Background - The armored cruiser was the next step in the evolution of cruiser design and the first ships of this type were being commissioned into various navies in
the early 1890’s. Their predecessor was the protected cruiser, which had an armored deck lower in the hull to create essentially a buffer zone to allow the ship to
receive damage but still maintain stability. The armored cruiser also had the armored deck but added an armored belt running along the waterline. For the next fifteen
years armored cruisers increased in size and power and by the late 1890s some were actually larger in dimensions, displacement and speed than contemporary
battleships. However when compared to battleships, armored cruisers had less armor and smaller size main batteries.

During this period, the Imperial Russian Navy built some interesting armored cruisers;
Rurik, laid down in 1890, Rossiya, laid down in 1894, and Gromoboi, laid down
in 1897. Each ship was a "one-off" design but shared certain characteristics. Each mounted the same main (four 8-inch) and secondary (sixteen 6-inch) batteries,
mounted in broadside casemate arrangement with none mounted centerline. The broadside of each was accordingly two 8-inch and eight 6-inch guns. While each ship
displaced the tonnage of a contemporary battleship and technically faster as well, they were not especially fast. None of the three were considered successful designs.
By the late 1890’s the Russian yards were working at full capacity, and in order to further increase the size of the fleet, the Imperial Navy contracted with foreign
yards for further warship construction.

The Morskoi Tekhnicheskii Komitet (MTK) was responsible for the design of the Tsar’s warships. In 1898 the MTK hired the French Yard of Forges et Chantiers de
la Mediterranee, La Seyne to design and build the next Russian armored cruiser,
Bayan. The new design was a departure from the three preceding designs. The Bayan
had about half the displacement of her predecessors, yet had almost the same gun power (two 8 inch/45 caliber in centerline turrets and eight casemate mounted 6
inch/45 caliber guns) and greater speed.
Bayan was laid down in February 1899, launched in June 1900 and completed in February 1903. She made port visits in Greece, Italy and North Africa before
steaming for Kronstadt, arriving there in April 1903. She was there for only a few months before departing for Port Arthur in August 1903. Together with the French-
built battleship
Tsesarevich, Bayan arrived in December and they were both ships were assigned to the First Pacific Squadron. With war clouds gathering, from
December 1903 to January 1904, the larger ships of the First Pacific Squadron were repainted from their pristine white hulls and deep yellow funnels to a shade of
olive green. The war started the night of February 8, 1904 with a surprise torpedo attack by Japanese destroyers on the anchored Russian Squadron at Port Arthur.
On March 10, 1904
Bayan, flying the flag of Vice Admiral Makarov, was one of the cruisers that sortied to support Russian destroyers under attack by the Japanese
destroyers but returned to Port Arthur, when a stronger Japanese Cruiser Squadron appeared. For the next month
Bayan was involved in a number of sorties by the
First Pacific Squadron, including Admiral Makarov’s last on April 12. The squadron had only traversed 1 ½ to 2 miles from Port Arthur, when the flagship,
Petropavlovsk, struck a mine and sank in two minutes, taking Admiral Makarov with her. The Squadron immediately returned to port. Bayan was part of additional
sorties on June 23 and July 27. While returning from this last sortie and flying the flag of Rear Admiral Reitzenstein, Commander of the Cruisers, she struck a mine
but made it back to Port Arthur. She was still under repair on August 10, 1904 when the Squadron sortied again and engaged in the Battle of the Yellow Sea. This
battle essentially ended the active role of the Russian First Pacific Squadron. Some warships were able to break out and reach neutral ports but the bulk of the force
returned to Port Arthur.

The Japanese Army continued to tighten the stranglehold that they had on Port Arthur and by November 1904 had seized positions from which they could place 11-
inch (280mm) siege mortars to bombard the Russian ships in the port. In December the Japanese engaged in a relentless bombardment of the Russian ships anchored
in the harbor. The warships of the First Pacific Squadron that had not already been sunk by the bombardment were scuttled to prevent capture. During the
Bayan was sunk at her mooring after taking a total of 12 hits; seven on the deck, of which five penetrated, and five hits on the side of the hull. Bayan
received more hits than any other ship in the squadron. On January 2, 1905 Port Arthur surrendered.

Bayan was raised by the Japanese, refurbished and incorporated into the Imperial Japanese Navy as HIJMS Aso. It is a tribute to the excellent design of Bayan that
she was able to absorb the tremendous punishment of the 280mm guns and still could be brought back into service. She served in the Japanese Navy until August 8,
1932, when she was expended as a target.
Bayan proved to be a sleek, lovely design and was so successful that three more ships in the class were laid down in
August 1905:
Admiral Makarov, named after the admiral killed while serving with the First Pacific Squadron; Bayan II, named after the class name ship, which was
lost when Port Arthur fell; and
Pallada, named after a protected cruiser lost at Port Arthur. These three were all active in the First World War.
The Kit - The release of Bayan by Combrig adds yet another 1/350 scale kit to its Imperial Russian Navy. The kit is comprised of resin and photo-etch parts and
Bayan as she appeared in her short career. I have the waterline kit (a full-hull version is also available), which has a hollow-cast upper hull. The upper hull
casting is overall well done with a good amount of detail, including mooring bitts, skylights and hatch coamings on the deck and gun ports doors, access doors and
hatches and portholes along the hull sides. The bitts have the more accurate hour glass shape, rather than the straight posts used by most other manufacturers. The
deck has wood planking; however there are no butt ends, which is a common oversight. The deck has several either shallow recesses or areas with recessed outlines
for the separate turrets, citadel, deck housings and structure, gun mounts and fittings. These serve as an aid, showing where the corresponding parts are to be glued
to the deck. Along the lower edge of the upper hull there are sections of excess resin that will need to be removed. Also the openings for the 47mm Hotchkiss gun
mounts in the hull have a thin resin film covering them that will need to be removed.

A pair of resin casting wafers contain various housings, structures and decks. The first wafer has the main deck housings which are the bases for the funnels, a
small deck house fitted aft, a skylight, fighting top and a pair of smaller housings. The second wafer has the foc’sle deck, bridge decks, pilothouse roof, a small
deck and a pair of winches. The details are very good on these parts, with doors and windows, but the planking on the decks has no butt ends.  The next largest
parts are the four prominent funnels, one oblong and three round in shape. They have deep openings and good cap aprons. The two 8-inch single turrets are also
well-done with their unique almost tear-drop shape and such details as the access door on the back and gun commander and aiming cupolas on the top. The forward
turret has a raised barbette to give it clearance over the raised foc’sle deck. However the aft turret sits more or less flush with the deck, so the stem on the bottom
will either need to be cut down or, since this a hollow-cast hull, the recess for the aft turret will need to be opened up to accommodate the stem. The parts for the
citadel/armored conning tower come on a casting runner and will need to be removed using a razor saw. A total of 12 boats in five different types are provided. The
steam launches have a small boiler and funnel cast separately next the hull on the runner. The other boats have no interior details as these are done in photo-etch.
This is a departure for
Combrig, as boats are usually cast with thwarts, bottom planking and at times with rudders.
The smaller resin parts include the 8-inch (203mm) gun barrels for the turrets, 6-inch (152mm) gun barrels for the hull casemates, 75mm gun mounts and 47mm
Hotchkiss gun barrels and mounts. Other parts include the propellers, rudder, propeller shaft fairings and struts (still included although this is the waterline kit),
citadel and conning tower roofs, searchlights and their mounts, cowl vents, a mushroom vent, anchors, anchor windlass parts, capstans, boat davits in two sizes,
boat cradles, storage lockers and small deck structures, a pair of chocks and sundry deck and bridge fittings. The parts are generally very well cast, need little, if
any, clean-up and must be carefully removed from the casting runners.

Combrig provides a large photo-etch brass fret which provides pre-measured railings, inclined ladders, vertical ladders (four extra-long ones for the funnels) and the
boat details. The brass also has ship specific parts, including the sternwalk railing, funnel cap grills and details, pilothouse, shields for the 75mm and 47mm guns,
mast platforms, boat cradles, anchor chain, cable reels and other small detail parts. The brass has some relief etching which is good, but would have benefited from
having part numbers to avoid potential confusion during assembly. The railings have individual stanchion ends, which I am not a fan of as I find that I tend to use too
much glue to attach them. The photo-etch fret only has two of the four funnel cap grills needed (one oblong and one round). When I questioned the people at
Combrig, they told me that they were aware of the omission and that they had a small photo-etch fret created to address this issue. The small fret contains the two
missing funnel cap grills and a new pilothouse, as they one of the original fret was incorrect. However, ratlines are still not provided and will need to be obtained
from an alternate source.

The instructions come on eleven pages and are in new improved
Combrig format. The first page has plan and profile drawings which provide a basic rigging
diagram. The ship’s history is written in Cyrillic but the statistics are in English. Page two has the standard resin parts layout with images of photo-etch frets. The
subsequent pages have the assembly diagrams with some pages having smaller insets which focus on certain sub-assemblies that are identified for reference in the
larger assembly images. One inset provides the metric dimensions for cutting the masts, yards, funnel steam pipes, flagstaffs and boat booms. The last page has an
illustration of the fully assembled model including the placement of the different types of boats.
Overall, Bayan in 1:350 scale is another very good release from Combrig, marred only by the omission of ratlines from the photo-etch. It is exciting to see another
Imperial Russian Navy cruiser in 1:350 scale. You can purchase this kit from
Free Time/Pacific Front Hobbies, which is the sole source for Combrig kits in the
United States.
Felix Bustelo