Massena was the fourth member of a class of conceptual design sisters - with Charles-Martel being the first laid down, followed by Carnot, Jaureguiberry, Massena and finally Bouvet. Despite being of a similar design philosophy these ships differ wildly in appearance, dimensions, shafts, power and speed!
Loa 369 ft 7in ( 112.65m)
Beam 66ft 6in ( 20.27m)
Draft 29ft ( 8.84m)
14,200 ihp = 17 knots
Armament 2 x 12in
12 x 3pdr
2 x 10in
5 x 1pdr
8 x 5.5in
3 x 1pdr revolvers
8 x 3.9in
2 x 18in TT


Massena was laid down at Chantiers de Loire in 1892, commissioning in 1898 after successful trials as the flagship of Vice Admiral Barrera, Commander of the Northern squadron, Atlantic Fleet. She was transferred from Brest to Toulon, arriving on 22 October 1898, during which passage she encountered a severe storm—which was to test her watertight integrity.

From her base in Toulon as part of the Mediterranean squadron Massena carried out her duties as the naval presence at various Regattas. After exercise Maneuvers the squadron visited Sardinia on 9 April and anchored at the port of Cagliari along with an Italian Navy squadron.

1899 saw her partake in a diplomatic cruise to Spain

After a number of prolonged dockyard visits to improve poor ventilation, rudder and steering gear problems as well as addressing the indifferent rates of fire for most of the armament she left Brest with her squadron for Toulon for exercises off the Provence . In January 1901 she was fitted wireless gear and antennas.

1903 saw the Massena return as flagship of the Northern squadron based at Brest.

At the beginning of May 1903 the Northern squadron set sail for Cherbourg, in order to receive King Edward VII accompanied by a royal navy squadron. This was part of the ‘Entente cordiale’ activities.

With Camille Petalan as the new Minister in charge of Naval matter coupled with an economic downturn the activities of the larger Battleships are much reduced, with far less gun firing practice and sea time.

The beginning of 1905 saw Massena weighing anchor again, leaving Brest and heading via Cherbourg for Le Havre where she took part in the Le Havre regatta festivities before returning to Cherbourg. 6 August found the fleet at sea again, dropping anchor at Spithead in the Solent, Great Britain for the great 1905 Fleet Review taken by King Edward VII on board of the Royal Yacht ’Victoria and Albert’. Massena and the other members of the squadron repaying the compliment of the Royal visit of 1903 and thereby further cementing the Entente Cordiale of 1904.

On 19 June the Northern squadron left their bases headed for Algiers via Mers el Kabir, where they joined with the Mediterranean fleet for extensive naval exercises and maneuvers, passing back through the straits of Gibraltar on 10 August thereafter making a diplomatic visit to Tangiers before returning to her home waters of Brest for short sorties and a refit.

Massena spent 1907 alternating between Brest and Toulon partaking in maneuvers in the Atlantic as well as the Mediterranean. In 1908 she was relegated to a gunnery training ship role and thence held in reserve, her presence being required on 27 October 1909 at a large Fleet review as the flag-ship for the carriage of the President Armand Fallieres and other VIPs.

In 1912 Massena was finally consigned to active reserve fleet status, and steaming the usual summer exercises, alternating between Mediterranean and Northern bases.

On 6 January 1913 whilst on passage from Toulon to Bizerte she suffered a boiler room explosion, with 8 crew members killed and further 8 injured. She was able to make port under her own power, however the subsequent investigation and damage report concluded that the repairs, overhauls and updating of Massena would be uneconomic, even if her use was to be restricted to that of a training ship.

Thereafter she was stripped of her armament and useful metals and she became a floating hulk.

During the 1915 Gallipoli campaign the French army decided upon an amphibious landing zone west of Seddul Bahr. This required a temporary harbour - and after a 14-day passage from Toulon to Moudros at then end of a towrope the 7 November saw Massena begin the final task of her career fulfilling the function of the southern breakwater.

She was sold in March 1923 to a Mr. Jost for scrapping.

Building the Model in 1/700

With the recent ability to download historical plans direct from the French naval archives free-of-charge there has been an upsurge in both interest and availability of kits of these wonderful looking ships from a period of design uncertainty.

Massena was released as a short run kit from Festival Dreamworks of Japan. I purchased my kit from Pacific Front Hobbies. Massena is a unique and interesting vessel to model so I was delighted to find a kit of such an exotic subject; alas the kit fell a little short of my high hopes and expectations - surprising considering the availability of indisputable primary source plans. Nevertheless I was not to be discouraged!

Upon checking the basic dimensions, the length overall was spot on, but the beam was to narrow, superimposing the hull casting onto plans showed the outline of the ship to be parallel when it should have been a gentle curve as well as a stern whose gentle curve was pointed. Click images
to enlarge
These flaws were rectified by adding styrene strips to the midships areas and fairing in carefully.
The stern and the shape of the stern superstructure was added to with styrene strip, re-profiled, and the deck/hull curve reshaped and sanded along the entire length of the hull.
The foredeck was bit too long so the fwd bulkhead was extended and faired.

The intersection of the flat ship sides and the curved bow section was incorrectly shaped and was filled, re-cut and sanded. The snout-bow also had its top ridge sharpened, extended slightly and re-profiled

Having changed the shapes, extended and widened decks, cut away all the cast lumps, and being dissatisfied with the barbette positioning and arrangements I decided to re-deck the ship, this being achieved by first paring down the existing deck to maintain the correct aspect ratio, filling the holes and covering with evergreen car siding.

I wanted to portray her at speed making the characteristic wave formation of short blunt ships of that era. I therefore needed to add an extension made of thick styrene sheet so as to be able to have some underwater hull showing in between the bow and stern wave.

The armour belting was added using Cammett vinyl tape.

The various stairwell apertures were cut in and boxed in.

Photoetched stairways were inserted and divisions added of paper.
Examination of the plans showed the 12in and 10in turrets to be not round as supplied but more of teardrop shape. This meant that the rears of the turrets had extensions of sanded styrene added. I also fitted all the lower rings and turret doors made of Vinyl tape before painting. 
Further, the turrets all had slightly round, convex, domed upper surfaces rather than the flat (and dished!) castings supplied; these would have been rather difficult to modify had I not had previous good experience of the self-leveling meniscus properties of white glue….

All gun barrels were brass, I used a combination of 2 x Steve Nuttall, 2 x BKM, 10 x Schatton and some tiny Japanese unidentified… none of these were specifically French, but some were lengthened using brass rod at the inboard ends.

The next challenge I was faced with was making the 12in slant sided barbettes.

I achieved the desired shape by cutting the appropriate diameter disc of thick styrene sheet, sanding the edges with the solid centre of the disc giving strength and then cutting out the centres to allow the turret to sit within the glacis. At this stage I also added lower military masts and made all new deck levels of styrene and brass to include the conning towers and upper bridge wheelhouse, with windows being made of selected PE ladder-stock to give the correct number of window apertures. The masts and decks being still removable at this stage.

I felt it was important to maintain as thin a deck as possible for the upper platforms on the masts, to this end I cut the from brass PE scrap, and wrapped the railing AROUND the outer edge, this platform was later given supporting struts of stretched sprue. Platform walls were made of paper.
Test sitting the turrets onto their respective barbettes showed these to be undersized in diameter…I cured this by wrapping the Cammett vinyl tape around to increase the diameters, then fairing in the juncture to the hull with more white glue.
Around this stage after examining numerous photos of the ship underway at speed I concluded that I had to show the hatches open, the inner sidewalls of the openings were painted white - and much retouching later I was ready to add the hinged lids, in some cases upper and lower - made of paper tacked on with matte varnish before infusing with CA glue for a more permanent bond.
Massena was festooned with ventilators of a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
The kit supplied cowl vents were fundamentally of the correct outline—but needed extensive hollowing and thinning of the walls. The dual uptake cowl vent aft of the bridge was missing altogether-and was scratch-built using copper tube and a cowl vent from the scrap-box.
The distinctively French tapered inverted cone ventilators were all turned from resin tubular stock using a bench clamped Motorized mini drill and a handheld Stanley blade as a cutting tool, I made dozens of differing sizes until I had sufficient stock from which to choose identical pairs.
Other small cowl vents were made using flux-cored solder wire, the core being drilled and a blunt coned faring tool being inserted to create the bell-mouthed ends.
A tall vent aft had a square trunk atop of which sat a tubular cowl….
Another square vent was made of rectangular stock, furnished with a PE grille and topped off with a paper lid domed with white glue.
The ship was now beginning to get dressed with smaller details, some made of PE, others being made of tiny bits of styrene, wood and brass for fairleads, mooring bits etc.
My new-found enthusiasm for turning small pieces from resin stock extended to making the hemispherical sighting hoods for the turrets and tall anchor windlass on the aft deck.
Having up to this point handled the ship via a strong spring clamp grabbing two self-tapping screws in the underside I decided that the model would be more securely handled once mounted on her sea-base.
. First the green underwater, made of green vinyl tape, and the white boot-top, made of white stretched sprue had to be applied.

The base was liberally covered in Auto body filler paste - which sets very quickly and the aperture carved out with a sharp blade.

Various test fittings of the hull followed after which the ship was set in, the intersection of water edge and hull filled with more white glue.

Once the model was completed I painted the sea surface with thinned white glue, thereafter with enamels and added 3 brushed layers of Future, topped off with Humbrol Glosskote.

The overall effect of the ship traveling at speed was in my view captured quite satisfactorily.
The 3.9in turrets were actually positioned on sponsored platforms on the main deck level, these were effected using thin brass shim washers with the tapered cone sponsons being formed using the infilling properties of white glue.
Midships ventilator boxes were made of styrene square strip section fitted with PE grille detail from the scrap box. Overboard discharge pipes were made of pre-bent nickel-silverwire inserted into pre-drilled holes.
The cast resin funnels were hollowed out with a drill and motortool, the slight wasting being pared square with a blade, the draught control flaps undercut was created with some deft blade-work, a suggestion of panels was cut in with a blade and the upper funnel rims made of nickel-silver wire and the various steam-pipes fitted to the fore and aft faces made of wire. Massena in her early years has movable cowls to close off the funnels and adjust the draught, these were controlled by a pulley system via blocks at the fwd face of the funnel, the pulleys were made of WEM aircraft wheels (!) with the cowls being CA infused paper.
The two fighting tops were made of brass PE (Combrig Henri IV). The guns were adapted WEM items. The fighting tops had the struts to support the canvas made of brass PE handrail longitudinal, bent and glued, connected via a stretched sprue frame over the gun apertures to give the thinned white glue that I used to simulate the roof canvas a limit for the film to spread.
The bridge wings were furnished with the gun supports made of scrap funnel grilles, Navigation lamps made of snippets of brass wire as well as dodgers on the railings made of white glue. The wooden capping rail was painted brown.
All the ships boats were replaced with items from WEM, Combrig and WSW, of which the large pulling boat and a cover made of ….white glue!
Because of her unusual hull shape Massena had very long cranked davits of a complex design. These were made of box section girder with pierced sides, capable of being rotated as well as swung outboard, thereby clearing the hull when in use. I made the pierced girder using some small ladder-stock PE, which had every alternate ‘square’, filled with white glue. When set I cut the tops of, thereby creating the taper. After bending to the chosen shape I laid a piece of stretched sprue over the top. After a thick coat of paint the remaining open squares had their extreme corners filled to give the impression of an oval aperture…

Perhaps, in retrospect, I should commissioned these davits as a custom PE fret and ignored the expense...!!

The companionway construction was interesting as there were numerous levels.

The photo illustrates also the modified WEM Askold pierced davits as well as the 3.9in guns with their protective canvas covers made of white glue draped across the shield.

The large admiralty pattern anchors were scratch-built of thick brass strip and PE; the flukes being made of scrap PE fret surround. The anchor handling cranes were also made up of pierced girder and various PE pulley wheels. The hawse pipe apertures were made of circular wire rings lightly squashed to a more oval shape, and afterwards in-filled with white glue.
At last the ship was starting to look like the real thing….
The anchor handling punts were made of a paper-cut pattern, shaped up, infused with CA glue and sanded to shape.
Massena –along with other French ships had a method of indicating the direction of travel consisting of large globes upon poles, mounted midships of the wheelhouse and the extreme ends of the bridge wings. I mad these globes of globules of white glue.
The tri-colour naval ensign was made using some thin vellum paper, with a piece of tape masking the white, the red and blue being made using artists watercolour pencils. Once dry I taped the paper to a window and repeated the process on the reverse side. When completed it was sprayed with hairspray to act as a fixative and was then sandwiched in tissue paper and extensively crumpled using fine tweezers, the tissue paper preventing any colours smearing.
Masts were all metal, with metal platform bases, Range clocks x 4 were spares from WEM Iron Duke set, painted white and given a rub over with a pencil.
The ship was rigged using stretched sprue throughout, black for standing rigging and running wire, tan sprue for halyards etc. Figures were a mixture of GMM and Eduard

The hull was painted with Revell black, superstructure Humbrol 28

Festival Dreamworks are to be congratulated on their esoteric choice of ship; however with the primary source material readily available free on line I feel the basic hull and turrets could have been better. Despite the trials and tribulations and the fact that the model took me a disproportionately long time to complete, I am on the whole very happy with the end result. The model has dimensional errors of my own making I am sure, yet I feel it captures the essence of Massena and the era of experimental battleship building.

I must extend my grateful thanks to:

Jaques Druel of L’Arsenal and Terry Wong-Lane for loaning me their precious copies of the Navires magazines containing the multi part article on Massena—along with my friend Ute B. who translated them word for word from French to German(!) which gave me a greater understanding of the design background and the service life of this ship.

Additionally, without the diligent scanning of numerous rare postcards from his collection at vast dpi by Renaud Aimard, which enabled me to pick out details that would have been lost otherwise the model would have been rather plainer…

And finally all my other e-friends around the world that helped with advice and images!


More of Jim Baumann's work.

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