Captain Cowper Coles is not a name that is as readily recognized as John Ericsson but they both independently developed a naval ship turret design. Based on his
experience during the Crimean War, Coles concluded that having a few large guns mounted in a revolving turret was a better alternative to the more traditional
broadside of numerous smaller cannons. So Cole came up with his own turret design, which caught the interest of foreign navies but not that of the more traditional
Royal Navy. The Laird Brothers shipyard at Birkenhead soon became the firm foreign navies would contract to build ironclad ships fitted with Cole’s revolving
turret. One of those foreign navies was Peru’s, which in 1864 ordered one.

Huascar after a famous Incan emperor, the ship displaced 2,030 tons and was completed in December of 1865. She measured 200 feet in length, 35 feet in
the beam and with a 15 foot draught. The engine produced 1,200 ihp providing a top speed of 12.27 knots. The main armament was two 10-inch muzzle loaded guns
mounted in the turret. Smaller guns were comprised of three more traditional cannons: port and starboard and one aft. Like almost all Cole’s turret warships,
Huascar had a low freeboard because of turret weight and to minimize the ship’s target area. Huascar was given folding solid bulkheads that were raised to increase
freeboard in the open ocean and lowered when in action. To minimize obstructions from rigging for firing the main guns, the ship originally was fitted with a tubular
tripod iron foremast. Belt armor was 4.5-inches wrought iron over the machinery spaces and magazine with a 2-inch armored deck and 5.5-inch turret armor. With
only a bunker capacity of 300 tons
Huascar had a limited range. The turret was rotated manually by a 16 man crew. It took a full 15 minutes to rotate 360 degrees.
Huascar left Birkenhead for Peru on January 17, 1866. On the way she stopped at Brest to join another Peruvian purchase, the iron steam frigate Independencia, for
the journey home. Spain was already engaged in military operations against Peru and Chile, so as the pair crossed the Atlantic, they accosted and seized two Spanish
merchant ships. Ironically by the time the ships reached Peru the conflict with Spain had ended.

In May 1877, the ironclad was seized by mutineers at the port of Callao in support of an uprising against Peru’s national government.
Huascar cruised up and down
the coast harassing merchant ships and paralyzing trade. The crew then made the mistake of stopping some British steamers and seizing mail. This gave the
government in Lima the excuse to seek the assistance of the Royal Navy to put an end to this situation. A British squadron comprised of the unprotected iron steam
HMS Shah and the wooden steam corvette HMS Amethyst was in the area. The British squadron found Huascar off Ilo, Peru on May 29, 1877. The British
ships ordered
Huascar to surrender and after waiting 10 minutes for a response that never came, opened fire. Thus began a two-hour battle in which Shah fired
over 300 rounds with approximately 70 or so making contact.
Huascar’s low profile and agility made it a difficult target and only one hit had a real impact and that
was a mere two-inch dent in the armor belt.
Shah was also equipped with Whitehead self-propelled torpedoes. One was fired at Huascar but the ironclad turned
away and outran the torpedo. This was the first combat use of the self-propelled torpedo. The very poor performance by the Peruvian gunners helped the British.
Huascar’s crew managed to fire her main guns only five times with no scores. In the end, Huascar turned toward Ilo and the next day surrendered to the Peruvian
Bolivia is now a land locked country. However in 1879 the country had a corridor to the Pacific Ocean. This corridor was very valuable for the nitrate production
from bat guano and therefore valuable to Chile. Chile went to war with Bolivia to seize this land and since Peru had a secret defense treaty with Bolivia, Peru came
to Bolivia’s aid. The Chilean navy began a blockade of the primary Peruvian nitrate port of Iquique, which would have a substantial economic impact. A Chilean
squadron was sent to Callao to execute a surprise attack on the Peruvian navy vessels based there. However, the Peruvian squadron managed to leave Callao and
passed the Chilean ships without being spotted.
Huascar and Independencia sailed south to Iquique and attacked the Chilean blockade force of the old wooden
steam corvette
Esmeralda and the gunboat Covadonga. While attempting to escape the Peruvian ships, Esmeralda had a boiler explosion, which reduced her speed.
Huascar engaged Esmeralda but after three hours of exchanging gun fire it was becoming a stalemate. So Huascar attempted to ram Esmeralda and after the third
attempt was successful. Meanwhile
Independencia was lured into shallow water and wrecked on a reef.

Huascar returned to Callao for minor repairs and at this time the forward tripod was removed to allow forward fire. After the repairs Huascar steamed along the
Chilean coast terrorizing coastal towns. On October 8, 1879 the long-awaited confrontation between the Chilean ironclads
Cochrane and Blanco Enclada and
Huascar occurred at Antofagasta, which fittingly was the Pacific end of the Bolivian Pacific corridor which was the original cause of the war. The Chilean
ironclads were larger than
Huascar and mounted six 9-inch guns each against the two 10-inch guns of Huascar. The Chileans also had new armor piercing shells.
Huascar was clearly outmatched and she was hit 70 times, knocking out her steering, smashing the superstructure and penetrating the turret twice. The ship’s
commander, Commodore Grau, was killed in the barrage.
Huascar was dead in the water with her turret knocked out. Now defenseless, the crew tried to scuttle
her but Chilean boarding parties came aboard and stopped the ship from sinking. The Chileans made temporary repairs and reached Valparaiso on October 20. By
Huascar was in operations against her former owners, blockading Peru. With total control of the sea, Chile landed troops, who captured Callao and
went on to capture Lima.

In 1880 the 10-inch guns were replaced by 8-inch breach loading guns and a steam engine was added to power the turret. In April 1896 a steam pipe burst killing
fourteen crew members and the ship was towed to Talcahuano, where she has remained to this day. She has served as a depot ship and then in 1918 as a
submarine tender, supporting a six boat Chilean submarine flotilla.
Huascar was restored as a memorial in the 1950s and then had a second restoration in 1972, fully
restoring the ironclad.
Huascar is open to the public to this day and is a historically important vessel, not just for Chile and Peru, but for all interested in naval
architecture. She is the only restored example of a warship mounting a Cole’s turret.
Several years ago Combrig has released a 1:700 scale model of Huascar. At the time I emailed Combrig asking if a 1:350 scale kit was being considered. The reply
was that there were no plans to do so. Now several years, my wish came true. Out of the box, you can build
Huascar as she appeared in her final battle against the
Chilean ships after her tripod foremast was landed. However, you can also backdate her a bit and add the foremast. The kit is comprised of resin and photo-etch
parts. The model comes as a two-part hull giving you the option of either a waterline or full hull model. The upper hull casting is overall well done with a good
amount of detail: skylights, deck comings for the access ways below deck and coaling scuttles. There are recesses to fit the turret, funnel and octagonal conning
tower. Missing are chocks and mooring bitts but based on photos I have seen of the ship in her restored state I didn’t see evidence of any. The deck has wood
planking, however there are no butt ends. There are some smaller locater holes to accommodate vents, capstan and the masts. There is one major issue with the hull.
There is a gun port at the stern of the ship which is not present in the kit. The kit instructions show that a cannon is to be placed aft under the upper deck but it
essentially points to a bulkhead. To correct the omission, the modeler with have to cut away at a lot of resin to open this area up and then drill and shape an opening
at the stern. This is a fairly serious oversight in my opinion. The lower hull is good and captures the ram bow shape. If you decide to join the two hull sections for a
full-hull model, some filler will probably be needed to hide the joint. A thin resin casting wafer contains the stern deck, the bridge deck and two mast platforms. The
second platform can be used if you add the tripod foremast. Again the wood planking lacks butt ends.

The next largest parts are the prominent Cole’s turret, the funnel and the conning tower. The latter are on casting runners. The bottom of the turret has some excess
resin that will need to be removed so that it can sit flush with the deck. A total of five boats are provided. Each boat has cast in thwarts and bottom planking detail
but lack rudders. The smaller resin parts include the cannon barrels and separate carriages (you get parts for five cannons when you only need three), the propeller,
rudder, and rudder skeg, cowl and pipe vents, 10-inch gun barrels, capstan, anchors, belaying pin rails, bridge fittings and boat davits. Also included are a pair small
caliber deck guns which are not referenced in the instructions. The parts are generally very well cast, need little, if any, clean-up and must be carefully removed from
the casting runners. The davits are flimsy and some are a little warped. These should have been done in photo-etch brass; while they would be flat and two-
dimensional they would be sturdier. Making your own with brass wire will be tedious. A small photo-etch brass fret, produced by North Star Models, is provided
which contains ship specific parts. The modeler will have to use after-market photo-etch railing. There are part numbers etched into the fret but they are not
referenced in the instructions. The parts include the 24 collapsible bulkheads and support braces that line the edge of the deck. Other parts include ratlines for the
main mast, inclined ladders, accommodation ladders, anchor chain and the twin helms. The etch is fine and delicate with some relief-etching.

The instructions come on three pages and are in the common
Combrig format. The first page has a small plan and profile drawings of Huascar in full sailing rig as
delivered to Peru. The ship’s history and specifications are written in English. Page two has the standard resin parts layout and an image of the photo-etch fret. This
leaves only one page with assembly diagrams. There is a general assembly diagram supplemented with smaller insets which focus on certain sub-assemblies. One
inset provides the metric dimensions for cutting the masts and yards for the main mast. If you wish to add the forward tripod mast you can refer to the drawing on
the first page or other references. Unfortunately there is no final illustration of the fully assembled model and the placement of the different types of boats is omitted.
The instructions were printed double-sided so this left a blank fourth page which could have easily accommodated a final view.
Overall this appears to be fairly good release from Combrig though there are some issues if you wish to build a fully accurate model of Huascar. I always found this
ship very interesting and my wish for a 1:350 scale kit was finally fulfilled. Warship Quarterly Numbers 37 and 38 (which are part of the annual Volume X
compilation) contains a two-part article that covers the history of the ship and has profiles for all of the different fits
Huascar had in her career. You can purchase
this kit from
Free Time/Pacific Front Hobbies, which is the sole source for Combrig kits in the United States. Now Combrig, how about a 1:350 scale version of
your 1:700
USS Vesuvius?  My thanks to Combrig for providing the review sample.
Felix Bustelo