In the age of sail the frigate was the maid of all work, scouting for the fleet, communications within the fleet, trade route protection, showing the flag, in short anything
that did not justify a ship of the line. With the advent of steam power, a replacement type was needed for the sailing frigate and at first steam powered wooden sloops
were the replacement. As surely as steam replaced sail, iron and then steel replaced wooden hulls and a new type of warship replaced the frigate in the world’s navies,
the cruiser. Cruisers were not homogeneous, as they came in all sorts of sizes and capabilities, usually based upon their intended function. Some were small and weakly
armed, weakly armored and designed more as dispatch vessels. The most common type at the end of the 19th Century was the protected cruiser with an armored deck
sloping down to join the hull below the waterline, which would protect machinery spaces and ensure buoyancy for the vessel. At the top end of the cruiser family was
the armored cruiser. Not only did the ship posses an armored deck but also it carried an armored belt like a battleship, although usually thinner. The armored cruiser not
only could scout for the fleet but also made the perfect commerce raider. The first armored cruiser was the Imperial Russian
General-Admiral of 1870, which had
steam and sail, six 8-inch (203mm) and two 6-inch (152mm) guns, and an iron hull with a thin armored belt. The two ships in the class were designed specifically as
commerce raiders. The Royal Navy saw these ships as a new threat and responded with the
Shannon Class of 1873 followed by the Nelson Class, both of which
carried 10-inch (254mm) and 9-inch (229mm) guns. The problem for both the Russian and the British designs was the speed. The propulsion technology was not
sufficient for the weight of the vessels and they were comparatively slow.
The triple expansion steam engine changed this situation. This machinery could give armored cruisers enough speed to outrun contemporary battleships. The hay day
of the armored cruiser lasted less than two decades, roughly from 1890 to the advent of the battle cruiser in 1907. The Imperial Russian Navy was in the thick of the
building mania for armored cruisers among the world’s navies. In 1888 requirements for a new cruiser design were stipulated for a new armored cruiser with a
displacement of 9,000-tons and an armored belt of 8-inches (203mm). The design was specifically to have the range for commerce raiding. Two designs were
prepared, one of 9,000-tons and one of 10,000-tons. The larger design was selected. The armament of four 8-inch, sixteen 6-inch, twenty 47mm, ten 37mm and six
15-inch above water torpedo tubes were a;; mounted on a broadside format with the 8-inch guns on the top deck and the 6-inch guns one deck lower. Named the
Rurik, the ship had a 10-inch armored belt and developed 13,326ihp for a top speed of 18.84-knots on trials. The cruiser had three masts and a bowsprit to extend her
radius as a commerce raider. The next two armored cruisers were even bigger, displacing over 13,000-tons each. The
Rossiya of 1892 added six-inch guns as a bow
chaser and a stern chaser and got rid of the bowsprit but the rest of the guns were mounted on broadside as in
Rurik. The Gromoboi of 1897 carried on as an
Rossiya. These three cruisers were envisioned as large commerce raiders but the 4th design, the Bayan, was designed to work with the fleet. Much smaller
at 7,800-tons the
Bayan had two 8-inch guns in single gun turrets on the centerline and eight 6-inch guns in broadside casmate positions. In thisperiod it was the only
Russian design that went into series production with four ships being built.
The high water mark for the armored cruiser came with the Russo-Japanese War with the use by the Imperial Japanese Navy of their armored cruisers as
substitutes for battleships. Due to the loss of two Japanese battleships due to mines, the Japanese put their armored cruisers into the battle line at the Battle of the
Yellow Sea and the Battle of Tsushima. The Japanese victories took this as proof that armored cruisers could function in the battleline if needed, and most of the
major navies of the world designed huge armored cruisers. For the Imperial Russian Navy, this came in the form of the
Rurik II, as the original Rurik was sunk by
Japanese cruisers at the Battle of Ulsan on August 14, 1904. The
Rurik II was one of the best of the final flowers of the world’s armored cruisers.

The political status in Europe had totally changed in the first few years of the 20th Century. At the start of the Century France and Russia considered Great Britain
as their most likely enemy and Great Britain reciprocated. Russia wanted to buy two battleships from Chile that were being built in Great Britain. Just to prevent
Russia from getting these ships, Great Britain bought them and they were named
HMS Triumph and HMS Swiftsure. With their 10-inch guns, they certainly didn't
fit in the British fleet but the government was willing to spend millions of pounds to keep them out of Russian hands. Three events upended this status. Imperial
Germany’s huge battleship construction program caused a shift in threat appreciation in Great Britain and Germany became the most likely enemy. France and
Great Britain formed the
Entente Cordial entered into in April 1904 established spheres of influence between the powers, as France was also wary of Germany.
Two months earlier the Russo-Japanese War had broken out and the catastrophic naval losses of the Russian Fleet had eliminated Russia as a threat to Great
Britain. The result was that when Russia went shopping for warships to make up for her losses in the war, Great Britain was fine with British ship building firms
being considered for construction of new Russian warships. Russia never had that many armored cruisers and two of the ones they had were lost during the war,
Rurik and Bayan. Russia was specifically interested in a British built armored cruiser.
In July 1904 the Russian Admiralty announced an international competition for the construction and the British firm of Vickers went after it. Vickers won the
competition and in May 1905, a few weeks after the Battle of Tsushima, a construction contract was signed.  The head designer for Vickers was T.G. Owens and
the Vickers design was designated Number 160. Of interest were two designs that were not accepted. Vickers had design Number 179 with twelve 10-inch guns
and the New York Shipbuilding Company had one of ten 10-inch guns. Other countries had already jumped to the 10-inch gun as the main armament. The USN had
Tennessee Class of 1903 with four 10-inch/40 and sixteen 6-inch/50 guns on a displacement of 14,500-tons and speed of 22-knots. For the Royal Navy it was
Minotaur Class, three of which were laid down in early 1905. These ships carried four 9.2-inch and ten 7.5-inch guns, all turret mounted on a displacement of
14,600-tons with a maximum speed of 23-knots. Italy had the
San Giorgio Class of 1905 with four 10-inch and eight 7.5-inch turret mounted guns on the rather
low displacement of 10,167-tons and maximum speed of 23-knots. In 1905 Japan was building three armored cruisers mounting not 10-inch guns but 12-inch
guns. Two were of the
Tsukuba Class with four 12-inch/45 and twelve 6-inch/45 on a displacement of 13,750-tons and maximum speed of 20.5-knots and the
Kurama with four 12-inch/45 and eight 8-inch/45 guns on a displacement of 14,636-tons and maximum speed of 21.5-knots. The Invincible Class was still a
year away but the Japanese had already leaped to battleship guns on their armored cruisers. France and Germany were not in the gigantic armored cruiser race as
Edgar Quinet and Scharnhorst classes carried 7.6-inch and 8.2-inch guns respectively, as their main armament.
The Russian Admiralty had considered the all 10-inch gun options as too radical and went with design 160C with four 10-inch/50 guns in twin gun turrets fore and
aft and a secondary of eight 8-inch/50 guns, also in turrets. Twenty 4.7-inch/50 tertiary guns and two 18-inch submerged torpedo tubes were also carried.
Displacement was 15,190-tons with a length of 529-feet (161.23m) overall, beam of 75-feet (22.86m) and draught of 26-feet (7.92m). Krupp Compound armor
was used with a 6-inch belt tapering to 4-inches at the ends, 8-inches for main gun turrets, 7-inches for secondary gun turrets, 3-inches for the tertiary battery, and
8-inches for the conning tower. There were two armored decks one of 1.5-inches and a lower one of 1-inch. The new
Rurik had 28 Belleville boilers providing
steam for two vertical triple expansion engines, developing 19,700ihp for a maximum speed of 21-knots. The ship was laid down at the Vickers yard in August
1905, launched November 17, 1906 and completed in September 1908. Russia planned to build two more of the class in Russian Yards but financial difficulties
cancelled this plan. Vickers also did an improved
Rurik design powered by turbine machinery but still carrying a mixed 10-inch and 8-inch armament. Designated
Vickers design 217, the ship would displace 17,000-tons with a maximum speed of 23-knots. However, by the time this design was presented in 1906, the
particulars of the
Invincible design were already known and a further mixed armament armored cruiser made no sense. Vickers made one last attempt to attract
Russian business with Vickers Design 284 of 1907. Envisioned as a scout for the battle fleet, it contemplated four 12-inch guns with a secondary of twelve 4.7-inch
guns in twin turrets. It would only displace 10,200 tons but have a maximum speed of 27-knots, primarily because of a light armor scheme. However, the Russian
Admiralty was not interested as the Navy was still financially strapped.
The Rurik had teething problems. It didn’t help that the launching was delayed by two weeks because of a small fire. The barbettes had to be strengthened and the
secondary ammunition supply was too slow. It was not until August 1908 that the Imperial Ensign was hoisted and
Rurik set off for the Baltic. Once in the Baltic
more firing tests showed rivets popping on the forward main gun turret and starboard forward secondary turret. Vickers’ personnel did more fine tuning over the
winter and it wasn’t until July 1909 that
Rurik joined the Baltic Fleet. A year later in July 1910 Rurik was part of a squadron designed to show the flag in the
Mediterranean and represent Russia at the coronation of King Nicholas of Montenegro.
Rurik became the flagship of the Baltic Fleet when Admiral N.O. Essen
became commander. Completed with only a main mast, a lighter foremast was added around 1912. The ship made one more show the flag cruise before World
War One. In September 1913 the
Rurik, along with other major units, visited Portland, England and Cherbourg, France.
World War One in the Baltic was characterized by extensive mine warfare, especially for the Russians. Rurik was equipped to carry 400 mines and occasionally
made mine laying runs. On January 31, 1915, she ran aground and took in 2,400-tons of water but was still able to make port under her own power. Repairs lasted
until May. In June 1915
Rurik encountered German cruisers off of Gogland Island. Rurik and the German armored cruiser, SMS Roon, engaged in a duel but
neither side hit the other before the action was broken off. A trend in the Baltic Fleet made its appearance in November 1915 when their was a minor mutiny
aboard the
Rurik caused by the arrest of sailors formerly assigned to the battleship, Gangut. In November 1916 Rurik was again operating near Gogland Island,
when for the second time she hit a mine, which had been laid by a German submarine. Under her own power, she sailed back to Kronshtadt but repairs took five
months this time. In 1917 the pole fore mast became a tripod. One other addition during the war was the addition of two 3-inch anti-aircraft guns. In March 1918
she was active in the Gulf of Finland escorting ice breakers in the
Ice Voyage between Helsingfors (Helsinki, Finland) and Kronshtadt, ordered by Lenin to avoid
possible capture of troops and ships by the advancing German Army. After the
Ice Voyage Rurik’s career ended when she was placed in reserve, where she
remained until hulked in 1922 and scrapped in 1930.
The Combrig Rurik II in 1:350 Scale - This Combrig kit is beautifully done and provides the vehicle for the modeler to build an 1:350 scale replica of one of the
largest and best armored cruisers built at the end of the era for this type of warship. There are optional parts to build the 1909 fit without a fore mast or the 1912 fit
with a fore mast. This is the full hull version with separate upper and lower hulls, separated at the waterline. There is no extreme tumblehome of previous Russian
cruisers, probably because it was designed by Vickers. Because of the extensive armor scheme with armor plate rising all the way to the forecastle deck amidship,
there are no long lines of portholes. You will find two lines of portholes forward and one line aft. The portholes do not have eyebrows (rigoles). There are three hull
side anchor hawse fitting, two to starboard and one to port, that have prominent oval hawse fittings, set at an angle. Prominent vertical hull strakes are on the hull
sides with six on the port and only three on the starboard side. The tertiary hull gun positions are very nicely done with closed gun shutters with locater holes for the
gun barrels. Each position has hinge and panel line detail. Unfortunately, my copy had the bottom of the cutwater broken off, so I’ll have to replace it by creating a
small triangle of resin scrap, glue to the cutwater and sand smooth. The process is fairly easy. The lower hull casting was free of defects and has the bilge keels cast
on. It features a prominent ram forward and a large rudder skeg aft. Excess resin will have to be removed from the waterline of both the upper and lower hull
castings until there is a smooth fit.
The deck of the hull casting is extensively detailed. In contrast to most Combrig kits, the Combrig Rurik has butt-end detail to the wooden deck planking. At the
forecastle the wooden planking is the traditional long planks with raised smooth plates for the anchor chain bed running from the windlasses to the deck anchor
hawse. The vast bulk of the decking has short planks in rows with each row separated by a flat metal connector, similar to the manner in which the Imperial
Japanese Navy used linoleum decking separated by brass connectors in their World War Two warships. I have no idea of whether the metal connectors were steel or
brass but my guess is steel. The decking pattern provides a huge amount of detail for the Rurik on its own but the deck detail doesn’t stop there. On the forecastle
you get three prominent deck hawse with an oval pattern, open chocks, twin bollard fittings with flared tops, chain locker fittings, windlass base fittings, a single
deck access coaming with hatch hinges and some peculiar deck edge triangular fittings, whose purpose I am unaware. Between the anchor fittings and the outline
for the forward superstructure there are numerous locater holes for separate ventilators. Most are mushroom ventilators but a few are the older style J cowling
ventilators. In addition to the prominent barbette for the forward 10-inch gun turret, other deck fittings at this location include deck access coamings with hatch
detail, skylights, open chocks, twin bollard fittings and the start of the ever present coal scuttles always found on coal fired ships. The forecastle deck runs 60% the
length of the ship, terminating at a deck brake at the location of the aft 8-inch secondary gun turrets. Locater outlines are found for the forward superstructure, three
funnel deck houses, aft conning tower and some smaller deck houses. Other amidship deck detail includes the coal scuttles, forward 8-inch gun turret barbettes,
ventilation hatches with hinges on each side of the third funnel base, a couple of unique pattern access hatches and just forward of the aft conning tower placement
outline, four curious fittings that have the shape of a coal scuttle but have another circle within, looking very much like a roundel. I have seen a fitting like this in
photographs of monitors that had small circular skylights flush with their decks and that is my best guess for these fittings as well. The lower quarterdeck has many
more of these fittings. Other quarterdeck detail has more coal scuttles, barbettes for the aft 10-inch turret and 8-inch turrets, pyramid and flat access coamings with
hinge detail, open chocks, twin bollards, ventilator locater holes, storage bins and four more of the triangular fittings at the stern. The Rurik has a stern walk different
than other ships in that it is more of a triangular deck, like a veranda on a cruise ship. You can see this stern walk in the title photograph above with a fancy canopy.
Break out the rum and tequila, its
Margaritaville, its time for Admiral Essen to kick back and enjoy a cold one, assuming you are not on an Ice Voyage. There is no
access door opening onto the stern walk but a brass photo-etch door can easily be added.
The smaller resin parts are cast with plugs for the larger parts, on a resin wafer for the flat parts, such as decks and platforms and on runners for most of the parts.
For those parts on plugs, there are nine of them, the turrets and funnels. Detail on the turrets are the same on the main and secondary gun turrets, as they use the
same pattern. In shape they are oval with no angles on the sides and deep U-shaped gun openings on the front face. The crowns, which are flat at the rear and slant
down forward, have most of the detail. Right above the gun openings are crown access hatches with hinge detail. Behind those and on either side are gun
commander vision fittings, which are rectangular in shape with open fronts. At the back of the crown and on centerline is the turret commander cupola. The three
funnels are identical with a large apron at the base and a smaller cap apron. Steam pipe locater holes are fore and aft on the lower apron.        
There are two resin wafers for the thinner parts. The largest has ten parts. Included are the 01 level forward superstructure with port holes and skylights at the
base, and the deck above with conning tower and chart house. The conning tower has vision slits and the chart house has windows and doors. The conning tower
has a hinged access hatch and a second level on the crown, again with vision slits. This piece has solid bulkheads on the edge, which represent canvas covered
railing. If you wish to add further detail, they can be removed and replaced with photo-etch brass railing. The aft conning tower is also on this sheet. It is very
similar to the forward conning tower with two levels with vision slits and a hinged access hatch. Two deck houses with windows are on the sheet. One of these,
which is T-shaped is optional. It is used for the 1912 fit, which had a fore mast and this deck house. Two large platforms are also present. One rests on top of the
chart house and the other with windowed deck house is on a support platform aft of the main mast. Both of these platforms have solid bulkheads representing
canvas covered railing. There are also two circular binnacle platforms and a tear drop shape search light platform with the same solid bulkheads representing canvas
covered railing. The smaller second wafer has the three funnel bases and a centerline deck fitting found to the rear of the third funnel. Each of the funnel bases has
circular skylights and large round mushroom ventilators. The deck fitting has the same detail, plus hinged hatches.
There are 26 resin runners of parts, however the 14 ship’s boats each have their own runner. Two of the runners are for running gear with one runner having the
rudder, shaft skegs, and shafts and the other runner having support struts and propellers. Three runners have nothing other than gun barrels. One has the 10-inch and
8-inch gun barrels and the other two are for 4.7-inch gun barrels. None of the barrels have hollow muzzles. Another runner has a mixture of parts, including barrels
for open 47mm and 7.62mm machine gun barrels. Also included on this runner are shoulder supports for the 47mm guns, gun shields, small mushroom vents,
binnacles, compasses, signal lamps and two patterns of cable reels. Another large runner with mixed parts has the bow anchors, search lights, small deck houses,
47mm gun pillars and two small davits. A further long runner has nothing but mushroom ventilators. They are in three different sizes. The five J-shape ventilator
cowlings, larger davits and booms are on a runner. One runner has four very detailed winch engines and another has four windlasses in two patterns. Two odd fittings
that attach to hull side strakes are on a runner, along with an aft deck hatch with wheel. Two smaller streaming anchors are on a runner and attach on the sides of the
forward superstructure. For the ship’s boats, there are two steam launches and 12 oared boats. The launches have separate funnels, detailed cabin and cast on detail
for ventilators, rudders, cabin, hatches and coal scuttles. The oared boats come in four sizes and patterns with two very large whalers, five medium boats with square
transom, two medium boats with pointed stern and two dinghies. All of the oared boats have bottom planking and thwart detail.
Combrig has provided a medium size brass photo-etch fret. Ship’s railing is not included. Bow and stern crests are provided. The largest of the brass parts are flying
boat skids with boat chocks. The funnels get the traditional funnel cap grates and the forward funnel also gets a front face platform with ladder. The main mast gets
top platform, platform supports gussets, and block and tackle. If you build the optional 1912 fit with fore mast you get the top platform. Of course there is a nice
stern walk canopy frame with ornate railing. Other ship specific brass parts are aft navigation platform support frames, sliding doors for the aft faces of the
secondary gun turrets, ship’s wheel, frames in front of each turret, side breakwaters, boat chocks, deck house supports, and boom block & tackle. More generic
brass parts are three runs of anchor chain, vertical ladder, and two inclined ladders that have rungs instead of treads.

The instructions are in the traditional
Combrig format. There are three sheets of instructions, two back-printed and the third sheet printed only on the front. Page one
has the plan and profile of the 1912 fit of
Rurik with fore mast. The profile has the rigging pattern used for this fit. The history and ship’s specifications are also on
page one and are written in Russian. Page two is the resin parts laydown without parts numbering. Page three shows deck fittings attachment, photo-etch fret
laydown and insets on the mushroom ventilators and running gear attachment. Page four has the flying boat skid attachment and ship’s boats attachment with insets
for frame and skids. Page five is very busy with final assembly of all the superstructure, masts, turrets and fittings. Insets are provided for the assembly of the
turrets, stern walk, 47mm guns and 7.62mm machine guns. You’ll need to use the plan and profile to help you with parts attachment locations, as these instructions
are pretty basic. One serious omission is the lack of mast, yard and boom templates with lengths and diameters, as these parts are not among the resin parts.         
With the Combrig Rurik II in 1:350 scale you can build one of the largest and most powerful armored cruisers ever built, at least until Jackie Fisher’s HMS
spoiled everything. The multimedia kit gives you the parts to build either the 1909 or 1912 fits. In the United States Combrig kits are only available from
Free Time Hobbies.
Steve Backer