In August 1914 the Grand Fleet of the Royal Navy was the greatest naval force the world had ever seen. In numbers and total strength, it was without parallel. If you went East through the North Sea into the Baltic, you would find in the Eastern end of the Baltic the Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet. This fleet was in a far different position than the British Grand Fleet. The bulk of the combat power of the Russian Baltic Fleet had been destroyed at Tsushima in 1905. When World War One started the Russian Baltic Fleet had still not recovered from these catastrophic losses. Although four dreadnoughts of the Gangut class were building, they were not yet ready. For large warships the Russians relied on the battleship brigade of five predreadnoughts (Andrei Pervozvanny, Imperator Pavel I, Slava, Tsarevitch and the ancient Imperator Aleksandr II)and cruiser brigade. This was hardly a match for the High Seas Fleet, the second most powerful naval force, after the Grand Fleet.
The cruiser brigade consisted of six armored cruisers, the modern and strong Rurik, the Rossiya & Gromoboi both built in the 1890s and the three ship Admiral Makarov (Bayan) class of medium armored cruisers. The cruisers of this class were the Admiral Makarov, Pallada, and Bayan II. In August 1914 one of them, the Pallada, probably did more to win the naval war against Germany, than any one of the long line of dreadnoughts, superdreadnoughts and battlecruisers of the Royal Navy.
Laid Down at New Admiralty Yard, Saint Petersburg – August 1905; Launched – November 1906; Completed – February 1911; Sunk – October 11, 1914
DIMENSIONS: Length – 449 feet 7 inches (oa)(137.03m); Beam – 57 feet 6 inches (17.52m); Draught – 21 feet 3 inch to 22 feet (6.48 to 6.71m): Displacement – 7725 tons
Armament: Two 8 inch/45 cal (2x1); Eight 6 inch/45 cal (8x1); Twenty 75mm (11 pdr); Two 18 inch submerged torpedo tubes
Armor: Belt- 7 to 2 ½ inches; Turrets- 6 to 5 ¼ inches; Conning Tower- 5 ½ inches
Machinery: 26 Belleville boilers, 2 shaft VTE, 16,500 shp; Maximum Speed – 21 knots
Sisterships: Bayan, Admiral Makarov, Bayan II
The original Bayan had been laid down at La Seyne, France in February 1899 and completed in April 1903. (click for article on the Combrig kit for the original Bayan) She was part of the ill fated 1st Pacific Squadron lost at Port Arthur during the Russo-Japanese War. When Port Arthur fell the Russian Admiralty placed many orders for new warships. Although the design was six years old, combat reports on the original Bayan had been so favorable that the design was repeated in Admiral Makarov, (named after the first Commander of the Port Arthur Squadron during the war, lost when his flagship Petropavlovsk blew up after striking a mine). The contract with the French yard also stated that the Russians would get the plans for the ship in order to build two more in Russia. Pallada, (named after a protected cruiser of the same name lost at Port Arthur) and Bayan II, (named after the original cruiser, which was also lost at Port Arthur), were laid down in the New Admiralty yard in Saint Petersburg four months later. The class was modified from the original Bayan by incorporating lessons learned from the war. Most of these were internal, although superstructure was reduced, the numbers of 75mm (11 pdr) guns was increased, the size of the torpedo tubes was increased and the masts were redesigned. The Admiral Makarov was completed in April 1908. The two Russian built ships were not completed until 1911.
At 0037 hours on August 26, 1914 the German light cruiser SMS Magdeburg ran aground at Odensholm, an island at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Finland. Efforts to free her by the accompanying torpedo boat V 26 were unsuccessful and the forward superstructure was blown up. Later that morning Pallada, along with the Bogatyr, 2nd rank (scout) cruiser, came upon the wreck. V 26 was hit by six-inch fire and driven away. The commander and 56 crew members of the Magdeburg were taken prisoner. A search of the wreck uncovered an unexpected treasure. The Russians found three codebooks with current key and cipher tables to the German Naval Code. One set was soon sent to Britain. This event was of immense importance, because the Germans did not know that the code had been compromised and kept using it, allowing the allies to know of plans for the High Seas Fleet.
The Pallada did not long survive this event. In early September German Armored cruiser Blucher, five predreadnoughts and supporting ships were operating in the Eastern Baltic. The light cruiser Augsburg encountered Pallada and Bayan II. Blucher tried to engage the smaller Russian cruisers but they wisely broke contact. In October the German Admiralty had sent the submarines, U 23, U 25, and U 26 to attack the Russian cruiser patrols at the entrance to the Gulf of Finland. On October 10, 1914 U 26 fired two torpedoes at Admiral Makarov but missed. On October 11 U 26 found the Pallada. One torpedo struck Pallada amidships and detonated her magazine. She exploded and went down with her entire crew. As a result of the loss of the Pallada, the Russian cruisers were withdrawn from forward patrolling. (History of the Pallada comes mostly from The Russian Fleet 1914-1917 by Rene Greger and Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905)
As is true with most armored cruisers, the great mass of the ship is the hull. The Combrig Pallada hull is a very nice piece of casting. You immediately notice the sharp cutwater of the ram gracefully curving to the high, narrow focsle. The usual bollards and hatches are present in the casting but what is most notable is the many skylights cast integral to the hull. The four bow anchors and two anchors amidships are also cast in place. The casting is totally flat and has crisp, clean lines. The kit does simplify the ship in a couple of areas. In the after superstructure, the searchlight platform is represented as a solid casting. This platform was a lattice work platform above the superstructure, rather than being solid superstructure. There are five Aztec steps that could easily be cut away and replaced with photo-etched inclined ladders. The sternwalk could also be indented to capture the open area of the walk.
The armament parts are very nicely executed. The two single 8-inch gun turrets accurately capture the egg shape top view of the original. The banded barrels and sighting hoods add to the detail. The 6-inch casemate guns have perfectly straight, banded barrels. The 75mm guns are with open back gun shields. These shields are not hollowed out in back. Funnels are hollow the first 1/8 to ¼ inch. Many of the small parts deal with he boat positions. The Pallada had boat racks running from the amidships superstructure over the main deck to the hull edge. These along with finely done davits are present for the eight ship’s boats included in the kit. The masts in my kit had a slight bend but it looks to be easily straightened. The shorter yards were straight. Reflecting the 1914 fit, the masts had spotting tops high on the masts rather than the lower down positions of the original Bayan. The eight ventilator funnels are smaller than other designs of the period and do not dominate the stack area.
About the only additions that I would recommend would be the addition of photo-etch. Basic additions would be railing, anchor chains and inclined ladders. Additionally, if you have the White Ensign Models photo-etched fret for the Askold, you will have parts for the mainmast lower platform, the after searchlight platform and the drop down panels for the six inch casemate gun positions.