The evolution and gestation of American battleship designs occurred in noticeable stages. After a 25year absence in designing modern warships from the coastal
monitors of the American Civil War, the navy didn’t trust American designers to design a battleship equal to those of other navies, so
USS Maine (originally rated as an
armored cruiser) and
USS Texas were built to purchased British designs. Neither was equal to contemporary Royal Navy designs but after the long hiatus in warship
construction, US shipbuilding yards and facilities had to be further developed to build totally modern designs. When it came to producing modern US designed
battleships, another obstacle was Congress and the great distrust the legislative body had in large battleships. Congress considered a large navy and especially large
battleships the tools of colonialism. Accordingly the first classes of US designed battleships were intentionally designed for coastal operations and coastal defense

This led to the second stage of American battleship construction, the low freeboard coastal battleships. The
Indiana Class was heavily armed and armored but the low
freeboard limited their use in the open ocean, in spite of
USS Oregon’s world cruise. The following single ship Iowa Class raised the freeboard somewhat but not
enough for true Blue Water operations. The two ship
Keasarge Class kept a low freeboard but introduced its own innovation. To save weight and still keep a four gun
broadside for the secondary guns, the two gun 8-inch positions were sited on top of the two main gun turrets that had to be trained with the main guns, as they were
incapable of independently training in a different direction from the main guns. The following
Illinois Class was still limited by the Congressional mandate “seagoing
coastline battleships
” the USN design committee contemplated that not design feature of this class would seriously impair good seagoing and sea-enduring qualities. Still
the three ships of the
Illinois Class had the same length and beam as the Keasarges. The eight-inch gun secondary, a feature of all USN designed battleships up to the
Illinois Class was deleted in favor of a battery of a casemate mounted uniform battery of 6-inch guns. All of these classes were designed to have a maximum 12 to 24
hour full speed of 14 to 15-knots. All of these classes were designed and laid down before an event, which would forever change the capital ship design emphasis for
the USN.
The Spanish-American War forever changed the world role of the USA and the USN warship designs. The short war with spectacular naval victories at Manila Bay
and Santiago, left the USA with colonies acquired in the peace treaty with Spain. It didn’t matter that in both battles USN forces were far superior than their Spanish
opponents, from hence forth designs were no longer legislatively limited to coastal battleships. It didn’t matter that prior to the war Congress opposed blue water
battleship designs in that they were tools of colonial empires, once the United States became the Imperial Republic with colonies in the Pacific Ocean, she needed
warships capable of working in any ocean. This led to the third evolution of the American battleship. All classes of predreadnought battleships after the
Illinois Class
would have sufficient freeboard for worldwide operations.

The three ship
Maine Class of 1898 was the first beneficiary of this change in outlook and policy. Originally this class was to be a repeat of the Illinois Class but
requirements were rewritten to provide a better deep water capability. The first thing changed was the maximum speed, as the
Maine Class were required to be
capable of 18-knots, the same as the best battleships as other navies. Krupp armor was adopted, which provided the same resistance but with lesser weight than the
previous designs and the ships went back to a 12-inch main gun battery instead of the 13-inch guns carried from
Kearsarge through the Illinois Classes. Hull length
was increased by 30-feet from the preceding
Illinois Class. All of this allowed for a far roomier and ocean capable design with higher freeboard, a more powerful
power plant and greater range thanks to increased coal bunkerage. The secondary battery increased to sixteen 6-inch/50 guns mounted in casemate positions, as in the
Illinois Class.

The next design incorporated combat lessons from the Spanish-American War. In 1899 Congress happily passed an appropriations bill for three new battleships (BB-
13 through BB-15) fiscal 1900 plan. In 1900 Congress passed another appropriation for two more battleships (BB-16 & BB-17) fiscal 1901 plan. All five were to be at
a trial displacement of 13,500-tons and of “
the highest practical speed and great radius of action”, in very marked contrast to prewar appropriation bills. At the Battle
of Santiago only one shell from the main guns of the engaged American battleships had struck a Spanish ship. In marked contrast the 8-inch gun secondary batteries
had been very effective. As a consequence of this lesson, the next design would see the return of the 8-inch secondary gun battery. This was the central design
characteristic upon which the design revolved. The design board met to consider the requirement but opinion was divided into two camps.
When the three ships of the 1900 fiscal year were approved, the board considered various combinations of secondary arrangement. Some designs incorporated the
newly produced 7-inch gun casemates, four 8-inch guns in a second story of the two main gun turrets, as in
Keasarge, four twin 8-inch gun turrets arranged as in
Indiana and Iowa, and four 8-inch gun turrets, two atop the main gun turrets and two in waist positions with a 6-inch casemate battery. Vote after vote was taken
and no consensus could be reached. By May 1900 Congress had approved the fiscal 1901 battleships and it was proposed that the 1900 year ships be built with
eight separate turrets and 1901 year ships be built with superimposed turrets with no waist turrets. The chief constructor, Rear Admiral Phillip Hichborn, insisted
that all five be built to a common design. At the time, in spite that the
Kearsarge and Kentucky had been completed most were in favor of the two-story turrets,
oblivious to the facts that they were very restricted to being trained on the same targets as the main guns and difficulty in correcting fire because the shell splashes
of the 12-inch shells and 8-inch shells were difficult to distinguish from one another at combat range. On January 24, 1901 the chief of the Bureau of Ordnance
advocated the two superimposed turrets but two, rather than four twin gun waist turrets. Ten of the twelve members agreed and only Chief Constructor, Rear
Admiral Hichborn, objected to the superimposed turrets. The matter was settled when the Secretary of the Navy approved the majority opinion. Interestingly, within
a few years all of the members who wanted superimposed turrets were violently opposed to them when their restrictions became manifest.

Originally the three ships of the fiscal 1900 were to be
New Jersey (BB-13) to be built by Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, VA, Nebraska (BB-14) to
be built by Moran Brothers, Seattle, WA and
Georgia (BB-15) to be built by Bath Iron Works, Bath, ME, while the two ships of the fiscal 1901 plan were to be
Virginia (BB-16) to be built by Fore River Ship and Engine, Quincy, MA and Rhode Island (BB-17) to be built by Fore River Ship and Engine, Quincy, MA.
Virginia and New Jersey swapped names so that USS Virginia would be built in the State of Virginia. All dimensions and displacement leaped above those
of the
Maine Class. Waterline length was 435-feet compared to 388-feet in Maine, beam 76-feet 2.5-inches compared to 72-feet 2.5-inches and normal
displacement of 14,948-tons compared to 12,508-tons. Indicated Horsepower (IHP) of the
Virginias was 22,841ihp vs 15,841ihp in the Maines with a maximum
speed of 17-knots for 12 to 24 hours vs the 16-knots of the
Maine Class. The Virginia Class had an armament fit of four 12-inch/40 Mk III (2x2), eight 4x2
eight-inch/45 Mk VI, twelve 6-inch/50 12x1 Mk VII guns and four 21-inch submerged torpedo tubes (added as an initial alteration). The armor arrangement was
turret face 12-inches for main guns and superimposed turrets and 6.5-inches for waist secondary turrets. Barbette armor was 10 to 7.5 inches for main gun turrets
and 6-inches for the waist turrets. Belt armor was 11 to 8-inches and casemate armor 6-inches. The armor design of belt and casemate armor caused a problem
with replenishing coal. There were no openings in the casemate armor allowing coal replenishment on the main deck. Instead coal sacks had to be raised to the 01
deck and poured through scuttles at that higher level, through temporary canvas chutes to the bunkers. Accordingly coal replenishment was more arduous and time
consuming than in previous design. The conning tower had 9-inch armor and the armor deck was 3 to 1.5-inches with 3-inches on the slope to the hull sides.
Another war lesson incorporated into the design was the reduction of combustible wood to the highest degree possible.
Georgia and Virginia were outfitted with
modified Niclausse boilers and the other three received Babcock and Wilcox boilers. The original Niclausse boiler design had been uses in the
Maine Class had been
troublesome. The new design was somewhat better but the
Georgia and Virginia had their Niclausse boilers replaced in 1916.
The first three ships of the fiscal 1900 program were authorized on March 3, 1899 but contract awards were delayed because of the incessant design changes and
decision to build all five battleships of the 1900 and 1901 programs to a common design.
USS Georgia BB-15 was laid down at the Bath Iron Works, Maine on August
31, 1902. She was launched on October 11, 1904 and placed into service in September 1906. The
Georgia, along with other ships of the Atlantic Fleet, appeared at the
Jamestown Exposition, which opened in April 1907, and commemorated the 300th Anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. On June 10
Georgia was part of
the Presidential Naval Review for President Theodore Roosevelt. On July 15, 1907
USS Georgia was engaged in target practice in Cape Cod Bay.  In the 8-inch gun
house on top of the aft main gun turret a flashback occurred that ignited two bags of powder in the gun house. Ten of the gun crew were killed and eleven more were
seriously burned. Fortunately, the flash did not reach the main turret below or the magazines. The
Georgia had compressed air gas injectors on the guns but to try to
increase the rate of fire in the practice, the gas ejectors had been turned off too soon. As a result of the investigation of the accident, new anti-fire systems were installed,
including sprinklers, turret flame seals and new bulkheads to separate the guns within turrets. A change in procedure designated one of the gun crew as a “
bore clear
whose duty was to visually inspect the gun tube to make sure that it was clear of embers or gas residue. Later in the summer 1907
Georgia, with other members of her
division, steamed to Cape Cod for day and night battle practice. On September 24
Georgia went to the Philadelphia Naval Yard for an overhaul.  

On December 6, 1907
Georgia joined the Great White Fleet assembling at Norfolk, Virginia. The Virginia Class, minus Nebraska, began preparation for the around the
world cruise of the
Great White Fleet. President Theodore Roosevelt reviewed the fleet on December 6, 1907 before its departure for the West coast on December 17,
1907.  The
USS Georgia was the flagship of Rear Admiral William H. Emory, commander of the second division of the fleet. The second division contained the Virginia
, less Nebraska.
The first leg was the journey to San Diego and 15 battleships were initially assigned for the cruise. The fleet stopped at ports on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts of
various South American countries before reaching San Diego on April 14, 1908. On July 17, 1908 the
Great White Fleet started across the Pacific Ocean. At San
Nebraska joined the 2nd division and Virginia was transferred to the 3rd division. Rear Admiral Richard Wainwright took command of the 2nd division and
kept the
Georgia as his flagship.  The stops were at Honolulu, Auckland New Zealand, Sydney and Melbourne Australia before arriving at Manila Philippines on
October 2 1908. On the return voyage
Georgia stopped at Colombo Ceylon, Suez, Smyrna Turkey, Marseilles and Gibraltar. She arrived back at Hampton Roads with
the rest of the fleet on February 22, 1909, where President Roosevelt again reviewed his children.

Shortly after their return to the United States, all five ships of the
Virginia Class were ordered into the yards for a refit, including the replacement of their military
masts with cage masts. Gone was the white and buff paint scheme of the
Great White Fleet and in was a gray paint scheme. Three of the battleships, Virginia,
Rhode Island and Nebraska initially only replaced the fore mast with a cage mast, while retaining a military style main mast. Georgia and New Jersey had both fore and
main military masts replaced with cage masts in 1909. Also, at this time,
Georgia received a new open bridge with semaphores. The removal of the 3-inch guns started
during this time. On November 2, 1910
Georgia was part of a naval review for the new President, William Howard Taft, followed by the Atlantic Fleet’s cruise to
Great Britain and France. Georgia and the rest of the fleet returned to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba on March 13, 1911. For the next three years
USS Georgia, along with
the rest of the Atlantic Fleet, operated from Cuba to New England. In early 1913 unrest in Mexico, caused Vera Cruz to be added to the fleet’s cruise itinerary. Later in
Georgia underwent a refit at the Boston Naval Yard. With the Mexican Revolution, Georgia operated in Mexican waters from January 14 until March 1914. The
ship had another refit at the Boston Naval Yard in January 1916.

Before the United States entered World War One,
Georgia was the receiving ship at Boston. With the Declaration of War USS Georgia was ordered to active service
and on April 6, 1917 joined the 3rd Division of the Battleship Force. In common with other ships of the class, all 6-inch guns were landed to lessen top weight and
improve seakeeping. In September 1918 she was reassigned to the Cruiser Force Atlantic for convoy escort duties. Following the collapse of one of the cage masts of
USS Michigan in a storm, the Georgia had her cage masts strengthened and control tops added in 1918. In October 1918 Georgia received two3-inch/50 anti-aircraft
guns. On December 10, 1918
Georgia was transferred to the Cruiser and Transport Force and started making round trips between France and the United States
transporting American troops back home. She made five round trips until June 1919 and transported almost 6,000 soldiers. In 1920 the
Georgia was transferred to the
Pacific Fleet as flagship of the 2nd Division of the 3rd Squadron.
USS Georgia was paid off in July 1920 and sold on November 10, 1923 for scrap. She was broken
up in Oakland, California in 1924.
I was at Free Time Hobbies in Blue Ridge, Georgia looking at all of the Combrig kits they had in stock. I noticed the models of the various members of the
Virginia Class battleships produced by Combrig. I have seen and reviewed kits of this class produced by Niko Model and Samek but I didn’t have one of the
Combrig kits. As well as having the kits of the ships of the class Free Time also had a wooden deck set for the Combrig kit that is marketed with their Blue
Ridge Models
label. I could not resist and picked up the Combrig USS Georgia (after all Free Time is in Georgia) and the Blue Ridge deck for the kit. The
Combrig USS Georgia portrays the ship as built, with military masts. The hull casting is crisp and clean with plenty of detail on the hull sides and deck. Side detail
includes a clearly delineated armor belt running the length of the hull. There are very nice anchor hawse fittings at the bow and at deck edge washboards for the old
style stocked anchor. The six casemates for the 6-inch guns are cleanly recessed but they don’t have locater holes for the gun barrels but they are easily drilled. On
the other hand the QF tertiary gun positions, two at the bow and two at the stern, do have barrel locater holes, along with shutters for the forward positions. Also
adding to the interest of the hull sides are the sponsons for the barbettes of the wing 8-inch gun turrets.

There is a riot of deck detail. Deck planking is finely done but lacks butt end detail. The ship is flush deck and the coal scuttle detail is found on the main deck from
forecastle to quarterdeck and also on the 01 deck. Forecastle detail includes six open deck access coamings with inclined ladders leading down into the interior,
which is a very nice touch. There are anchor chain plates leading to the deck hawse fittings. Additional forecastle detail includes twin bollard fittings, small
deckhouses and open chocks. There are tall barbettes for all four turrets. Along the sides of the 01 level are a series of slanted fittings that are probably for
ventilation. The 01 bulkheads have two QF positions on each side breaking up the run pf port holes. The quarterdeck features most of the fittings found on the
forecastle with another six open deck access fittings, three small deckhouses, twin bollards and deck edge open chocks. The 01 deck has seven open deck access
fittings, skylights, funnel base positions, as well as the deck planking and coal scuttles.
The turrets and funnels are cast on plugs. The turrets really don’t need clean-up because the plugs are circular and fit inside the barbettes put the casting plugs for
the funnels will have to be removed. The turrets are delightful.  The double storey main gun turrets have gun cupolas and hinged access crown doors on either side
of the 8-inch gun house. The 8-inch gun house also has gun commander’s cupolas on the crown of the gun house. The tops of the funnels have a moderate degree
of hollowness and crisp aprons at the cap and bottom. The wing 8-inch gun turrets are loaded with crown detail, including three cupolas, two large hinged doors
and a small door at the rear. There is a single resin sheet with the thinner parts, such as platforms and decks. Two of the parts are not used on the Georgia kit and
are obviously designed for another ship in the class. The two largest are the bridge level with chart house with square windows and the large navigation deck that is
on top of the bridge deck. Both decks have open rectangles for inclined ladders and fine deck planking. A third deck is for the aft superstructure. For the Georgia
the ends are squared, as the deck with triangular ends is used for another ship in the class.  The other part not used as another style of aft bridge with a T-shape
and conning tower.  These decks have solid bulkheads along their edges that represent railings with canvas dodgers. Other parts on the sheet are a large deckhouse
in front of the forward turret, mast platforms and fighting tops, searchlight platforms and bridge face overhead.  Twenty two resin runners provide the rest of the
parts.  The largest has four gooseneck boat cranes with head and pulley detail. Three of the runners have gun barrels, one with the 12-inch and 8-inch barrels, one
with the 6-inch barrels and one with the QF guns. The barrels have band detail but don’t have hollow muzzles. Five conning towers and a deckhouse are on a
runner. The top conning tower parts have vision slits. Two runners have J-shape ventilator cowlings. One runner has the large ventilators in two patterns, while the
smallest cowlings in two sizes share the runner with boat davits, bow anchors, binnacles, compass and mushroom ventilators. The two stream anchors, which rest
on the hull washboards are on their own runner. The large tubular masts are on their own runner. Another runner has cable reels and windlass parts. Eight search
lights have a runner. Open QF guns are on a runner, which are further detailed by brass parts. Ships boats and equipment occupy ten runners. The boat selection
has two medium size steam launches, six medium open boats with transom, four medium oared boats with pointed stern and four dinghies. Other runners include
the boat chocks and two balsa rafts.

A medium sized brass photo-etched fret is provided with the kit. There is no railing on the fret, so you’ll need to get third party railing as well as vertical ladder. If
you look at a photograph of the fret, it seems like there are 13 funnel grates. Actually, the three largest are funnel top grates but the smaller ten are base pedestals
for small resin QF guns. The cradles, shoulder rests and gun shields for these guns are also on the fret. A good percentage of the fret have various patterns of
support gussets for fighting tops, The bridge face with open windows is on the fret. Other ship specific parts are anchor cranes, ship’s wheel, boat crane detail,
and boat chocks. Other, more generic parts, are anchor chain, one inclined ladder with railing and three without. I would recommend replacing these with inclined
ladder with safety railing and trainable treads. The instructions are in five pages with two back-printed pages and one single page. They are in the traditional
Combrig format. Page one is a profile and plan with a history in Russian and ship’s specifications in English. Consulting the plan and profile is very important for
assembly of the kit as far as placement of parts. As an example the
Georgia kit has brass anchor cranes that do not appear in the assembly drawings but are shown
in the profile. Page two has a resin parts laydown. One interesting point about the laydown for the
Georgia kit is that Combrig put an X through the two variants of
aft bridge that are not used. Page two has nothing but subassemblies, mast templates and photo-etch laydown. The subassemblies include assemblies for main gun
turrets, open QF guns, anchor cranes, oat cranes and winches. The templates provide length and diameter for top masts, yards and steam pipes. Page four has ship’
s boats, davits and cranes attachment. The last page is for everything else. Double check the profile and plan before final attachment, as the instructions are the
weak point in this kit.
The Combrig USS Georgia BB-15 in 1:700 scale provides a detailed multi-media model for this member of double storied turret ship of the Virginia Class. One of
the strong points of the kit is the different shaped aft decks for different members of the class, including the
Georgia. As Brandon at Free Time Hobbies would
Go Dawgs!!!  Or is it a Yellow Jacket for the Blue Jackets?  
Steve Backer