A pair of generic pre-dreadnought battleships

Having recently built a couple of generic cruisers for the naval war game I plan to put on at this year’s Conference of Wargamers (COW2016), I have now applied the same modelling techniques to building a couple of generic pre-dreadnought battleships … and I am not particularly impressed with the results.

Basically I think that I have tried to do too much on too small a scale. I am therefore going to set this project aside for a day or two to give me time to have a bit of a think. These models were not a disaster (in fact they look somewhat akin to the ‘Monopoly’ battleship that I tried to build some years ago!) but somehow they look too overcrowded and top heavy and I don’t find them aesthetically pleasing (the turrets look far too big for a start and the cruiser-style stern looks wrong when viewed from the side) … and if they don’t meet that criteria, I know that I will not be all that happy using them.

The original ‘Monopoly’ battleship looked like this:


22 Comments on “A pair of generic pre-dreadnought battleships”

  1. David Crook says:

    Hi Bob,

    There is nothing wrong with the configuration but the proportions are a little heavy. As a suggestion I would reduce the length of the superstructure and why not use round dowel for the turrets? The advantage of using a circular turret rather than square is that more of the deck can be seen which makes the model look larger. In fact, even just changing the turrets would restore the visual balance.

    I think that with a coat of paint though they will look just fine and will certainly acquit themselves well in action!

    I am looking forward to how you will tackle torpedo boats.

    All the best,


  2. David Crook,

    I think that you have identified why I do not find these models very aesthetically pleasing, and your suggestions as to how to rectify the problem are excellent. The only problem that I have is finding a way to drill holes into slices of round dowel to make turrets. Drilling one hole is no problem, but I can't seem to master drilling two holes accurately enough.

    I might replace the existing turrets … but I may well leave them as they are and use these models to represent early pre-dreadnoughts, some of which were quite hideous to look at, especially after they were 'modernised'.

    Torpedo boat will feature later in my building programme, and will – I hope – look somewhat akin to the old metal Minifig destroyers.

    All the best,


  3. Prufrock says:

    Why don't you try using the same turrets you used for the cruisers? Their heavier superstructures should be enough to differentiate them from the cruisers, I would say. That said, they look fine to me as they are!


  4. Prufrock (Aaron),

    Thanks for the suggestion. At present I think that I will leave these models as they are, but changing the turrets is an option that might well solve the problem.

    All the best,


  5. This comment will expose my ignorance on the topic but I tend to think of battleships as bigger (bith length and tonnage) than cruisers and when I saw that the cruiser filled a hex, wondered how the battle ships would look.

    As for round dowelling for turrets, would it be possible to shave/sand the front a little? Just sufficiently to flatten it a little to allow 2 holes to be drilled?

  6. Ross Mac,

    You are right; battleships were normally bigger than most cruisers, although armoured cruisers were often longer than some battleships … and some weighed more! In fact the large armoured cruiser eventually morphed into the battle cruiser … which were usually larger than their battleship equivalent. My original generic cruisers were supposed to be armoured cruisers, hence their size relative to the hex.

    I might try your idea of flattening the front face of the rounded turret so as to make drilling hole in them easier … but for the moment I want to set this project aside so that I can do some thinking about where to go next with it.

    All the best,


  7. David Crook says:

    Hi Ross,

    Just to pick up on your comment I am pretty sure that certain WW2 tank turrets followed the idea you mentioned – the flat face for the gun and the round rear. I reckon that would be workable and could solve the drilling problem.

    Just my 2p worth Bob!

  8. Stu Rat says:

    Like Ross, I also thought the BBs would be longer than the cruisers, maybe 5 1/2″ to 6″. sure they would overhang the hexes, but they would count as being just the one they are centered in.

    And a column ahead formation will look better with a partially empty hex between BBs than one with the BBs nose to tail if they fit into one hex and you could put them in adjacent hexes. [If that makes sense].

  9. Stu Rat says:

    These look more like coastal monitors. Kind of top heavy and prone to capsizing in heavy seas.

  10. David Crook,

    I hope to be able to find some large enough dowel to experiment with this method. I know that I have some somewhere in my toy/wargames room; it is just a matter of finding it!

    All the best,


  11. Stu Rat,

    I may well have to do as you suggest, but for the moment I want to see if I can build a half-decent model battleship that will fit into a single hex.

    Your point about ships sailing in line-ahead formation is well made, and might justify making the battleships – and even some of the cruisers – that little bit larger.

    All the best,


  12. Stu Rat,

    Having looked at them again, they do look akin to the Russian Admiral Ushakov-class coastal defence ships, which were nought but big twin-turreted monitors with some superstructure added.


    All the best,


  13. David Crook says:

    Hi Bob,

    I have sent you a couple of pictures of some ideas I was messing around with that you may find helpful.

    All the best,


  14. David Crook,

    Thanks very much for the photographs; they are very helpful.

    All the best,


  15. Peter Ball says:

    I wonder if perhaps it might be feasible to retain exactly the same sort of turrets you have on the cruisers, but differentiate the battleships by giving them longer barrels.

  16. Peter Ball,

    Thanks for the suggestion. I will certainly consider doing something like that.

    All the best,


  17. Could go for a single turret and long central battery?

  18. Xaltotun of Python,

    Something like HMS Victoria, perhaps? It's certainly a distinct possibility, and would make an interesting addition to the 'fleet'.

    All the best,


  19. Bob,

    Is this more of what you are looking to represent?


    The secondary batteries mounted in sponsons as well as the aft mast would, I think, set these apart from the CAs.

    It DOES appear top heavy, but I feel this is more due to the amount of freeboard that is present on that model of the Titanic. If you could fit one or possible two sponsons per side, that would “pull down” the apparent freeboard slightly. I realize you have these already in a sense, but without the sponsons, the visual effect increases the apparent freeboard.

    Also, dispense with the turrets and go back to barbette mounted main batteries viz the HMS Empress of India and you gain additional space that is visually empty.

    Otherwise.. I am very interested in seeing how things turn out for you.

  20. Justin Penwith,

    Thanks for the link to the image; that is a magnificent model.

    I have thought of adding sponsons to the sides of the models, but for the moment I am trying to keep them as simple as possible. I might experiment with them on a later model, but for the time being I shall mount the secondary batteries as if they were only capable of firing broadside and not fore-and-aft as well.

    The models do have quite a bit of freeboard, but I think that I have made the situation worse by giving the battleships too large superstructures. I have been giving the matter some thought, and intend to make the next model's superstructure relatively smaller. This – coupled with slightly smaller turrets – should make the resulting ship look more balanced.

    One thing that I have noticed when looking at photographs of pre-dreadnought battleships (rather than coastal defence battleships) is how much greater the height of the hull appears to be relative to the height of the superstructure.

    I may well try making a model with guns mounted en barbette, but first I want to try to get the general 'look' right.

    Thanks for your very helpful suggestions.

    All the best,


  21. I think the first problem might be that the B/s is the same length as the cruiser. Packing in the superstructure and the larger turrets on the same deck length has meant short gun barrels.

    The question is, can you get away with adding, say, 1-2cm to the overall length? It would overlap the hex-sides, but not hugely. Still a battle line might look a bit wrong. But suppose that were acceptable. Then I'd use the same design on a slightly longer vessel, give it longer guns in a double or triple turret, and I think I'd add something to the bridge tower for a bridge, and shove in a mast on the rear of the superstructury thing.

    How easy are the superstructures and turrets to remove – or move? Other than using the hulls for more cruisers, I'd consider removing the stern turret, and moving the rest back, giving the remaining turret longer guns. A monitor.

    Monitors aren't your battle line ships, but for inshore work and combined ops… They weren't pretty vessels neither.

    Anyway, it's a thought. You own idea about keeping them as 'obsolescent' types is probably the one I would have chosen!

  22. Archduke Piccolo,

    Thanks for your very helpful comments. They were much appreciated.

    As you might have gathered, I built another model battleship that I think really does achieve the 'look' that I wanted. I am so pleased with them that I am considering the removal of the oversized turrets on the first two battleships that I built and replacing them with smaller turrets. Whatever the result, they certainly won't look any worse than they do now.

    All the best,


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