As the world’s primary naval power since the end of the 17th century, Great Britain had always sought a continental ally as a counterbalance to the prominent Continental military power, France , and to a lesser extent Imperial Russia. In the early 18th Century the House of Hanover came to the British throne. German George, as King George I was called, came from the German Duchy of Hanover and it was natural that he looked to the various states of Germany for allies. Germany was a polyglot collection of assorted kingdoms, principalities, duchies and lessor states. Of this collection, two were the most prominent, the Kingdoms of Bavaria and Prussia . Prussia , for a small poor kingdom in the north of Germany had developed a remarkably powerful army for her size through the work of King Frederick the Great. The events of the Seven Years War set up a natural alliance between the kingdoms of Great Britain and Prussia . Since the end of that war Prussia was always the natural continental ally of Great Britain in the north, as Portugal was the natural continental ally in the south.  In the Napoleonic Wars Prussia was an ally of Britain from the start until her army was crushed by Napoleon in 1806. A reduced and embittered Prussia chaffed under a nominal alliance with France after her death and just waited to avenge her 1806 defeats. That came in 1813, as Napoleon’s Grand Armee disappeared in the snows of Russia in late 1812 and early 1813. Prussia again was an ally of Britain and with the rest of the European allies defeated Napoleon in 1813. Napoleon was sent off to Elba but made a comeback in 1814. In a last throw of the dice, he marched north to split the allies by engaging the Prussian army under Blucher and then going after the British Army under Wellington . At the Battle of Waterloo Wellington skillfully fended off the thrusts of Napoleon but he was strictly on the defense, as he did not the combat power to launch an attack against the larger French army. The tide turned when the Prussian army appeared on the battlefield in the afternoon. With the arrival of the Prussians on one flank, Wellington also went on the attack and Napoleon was defeated for the last time.

In addition to the strength of her army, Prussia also had a deficiency that made her the natural continental ally to Britain . She never possessed any significant navy and therefore was no threat to British supremacy in that arena. Navies are far more expensive than armies. The infrastructure needed to build a significant navy is not built overnight and takes skill and above all money. Prussia never was a rich state and spent all of her money on her army in order to fend away Russia , Austria and France . When France and Prussia went to war in 1870, it was natural for Queen Victoria , as well as the British military and populace to root for small Prussia against the might of Emperor Napoleon III. The victory created a new European entity, a unified German Empire with the King of Prussia becoming the Emperor of Germany or Kaiser. At first this did not seem to effect the British-German relationship. This changed with the arrival in power of two men, Kaiser Wilhelm II and Admiral Alfred Tirpitz.

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Wilhelm was the first grandson of Queen Victoria , as his mother was the daughter of Victoria . He was always somewhat insecure in his view of Great Britain and this was reflected in a number of matters. He saw the position of Great Britain as being support by her world wide empire, which in turn was maintained by her navy. Wilhelm wanted his empire to also have its place in the sun. This could only be done through German colonies supported by a large navy. Otto von Bismarck was against this idea, as he realized naval construction could jeopardize the relationship with Britain . However, with Admiral Tirpitz, the Kaiser had the perfect instrument to build a great navy. At first German warship designs were significantly inferior to their British counterparts. For the predreadnought battleships, German designs were smaller, much more lightly armed, of indifferent armor and of lackluster speed. Of the three primary design considerations, armor, armament and speed, German designs were at best mediocre in all three categories. When Jackie Fisher kicked over the status quo of design with the construction of HMS Dreadnought, the German Navy at last established one category in which it possessed a significant advantage over the battleships of the Royal Navy.

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Starting with the first German dreadnoughts of the Nassau class, German battleships were substantially more survivable than their British counterparts. This came from the armor and equally important, the greater beam, which allowed for better subdivision. Unlike British designs, which had to factor in habitability, German designs were meant for the North Sea . Crews could stay in barracks when ships were in port. With less for crew comfort, German designers could concentrate of the fighting characteristics. The Nassau class was armed with 11-inch guns but with the following Helgoland class, gun caliber jumped to 12-inches. The four ships of the Nassau class were all laid down in 1907 were of 18,900 tons normal. Three of the four ships of the Helgoland class were laid down in 1908 but tonnage jumped 25% to 22,800 tons normal, 24,312 tons full load. Beam also increased by four feet over the Nassau design. Turbine machinery could not be supplied in time, so the Helgoland class was the last German battleships with reciprocating machinery. Although the Helgoland ’s packed a strong punch with twelve excellent 12-inch guns, one-third of the armament was wasted as the antiquated beam turret arrangement only allowed an eight-gun broadside. The German Admirals were rather cautious in following new design trends, so they let the British and Americans experiment with super-firing turrets. As a consequence, they were always behind in the gun power race. The answer of course for an improved broadside was the superfiring turret.

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The next class of battleship shows the cautious German approach. The Kaiser class has a superfiring turret at the stern but not the bow. Echelon wing turrets were placed amidships but had limited cross deck fire. This arrangement was clearly a copy of the same arrangement found in the British Colossus and Neptune class laid down in 1909. With the Kaiser class, it was decided to build five ships instead of the usual four. The fifth, extra ship, was Friedrich der Grosse, which was slated to be equipped as fleet flagship. With the Kaisers the displacement climbed to 24,380-tons normal, 26,573-tons, full load, even though the Kaisers carried one less turret than the Helgolands. All five were laid down in 1910. Four of the five were launched in 1911. Kaiserin was laid down in July 1910 at the Howaldt Works. Launched on November 11, 1911, she completed in May 1913. Kaiserin served with the III Battle Squadron during the war. Kaiserin was not damaged at Jutland . On November 17, 1917 she was involved in a small skirmish with British Light forces off of Heligoland Bight. On October 27, 1918 Kaiserin was one the battleships with a crew near mutiny against a final sortie and was removed from the operation order and sent to Kiel with the other such ships near mutiny. There the sailors took to the streets waving red flags of revolution. As part of the terms of the armistice, the Kaiserin steamed to Great Britain for internment. She resided at Scapa Flow into 1919 with a skeleton crew of around 200. On June 21, 1919 fearing that the British were about to seize the ships, the Kaiserin was scuttled by her crew with the Imperial German ensign again raised high. The wreck was raised in 1936 and broken up.

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Achtung! Achtung! The High Seas Fleet has sortied, not from the Jade, but from that port on the Moskva River , Moscow . Combrig has just released twelve of the thirteen dreadnought battleships of the High Seas Fleet armed with 12-inch guns. These include all four Helgolands, four of the five Kaisers and all four Konigs. The four Kaiser kits are Friederich der Grosse, Kaiserin, Konig Albert and Prinzregent Lutipold. Lacking is the Kaiser. The Fridrich der Grosse and Kaiserin kits are different from each other. However, I would have reversed the differences. In 1914 the Friedrich der Grosse was fitted with a heavy tubular foremast and large foretop because she was fleet flagship. The Combrig Friedrich der Grosse depicts the ship with the light pole foremast she had upon completion. The Kaiserin kit on the other hand comes with a heavy pole foremast and enlarged foretop. I have been unable to locate any photographs of Kaiserin with this mast but there are plenty of Friedrich der Grosse with this fitting. Therefore the mast would have been refitted after Jutland . Torpedo nets, booms and shelves were also removed after Jutland . All of the Konigs were refitted with the heavy tube mast.

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With SMS Kaiserin you have a battleship fit for an Empress. The Combrig 1:700 scale model of the ship provides resin and brass parts for a late war fit of the battleship. The Combrig Kaiserin comes with a heavy pole foremast and enlarged foretop, which, if fitted, would have been a post Jutland addition.

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