape. One night while the fleet was anchored between Denmark and Norway, it was reported that torpedo boats were swarming out of secret Norwegian bases and two silver Japanese reconnaissance balloons were reported moving from southwest to northeast. In response, the Russian fleet stopped coaling and immediately vacated the area. This was the first instance in which airpower, or in this case imagined airpower, influenced the operations of a fleet. As the squadron entered the North Sea the auxiliary Kamchatka became lost and reported that she had been chased by torpedo boats and that she had fired on them. When asked how many and from what side, the reply was "About eight. From all directions."

However, on the very early morning dark of October 22, 1904 the Russian Squadron encountered what they believed was an attack by Japanese torpedo boats and cruisers on the Dogger Banks of the North Sea. Lookouts on the Suvorov thought that they sighted two red signal flares. Searchlights from almost every ship in the squadron searched for Japanese attackers and Suvorov flashed the signal, "Engage Enemy". They opened up with everything they had to protect the fleet. "Wild scenes occurred on every ironclad, and there were shouts on all sides of ‘Where are they?’ ’Dozens of them – over there, look!’ ‘It’s a full-scale attack.’ ‘Those aren’t torpedo-boats, they’re cruisers!’ – and, as the Borodino opened up with a heavy gun, ‘That was a torpedo exploding!’ "We’re hit! We’re hit!" (The Fleet That Had to Die, 1958, Richard Hough, at page 40)

What they had in fact encountered was the Gamecock Fleet of small fishing trawlers from Hull. There they were, a group of vessels only half a mile from the Russian battleships and every searchlight beam was fixed upon them. In a short furious bout of gunnery the trawler Crane took the brunt of the fire, which only ceased when she was clearly sinking, with two dead. The Japanese cruisers that were seen and fired upon were in fact Avrora and Dmitri Donskoi, which had been hit. The chaplain of Avrora was mortally wounded. As Rozhestvensky ordered the buglers to sound cease-fire, searchlights were switched off except one solitary beam from Suvorov pointing straight up, which was signal to break off action. Almost every officer and sailor in the squadron who had seen the action believed that there had been Japanese torpedo boats darting in and out of the formation of trawlers. 

Quarterdeck & Smaller Decks
Suv8724maindk.JPG (16253 bytes) Suv8727md.JPG (11473 bytes) Suv8725qd.JPG (13614 bytes) Suv8748bulk.JPG (18408 bytes)
Suv8749bulk.JPG (12508 bytes) Suv8750bulk.JPG (13469 bytes) Suv8726prop.JPG (15384 bytes) Suv8708aftbrid.JPG (16807 bytes)
Suv8716bri.JPG (14615 bytes) Suv8722bri.JPG (14817 bytes) Suv8715fbd.JPG (13355 bytes) Suv8723updecks.JPG (15293 bytes)

The Russian fleet had already passed the channel when news of the Dogger Bank Incident swept over Britain as the first of the crippled trawlers reached port. The English were infuriated and newspapers trumpeted for revenge. "Is this wretched Baltic Fleet to be permitted to continue its operation?", questioned The Standard. In St Petersburg the press reported that the squadron had indeed beaten off a Japanese attack. There it was reported "…the lessons of the first days of the war have not been wasted, and the new and treacherous attack by the Japanese has been met with the vigilant and pitiless eye of our admiral and the straight fire of our guns." Britain and Russia were on the brink of war as 28 battleships of the Royal Navy raised steam.

It was not until the squadron reached the Port of Vigo in Spain, that Admiral Rozhestvensky, the squadron commander, realized the furor that had been generated. Still believing that the squadron had been attacked by the Japanese, the admiral stated that although it was imprudent of the fishing vessels to have involved themselves in the enterprise of Japanese torpedo boats, the whole fleet expressed its sincere regret over the British civilian casualties. This was deemed to be a sufficient apology and war fever in Britain dissipated. Even so, as the 2nd Pacific Squadron cleared Vigo, it was followed by Lord Charles Beresford’s Channel Fleet, who had stationed themselves outside Vigo to await the Russians in case of war. The British followed the Russians for three days, with British cruisers sometimes passing in line within a half a mile. "Its disgusting to treat us like this following us about like criminals!" one midshipman stated. An officer wrote in his diary, "They are cunning and powerful at sea and insolent everywhere. How many impediments has this ruler of the seas put on our voyage." Indeed there were now impediments as the Russian fleet was no longer welcome in British colonial ports or the ports of many neutrals. The 2nd Pacific Squadron would have to do the bulk of its coaling at sea from colliers.

Coaling would be the prime consideration of the 2nd Pacific Squadron for the next five months. Even coaling at French colonies could be a problem. At Dakar the French Admiral told Rozhestvensky that he had to cease coaling as the British and Japanese governments were about to protest. Rozhestvensky replied’ "I intend to take on coal unless your shore batteries prevent me." The Frenchman responded that there were no shore batteries and amongst the laughter champagne toasts were raised to the success of the Russian squadron. Later after the French Admiral had received another cable from Paris forbidding the Russians from coaling in French territory, he returned to Rozhestvensky. The Russian was already finished in coaling his ships and said they would leave in three hours. As the squadron steamed into the South Atlantic on a 2,000-mile leg of the voyage, Rozhestvensky conducted battle practice with his green squadron. The results were discouraging, as ships failed to respond to signals or did so in a slip-shod manner. "Signal to the captain of the Borodino, ‘You don’t know how to command your ship." "I have signaled you four times,’ he told the Nakhimoff, ‘all without response. Four days’ arrest for the officer of the watch." The worst offenders were ordered to take station to the starboard of Suvorov, which became the dog house station for the squadron.

The squadron then made landfall at the small French colony of Gabon. The governor had no instructions as there was no telegraph, so Rozhestvensky easily coaled his ships just outside the three-mile limit. Next stop was the Portuguese colony of Great Fish Bay. Portugal, Britain’s oldest ally, would not have the Russian squadron use their waters. The Russians anchored within the sheltered bay but outside the three-mile limit. A solitary gun boat armed with one 3-pdr, the Limpopo, pulled up to the Suvorov. The gun boat’s captain ordered the Russians to leave and when Rozhestvensky pointed out that they were outside the territorial limit, the Portuguese promised drastic action. When the Russians kept coaling the gunboat left to execute its drastic action, which was to search for units of the Royal Navy. The Russians finally found a friendly reception with their next stop, the German colony of Angra Pequena, German Southwest Africa, and the last stop before rounding Africa. The German governor ignored British protests and the German authorities were feted aboard the Suvorov

Stack Bases & Deck Houses
Suv8705stbase.JPG (15896 bytes) Suv8704bulk.JPG (15396 bytes) Suv8719stbulk.JPG (20243 bytes)
Suv8717Bdet.JPG (23891 bytes) Suv8706masthead.JPG (21150 bytes) Suv8718Bdet.JPG (20311 bytes)
Suv8720tops.JPG (17366 bytes) Suv8721deckhouse.JPG (16556 bytes) Suv8707pilot.JPG (19088 bytes)

When Rozhestvensky reached Madagascar he learned that the First Pacific Squadron was lost and that Port Arthur had fallen. Rozhestvensky was ordered to stay at Nossi-Be off the West Coast of Madagascar. With the loss of the 1st Pacific Squadron, St. Petersburg assembled the 3rd Pacific Squadron, which was to join Rozhestvensky. This squadron consisted of whatever leftovers could be found in the Baltic and amounted to a gaggle of slow old ships. For more than two months the Russians stayed at Nossi-Be as crew morale plummeted. Courts martial were common events and the Suvorov had to train her artillery on a couple of ships to quell mutinies. Rozhestvensky had enough. He was not going to wait for the 3rd Pacific Squadron. Disobeying orders from St. Petersburg, the fleet steamed east into the vastness of the Indian Ocean and disappeared for three weeks. From March 16 to April 8, 1905 the fleet steamed 3,500 miles across the Indian Ocean without sighting another ship. Every four or five days they would stop to coal at sea. The coast of Sumatra finally appeared on April 5. On April 8 the 2nd Pacific Squadron steamed around Singapore and the locals thronged to see the ships pass. "It was a splendid spectacle,’ cabled The Times’ correspondent, and the forty-two ships were certainly as impressive a sight as the British Navy had ever provided for the naval base. ‘All the ships were burning soft coal, and the smoke they made was visible for miles,’ reported Reuter. ‘The ships, magnificent but foul, were proceeding at about eight knots, and it took them fifty-five minutes to pass a given point. All the vessels showed signs of their long voyage in tropical seas, about a foot of seaweed being visible along the waterline, and the decks were laden with coal…" (The Fleet That Had to Die, 1958, Richard Hough, at page 119) Some British newspapers even reflected admiration with the fact that Rozhestvensky had crossed an ocean to sail boldly through the confined Malacca Straits, past the British Crown Colony of Singapore and into the China Sea.

However, Vladivostok was still 3,000 miles away and the 2nd Pacific Squadron needed time to repair. Rozhestvensky headed for Kamranh Bay. Throughout the grueling months of back breaking coaling at sea Imperator Aleksandr III had consistently won the fastest coaling prize and had flown the prized efficiency pennant from her masthead. However, at Kamranh Bay in French Indochina (Vietnam) the truth became known. Rozhestvensky wished to proceed to Vladivostok at best possible speed before the slower ships of the 3rd Pacific Squadron could join him. He ordered the squadron to report its coal situation. All of the ships had sufficient coal on board to depart, except for Imperator Aleksandr III, which was 400 tons short. During the five months of the voyage coaling reports from Imperator Aleksandr III were based upon estimated quantities of coal taken in against estimated usage. It wasn’t until April 1905 that an actual measurement of the bunkers was made. There was no coal available and Imperator Aleksandr III had insufficient coal for the trip. Rozhestvensky had to wait for the 3rd Pacific Squadron and the colliers. 

Rozhestvensky wished to slip past the Japanese fleet to the west of the Japanese home islands. That meant passing the choke point between Japan and Korea, in which lay the small island of Tsushima. He thought he could pull it off with a little luck and some mist. The Russians almost made it. Mist and occasional rain covered them, however, within sight of Tsushima, their presence was discovered by the Japanese auxiliary cruiser Sinano Maru. The word flashed out and Admiral Togo knew exactly where the Russian fleet was located and closed in. The Russians had their battleships apportioned into three divisions in line ahead formation. The first division contained Suvorov in the lead with her three sisters trailing behind. Rozhestvensky issued an order for the first and second divisions to turn 90 degrees to starboard, which left the third division of coast defense battleships on the original course. The four Borodinos executed the change but before the 2nd division led by Oslyabya could execute, the Japanese appeared to the north. Rozhestvensky cancelled the order and swung the 1st division back to the north. Now the Russian force was divided the Japanese battleships appeared to the northeast of Suvorov. Togo turned to starboard to cross the Russian T and Rozhestvensky ordered 1st division to rejoin the Russian line at its head. This last order caused total confusion as ships in the second and third divisions would have to greatly slow or even stop in order for the 1st division to regain their former position. Togo had his battleline execute a graceful loop and steamed ahead and parallel to the disordered Russian line. 

Suv8729C2.JPG (35427 bytes) Suv8730Csprue.JPG (26340 bytes) Suv8736Csec.JPG (18909 bytes)
Suv8735Csec.JPG (19337 bytes) Suv8737Csec.JPG (20109 bytes) Suv8739Cmain.JPG (29826 bytes)
Suv8733Ctur.JPG (17958 bytes) Suv8738Csecroof.JPG (11131 bytes) Suv8745qf.JPG (15097 bytes) Suv8747qf.JPG (12949 bytes)

Suvorov and the rest of the 1st division fired first and initially their fire was accurate. The first ranging shot dropped only 22 yards aft of Mikasa. Russian six-inch shells started hitting the Japanese ships. The Russians were the only ones striking in the first ten minutes as Togo put his fleet through a dangerous turn in his loop to the north. Meanwhile Rozhestvensky was watching the battle from inside the conning tower of Suvorov. By 1:55 PM The Japanese had passed through the dangerous turn and had straightened out. They opened fire concentrating on the heads of two Russian columns, Suvorov of 1st division and Oslyabya of 2nd division. The first hit on Suvorov was a six-inch shell, which hit between the first funnel and a secondary turret and which wiped out an aid station. The second hit was underneath the port center six-inch turret and it started a fire. Suddenly the Japanese shells poured onto the Suvorov. The initial Japanese shells were a special type designed to start fires. They didn’t penetrate the turret armor but they did cut down the crew and start many fires. 

Two more shells hit the conning tower of Suvorov. They did not penetrate but splinters killed or wounded everyone inside, including wounding Rozhestvensky. The damage also destroyed communications so the commander was cut off from his command. Although not materially damaged the Russian guns became wildly inaccurate. At 2:20 Togo switched to armor piercing shells with devastating results on the already burning Suvorov. Two shells destroyed the aft 12-inch gun turret killing the entire crew. Another shell punched through the light armor at the waterline, since the main belt was submerged, and the sea poured in. Suvorov quickly lost her mainmast and one funnel, while the other funnel was in flames. At 2:30 another hit jammed her steering gear and she swung out of line to starboard enveloped in steam and smoke from the fires. Suvorov became dead in the water with only one 75mm still firing. The captain was dead, the admiral was incapacitated and the ship was being run by the chief of staff, who valiantly tried to save her. At 4:15 two Russian destroyers stumbled over the immobile Suvorov. The injured Rozhestvensky was transferred with his staff to the destroyer Buiny. The Buiny already carried 200 survivors from Oslyabya and so only a handful of men from the Suvorov made it to her decks before the Buiny pulled free and made off through the mist. At 7:00 PM the Japanese 11th Destroyer Flotilla had discovered the hulk of Suvorov. Four torpedoes hit her almost at the same time. Admiral Rozhestvensky’s once proud flagship instantly capsized. For 20 minutes she floated upside down in dark thick yellow smoke and then sank taking down with her all of her crew who were still aboard (20 men saved by Japanese destroyers per Tomitch). (History from Russian & Soviet Battleships, 2003, by Stephen McLaughlin; Warships of the Imperial Russian Navy: Volume I Battleships, 1968, by V.M. Tomitch and The Fleet that had to Die, 1958, by Richard Hough, which was also the source for the quotations

Eastern Express Kniaz Suvorov
Years ago the Ukrainian company of ICM published that they would release at least two 1:350 scale models of Borodino Class battleships from the Russo-Japanese War. Having always had a keen interest in the Russian ship designs of this period, especially those designs with excessive tumblehome, I eagerly awaited developments. Of course as we all know now, after a promising start with the Koening Class battleship, ICM experienced financial difficulties and stopped production. All of the promised plastic kits never were completely developed for sale. I have no idea if the Eastern Express Borodino and Kniaz Suvorov are related to the unreleased ICM kit, but I would not be surprised if they were. However, whether the Eastern Express kits are related to the planned ICM kits or not is really immaterial as now with this kit modelers have the opportunity to model the most important and numerous class of Imperial Russian predreadnought battleship. After examining the components and dry fitting some of them the diagnosis for the kit appears to be a mixed bag. It basically boils down to this: the model parts exhibit some very nice detail overall but there appears to be problems with the fit of some of the parts.

The hull comes in two halves separated at centerline. The hull halves are not mirror images of each other as the left/port half contains the one-piece rudder. The starboard half has two locator pins that fit into two corresponding pin receptacles located on the port half. The detail on the halves is very nice. The triangular bilge keels are already in place with the extreme tumblehome of the design being very prominent. Each side features six large vertical strakes and two small ones. There are ten 75mm QF guns on each side and the hull sides come with these positions opened. The kit provides enclosed boxes in which to mount the guns so the modeler can achieve a three-dimensional effect. Optionally, these guns can be modeled inside closed positions. The kit supplies separate drop down gun doors that are positioned down for open positions or up for closed positions. The doors are on the thick side but can be thinned with sanding. Another option is to wait for a brass photo-etched set, which will be produced by White Ensign Models for this kit. WEM usually includes doors like these but they may or may not be there. Lines of portholes are shown by small solid circles. The appearance of the hull would be enhanced if they were drilled out. There is also nice detail on the rudder and anchor wash plates. The lines of the hull really are nice with the beautiful curve of the tumblehome and lines of the upper armor belt. Anti-torpedo net booms are included in the kit but no net. 

Stacks & Boats
Suv8734Cstack.JPG (17413 bytes) Suv8746booms.JPG (14181 bytes) Suv8751altstacks.JPG (18538 bytes)
Suv8752altstack.JPG (26441 bytes) Suv8753altstack.JPG (9340 bytes) Suv8740boats2.JPG (27272 bytes)
Suv8741boat.JPG (19937 bytes) Suv8744boat.JPG (14115 bytes) Suv8742boat.JPG (14886 bytes) Suv8743boat.JPG (15470 bytes)

At first glance there appeared to be a good fit with the hull halves. The two halves flush with each other but checking the details at bow and stern showed that the fit was very, very slightly off. In examining the cutwater and ram at the bow, the halves mated beautifully. The above water torpedo tube on the cutwater formed a perfect circle. However, the top of the solid bow bulkhead on the left/port half was very slightly higher than the top of the right/starboard bulkhead. This is a minor point in that the bulkheads can be easily leveled with each other through light sanding but it is illustrative that you need to check the fit of the parts at every step and making mostly minor adjustments accordingly. At the stern the fit was just the opposite. The right/starboard side fitted very slightly higher than the left/port side. The fit was not quite as smooth as that found at the bow. A minor adjustment will correct this problem but it is important to know that this minor fit problem is there before attaching the hull halves to each other. There are two other pieces that provide the upper hull that ascends beyond the quarterdeck. 

There are two major decks that overlap to a substantial degree. The forecastle deck is very pinched at the bow but widens out just in front of A turret. Detail is pretty good but could have been a little bit better. The wooden deck planking appears slightly over-scale but not to such a degree as to spoil the model. This deck also features plenty of nice detail such as individual coalscuttles, skylights, bollard plates and various coamings. This deck was dry fitted to the raised forecastle of the two hull halves and fit fairly well. Such was not the case with the next deck. The long quarterdeck piece runs from the deck break just aft of the bridge to the stern. Like the forecastle the wooden plank deck is over-scale but a good portion of this deck will be hidden by the curving upper hull sides. There are plenty of coalscuttles running down the sides and skylights and bollards at the stern. The fit of this deck proved to be a problem. The deck was wider than the opening between the two hull halves. The deck was designed to fit on a ledge flush with the inside vertical surfaces of the hull halves. When I measured the gap between the inside hull surfaces it was 53-54mm. When I measured the deck at the same point its width was 59mm. A 5mm difference is significant. The first question is whether the hull is too pinched, i.e. too much tumblehome, or is the deck too wide? Without data of the width of the deck at this point I can’t say, however, the remedy should not pose too great of a problem. It will take a little time but I think the best course would be to sand down the sides of the deck until it fits within the hull without undue stretching of the upper hull. The detail as reflect on these two major deck pieces compared favorably with the plan for Borodino found in the Russian monograph Squadron Battleship Borodino by V.U. Greebovsky published in 1995 by Gangut but had less quarterdeck detail than the plan for Borodino found in the Russian monograph The Russian Fleet: Ships of the Russo-Japanese War by S. Suleega published in 1993 by Arsenal. However, certain details appear to be missed. A photograph of Tsar Nicholas II aboard Kniaz Suvorov (Tomitch, page 22) clearly shows the presence of a catwalk running from the superstructure to the funnels and that catwalk is not present in the kit. The Greebovsky plan of Borodino also showed fore/aft catwalks with two running from the forward superstructure to the second funnel platform and a single centerline catwalk from the second funnel to the aft superstructure. 

All of the smaller parts are on injected sprues. The largest of these sprues is lettered "B". Included are mostly bulkheads and decks for the smaller structures. Bulkhead detail is good for items like the pilot house as individual panels and windows are delineated. Other bulkheads have protuberances at the port hole locations. This is somewhat mystifying but they are most likely portholes fitted with ventilation funnels. These devices, fitted to the exterior of portholes funneled air into the enclosed compartment in a forced ventilation system. They are found at the houses at the base of the stacks and deck house just aft of them, so the location also points to ventilator devices. All of the smaller decks for forward superstructure, aft superstructure, funnel bases and other deckhouses are found on this sprue. None of these decks have wooden planking so they probably had linoleum covering. However, the instructions don’t have a painting plan only profile and only mention brown for deck without distinguishing between wooden decks and any other type. Stack base plates feature raised plates for the stack and skylights. There are plenty of other parts including a platform that runs across the width of the ship at the base of the second funnel, fighting tops with support gussets, overly thick starfish, multiple mast & yard parts, plus some other smaller parts. The sprue also has solid plastic inclined ladders without handrails. Ditch those and use those that WEM will undoubtedly provide. If you can’t wait for the WEM set use any generic photo-etch 1:350 scale inclined ladders. 

There are two identical sprues letterd "C". These sprues deal mostly with the armament systems carried by the ship. This can be confusing as apparently these sprues should have been labeled "Q". The parts found on these sprues are labeled Q in the instructions and there is another pair of sprues that are also lettered "C", whose parts appear as C in the instructions. Each of the sprues contains one 12-inch gun turret and three 6-inch gun turrets. The main gun turrets are of eight pieces and have separate interior trunnion supports so the guns can be elevated. Turret crown detail is good with the various sighting hoods but the main turret sides could be improved. A semi-vertical/semi inclined ladder is molded on each turret between the guns. Photographs show that a vertical ladder was at this location. It would be better to sand this off and use photo-etch. At the rear of each main gun turret is what appears to be an access door. If it is an access door, it has too much relief from the turret surface. Again, it would be better to sand smooth and add a photo-etch door, hopefully to be included in the WEM set. The secondary turrets are each comprised of six parts and the exterior looks like a miniature version of the 12-inch gun turrets. The crowns have nice sighting hoods and the turret sides have an access door at the rear but no inclined ladder on the face. Oddly enough, these access doors are not as excessive in relief as those found on the main gun turrets. 

Box Art & Decals
Suv8680box.JPG (21155 bytes) Suv8754decal.JPG (23435 bytes) Suv8755decdet.JPG (17242 bytes)
Suv8756decdet.JPG (15699 bytes) Suv8757decdet.JPG (14929 bytes) Suv8758decdet.JPG (15910 bytes)
Suv8682propaint.JPG (14973 bytes) Suv8684borodino.JPG (18267 bytes) Suv8685Aleks.JPG (13642 bytes) Suv8686orel.JPG (22973 bytes)

Each "C/Q" sprue also contains two funnel halves. However, these halves appear to be parts for the Borodino/Orel as the Kniaz Suvorov kit has a small separate sprue with funnel halves listed as for Suvorov and Aleksandr III. The difference between the two styles of funnels is at the top. The Suvorov funnels are straight from base to cap, while the Borodino funnels found on sprue "C/Q" reduce the diameters slightly close to the cap. Other parts included are the 75mm compartments, propeller shafts and supports, boat skids with chocks, boat booms, bridge supports, deck supports, boom support brackets, J-ventilators and boat davits. There are also the dropping gun doors for the six amidships 75mm positions, although they are labeled C5 in the instructions. All in all they are good parts, although some of the supports would be better if replaced in the proposed WEM photo-etch set.

The other two sprues that are labeled "C" contain the ships boats, 75mm guns, light QF guns, net booms, search lights and some other small deck fittings. Ship’s boats have good detail but not outstanding. There are plenty of boats as each sprue contains two different steam launches and nine oared boats in different styles. There is not much detail on the breach blocks of the 75mm guns but then that is somewhat of a moot point as this portion of each gun will be hidden within the hull. The light QF guns are slightly over-scale but useable nonetheless.

With Kniaz Suvorov an additional small sprue is included with parts that are not used on the Borodino. This sprue includes both funnels, three steam pipes, and a compass tower/platform that was atop the forward end of the aft stack house and only found on Suvorov and Aleksandr III. Substitute a photo-etch inclined ladder for the solid piece provided. This platform as well as the rest of ship will benefit greatly from photo-etch railing. Also included separately is a stand for the finished model.

A very nice and comprehensive set of decals is included. It provides a great deal of color to the finished model. Here is a full panoply of Imperial Russian ensigns, jacks and pennants, bow crest, name plates and other detail. Also included are two name plates for the stand, one in Russian and one in English. The decal quality is quite good but there are some difficulties associated with it. For one I think the jack colors are reversed. The decal has a red St Andrews cross superimposed over white on a blue field, very similar to A British Union Jack without the red St George Cross. I believe the colors should be a blue St Andrew cross superimposed on white on a red field. Also included are what appears to be two solid red flags, which is normally associated with revolt such as with the Potemkin. Unfortunately, I could not find anything in the instructions that showed which decal went where. For the most part, such as the ensigns, admiral’s flag, jacks, bow crest and name plates the location is obvious or easy to discover. However, I am still puzzled as to the location of some items and especially those red flags. 

Suv8759inst1.JPG (10229 bytes) Suv8760inst2.JPG (15750 bytes) Suv8761inst3.JPG (7758 bytes)
Suv8762inst4.JPG (6583 bytes) Suv8763inst5.JPG (7582 bytes) Suv8764inst6.JPG (7423 bytes)
Suv8765inst7.JPG (7019 bytes) Suv8766inst8.JPG (8799 bytes) Suv8767inst9.JPG (7858 bytes) Suv8768inst10.JPG (5873 bytes)

The instructions use text and drawings. Text appears in Russian and English. The first page provides a short history, technical specifications and assembly icons. Page two is a painting guide for Suvorov at Tsushima. There is only a profile and no plan so any decks with linoleum are not shown. The colors listed are simple. Of course there is yellow and black for the stacks and red lower hull. For decks it just specifies brown and for the hull, superstructure, turrets and masts it specifies gray. The paint scheme was actually black with yellow funnels with black caps but of course after 18,000-miles of steaming, it would have weathered to a high degree. So therefore a dull black or dark gray would be appropriate. After this there are eight pages of rather good drawings which portray the subassemblies and final assembly of the parts in the kit. It seems very logical and easy to follow. As mentioned earlier, parts lettered as Q in the instructions are actually on the armaments sprue, which is lettered C on the sprue. Also the lack of any information about the decals is somewhat frustrating. In spite of the omissions, the instructions are more than satisfactory in assisting an easy assembly.

I really do like this kit. The Borodino Class was by far the most important Russian battleship design to participate in the Russo-Japanese War. Although the kit has some over-scale parts, this is a rather minor point. In my view the biggest problem with the kit is the fit of the quarterdeck to the hull but even this is can be corrected without undue effort. The bulk of the parts are good to excellent and everything points that it will build into a very attractive model with all of the glorious curves and tumblehome of the original. Mad Pete needs to get to work on that WEM photo-etch. It now appears that Eastern Express has sold the molds to this kit to Zvezda, who plans to release the kit as Orel. However, Bill Gruner of Pacific Front still has Eastern Express kits of Borodino and Kniaz Suvorov in stock, if you would like to acquire one of the initial releases while they are still available. If you like predreadnought battleships, you'll like this kit.