When Imperator Aleksandr II was laid down in November 1885 at the New Admiralty Shipyards in St. Petersburg, the debate between the barbette vs. turret systems of armoring still had not been resolved. In the Black Sea the four ships Chesma Class showed variances in armoring for gun positions among the ships of the class. (Click for review of the Combrig Georgi Pobedonosets.) The Imperator Aleksandr II and sistership Imperator Nikolai I also display that same indecision as to the best scheme for mounting and armoring the main guns. Imperator Aleksandr II was given an armored barbette with a lightly armored gun house covering the guns. This shallow domed gunhouse was again used for the design of the Dvenadtsat Apostolov, which was laid down in 1889 as the last of the Imperial Russian battleships to use this scheme of armoring. (Click for review of the Combrig Dvenadtsat Apostolov) In contrast to Imperator Aleksandr II ,sistership Imperator Nikolai I was given heavily armored turret protection.
Aleksandr II Vital Statistics
- 346 feet (105.6m); Beam - 67
feet (20.4m); Draught - 26 feet (7.8m)
Armament: Two 12-Inch (305mm)/30; Four 9-Inch/35; Eight 6-Inch/35; Sixteen 47mm; Two 37mm; Four Mgs; Six 18-Inch (450mm) Above Water Torpedo Tubes
Armor: Belt - 9-Feet High; 14 to 4-Inches in Width; Battery - 6 to 3-Inches; Barbette - 10-Inches; Deck - 2 1/2- Inches; Conning Tower - 10-Inches
Machinery: Two Vertical Compound 3-Cycle Engines; 8,000 designed IHP; 8,500 actual IHP; Two Screws; Twelve Boilers, replaced by sixteen Belleville boilers in 1905: Maximum Speed - 15.3 knots: Complement - 26 Officers, 622 Enlisted
Imperator Aleksandr II was launched 26 July 1887 and was commissioned in 1890. In many ways Imperator Aleksandr II was the first of the modern battleships that marked the rapid rise in naval strength of Imperial Russia, that made it a dynamic naval power that drew consternation and concern from the leading naval power, Great Britain. However, the catastrophic battleship losses of the Russo-Japanese War, knocked Imperial Russia from 3rd place behind Britain and France to far down the list of the leading naval powers of the world.
Imperator Aleksandr IIwas continuously in service in the Baltic from her commissioning. Ironically this helped her in 1904. She was in no condition to sail to Port Arthur or Vladivostok as part of the 3rd Pacific Squadron, whose flagship was sistership Imperator Nikolai I. If she had sailed with the 3rd Squadron, she would have been undoubtedly lost as well at the Battle of Tsushima. The Admiralty had plans for Imperator Aleksandr II. She was refitted with new boilers and guns in anticipation of her inclusion of a 4th Pacific Squadron. After the losses of the 1st Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur and the 2nd and 3rd Pacific Squadrons at Tsushima, it was realized that Russia no longer had the naval forces to contest the Far East with Japan and Imperator Aleksandr II stayed in the Baltic.
In 1906 Imperator Aleksandr II was made flagship of the Baltic Practice Squadron and became a Gunnery Training Squadron training ship in 1911. She remained a training ship throughout World War One as she was clearly obsolete for active duty against Germany in the Baltic. After the February 1917 liberal democratic revolution, the Aleksandr Kerensky Provisional Government renamed the Imperator Aleksandr II to Zarya Svobody. In 1919 she was at Kronstadt with the rest of the Russian/Soviet Fleet and was damaged in an attack by MTBs of the Royal Navy, during the interventionist period of the Russian Civil War. In 1922 Imperator Aleksandr II was sent to the breakers, along with all of the rest of the obsolete, badly damaged or cost ineffective warships that were of no further service due to age or damage to the financially strapped Soviet Union. (Bulk of history from Warships of the Imperial Russian Navy: Volume I Battleships, by V.M. Tomitch)
It makes for a very different look. This feature is just the first detail that caught my attention. The hull of the Combrig Imperator Aleksandr II is packed with detail from the curious circular deck ventilators, large skylights, large deck houses, armor strakes, and odd features of the hull sides. The recessed stern walk cries out for photo-etched railing. One significant improvement is the lack of "aztec steps". In previous Combrig kits inclined ladders were portrayed as solid triangles, called aztec steps, which is the same feature plastic companies such as Airfix had used in the past. With Imperator Aleksandr II Combrig takes a different tack. Instead of aztec steps, separate fine resin inclined ladders are provided as separate pieces. If you are using photo-etch, there are no aztec steps to remove with a knife and if you are not using photo-etch, the final appearance of the fine resin inclined ladders is much nicer than the solid block aztec step appearance. Bravo to Combrig for eliminating the aztec step on Imperator Aleksandr II!
There seems to be more small resin parts in this kit than in the previous ones, as Combrig has packed a lot of detail into this kit. After the hull the boat deck is the next largest part. It comes cast on resin film and can be easily removed from the film with your hand. After cleaning with a hobby knife, the boat deck exhibits remarkable detail in itself. Resin film needs to be removed from a number of areas of the deck. This creates a lot of interest and detail in the kit. There are eight slots where resin reels sit recessed into the deck for the cable reels for the large boat davits. There are a series of open rectangles in the amidships boat position. However, the bulk of the boat positions are found along the deck edge in a complex flying boat deck design that incorporates 21 supports per side, a very busy and interesting design.
The two funnels are hollow and not just at the opening. The masts with their very large, flat fighting tops display a strong French design influence. Equipped with ratlines, long yardarms, and various booms and platforms, these features add a lot of character to the model. The bridge face is cast as a panel rather than a solid block, so the bridge windows can be opened and glazed with Krystal-Klear. The single twin-gun shallow domed turret also gives the model its different appearance, with the two 12-Inch guns with multiple reinforcing bands. The gun house design changed with time. This kit shows an earlier sleeker version. If any thing it may be too sleek. Photographs seem to indicate that the rectangular opening in the front of the turret was slightly more prominent. With time this opening was further enlarged. By my count there are 170 resin pieces to this 1:700 kit. This quantity alone speaks of the detail that Combrig has put into this kit.