Russia is a vast country with many rivers flowing across it. These waterways have been used for hundreds of years to transport goods when not frozen over during the
frigid winter months. The larger rivers include the Don, Dnieper, Neva, Dvina and the mighty Volga, which is Europe's longest river at almost 2,300 miles/3,700
kilometers long. Early is Russia's history these waterways were used for military purposes, but in a very limited sense. It wasn't until the reign of Peter the Great that
the need for a modern navy was recognized and real efforts made to build not only a seagoing fleet but a river-based flotilla. During the Second Azov campaign of 1696
against the Ottoman Empire, the Russians employed for the first time a large number of ships and boats built on the Voronezh River. In the early 20th century, the
Russian road system was still very primitive and difficult to move along.

Because of this, fighting during the Russian Civil War mainly followed the networks of rivers and railroads. Rivers played an important role not only as supply routes
but were also good natural defensive barriers. The latter led to the building of flotillas of armored river gunboats. Larger naval warships were disarmed and their guns
were fitted on any suitable platform that could carry them. Heavier guns, some as large as 6 inches, were placed on non-self-propelled barges and smaller guns on tug
boats and other civil craft. During the 1920s and early 1930s, the river flotillas fell into disrepair. Older vessels were scrapped and civilian craft commandeered for
military use were returned to their original uses. In 1934 the Red Navy issued a request for a new river monitor design that could be massed produced using as many
common components as possible with the tanks of the 1931 program. The new vessels should have two turrets, armor protection for their vital spaces and a draft of
only 0.5 meters or about 1foot 8 inches.

Yuliy Benoit, the chief engineer for this project, said it would be impossible to build a two-turret armored boat only drawing a half-meter. Instead he proposed a smaller
one-turret vessel that would meet the shallow draft requirement. That proposal was approved and two designs were submitted from Benoit’s bureau. The larger design
was called BKA (bronirovannyie katera, or armored cutter) 1124 and had two T-26 tank turrets mounting 45mm guns. This boat displaced 42 tons, was 25 meters (82
feet) long and had 12mm of armor on its “citadel” protecting the engines and other vital spaces. With a draft of 0.80 meters, it still could operate in very shallow waters.
The smaller version, known as
BKA 1125, only drew 0.5 meters and displaced 29 tons. They carried one turret, were slightly shorter (22.6 meters or about 74 feet) and
had less armor protection. The compact size of both the 1124 and 1125 designs made it possible to transport them on railways cars to move them from one front to
Production began in 1935 at small shipyards along the Soviet Union’s inland rivers. When construction began, the T-26 turret was replaced by the 76.2mm short-
barreled gun and turret used in the T-28 medium and T-35 heavy tanks. To provide anti-aircraft defense, the 1125 was fitted with three 12.7mm machine guns in single
mounts. Later in the war, the main gun was replaced with a long barreled 76.2mm T-34 turret and the aft machine gun mount was replaced on some units with a
Katiusha rocket launcher, which increased firepower and effectiveness. By the time of the Nazi invasion in June 1941, 85 boats had been delivered with 68 more under
construction. They saw action very early on, with boats of the Danube flotilla supporting the landing of troops on June 24, routing Romanian soldiers defending the
Danube delta. On June 26, boats of the Pinsk flotilla took part in the Soviet counter-attacks against German positions along the Berezina River. The BKA 1125 was used
throughout the war in attacks against German troops and armor on all fronts, including Stalingrad. Towards the end of the war, these armored boats were used for
bombardment of fortifications and cities in support of Soviet troop advancements. The Austrian capital city, Vienna, was bombed by a flotilla of BKA 1124 and 1125
boats in 1945.

The Kit - ROP o.s. Samek Models offers a resin waterline kit of BKA 1125 river tank. The kit is very simple, with a low part count, but the actual vessel was very
basic as well. The resin parts are comprised of the waterlined hull, the T-34 turret, three 12.7mm housings and barrels, and what appears to be either a searchlight or
gun director. The photo-etch fret, produced by Eduard, is also basic, with railings, life rings, anchor with chain, a mast and a nameplate. Part numbers are etched into
the fret. A plaster water base and a paper Soviet naval ensign round out the contents.

The hull is nicely detailed with the bridge/superstructure, bases for the main turret and aft 12.7mm gun housing, skylights, access hatches, engine hatch and exhaust
pipe. The bridge has portholes and doors cast into it. The T-34 turret is well done and the 12.7mm housings, which are on a casting wafer, also have a fair amount of
detail, though one had a little void that need filling. The smaller parts are on a casting runner. The photo-etch is not brass or stainless steel, but some other material that
is sturdy and easy to use.
The assembly instructions come on a single double-sided sheet of paper. The front side has a small plan and profile drawing of a BKA 1125 on the top of the page and
some specifications and reference citations at the bottom. The flip side of the sheet has color photos: clockwise from the top left is an image of the kit parts with
identification numbers assigned to the resin parts; all three Soviet river warships offered by ROP o.s. Samek built up; and the bottom larger image is of the
BKA 1125
model assembled with part numbers. The resin parts are inside of squares and the photo-etch parts inside of circles.

The Build - The model went together rather easily, with no issues and basically was built it out of the box. I found a color drawing of a BKA 1125 online and used it
as a reference. This model could be a weekend project for most, but I don’t work that fast. I removed the three 12.7mm gun housings from the resin wafer and
cleaned them up along the bottom to remove any excess resin. I then washed all the resin parts with dish washing liquid, scrubbing the hull and tank turret with a soft
tooth brush. For the desk I used Humbrol 164 (Dark Sea Grey) and brush painted. After letting it dry for a couple of days, I masked the deck and painted the hull,
other resin parts and the photo-etch railings and mast Testors Model Master Neutral Gray (1725). I ran a pencil on some sandpaper and used the dust to lightly
weathered the model. I wasn’t 100% sure if in reality the life rings would be attached to the railings as depicted in the instructions, but I painted them red and white
and added them anyhow. I used a mechanical black ink pen to fill in the skylights, hatches and windows on the bridge housing.

I finished the model off with some nitinol wire for the rigging and the digits 125 from the NNT Models 1/700 Russian Tactical Number 4,5-5,0mm decal sheet. I
thought the paper flag was too large for the model and instead used a slightly smaller one from a leftover Bronco Models decal sheet. That was a mistake as the decal
decided to break up a little bit when I was applying it. I also opted not to use the plaster water base as it was too large in my opinion and the little
BKA 1125 would be
lost in it. Instead I used a small premade plastic case with a black base that was the right size. I used acrylic gel to make up the waterscape and painted it with craft
acrylic paints and a coat of Future gloss. I am saving the plaster water base for another project.
Conclusion - This was a quick and easy build and a nice break from more involved projects. I was able to complete it without too much effort and achieve a little
satisfaction in getting something actually done. It is a nice addition to my build of the
Undarnyi model from ROP o.s. Samek that I completed a couple of years ago. I
purchased this kit from Free Time Hobbies, which is the only U.S. retailer that I know that carries ROP o.s. Samek kits.
Felix Bustelo