Friday, 17 April 2009

55 Days at Sea: Part 6

Now a look at the forces deployed by some of the hotch-potch of nations assembled off the coast of China in 1900. Without a doubt the defeat suffered in the first Sino-Japanese War 0f 1898 had turned the spotlight on the weakness of the Manchu Court, and as Philip Joseph wrote: "The Balkan scramble over and the partition of Africa nearly complete, the disclosure of China's weakness by Japan served as an invitation to the colonising Powers to stake their claims in China." I guess everybody wanted a piece of the action in terms of treaty port concessions, access to markets and spheres of influence, and just as importantly, did not want to let their rivals get something to their own disadvantage, so all the colours of the rainbow were present - great for adding variety to a wargaming project such as this!

Above we see most of the Austro-Hungarian contingent, led by the armoured cruiser Kaiser und Konigin Maria Theresa; I had recently come across the following website:

which has an excellent overview of their deployment; it also allowed me to add the Aspern and Kaiserin Elisabeth to the growing list of vessels to include! (Aspern is still in drydock on the workbench...) Factoid of the week here is the presence on board the Maria Theresa of one Georg Ludwig von Trapp, yes, he of The Sound of Music fame! (It gives you an excuse to stay in the room if a female member of your family insists on watching Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the film....) See a summary of his military career here, and blot out all thought of the singing:

Navwar's models of the Austro-Hungarians are nicely sculpted and detailed, and give a good sense of the neat proportions of these ships. Of course, the reason these were on the scene in 1900, was in order to not to lose out to their country's great rival, namely Italy, which had never forgiven them for winning the battle of Lissa in 1866 - a good source of rivalry for my 'what if' scenarios.
Italy was a sort of johnny-come-lately to the rather tawdry horse race to cut a piece of the Chinese pie, and had demanded the lease of San Men Bay in Chekiang as a treaty port in 1899, which was apparently one of the five remaining places in China that no other country had yet made a bid upon! Ironically, the Chinese rejected the application, and no doubt in something of a huff, the Italians despatched the protected cruisers Elba and Calabria:

Navwar's version of the Lombardia class ship, the Elba, is a little disappointing in terms of the detail to her aft section, and does not match the view I have of her in the Janes book in this respect, but the Calabria has a great business-like look about her.

Next up we have the fledgling superpower that was America, fresh from her resounding naval victories in the Spanish-American War of 1898, which meant she was now punching her weight amongst the more established powers. Furthermore, in great contrast to the rapacious land-grabbing of the others, the U.S. had negotiated the Treaty of Wanghia with China, and earned trade and missionary agreements with no need for any territorial concessions on the part of the Chinese, so probably held the moral high ground during this camapign, or at least more than any other nation. (Now you knew Charlton Heston would never represent the baddies!)
Her small squadron is led by the battleship Oregon, apparently a bit of a tub in terms of sea-worthiness and stability, but mounting the largest guns of any vessel in the campaign, at 13". Not forgetting she was recently battle-tested, at Santiago Bay, in Cuba, where she did the damage to Spain's Cristobal Colon:

She is accompanied by the Cruiser Newark, a model that comes with a great set of sails from Navwar, which I had to leave out for the sake of consistency, as no doubt these would have been struck before combat; I am thinking about maybe adding masts to all the models at some point, but as this was my first attempt at 1/3000th, I did not want to get too bogged down in scratch building (Was that a fore, main or mizzen?) the requisite pieces from the start.

Finally, we have the little treasure that was the Monocacy, a Civil War era sidewheeler - so what's not to love about it! I had to use Navwar's Italian 'Esplatore' Despatch vessel here as a look-alike, with the aft funnel removed, but this is a great looking miniature even in this small scale. Lots of detail on this ship at this excellent website:

Next up we have the Ancien Regime in all its Gloire, why, la Belle France, of course! She is represented by a trio of sleek, greyhound-like ships, D'Entrecasteaux, Descartes and Pascal:

The sculpts here appear rather narrow in comparison to ships of the other nations, although perhaps this is true to the originals in terms of proportions, and when unpainted rather resemble submarines than cruisers!

Finally we have France's teutonic neighbour with some real mean machines; if the Descartes is a greyhound, these guys are war elephants! Navwar has done a great job here in giving these a properly functional look, and the detail on the Kaiserin Augusta in particular is excellent, probably the best of all the models used here so far.

If we are looking for the villain of the piece, Peter Fleming sums it up well in his book "The Siege at Peking":

"It was however Germany, who, by siezing the port of Kiachow in Shantung, supplied what had been justly called 'not the sole, but the principal cause' of the Boxer Rising and its sponsorship by the central her coup de main Germany gained a ninety nine year's lease of Kiachow Bay, and the city of Tsing-Tao......and extensive railway and mining concessions in Shantung. The Boxers made their first appearance in the province a few months later."

Foreign influence and interference was bound to eventually provoke a backlash, and it is against this backdrop that the various heros and villains assembled off the Taku Bar in 1900.
In the next post, Ill be having a look at the two competing countries that had the most geographical influence in the region, namely Japan and Russia, with a bevy of ships that would later fight it out in the Russo-Japanese War at Tsushima and elsewhere, or if my devious plan works, just might be seen facing off in Chinese waters a few years earlier than planned!


  1. I just discovered your project today . . . and I'm finding it very very interesting . . . and I am rather surprised at how good these little ships look.

    I will be very interested in seeing how this project of yours plays out.

    -- Jeff

  2. Hi Jeff, thanks for the comment, it's the first time I've done 1/3000th or dabbled in Naval Gaming, so I'm kind of feeling my way; certainly the paint jobs so far are not the best, but I've enjoyed doing them. I like to upload the largest pictures I can, I always hate those tiny thumbnails of minis you find on some websites, just when you're looking to see what a figure looks like, but of course this means you get a warts-and-all look at my amateur efforts!
    Please feel free to drop by anytime, cheers, SteelonSand.

  3. I haven't done any Naval Gaming yet either. I just got some of Houston's 1:1000 scale pre-Dreadnoughts though . . . for which I'm planning on using the "Perfidious Albion" rules (which are not appropriate for your project).

    However I've been thinking of possibly getting some 1:2400 or 1:3000 pre-dreads . . . but the small size worries me a bit because of my eyesight (I'm over 60).

    Your project though is one I'm finding very attractive and I'm looking forward to more of your posts . . . and I'll possibly steal your overall concept if you don't mind. I'm off of the west coast of Canada . . . so we're not likely to run into each other.

    For the 1:2400 scale I was thinking of using the Panzershiffe models (because of the price) . . . but I've never seen any . . . have you? . . . and, if so, what do you think of them?

    -- Jeff

  4. Hi Jeff, haven't got any of the Panzerschiffe myself, but from what I've seen on the 'net, the detail is pretty good, and perhaps better than a lot of Navwar sculpts at 1/3000th, it just depends on the availability of the models you want to use, I guess, Navwar is cheap and cheerful and has a huge range...

    Glad you're liking the project so far, and feel free to steal the idea wholesale, I think it's often more fun to explore the more obscure, or even those unhistorical 'what ifs', than go with the conventional armies/ navies.

    Lots more to come, including an updated list of the ships that were involved at the time, the result of some more info coming to light...

    Cheers, SteelonSand.

  5. Oh, good. I will be interested in learning what other vessels were in the area.

    By the way, it would be useful to indicate the class of the ships with your updated list.

    -- Jeff

  6. Roger that Jeff, I'll make sure the list includes types/classes where known; I'll also be including the requisite catalogue numbers from Navwar, or lookalike types where applicable.

    Cheers, SteelonSand.