Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich Romanov was the younger brother of Tsar Alexander III and uncle of Tsar Nicholas II. With his status and position certain perks
would be expected. One really big perk was a royal yacht, and I mean a really big yacht with guns. The 331-foot 4-inch, 3,924 ton
Svetlana was built at Forges et
Chantiers de la Méditerranée at Le Harve, France. Her design was based on the French
Friant class cruiser. The yacht/cruiser was equipped with six 152mm Canet
guns, ten 47mm Hotchkiss guns and two torpedoes. As a royal yacht,
Svetlana naturally had luxurious facilities for the Grand Duke, including an apartment with
living room, study, bedroom and a large bathroom and rooms for his servants. To accommodate these amenities,
Svetlana had lighter armor than her French

Svetlana was launched on October 7, 1896 and underwent a Mediterranean shakedown cruise out of Toulon with a 388-man crew. After successfully completing
her test run, she represented Russia in Lisbon at the 400th anniversary of Vasco de Gama’s opening of the sea route to India. She then returned to France for repairs
before steaming to her home port of Kronstadt, stopping at Kiel along the way to host Imperial German Naval officers.
Svetlana was officially commissioned on
April 3, 1899 and continued her royal yacht duties through 1903 making calls at various Baltic ports.

At the start of the Russo-Japanese war in 1904, Grand Duke Alexei offered
Svetlana to help reinforce the Russian Pacific Fleet and underwent a refit. Four of the
Hotchkiss guns were replaced with 75mm cannon and she received a new wireless system and rangefinder.
Svetlana was assigned to the ill-fated 2nd Pacific
Squadron. At the Battle of Tsushima, she led a squadron comprised of the yacht
Almaz and the auxiliary cruiser Ural. At the start of the battle, the squadron fell
back to protect the support vessels but
Svetlana received a hit in her bow which knocked out her electrical system. Svetlana joined the cruisers Oleg and Aurora in
an attempt to evade the Japanese fleet and flee to Manila. Unable to keep pace with the more modern Russian cruisers,
Svetlana instead attempted to sail north for
Vladivostok. The pursuing Japanese cruisers
Niitaka and Otowa and destroyer Murakumo caught up to Svetlana at daybreak and sank her. The Japanese support
America Maru rescued 290 survivors including 23 wounded but an estimated 169 crewmen were lost.
Combrig adds another 1/350 scale kit to its Imperial Russian Navy fleet with the release of Svetlana. The kit is comprised of resin and photo-etch parts and
Svetlana as she was armed for the Russo-Japanese War. The model comes as a two-part solid cast hull giving you the option of either a waterline or full
hull model (a waterline only version is also available).The upper hull casting is overall well done with a good amount of detail, such as chocks and mooring bitts,
skylight on the deck and gun ports doors, access doors and hatches and portholes along the hull sides. The upper portion captures the shape of the hull, with the
ram bow that was typical of French ships from this era very nicely. 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 numerous recessed
outlines for the separate citadel, deck housings and structure and gun mounts. These serve as an aid, showing where the corresponding parts are to be glued to
the deck. There are locater holes in the foc’sle accommodate a capstan and photo-etch anchor handling davit.

The lower hull is good, with nicely done bilge keels and recesses to accommodate the propeller shaft fairings and v-struts. A dry fit of the two sections showed a
very good fit but some filler will be needed to hide the joint. A resin casting wafer contains various housings, structures and decks. These parts include the
citadel, main deck house that is the base for the funnels, aft deckhouse, pilothouse and base structure for the bridge, a skylight, the bridge deck and aft deck
platform. 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 three prominent funnels. They have deep openings and good cap aprons but the steam pipes must be made by the modeler using brass
or plastic rod. A total of 10 boats in four different types (steam launches, cutters, whaleboats and dinghies) 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 152mm guns in two styles – two with the mounts for the deck positions and four with just the barrels to fit into the gun ports in
the hull. Other parts include the propellers, rudder, propeller shaft and struts, the 75mm gun mounts, 47mm Hotchkiss gun barrels, searchlights and their mounts,
cowl vents, anchors, boat davits in two styles, storage lockers 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 two photo-etch brass frets which provide railings, ladders, boat details and ship specific 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 first fret, Plate 1, contains most of railings, ratlines, boat
details, sternwalk platform, railing and supports, shields for the 152mm and 75mm guns, the bow and stern crests, ship’s wheels, various small platforms and support
bracing for the larger boat davits. Photo-etch Plate 2 contains the remaining lengths of railings, ladders, other platforms, shields and parts to build the mounts for the
47mm guns, additional boat details, davit hand wheels, anchor handling davit, smaller boat davits, a pair of anchors and sundry detail parts. It is good to finally see
railings included with the photo-etch, which was a common gripe with past
Combrig kits, but the railings have individual stanchion ends. My common gripe is that
this style of photo-etch railing is harder to work with in my opinion.

The instructions come on eight pages and are in the usual
Combrig format but with some improvements. 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. The placement of the main deck railings are not shown but this is
fairly obvious. Again this was a common criticism on
Combrig’s assembly instructions but it appears that they have been reading the reviews and are paying attention.
Overall this is another great release from Combrig. It is fantastic to see another Imperial Russian warship in 1:350 scale, especially one as exotic and striking as
Svetlana. 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