THE HIGH SEAS FLEET SMS KAISER

S.M.S. Kaiser was the lead ship in the third class of German dreadnoughts. The first two classes, the Nassau and Helgoland were very conservative designs. Each class carried twelve main guns, of which only eight could bear broadside. When the Kaiser design was first made public, it was met with some disappointment. However, the class made substantial improvements over the preceding Helgoland class. She was laid down in October 1909; launched March 22, 1911 and completed August 1, 1912. The Kaiser class was the first German battleship class to have turbines rather than reciprocating engines, even though the Royal Navy had used turbines in their battleships since HMS Dreadnought, which was laid down in October 1905. This in part, reflects the conservatism of the German naval designs. The Royal Navy adopted turbine propulsion five years before the German Navy followed the British lead. Although Kaiser made almost 24 knots in trials, the German Navy, again with classic conservatism, rated her at 21 knots. The ten 12" main guns were disposed in five turrets. In theory the two amidships turrets could fire on either broadside, although in practice, this was on a limited arc. The Kaiser class was the first German battleship class to adopt a superfiring turret and the first class to adopt supplementary oil fuel. The normal German practice was to have four ships in each class of battleships but with Kaiser there were five in the class. From December 1913 to June 1914 Kaiser with sistership Konig Albert were tested on overseas deployment, which took them as far as South America.

        VITAL STATISTICS OF S.M.S. KAISER 

 Laid Down: October 1909;              Completed: August 1912  

 Length: 564 feet (waterline);         Width: 95 feet;

Displacement : 24,700 tons     Speed: 23.7 kts on trials              Armament: 10- 12 inch (30.5 cm); 14- 5.9 inch (15 cm);              8-88mm;   5- 19.7 inch (50 cm submerged TT)       

          S.M.S. Kaiser at Kiel 1911                  Armor: 14 inch belt (350mm); 12 inch (300mm)turrets                    

Kaiser was present at Jutland where she was the flagship of Konteradmiral Nordmann, commander of the VI division (the Kaiser class) of the III Battle Squadron (the Kaiser and Konig classes). She fired 224 twelve-inch shells, more than any other German battleship except for the Markgraf, which fired 254 twelve-inch shells. Kaiser, along with Lutzow, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf and Kronprinz, destroyed the armored cruiser HMS Defence, which blew up with the loss of all hands, and mortally wounded the armored cruiser HMS Warrior, which sank the next day. Kaiser also scored the hit, which jammed the steering gear of HMS Warspite, which caused Warspite to steam in two full circles under the combined fire of the High Seas Fleet. Kaiser was a lucky ship at Jutland, suffering only two major shell hits with only one crewman injured. On November 25, 1918 Kaiser was interned at Scampa Flow, where she was scuttled on June 21, 1919. The wreck was raised March 20, 1929 and broken up.

THE WSW SMS KAISER

The components to the WSW SMS Kaiser consist of 61 resin parts, one brass rod, one decal sheet and four pages of instructions. What first strikes one in first viewing the components of this kit, is the small number of parts. This is deceptive on two counts. First, WSW is one of the leading manufacturers in incorporating as much detail as possible integral to the casting of the hull. Second, the battleship designs of the High Seas Fleet were spartan in the extreme, in that minimal superstructure was built into the designs. This kit represents SMS Kaiser as she appeared in 1917, after the anti torpedo nets, shelving and booms had been removed. The High Seas Fleet discarded these items after Jutland. I would anticipate that WSW will subsequently release Kaiser or a sistership (Friedrich der Grosse?) in the Jutland or pre-Jutland fit. WSW did this earlier with the KuK Viribus Unitis (with netting) and the KuK Szent Istvan (without netting).

I believe that the hull casting of Kaiser is the best effort yet from WSW. It is truly beautiful and has a mass of intricate detail. Typically with WSW, it has finely crafted wood deck planking; anchor chains and deck fittings. One thing that I noticed immediately was the inclusion of coal scuttles cast into the deck. Although the 1:350 Steel Navy HMS Dreadnought and the 1:350 Iron Shipwright SMS Seydlitz have this feature, I believe that this is the first time that it has been included in a 1:700 kit from any manufacturer and adds considerably to the detail when built. Other integral features of special merit include the four anchors, two coat of arms shields, and ventilation louvers, which were a unique feature of the capital ships of the High Seas Fleet. Boat chocks are also integral to the hull and are of finely cast delicacy. The break water and splinter shields are also well cast; again with delicate thinness and without flaw. The masts are resin and are extremely well executed. The ship boats even had rudders included as part of the boat casting. The main guns were cast integral to the turrets. All were perfectly straight and without flaws. In that regard the whole kit was without flaw and had no broken parts. In other words, quality control is outstanding.

The major part of the build is the construction of the fore bridge levels and the fore and aft searchlight platforms. I recommend using white glue or another slow drying cement for the bridge levels to insure that you get the proper alignment before the glue dries. Both search light platforms are two storied and abut the stack (fore and aft) on one side and the fore mast or mainmast on the other. Attach the stacks first and then dry fit platform structures to insure that the masts will be vertical. A little light sanding on the fore and aft sides of the platforms might be necessary to accomplish this. The key to which stack is the fore stack and which one is the aft stack is the steampipes on the stacks. Pay attention to the plan in the instructions. The fore stack has steampipes fore and aft of the stack and the rear stack only has steampipes on the fore side of the stack. Thatís it for construction tips. Because of the simplicity of the prototypeís design and the excellent casting by WSW, there are no pitfalls in building this model.

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The brass rod is used for the mast yardarms and the 5.9 " secondary barrels. The instructions give the lengths and templates for both. Holes are predrilled in the hull casting for the placement of the 5.9" casemate guns. The decal sheet includes two of the unique white circles used for aerial recognition by the High Seas Fleet. The inclusion of this sheet is a very nice touch by WSW and greatly appreciated. The instructions state that it was only used on the first turret of Kaiser. Typically the High Seas Fleet used it on one fore turret and one aft turret, however, I have been unable to locate any aerial photos of Kaiser to ascertain if it was used on an aft turret. Normally the circle on the aft turret would be darker than the one forward, presumably due to ash and dust particles from the stacks. The four pages of instructions are more than adequate to build this kit. They include a nice plan and profile that also shows the rigging.

Normally I prefer a brass PE fret for the fine detail parts on a kit. However, on SMS Kaiser, the need for a PE is minimized because the WSW resin casting is very fine and there is a far less need for it in a World War One design. The kit could be a little bit better with a small PE fret. Brass boat davits would be a little bit finer then the resin parts. I accidentally broke off part of a davit on the starboard side and couldnít find the part, so I added a davit from the WEM PE fret for Askold. Additionally, the bracing in the searchlight platforms would be finer using brass PE rather than resin. I removed the resin inclined ladders (stairs) cast into the hull and added WEM PE parts. I also used WEM brass to add ladders to various positions on the model. GMM PE yardarm footrails and the pulleys and ropes for the crane were added. Tomís two bar railing was used throughout The jackstaffs and rigging were all stretched sprue.

THE VERDICT

With SMS Kaiser WSW continues its commitment to bringing the modeler excellent 1:700 models of the ships of World War One. They lead the resin industry in the variety and quality of the ships they offer from this period. As mentioned at the start of this article, SMS Kaiser is their best effort yet. If one has an interest in the ships of the High Seas Fleet or World War One, they cannot help but be impressed by the quality and ease of construction of this kit. Oh, by the way, this kit is highly recommended.