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 lesser 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 defeat 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.

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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 of Prussia 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 supported 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 importantly, 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. The last of the Helgolands was SMS Oldenburg, laid down at the Schichau Works on March 1, 1909, launched on June 30, 1910 and completed in May 1912. At the Battle of Jutland Oldenburg was hit by one medium shell and was lightly damaged. Repairs were completed by mid June. At the end of the war, Oldenburg was given to Japan as a war prize but she never sailed for the east. She was sold for scrap to a British firm, which in turn sold her to a Dutch firm. Taken to Dordrecht Holland for breaking, it is ironic that Oldenburg, one of the prides of Kaiser Wilhelm II, ended her days in the same country where the Kaiser ended his, for he had taken refuge in the Netherlands upon his abdication.

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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. All four Helgoland kits are unique in that there are differences among all four. These differences are indeed small, in that they concern the forward searchlight tower, aft searchlight tower and ventilator arrangement on the funnel housing. These differences will be listed in a follow-up full review of one of the sisters of SMS Oldenburg.

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Now you can give perfidious Albion a run for the Reich Mark. It is time for your Place in the Sun with the new Combrig 1:700 scale dreadnoughts of the High Seas Fleet and there is no better starting place than the SMS Oldenburg.

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