Algernon Frederick Rous de Horsey, who would have a name like that? Well, in May 1877 de Horsey was by Grace of God and probably a few family connections a Commodore in Her Majesty Queen Empress Victoria’s Royal Navy. The Raj was supreme and for almost the entire 19th Century Pax Britannica reigned as the Royal Navy cowed all opposition. He was in command of two ships off the west coast of South America . Peruvian mutineers had seized control of their Peruvian warship and had been stopping British steamers and generally acting in an uncourteous manner. The ship was named Huascar and had been built in England over a decade earlier. Furthermore, the Huascar was an ironclad armed with a Cole’s turret mounting two 10-Inch guns.

Captain Cowper Coles was critical of the operations of the broadside British warships during the Crimean War. He saw a better solution in having a few large guns mounted in a revolving turret than more numerous smaller guns firing through broadsides. Completely independently of John Ericsson in the United States Cole came up with his own turret design. From the start foreign navies were more interested in the Cole’s turret than the conservative Royal Navy. If broadsides had worked for Nelson, why should there by a change? Denmark was the first to acquire a warship with the Cole’s turret when Rolf Krake was launched on December 1, 1862. Intended only for coastal defense the ship had only a freeboard of three feet. Prussia and the Royal Navy soon acquired similar ships. Meanwhile Cole’s started working on a seagoing design.  The first customer for the seagoing version was the Confederate States of America , who ordered two vessels from the Laird Brothers firm at Birkenhead . The Laird firm had been more than happy to supply the Confederate Navy with all types of warships, however, they had to conceal the true recipient. The ironclads were to be named North Carolina and Mississippi but officially Laird put it out that they were being built for the Egyptian Navy. Laird became the favored firm for navies of the world to acquire ironclads with Cole’s revolving turrets. In 1864 Spain was making noise about sending a squadron to South America to recover some of her lost colonies. Some South American countries went shopping for ironclads. In 1864 Paraguay ordered two Cole’s turret ironclads from Laird and Peru one. In 1865 Brazil bought the Paraguayan ships but Peru kept her Laird ship.

Named Huascar after a famous Incan emperor, the ship displaced 2030 tons deep load and was completed in December 1865. She was 200-feet in length, 35-feet beam and with a 15-feet beam. The engine produced 1,200 ihp providing a top speed of 12.27 knots. The armament was two 10-inch muzzle loaders with shell weight of 300 lbs. Smaller guns included two 40 pdr and one 12 pdr. Like almost all Cole’s turret warships, the Huascar had a low freeboard because of  turret weight and to minimize the ship the target area. Huascar was given folding solid bulkheads that were raised to increase freeboard in the open ocean and lowered when in action. To minimize rigging to minimize obstructions for firing the guns, the ship used tubular tripod iron masts. Belt armor was 4.5-inches wrought iron over the machinery spaces and magazine with a 2-inch armored deck and 5.5-inch turret armor. With only a bunker capacity of 300-tons the Huascar had a limited range. The turret was rotated manually with a 16 man crew. It took a full 15 minutes to rotate 360 degrees. Huascar left for Peru on January 17, 1866. She first went to Brest to await a second Peruvian purchase, the Independencia, which was a iron steam frigate. Spain had already engaged in operations against Peru and Chile . As the Peruvian pair crossed the Atlantic , they seized two Spanish merchants. After reaching the Pacific, the conflict with Spain ended before Huascar reached Peru . Built to fight the Spanish, Huascar would wind up fighting the Royal Navy.

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In May 1877 the ironclad was seized by mutineers at the port of Callao in support of an uprising against the national government. The Huascar cruised up and down the coast, seizing provisions, stopping steamers and generally paralyzing trade. When the ironclad stopped some British steamers and seized mail, the government in Lima saw its chance and asked for the assistance of the Royal Navy. Commodore de Horsey had his flagship Shah, a 6,250-tons unprotected iron steam frigate, and the wooden steam corvette Amethyst of 1.970-tons. The British squadron found the Huascar of Ilo Peru on May 29, 1877. After ordering the Huascar to surrender in the name of Queen Victoria , after waiting ten minutes with no response de Horsey opened fire. Shah was armed with 9-inch guns firing a 250-lb shell. The two hour engagement started at 1,900 yards. Shah fired over 300 rounds and some 70 to 80 hit. Only one hit any real impact and that was just a two inch dent in the belt. The superstructure received superficial damage but the combat capabilities were not impaired. Shah was equipped with Whitehead self-propelled torpedoes. At 5:14 PM one was fired at Huascar but the ironclad turned away and outran the torpedo. This was the first combat use of the self propelled torpedo. Huascar proved a difficult target, as she was very nimble, turning 180 degrees in only two minutes. The British were helped by the exceedingly poor performance of the Peruvian gunners, which de Horsey styled as “singular and providential”. Huascar fired her main guns only five times achieving no hits and three near misses. After two hours Huascar turned toward Ilo and the next day surrendered to the Peruvian government.

Bolivia is now a land locked country. In 1879 it was not as Bolivia had a corridor to the Pacific Ocean . This corridor was very valuable from the nitrate production from bat guano. Chile went to war with Bolivia and since Peru had a secret defense treaty with Bolivia , Peru came to Bolivia ’s aid. On April 5, 1879 the Chilean navy blockaded the primary Peruvian nitrate port of Iquique , which would have a substantial economic impact. A Chilean squadron comprising two new ironclads, Blanco Encalada and Cochrane and four corvettes, was sent to Callao to Copenhagen the Peruvian navy. However, the Peruvian squadron under Commodore Miguel Grau had been quick. On May 19 the two forces passed within 30 miles of each other without seeing each other with the Chileans steaming north and the Peruvians south. At Iquique the Chileans had the old wooden steam corvette Esmeralda with eight 40 pdr guns and the gunboat Covadonga. On the morning of 21 May the lookouts on Esmeralda saw smoke in the north. When it was seen that it was Huascar and Independencia, the Chileans turned towards the port. However, Esmeralda had a boiler explosion, which reduced speed. Huascar engaged Esmeraldo but the Independencia was lured into shallow water and wrecked on a reef. After three hours of firing with no consequences, Grau decided to ram Esmeralda. The first attempt to ram just glanced off. The Chilean commander Arturo Pratt and a marine sergeant boarded the Huascar but were killed by Peruvian marines. A second ramming disabled Esmeralda as another thirteen Chileans boarded Huascar only to be gunned down. Esmeralda, now stationary, was finished off with a third ramming.

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Huascar returned to Callao for minor repairs and at this time the forward tripod was removed to allow forward fire. After the repairs Huascar steamed along the Chilean coast terrorizing the coastal towns. The Chileans were in a blue funk until the Navy’s commander was replaced and the Chilean ironclads made ready to confront their country’s tormentor.

On October 8, 1879 the confrontation occurred at Antofagasta , which was the Pacific end of the Bolivian Pacific corridor, which was the original cause of the war. The Chileans had Cochrane and Blanco Encalada to put up against the Huascar. The Chilean ironclads were larger than Huascar and mounted six 9-inch guns each against the two 10-inch guns of Huascar. The Chileans were broadside ships designed by Edward Reed. The Chileans had new AP shells not available to Shah when she fought Huascar two years earlier. Seventy hits were scored on Huascar, which knocked out her steering, smashed the superstructure, penetrated the turret twice and killed Commodore Grau. Huascar was dead in the water with her turret knocked out. Now defenseless, the crew tried to scuttle her but Chilean boarding parties came aboard and stopped the ship from sinking. The Chileans made temporary repairs and reached Valparaiso on October 20. By November Huascar was in operations against her former owners, blockading Peru . In February 1880 Huascar encountered a new Peruvian ironclad, the Manco Capac. Although eight crewmen, including the captain were killed, the Huascar received no serious damage. During the blockade of Callao , Huascar was hit three times from a fort and had one compartment flooded. With total control of the sea, Chile landed troops, who captured Callao and went on to capture Lima . The war was for most respects over, although the formal peace treaty wasn’t signed until 1884. In 1880 the 10-inch guns were replaced by 8-inch breach loading guns and a steam engine was added to power the turret. The Huascar went with the insurgents in an eight month uprising in 1890 but saw no action. In April 1896 a steam pipe burst killing fourteen and the ship was towed to Talcahuano , where she has remained to this day. She has served as a depot ship and then in 1918 as a submarine tender, supporting a six boat Chilean submarine flotilla. The Huascar was restored as a memorial in the 1950s and then had a second restoration in 1972, fully restoring the ironclad. The Huascar is open to the public to this day and is a historically important vessel, not just for Chile and Peru but for all interested in naval architecture. She is the only restored example of a warship mounting a Cole’s turret.

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The Combrig Huascar
Combrig has released a miniature jewel with their 1:700 scale model of the Huascar, with box as she appeared in 1866 upon arriving in Peru with bowsprit, which would also be as she appeared against the Shah and Esmeralda. However, the instructions show the fit after the foremast was landed before being lost to Cochrane and Blanco Encalada. Additionally, there are also optional parts to portray the ship in her present restored condition with a much larger deck house and navigation bridge. With the low freeboard and comparatively short length of the original, the Combrig Huascar is a small model but is packed with resin and brass detail. The hull is cast without the folding bulkheads that raise freeboard. The hull looks a little odd with the short raised forecastle. Aft of the stack and running to the stern are solid space. Separating the raised forecastle and the solid bulkheads is a long run on each side with no bulkheads and very low freeboard. This is where the separate brass folding bulkhead panels are attached with the option to portray them raised or lowered. The deck is dominated by the recess for the Cole’s turret. Almost immediately you’ll notice the deck detail provided by Combrig. These come in many forms. The multiple skylights have different patterns from circular windows to square ones. The raised deck coamings have inclined ladders leading down into the hull. The forward mast has a raised metal base plate. In addition to the large recess for the turret, other locator positions are provided for the octagon conning tower, central masts and smaller tripod legs, and funnel base with funnel recess. Even the circular plates in the two rows of coal scuttles have additional detail.

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A resin sheet contains the bridge and decks. The parts include a large deckhouse and conning tower for present day fit, navigation deck for present day fit, navigation deck for 1866 fit, quarterdeck, and half moon fighting top. The fighting top even has access door detail. The other large parts are the Cole’s turret with three sighting cupolas, original octagon conning tower and funnel. The funnel has good depth with good aprons at the top (cap) and mid-length where the diameter of the funnel decreases. A resin runner has all of the smaller parts such as the gun barrels and carriages of the secondary guns. Also included are parts for various sized cowl ventilators, anchor windlass, binnacle, main gun muzzles, davits and a smaller fighting top. Another resin runner provides one large tube mast, one smaller diameter rod for tripod legs and two runs for topmast and yards. Lastly there are five ship’s boats.

The photo-etch brass fret contains a lot of nice parts such as the ratlines for the main mast, as there were no foremast  ratlines, even as built. The largest amount of brass parts are the twenty-four collapsible deck side bulkheads along with bracing, so the ship can be portrayed with all panels up, all panels down, or any combination of panels up and down. Other parts include anchors, anchor chain, inclined ladders and vertical ladder. The instructions are in typical Combrig format with a 1:700 scale profile and plan on the front and an isometric view of assembly on the back. However, the profile and plan shows the as built appearance with two masts and a bowsprit and the assembly shows the ship only with mainmast, as she appeared after defeating Esmeralda but as she appeared at her loss to Chile . You can find profiles for the Huascar as she appeared in seven different time period in a two part article on the ship by Gerald L. Wood, The Ironclad Turret Ship Huascar, Warship Volume X (Conway Maritime Press, London 1986), which provided the bulk of the historical information for this review.

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Combrig has produced a 1:700 scale model of one of the first ironclads built with a turret designed by Captain Cowpers Coles. The Peruvian ironclad Huascar was for a time the most powerful warship in Latin America . Seized in battle by Chile in 1879, the ship is still in existence as a museum in honor of the navies of both Chile and Peru . Before starting construction, decide which fit that you wish to model.