Saturday, May 9, 2020

The Great Wee Fleet Project

I was innocently minding my own business working on various projects that entail buying a lot of figures that will take me forever to paint, when Kevin Smyth annouced that he was collecting 1/1250th scale pre-dreadnought era ship models for a gaming project.

I resisted. I truly did. In order to bolster my resistance, I started browsing the available products at Surely looking won't hurt and what I don't buy will make me stronger. So I'm gobsmacked that after manfully resisting temptation and just looking at pictures on a website, a package containing several small ship models should arrive at my home today. To my further surprise, they were all Japanese pre-1900 ships made by Hai models in Germany.

What could I do? It would have been heartless to leave them out in the cold. So now I'm the admiral of a Great Wee Fleet (well, 6 ships so far—and two of them mere torpedo boats).

Chishima is an unprotected cruiser built by the French. It was small and lightly armed with a main battery of five 3" guns and a secondary battery of six 1-pounders. It never saw combat, having been lost in a collision in November 1892, 6 days after it was commissioned. It's still a charming model.

Takachiho was a protected cruiser built by Elswick in England. Her sister ship, Naniwa, was commanded by the future Admiral Togo. Her main armament was two 10" guns in barbettes with a secondary battery of six 6" guns.

Akashi was another protected cruiser. Not as well armed as the Takachiho, with a main battery of two 6" guns in open mounts and a secondary battery of six 4.7" guns.

Kohei-Go was an ex-Chinese torpedo gunboat (formerly Kuang-Ping). At first, I couldn't find a lot of information on Kohei-Go, but that turned out to be because I just wasn't looking hard enough or smart enough. She didn't have a long career in the Japanese navy, sinking in a collision just months after being commissioned. Jane's doesn't have any information about here. Conway's provides information only about her career in Chinese service as part of the Kuang Yi class of gunboats. Jentschura provides details on p. 94 of Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. It mounted just three 4.7" guns, four 47mm Hotchkiss QF guns (3-pounders), 4 MGs, and four 15" torpedo tubes, the arrangement of which is obscure (Conway's gives them as 14" TT above water, Jentschura isn't so sure).

Shiritaka and T-22 are torpedo boats. T-22 was built in 1895 in Germany. Shiritaka was built in 1899 in Japan.

My plans for these ships is to use them with David Manley's Fire When Ready rules for the pre-Dreadnought era. Kevin is focusing on Americans and Germans with a few South American ships on the side. My thinking is to focus on potential/hypothetical naval encounters in the Far East, which could entail Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, British, French, and American ships. Like Kevin, I'm interested in scenarios involving smaller ships, no bigger than a cruiser—and mostly just protected cruisers at that. I've only played Fire When Ready using battleships and armored cruisers, so I'm not sure how well the rules model fights between unarmored ships armed with pop-guns. We'll see.

Pursuant to my interests, I manfully resisted some Navis models of German ships (Gazelle and Arcona). I am also manfully resisting a few more Japanese ships from Hai, one of which is the old central battery ironclad Fuso spiffed up in its 1894 configuration.

I'm strongly inclined towards re-painting these. They look pretty nice, but the finishes that come from Hai and Navis vary, the Akashi, for example, is gray while all the others are white. I also plan to put them on bases with magnetic bottoms. The masts are very delicate and storage and travel could take a toll. They come in boxes affixed with the WORLD'S STRONGEST DOUBLE-SIDED TAPE™. So strong, I haven't tried to remove them yet. I figure I'll have to slice them away with an XActo knife.

I've re-painted and based some Neptun 1/1250th WW2 ships that I use for Action Stations! (another set of Manley rules for manly men). They turned out quite well, so I have that to recommend it.


  1. Lovely models, and an excellent choice of rules :)

  2. I admire your manful attempts at resistance, though I question the method of catalog browsing. These kind of ships are fascinating, existing during the period when arms racing first became possible. With the guidance of the right visionary and enough investment, a nation could achieve technological superiority over the world in just a few big production runs.

  3. I feel your pain David. The money I've saved since the lockdown started, has nearly all gone on figures and terrain pieces.......I don't know what happened to he honest, don't tell the wife though!

  4. Nice! Would these models fit in with Houston's range of pre-dreadnoughts?

    1. I think the Houston's ships are 1/1000 or 1/1100. I have Houston's Battle of the Yalu ships (acquired nearly 30 years ago!), they're bigger.

  5. Yes, it is too bad that Houston chose 1/1000, actually 1/1100 for his models. And you really can mix Houston's stuff with 1/1250's. Some of my theoretically 1/1200 home made are off enough to work with Houston's ships.

  6. Enjoy your entry to the pre-dreadnought era. I have collected the Japanese and Russian fleets, as well as most of the Spanish American War ships. Although the Russo Japanese War vessels include the Battleships I have purposely kept to smaller ships in the Spanish American War instead since the American Battleships are so overwhelming vs. Spanish Cruisers. I do play with Spanish cruisers having working guns however. Good luck in you endeavors.

  7. About the Kohei Go, the only reference in Conway's is in the Chinese section, under the Chinese name Kwang P'ing (p399). In Jentsura reference and picture is on page 94. The thing is that after capture it was only a few months until the ship sank in a storm.