ICM 1/350 Grosser Kurfurst

KIT #: S002
PRICE: $90.00 SRP
DECALS: One option
REVIEWER: Mark Hiott
NOTES: Tom's Modelworks p/e set and BMK brass barrels used

HISTORY

SMS Grosser Kurfurst, the second of the four-ship Konig Class Battleships, was laid down in October 1911 and launched on 5 May 1913. She was formally commissioned into the Imperial Navy on 30 July 1914, days before the outbreak of war between Germany and the United Kingdom.

Kurfurst displaced 28,600 tons, a lenght of 575ft 6in, a beam of 96ft 9in and could steam at a top speed of 21 knots (39 km/h; 24 mph). She was armed with ten 30.5cm (12.0in) guns arranged in five twin turrets: two superfiring turrets each fore and aft and one turret amidships between the two funnels. Her secondary armament consisted of fourteen 15 cm (5.9 in) guns, six 8.8 cm (3.5 in) guns and five 50 cm (20in) underwater torpedo tubes, one in the bow and two on each beam.

The ship took part in several combat operations early in the war: the raid on Yarmouth on 23 November 1914, the raid on Scarborough, Hartlepool and Whitby on 1516 December. Having missed the Battle of Dogger Bank in February 1915, she spent the rest of the year taking part in several sorties into the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. The Kurfurst went into drydock in Wilhelmshaven for periodic maintenance on 12 February 1916. Work lasted until 3 March; two days later the ship sailed for a sweep into the Hoofden. The fleet conducted another sortie on 23 March to the Amrun Bank, followed by another a month later to Horns Reef on 2122 April.  None of these operation resulted in contact with the British fleet.

Grosser Kurfurst was present during the fleet operation that resulted in the Battle of Jutland which took place on 31 May and 1 June 1916. A narritive of the battle is far to big for this write-up, but in the course of the battle, Kurfurst fired a total of 135 shells from her main battery and 216 rounds from her 15 cm guns. She was hit by eight large-caliber shells, which killed fifteen men and wounded ten.

One of the 15-inch shells destroyed the No. 2 port-side 15 cm gun, and another struck the main belt and burst on impact. Though it did not penetrate the belt, it forced the plating in by as much as 13 in (33 cm) for a length of some 26 ft (7.9 m). Damage control teams managed to temporarily stop the resulting flooding, after approximately 800 t (790 LT; 880 ST) of water had entered the ship. The flooding caused a list of 4, though counter-flooding efforts reduced it to less than a degree. As the battle continued, the flooding worsened, and by the time Grosser Kurfurst reached Helgoland the following morning, an estimated 3,000 t (3,000 LT; 3,300 ST) of water had entered the ship. More hits were sustained, but these shells burst on impact and caused relatively minor damage.

After repairing the damage, unit training with the III Squadron followed from 21 October to 2 November. Two days later, the ship formally rejoined III Squadron. On the 5th, a pair of U-boats grounded on the Danish coast. Light forces were sent to recover the vessels, and III Squadron, which was in the North Sea en route to Wilhelmshaven, was ordered to cover them. The British submarine J1 torpedoed Kurfurst some 30 nmi (56 km; 35 mi) northwest of Horns Reef. The torpedo destroyed the port-side rudder and flooded the rudder rooms, though the ship maintained a speed of 19 kn (35 km/h; 22 mph). She returned to the AG Vulcan dockyard, where she was repaired from 10 November to 9 February.

Kurfurst took part in several further sorties, but none resulted in sea action. She did take part in the bombardment of Russian coastal guns in Tagga Bay off Cape Ninnast. Striking a mine, she sailed to Wilhelmshaven via Kiel, where repairs were completed.

Grosser Kurfurst and her three sisters were to have taken part in a final fleet action at the end of October 1918, days before the Armistice was to take effect. The bulk of the High Seas Fleet was to have sortied from their base in Wilhelmshaven to engage the British Grand Fleet; Grand Admiral Scheer intended to inflict as much damage as possible on the British navy, in order to retain a better bargaining position for Germany, despite the expected casualties. However, many of the war-weary sailors felt the operation would disrupt the peace process and prolong the war. On the morning of 29 October 1918, the order was given to sail from Wilhelmshaven the following day. Starting on the night of 29 October, sailors on Thuringen and then on several other battleships mutinied. On the 31st, Scheer ordered the fleet dispersed; Grosser Kurfurst and the rest of III Squadron was sent to Kiel. On 4 November, the ship's crew joined the general mutiny and hoisted the Red Flag of the Socialists. The unrest ultimately forced Hipper and Scheer to cancel the operation. When informed of the situation, the Kaiser stated, "I no longer have a navy."

Following the capitulation of Germany in November 1918, most of the High Seas Fleet's ships, under the command of Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter were interned in the British naval base in Scapa Flow. The fleet remained in captivity during the negotiations that ultimately produced the Versailles Treaty. Von Reuter believed that the British intended to seize the German ships on 21 June 1919, which was the deadline for Germany to have signed the peace treaty. Unaware that the deadline had been extended to the 23rd, Reuter ordered the ships to be sunk at the next opportunity. On the morning of 21 June, the British fleet left Scapa Flow to conduct training maneuvers, and at 11:20 Reuter transmitted the order to his ships.

Grosser Kurfurst sank at 13:30. Unlike her sisters, she was ultimately raised on 29 April 1938 and sold for scrapping in Rosyth.

THE KIT

Molded in light gray plastic, the level of detail is amazing. The molding is very fine, so fine in fact, that getting some of the smaller parts off the sprue will be difficult. The hull is one piece, with separate fore deck and main decks. The main deck casemate bulkheads are also separate. The amount of parts is impressive, but that parts count also means that building the kit will be a bit of a chore.

The instructions are nicely done and are clear in the placement of most parts. They include a 1/700 side view as well as full size 1/350 top and side view drawings. I did notice a few errors in the instructions and I'll point these out as the build progresses.

The decals are quite simple and consist of air recognition circles and various flags. 

CONSTRUCTION

I chose to skip around the instructions and build the main assemblies first. If all the tiny parts are added to the hull in step 13, most of them are sure to get broken in later steps. I started with the hull and decks. Test fitting the various parts, I discovered that the turret rings are too small for the locations on the decks. The turret rings or the locations will need to be modified to get a good fit. Even then, clamps were needed to hold the turret rings in place while the glue dried. Because of this, attach the turret rings before you attach the deck to the hull.

Attaching the forward casemate bulkheads leaves a nice gap at the front end of each side. Filler will be needed and careful sanding. Even then, one of the seams popped open later in the build. The fit of the main deck to the hull is quite nice and didn't require any filler. However, part B2, the foredeck, is too long. I'm not sure if this is a result of my modifying turret D's mounting, but it needed to be trimmed at the aft end where it meets turret ring D. If you intend to mount the ship to a base, you will also need add the mountings before the foredeck, as you will not be able to afterwards. Also, if you decide to do a waterline model, consider adding some bracing to the inside of the hull.

In step 13 and step23, you need to add louvers to the sides of the superstructure. Some of the parts didn't have numbers on the sprues and the instructions don't give you numbers for the Starboard side. They are Port and Starboard handed and are very difficult to install correctly. In step 19, the foremast, part K6 does not fit through the hole in part J42. Test fit K6 before painting. In step 29, install part G32 before fitting part G36. If G36 is installed in the little notch in G32, the ladder G24, will not fit. Part G36 must be installed a little offset to allow the ladder to clear part G32.

I assembled the fore and aft deckhouses separately from the hull. I think it is easier to finish these parts, and install the rigging, before adding them to the decks. I replaced the kits masts and yardarms with brass rod as the kit parts were too fragile. I added the aft deckhouse first, then installed the boats and the boat cranes. I also rigged the boat cranes before adding the forward deckhouse.

PHOTOETCH: A full set of BMK brass barrels were used. They are quite nice and not overly expensive. All you do is cut off the kit barrels and install the brass ones. The smaller secondary guns are so small that I question the value of using brass for those, but the barrels are available separately.

I used Toms Modelworks Konig/Kurfurst p/e set for this build. This set includes pre-sized  rails for the decks. A diagram shows you where to install each rail. While this is nice in certain situations, I prefer bulk railings that I can cut to length. No extra 2-bar railings are supplied, and I don't know anyone who can do a whole ship and not mess up at least one section of rail. If you do, you will have to scrounge to find replacement rails. Rails C and K are too short. While there is some extra 3-bar rails to fix part C, you will have to hope that the boats hide the problems with K. The only other problem I noticed was that rail E does not have the cutouts for the forward set of kit part G20. There is one of these chocks on each side of the bow. However, the rails could be easily cut to remedy this oversight.

After the hull was assembled and painted, but before the superstructure was added, I installed all the deck rails. To install the rails later risks breaking things. If you opt to do the ship "pre Jutland", you will need to remove the molded on solid rails on parts J1, J12, (or parts J21, J41) and J34, on the fore deckhouse and parts K50, K51 and K52 on the aft deckhouse. If modifying parts J21 and J41, do not remove the sections around the extended bridge wings, as there are not enough railings for these.

COLORS & MARKINGS

The model was painted with Model Masters and Humbrol paints, MM Light Sea Gray for the hull and MM Natural Wood for the main decks. Humbrol #70, Matt Brick Red, was used for the upper decks. Humbrol #32, Matt Dark Gray, was used on the turret tops.  After assembling the hull and decks, I sprayed the hull gray. I then masked off the superstructure and sprayed the decks. The upper decks and turret tops were brush painted. After the rails were installed, touch up was done with a brush.

Rigging was done with .5mm "Stretch Magic" beading line. It can be found in most craft stores and comes in clear or black. It was attached with CA glue and was then tightened with a little heat. Care must be taken not to over tighten the rigging. Now that I look at it, I think the .5mil may be a bit too big and .3mil may be a better choice. Smaller rigging (boats, cranes and such) was done with .005 nylon thread. All rigging was then painted flat black.

FINAL CONSTRUCTION

The last bits added were the anchors, propellers, rudders and the boats on the davits. These were rigged using some left over bits from a 1/350 Titanic set. The instructions say to use wire and the Toms set doesn't include falls for the boats.

CONCLUSIONS

A very nice model can be build OOB, but the p/e detail really sets this model off. The Toms Modelworks set is beautifully etched and installed with little trouble. Some parts of the kit are very fragile and care must be taken if damage is be avoided. There are a few inaccuracies in the kit, most notable is the foremast which is incorrect. I believe White Ensign makes a brass replacement mast, but I have not seen one.

I can't stress enough that, given it's size, it must be built in sections. There is no other way to minimize the chance of damage. Treat it as a bunch of small models brought together in the end to make a bigger one.

A must have for any ship lover.

REFERENCES

Wikipedia

The internet

Lots of books

Mark Hiott

July 2011

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