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. 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. 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. The Kaisers were contemporary with the British Orion class and although retention of a main armament of 12-inch guns could have been expected of them, the retention of that gun for the successor class really can’t be justified.

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That class was the Konig class, the last battleships completed by Germany before World War One. As with the Kaisers, the Konigs were also equipped with turbine engines. The Konig class finally went to an all centerline turret arrangement. The amidships turret was still awkwardly placed because of the machinery arrangement. Battleships had to have at least ten guns and with their cautious approach of German designers to keeping a two gun turret, meant keeping the amidships placement. Another four ship class, the Konig and Grosser Kurfurst were laid down in October 1911 with the other pair, Markgraf and Kronprinz, following in November 1911. The first three were launched in 1913 with Kronprinz lagging behind in February 1914. Konig and Grosser Kurfurst were the only two completed by the start of World War One but both were still too green to participate in fleet actions. Markgraf completed in October and Kronprinz in November 1914. Displacement again rose by 1,000-tons to 25,390-tons normal and 28,148-tons full load. The Kaiser class was already broad but the Konig class increased the beam by yet another 7 ˝ feet allowing even better subdivision. Light tertiary armament was reduced with no hull gun positions and the reduced numbers concentrated in the forward superstructure.

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The Konig was laid down at Wilhelmshaven Dockyard in October 1911, launched on March 1, 1913 and completed in August 1914 with the outbreak of World War One. Konig and Grosser Kurfurst completed with a light pole foremast but Markgraf and Kronprinz were completed with the heavier tube mast and enlarged foretop. The first pair were refitted with the heavier mast by 1916. As part of Battle Squadron III, Konig was one of the most active German battleships at the Battle of Jutland. Hit ten times during the battle, repairs were not finished until July 1916. The next year in October 1917 Konig provided heavy support for the amphibious operation to seize the islands surrounding the north side of the Gulf of Riga . Russian predreadnoughts had used Riga as a protected base to sortie in the Baltic, protected by the shore batteries on the northern islands. With the protecting islands falling under amphibious assault, the two Russian predreadnoughts operating at Riga , Slava and Tsarevitch, had to flee north through Moon Sound to reach the safety of Kronshtadt and Saint Petersburg . The Germans were startled to find that the old Slava, whose four sisters were lost at the Battle of Tsushima in 1905, out-ranged them with Russian shells falling around the Konig before they were in range of the Russian battleship. However, finally the Slava was battered by the superior German ships with damaged Slava drawing too much water to clear Moon Sound, she grounded in the channel where she remained a wreck. Konig was another one of the German battleships with a severe insubordination, near mutiny, at the end of October 1918. Konig, along with other suspect battleships were sent to Kiel , so that they would not infect the crews of the other battleships. Upon reaching Kiel 4,000 sailors marched through the streets demanding the release of all of their comrades arrested for insubordination and took over the city on November 4 with Workers and Sailors Councels. Konig went into drydock and on November 5 a sailor was killed aboard her by Konig’s captain when the sailor tried to lower the Imperial German ensign and raise a red banner of revolt. Snipers from surrounding buildings started peppering the decks of the Konig, The captain was wounded and two other officers were killed in the sniper fire. 35,000 armed sailors took over the ports of Wilhelmshaven and Kiel and declared the independence of the Republic of Oldenburg under the presidency of Leading Stoker Bernhardt Kuhnt. Konig was one of the battleships slated to go into internment under the terms of the armistice and was sent to Scapa Flow on December 6, 1918. Her loyal maintenance crew, the bad eggs having been returned to Germany , scuttled the ship on June 21, 1919 in deep water.

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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 Konig kits are Konig, Grosser Kurfurst, Markgraf and Kronprinz. The Combrig Konig and Grosser Kurfurst kits are different from each other. Both are modeled as completed in 1914. Since they were the only two ships completed with a light pole foremast, both kits share that characteristic, as well as the presence of anti-torpedo net shelves and booms. Instead of casting net shelves as part of the hull, Combrig now supplies the shelves as separate brass photo-etch parts. There are two advantages to this approach. The shelves in brass are more prototypically thinner than cast on resin shelves and if you are building a post-Jutland ship, which did not have the net defense system, the modeler doesn’t have to remove cast shelves for a late war version of the ship. The difference between the Konig and Grosser Kurfurst lies in the forward superstructure. Since the Konig was equipped as squadron flagship, the Konig kit has an enlarged forward superstructure over the Grosser Kurfurst kit. 

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Build the best of the pre-World War One German battleships with the 1:700 scale Combrig SMS Konig. In the 1914 fit you get the original light pole mast version, complete with net shelves and booms and also an enlarged forward superstructure because she was built as squadron flagship. 

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