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French Pre-Dreadnought Condorcet. 1:350


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French Pre-Dreadnought Condorcet

Hobbyboss 1:350

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Although the Danton-class battleships were a significant improvement from the preceding Liberté class, especially with the 3,000-ton displacement increase, they were outclassed by the advent of HMS Dreadnought well before they were completed. This, combined with other poor traits, including the great weight in coal they had to carry, made them rather unsuccessful ships, though their numerous rapid-firing guns were of some use in the Mediterranean.

 

Construction of Condorcet was begun on 26 December 1906 by Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire in Saint-Nazaire and the ship was laid down on 23 August 1907. She was launched on 20 April 1909 and was completed on 25 July 1911. Condorcet was initially assigned to the 1st Division of the 1st Squadron (escadre) of the Mediterranean Fleet when she was commissioned. The ship participated in combined fleet manoeuvres between Provence and Tunisia in May–June 1913and the subsequent naval review conducted by the President of France, Raymond Poincaré on 7 June 1913. Afterwards, Condorcet joined her squadron in its tour of the Eastern Mediterranean in October–December 1913 and participated in the grand fleet exercise in the Mediterranean in May 1914.

 

Condorcet was 146.6 meters (481 ft 0 in) long overall and had a beam of 25.8 m (84 ft 8 in) and a full-load draft of 9.2 m (30 ft 2 in). She displaced 19,736 metric tons (19,424 long tons) at deep load and had a crew of 681 officers and enlisted men. The ship was powered by four Parsons steam turbines using steam generated by twenty-six Niclausse boilers. The turbines were rated at 22,500 shaft horsepower (16,800 kW) and provided a top speed of around 19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph). Condorcet reached a top speed of 19.7 knots (36.5 km/h; 22.7 mph) on her sea trials. She carried a maximum of 2,027 tonnes (1,995 long tons) of coal which allowed her to steam for 3,370 miles (2,930 nm) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).

 

The ships main battery consisted of four 305mm/45 Model 1906 guns mounted in two twin gun turrets, one forward and one aft. The secondary battery consisted of twelve 240mm/50 Model 1902 guns in twin turrets, three on each side of the ship. A number of smaller guns were carried for defence against torpedo boats. These included sixteen 75 mm (3.0 in) L/65 guns and ten 47mm(1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns. The ship was also armed with two submerged 450 mm (17.7 in) torpedo tubes. The ship's main belt was 270 mm (10.6 in) thick and the main battery was protected by up to 300 mm (11.8 in) of armour. The bridge tower also had 300 mm thick sides. During the war 75 mm anti-aircraft guns were installed on the roofs of the ship's two forward 240 mm gun turrets. During 1918, the mainmast was shortened to allow the ship to fly a captive kite balloon and the elevation of the 240 mm guns was increased which extended their range to 18,000 meters (20,000 yd).

 

At the beginning of the war, the ship, together with her sister Vergniaud and the dreadnought Courbet, unsuccessfully searched for the German battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau in the Balearic Islands. On 9 August, Condorcet cruised the Strait of Sicily in an attempt to prevent the German ships from breaking out to the West. On 16 August 1914 the combined Anglo-French Fleet under Admiral Auguste Boué de Lapeyrère, including Condorcet, made a sweep of the Adriatic Sea. The Allied ships encountered the Austro-Hungarian cruiser SMS Zenta, escorted by the destroyer SMS Ulan, blockading the coast of Montenegro. There were too many ships for Zenta to escape, so she remained behind to allow Ulan to get away and was sunk by gunfire during the Battle of Antivari off the coast of Bar, Montenegro. Condorcet subsequently participated in a number of raids into the Adriatic later in the year and patrolled the Ionian Islands. From December 1914 to 1916, the ship participated in the distant blockade of the Straits of Otranto while based in Corfu. On 1 December 1916, Condorcet was in Athens and contributed troops to the Allied attempt to ensure Greek acquiescence to Allied operations in Macedonia. Shortly afterwards, she was transferred to Mudros to prevent Goeben from breaking out into the Mediterranean and remained there until September 1917. The ship was transferred to the 2nd Division of the 1st Squadron in May 1918 and returned to Mudros where she remained for the rest of the war.

 

From 6 December 1918 to 2 March 1919, Condorcet represented France in the Allied squadron in Fiume that supervised the settlement of the Yugoslav question. Afterwards, the ship was assigned to the Channel Division of the French Navy. She was modernized in 1923–24 to improve her underwater protection and her four aft 75 mm guns were removed. Together with her sisters Diderot and Voltaire, she was assigned to the Training Division at Toulon. Condorcet housed the torpedo and electrical schools and had a torpedo tube fitted on the port side of her quarterdeck. She was partially disarmed in 1931 and converted into an accommodation hulk; by 1939 her propellers had been removed. The famous underwater explorer Jacques Cousteau began diving while stationed aboard the ship in 1936.

In April 1941, the ship was towed to sea to evaluate the propellant used by the battleship Richelieu during the Battle of Dakar on 24 September 1940. One 38-centimetre (15 in) gun had an explosion in the breech and the propellant for the shell was thought to be the cause. A number of shots were successfully fired from Condorcet's aft turret by remote control that exonerated the propellant. The following July, the ship was modified to house the signal, radio and electrician's schools. Berthing areas were installed in the bases of four funnels, which had been removed previously, and the latest radio equipment was installed for the students to train on. Later that year, she was accidentally rammed by the submarine Le Glorieux as she was leaving dry-dock. The impact punctured the ship's hull and flooded one compartment which required Condorcet to be docked for repairs. The ship was captured intact by the Germans when they occupied Vichy France on 27 November 1942. Unlike the bulk of the French Fleet in Toulon, Condorcet was not scuttled because she had trainees aboard. Used by the Germans as a barracks ship, she was badly damaged by Allied aircraft in August 1944 and scuttled that same month by the Germans. The ship was salvaged in September 1945 and listed for sale on 14 December. By 1949 the dismantling of the ship had been completed

 

The Model

This really has been the year of the pre-dreadnought, and long may the releases continue.  Packaged in the standard style of box Hobbyboss use for their ship kits, it is somewhat smaller than most.  Inside there are thirteen sprues of light grey styrene, and one separate deck section. There is also a small black stand, three sheets of etched brass, a length of chain and a smallish decal sheet.

 

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All the parts are very nicely moulded with some very fine details, particularly on the deck and superstructure.  The parts are all cleanly moulded, with no sign of flash or other imperfections, but there are quite a few moulding pips, mainly on the small parts.  The instructions are well printed and very clearly mark the positioning of parts and sub-assemblies along with a nicely printed painting guide.

 

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Construction begins with the fitting of the two hull halves between which are two bulkheads and the rudder. There are two, two gun casements fore and aft and two four gun casements, one on each beam, these sub- assemblies are then fitted into their appropriate positions in the hull. The main deck section and the quarterdeck section are glued into position once a couple of holes have been drilled out in the main deck. The hull is then turned upside down, so that the bilge keels, four propeller shafts, A frame supports and propellers can be attached.

 

 

Before continuing the main build, several sub-assemblies need to be built up; these are the main capstans, and the folding of the inclined ladders. The capstans, bitts, chocks and roller chocks are fitted to the foredeck and quarterdeck, whilst the inclined ladders are fitted in their appropriate positions as are the PE casement doors which can be posed in either the open or closed positions. The anchors, anchor chains, ensign staff, jack staff, midships mounted winches, several deckhouses and four searchlights, each fitted at the end of a PE walkway/track, fitted amidships, while two more searchlights and associated PE walkway/track are fitted at the aft end of the main deck, whilst along each side there are more PE doors, vertical ladders and plastic boat booms are glued into position.

 

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The bridge structure is assembled next with the base being fitted with the bridge deck which includes the bridge wings. Under the wings and bridge front there are fifteen PE supports to attach. The after superstructure is also assembled with the deck mounted on sixteen supports, and fitted with a small deck house. The main bridge is then fitted with the armoured hood and another deck house, followed by another deck and four light guns, two rangefinders, four vertical items, which I cannot identify, the binnacle and the navigation lights. The bridge, aft structure and upper deck structure aft of the bridge are attached to the main deck. The aft structure is then fitted with four light guns, binnacle and four upright items.

 

The turrets are then built up, two main turrets and six secondary turrets, each  made up form a turret base, two guns on a single trunnion, two trunnion mounts, turret top, and sighting top. The two masts are also assembled at this time each with separate yardarms, platforms and their associated railings. The masts are then glued into position, along with nine ventilators and several deck houses, plus three chimneys. The most obvious identification for this ship is the five funnels; each is made up from two halves, then fitted with two piece funnel tops and PE grille, along with PE vertical ladders and railings. The two boat cranes are built up from seven plastic and seven PE parts. The completed funnel and crane assemblies are then glued into position.

 

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The two PE boat cradles are folded to shape and attached to the main deck, followed by a set of railings and a selection of PE inclined ladders. There are ten rowing boats and two steam launches to assemble. The rowing boats have thwarts fitted and the steam launches a funnel, they could do with some etched oars, rudders and propellers, but other than that they look ok. Once assembled, the ships boats are then fitted to their respective cradles. The kit does come with a full ships complement of railings which are now attached, followed by the turret sub-assemblies, PE accommodation ladders, boat davits and boats, side anchors and small cranes, completing the build.

 

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Decals

The small decal sheet provides the French national flags in straight and wavy forms; and the ships name. They are nicely printed with good opacity and in register. The ship is painted in Dark Sea Grey overall, with black boot topping and the option of having green or red antifouling.

 

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Conclusion

There are to be at least three of this class to be released, Danton, Condorcet and Voltaire, each is slightly different so you could, in effect build your own French battleship squadron.  They are all pretty accurate and although already well detailed,  I’m sure aftermarket companies will bring further detail out for them. I’m now looking forward to seeing more pre-dreadnoughts being released as they have a peculiar attraction to a lot of modellers.

 

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Review sample courtesy of
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