Thursday, 7 May 2009

55 Days at Sea: Russia, Japan, and More Ships!

A look now, at some of the vessels of the two protagonists who are most likely to come to blows in my 'what-if' scenarios for the Boxer Rebellion. Japan, fresh from her victories in the Sino-Japanese War, was the power on the rise in the region, yet was thoroughly disgruntled about the results of the peace negotiations that ended the conflict, in that, dominated as the were by European powers, they ended up limiting her gains. Always in competition with Russia and China over the sphere of influence containing the Korean peninsular, it would not take much for this rivalry to boil over. It was of, course, to do exactly that five years later, but I think we can arrange an early-kick off with the fleets we have at our disposal here. After all, most of these vessels went on to see some level of service in the Russo-Japanese War, and back here in 1900, were rather more viable as weapons platforms amongst similar contemporaries.

Below, we see perhaps my favourite Russian ship, the turret ironclad Navarin, which would eventually be sunk at Tsushima. Of particular note is her four-funnel configuration, earning her the nickname of the 'factory'. Colour scheme-wise, the battleships-cruisers website has photos of most of the protagonists both in peacetime black and ochre, as well as in 'tropical station' white, so I went for a mix of colours to add variety; this old girl just looked best in the darker trim. (Note to self- what are those strange cough-lozenges on the deck? - Ah, yes, my attempt to portray lifeboats with red keels, again for a bit of interest.....oh well!)

Next up we have the Japanese Asama, built in the UK by Armstrongs at Elswick, these armoured cruisers were top-notch in their day, perhaps the best pound-for-pound ships afloat in terms of the package of speed, armour and armament; the black funnels come from a contemporary photo I have seen; again, she was at Tsushima, and was badly damaged there.

Now some of the more charming Russian vessels, here we see the armoured cruisers Vladimir Monomakh and the Dimitri Donskoi, both also eventually either sunk or scuttled at Tsushima; I call them the Vlad Mon, and the Dim Don for short. 
These are both much more capable beasts in the era of 1900, and are joined here by the Kazarski class Torpedo Gunboat the Gaidamak, which is represented by the Navwar look-alike, the Abrek, N7702.

A further view now, of the Russian battleship seen at the top of the page, the Sissoi(or Cissoi) Veliki, with cough lozenges all present and correct! She was a tough old bird, in that at Tsushima she took twelve large calibre hits, was torpedoed, but only went down when she was scuttled by her own crew; here we see her in the prime of life:

Next we have a hero of the assault on the Taku Forts, yes, in slips the Mandjur class Gunboat Korietz, here seen in the guise of the Navwar look-alike the Khabry, N7701. It's not a great likeness, but I particularly wanted her represented, mostly because of her even more heroic presence at the Battle of Chemulpo in 1904, where she and the protected cruiser Variag went up against fifteen Japanese vessels; it ranks alongside Rorkes Drift, Camerone, and the Alamo in terms of hopeless odds, and is still revered in Russia today as an example of naval heroism:

For some unknown reason, I forgot to order the Variag from Navwar, so had to make do with the French ship Chateaurenault, which luckily has the same lines, being built in the same yards. Not a bad stand-in, but something I must rectify, though, in future.

For those who might be more interested in the Russo-Japanese War itself in 1/3000th, I would not hesitate to direct you to the following website, which has a tips on painting section, as well as some great photos of all the Tsushima ships in their later liveries:

Really excellent stuff!

Finally we have "Sworn Oath of the Week", namely that I refuse to do any more research on the various vessels present off China in 1900, in that every time I think I have got there, I come across a new source and have to revise everything! For absolutely the last, positive, final time, I present the following website; a digital resource copy of a report done for the Adj. Gen. Office of the War Department in Washington in August 1900, you would think that this would be a very good source, so here are the additional vessels that are mentioned herein (Scroll a long way down to section 81 and beyond):

(One note of caution, the digital rendering of the text has done a good job of making some  of the vessel names unreadable, so these are best guesses:)


France: Admiral Charner, Bugeaud, Chasseloup Laubat, Sfax, Friant, Surprise

Germany: Kurfurst Freidrich Wilhelm, Weissenburg, Hela, Gazelle, Tiefer, Kaiser, Deutschland, Geier, Schwalbe, Jaguar

Italy: Carlo Alberto

Russia: Dimitri Donskoi, Valdimir Monomakh, Admiral Nachimov, Admiral Kornilov, Pamiat Azova, Kreisser, the transport Jakut

Japan: Yaeyama, Takasago, Naniwa, Takachiho, Takasago, Akitsushima, four Murakumo class Torpedo Boat Destroyers.

Britain: Victorious, Argonaut, Torpedo Boat Destroyers Hardy and Hart.

USA: Helena, Baltimore, and rather interestingly, what must have been a prize from the Span-Am War, Don Juan de Austria, a light cruiser sunk at Manila Bay  in 1898 and later re-floated.

So, that's it with the names, I promise! There were a few that were completely undecipherable in this text, and there was the mention of more transport vessels, but I think I'm going to concentrate on the above for now....I will update in a later post with the ship types and classes, as well as the likely Navwar coverage.

Next up will be a look at the Chinese themselves, as well as a few ideas on the actual scenarios that might play out, as we wonder 'what if'.....

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