"The Scene: - A heaving unsettled sea, and away over to the western horizon an angry yellow sun is setting clearly below a forbidding bank of the blackest of wind charged clouds. In the centre of the picture lies an immense solitary cruiser with a flag – ‘tis the cruiser recall – at her masthead blowing out broad and clear from the first rude kiss given by the fast rising breeze. Then away, from half the points of the compass, are seen the swift ships of a cruiser squadron all drawing into join their flagship: - Some are close, others far distant and hull down, with nothing but their fitfull smoke against the fast fading lighted sky to mark their whereabouts; but like wild ducks at evening flighting home to some well known spot, so are they, with one desire, hurrying back at the behest of their mother-ship to gather around her for the night." Whispers from the Fleet, 1908, by Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock
If you have ever read the excellent Coronel and the Falklands by Geoffrey Bennett, you might recognize the above passage. Bennett uses it to introduce the first chapter. The scene portrayed in the passage could well represent the last evening of Kit Cradock’s life. The solitary cruiser flying the flag would have been the armored cruiser HMS Good Hope in rising seas at sunset on November 1, 1914 off the coast of Chile. The flag would have been the Rear Admiral’s flag of Kit Cradock. The other ships scurrying to close with Good Hope would have been the scout cruiser HMS Glasgow, the auxiliary cruiser HMS Otranto and one other armored cruiser, HMS Monmouth.
As the French navy fell further behind the Royal Navy in construction of battleships in the last two decades of the 19th Century, some French officers devised ways to overcome their numerical inferiority. Called the "Jeune Ecole" the Young School, these officers thought outside of the box to develop new strategies to overcome the British preponderance in numbers. One path was to develop small, cheap ships that could sink expensive battleships and the torpedo boat came into vogue.
With the development and production of the new British torpedo-boat destroyers as a type, it was thought that the Royal Navy had overcome the threat of masses of French torpedo boats. "Given three years without complications, I trust that in the great requirements – men, ships, and works – the needs of this Navy for its efficient service will have been met, and the office of the panic-mongers will be gone." (First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Frederick Richards, February 2 1897, The Anatomy of British Seapower, 1940, by Arthur Marder, at page 282) However, the French had another axis in their two pronged approach.
This path was centered around the destruction of British commerce or "Guerre de Course". The Confederate Navy had been very successful during the American Civil War in dispatching raiders to attack Union merchant and whaling fleets and the depredations of CSS Alabama, CSS Shenandoah and other raiders caused such destruction and reflagging of vessels to other countries that the American merchant marine never recovered. However, the object of this strategy was not to starve Great Britain of food imported from overseas. The target was financial. The goal was to destroy enough merchantmen that the insurance on the rest of the merchantmen would skyrocket and cause economic chaos in Great Britain. However, for the French to send out raiders against the British merchant marine would require a different type of ship. The Royal Navy had many scout and protected cruisers operating on the British trade routes, normally classified as 2nd rate or 3rd rate cruisers. What was needed was a ship that could overcome a typical British trade protection cruiser. To achieve this result cruiser designs were given an armored belt, which became the distinguishing feature of the armored cruiser type and so began the Cult of the Armored Cruiser.
Russia also chose to produce large armored cruisers and it was the Russian cruisers as well as the large French armored cruiser building program that imposed somewhat of a panic in the Royal Navy. Scout cruisers had no armor and protected cruisers had only an armored deck with no side armor. In theory these French and Russian armored cruisers could shrug off hits from the British cruisers, destroy them and continue to wreak destruction among British merchantmen. The Royal Navy had built a handful of armored cruisers in the past but all previous designs were slow and had other significant defects. As the year 1897 went into the spring, the complacency of their Lordships of the Admiralty was disturbed by a new French building program. France had already started building armored cruisers when she ordered six more armored cruisers with another for 1898, plus three corsair cruisers, unarmored but very fast (23 knot) ships specifically designed to destroy commerce.
"On May 1, 1897 the D.N.I. prepared a memorandum on the new French cruiser policy. Everything, he remarked, pointed to the creation by France of a class of vessels superior to those which formed the bulk of their foreign or trade protecting squadrons in war." (The Anatomy of British Seapower, 1940, by Arthur Marder, at page 284) The alarm bells had sounded in the hallowed halls of the Admiralty. What the Royal Navy needed were armored cruisers with sufficient speed, armor and gun power to overcome the French and Russian designs. "Under construction we have twenty armoured cruisers. In the Fleet at present we can number no modern vessels of this important type, though France and Russia have added many to their navies in the past few years. When it was decided to follow in the footsteps of our two rivals, Lord Goschen did not fail to confide to the House of Commons that the need for these ships was urgent, and that no effort should be spared to add as many of them as was necessary to the Fleet at the earliest possible moment. Early in the summer of 1897 the first four of the Cressy class, of 12,000 tons, were provided for in the Supplementary Estimate." (Naval Annual 1901, The Past Five Years’ Warship-Building by Archibald S. Hurd, at page 261-262)
The first class of new armored cruisers was the Cressy class. Comprised of six ships, the Cresseys could easily be distinguished by the multitude of J-shape funnels blooming from their decks. Armed with two 9.2-inch and twelve 6-inch guns, they seemed to be adequately armed but they were too slow. With a top speed of 21 knots, it would be difficult to run down opposing cruisers of similar speed. The next class addressed that need. The four Drake class were huge ships at the time. Displacing over 14,000 tons and armed with two 9.2-inch and sixteen 6-inch guns, these ships were fast with a top speed of 23-knots but they were expensive and required crews significantly larger than contemporary British battleships because of their large increase in machinery. What was needed was a class of armored cruisers that were smaller, more economical to build and more economical to man to be built in quantity. The solution was the County Class armored cruiser. Compared to the preceding Drake class, the ships of the County class were 1/3 smaller in displacement, shorter, had a thinner armored belt, and reduced the guns carried. The armament was fourteen 6-inch guns with four mounted in twin turrets and five mounted per side in casemates. However, they were not to sacrifice speed as they were also designed for a top speed of 23 knots.
"If in the battleship classes other navies have followed our lead, in the Cressy class we have followed the example of the Russian and other navies by adopting the belt for the protection of the vitals of the ship, instead of depending, as we have done hitherto, on a protective deck." (The Naval Annual 1899, 1899, Recent Warship Construction by T.A. Brassey, Chapter VI, at page 182) In the same volume appeared the text of the First Lord’s Memorandum of March 7, 1899. After describing the armored cruisers of the Cressy and Drake classes, First Lord George J. Goschen mentioned a new class of cruiser. "Two other cruisers were included in the Supplemental Programme. They will be of a new design, and tenders have been invited for their construction. Their principal features are as follows: - Length between perpendiculars, 440 ft. ; breath, extreme, 66 ft.; mean draught, 24 ½ ft.; displacement, 9,800 tons; speed (with natural draught), 23 knots; I.H.P., 22,000. Armament: fourteen 6-in. Q.-F. guns, four in turrets, ten in casemates; ten 12-pdr. Q.-F. guns, three 3-pdr., two torpedo tubes. The 6-in. guns will be of the latest type, and will be protected by armour about 4-in. thick. Vertical side armour of the same thickness will be carried over a considerable portion of the length, with thinner armour on the bows. Strong protective decks will be associated with this side armour." (The Naval Annual 1899, 1899, First Lord’s Memorandum by George J. Goschen First Lord of the Admiralty, at page 424)
The London Times was enthusiastic over the new, smaller cruiser design. They were specifically compared against the protected cruisers of the Diadem class. "These remarkable cruisers are to be 440 ft. in length and 66 ft. in breadth, with their displacement of 9,800 tons, and will be armed with fourteen 6-in. Q.F. guns, ten of which will be in casemate, and two forward and two aft on twin mountings. They will also have six 12-pr. Q.F. guns amidships on the main deck, and two forward and two aft on the upper deck. Thus, on a 1,00-ton less displacement they will be provided with two fewer 6-in. and four fewer 12-pr. Guns than the Diadem class; but they will have many compensating advantages, as not only will they be armoured, but they will have a speed of 23 knots, against 20 ½ knots in the Diadems." (Naval Annual 1900, page 15) However, within a few years, as the first two ships underwent trials, it was discovered that the design calculations were not met.
Although designed for 23knots, the initial ships of the County class did not live up to their design. "The County class includes ten ships of 9800 tons, and six of 10,700 tons displacement. The estimated speed of the former is 23 knots with 22,000 I.H.P. They have so far failed to attain their contract speed, although the designed horse-power has been exceeded. The failure has been attributed to the unsuitability of the propellers. The changes made in the propellers of the Kent has not had the desired effect, , though better results may still be attained. " (Naval Annual 1903, page 5) Tests at full power reported Bedford with a speed of 22.7-knots at full power of 22,457ihp, while Kent was a knot slower with 21.7-knots at full power of 22,249ihp. The new propellers only increased the speed of Kent to 21.89-knots. The 1903 Annual also stated, "The weakness of these ships is in their waterline protection." In the armor section the belt armor of the County class is criticized. "Even the Monmouth, with her 4-in. belt, which can be riddled by the 6.4-in. French gun at nearly 5,000 yards range, has a 1 ¼-in. main deck some 60 ft. broad, the weight of which would have allowed the belt and casemates to be sufficiently thickened to make the vitals and guns safe from the 6.4-in. shot until the ships closed to 1500 yds. And the smallest gun by which the Monmouth is likely to be attacked is the 5.5-in., which will pierce her belt and casemates at over 3000 yds. As in the battleships, were the armour removed from the main belt, there is nothing that could be materially injured by pieces of shell passing downwards through a thin deck, whilst the top of the belt is so high above the water that there would be little trouble owing to admission of water. It will be very poor satisfaction to the stokers, who, whilst tending the fires, will run the greatest risk from splinters of shot which are liable to enter the stokehold, after piercing belt and ‘armoured’ deck (3/4-in.!), to learn that their clothes, which are stowed immediately beneath the main deck, are safe from the effect of bursting shells….It may not be too late to transfer some of the comparatively useless plating of the main deck of the County class to the slopes of the lower deck. The 4-in. belt can scarcely be modified, but would it not be possible to substitute 5-in. for 4-in. casemates in the ships which are not to be completed till next year?" (Naval Annual 1903, page 353)
Kentand Essex were ordered in the supplementary estimates for 1898-1899 with Monmouth and Bedford closely following in the 1899-1900 Program and the last six in the 1900-1901 Program. However, HMS Monmouth was the first to be laid down on August 29, 1899 at the class became officially known as the Monmouth class. Monmouth was launched on November 13, 1901 and commissioned on December 2, 1903. Monmouth was initially assigned to the Mediterranean Fleet. As more modern designs joined the fleet, the ships of the Monmouth class were assigned to foreign stations. In this they were fulfilling the role originally envisioned for them, trade route protection. Because of the lack of any guns heavier than a six-incher, Jackie Fisher commented, "Sir William White designed the ‘County’ class but forgot the guns".
The armored cruiser craze lasted less than a decade for by 1906 a new type of warship appeared that ended construction of the armored cruiser. This was the battlecruiser. Although HMS Invincible was originally typed as an armored cruiser, her 12-inch gun main armament clearly eclipsed the previous cruiser designs and after a few years the term battlecruiser was coined to describe this new type. Armored cruisers only years old had suddenly became as obsolescent in the face of the Invincible as the predreadnought battleships became with the arrival of HMS Dreadnought. Before long many were placed in reserve, especially the older types. With the coming of World War One they were dusted off and sent back to sea with reserve crews and HMS Monmouth was one of these. "She was practically condemned as unfit for further service’, wrote one of Carnarvon’s midshipmen, ‘but was hauled off the dockyard wall [and] commissioned with a scratch crew’ under Captain Brandt and sent to patrol Britain’s trade routes, with no opportunity to train her company to fight their ship against a determined foe." (Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 19) Monmouth was assigned as part of the South Atlantic squadron under Rear Admiral Sir Christopher Cradock, who flew his flag in HMS Good Hope. "As we stepped aboard [HMS Monmouth] I heard a Marine say: ‘Here’s some more poor little chaps being sent to be killed.’ If I had only known that we were the only ones that were to be saved from that ill-fated ship…" (From the Diary of Naval Cadet Mandley, Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 13) Cadet Mandley left Monmouth at the island of St. Vincent, when he was transferred to the HMS Carnarvon.
When Japan joined the allies against Germany, her primary goal was to seize the German possessions in Asia. One prize was the port of Tsing-Tao in China, which was home of the German Asiatic Squadron. Commanded by Admiral Graf von Spee, this force was composed of two excellent armored cruisers, Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, as well as five scout cruisers. Although this was a formidable force with superbly trained crews, it certainly was no match for the entire Imperial Japanese Navy. Von Spee steamed out of port and disappeared into the Pacific. The Royal Navy and Japanese Navy sent out squadrons to locate the Asiatic Squadron and Kit Cradock’s cruisers were assigned the South Atlantic. Cradock wanted the modern armored cruiser HMS Defence assigned to strengthen his squadron but this was refused and Cradock was ordered to reconnoiter the coast of Chile in the Pacific. So off went Kit with Good Hope, Monmouth, the scout cruiser Glasgow and auxiliary cruiser Otranto. He also had the predreadnought battleship Canopus but it was reported to Cradock that she was only capable of twelve knots. This was unfortunate, because this old battleship was capable of sixteen knots. Based on the faulty information about Canopus, Cradock left the battleship behind in his search for von Spee.
On October 31, 1914 Glasgow intercepted a message with the call sign of SMS Leipzig. Thinking that a detached light cruiser had been discovered, Cradock ordered Glasgow to investigate the port of Coronel and to rejoin the squadron the next day. Nothing was discovered in the port but on November 1 Glasgow again intercepted message traffic at 1350, again from Leipzig, again reinforcing the perception that the light cruiser was alone. Cradock formed his squadron in line with the ships separated by 15 miles from each other. Cradock was forming a net to catch the solitary unsuspecting German cruiser. The line spanned sixty miles with Good Hope furthest west and in order Monmouth, Otranto and Glasgow, closest to the coast. At 1640 Glasgow spotted a smudge of smoke and closed.
Unknown to Cradock or the Glasgow, there was more than just Leipzig. With her were the other ships of the German Asiatic Squadron. Von Spee had intentionally only transmitted from Leipzig in order to conceal the presence of his entire squadron. He had heard of the visit of Glasgow to Coronel and he, as Cradock, was hunting a solitary scout cruiser. Neither Admiral was aware that there was an opposing squadron closing with their own. The first ships to sight each other were in fact Glasgow and Leipzig, which spotted Glasgow’s smoke at 1630 and which seemed to confirm each admiral’s estimate of the situation. However, Glasgow quickly discovered that it was not just Leipzig but the whole German Asiatic Squadron. The word quickly flashed out from Glasgow and Cradock immediately ordered his squadron to concentrate.
The two squadrons headed south on converging courses into increasingly heavy seas. Cradock’s squadron was to seaward with the German squadron closer to the coast of Chile. The sun was setting and so for a time the setting sun blinded the German gunners. However, after the sun set, the tables were turned. Now the German ships merged with the dark coast behind and the British ships were silhouetted by the after glow of dusk. The heavy seas hampered both squadrons but the British cruisers had the worst of this as well. Although German gunners had difficulty targeting the British ships, they could at least work their guns. The same was not true for the two British armored cruisers. The lower level of 6-inch gun positions on Good Hope and Monmouth could not be worked because of their low positions on the hulls of the two ships. This removed seven of the possible seventeen 6-inch guns from the British broadside.
As the ships closed, it was not long before the Asiatic Squadron found the range of the British ships with Scharnhorst engaging Good Hope and Gneisenau concentrating on the Monmouth. "The Monmouth was hit on her fore 6-inch turret. The high explosive shell blew off the roof….A terrific explosion of charges must then have blown the whole turret off the forecastle for it disappeared completely. I observed that many shells struck the ship amidships….A huge column of fire, almost as high as the mast and sixty to ninety feet across, suddenly shot up on the starboard side….Between thirty and forty hits were counted in all….At times three or four fires were burning simultaneously." ( Lieutenat Knoop, Spotting Officer of SMS Scharnhorst, Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 32)
"A continuous sheet of flame appeared along the sides [of the Good Hope and Monmouth] on which the heavy sea seemed to have no effect. Both ships, however, continued to fight some guns and were rewarded with a few hits….The smoke from their funnels was reddened by the dull glare of the fires below. Frequently either ship flashed into a vivid orange as a lyddite shell detonated against her upper works. By 1945, by which time it was quite dark, Good Hope and Monmouth were obviously in distress. Monmouth yawed off to starboard burning furiously and heeling slightly." (Officer on Glasgow, Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 33)
At 1950 a huge explosion was seen aboard Good Hope. When last seen from Glasgow, Kit Cradock’s flagship was low in the water and burning furiously. She had little life left but no one on either side saw her sink. Kit Cradock and every man on his flagship simply disappeared from sight by both sides, never to be seen again. The Good Hope must have gone down around 2000. Admiral von Spee knew that he had badly damaged Cradock’s flagship but did not know that he had sunk Good Hope until a couple of days later. Meanwhile, Monmouth, badly damaged by Gneisenau, struggled to clear the area by steaming to the west. Glasgow was still with Monmouth and at 2015 signaled the armored cruiser, "Are you all right? Brandt replied: ‘I want to get stern to sea. I am making water badly forward.’ Luce signaled again: ‘Can you steer north-west? The enemy are following us astern." (Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 34)
"There was no answer [wrote one of Glasgow’s officers]. It was obvious that the Monmouth could neither fight nor fly….[She was] badly down by the bows, listing to the port with the glow of her ignited interior brightening the portholes below her quarterdeck….It was essential that there should be a survivor of the action to turn Canopus which was hurrying at her best speed to join us and, if surprised alone, must have shared the fate of the other ships. Monmouth was therefore reluctantly left to her fate, and when last seen was bravely facing the oncoming enemy. Glasgow increased to full speed and soon left the enemy astern, losing sight of them about 2050." (Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 34) At 2125 crew aboard Glasgow saw the brightness of a searchlight below the horizon to the southeast from the direction in which Glasgow had parted from Monmouth. Then the crew started counting gun flashes. Seventy-five were counted and then the horizon went dark and there was silence.
It was not the Scharnhorst or Gneisenau that had finished Monmouth. About 2000, the approximate time of the sinking of Good Hope, von Spee had lost sight of all British ships. He signaled his light cruisers to hunt for the cripples. "Both British cruisers severely damaged. One light cruiser fairly intact. Chase the enemy and attack with torpedoes." One of those cruisers was SMS Nurnberg. At the start of the battle Nurnberg had been 25 miles away and never got into the main action. At 2035 Nurnberg saw smoke and closed. It was the Glasgow, which rapidly steamed away.
"When the other fellow got away from us we turned to the second and found it to be the Monmouth, heavily damaged. She had a list of about ten degrees to port. As we came nearer she heeled still more, so that she could no longer use her guns on the side turned towards us. We opened fire at short range. It was terrible to have to fire on poor fellows who were no longer able to defend themselves. But their colours were still flying and when we ceased fire for several minutes they did not haul them down. So we ran up for a fresh attack and caused [the Monmouth] to capsize by our gunfire. The ship sank with flying colours, and we were unable to save a single man, firstly, on account of the heavy sea, which made it impossible to lower a boat, but also because fresh columns of smoke were reported which we hoped were the enemy’s and for which we at once steered. Eventually we found they were our own big cruisers, also looking for the enemy." (Lieutenant Otto von Spee of SMS Nurnberg, Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at pages 38-39)
According to the official German historian, when Nurnberg discovered the damaged Monmouth, at first it was uncertain as to her identity. Searchlights were turned on the crippled cruiser. "She was recognized to be the Monmouth with her flag still flying. Her foremost 6-inch turret was missing…her engines were running and her steering gear was apparently undamaged as she maneuvered quickly up to the end. As she did not haul down her flag, the Nurnberg opened fire at about 2120 at between 1,000 and 600 yards and fired a torpedo from the port side as she turned away; the torpedo missed….The Nurnberg then ceased fire as it was not replied to, and switched off her searchlights. The Monmouth still kept her flag flying and turned towards the Nurnberg, either to ram or to bring her starboard guns to bear. Captain von Schonberg therefore opened fire again, turning at high speed and passing under the Monmouth’s stern….The unprotected parts of the Monmouth’s hull and also her deck were torn open by the shells. She heeled over further and further and at 2128 she slowly capsized and went down with her flag still flying. Captain von Schonberg subsequently learned that two officers who had been standing on deck heard the Monmouth’s officers call the men to the guns; the men were apparently engaged to stopping leaks. There was no chance of carrying out rescue work because columns of smoke were reported to be approaching from two directions (which could be the Good Hope and the Glasgow). Moreover the ship’s boats had been filled with water before the action and could not be launched in the heavy sea. At 2145 the Nurnberg reported to the flagship by wireless: ’Have sunk enemy cruiser’, and Graf von Spee replied: ’Bravo Nurnberg…."(Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett, at page 39)
"I fired until the Monmouth had completely capsized, which…proceeded very slowly and majestically, the brave fellows went under with flags flying, an indescribable and unforgettable moment as the masts with the great top flags sank slowly into the water." (Captain von Schonberg of Nurnberg, Castles of Steel, 2003 by Robert K. Massie, at page 235) The Battle of Coronel was over as the HMS Monmouth joined Kit Cradock’s flagship HMS Good Hope at the bottom of the Pacific, along with every officer and rating that had been on both of the armored cruisers at the start of the battle. Although SMS Nurnberg had found and sunk the crippled County class cruiser Monmouth, pay-back was merely delayed a month. On December 8, 1914 the Nurnberg would in turn be hunted and sunk by another County class cruiser. At the Battle of the Falklands SMS Nurnberg would unsuccessfully attempt to escape from sister of HMS Monmouth, the HMS Kent. (History from: (The Anatomy of British Seapower, 1940, by Arthur Marder; Castles of Steel, 2003 by Robert K. Massie: Coronel and the Falklands, 1962 by Geoffrey Bennett; The Naval Annual 1899, 1899, Recent Warship Construction by T.A. Brassey, Chapter VI; The Naval Annual 1899, 1899, First Lord’s Memorandum by George J. Goschen First Lord of the Admiralty; Naval Annual 1900; Naval Annual 1901, The Past Five Years’ Warship-Building by Archibald S. Hurd; Naval Annual 1903; Whispers from the Fleet, 1908, by Rear Admiral Christopher Cradock)
Combrig HMS Monmouth
Halleluiah!! The first Royal Navy armored cruiser is now available in 1:700 scale. Actually, I should say the first three are now available. Combrig has produced three armored cruisers of the County or Monmouth class, HMS Monmouth, HMS Kent and HMS Cumberland. The Monmouth kit appears to portray the cruiser as she appeared in 1914, although 1903 is shown on the box. Monmouth and Cumberland appear to be identical with a spotting top on the foremast and another lower on the mainmast but Kent appears as she appeared early in her career with a control top only on the foremast and open platform on the mainmast. Although this was the shortest and lightest of the Royal Navy armored cruiser designs at the turn of the century, the Monmouth hull is still surprisingly large at 7 5/8-inches in length. Another revelation is in terms of complexity. One would believe that any armored cruiser other than that for the Cressy would be rather simple with one large hull and numbers of funnels. Cressy would seem to be more complex on account of all of the deck ventilators that appeared on that class but disappeared with the following Drake class. However, if you are expecting a simple kit with minimal parts in the Monmouth, you’ll be wrong. The kit has a wide array of resin parts as well as a ship specific brass photo-etch fret.
Small Resin Parts
There are a number of notable features on the hull sides of the Monmouth. First of all is the narrowness of the bow at the waterline. This cruiser class was given very fine lines at the bow and this is reflected in the narrow waterline, which flares out significantly to the forecastle deck. Secondly there are QF positions on each side of the bow and stern. To allow bow on or stern on fire, the hull sides are cut away with the upper sill horizontal to the waterline and the lower sills angled downward. Another strong feature is the presence of double story casemate positions forward and aft. In reality the lower guns were so low to the waterline that they could not be worked in heavy seas. This was the exact problem encountered by the Monmouth at the Battle of Coronel. Both of the double story positions on each side curve outward from the hull sides. In addition to provide end on fire the hull sides were flattened in front of the forward position and behind the aft position. This process created additional interesting architectural features in that there is a sharp angle from the forward position extending upwards to the forecastle. The effect on the stern position is less dramatic but interesting nonetheless. All of the gun ports are portrayed with the armored shutters in closed positions with only the barrel extending beyond the shutters. There is also an amidships 6-inch casemate position on the lower deck. This was also subjected to flooding in heavy seas. There are double rows of portholes at the bow and stern and although the upper row extended a short distance past the double story casemates, there was primarily a single row amidships. Twin anchor hawse on the starboard, a single hawse on the port and of course the prominent ram bow add further strength of character to the design of the hull sides.
Normally with most ships there are minimal distinguishing features on the sides of the hull but a wealth of detail on the decks. With the Combrig Monmouth you not only get a great deal of interesting hull detail on the sides but even a greater level of detail on the decks than is found on most models. The cruiser has a very short forecastle. The forward half contains all of the anchor gear fittings, chain plates and deck anchor hawse. On each side of this short deck are three twin bollard plates. Right behind this is the barbette for the forward 6-inch gun turret. The aft end of the forecastle has a recess for the lower level of the bridge. Between these two positions are a couple of skylights. To jump to the opposite end of ship, the quarterdeck is also rather short. Here there are five more skylights, three more twin bollard plates on each side and the aft turret barbette.
However, it is the long waist or amidships that packs in most of the detail. The fittings or houses here really have superb detail. Each of the three funnels has a sizable deck house cast into the deck. Each of these is unique in shape and design with significant trunking running into the forward part of each stack house. Aft of the three stacks are two very large coamings with a multitude of access hatches and skylights. In addition to these two large positions there are five smaller coamings scattered along the deck. Further there are three QF positions on each side marked by lower bulkheads at the location of the guns.
Smaller Resin Parts
The marvelous deck detail is only further enhanced by individual stack aprons, which fit on top of the stack houses. The resin runner numbers each of these aprons to correspond with the appropriate stack position with #1 the forward stack. The three tall, thin, round funnels have prominent caps and are hollow to a good distance from the top. Four steam pipes are provided but their locations are incorrectly shown in the instructions. The instructions show the forward stack with pipes of fore and aft faces and the two aft stacks with single pipes on their forward faces. According to Fighting Ships 1906-07, the Monmouth had prominent steam pipes on the forward faces of the first two stacks, with two pipes (fore & aft) on the third stack. This arrangement was also used by Cumberland but with higher pipes. Bedford and Donegal had only three steam pipes, all on the aft face of the stacks. Kent, Cornwall and Lancaster had pipes on fore and aft faces on all three stacks. Berwick, Essex and Suffolk had single pipes on the aft face of stacks one and two and two pipes on the third stack.
A rectangle of resin film contains the various decks and the individual parts should be smoothed after removal from the resin sheet. The largest of these is a deck that fits over the aft two-story casemates. This deck is asymmetrical and includes four skylights. Each of the forward casemates also has a top deck that are different from each other. A long resin catwalk is included that connects the forecastle with the aft superstructure. For the forward superstructure/bridge there is a separate lower deckhouse upon which rests an upper deck with conning tower. Has a criss-cross pattern upon which rests photo-etch supports for the bridge itself. The pilothouse on the bridge is well done with square windows on every side but the rear. The bridge has solid bulkheads on the wings and on top of the pilothouse. This would simulate canvas dodgers, since the ship had open railings at these positions. You could remove the solid bulkheads and add photo-etch railing. For even finer detail the canvas could be simulated by using white glue to fill in the openings in the brass rail. The control tops make up the rest of this sheet. Note that each top has a different design. The aft top is rounded at each end but the foretop has a flattened forward end. Also included is an open platform placed above the main top.
The two six-inch gun turrets each have raised commander’s positions with close set openings for each of the two barrels in the turret. Two runners of seven 6-inch gun barrels provide the heavy guns. Minor cleanup will be needed at the muzzle and base of each gun. Combrig also provides excellent open QF guns. Each includes a finely detailed gun and separate pedestal. The large boat complement consists of two steam launches, a large whaler, eleven smaller oared boats and a raft. Since many of these boats rest atop of brass boat skids over the deck they will be prominent on the finished model. However, the steam launches and large whaler rest atop the aft superstructure/boat deck. Six of the smaller boats can be on the skids with davits arranged inboard or swung outboard on the davits, Three large resin runners contain 42 deck fittings. These fittings include seven cable reels, two deck houses, six large circular ventilators, two vertical hull strakes, small round ventilators, binnacles, hawse plates and assorted other parts. Six smaller resin runners contain searchlights, large deck winches, anchors, windlasses and two more vertical hull strakes.
Brass Photo-Etch Fret
As with other Combrig kits, the Monmouth contains a brass photo-etch fret with ship specific parts. No railing is included and although the fret has inclined ladders, they are without hand railings. It would be better to substitute photo-etch inclined ladder with railings. The positions of the inclined ladders are indicated on the plan included in the instructions. These locations are: two from the deck to the aft upper deck, two from the deck to the forecastle and a series running up the aft face of the bridge. The largest brass parts are for the raised boat skids that run over the deck amidships. Each of the control tops has brass starfish supports provided on the fret. The detail for the bridge includes wing supports, the supports between conning tower and bridge, and chart table. Other brass detail includes numerous boat chocks, reels, anchor chain, boom brackets, ship’s wheel, siren platform and other items.
The Monmouth kit comes with the standard Combrig instructions. This is one back-printed sheet. Page one contains a short history in English and specifications for the ship. Of crucial importance is the inclusion of 1:700 scale plan and profile of the ship. These drawings are very important to locate the exact positioning of parts and to show locations of some parts not shown in the assembly diagram, such as the inclined ladders. Another benefit of these drawings is the presence of a rigging diagram. The back has two primary assembly diagrams with seven insets for subassemblies. One large diagram is just devoted to the boat skids, catwalk and boat locations with an inset with boats swung out on davits. The other large drawing shows the primary assembly. Photo-etch parts are identified with the initials PE. Insets include foremast starfish; mainmast starfish; brass reels; turrets; and QF assemblies. For the most part the locations for the parts can be located but in some cases it is difficult to ascertain which part goes where. As mentioned above, consultation with the plan and profile on the front page is absolutely crucial in placement of many parts.
Join the Cult of the Armored Cruiser! There is no need for passwords, secret handshakes or decoder rings. Nor do you need to recite passages from Whispers From the Fleet. With the Combrig 1:700 scale HMS Monmouth you will get an excellent model of one of Kit Cradock’s doomed squadron.