When John Ericsson proposed the concept of his turret ship to the Navy, it was to break the ability of land gun batteries to prevent naval movement. Ericsson proposed the name Monitor in that it may admonish or "monitor" the rebels. During the American Civil War, ironclad vs ironclad bouts were fairly infrequent. The two most notable occasions were the Monitor vs Virginia and the Battle of Mobile Bay with CSS Tennessee vs the world. However, monitors were used frequently to bombard Confederate forts and gun emplacements. Like HMS Dreadnought 44 years later, USS Monitor gave its name to a type of warship. The designation Monitor described a shallow draft, low freeboard, low speed coastal vessel with heavy armor and heavy armament.


Plan & Profile
Aber2232pro.JPG (57988 bytes) Aber2237bowpro.JPG (46927 bytes) Aber2238midpro.JPG (43073 bytes) Aber2239aftpro.JPG (41474 bytes)
Aber2233plan.JPG (55054 bytes) Aber2241bowplan.JPG (67668 bytes) Aber2242midplan.JPG (63682 bytes) Aber2243aftplan.JPG (67557 bytes)

The Royal Navy looked at the monitor and built a haphazard assortment of a few vessels but quickly realized that it was no substitute for a sea going warship. As the premier naval force in the world, Britainís first line of defense was not its own coast but the coast of any enemy. The low freeboard and slow monitor could only be used in coastal and comparatively sheltered waters. Quite correctly, the Admiralty saw that this type of vessel could not project force.


Quarter Views & Hull
Aber2247pfdia.JPG (73476 bytes) Aber2248padia.JPG (82182 bytes) Aber2249sadia.JPG (75541 bytes) Aber2250sfdia.JPG (77617 bytes)
Aber2331mid.JPG (53808 bytes) Aber2234bow.JPG (64198 bytes) Aber2236stern.JPG (64797 bytes) Aber2332mid.JPG (68866 bytes)

During the last half of the 19th Century, the monitor type of warship was a poor manís battleship. Any country that wished to challenge the Royal Navy did not build monitors, they built battleships. By the start of the 20th Century, except for the last spasm of monitor construction by the USN with their 1903 Florida, the last of 71 monitors built for the USN, the monitor as a type was totally obsolete. That status changed in 1914.


HMS Abercrombie Vital Statistics

Laid Down - April 26, 1941; Launched - March 31, 1942; Completed - May 5, 1943; Broken Up - 1954

Dimensions: Length - 373 feet 4 inches (113.79m); Beam - 89 feet 9 inches (27.36m); Draught - 14 feet 5 inches (4.39m); Displacement - 9,150 tons (9,717 tons full load)

Armament - Two 15-Inch/42 Mk I/N; Eight Four-Inch (102mm) 2x4; Sixteen 2 pdr pom-poms 4x2 & 1x8; Twenty 20mm Oerlikon 8x2 & 4x1

Armor: Belt - 5in-4in; Barbette - 8in; Turret - 13in - 6in; CT - 3in - 2in; Deck (Machinery) - 4in

Machinery - Two Shaft Parsons Turbines, Two Admiralty 3 Drum Boilers 4,800 shp; Maximum Speed - 12.5 knots; Complement - 460

 

In October 1914 Admiral Jackie Fisher was back as First Sea Lord. Admiral Fisher found a kindred spirit with the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill. One of Fisherís pet projects was a Baltic Invasion of Germany with landings 90 miles (150 km) from Berlin. Additionally, both Fisher and Churchill wanted warships that could support the British Army along the North Sea coast. Both operations required a vessel with shallow draft.


Hull Details
Aber2245tub.JPG (48918 bytes) Aber2330tubs.JPG (58462 bytes) Aber2253focsle.JPG (51436 bytes) Aber2254tub.JPG (51180 bytes)

In November 1914 Charles Schwab, President of the Bethlehem Steel Company of the US was in London to negotiate and sign a contract to build 20 submarines for the Royal Navy. Fisher and Churchill asked Schwab if his company had any other items that may tempt the Royal Navy. As a matter of fact Schwab did have more. Germany was building a battlecruiser for Greece that was to be named the Salamis. However, the armament of four twin 14-Inch/45 turrets had been contracted with Bethlehem Steel. Since the blockade of Germany precluded delivery of the guns to the German shipyard, Schwab did as any good armaments salesman would, sold the arms to the rival, Great Britain. This marked the moment that the 20th century British monitor was conceived.


15-Inch Mk I/N
Aber2292arm.JPG (63683 bytes) Aber2268turplan.JPG (75947 bytes) Aber2326turret.JPG (59240 bytes)
Aber2325turret.JPG (87883 bytes) Aber2327turret.JPG (54571 bytes) Aber2324muz.JPG (82750 bytes)

Designed from the outset to have a shallow draft and operate close inshore with the primary mission of land bombardment, the mission of the monitor of Fisher and Churchill was very much like that conceived 51 years earlier by John Ericsson. Since the armament of a major warship took the longest time to build, the purchase of the four twin 14-Inch turrets, allowed the Admiralty to quickly build the first British monitors. Four monitors initially identified as M.1 through M.4, were laid down between December 1 and December 17, 1914. In February 1915 all four were named to recognize the USA as the source of their armament. M.1 became the Admiral Farragut, with the other three being the General Grant, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. As a neutral the US declined the honor and asked for the names to be changed. Admiral Farragut and Stonewall Jackson were the first of the type to be launched on April 15, 1915, about four months after being laid down. Four weeks later HMS Admiral Farragut was the first to commission. HMS Stonewall Jackson and HMS General Grant were commissioned into His Majestyís Navy within two weeks thereafter. Although launched as the Robert E. Lee, this ship was not commissioned with that name. She reverted to M.3 as three days before commissioning, as the Admiralty ordered a reversion to M.1 through M.4 because of American objections to the American names. On June 19, 1915 with the approval of King George V the four monitors were given names of former British military leaders. M.1, ex-Admiral Farragut, ex-M.1 became HMS Abercrombie. HMS Abercrombie was the first of 40 monitors to be commissioned by the Royal Navy during the First World War. Carrying guns ranging in size from 6-Inch to 18-Inch, they proved their worth as relatively inexpensive vessels for shore bombardment. However, they quickly disappeared from the RN after the war.


Twin 4-Inch, Twin & Single 20mm Oerlikons
Twin 20mm mislabeled as twin 40mm
Aber 2270sec.JPG (60417 bytes) Aber2272secrear.JPG (69616 bytes)
Aber2283bofors.JPG (64505 bytes) Aber2284bofors.JPG (67534 bytes) Aber2277Oerlikons.JPG (66374 bytes)

In September 1939 Winston Churchill went back to the Admiralty as First Lord. He wanted to know what happened to all of the monitors. Of course he had to know that they were all gone except for a handful. Only two could be placed back into service in their intended roles, the Terror and Erebus. After Italy entered the war as allies of Germany, Terror again showed the worth of the type by effectively supporting the 8th Army in North Africa. However, because of near misses on more than one occasion, plating and bulkheads on the ship were damaged and weakened. Terror was lost on February 24, 1941 after detonating two acoustic mines and receiving another three near misses from the Luftwaffe. Clearly, the Royal Navy needed some more monitors.

Laid down on April 30, 1940, HMS Roberts was the first of the two monitors built for the Royal Navy during World War Two. The main armament was two 15-Inch Mk I capable of 30 degrees of elevation. One of the first monitors of World War One was the Roberts, ex-M.4, ex-Stonewall Jackson, ex-M.4, so the name was perpetuated with the WW2 design. After the loss of the Terror, it was decided to replace her with a new monitor built to a modified Roberts design. Fittingly, the name chosen for the last of 42 monitors to be constructed for the Royal Navy, HMS Abercrombie, was the same as the first of the monitors to be launched and commissioned.


Pom-Poms
Aber2273pompoms.JPG (58110 bytes) Aber2274pom8.JPG (61560 bytes) Aber2276quad2.JPG (55064 bytes) Aber2275quad.JPG (79116 bytes)

HMS Abercrombie was designed to correct some of the faults of the previous monitors. She was given upgraded 15-Inch Mk I/N guns, increased deck armor over machinery spaces, more AA guns, an extended shelter (01) deck for more accommodation and better arcs of fire for the 4-Inch (102mm) twin mounts, a taller funnel, more motor boats and other internal improvements. These additions added 567 tons over the Roberts. The 15-Inch turret was from the original WWI order for turrets for the large light cruiser/light battlecruiser Glorious Class, spares for the Furious in case the 18-inch guns ordered for her were unsuccessful.. The ship was contracted to Vickers-Armstrong on April 4, 1941 with a contract for machinery to Parsons Turbines. Launched on March 31, 1942, completion was delayed by turbine problems, generator problems, turret fit problems and lastly labor problems. Finally completed on May 5, 1943 Abercrombie immediately steamed to the Mediterranean in June to support the landings on Sicily.


Decks
Aber2255decks.JPG (76056 bytes) Aber2257aft01.JPG (63401 bytes) Aber2336aft01.JPG (66765 bytes) Aber2333qd.JPG (64519 bytes)

The three RN monitors, Erebus, Roberts and Abercrombie supplied the only heavy gun support for the landings as the battleships were guarding against intervention by the Italian Fleet. Abercrombie was tasked to support the eastern most American landing zone , forty miles west of Cape Passero. In order to achieve tactical surprise for the landings of July 10, 1943, no pre-landing bombardment was scheduled. Her targets included Comiso Airfield, gun batteries and an enemy headquarters, which she knocked out at a range of 30,000 yards. Cruisers and destroyers provided close in support. On the 14th accompanied by the cruisers USS Birmingham and USS Philadelphia, she supported the US 7th Armyís west flank. She engaged 10 targets, including an Italian railway gun with spotting provided from the floatplane from Philadelphia. After this her HE ammunition was expended and she had to return to Malta for replenishment. When she returned on the 18th, the 7th Army had advanced so far inland that she only served as a radar warning ship. On July 23 Abercrombie again left for Malta and then to Bizerta to prepare for the invasion of the Italian mainland. During the operation in Sicily she had fired 200 15-Inch rounds in support of American ground forces.


Decks, Platforms & Superstructure Detail
Aber2258mid01.JPG (76237 bytes) Aber2335mid01.JPG (65013 bytes) Aber2259tubs.JPG (73332 bytes) Aber2334tubs.JPG (59508 bytes)

On August 30 all three monitors were together again and steamed to support Operation Baytown to support the British 8th Armyís crossing of the Straits of Messina. The landings were unopposed so there were no calls for gun fire support, except for 10 rounds from Erebus. Abercrombie and Roberts returned to Bizerta on September 7 to sail with the invasion forces that were to land at Salerno. Roberts supported the British landings to the north and again Abercrombie supported the American landings to the south. Abercrombie was under heavy air attack. At one time she was engaging He 111 bombers on one side and Me 109 fighters on the other. She fired a total of 24 15-Inch rounds at troops, tanks and the town of Capaccio. Minesweepers had been tasked to clear lanes for use into the beachhead area but they were not properly marked. At 17:00 on September 9th Abercrombie drifted into an unswept area and hit a mine amidships. It exploded under the starboard bulge abreast of the tripod foremast. The mine opened a hole measuring 20 feet by 12 feet and she took a list of 10 degrees, however, with prompt counter-flooding, she again achieved trim. There was little damage inboard of the bulge. The most significant damage occurred to the fittings. Radar and the main director were put out of commission. She was no longer capable of indirect fire and it was feared that use of the main armament would further weaken her. Machinery was undamaged so on the 11th she left for Palermo. She then went to Bizerta and then to the Taranto dockyard on October 7 after the Italian armistice.


Tower Bridge, Barbette & Stack
Aber2278sup.JPG (67274 bytes) Aber2279sup.JPG (71470 bytes) Aber2280barb.JPG (55965 bytes) Aber2294stack.JPG (72969 bytes)

At Taranto significant repairs did not start until January 1944. Because of the 10 months spent in the dockyard, Abercrombie missed the landings at Normandy. Finally she finished repairs and arrived at Malta on August 15, 1944. Bad luck continued to follow her as on August 21st on an exercise south-east of Malta, she struck two mines. One hit on the starboard bow, creating a hole 16 feet by 4 feet but the other struck the bottom. Although, the hole was only 10 feet by 4 feet, the explosion bent both shafts and broke the starboard support strut. Trawlers found four more German mines in the area. She reached Valetta for another 11 months in the dockyard, putting her out of the balance of hostilities in Europe. On left Malta on July 17, 1945 with orders to go to the Pacific. She was approaching Aden (Yemen) when the Japanese surrendered. Arriving back in the United Kingdom in November 1945, Abercrombie was immediately laid up in reserve. She did come out for service as a drill ship but in November 1954 was sent to the scrapyard. She sold for 7% of her original cost. Her older half-sister HMS Roberts, having received less wartime damage, managed to survive until 19 July 1965, when she too made the sad trip to the breakers. Although Abercrombie was the last of 42 British monitors to be built, Roberts proved the last to disappear, having outlasted every battleship that ever sailed for the Royal Navy. (History from Big Gun Monitors by Ian Buxton. This title is the best source available on the history of the 42 monitors of the Royal Navy. Published in 1978, it is long out of print but with diligence and patience, you can find it in the used book market.)

Further Reading on the HMS Abercrombie and other RN Monitors
Aber2309BGMcover.JPG (39408 bytes) Aber2310BGM.JPG (145285 bytes)
Aber2314BGM.JPG (77451 bytes) Aber2312BGM.JPG (155353 bytes) Aber2311BGM.JPG (98189 bytes)

Big Gun Monitors - By Ian Buxton

"The Bible" - Without a doubt the best source on the 42 monitors of the Royal Navy of the 20th Century. Superb coverage in photographs, text and drawings in 215 pages. If you find one, snap it up! Published in 1978 by World Ship Society - Trident Books, the title has long been out of print. However, with diligence and patience, it can be found for sale on the used book market such as abebooks.com.

 

Aber2308PM36cover.JPG (60543 bytes) Aber2318PM36aftpro.JPG (80310 bytes) Aber2306PM36aftplan.JPG (153961 bytes) Aber2307PM36midplan.JPG (159570 bytes)

HMS Abercrombie, Profile Morskie Number 36

Typical Profile Morskie coverage. Seven pages of text and photographs with text in Polish. Twentyfive pages of plans in 1:400, 1:200, 1:100 and 1:50 scales with the bulk being in 1:200 scales. The title includes separate plans and profiles in 1:700 scale (3 pages), 1:400 scale (4 pages) and a beautiful color plan and profile (4 pages). This volume was probably used as the basis for the Combrig model. It apparently contains an error that repeated in the kit. The barbette is faceted, which was carried by Roberts, rather than round, which drawings and text in Big Gun Monitors, show as being carried by Abercrombie.

 

Aber2315MRNcover.JPG (62913 bytes) Aber2316MRN.JPG (108499 bytes) Aber2317MRN.JPG (76308 bytes)

Monitors of the Royal Navy by Paul J. Kemp

This volume is a handy soft bound photo book of the 42 RN monitors. The inexpensive 72 page volume was published in 1997 by ISO Publications. It shouldn't be hard to find. The format is one photo per page with explanatory text. Photo captions are the sole textual information provided. The volume is no substitute for the in depth exploration of the topic, found in Big Gun Monitors.

 

Resin Casting
The first thing that is noticed is the hull. This is probably true with most kits but with the Abercrombie, the huge sloping bulges make the hull casting so unusual as to command attention. The bulge on each side is complemented by a very large and significant strake forward. The next thing that is noticed is the very thin splinter shielding of the quad pom-pom mounts and circular 20mm mounts. Now it is not unusual to see well done splinter shielding for gun position but what is unusual in this kit are the entrance/exit points for each position. The shielding does not encircle each position 360 degrees. At the aft end of each position is an entranceway. Add to this the nice capstans, breakwater, ready ammunition boxes and other assorted deck fittings and you will feel compelled to build this model. At least I certainly feel compelled to start construction on the Combrig Abercrombie. After examining the hull and plans and profiles of the vessel, you may wish to consider some small extra additions on building this kit. The bulge featured a series of access ports along its length. I believe Gold Medal Models, White Ensign Models or both produce the proper size access ports to replicate these features. There is also a series of smaller strakes along the bulges. I purchased the smallest Evergreen strips but even these may be too large to replicate the smaller strakes. Lastly, the cast on anchor chain is nice with the correct shape. However, you may wish to consider replacing the cast chain with photo-etch, as it might be a marginal improvement.


Fittings & Carley Rafts
Aber2286dir.JPG (60038 bytes) Aber2287paravanes.JPG (56302 bytes) Aber2289reels.JPG (57545 bytes)
Aber2281carleys.JPG (61366 bytes) Aber2282carley.JPG (68850 bytes) Aber2295posts.JPG (73051 bytes)

As nice as the detail of the hull, the finest single piece of casting is of the twin 15-Inch turret. The British 15-Inch Mk I barrels flared out at the muzzle. Turned brass barrels do not replicate this flare but Combrig has captured it perfectly. Look at the photographs of the barrel muzzle. They come with hollow muzzle ends. There is no need to drilll them out. A friend of mine examined the turret and asked if I had drilled them out. When I said no, this is the way it came, he said that the casting was so good that Combrig should sell these turrets individually as replacements for the turrets of other 1:700 models of RN battleships and battlecruisers that mounted the 15-Inch. I agree completely. It is an outstanding piece of casting. Additionally the look of the blast bags is very well captured. The HMS Abercrombie carries a heavy load of armament. The open back shielded twin 102mm mounts, 8-barreled pom-pom, quad pom-poms, twin 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikons are all there, ready to be attached to the model to give it the AA kick of a cruiser. About the only addition required will be gun shields for the Oerlikons.


Fittings & Ship's Boats
Aber2298masts.JPG (67969 bytes) Aber2296smallcranes.JPG (70217 bytes) Aber2297davits.JPG (71656 bytes) Aber2329boats.JPG (87761 bytes)

For a small ship the Combrig HMS Abercrombie kit comes loaded with parts. The superstructure is very busy with a mass of decks and platforms. Cranes, davits and towers are everywhere. About the only pitfalls that I observed was the placement and shape of the high barbette. There appears to be an error with the barbette. The part supplied is an angular and multi-faceted, which would be correct for Roberts. However, the text and drawings in the Big Gun Monitors indicate that the Abercrombie had the traditional round barbette. To achieve this it will be necessary  to sand off the corners and get a smooth round shape. The plans in Profile Morskie #36 show the faceted barbette, so it appears that Combrig used the plans in that volume as the basis for the model. There are no locator holes or outline on the deck, so carefully study the enclosed plan in the instructions to achieve the correct placement. I recommend using white glue for this part to allow sufficient time to maneuver the part to the correct position. Just look at the space between the barbette and the quad pom-pom shields on either side forward and it should not be a problem. The decks, platforms, starfish, directors, paravanes and carley rafts are all nicely done. Of the smaller parts, I think that it would be beneficial to replace the cast resin radar with photo-etch from White Ensign Models. The kit does not come with photo-etch All in all, it looks like a real treat to build and Iíll find out when I have a chance as it is on my "Must Build" list.

Instructions
The Combrig instructions for the kit follows the standard format used by the Russian Company, adequate but no frills. The front side has a history section and statistics section written in Russian and a very nice plan and profile. The reverse shows a photograph of all of the parts and the standard isometric assembly view. In light of the great number of parts in this kit, the enclosed plan and profile should be consulted frequently to assist in assembly. Better yet, as seen in the references sidebar, HMS Abercrombie, Profile Morskie #36 will provide the perfect accompaniment to aid in assembly.


Box & Instructions
Aber2231box.JPG (150854 bytes) Aber2299Inst1.JPG (98537 bytes) Aber2300Inst1a.JPG (113641 bytes)
Aber2301Inst2.JPG (86161 bytes) Aber2302Inst2a.JPG (86769 bytes) Aber2303Inst2b.JPG (112842 bytes)

Verdict
I love this kit. It is very busy as it is festooned with platforms and gear. It can be done up in a lovely Admiralty disruptive camouflage. It is so unique with the 15-Inch turret sitting atop a soaring faceted barbette, tower bridge and tripod that the model commands attention. With the HMS Abercrombie Combrig is finally venturing beyond the already impressive confines of Russian warship design. This first step is a sure one and is only the first of many non-Russian subjects to come. Batten down the hatches, the Russians Are Coming.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________