The Russian Baltic Fleet in 1914 – Organisation, Modelling and Painting Guide – Part 1

2nd Cruiser Brigade

Our Treasurer recently decided to expand his WW1 naval campaign into the Baltic – a theatre that saw a lot of interesting naval actions and a major amphibious assault.

That meant acquiring the Russian Baltic Fleet.  Fortunately Russian naval enthusiasts have unearthed a lot of good material from their naval archives in the last few years and made it available on-line.  After brushing up on the Russian alphabet and with liberal use of Google translate, this information is just a click or two away as long as you use Cyrillic text for your searches!  I’ll give the correct 1914 Cyrillic names of the units, commanders and ships below with their western script equivalents.

1/3000 is the scale of my German Fleet, so off went my order to get started to Navwar – who still have an unrivaled range and reasonably priced models for this period.

First up on the painting table are 6 cruisers from the 1st and 2nd Бригада Крейсеровъ (Cruiser Brigades).

The flagships were the big old armoured cruisers Громобой (Gromoboy, meaning Thunderer), and Россия (Rossiya, meaning Russia)  respectively.  These are oldish Navwar sculpts and needed some work, but also needed quite a bit of conversion work to bring them up to 1914.  Both had been considerably upgunned from the 1904 era Navwar model with prominent new casemates on the top decks  – Gromoboy had also had a complete new set of boilers, but you can’t see them!  Bring on the modelling knife, plasticard sheet and rod, bits of old national trust membership cards and superglue and voila:

Original models of Gromoboy (top) and Rossiya (bottom)
Gromoboy (top) and Rossiya (bottom) after conversion – casemates and guns moved/added, boats re-positioned, funnels and bridges tidied up/added and for Gromoboy stern shape and ship length corrected with a new stern casemate and conning towers also added

Next were two other much newer, smaller armoured cruisers of 1st Brigade, the sisters Адмиралъ Макаровъ (Admiral Makarov, a celebrated admiral lost in the war against Japan) and Баянъ (Bayan, a celebrated 11th century bard).  These needed very little work – not much more than just filing away the 11pdr gun in the bow and moving a couple of boats.

Last in this first batch were two 2nd class cruisers of 2nd Brigade, the sisters Богаты́ръ (Bogatýr, a Russian medieval warrior/knight) and Олегъ (Oleg – the name of several celebrated historical figures).  These veterans of the Japanese war also needed some tidy ups and removal of some of the small guns from Oleg:

Oleg (top) and Bogatýr (bottom) with funnels tidied, turret shape/size corrected, aft superstructure enhanced/corrected, boats added and 4x11pdr guns removed from Oleg

Finally painting and basing.  The Baltic Fleet introduced a two tone paint scheme for all large warships in an order of March 7th 1912, with light grey upperworks and a darker grey hull side.  All of these warships had unpainted wooden decks.  Finally the Baltic Fleet continued to use 1m wide funnel bands throughout the war (painted out in most other navies).  1st Brigade used red and 2nd Brigade blue in 1914.  First ship had a band at top of 2nd funnel, 2nd ship a band half way down 2nd funnel, 3rd ship a band at the top of 2nd and 3rd funnels and fourth ship a band half way down 2nd and 3rd funnels:

1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade
1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade
1st Cruiser Brigade
2nd Cruiser Brigade

These ships underwent a bewildering number of changes in their armament during their lives, but contemporary records, photos and plans confirm their armament in 1914 as:

1st Brigade

Контръ Адмиралъ Коломейцевъ – Rear-Admiral Kolomeytsev

Gromoboy (flag) – 4×8″, 22×6″, 4x75mm(11 pdr), 4x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Admiral Makarov (2nd ship)- 2×8″, 8×6″, 20x75mm(11pdr), 2 TT

Bayan (4th ship) – 2×8″, 8×6″, 22x75mm(11pdr), 2 TT

2nd Brigade (initially titled Бригадой крейсеровъ 1-й резерва, 1st Reserve Cruiser Brigade)

Контръ Адмиралъ Лесковъ – Rear-Admiral Leskov, promoted on 10.8.14, having been appointed to command a couple of days before war broke out

Rossiya (flag) – 4×8″, 22×6″, 15x75mm(11 pdr), TTs all removed

Bogatýr (2nd ship) – 12×6″, 12x75mm(11pdr), 4x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Oleg (3rd ship) – 12×6″, 8x75mm(11pdr), 8x47mm (3pdr), 2 TT

Most 3pdr guns and all 6pdr and 1pdr guns had been removed from the ships as they were found to be ineffective deck clutter in the war against Japan.

The next batch will add the remaining cruisers in these Brigades and begin adding the destroyer and torpedo boat flotillas…….

Action off Horns Reef – 17th August 1915

The British force breaks off at the end of the action

The society is refighting all of the naval actions of WW1 as a long running campaign, initially focussing on British Home Waters in 1914-1915.

Scenario 10 covered a night action off the Danish Coast on 17th August 1915.

Ships used are 1/3000 Navwar, with the Princess Margaret and the Light Vessel scratch built, all from Mark’s collection.  Rules are Mark’s computer moderated rules written in Visual Basic 6.

British forces were heading in to the Heligoland Bight to lay a large minefield aimed at catching German vessels coming in and out of their ports.  The large Minelayer, Princess Margaret, was escorted by seven modern ‘M’ class destroyers of the 10th Flotilla.  The sun had recently set and the British force was using the light from the Danish Horns Reef Light Vessel to get a position fix before heading in to lay the mines.  These were commanded by Mark as umpire.

Co-incidentally five large German destroyers of the 2nd Torpedoboots-Flottille had been on a search mission to the north that day and were heading back to port, also using the light vessel to get a fix before their final run in.  This force was commanded by Jon.

Horns Reef Light Vessel

The British force was silhouetted against the afterglow of the sun and so at 8.13pm the German force was able to sight and close on the British unseen.  At 8.22 the British spotted the shapes of ships in the murk and after some hesitation about their identity, the closest Division of British destroyers opened fire.  A short fight at about 5000 yards ensued with the British getting off a couple of torpedoes.  Apart from a near miss on the British destroyer Miranda, no hits were made and whilst the British torpedoes crossed the German line they both missed.

The British had turned away and with the remaining light having gone, the two sides lost sight of each other.  The players now plotted their next actions on a map.

The British decided to attempt to resume their course for minelaying and at 20.40 the two sides blundered back into contact.  As there was no moon and the Princess Margaret reacted slowly to the new contact, the two sides found themselves very quickly at close range.  The British 1st Division raced forward to shield the Princess Margaret, with both sides opening fire as they closed to just 600 yards and the German commander ordered a flotilla torpedo attack.

The close range clash – torpedo markers show the salvos fired and Minos has a marker showing she cannot turn to starboard due to a heavy port list

In a few minutes of mayhem the British destroyer Minos and then the German B 109 sank as a result of shell hits.  The British were extremely lucky to avoid 16 well-directed German torpedoes which crossed the tracks of 6 ships including the Princess Margaret.

Moorsom and Miranda shield the Princess Margaret

The Mentor and Moorsom were also badly damaged and reduced in speed and the German G 103 stopped by a shell in her engine rooms.  She was able to repair her damaged steam line and get back underway at reduced speed after the action to limp home.

B 98 leads the German Flotilla

The British again broke off and this time headed west for their covering force.  The German boats gobbled up the lagging Mentor and sank her with gunfire, then also stumbled across the crippled Moorsom as they steered south for home, again finishing her with a couple of salvos.

The British destroyers had succeeded in saving the heavily loaded minelayer they were there to screen, but had paid a high price, with 3 of their destroyers sunk, for only 1 German boat lost.

In the real action the Germans used the light advantage to close, then fired 3 torpedoes, before the British saw them.  One of these hit and blew the bow off the destroyer Mentor.  The Germans and British then immediately broke off, leaving the Mentor alone.  Once shored up, she managed an epic journey to limp all the way home.

In all campaign games German losses count double, to reflect the fact that they were less able to absorb losses and to reflect their more cautious use of their ships.

Nevertheless this game was a German tactical victory as the tonnage of British ships lost was more than double that of German ships lost – 2805 tons to 1352 tons, a net score of 101 points for Jon as German commander and a loss of the same for Mark as British/Umpire.  This leaves the league table as follows:

Mark H +87196
Andy K +13060
Mike P +11339
Alan O +350
Mark W +307
Alex M +121
Colin C 0
Brian S 0
Dean L 0
David S 0
Ian F 0
Brandt 0
Andrew (visitor) 0
John Le -428
Jon R -1155
Barry -3995
Trevor P -9538
Craig D -14481
Steve T -30235
Bob C -52540

 

Best Historical Game at Salute 2018

Here is a gallery of pictures from Salute 2018 of our Zeebrugge 1918 game.  Lots of detail added to the Vindictive, including; a new coat of paint and weathering, the 11″ Howitzer, two 7.5″ Howitzers, the foremast together with its fighting top and pompom gun, and crew figures for Vindictive and her guns.  We had lots of players take part on the day leading their squads to attack targets on the mole.  The game won the Robert Bothwell Best Historical Game Memorial Award.  The games creator, Phil, can be seen pointing at his creation below.

Zeebrugge 1918 – Salute and National Museum of the Royal Navy

The finishing touches are going in to the model of HMS Vindictive prior to two big outings for the game at Salute (London Excel on 14th April) and the Zeebrugge Centenary events at the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth (Museum Galleries at The Historic Dockyard on 22nd April).

These are the almost finished 11-inch and two 7.5-inch howitzers that were fitted to provide covering fire for the attack in place of some of the Vindictive’s 6-inch guns.  These guns had been designed as anti-submarine weapons firing a special “depth charge” type shell.  The 11-inch was the first gun completed.

Also below, continuing the Italian food theme is some spaghetti that will be used as part of the final model.  Any guesses what it is for?

Best Participation Game at Cavalier 2018

Our 2018 Showgame of the Zeebrugge Raid won Best Participation Game at the Cavalier Show in Tonbridge today.  Congratulations to the builder – Phil (with a little help from his offspring).  Finishing touches to the HMS Vindictive model will follow in time for Salute in April.  Gallery below:

Our 2018 Showgame – Zeebrugge 1918 – A Sneak Peak

Work continues to complete our game for Cavalier in Tonbridge on Sunday the 25th.  The HMS Vindictive model is a scratchbuilt 1/56 scale replica of the ship on the day, total length 2 metres!  Hats off to her architect – club member Phil.  Can you guess what role tomato puree played in making the model?

We gave the game rules a run through at our last meeting – this will be a participation game, with players leading a squad of the attacking British sailors and marines to destroy objectives on the Mole.

Our 2018 Show Game – Zeebrugge Centenary

The MWS show game for 2018, now in the final stage of preparation will commemorate the centenary of the naval assault on Zeebrugge on 23rd April 1918 – St George’s Day.

You can see it at the Cavalier Show at the Angel Centre in Tonbridge on 25th February.

It will feature a recreation of the assault on the Zeebrugge Mole focussing on a scratchbuilt model of the attacking Cruiser HMS Vindictive at 25mm figure scale.  Look out for more about how this game was put together.

There was so much bravery shown by the men of the ships that assaulted the Mole under a continuous storm of fire that VCs for two members of the naval crew (one officer, one other rank) would be awarded through a special ballot of all the officers and men who took part.  Two VCs were also awarded on the same basis to the Royal Marines.

Every member of the crews was thus deemed eligible to receive the VC.

Vindictive’s commander, Acting Captain Alfred Carpenter, pictured below with one of the ships cats, was the officer the crew chose. He also received special advancement to the rank of Captain.

Able Seaman Albert Edward McKenzie pictured above, a volunteer chosen from the crew of the Battleship, HMS Neptune, was the other rank the crew chose.

Carpenter’s Victoria Cross medal citation perhaps speaks best to his qualities:

… He set a magnificent example to all those under his command by his calm composure when navigating mined waters…. He showed most conspicuous bravery, and did much to encourage similar behaviour on the part of the crew, supervising the landing from the “Vindictive” on to the mole, and walking round the decks directing operations and encouraging the men in the most dangerous and exposed positions. By his encouragement to those under him, his power of command and personal bearing, he undoubtedly contributed greatly to the success of the operation.

McKenzie was a member of the storming party, landing with his Lewis Gun into the storm of fire, advancing down the Mole with his CO (Arthur Leyland Harrison) who with most of his party was killed. He was severely wounded and after his Lewis Gun was wrecked had to fight his way back to the ship in hand to hand combat, with only a pistol, a bayonet and his boxing skills. Whilst recovering from his wounds he died in the Spanish Flu epidemic.

Photos courtesy of the IWM on-line archive