The SMS Zenta was a less known small cruiser, she nevertheless had an unusually eventful career. For a ship of such small size, she traveled vast distances around the world. I felt it befitting to have condensed the most important events of her active service into an outline history as it makes worthwhile reading . SMS Zenta was completed in March 1899 as a small cruiser for the Austro-Hungarian navy, as name ship of a class of three. SMS Aspern and SMS Szigetvar were the sisterships. Zenta was originally conceived for foreign cruise deployment, primarily to show the flag abroad despite the Austro-Hungarian empire having no great colonial ambitions.
She was 317feet (oa) with a full load displacement of 2,543 tons. Armed with 8 x 12cm (4.75-inch) Skoda guns on single mounts along with 8x 47mm QF guns as well as MG and torpedo tubes. She carried a complement of 308. When commissioned, she was capable of over 20 knots, however with a coal capacity of 470 tons Zenta had a radius of 3800 miles at 12 knots. She was designed unlike her sisterships to have an auxiliary sailing rig in order to further extend her range to fulfill her foreign cruising functions more effectively. She was able to spread 585 square meters of canvas with square sails as well as gaff and flying jibs.
She left Pola 10 November 1899 for a cruise to the far East, calling at Port Said, Suez, Aden and Colombo. She reached Singapore on 3 January 1900 where she stayed for 14 days, continuing her voyage to Hongkong, Macau and onwards to Shanghai. Thereafter she went to Japan, visiting Nagasaki ,Kagoshima and Sasebo. News reached Zenta that the Boxer Rebellion in China was fast getting worse. She was recalled to assist in the evacuation of international embassy staff as well as the Austro-Hungarian delegation. Seventy-five members of her crew were attached to the relief expedition led by Admiral Seymour, which headed for Tientsin but that is another, fascinating story which warrants further reading.
She returned home after a voyage lasting 23 months and was placed in reserve until October 1902 when she was sent on another foreign tour via the African coastal ports to Capetown. From there she sailed for South America, which among other ports of call to Montevideo and then onwards to Buenos Aires, berthing there on 10 May 1903. She called at Rio de Janeiro on the 22 June 1903 before heading back across the Atlantic, visiting among other ports Funchal, Cadiz, Tangier, Malags, Tunis and Corfu prior to returning home to Trieste. Clearly this was an epic voyage for a such a small cruiser. Thereafter she was placed in reserve and partook in annual naval exercises until the outbreak of the First World War.
She was leading a fleet of six torpedo boats blockading the coast of Montenegro. She was trapped by French and British naval units consisting of battleships and armoured cruisers, which prevented her escape North. After allowing SMS Ulsan with her higher top speed to get away she was shot up fatally by 17 other ships with the loss of 179 lives. According to eyewitness accounts she sank with her flag flying and guns firing. Surviving officers and crew swam ashore and were interned as POW until 1916.
I built the model of SMS Zenta from the very good and accurate WSW resin kit. I used the excellent and explanatory plan 1:100 and booklet of detail drawings from Peter Kovacs of Hungary in conjunction with the 'Typenblatt' (class identity leaflet) from Robert Toegel, obtained from the Austrian site, THE MODELLER, along with photo sources from the booklist at the bottom of page.
From the outset I wanted to show the ship underway with sails drawing, as the ship was fitted with an auxiliary sailing rig to conserve coal for her passage to China. Erwin Sieche advised me that no photographs exist of any member of the Zenta Class underway with sails. For me this historically precluded verifiably setting the square sails and probably the loose-footed gaff-sails, however I reasoned that a small ship such as Zenta would have rolled badly in the long swells of the Indian Ocean, so that the hoisting of the jibs with minimum effort to act as steadying sails would have been desirable, in my opinion Hence I chose to present Zenta in this manner.
The kit is nothing short of excellent, with crisp castings and careful mastering. I used the resin funnels but replaced the steam pipes with wire, the brackets to fix the pipes to funnel were made by dragging a small amount of white glue between the two, very easy and crisp.
I wanted an open see through bridge, the original windows were represented as raised bumps, easy to paint but they did not have the effect I desired, so I cut the forward bridge house off, along with the solid railings and rebuilt the bridge with brass and some 1/500 ladder-stock for the windows before adding a new roof and wings. The remaining windows were also raised bumps, these were carved flat and then I glued on little squares of ladder-stock for frames with thinned matt varnish. These were then painted very easily with thinned black paint. I repeated the process for the aft deckhouses but used smaller squares of 1/700 ladder stock from a WEM set for this. I used more ladder-stock squares to suggest the timber paneling on the bridge front.
The 47 mm QF guns were totally replaced with scratch-built items, the shields were made from paper which after gluing in place was soaked with CA making them rigid. I further drilled out all the cowl vents and made two more according to plans. Coal scuttle hatches and round ventilators were made from model railway rivets let into countersunk drilled holes. A small skylight behind the after most deckhouse was constructed according to the Kovac plan. Tiny curved brackets supporting the forward bridge deck from the conning tower, were made from drawn copper wire. The same drawn copper wire was used to make the shrouds for the ratlines. The thinner horizontal footropes were made from stretched black sprue, as were the footropes on the yards on the forward mast.
The sails furled onto the stainless rod masts, brass yards and gaff spars were built up from white glue suitably painted. I checked and re-checked photos to confirm that the sails were furled as neatly and tightly as I have modeled them. The jib-sails were made of paper onto which I had previously drawn the seamed panel lines in with pencil. They were then tinted with watercolour paints deliberately slightly uneven, clew, tack and head reinforcing was painted and pencilled in and while they were still wet. The sails were shaped around cocktail sticks and placed on a warm radiator to set. When dry, I sprayed them with matt varnish to preserve the shape against humidity and consequent later deformation.
The sea was made from artists Acrylic gel medium; the hull was placed in the long swell with a slight bit of heel and bow down. The void from waterline to water surface on the windward side was filled with white glue and later painted to represent the lower hull exposed . The pink boot-topping is correct. The model was then rigged with sprue, weathered and streaked to give the ship the appearance of a sooty coal-fired ship that had been on an extended passage at sea for some weeks. There is no rust as the ship was virtually brand new when she was dispatched.
The figures were GMM painted in tropical garb. The rails were GMM Superfine Gold . The only resin item not used from the kit was one boat, which was replaced from WEM. The spoked photo-etch wheel on the aft deckhouse was a ships-boat wheel from the WEM 1/350 Koenig photo-etch set. The handrails cut from the stanchions from the same set produced the brass strips to make the awning stanchions, being metal they will take the awning rigging, unlike stretched sprue which bends. I used the same material to make the companionway canvas frames. The stairs in the companionways were made from old 1/350 ladder-stock painted progressively darker. The illusion works well.
All in all it was an enjoyable model to build. The base kit is of high quality and well researched. Matching photos and plans with the model, as far as I could ascertain and verify there were no errors, merely some omissions and simplification. Adding the sails gave this little ship another point of interest, inspiring me to try some earlier sail to steam transitional subjects with a more complex sailing rig. I highly recommend this little ship kit to anyone who would like to try building a small cruiser away from the norm.
|Book sources used:
KUK Dampfschiffe by Wladimir Aichelberg
Zenta Typenblatt by Robert Toegel THE MODELLER
Mit SMS Zenta in China by Claudia Ham & Christian Ortner
Die Schiffe der KUK Kriegsmarine im Bild Vol 2 by Lothar Baumgartner & Erwin Sieche
Marine Arsenal 27; Kreuzer der KUK Marine by Erwin Sieche