SMS Zenta was the lead ship in a three-ship class of small protected cruisers. Originally classified as a torpedo cruiser, the class was ordered to replace sloops built in the late 1860s. She was constructed by the Stabilimento Tecnico Triestino and in April 1899, successfully passed her official trials. Her maximum speed was 20.9 knots at 7,800 shp, which was eight percent above guaranteed power. 

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When World War One began, Zenta was immediately pressed into action. She was the flotilla leader for six torpedo boats blockading the coast of Montenegro. On August 16, 1914 the combined Franco-British Fleet under Admiral A. Berkeley Milne, RN, made a sweep of the Adriatic Sea. The French battleships involved in this sweep caught Zenta


LAID DOWN: August 8, 1896; LAUNCHED: August 18, 1897; COMPLETED: May 28, 1899; SUNK: August 16, 1914

DIMENSIONS: Length- 317 feet 10 inches (96.88m); Beam- 34 feet 6 inches (11.73m); Draught- 13 feet 11 inches (4.24m); DISPLACEMENT: 2,313 tons (normal), 2,503 tons (full load); COMPLEMENT: 308

ARMAMENT: eight 120mm/40cal (4.7 inch) Skoda QF; eight 47mm/44cal Skoda QF; two 47mm/33cal Hotchkiss QF; two 8mm MG; two 45cm torpedo tubes (above water)

ARMOR: Belt- 2x25mm; Casemates- 35mm; Conning Tower- 2x25mm

MACHINERY: 2 shaft, 4 cyl VTE engines; 20.8 knots (on trials)

SISTERSHIPS: Aspern, Szigetvar

"On August 16th a sweep up the Adriatic was undertaken with success, the battleships proceeding along the Italian shores and the cruisers and destroyers along the eastern side, a junction being effected near Cattaro. The only enemy ships seen were the light cruiser Zenta and two destroyers, which attempted flight, but the former was sunk in about fifteen minutes with the greater part of her crew." (Brassey’s Naval Annual 1915, page 56

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The keynote for the WSW Zenta is ease of construction. Cruiser designs at the start of the 20th Century were characterized by minimal superstructure but with a mass of funnels, ventilator cowls and deck fittings. Except for sporting only two funnels, Zenta fits this mold. WSW cast almost all of these features as part of the hull. The hull casting, which is 5 3/8 inch in length, includes all ventilators, funnels and main deck fittings. This design decision reduces the parts count, greatly reduces the time of construction and insures that none of these features are misplaced or misaligned. With only 20 resin parts (eight of which are ships’ boats), the WSW Zenta presents a very simple and straightforward build. I spent more time rigging the model than in building it. The only possible down side is that all ventilator cowls face forward. Since ventilator cowls of this period could be turned to face into or away from the wind, depending upon the purpose of the particular ventilator, cutting the cowls would be required to change their facing. All features are very well defined and uniformly crisp. 

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The casting of the hull was almost perfect. I found a few miniscule pinhole voids along the waterline that were fixed in two minutes. The only other problem was a very slight bow to one of the masts. Again, it was an easy fix. The hull detail is fully up to the high WSW standards. There is plenty of deck houses, skylights, deck hatches, and assorted fittings in addition to the prominent funnels and ventilators to give the deck a busy, cluttered look. Since WSW has gone to including photo-etch with most of their kits, there are no "Aztec" steps. Only the aft deckhouse uses resin steps, rather than PE. I left this resin ribbon ladder in place rather than replace with a PE inclined ladder because it was well executed and more narrow than the typical PE inclined ladder.  

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For years WSW was on the cutting edge of resin casting, consistently incorporating greater and greater detail into their castings. The only thing they lacked was photo-etch. WSW has now started to incorporate the PE into their kits. The three WW2 German torpedo boats released last year appear the first WSW kits to include PE. The Zenta kit includes a complete photo-etch fret. The fret has two styles of boat davits, bridge wing supports, a length of inclined ladder and a full set of two bar railings. The fret, which appears to be stainless steel, was easy to cut, easy to shape and yet resistant to damage. I found the PE parts a pleasure to use. In keeping with the overall theme of the Zenta kit, all PE parts are straightforward in attachment with no difficulties encountered. WSW also included a length of brass rod for use as mast yards and casemate gun barrels. Instead of using the metal rod, I used .02 plastic rod because of the ease of cutting the plastic rod. WSW also included the Austrian flag, a very thoughtful touch.

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Instructions consist of one back printed sheet. On the side with the assembly instructions, all of the small resin parts and the photo-etch are numbered. A plan and profile shows the placement locations of the smaller parts in picture and number. Also included are diagrams showing lengths for the yards and their placement locations on the masts. Everything is well laid out and with the fairly low part count, it will be very hard to go wrong. The reverse includes a larger plan and profile and painting instructions in German and English. My only real criticism is the lack of a rigging diagram. Turn of the Century ships had an abundance of rigging and Zenta was not the exception. The numerous mast and funnel stays add a lot to the character of this model. I followed the rigging plan as shown in the profile drawing of the ship found on page 279 of Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905

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The WSW SMS Zenta is the type of kit that I find delightful. I really like the appearance of late 19th century/early 20th century warships. The kit comes through on all levels, well executed parts, simple trouble free assembly and a very interesting, if rather esoteric subject. I can only hope that WSW will produce RN armored cruisers, HMS Good Hope and HMS Monmouth of the quality of their SMS Zenta