Review by Bruce A. Johnston
The SMS Goeben has always appealed to me because of its historical context and because the German dreadnoughts were very attractive ships; broad, stable gun platforms with a minimum of clutter above the weather deck. Although the Goeben fired very few shots in anger, itís existence substantially broadened the First World War and contributed to countless thousands of casualties.
When WWI began Turkey was neutral, and being courted by the Central Powers and the Allies to enter the war. Then England seized a battleship, the biggest in the world, which they were building for the Turkish navy, and commissioned it as the Agincourt (fought at Jutland in 1916). The Turks were incensed because the ship was fully paid for, largely by popular subscription. Germany saw the opportunity and offered Turkey the Goeben and a cruiser. The Goeben and its escorts crossed the Mediterranean, narrowly avoiding British and French task forces seeking it, and arrived in Istanbul in October 1914 where they were turned over to the Turks. Turkey declared war on the Allies, and the German officers and crews were "interned" on the ships for the duration. The allied powers had nothing as powerful as the Goeben in the region, so the Dardenelles route to Russia was effectively closed. The British/Australian blood bath at Gallipoli, the slaughter on the Turkish/Russian front, the massacres of Armenians and Greeks in Anatolia, and the hard-fought campaigns in the Middle East all arose from the Goebenís presence at Istanbul. Seldom has a single ship had such a profound influence on history.
I bought two copies of the JSC Goeben model (my usual practice: one for building and one for redesign and rebuilding) in a little hobby shop in a back street arcade in Warsaw several years ago, for $2.30 each. I had bought many Polish, German and Austrian models there previously, including several of JSCís 1:400 ships.
The JSC Goeben comes in a standard A4 book, 14 pages of model and some instructions. I canít tell how accurate the design is because all I have to go on are old photographs, but like many Polish models, it is more complicated then it really has to be, and the fit on some of the more complex parts is chancy at best. Yet many of the refinements possible at 1:250, such as deck camber and railings, are left out. The printing is good, the colors accurate except for rather glaring yellow decks (a wash of tea toned them down nicely). There are accurate patterns for parts to be made from bent wire. I use soft black iron wire for these.
The 0.10" card stock is just passable. Not as bad as the burlap Iíve seen from other Polish suppliers, but itís too fibrous to crease consistently without breaking the surface and to roll small cylinders smoothly (gun barrels, spars etc.). And itís very hydroscopic - on dry days itís as hard as rock and on damp days itís limp. Deck sag is almost unavoidable.
Instructions are in Polish, and there are a few clarifying drawings. The part number sequence is good, although it would help if subassembly parts were numbered xA, xB, xC etc. instead of just continuing the number sequence. But you can live without the instructions: on the whole everything is self explanatory with a bit of study.
The framework is an extremely strong and rigid combination of rectangular cells and formers. This type of construction has no "give" so a solid building board must be used - thereís no other way alignment can be maintained. The hull form is complex, with many setbacks and casemates which have to be installed before the skin is applied.
The big deck pieces and bow and stern fit perfectly, joining smoothly at the seams. The skin is another story, mainly because the armor belt is built up from separate pieces rather than from doubled and redoubled thicknesses of card. There are seams all over the place from so many long, thin, tapering pieces with dozens of glue tabs, and itís almost impossible to keep everything lined up without creating gaps. This is one place where the designer got carried away. I had to do far too much patching and painting to get a decent finish.
With one exception the deck houses and funnels go together well and look good. The center deck house has a complex curved plan with insets and to put it bluntly, the designer blew it: his development of the one piece skin is way off. Much cutting and trimming needed. It should have been built up from two or three pieces.
The deck house ventilator louvers are one of the distinctive and attractive features of this period of German ship design and they come off well. I made a simple jig out of card to get the angles consistent instead of using the tiny triangular braces supplied.
The card stock used is too thick and clumsy for the guns. Even the main guns looked terrible with their gross steps. So I made them out of sanded dowel and painted them. The main turrets and barbettes are very impressive. I made the main guns elevate per the assembly. The rest I glued fast. I prefer not to have models of this type handled.
The boats are very simple and look good, especially the large launches. Bright yellow decks again! Masts, cranes and all the other stuff go together well, excepted as noted before, the card stock is too thick for small cylinders so I made them out of painted dowel. I hate making dozens of tiny bitts, so I make them from dowel too, with card caps.
Fortunately there isnít much rigging on this model, and the plan and elevation views arenít much help: the high point is the old fashioned radio antenna. I use waxed fine thread, and I donít overdo rigging on modern ships. I think carefully selected rigging to the point where the model looks finished is better than complete detail which, even at 1:250 scale, is too thick and busy, detracting from the modelís appearance. Nothing remains but final patching and touch- up on the bare edges.
All my kvetching aside, the JSC Goeben makes up into a very impressive model, one that Iíll be proud to display. Except for the bad design features noted above, Iíd rate it as moderately difficult. But correcting the construction design faults does take some skill and experience. My plan is to rebuild the Goeben in greater detail in wood, plastic and paper.