Kniaz Potemkin-Tavricheskii
WSW vs Kombrig
In-box kit review

Panteleymon in 1906

Reviewed by Vladimir Yakubov
Photos in the article are from from K. Guber's "Bronenostsy Rossiyskogo Flota" and "Aircraft Carriers, Battleships and Cruisers" CD


One of the most famous ships in the world, Potemkin lived a short but colorful life.  During barely 13 years of service it had 4 names and carried at least 5 flags.  Named after the great Russian statesman of the 18th century, Kniaz Potemkin-Tavricheskii was laid down in 1898 in Nikolaev Admiralty.  At the time the construction was started it was a thoroughly modern pre-dreadnought battleship.  It displaced 12,900 tons and carried a heavy armament of four 12"/40 caliber guns, sixteen 6"/45 caliber guns and fourteen 75mm/50 caliber guns.  It was armored with a 9" belt and had top speed of 16.5 knots.  Unfortunately at the time, the Black Sea basin was not very industrialized and most of the construction materials had to be shipped from St. Petersburg, which coupled with design changes let to the inevitable delays in construction.  It was launched in 1900 and was transferred from Nikolaev to Sevastopol in 1902 for final fitting out.  While trials began in 1903, the ship only became operational in spring 1905.  By that time the era of the pre-dreadnoughts war coming to the end and it seemed that the ship was destined for a quiet service like its predecessors...

That was not to be...  Barely a month after commissioning, on 14 June 1905, the ship was anchored near Tendra Gulf for gunnery practice, when the crew fed up with rotten meat they were getting, mutinied.  Thus began one of the most famous chapters in Russian maritime history.  The mutiny has been well covered in the literature, so I won't go into details.  It led the ship and entire Black Sea Fleet on a chase through the western part of Black Sea, to Odessa and ended in Constanza, Romania, on 25 June 1905.  There the mutineers disembarked and the ship was interned by the Romanians.  For several days it flew a Romanian flag and thus became the only capital ship of the Romanian navy ever.  The ship was towed back to Sevastopol five days later and in October 1905 was renamed Panteleymon, after one of the saints of the Orthodox church to erase any remainders of the mutiny.  Several quiet years followed until in 1909 during maneuvers the ship rammed and sank submarine Kambala, killing 16 men.  Then in 1911 during a visit to Constanza, Romania Panteleymon ran aground and was stuck for several days.  In 1910-11 the ship underwent a refit during which the large bridge above the conning tower was removed along with weapons platforms on both masts.  12" guns were upgraded to increase the rate of fire.  You can see the photo of Panteleymon after refit here.

Quiet life resumed until October 1914, when German battlecruiser Goeben under Turkish flag bombarded Russian coastal cities and hence caused Russia to declare a war on Turkey.  Russian Black Sea dreadnoughts were still a year away from the completion, so the job of contesting the command of the Black Sea mainly fell on Panteleymon and her half sisters Evstafii and Ioann Zlaoust.  First actions happened very soon after the war started, when on November 5, 1914  Russian fleet returning from patrol ran into Goeben near Cape Sarych (about 80 miles from Sevastopol).  During that engagement Russian flagship Evstafii managed to hit Goeben with a first salvo causing ammunition fire in the secondary battery, and damaging the ship severely enough to cause it to break off.  Evstafii received four 11" hits losing 34 killed and 24 wounded.  Goeven lost 15 people.  Panteleymon was third in the column behind Ioann Zlaoust, and didn't see Goeben due to smoke interferenceYou can read an excellent article on the battle by Steven McLaughlin here.  Numerous combat sorties followed, where Panteleymon covered minelayers and shelled Turkish coast defenses.  Soon thereafter on 27 April 1915 a second meeting with Goeben followed.  Russian squadron consisting of Evstafii, Ioann Zlaoust, Panteleymon and Tri Svyatitelya encountered Goeben near Bosporus.  In the following engagement Goeben was hit two times and retired back to the protection of the coast defenses, while not achieving any hits in return.  Sources differ on who achieved those hits.  One credits Panteleymon with both, while other says that the remaining three ship achieved those hits.  After the battle the ship received a paravane and two 57mm anti-aircraft guns.  Combat sorties continued throughout 1915.  After first Russian Black Sea dreadnought Imperatritsa Maria was commissioned, the pressure on the pre-dreadnoughts lessened and they started to get assigned to secondary duties.  Thus Panteleymon was assigned to provide gunfire support to Russian troops in the Batum-Trapezund area. from January to April 1916.  After Imperatritsa Maria was lost to the magazine explosion in October 1916, Panteleymon was reassigned back to the battleship squadron.  In February 1917 the ship went in for a much needed refit.

It was during the refit the ship met the momentous events that shaped the rest of its and whole Russia's history.  On March 4th 1917, "March" revolution happened and Tsar abdicated.  Soon after the ship was renamed Potemkin-Tavricheskii, and then a month later it was changed again to Borets Za Svobodu (Fighter for freedom) due to he demands of the crew.  Refit lasted until June and soon after the ship was again taking part in combat operations.  Its last combat sortie was on November 2-5 1917, two days before the Bolshevik revolution...  Soon the army and the navy started to fall apart and indignities of once proud ship began...  The ship was placed in reserve in March 1918.  In April 1918 advancing German troops entered Sevastopol, and while more modern ships of the fleet tried to escape capture, old pre-dreadnoughts were abandoned to them.  Thus German flag was raised over the veteran ship.  In November 1918, after the armistice, Germans withdrew and turned over all of the captured ships to the British, who raised their flags on them.  The ship languished in obscurity until April 1919, when in an act of betrayal the retreating British forces blew you the machinery on all of the Russian pre-dreadnoughts.  Now immobile the ship was subsequently abandoned by the whites when they evacuated from Crimea in November 1920.  A red flag of the Soviet Union was raised over the ship.  By that time the condition of the ship was extremely poor and it was decided to scrap it.  Scrapping began in 1923 and was finished in 1924.

It seemed that the ship would be forgotten like its other sisters, but a young movie director named Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein decided to make the movie about an event in the youth of the ship that would make him and the ship famous.  Unfortunately the ship was gone and couldn't play itself, but her still existing counterparts from the fleet, Dvenadtsat' Apostolov and Tri Svyatitelya, were used as substitutes.  The movie "Bronenosets Potemkin" was made in 1925 and the rest is history...

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The Models

For a longest time there was only one model of Potemkin available in any scale.  It was the ancient Heller/Ogonyok 1/400 scale model.  It wasn't horrible if you wanted something that looked vaguely like Potemkin, and may kids in Russia had that model on their shelf.  Unfortunately if you wanted an accurate model of the ship huge amount of work needed to be done.  However recently two 1/700 scale models of the ship were released by Kombrig and WSW.  They will be the subjects of this comparison.  Both kits give Potemkin in her 1905 fit.


The best way to start a comparison of two models of the same subject is to place the hulls side by side to see how they compare.  That is what I've done.  Unfortunately the hulls are somewhat different.  Kombrig hull is longer and shallower, while WSW hull is shorter and taller (significantly taller - about 2mm).  The lines on the bottom of the hull are also finer in the WSW hull and to me it seems to be more consistent with a prototype.  I've measured the size of the hulls and compared them with the actual dimensions of the ship that I got from Steve McLaughlin's book Russian & Soviet Battleships.  Here are the results (a disclaimer - I tried to be as accurate as possible in measurements, but since I was using a ruler and not calipers and error of +/- 0.5mm is possible):
  Actual Size Actual size in 1/700 Kombrig WSW
Waterline Length 113.2m 162mm 166mm 163mm
Waterline Width 22.25m 32mm 32.5mm 32.5mm
Freeboard (bow) *** 8mm/9mm 8mm 10mm
Freeboard (stern) *** 5mm/6mm 5mm 7mm

*** Freeboard was calculated from scaled down plans.  Two different numbers are from two different plans.  Smaller number is from a copy of the original builder's drawing, published in Gangut volume 33, and a bigger number is from the plans published in Steve's book (and before that in Modelist Konstructor around 1985).  I do not know which one is more correct, since the original drawing was only waterline drawing, and no information ad to the bottom part of the hull is given.

 As you can see from above, while not 100% accurate, except for the length of the Kombrig hull and height of the WSW hull, the numbers are not that bad.  Now lets look at the hulls in detail:


Most of the publications usually give only one number for ship's length.  Usually it it given as a overall length.  However it is really hard to use to determine the scale of the ship using it, since it usually includes the underwater ram bow.  A lot of people forget that.  It seems that whoever drew the plans that Kombrig used used the overall length of the ship 115.36m as a waterline length.  Kombrig kit scaled out almost perfectly is you use this figure - 115.36m / 700 = 165 mm.  In other dimensions Kombrig kit is correct.  Deck detail is somewhat sparser than a WSW kit, but more stuff is given as separate parts.  The cross deck planking is not simulated.  Casting quality is very good.  Everything is sharp and sides of the hull are smooth and will not require any cleanup.  The casemates have detailed covers, and the placement of the casemates and the size of the central superstructure coincides very well with the Gangut plans, but not with M-K plans.  In general looking at the plans it is obvious that Kombrig used plans either from or similar to the ones published in Gangut. 

Now the negatives.  The biggest problems on the kit are the bow and the stern.  They are both too long (bow about 2mm and stern 3mm) and are too sharp.  The waterline of the ship is also wrong, with the hull sides being nearly vertical in the bow area, compared to the much finer waterline shape of the WSW kit.

 Overall the hull is fixable since the problems are in the very ends, but it will require some work..


WSW obviously used the plans published in Modelist-Konstruktor in 1985.  Their model fits almost perfectly to those plans.  The casemates and deck shape is exactly the same as those plans show.  The hull offers more details than Kombrig kit, including a very nice touch of the stairs going down into the hull.  The deck planking is simulated as are the metal fittings that held the deck together.  The deck edge also has a beautifully raised border.  The splinter shielding is well simulated.  Boat skids are much better cast than the Kombrig ones.  The light hatches on the deck are also of the correct shape, with the square covers, instead of the round holes shown on the Kombrig kit.

Now on to the negatives.  The hull is to high (about 2mm higher than Kombirg, which has correct height).  The hull sides have a rough texture to them, which will need cleaning, which in turn will probably destroy that nice detail on the sides.  The superstructure sides are also rough and will also need clean up, which is a shame considering very fine detail cast into the sides of it.  However the biggest problem in my example of the kit was that it was warped, not the usual, easy to correct height wise (being banana shaped from the sides), but rather very hard to correct lengthwise (being banana shaped looking at it from the top).  For the kit of that price I consider it unacceptable and it reflects very poorly on the company.

It is open to the question whether or not the hull can be fixed.  Leaving aside the manufacturing problem, this hull is more accurate than Kombrig one, but will probably require just as much time to clean up the sides of the hull as it would to fix the shape problems on the Kombrig kit.

Small details


Putting two main caliber turrets next to each other is quite a shock.  The are very different.  WSW turret is wider, longer and more round.  Comparing to M-K's plans it seems that Kombrig's turret is the accurate one and scales out perfectly ins size and in shape.  It even has the lip of the barbette that protruded from the sides of the turrets.  The guns in the turret are of the correct length (once you cut off the last part of the gun beyond the last joint), but sit slightly too close.  On the WSW turret, it is completely wrong, being too wide, too long, too round.  Guns look anemic and sit too far apart.

On the subject of smaller guns Potemkin was armed with sixteen 6" guns (all in casemates), sixteen 75mm guns (12 in casemates, 4 on the superstructure) and six 47 mm guns.  Of these Kombrig kit provides barrels for all sixteen 6" guns and six 47mm guns, while completely omitting the 75mm guns.  WSW kit doesn't give any 6" or 75mm barrels, but does provide four 75mm guns that were placed in the open positions.  Unfortunately it only provides two 47mm guns.  According to the drawings I have the ship carried 5 or 6 searchlights.  Kombrig kit includes five (on the photo one was lost by me), and WSW has six.


Stacks and Superstructure

Stacks on both kits fit their respective drawings pretty well.  Both of them are about 1mm too tall, but on the Kombrig that comes from the bottom, were they can be shortened without destroying any detail, while on the WSW it comes from the top, where any attempt to shorten them will damage the delicate funnel cap.  On the other hand WSW stacks are beautifully cast to include the ventilators and superstructure tops integral, so there will be no problems with alignment and seams.  Kombrig provides separate ventilators.

 Superstructure on both kits is almost identical to each other, and both probably came from the same source - M-K.  WSW bridges are somewhat more finely cast, and the forward bridge has simulated planking that Kombrig bridge does not.  Both forward bridges match each other and the plans perfectly, while aft bridge on the Kombrig matches the M-K plans better than the one on WSW, which also has a strange border around it - it is too low to be splinter shielding, and too tall to be a coaming.  The WSW aft bridge also comes in two parts and has a strange circular cutout in the middle.  Conning tower is also included separately in the Kombrig kit, while it is case integral with the hull on the WSW one.


The rest of small parts

The masts on both kits are very well done and fit their respective drawings excellently.  WSW masts include a very nicely done platforms that are cast integral with masts, and would be much easier to build than Kombrig ones.  They also have the correct number of platforms, while Kombrig is missing a couple.  Kombrig kit provides resin masts and yardarms, which are nice but useless, while WSW provides brass rod and instructions on how to build your own.

The ship carried 18 to 20 boats and cutters.  Kombrig provides 14 of them, while WSW has all 18 of them.  Both companies provide nice boat davits and and the distinctive US style boat cranes are will cast in both kits.



 WSW provides a cool torpedo boat for free with their kit.  It is #267 that was involved in the mutiny, of the Izmail class (strangely named #107 Narva, which served in the Baltic, through her sistership #267 Izmail is the more relevant subject).  It is a very nice gesture.



 Neither kit provides very good instructions.  Kombrig's instructions are their customary single page sheet with 2 view plan in 1:700 scale and history of the ship and painting instructions (in Russian) on one side and photos of parts and a single small construction drawing.  WSW instructions and better consist of three pages and have 2 view plan (not in 700 scale), painting instructions (in German and English), photos of parts and construction instructions.  A nice touch is that the length and thicknesses of the masts are provided.



Neither kit is without faults, but all of them are correctable (except possibly the banana shape of the WSW hull, but that is probably one off thing).  Both kits would build up into nice representations of the Potemkin as is, and with a little work can be made accurate.  The best model to build would probably be to combine both kits (hull from WSW, turrets, guns from Kombrig (with 75mm ones from WSW), stacks from either kit.  This however would get expensive since WSW kit costs $70-80 while Kombrig kit goes for $35-40.  In the end it will be up to you to decide which kit has more accurate shape based on your estimation of the accuracy of the plans on which they were based.  I personally pick Kombrig kit based on the price, since I do not believe that WSW kit offers improvement enough over Kombrig to warrant two times the price.

Plans used in this review:

From Gangut (fit Kombrig Kit):


From Modelist-Konstructor (fit WSW kit):


Russian & Soviet Battleships by Stephen McLaughlin, Annaplis, Maryland, 2003
Gangut volume 31/2002
Bronenostsy Rossiyskogo Flota, K. Guber, Sankt-Petersburg, 2000
History of Russian/Soviet Battleships, Japan, 1992
Modelist Konstruktor, Nov. 1985