by Vladimir Yakubov

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s Russian Imperial Navy considered cruisers as the primary weapon in a possible war against Royal Navy and hence built a large number of commerce raiders, both armored and protected.  In both cases the protection was sacrificed in favor of range and armament.  Even large armored cruisers like Rurik and Rossiya had only limited protection from their armored belt and their artillery was almost unprotected.  The Battle of Yalu in 1895 between the Japanese and Chinese navies caused a change in thinking about the protection because the while the Japanese won, their lightly protected cruisers suffered heavy casualties from just several heavy hits by the Chinese.  In 1897 Russian navy started investigating a new concept of a cruiser - the cruiser to support the battle line rather than a cruiser for independent operations.  In this cruiser the range was to be sacrificed in favor of protection.  Various foreign designs were scrutinized and it was decided to order a cruiser that was to be 7000tons in displacement and would carry two 8" and eight to ten 6" guns that would be well protected by armor.  Since Russian shipyards were too busy with new construction it was decided to order a ship abroad.  As France was Russia's closest ally, the choice naturally fell on them.

Three French firms submitted their designs.  Atelier des Chantiers de la Loire sent one design that weighted in at 6741 tons, Compagnie des Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée à la Seine sent two at 7550 and 7800 tons.  Even through it was 800 tons over the requirement the 7800 ton design was chosen because as the naval design committee said "it is so balanced in all matters that one has to forget about the 800 ton overweight".  Throughout the 1898 the design was finalized and the construction started in the end of 1898.  It is interesting to note that the French offered to build two cruisers to this design with the second costing 200,000 francs less and being ready within six months of the first, but Russian navy was not interested.  The final design displaced 7802 tons, had a top speed of 21 knots and was armed with two 8"/45 guns in two turrets and eight 6"/45 guns in casemates and twenty 75mm guns in both open and casemate mounts.  It was protected by 200mm main armor belt and 60mm upper belt with 30mm deck capping the main belt..  The main turrets were 150mm thick and the casemates were 60mm thick.  This made the ship one of the best protected armored cruisers of the day.  The range however was only about 3900 nautical miles, about the same as the Russian battleships of the time and about half of what the previous armored cruisers designed for raiding could achieve.

The work went fast and on 31 May 1900* the ship was launched.  Unfortunately various problems started soon after that and caused a lot of delays.  The armor failed the firing tests twice and had to be completely re-forged, some machinery was delivered late by the British firms, the anchor chains failed the tests and so on.  The ship that was supposed to be ready on the 8th of Jun 1901 was accepted by the Russians on on 3 Jan 1902, but remained in Toulon for trials and workup until Jan 1903 when it joined the Russian Mediterranean Squadron. The ship stayed in the Med until April when it was ordered to the Baltic.  On the way to Kronshtadt, while still in the Mediterranean, the cruiser ran into the force 9 storm that caused some minor damage to the bow that was corrected in Toulon under warranty, but overall the captain Viren praised the sea keeping characteristics of the ship. On 6 June the ship arrived to Kronshtadt.  A month of training followed and on 25 July 1903 together with battleship Oslyabya Bayan let Baltic to for a series of friendly visit to foreign ports on the way to the Far East.  In the North Sea the ships separated to visit UK and France respectively, but due to the increasing tensions with Japan Bayan was ordered to proceed to Port Arthur on its own.  In the Med Bayan met with battleship Tsesarevich and proceeded to transit through the Suez Canal on the way to the Far East. On 19 Nov 1903 the ships arrived to Port Arthur.

In December the ship was painted into the camouflage paint and got ready for war.  During the night attack that opened the war the cruiser was farther out to sea than other ships and was not attacked, but on the very next day when main forces of the Japanese battle fleet showed up Bayan led other cruisers in an attack on them.  As other cruisers were only protected cruisers they pulled back before coming into the contact with the Japanese fleet, but Bayan got as close 3500m and shelled the Japanese ships who answered vigorously.  After coming under fire from the Russian coast defense batteries and battleships, the Japanese turned back and Bayan continued to pursue them using its superior speed to keep up, but was ordered to return to the battle line.  During the battle the ship fired 288 round (through it is unknown whether or not any hits were achieved) and in return was hit by 10 rounds of 6" caliber and higher, but the damage was negligible, the only serious hit being a hit on the casemate 6" gun killed and wounded 6 people.  In total despite being under fire from most of the Japanese fleet the ship only lost 4 killed and 35 wounded and was able to continue patrolling for the next 3 days, thus proving the concept of the heavily armored cruiser correct.

Repairs took only 6 days and on the 5th of February the ship was once again ready for action and on the 12th, while covering the return of the Russian destroyer patrol together with cruiser Novik and Askold, Bayan once again met with the entire Japanese battle line consisting of 12 ships.  Three ships stayed drew the Japanese fire upon them until the destroyers were able to return and under heavy fire returned to port.  There were no direct hits, thanks to the smart maneuvering by captain Viren, but all ships sustained shrapnel damage from close hits.  On 16th and 22nd the cruisers left Port Arthur for routine patrols, but on the 26th of February a Russian destroyer patrol ran into the superior Japanese force, and Bayan steamed to the rescue, but being too far, was not able to prevent the sinking of the destroyer Stereguschiy.  After the arrival of Admiral Makarov to Port Arthur the whole squadron became more active and four times throughout March Bayan escorted the battleships of the sorties out of the harbor.  On 25th of March another destroyer patrol that consisted of two ships returning to base met with the four Japanese destroyers and while one of the Russian ships was able to breakthrough, the other one was hit in the machinery room and lost power.  After receiving that news Bayan, together with several destroyers at left to the place of the battle at full speed.  Firing at the long range Bayan was able to chase off the Japanese destroyers and launched boats to rescue the crew of Strashnyi, which was sinking by that time.  Unfortunately at that moment Japanese reinforcements in the form of two armored and four protected cruisers arrived and started heavily shelling Bayan, which had to stop rescue efforts after picking up 5 survivors and retreat toward Port Arthur.  After the ship arrived back to the fleet and Admiral Makarov learned that only 5 sailors were rescued, he ordered the ready ships to set sail back to the scene of the battle.  Bayan, this time supported by battleships Petropavlovsk and Pobeda as well as cruiser Askold, steamed at full speed and got ahead of the battleships and opened the fire on the Japanese cruisers.  That was when it sighted the main Japanese battle line, and Russian ships turned back under the protection of the coast defenses.  When the ships got close to the harbor entrance a large explosion rocked Petropavlovsk, which hit a mine.  The forward magazine of the ship exploded and it sank within minutes.  Most of the crew including very popular Admiral Makarov went down with the ship.

The loss of the flagship demoralized the Russian squadron and until June 10th they stayed in port.  On June 10th under the direct orders from the emperor to break out of Port Arthur, that was by now besieged by the Japanese, Admiral Vitgeft, who took over command after the death of Admiral Makarov, ordered the fleet to sail for Vladivostock.  However just 20 miles out main Japanese force was sighted and the admiral ordered the ships to turn back.  On the 26th of June together with other ship Bayan shelled enemy potions around Port Arthur, during the sortie, it engaged Japanese cruisers Itsukushima and Matsushima, who were doing the same mission for the Japanese, and achieved several near misses forcing them to withdraw.  On July 13th Russian ships once again  shelled the Japanese and once again met the Japanese force doing the same thing.  An engagement followed, and Bayan hit a Japanese Itsukushima in the stern forcing it to withdraw.  Next day the shelling continued from both sides and another inconclusive engagement followed, with no hits on either side.  On the way back to port Bayan hit a mine getting a large, 4.2m2, hole in the bow.  Despite the damage the bulkheads held and the spread of water was localized in the immediate area of the hit.  The ship was placed in the dry dock with some of the guns being removed from the bow to lighten it.  Because of the damage Bayan missed the Battle of Yellow Sea which ended in defeat of the Russians and completely destroyed what was left of morale and fighting spirit, not to mention scattering the ships all over the Yellow Sea.  During the senior officer meeting following the battle Admiral Ukhtomskii, now a commander of what was left of the squadron, decided to abandon all attempts at break out and throw all forces to the land front.  The ships' guns and companies started being transferred to the front.  On September 19th Japanese started shelling the inner harbor with heavy 11" howitzers.  On 27 Sept Bayan, that was by then repaired, was hit by four 11" AP rounds, which caused moderate damage.  Between Sept 27th and Oct 18th the ship was hit by six 11" and ten smaller rounds, yet it remained combat capable.  On November 3rd it was decided to ready Bayan for break out to Vladivostok  and work on rearming it (a lot of its guns were removed and placed on the land front) started.  Unfortunately on 22nd of November Japanese forces took the heights overlooking the harbor and started shelling the ships there.  During the first three days all of the battleships were sunk and on the 25th it was Bayan's turn.  320 11" and 6" rounds were fired at it and 10 of them hit the ship causing numerous fires, which caused the magazines to be flooded.  The ship's bow settled to the bottom of the harbor.  Next day ten more 11" rounds hit the ship and it's fate was sealed.

After the fall of Port Arthur the Japanese raised the ship and between 1906 and 1908 it underwent refit in Maizuru in Japan.  During that time it was rearmed with Vickers guns (two 8", eight 6" and sixteen 76mm guns) and reboilered and under the name Aso was put into Japanese service as an armored cruiser.  In 1913 Aso was refitted, it's turrets were replaced with 6" guns behind the gunshields, while in 1920 it was converted to a minelayer with the ability to carry 420 mines.  It was removed from the naval service in 1930 and on 8 Aug 1932 it was sunk as a target by the heavy cruiser Myoko.

On the Russian side, the Russian navy was so impressed with the performance of the ship that immediately after the loss of the ship they ordered 3 more cruisers to the same design - one to be built in France and the other two in Russia.  They were named after the people and ships made famous by the war - Admiral Makarov, Bayan(II) and Pallada.  Unfortunately as with many things in Russia at the time, a decision that might have made sense 5 years ago became a waste of money as in the time of accelerated naval progress the ship were being built to a 7 year old design and by the time they were commissioned in 1908-10 they were thoroughly obsolete.  Nevertheless they gave fine service in WWI with Pallada being lost with all hands after being torpedoed by the German U-boat in 1914 and Bayan and Admiral Makarov being active in the war until the end, participating in all of the major operations of the Baltic Fleet.

*All dates are given old Russian style, 13 days off from the modern calendar.
** Most of the photos to illustrate the article are linked from

The Kit

The kit is done in the usual Combrig fashion, a waterlined hull with no pour plug and a bunch of small parts on the small pour plugs all cast from a high quality light grey resin.  The casting is excellent with no air bubbles and all of the parts, even the smallest ones, are fully cast.  Dimensions of the hull are pretty close to scale, the model was built 2 years ago so I don't have the exact measurements but I remember that they were pretty close when I measured it.  On the negative side since all of the small parts were in the same plastic bag, some of the smaller parts, like gunbarrels, were broken, as can be seen from the photos.  However since I usually end up replacing them, I was not concerned.  Overall the kit gives a very positive impression. 

click images
to enlarge

The Hull

As usual in my builds, the first thing I did was remove the "aztek" molded on ladders and attach the smokestacks.  On most of the pre-dreadnought ships they were the main feature of the ship, as the superstructures were usually pretty small, so it is important to get them to look straight.  I usually attach the first one making sure that it is straight and then using the first one as a guide I attach the rest making sure that they all line up.  This is the most important step of the build because everything else on the ship will be lined up on the stacks, so this step needs to be done right.  After the stacks were done I used putty to fill in the seams at the base of them and also to fill in any problem sports on the hull.

Lately I've been trying to build my ships in the "combat" condition, which in the case of the old pre-dreadnoughts' often means pointing the guns to the sides and opening up the casemates.  In Bayan's case I needed to do two things with the casemates, as there were two different types of them.  The 6" casemated guns where installed behind the half-round armored shields, sort of like half turrets in the side of the ship, so they were easy to do in the combat position, all I needed was to drill the hole for the gun in the firing position and the hole next to it for the gun sight.  I've built a small lip above it to show that the mount was slightly recessed into the hull.  On the bottom I've added the photoetch casemate covers that came from the WEM's Askold PE set.  The casemates for the 75mm guns in the middle of the ships were harder to do, as they were the simply holes in the side of the hull through which the guns poked.  To make them look realistic I've used the Dremel tool to drill out the hole in the side of the hill painted it white (which turned out to be a mistake, as on the photos of the finished model they show up too bright, they should have been painted black or grey) and added the gun mounts and crew figures (another wasteful effort as all became invisible once the sides were closed in).  Once that was done, I've made the new sides of the hull with the embrasures cut out, glued it to the sides of the hull and faired it in.

Once the casemates were taken care of, I've detailed the rest of the hull before painting.  The molded on anchors were sanded of to be replaced by the photoetch ones, the anchor stowage equipment was added.  The torpedo net and boat booms were scratchbuilt.  Several deckhouses missing on the hull were added.  Superstructure was detailed using photoetch doors and thin brass rod to make the piping on the sides of it.  Once all of the detail work was done the ship was ready to paint.

As a first step I've painted the deck light tan color.  After that I masked it with strips of masking tape and it was time to paint the hull.  Two color choices are appropriate for the ship without any major conversion - overall white with yellow stacks used from commissioning to Dec 1903 and Russian camouflage green used from Dec 1903 until the loss of the ship.  As I was doing the ship in wartime (or more precisely as it appeared in March 1904), I went ahead and painted it in overall green color.  I used PollyS RLM62 Pale Green, that I use on all of my 1st Pacific Squadron ships.  After several levels of touch ups, the painting was finished and I did the wash using the stuff called "Black-It-Out".  It's a water soluble ink-like stuff that once dry I remove with a Q-tip and a stiff brush.  The final step was drybrushing with a lighter shade of the green for the hull and tan for the deck.


After painting it was time to add the details to the ship.  The first thing that I did was to add a large two level forward bridge.  The bridge from the kit was too small, so I've scratchbuilt a new one using my references.  You can see the difference in size between mine and the kit's bridge on the photo to the right.  The conning tower was also scratchbuilt because the one in the kit was the wrong shape, instead of being round it should be oval in shape with the mushroom top.  The second level of the bridge had to be scratchbuilt for the same reason.  To make the canvas covered railings I used a thinned down white glue and capillary action to get it in to the holes between bars on the railings.  The bridge decks on Russian ships of the time were covered in dark red colored linoleum, so I pained the decks that color.  The navigation bridge windows were made from a black decal strip that was cut into small pieces.  Once the bridges were glued to the ship I added the struts supporting them.  A small bridge on the aft part of the ship was done the same way.  The kit had a small border molded on to the top of the aft bridge which was supposed to represent the railings, but was way too shallow, so I cut it off and added real railings from Tom's Modelworks and scratchbuilt the lost details.

I've also added PE anchors to replace the ones that I sanded off.  The PE anchors give a much nicer 3D appearance than the molded on ones.  Using the references I've made the various bits and pieces that hold the anchors to the hull.  I've also made the anchor chain connecting the links from a PE anchor chain from WEM Askold set.  Various ladders came from WEM's Askold set and Tom's Modelworks.



The ship was armed with two 8" guns in the single turrets, eight casemated 6" guns, 20 75mm guns in both casemated and open deck mounts and sprinkling of 47mm guns all over the ship.  The most prominent feature of the ship were the two 8" turrets, so I made an effort to correct their shape and detail them.  The turrets in the kit looked more like the German turrets of the era with a forward sloping roof, but the turrets on the ship were designed in France and French turrets has a slightly hemispherical but horizontal roof, so I cut off the sighting hoods and added about 1mm sheet styrene to the front of the turret and fared it in.  After that I glued the sighting hoods back in place.  The barrels were made from hypodermic tubing.  I've also added the little doors on the front of the turrets around the embrasure and an entry door and ladder in the back. 

The casemate construction was described at the stage of the hull construction, the guns were also made from the correct inner diameter hypodermic tubing.  The deck 75mm guns came from the kit and the 47mm guns were taken from the WEM Askold PE set.


Masts and Boats

The boat skids were made from square rod with photoetch boat supports.  The davits were taken from WEM's Askold PE set.  The ship in the peacetime configuration has a set of boats behind the aft turret, but in wartime they were removed in order not to obstruct the field of fire, so I omitted them.  The kit gives you 6 boats and 2 steam launches, but the steam launches are too small and the real ship had much bigger ones, so I took a pair of the from a WEM Russian steam launches set.  Some of the boats also came from the spares box as the ones in the kit were not of the correct size.

As usual with my models I scratchbuilt the masts by soldering brass rod of various thicknesses using my references.  I've added various platforms to masts by making the base from 0.01" thick plastic and adding railings or splinter shielding where appropriate.  Various spreaders and supports were made from pieces of photoetch.  I always add the masts last, in order not to damage them while handling the model during construction.  Rigging was done using the string from pantyhose.


The ship was weathered using pastels.  The photos show that Port Arthur ships were heavily weathered with salt and rust, with streaks running down the sides.  To simulate it I used pastels of various dark colors, the light colors were simulated by using drybrushing because light pastels disappear when covered by flat lacquer.  The stacks and masts were covered in soot where appropriate.



This is a good model of an interesting ship and I would recommend it to anyone interested in Russian warships or armored cruisers in general.  The kit was a pleasure to build.  The minor inaccuracies can be easily corrected or even ignored without taking away from the overall look of the model. 


The Ships of Vladimir Yakubov