by Robert Apfelzweig
1/350 Imperial German battleship König (Aoshima)
Back in 2008, when I first re-entered the model shipbuilding hobby that I had forsaken back in the mid-1960s, one of my first builds was ICM's battleship SMS Markgraf. I was dissatisfied with this model for a number of reasons (it was my first attempt at using photoetch parts), and had wanted to re-build a battleship of this class for a number of years. The only other competition was the Aoshima SMS König, which I purchased online along with detailing items unavailable to me in 2008 -- an Artwox wood deck and Aber metal gun barrels (for all 3 sizes -- 305 mm [12-in,], 150 mm [5.9 in.] and 88 mm [3.5-in]). Aoshima's kit came with its own steel photoetch 3-bar railing, coal scuttles, motor launch rails and boat davits, so I had to add Model Master German ladders, North Star 2-bar railing for the fore and aft bridge decks, and a little scratch-building here and there, as well as some photoetch parts salvaged from my old Markgraf (which has, alas, been discarded). Rigging is from stretched black sprue. I used MasterModel dark ghost grey for the upper hull and light ghost grey for the superstructure, both in enamel. I had hoped for a more sophisticated model from Aoshima than what I had found in the cheaper ICM kit; to my surprise, the models are virtually identical except for a few minor bridge features and even their parts have identical numbers and sprues. In fact, the Aoshima kit's parts, though well-cast, often had minor flash on them. Nonetheless, it built into a very nice model.
The König was the first of four such battleships of the same class, all commissioned just as World War I began. It saw considerable action (and damage) at the Battle of Jutland, but like all the more advanced Imperial German capital ships it was interned at Scapa Flow after the November 1918 armistice and then scuttled by its skeleton crew in June 1919. Whereas most of the sunken (or beached) German ships were eventually raised and scrapped, the König and two sisterships (Markgraf and Kronprinz) remain sunken and upside down in the deeper waters of Scapa Flow to this day, but have served an unusual purpose in recent decades.
Since the first atomic tests in the 1940s all new steel is contaminated by the radioactivity that is present in the air and is drawn into the furnaces during production. When uncontaminated steel is needed for medical and scientific instruments it can only be obtained from metal produced before the first atomic test. Therefore, small amounts of steel are occasionally salvaged from the König to make highly sensitive instruments. Some of these instruments are used in the space program and part of a WWI German battleship has been to the moon!