"This MSW "Inbox review" is of Hasegawa Models 100th Anniversary kit, IJN Battleship MIKASA ,“THE BATTLE OF THE JAPAN SEA”.
For the 100th anniversary, Hasegawa released a stunning 350th scale model of the Mikasa. But before we delve into the model kit, a little history 101 first!
The Mikasa was the final battleship borne from Yamamoto’s 1896 “Six-Six Fleet” naval expansion program. This bold balanced fleet plan of six battleships and six armoured cruisers would place Japan fourth in world naval power, directly behind her immediate territorial adversary, Russia. All this, impressively, would be achieved in a single decade, and would give Japan the Political and Military clout to assert her influence throughout the region.
Japan’s limited industrial resources at the end of the century forced 90% of the construction of the new “Six-Six Fleet” to be undertaken in British yards. The first two battleships, the Fuji and the Yashima, were started prior to the 1896 expansion program. Being improved Royal Sovereign class, they where lighter, faster, and equipped with more powerful 12” guns with a higher rate of fire. The four additional new battleships, the Shikishima, Hatsuse, Asahi, and the Mikasa where based on Britain’s powerful Majestic Class, but vastly improved due to the weight savings of the new KC armour. Upon her completion in 1902 at the Vickers yard in Barrow, Mikasa instantly became one of the most powerful ships in the world. She possessed four 12” guns in two turrets and fourteen 6” Elswick quick-firing guns. The optional hydraulic or electric powered turreted 12” guns could fire three shells every two minutes, and could be loaded in any position and at any elevation. Her improved plate armour allowed the main belt to be halved while maintaining a constant thickness throughout critical areas such as vital machinery and magazines.
By 1904, Japan had acquired a formidable fighting force, raising her stature to fourth most powerful navy. On the eve of the Russo-Japanese war, she had a well balanced fleet of six battleships, eight armoured cruisers, sixteen protected and unprotected cruisers, twenty destroyers and fifty-eight torpedo boats. This against an adversarial Russian Navy which comprised thirty-three capital ships, ten armoured cruisers, twelve protected cruisers, nine sloops and obsolescent cruisers, thirty-five gun boats, forty-nine destroyers and ninety torpedo boats. Japan also benefited greatly from the Anglo-Japanese treaty which provided her with a much needed supply of high grade coal to fuel her ships. This coal was of a much greater quality than that which was mined within Japan.
War between Japan and Russia was inevitable. Both nations had conflicting geo-political aspirations within the region. So it came as no surprise that Japan declared war on Russia in February 8, 1904 with a torpedo boat night raid on the Russian fleet anchored in Port Arthur. The torpedo attack caused minimal damage, but did succeed in initiating a blockade of Port Arthur, trapping the Russian Fleet. That would last until newly appointed Adm. Makarov, attempting to feel out the strength of the blockade, led a small force out of the harbour. Led by the flagship Petropavlovsk, the small blockade running force sailed into a mine within a few miles of the harbour, broke apart and sunk with most of her crew. The loss of Adm. Stepan Makarov was seen as severe a loss as the flagship itself. Adm. Makarov was one of the most advanced thinking and innovative tacticians within the Russian Fleet, and with his loss, there was strong reason in Russian high command circles in St. Petersburg to fear that the Port Arthur Fleet had lost it’s ability to wage an offensive war. Furthermore, the success of Japan’s land campaign in Korea and then in Manchuria, left the Russians with no option but to attempt a breakout of the blockade and move newly appointed Adm. Witgeft’s fleet to Vladivostok from Port Arthur.
The Battle of the Yellow Sea, August 10, 1904
Even though Togo and Witgeft were evenly matched at sixteen 12” guns apiece, the Russian Fleet was ordered to avoid contact and to sail the fleet up to Vladivostok. The resulting battle was one of caution, as Togo, not wanting to lose any of his precious battleships kept his faster fleet out of effective range. Opening fire at over 11,000 meters, well past the British Barr & Stroud 4 foot 6 inch rangefinders that both fleets relied on. Togo induced a manoeuvering contest that limited both sides to a few lucky hits. By late afternoon the battle was at a stalemate with both sides doling out equal damage. The leading ships had taken hits, both the Tsarevich and Retvisan where on fire and the leading Mikasa had lost the use of her aft turret and was taking in water through damage to her plate armour. At 18:40 hours, a lucky 12” shell struck the Tsarevich and penetrated the conning tower, killing the Admiral and several other staff. Another shell jammed the helm forcing the ship to steer sharply to port. The ensuing Russian disorder gave Togo an advantage he should have grasped for a decisive victory. Togo, fearful of a torpedo attack in the darkening skies, refused to close in and exploit the advantage of his fleets superior secondary gun strength. This allowed the Russian fleet to survive, the majority returning to Port Arthur, minus the Tsarevich and three destroyers which broke south for the German port of Tsingtao.
Togo was seen as having lost the battle. His failure to destroy the Port Arthur flotilla had long lasting effects. Japan’s army was now forced to engage the Russian army in a drawn out bloody land campaign to which the occupation of Port Arthur was seen as the objective. The cost Japan paid in material and personnel would be severe. Had Togo succeeded in destroying the Russian force, an argument could have been made that Russia would of turned back the Baltic Fleet, as there would have been neither a fleet nor a port to reinforce.
Preparations for the Battle of Tsushima
On 15 October, 1904 the Baltic Fleet under Adm. Rozhestvensky, begun its eight month, 18,000 mile voyage, that was to salvage Russian power and prestige in the Asian theater. Their voyage was one that would be doomed from the start. Rozhestvensky’s forty-two ship fleet was ill-equipped, outdated, and manned by 12,000 badly trained and badly equipped sailors. Most of the men endured the voyage in miserable and often mutenous conditions. Discipline was very lax and all officers were armed with revolvers, which were displayed at the slightest sign of insubordination.
By late fall of 1904, the Imperial Japanese Army, captured hill 203, overlooking Port Arthur. From there, every portion of Port Arthur would be in range of the Japanese Army 11” siege mortars. All the Russian ships in port where either sunk or disabled, with the exception of the Sevastopol, which steamed out of the harbour for the protection of the torpedo net defenses. She was scuttled on the 2nd on January 1905, the day that Port Arthur surrendered.
In the months prior to the arrival of the Russian Baltic Fleet, Togo made continuous changes and repairs to his damaged fleet, to the point where by February 1905, the combined fleet was entirely reconditioned. Togo took this opportunity to paint his fleet a uniform gray, sharply contrasting the Baltic Fleet, which sported black hulls and superstructures and brightly painted yellow funnels.
The Battle of Tsushima May 27-28, 1905
The Russian fleet approached the 75 mile wide Tsushima Strait in favourable conditions. Heavy mist and fog blanketed the area and rough seas prevented the Japanese torpedo boats from conducting their pre-planned dispersal of the Russian fleet using linked mines and torpedos. From 0500 to 0600, Togo received word that the Russian fleet was in the Strait and at 0630, Togo set his Combined Fleet sailing from Chinhae Bay.
By noon, Togo had received information that the Baltic Fleet was sailing in two main columns with the weaker one to port. Intent on attacking the weaker line, Togo initiated a series of maneuvers that would place him in line with the port column and therefore remove more than half of the Russian fleet from the battle. Togo’s preparatory maneuvers where dashed at 1339, when the mist lifted sufficiently to see that the Baltic Fleet was sailing 8 miles away, directly at his fleet, in two columns. Togo immediately initiated a second set of maneuvers, culminating at 1407 into what is now known as ‘The Turn’, an order by which the Mikasa turned fourteen points to port. This order, allowed the Suvorov followed closely by other Russian ships to fire at a range of 7,000 meters on each individual Japanese ship as it came out of ‘The Turn’. The Japanese battle line escaped this barrage with minimal damage and emerged on an east-northeast heading, 6,400 meters apart, well within range of both the main guns and the secondary quick firing guns. At 1411 the Japanese continued to close in and opened fire on the Russians who where more preoccupied in avoiding contact with each other as they reunified their columns into one. At 1418, Togo ordered “rapid” firing and focused his aim on Rozhestvensky’s Suvorov and the Oslyabia, which led the second Division. By 1450 the Russian fleet was on fire, as the power of the Japanese guns began to incinerate everything in sight. The Oslyabia left the line and capsized. The Suvorov with a badly wounded Rozhestvensky, lost control and crossed her own line, passing control over to Aleksandr III whom turned to port and charged Togo’s line. Togo countered the move and maintained his distance, avoiding a torpedo attack. Togo’s 15 knot to 10 knot advantage, allowed him to control the battle and prevented the Russians from closing in or fleeing.
A lull in the battle ensued from 1500 to 1800 due to deteriorating conditions brought about by the thickening gun smoke and ship fires. When the smoke cleared at 1800, the Russians had regrouped and where continuing their northerly course. The Russian main line now had the Borodino, Orel, followed by Adm. Nebogatov’s division and the damaged Alksandr III trailing behind. Both sides now exchanged fierce fire, with the Russians in a slight advantage as the sun set behind them. Togo countered this by continuing to close the range. At 1850 the Aleksandr III capsized and sank. At 1920 as darkness fell, the Borodino exploded and sank. Night brought about a series of destroyer attacks which culminated in the Fourth Destroyer Flotilla sinking the Suvorov by torpedoes and sinking the Navarin by a well situated string of linked mines.
Daylight brought about the realization that the battle was over, with the Russians possessing only two battleships, two coastal armoured ships and a cruiser. Tsushima was a route, out of a Russian force of 38 warships, 34 had been sunk or captured, the Russians had lost 4830 dead and 5917 captured. In contrast, Japan lost 3 torpedo boats and the lives of 110 men. The Mikasa proved herself invaluable throughout the battle, as she endured 32 shell hits at the head of the battle line. The victory allowed Japan to sign the peace treaty of Portsmouth, in which Russia agreed to leave Manchuria, and Korea, and passed over control of the southern half of Sakhalien Island to Japan.
Mikasa had an equally eventful post war. She suffered a magazine explosion on September 12, 1905 which killed 114 of her crew and sank her at her moorings. She was refloated in August 1906 and taken off active list in September 1923, where she remained during WW2. The Mikasa endures today and is preserved as a floating memorial.
Sources and Photo Credits
Extensive use was made from the following texts…
KAIGUN Strategy, Tactics and Technology in the IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY 1887-1941, 1997 by David C. Evans and Mark R. Peattie (Naval Institute Press)
The Fleet That Had To Die, 1958 by Richard Hough (Birlinn Limited)
Battleship, 1972 by Peter Padfield (Birlinn Limited)
Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy 1869-1945, 1970 (third reprint 1999) by Hansgeorg Jentschura, Dieter Jung and Peter Mickel (Naval Institute Press)
IJN Mikasa photograph courtesy of the Etajima Museum of Naval History
and now, the model...
Hasegawa supplies you with 19 sprues in a light grey plastic. A metal chain and a decal sheet round out the components. Two large fold out instruction sheets provide a clear set of 28 steps. Hasegawa provides plan drawings showing the rigging profiles. As a commemorative addition, Hasegawa has included three bonus items, a 1:54th scale white metal figure of Admiral Togo, a colour print of Togo on the bridge of the Mikasa during the battle, and a beautiful two sided metal commemorative coin. My offering had the gold coin, but Hasegawa has also issued a silver coin. All of these bonus items makes the Battle of the Japan Sea release one to look out for.
Sprue A provides the full hull halves, split down the centerline. Those of us interested in building a waterline version will have to rely on some surgery. Fortunately, the internal bracing for the two hull halves are above the waterline and should not interfere with the surgery required. The detail on the hull sides, as with most ship models, is secondary to the deck details.
Sprues B & C provides the fore and aft decks as well as the upper superstructure (boat deck). These deck parts are impressive in their detailing. They offer a thorough concentration of ventilation grills, skylight portholes, access hatches and scuttle lids.
Sprue D provides the most of the bulkheads for the bridge, for both fore and aft positions. The windows are not open but the plastic over these positions is thinner, possibly allowing the modeler to hollow them out.
Sprue E provides the large midship QF decks which run over the 6” guns. There are 6 parts that make up the torpedo net holds, and the rest of the sprue is comprised of life boats and propellers and the drive shafts and supports.
Sprue F provides the majority of the superstructure, given in fine detail on the inside with support bracing. Hasegawa gives you the option of using solid railings, surprising, but at least they are separate pieces.
Sprue G (2) provides the business end of the ship, the 12” guns and the turrets. Well detailed, the turrets have a great amount of detail moulded on, including the sighting hoods and ventilation louvers, the guns are closed at the muzzle and need to be drilled out. The turret is separate from the base and have independent gun cradles.
Sprue K (2) are small sprues that provide the ventilator shafts which rise above the the boat deck.
Sprue L (4) provide the internal bracing, well detailed secondary guns, ventilators, davits, booms, anchors, ladders and additional life boats.
Sprue M (4) are small sprues which provide additional secondary guns.
Sprue Q provide the funnels and masts. The funnels are impressively detailed with a base and independent steam pipes. Moulded on ladders might not suit the experienced modeler, but can be easily removed.
Hasegawa has provided an exceptional model, one that can only be improved with a dedicated Photo-Etch detail set. Hasegawa, to its credit has engineered the parts breakdown well in order to limit the amount of surgery required if the photo-etch route is taken. Hasegawa should be commended for issuing such an important, historic ship.
This MSW "Inbox review" is of Hasegawa Models 100th Anniversary kit, IJN Battleship MIKASA ,“THE BATTLE OF THE JAPAN SEA”.
About Frank Portela (Clanky44) FROM: ONTARIO, CANADA
I'm an avid modeller, with about 20 odd years of experience. I belong to a very small group of modellers here in Guelph, Ontario that formed GPMG (Guelph Plastic Modelling Group) over 12 years ago. We have our annual show (WELCOME - Wellington County Modellers Exposition) in the spring. We pride ou...