The third unit of the Erzherzog Karl class of the Austro-Hungarian Navy was given the name of Erzherzog Ferdiand Max. He was completed on the 21 December 1907.  Governed by tight naval budgets and limited dock space, the Erzherzog Karl class were well-protected and compact pre-dreadnoughts, although being less powerful than equivalent ships of other navies. With a maximum power of 18,000ihp they were able to achieve 20.5 knots. In peacetime they cruised the Adriatic Sea and partook in Navy maneuvers and gala days, goodwill visits etc. At the outbreak of WW1 the 3 ships formed the III division of the battle-fleet and spent most of the war based at  Pola. In company with other units they took part in the bombardment of Ancona  24/5/1915  expending  24 rounds of  9.5" shells at signal and semaphore stations as well as 74 rounds of 7.5" aimed at an enemy gun-battery and other port fuel installations. In February 1918 he undertook further duties in quelling a mutiny at the port of Cattaro before returning to Pola. They were stationed at Cattaro from 4 April 1918 until the end of the war, thereafter being ceded as war reparation to France, though being  scrapped in Italy in 1920

The 1/700 scale model kit of Erz Ferdinand Max was produced by WSW way back in 1994. A side by side comparison with the far more recent Austro Hungarian offering of KuK St Georg from the same firm shows how resin technology and especially the master-making envelope has been extended. By todayís standards some of the detailing was a bit clunky and simplified.  Sadly this manufacturer eschews   photo-etch technology other than in its most basic form, so much of the detail was cobbled together from a variety of sources. 

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The hull casting matched the 1:100  Peter Kovacs plans well, apart from the plan view case mate profile being rather bulbous, this was sanded back and the joints to hull sharpened. All the porthole depressions were very shallow and to avoid these being clogged with paint I re-drilled them all. All the deck-hatches were featureless on their upper faces, these all had  appropriate relief-etched  hatch lids added from White Ensign Models photo-etch and skylights had windows drilled in. The weakest point on the kit were the funnels, as the thin handrails being represented as broad bands. The resin items were scrapped and replacements made using aluminum tubing carefully compressed into the correct profile oval shape. The handrails were added from fine copper speaker wire. The funnel grates were made from cut up N-scale railway-modeling photo-etch factory windows, which proved a good source for all  kinds of useful photo-etched parts.

The bridge windows were simply raised bumps and  would not do! I cut the upper bridge walls away and spliced in some carefully selected 1/400 ladderstock. Care is needed to obtain the correct height/width ratio.  There is vast variation in proportion and scale of  photo-etch ladders from different manufacturers. Having a large stock of products to make a selection from helps. The eventual item used was from L'Arsenal. As the cast on splinter shields were in reality canvas covered railings, they were cut away as well as on the upper bridge level. They were remade using Gold Medal Models Gold plus railing, coloured and then covered with white glue, painted  on the outside after the glue had dried. The outer bridge support pillars were replaced with brass tube and moved in accordance with the Peter Kovac plans.

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The large resin lower mast was replaced with a copper tube of the correct diameter, in readiness for the stainless steel tapered upper mast to be inserted within later. The lower fighting top and both lookout platforms were  re-made  with the gun-clearing arcs cut into the paper splinter-shield with scissors. On the aft mast the oval platform was made  of brass photo-etch frame scrap. These platforms and fighting tops had their elegant curved supporting brackets added made of bent  scrap 1/350 scale handrail longitudinals.

The  long pole -masts were made of tapered stainless steel rods, which were selected from a veritable stock made for me by my friend Steve Foulkes-thank you. Being stainless steel they have huge springy strength despite the fine taper. Unlike brass items these do not distort under rigging loads, which is vital on tall masts. The   admiralís stern walk had its cast on splinter shield removed. The remaining deck was thinned down and the decorative railing added  from WEM. A new roof was made of CA infused paper. The aft searchlight deck was supported on numerous thin brass legs. These were cut from 1/350 scale handrails. This was tricky balancing act! The 3.7" guns on the boat deck edges had small low splinter shields of various shapes and radii. These were made of CA infused paper. The boat supporting skids as supplied with the kit were cast on a wafer and were virtually impossible to separate without damage. They also did not correspond to the Kovac plans or photo I had of that    area, so they were all re-made using styrene strip and copper wire.

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The circular range-finders had their tops removed with a cutting blade, as the cast items were not a true interpretation of the real thing. These were re-made using a washer, white glue and styrene strip to give an undercut, sighting slit and a sharper finish. Fore and aft of the superstructure the four resin diagonal stairways were cut away and remade using WEM stairs and a platform and splinter shield made of paper. The  37mm Vickers shielded machine guns were scratch-built using small pieces from WEM KGV Yagi ariels for the shield and other tiny bits of brass.

The boat cranes were distinctive in having  'ladder' steps up both sides of the jib. This posed a problem in replicating it consistently and giving a sharp end-result. I ended up using  pieces of the aforementioned 1/350 scale WEM KGV aerials sandwiched between  two pieces of copper wire. The end result was pleasing to the eye and a pretty accurate representation of the items on the original ship. There were numerous  cowl vents that needed replacing, as well as some that were simply missing. An easy method is to use cored lead solder available in various sizes. It bends very easily and the flux core makes a handy centering guide for the micro-drill in a pinchuck to open the mouth in a painless manner.

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After the railings had been finished I applied all the awning stanchions. These were made of 1/350 scale ISW railing longitudinals and glued on outboard of the rails. The in-progress photo before the 'sea' has been painted allows them to be seen. The dark green colour scheme disguises many of these fine features when viewed against  a dark background. The awning supports on the upper bridge decks all had a small curve at the top edge to project the awning further outboard of the deck. These were very fiddly to make, install and rig. The complement of shipís boats was basically correct. They were painted carefully to give them depth and fitted with oars made of brown sprue with the ends flattened with pliers. Where applicable I also cut the oar notches in to the gunwhale with a sharp blade. I substituted one pulling boat and replaced it with a steam launch. This was made from a launch hull hollowed out with a motor tool and issued with a fore deck, boiler, engine and tall funnel. The resin davits supplied were an unsuitable shape and brittle. New items were made using 5 amp fuse wire.

Glazing of bridge windows and portholes with white glue is always a fraught time. Will the glue dry clear or remain white? The ship is crewed with GMM photo-etch figures, which give the model a sense of scale and purpose. Rigging is all stretched sprue. I experimented on this vessel and used light brown sprue for the signal halyards for a lighter look than the usual black for standing rigging. All the yards had foot ropes. These were replicated with the use of sprue, slowly and methodically.

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The ship is painted all over in 'Montecucollin' green, the nearest match as researched by Falk Pletcher in PSM magazine 1997/2 being Humbrol 31. The linoleum decks received WEM Colourcoats  Corticene treatment. The pink boot-top is as per the original. The lurid hue being a result of the saltwater reacting with the boot-top paint. This was changed at the outbreak of  WW1 to dark grey, whilst the remainder of the vessel was then re-painted in a light blue-grey. The Ensign  was an H-P Models item  adapted by re-painting the red  raggedly printed edges with watercolours prior to folding it to death and painting shaded sections into it. The water is artistsí  watercolour paper, infused with CA to make it rigid and impermeable to moisture moulded over cocktail sticks to represent a slight swell.

All in all this was a highly enjoyable model to build. Despite showing its age the kit is fundamentally good and pretty accurate in its basic dimensions. I was fortunate in having the afore-mentioned  Peter Kovacs Plan and detail drawing booklet  plans available here:

Primary printed  sources used were:

AustroHungarian Battleships                                                        Paul J Kemp
Die Schiffe der  KuK Kriegsmarine  1896-1918 Vol 2                 Lothar

Baumgartner /Erwin Sieche KuK Flotte   1900-1918           Wladimir Aichelburg

Useful web resource: