by Robert Apfelzweig
1/350 USS Connecticut, BB-18 (Iron Shipwrights)
The USS Connecticut was the lead ship of a six-battleship class of predreadnoughts and was commissioned into the US Navy in September 1906, participating in the world cruise of the Great White Fleet, and became the flagship of the Atlantic Fleet until 1912. She served as a training ship during World War I and as a troop transport after the war ended, bringing American soldiers home from France. Afterward, she transferred to the Pacific coast and in 1923 was decommissioned and then scrapped in Seattle in accordance with the Washington Naval Treaty.
This ship and her sisters were commissioned with a white hull and buff superstructure, with two stout military masts and the typical gold-painted emblem at the top of her cutwater. In 1909 and 1910, Following the world cruise, she and the rest of the American predreadnought battleships had their solitary masts replaced with cage masts, the ships were painted a uniform gray, and additional modifications to the forecastle and light secondary battery of 3-in. guns were made. The bows' gold emblems were gone and the ledges for the older Admiralty Pattern anchors were covered in steel plates, with the newer (and still in use today) stockless anchors pulled up into the hull (up to two per side). Not all the ships of this class had the same modifications at the same time, other than the cage masts. A pair of casemated 3-in. guns near the bow were also removed along with the casemates themselves. Some vessels, the Connecticut included, kept an upper deck at the rear bridge, whereas others did not. This is the only major shortcoming of ISW's USS Connecticut which, as presented to the modeler, has no rear bridge deck and sports a curious mix of WWI and pre-WWI fittings. Being a relatively new kit, it benefits significantly in having 3D-printed parts, specifically the cage masts (three were offered in my kit), small boats, searchlights and 12-in., 8-in. and 7-in. gun barrels. The 3-in. guns are provided in excess as complete gun mounts, of which eight are needed (four on the forward bridge and four on the rear bridge. I used Master Model brass 3-in. gun barrels for the six broadside and four stern casemated 3-in. guns. There are 3D-printed hexagonal torpedo-spotting platforms for the cage masts (which were installed during WWI), but I wanted to portray the ship as she appeared in 1911, with a full complement of eighteen 3-in. and twelve 7-in. guns. At this time she had just four small mast platforms for the searchlights on each cage mast. Since these were apparently made from metal screens, I had to scratch-build each one from spare photoetch material, along with their railings. I also scratch-built the missing rear bridge platform that surrounded the cage mainmast, using a diagram from Combrig's illustration of this platform on their 1/700 kit of the same ship (before the cage masts were installed, so I had to cut a circular hole for it). I used Evergreen sheet plastic after making a paper cutout for the shape, including the small bridge wings. I also used my own spare photoetch ladders, since ISW's are rather overscale as regards the rungs (too large and too few). Fortunately, there are quite a few online photos available of the Connecticut and her sisterships, allowing for more detailing than the kit alone can provide. The kit's included photoetch radio antennas were not used, as these seem to represent what was installed during WWI; photos of the ship pre-war showed that it had a sort of wide ladder-like antenna strung between the cage masts, which I built from stretch black sprue (which provided the rigging material as well). When I first assessed the kit, I found the assembly instructions to be woefully inadequate and it was also missing enough 7-in. gun barrels (7 were provided, 12 are needed). An email to Jon Warneke at ISW was promptly answered with an apology for the poor instructions and he not only sent me another packet of 3D-printed parts (I now had an excess of everything), but he arranged for the instructions to be significantly revised and a new copy sent to me (although it still only showed the ship as to be equipped for service during WWI). The ship's hull sported (as far as I could determine from period photos) 10 small mooring devices per side, just above the waterline -- a horizontal steel rod with three or four attachment flanges, and I scratch-built these as best I could from scrap plastic (though they are overscale) -- nothing in the kit was provided for this purpose. The hull and superstructure were painted with Model Master dark gull grey, which seemed as close a match as I could estimate, and Tamiya deck tan. The lower hull was painted in a mixture of Testor's dark red and Model Master gunship grey. The black boot topping and the slot openings for the casemated 7-in. guns were fashioned from black decal strips that I made, and tidied up with a fine black felt tip marker.