The Tsushima Sea Battle (Jap. 対馬海戦, Tsushima-kaisen or, more commonly, 日本海戦, nihonkai-kaisen, the naval battle in the Sea of Japan) was a naval battle of May 14 (27) – May 15 (28) 1905 near Tsushima Island (Tsushima Strait), in which the Russian 2nd Squadron of the Pacific Fleet under the command of Vice-Admiral Z. P. Rozhestvensky suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admiral Heiman. P. Rozhestvensky suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy under Admiral Heihachiro Togo. The last, decisive naval battle of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, during which the Russian squadron was completely defeated. Most of the ships were sunk by the enemy or sunk by their own crews, some capitulated, some were interned in neutral ports, and only four managed to reach Russian ports.
The battle – the largest in the era of pre-dreadnought battleships, and the last between ships of this type – was a key event that determined the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War in favor of Japan. The events and circumstances associated with the combat use of ships of various classes in this battle served the subsequent qualitative development of naval technology in all the leading maritime powers.
Military and political situation in the Far East
The Russo-Japanese War began on January 27 (February 8), 1904 with a sudden night attack of the destroyers of the Imperial Japanese Navy against the ships of the Russian Pacific Squadron of the Baltic Fleet, standing on the outer roads of Port Arthur without guard; torpedoes damaged two newest Russian battleships and one cruiser. In the morning the main forces of the Japanese fleet under the command of Admiral Togo Heihachiro (6 battleships, 4 cruisers and 5 armored cruisers) came. Unsuccessful in the day”s battle, the Japanese squadron blockaded Port Arthur in order to preserve its maritime communications between Japan and China, ensuring combat operations in Manchuria. To achieve this goal it was necessary to neutralize the Russian naval forces in the Far East. For a number of objective and subjective reasons the Russian naval command did not show proper initiative and could not prevent the Japanese troops from landing in South Korea and then in the Liaodong Peninsula. As a result the Russian ships united in the 1st squadron of the Pacific fleet in the beginning of February were blocked in Port Arthur and subsequently were used mainly for defense of this fortress, the close siege of which began in August 1904. In the end of July – the beginning of August 1904 the Russian squadron made an attempt to break through from Port Arthur to Vladivostok, but was scattered by the Japanese fleet during the battle in the Yellow Sea on July 28 (August 10) 1904 and was forced to return to the besieged base. As a result, most of the Russian ships of the 1st Pacific Squadron were sunk by the time of surrender of Port Arthur to the Japanese on December 20, 1904 (January 2, 1905). However the Japanese fleet also suffered losses: 2 (15) May 1904 two Japanese battleships Yashima and Hatsuse exploded on a mine barrage and sank.
Military operations in the struggle for domination in North-Eastern China and Korea and redistribution of spheres of influence in the Far East, unleashed by Japan, were supported by Britain and the USA. At the same time, Russia”s interests were promoted by France and Germany and actively opposed by Britain and Turkey. France and Germany, viewing Russia as an ally in the coming war, violated its neutrality in its favor, Britain was in a state of “cold war” in relations with Russia since the 19th century, and Turkey would not let the armored battleships of the Black Sea Fleet through the straits. The U.S. violated neutrality both in favor of Russia and Japan when it suited its commercial advantage. China of the Qing dynasty was by this time an extremely corrupt country, and for a bribe from local officials one could obtain permission to act in violation of the country”s neutrality, which, in turn, led to ignoring China”s neutrality by both Russia and Japan.
Formation of the 2nd Pacific Squadron
From the very beginning of the war the Japanese fleet seized the strategic initiative and had a strategic superiority over the Russian squadron. In April 1904 in St. Petersburg it was decided to send the 2nd Pacific Squadron from the Baltic Sea to the Far East to strengthen the 1st Pacific Squadron and gain dominance at sea. The squadron was formed and trained in Kronstadt and Tallinn. The squadron included the ships of the Baltic Fleet and battleships under construction, whose readiness could be ensured by September 1904. The plan of the Russian naval command was to create in the Far East a decisive naval superiority in the major classes of ships, as a consequence – the unblocking of Port Arthur and cutting off the Japanese communications in the Yellow Sea, followed by blockade of Japanese armies near Port Arthur and in Manchuria from the sea. In the future it was planned to destroy Japanese troops through the Russian land forces, slowly concentrated in Manchuria because of the low carrying capacity of the Trans-Siberian railroad. At the end of September the squadron of Zinovy Rozhestvensky moved to Libava, and from there began the campaign on October 2, 1904. However, on December 20, 1904, Port Arthur was surrendered to the enemy. The surviving ships of the 1st Pacific squadron were sunk on the inner roadstead of the fortress, and the original purpose of the 2nd Pacific squadron was lost. In this situation the military strategists of the Russian Empire decided to break through to Vladivostok to connect with the ships of the Siberian flotilla to create a permanent threat to the enemy”s communications. In February 1905 to strengthen the 2nd Pacific squadron the 3rd Pacific squadron (formed from outdated ships) under the command of Rear Admiral N.I. Nebogatov left Libava. In mid-May 1905 the Russian squadrons joined together off the coast of French Indochina, and under the overall command of Zinovy Rozhestvensky approached the Strait of Korea. The main forces of the Japanese fleet, consisting of two combat detachments, were waiting for the Russian squadron. The main task of the Japanese fleet command was to destroy the Russian squadron in an attempt to break through to Vladivostok. Commander of the Russian squadron Zinovy Rozhestvensky, considering the main task of the breakthrough to Vladivostok (and not the destruction of Japanese ships), decided to fight depending on the actions of the enemy, and thus completely transferred the tactical initiative to the command of the Japanese fleet.
On the night of May 14, 1905 the Russian squadron entered the Strait of Korea. Having discovered the Russian ships, the Japanese fleet began to deploy its forces to prevent the Russian squadron from breaking through to Vladivostok and destroy it in battle.
The Russian squadron could pass to Vladivostok by three possible routes – the La Perouse, Sangar and Tsushima Straits. The Tsushima Strait is part of the Korean Strait, east of the Tsushima Islands, which are located between the Japanese island of Kyushu and the Korean Peninsula. Admiral Togo”s main forces were based at Mozampo and Tsushima Island. He assumed that the Russian squadron would most likely pass Tsushima, so he deployed a chain of auxiliary cruisers to the south of the strait, between the islands of Goto and Kvelpart, which were to give him timely notice of the approach of the Russian squadron. The possibility of the Russian squadron passing through the other two straits was not ruled out, so patrol ships were also sent there. In addition, on April 2 the Japanese placed a mine barrier on the approaches to Vladivostok.
For his part, Vice-Admiral Rozhestvensky saw the immediate operational goal of his squadron to reach Vladivostok by breaking through at least part of the squadron, contrary to the directive of Emperor Nicholas II, which stated that the task of the 2nd squadron “is not to break through to Vladivostok with some ships, but to capture the Sea of Japan”. Therefore, he chose the shortest route, because the other two routes meant the need to bypass the Japanese islands from the east and significantly increased the path, in addition, threatened obstacles in terms of navigation. At the same time from conducting reconnaissance Rozhestvensky refused completely, fearing the detection of his squadron, as well as the collision of reconnaissance cruisers with the main forces of the Japanese fleet.
The Vladivostok squadron could not provide any significant assistance to the 2nd squadron: two of its three cruisers were in repair after being hit by a mine and navigation accident, submarines, which came into service in April 1905, were suitable only for port defense, and the old destroyers were suitable only for small raiding operations. Nevertheless, in late April the Russian destroyers and two cruisers made trips to Hokkaido island. The Japanese, considering it a distraction, did not react in any way.
The Russian and Japanese squadrons met early in the morning of May 14 (27), 1905, in the strait between Korea and Japan, east of the Tsushima Islands. The Japanese admiral was aware in advance of the composition and location of the enemy”s ships, while the Russian admiral was leading his squadron almost blindly, having no idea where, when, or by what forces he would be attacked.
General tactical situation before the battle
On the eve of the battle the Japanese squadron had an absolute tactical advantage, taking into account a whole complex of unfavorable factors, sharply reducing the combat effectiveness of the Russian squadron, namely:
2nd Pacific Squadron
The order in which the ships are listed corresponds to their position in the ranks at the start of the active phase of the battle on May 14 (except the destroyers).
The 1st Armored Detachment consisted of four battleships of the same type:
Japanese Combined Fleet
The order in which the ships are listed corresponds to their position in the formation at the time of the beginning of the active phase of the battle on May 14.
1st Combat Team
3rd Combat Squadron
1st Destroyer Squadron
2nd squadron of destroyers
3rd squadron of destroyers
The 14th Detachment of destroyers
Class 1 destroyers
2nd Combat Team
4th Combat Team
4th Destroyer Squadron
The 5th squadron of destroyers
9th Detachment of destroyers
Class 1 destroyers
19-th destroyer detachment
Class 1 destroyers
5th Combat Squadron
6th Combat Squadron
7th Combat Squadron
1st destroyer detachment
Second class destroyers
The 5th Detachment of destroyers
10th squad of destroyers
Second class destroyers
The 11th Detachment of destroyers
Second class destroyers
The 15th Detachment of destroyers
Class 1 destroyers
The 16th squadron of destroyers
The 17th Detachment of destroyers
Second class destroyers
The 18th Detachment of destroyers
Second class destroyers
The 20th destroyer detachment
Second class destroyers
The Special Purpose Vessel Detachment
Plans and tactics of the parties
Admiral Heihachiro Togo”s goal was to destroy the Russian squadron. His tactics were based on the analysis of the actions of Russian ships in previous battles, especially the battle in the Yellow Sea. Practice showed that the Russians preferred defensive tactics, moving in trenchless columns, which put divers, including slow ships, which leads to a decrease in squadron speed. This was opposed by offensive tactics of small maneuvering formations, which could attack such a column from advantageous course angles (i.e. from head or tail) and disable head or end ships of the enemy from long ranges of fire. The latter was accomplished by a well-established technique of group firing: the lead ship made a firing shot (usually from a very long distance and with a known shortfall), after which the entire squadron began to fire at the location indicated by the explosion. Thus a peculiar “field of death” was created – a small spot on water where the shells of the whole squadron fell, and further the squadron maneuvered in such a way, that it covered the doomed ship of the opponent – most often the leading Russian battleship – and kept it in this “field” until it was put out of action. The small number of ships in the squadron – from 4 to 6 – allowed the fire spotters to distinguish their own breaks from those of others. To implement this tactic, the entire fleet was divided into seven combat squadrons, whose commanders were given considerable freedom of action. Well-established reconnaissance allowed H. Togo to have an accurate picture of the composition of the Russian squadron ships, its location, formation and maneuvers. The plan of the Japanese admiral consisted in the following: the 1st and 2nd battle groups consisting of linear armored ships attack the flagship of the left, weaker, column of the Russian squadron, keeping a parallel or slightly convergent course to the left front of it, so that the lead Russian battleship was on the traverse of the middle of the Japanese column. In this case, of course, it put its end ships under fire. The rest of the fighting squadrons were instructed to deal with the cruisers and transports in about the same way. The destroyers were in reserve and were intended for night attacks, as well as for finishing off severely damaged enemy ships. Auxiliary cruisers (armed steamships) were used mainly for reconnaissance purposes, and on the second day of the battle – also for lifting people out of the water and removing crews from the sinking Russian ships. In general, this plan was carried out by the battleships perfectly, except for the initial miss with the entry into position, but the light cruiser forces were not able to implement this tactic.
Vice-Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky set the squadron the task of breaking through to the north, fighting off the enemy, rather than attacking the enemy to break through. Thus, once again the tactics were chosen passive. Tactical reconnaissance in the Russian squadron before, during and after the battle was absent. Assuming that the initiative in this battle will belong to the Japanese fleet, the commander did not detail the battle plan and limited himself to the general task of breakthrough, giving some instructions about the place and actions of the cruisers, destroyers, transports, and about the transfer of command in the battle. These instructions for all ships in general were to “keep together,” for the battleships to act in conjunction against the enemy”s battleships, maneuvering so as to move north as far as possible. In this sense, the division of battleships into three squads was purely nominal, they did not act independently. The transfer of command in battle was to be carried out so that the command of the squadron was to take command of the new battleships that marched in the head of the column. Two cruisers of rank II and four destroyers of the 1st squadron were to remain with the battleships, protecting them from the attacks of Japanese destroyers, and in case of failure of the flagships they were to transport the flagships to serviceable ships. Thus, in fact, the 1st destroyer squadron was disbanded. As for other cruisers, they received the following orders: after the detection of the Russian squadron by Japanese ships, the cruiser reconnaissance detachment was transferred to the tail of the column for the protection of transports, then both armored cruisers were allocated from the cruiser squadron for the same purpose, but they were not subordinated to Captain 1st rank Shein. The destroyers of the 2nd squadron were also assigned to guard the transports. Finally, with the beginning of the day battle on May 14 and the two remaining ships of the cruiser squadron were ordered to guard the transports as well as to provide assistance to the injured and disabled battleships. As a result, the already small cruiser force was divided into four independent groups, which greatly facilitated the task of destroying them, if the Japanese took advantage of the situation. Most analysts believe that keeping the transport squadron in the squadron was a very serious mistake by Rozhestvensky, especially since this squadron included the transport “Korea,” whose 9-knot speed was the speed of the entire squadron at the beginning of the battle.
Probably, Rozhestvensky imagined his squadron as a kind of “floating fortress” bristling in all directions with heavy guns (which, as we remember, more than twice the number of Japanese guns). Speed did not matter in principle, which explains why we left slow-moving transports in the squadron. Perhaps it was assumed that the enemy either would not dare to attack it or, if they did, would be shot at. Nevertheless, the squadron is not a “fortress” but a convoy of ships, not at all able to use all its firepower simultaneously and effectively. It turned out that the advantage of the tactical speed of the enemy column of 7 knots was not predetermined by the elements of Japanese and Russian ships, but was a consequence of the organization of the Russian squadron. Among other dangers awaiting the squadron, the commander”s order of April 26 indicated “the Japanese destroyers, submarines and a stock of floating mines, which they are used to toss. The desire to pass the most dangerous point of the route – the Tsushima Strait – in the daytime was explained by the fear of night attacks of Japanese destroyers, from which it can be concluded that they were regarded as a more formidable enemy than the main forces of the Japanese fleet. In any case, the chosen tactics – maneuvering at low speed – categorically contradicted the goal – a breakthrough.
On the night of May 14 (27), 1905, the Russian squadron was approaching the Tsushima Strait. It moved at 5-knot speed in three columns, observing light camouflage. Ahead in the wedge formation was a reconnaissance detachment. The main forces followed in two keel columns: the 3rd Armored Detachment on the left and the cruiser squadron in its keel, and the 1st and 2nd Armored Detachments on the right. “Emerald” and “Pearl” went, respectively, on the left and right traverse of the head ships of the columns from the outside. They were accompanied by two destroyers of the 1st squadron each. A column of transports – “Anadyr”, “Irtysh”, “Kamchatka”, “Korea”, “Rus”” and “Svir”, as well as five destroyers went between the two main columns (“Anadyr” – on the traverse “Oslyab” and “Oleg”). Far behind were the hospital ships, with the “Eagle” on the right and the “Kostroma” on the left with special red and white lights on their masts. In this order about 22:00 she passed the island of Quelpart and by midnight approached the outer patrol chain of Japanese scouts. Thanks to the dark time of day and the haze, she almost skipped past the sentinels, but at 02:28 the auxiliary cruiser Shinano-Maru spotted the Eagle”s lights. At 04:02 “Shinano-Maru” approached the “Eagle” to make an inspection, as the Japanese took it for another ship, and at that moment at a distance of 8 cablets in the haze saw 10 other ships of the squadron. The Russian squadron was detected. At 04:28 a.m. Captain 1st rank Narukawa radioed a report: “The enemy in square 203. Admiral Togo, who was with the 1st, 2nd and 4th Battle Groups in Masan, received the message 10 minutes later and began preparing to put out to sea. The 3rd Battle Group and the armored cruiser Izumi, stationed at that moment north of the Goto Islands, were ordered to head for an interception mission. From the amplified radio conversations of the Russians, the Japanese thought they already knew about the discovery, but in fact the conclusion about the Japanese knowledge of the location of the Russian squadron was made on the “Prince Suvorov” just because of the amplified Japanese radio conversations, the “Shinano-Maru” was seen, but was taken for a commercial steamer. At 6:04, before leaving Mozampo, Admiral Togo telegraphed to Tokyo: “I have received news that the enemy fleet has been spotted. Our fleet immediately put to sea to attack and destroy the enemy.
Meanwhile, the 3rd Japanese battle squadron of Vice-Admiral S. Deva skipped somewhat south of the Russian squadron, missing it. Perhaps this happened because the squadron increased its speed to 9 knots. Three cruisers of the reconnaissance detachment were ordered to move to the rear of the squadron and join the transports to protect them, and the destroyers “Vivacious”, “Grozny”, and “Gromky” also moved there. The remaining 2 destroyers of the 2nd squadron stayed with the “Oleg” on the right. At 06:18 the cruiser “Izumi” detected the Russian squadron and lay in a parallel course to its right at 55-60 kab (the Russian detected it at 06:45), telling the location of the squadron to Vice-Admiral S. Deva, who lay in a reverse course. It is not very clear why Admiral Rozhestvensky did not order to attack the old and slow Japanese cruiser, which every few minutes reported by radio the data on the course, speed and formation of the Russian squadron. It is even less clear why the Russian admiral declined the offer to jam the radio communications of the Japanese.
In the morning of May 14, the weather was cloudy, visibility 5-7 miles (7-10 km), wind 3-4 points, and ripples from the north. When eight ships of the 5th and then the 6th Japanese detachments (they were based at Ozaki Bay on Tsushima Island) appeared on the left of the squadron about 08:00, Rozhestvensky only rebuilt the battleship column into the battle order, ordering the 1st and 2nd battleships to go at the head of the 3rd detachment. The regrouping was completed by 9:00. All 12 battleships now marched in one column. Both Japanese cruiser squadrons kept to the left of her on a parallel course in 60 cablets, the 5th squadron ahead. At 10:35 by the signal from the flagship the cruisers “Dmitry Donskoy” and “Vladimir Monomakh” were ordered to strengthen the protection of transports, marching behind on the right. At this signal, the “Monomakh” took a place to the right of the column of transports, while the “Donskoy” remained on the left-hand shell of the “Aurora. At about the same time the 4th Japanese fighter squadron appeared ahead. Just at this time the signal “Alert” was raised on the flagship, and the cruiser “Emerald” with the destroyers “Buyny” and “Bravy” in her keel moved from the left flank of the column of battleships to its right side, to the flank of “Oslyabi”. “Buyny” was ordered to “consist” under “Oslyaba” in case it was necessary to remove the squadron headquarters from the damaged ship; “Bravy” with the same purpose – under “Emperor Nicholas I”. Ahead of this trio also in the keelboat formation were the “Pearl” (on the traverse of the “Prince Suvorov”), the “Poor” and the “Fast”. Both of these destroyers were ordered to be under the squadron flagship, again in case of the evacuation of the headquarters. By 11:10 the silhouettes of the cruisers of the 3rd squadron, which was catching up with the Russian squadron, were found on the left.
Until that time the Russians had hardly reacted to the Japanese cruisers accompanying them, only pointing the battleships” bow turrets at them. But when the distance was reduced to 39 cabins, from the 152-mm gun of the left middle turret of the “Eagle” (commander of the turret is the artillery conductor Vladimir Pantsyrev) a casual shot was fired at the Japanese cruiser “Kasagi”, the other Russian battleships also began to shoot. The Japanese responded, but withdrew to a distance of 80 kb. The Russian cruisers simultaneously fired at the Izumi. Rozhestvensky signaled “Don”t throw shells in vain” and the firing stopped. Neither side achieved hits during this 10-minute firefight, although the Russian squadron believed there had been hits, and many had hope that it would continue roughly this way until Vladivostok.
At 12:05 the Russian squadron turned to the fateful course north-east 23°, and at 12:20, when a strip of thick fog found, began another realignment. Its reason remained unclear: whether Rozhestvensky decided to stealthily regroup the battleships in the front, thus meeting the main forces of Togo expected from the north, or whether he evaded the mines set on the course of the squadron. (At this time, the course of the squadron was crossed by a Japanese junk, and it was suspected of this very intention.) Anyway, but as soon as the Russian squadron began to regroup, the fog cleared, and Rozhestvensky canceled the regrouping for the 2nd and 3rd armored squadrons. The 1st squadron by this time had already managed to regroup to the right, and the formation of Russian battleships began to resemble the letter “G”. A new order followed, and by 12:30 the 1st squadron again formed a moving column to the right of the main one, with the 2nd, 3rd and reconnaissance squadrons in it. Even to the right of the 1st Armored Detachment was the “Pearl” and to the right of the 2nd – the “Emerald”; each had two destroyers in the keel. The transports were still behind on the right, the “Anadyr” on the traverse of the “Oleg”; behind the transports was the reconnaissance detachment. Between the transports and the cruisers Enquist – “Brilliant” and “Flawless”, on the right of the transports – “Volodymyr Monomakh”, followed by three more destroyers. The hospital ships were sailing as they had been all last night.
At 13:20 the main forces of the Combined Fleet appeared to the right of the course in 7 miles. The Russian squadron at this time was just passing the Tsushima Strait and was between the islands of Tsushima and Okinoshima. Japanese cruisers began to lag behind, bypassing the squadron from west to south to attack the cruisers and transports. The trap slammed shut.
At 13:25 on the order of Rozhestvensky the 1st battleship increased the course up to 11 knots, seeking to go to the head of the column. Then followed the orders: “The destroyers ”Shiny” and ”Flawless” to be under the cruiser ”Oleg””, “The destroyers ”Vivacious”, ”Gromky”, ”Grozny” to be under the cruiser ”Svetlana””. Thus, the 2nd detachment of destroyers was also disbanded. All named destroyers took places to the right of the said cruisers. Then the “transports and escort cruisers were ordered to withdraw to the right,” after which the cruiser squadron and the transports squadron laid down on a course north-east of 50°.
At the same time, Admiral Togo raised the “Z” flag signal: “The fate of the empire depends on this battle. Let everyone make every effort.” The 1st Combat Squadron was marching in order: “Mikasa,” “Shikishima,” “Fuji,” “Asahi,” “Kasuga,” “Nissin,” and to the left of “Mikasa” the aviso “Tatsuta.” Farther and slightly to the right followed the 2nd combat unit, with the Chihaya avizo to the right of the head “Izumo.” The 4th battle squadron took the left, passing to the east of the Russian squadron. Then Admiral Togo crossed the course of the Russian squadron. It is difficult to say why he decided to attack her from the port side. Perhaps he did not know about the last rearrangement of the Russians and strove to take out the weakest Russian battleships while the strongest, he hoped, were following to their right and would not be able to answer. Perhaps he took into account that the sun was beginning to set, illuminating the port side of the Russian battleships. Anyway both main Japanese battleships came in from the port side of the Russian ships, going westward, and then at 13:45 began to make a successive turn of 24 rumba, laying down on a course north-east 67°, that is almost parallel with the Russian squadron. At the moment the “Mikasa” began her turn she was on the traverse of the “Eagle”. This turn (later called “Togo loop”), which was made at a distance of 38 cab. from the Russian flagship and lasted 15 minutes, put the Japanese ships at an extreme disadvantage. The Japanese ships were circulating almost in one place, and if the Russian squadron had opened fire in time and focused it on the turning point of the Japanese fleet, the latter could have been seriously damaged. Rozhestvensky had a good chance to shoot the enemy ships before they could answer him with all their guns. To do this, he had to increase to a maximum stroke of the 1st squadron, moving closer to the usual distance of 15 cable lengths for the Russian commanders, while seeking with the help of the newest battleships to “squeeze” the enemy ships to the column of older Russian ships. But he did not do this. He simply led the 1st squadron at the head of the 2nd and 3rd; Rozhestvensky”s last order before the battle was: “to the 2nd armored squad to enter the 1st squadron”s keel. Because “Borodino” and “Oryol” did not have time to fit in, the lead in the 2nd squad, “Oslyaba”, had to stop the machines, and the next to it “Navarin” to reduce speed (both went out of order to the left, and then the whole order of the 2nd and 3rd squads was broken). Thanks to this “Borodino” was able to enter the line of the keel, but “Eagle” not yet. The difficulty of the formation was further complicated by the fact that the “Suvorov”, coming on course, immediately slowed to 9 knots and this even delayed the entry into the “Borodino” and “Eagle”.
At 13:49, when the “Mikasa” and “Shikishima” passed the turning point, the “Prince Suvorov” opened fire on the Japanese flagship from a distance of 38 kab. The battle began.
Daytime Fight on May 14
At 13:49 (the moment the battle began) the Russian squadron was proceeding at a speed of 9 knots, heading north-east 23° (except for the 1st Armored Squadron, going to the head of the column at 11 knots speed, and the “Oslyabya” and “Navarin” FBs passing it); at this time the “Eagle” EB had not yet managed to take its place in the formation. The Japanese squadron was proceeding at a speed of 16 knots, consistently lying on a north-east course of 67°. The 2nd Japanese squadron joined the 1st squadron in the wake. When the realignment was completed, the enemy”s keel columns stretched for about 2.8 miles and slowly drew closer together. The Asahi EB was on the right traverse of the Suvorov EB.
Admiral H. Togo in full dress uniform, with a samurai sword, was demonstratively on the open (not armored) running bridge throughout the battle, and his example was followed by Admirals H. Kamimura and H. Shimamura. (Rear Admiral N.I. Nebogatov was also on the open bridge during the battle.)
At 13:52 the Japanese returned fire (three minutes later than the Suvorov EB, after four of the six ships of the 1st Combat Team had already set a new course). At first the four Japanese SSs fired concentrated fire at the SS “Suvorov” (Rozhestvensky”s flag), and the SS Nissin and the SS Kasuga, when they passed the turning point, fired at the SS “Oslyabya” (Felkerzam”s flag). The 2nd Japanese squadron of vice-admiral H. Kamimura fired at the “Oslyabya” destroyer, except for the two closing ships, the BKR “Asama” and the BKR “Iwate”, which, after completing the readjustment from 14:02 fired at the “Emperor Nicholas I” (while it was on the traverse). Thus, in the first minutes of the battle the Japanese fired at all three Russian flagships – the “Suvorov” and the “Oslyabya” immediately caused fires. Each Russian flagship was simultaneously fired upon by at least four or six Japanese destroyers and BRCs, maneuvering separately. Thanks to their superior speed, the Japanese ships were able to set the distance and position of the battle at their own discretion.
In the first phase of the battle the distance between the opponents was reduced from 38 to 22 cable lengths. On the side of the “non-firing” side of the Japanese column were 17 destroyers, ready to attack.
The Russian ships also tried to focus fire on the Japanese flagship, but due to their lack of experience in squadron firing and the long distance of the battle did not achieve tangible results.
At 14:05, when the distance between the squadrons decreased to 28 cablets, Rozhestvensky ordered to change course for 2 rumba to the right, parallel to the course of the Japanese squadron.
During the first 15 minutes of the battle the Japanese often shifted fire – for a while two EBs also fired on the Oslyaba, and two Kamimura armored cruisers fired on the SB Suvorov.
By about 14:10 the Japanese had decided on their targets: Togo”s squad was firing at the Suvorov and Kamimura”s squad was firing at the Oslyabya. Concentration of fire on Oslyabya ES, probably, was caused by a number of reasons: it was identified as the flagship; at the beginning of the battle it had no movement and stood out by its high side; by 14:00 the center of Kamimura”s column came to its traverse.
Admiral Rozhestvensky had time to give only one flagship combat order – signal “1”: “Hit the head” (the second was an order to transfer command). However, this order proved difficult to execute. The first three battleships could only fire from the forward turrets, and the fourth – “Eagle” – at the beginning of the battle had no opportunity to fire, because it was out of formation. That is, at the beginning of the battle five battleships (“Eagle” with a delay) and possibly “Navarin” were firing at “Mikasa”. About 14:05 “Eagle” and “Oslyabya” were forced to shift fire; “Eagle” to the 7th ship in the Japanese formation – “Izumo” (on the traverse of which was “Eagle”). “Sisoi” and the ships of the 3rd Russian detachment could not reach “Mikasa”, so they fired at “Nissin” and “Kasuga” and then at Kamimura”s cruisers. So in the end only three battleships were firing at “Mikasa”, the others chose their targets when possible (including “Nikolay I” which was 5 minutes late in firing at Kamimura”s end cruisers, “Nakhimov”, also late in firing at “Ivate”), and the Japanese end cruisers, “Asama” and “Ivate”, which were also fired at by all three coastal defense battleships, got the most damage. The fire of the Russians in the first phase of the battle was rather accurate: 25 of 40 shells that hit the “Mikasa” in the first 45 minutes of the battle, and in the first 15 minutes of the battle five 12-inch and fourteen 6-inch shells hit her. The ship received many holes in the casemates, one hole slightly above the waterline, several staff officers who were on the bridge were wounded, and only by some miracle was not wounded Admiral Togo. At 14:22 a Russian shell broke the barrel of the right 8-inch gun of the Nissin”s forward turret. The most serious damage was done to the armored cruiser “Asama”: at 14:11 a 12-inch shell, probably from Nikolay I, hit her stern, damaging the steering. The ship went out to the left. The damage was repaired six minutes later, but the “Asama” lagged far behind and began to slowly catch up with her squadron. The other three Japanese battleships were left virtually unfired.
However, fire superiority was clearly on the side of the Japanese fleet. The accuracy and rate of fire were noticeably higher. The results of the Russian ships” fire were indistinguishable, the shells did not explode when dropped into the water, and from a distance of 25-30 kab. splashes from the drops were poorly visible to the spotters. The Japanese ships, painted in globular color, were little visible, unlike the black Russian battleships with pale tubes. Japanese shells exploded on impact with anything, giving huge clouds of poisonous smoke, lots of fire and small fragments. On “Prince Suvorov” one of the pipes was soon knocked down, the fire broke out in the unarmed superstructures, all the halyards were broken and burned, so that Rozhestvensky could not give any more orders. A strong explosion was seen near the aft bridge, which knocked out the 12-inch aft turret. Evading, the Russian squadron at 14:10 took two rumbos to the right, and the “Mikasa”, respectively, at 14:17 laid the course ost, and at 14:25 – south-east. The “Oslyaba” took the hardest hit. The 8-inch shells of Japanese cruisers could not penetrate its armor belt from such a distance, but the ship had no armor on the whole waterline and got a few big holes in the unprotected forward part. Due to overloading, the ship sat low in the water, receiving a critically large mass of water that spread over all decks. In addition, the plates of the side armor belt were probably torn out of place and parted somewhat from the frequent hits.
About 14:32 (43rd minute of fighting) with a strong fire on rostrums and fore bridge, having heavy damages and losing control, “Oslyabya” rolled out of the formation to the right and began to describe the circulation, having a roll on the port side of 12° and a big trim on the bow. Her forward hull was shattered and she had holes below the waterline. Completely disabled artillery was inactive, the bow turret of the main caliber, torn from the base, was tilted, the bow gun casemates were broken. “Oslyabya” could not cope with the inflow of water and about 14:50 fell on the left side and promptly sank. The destroyers “Buyny”, “Bravy” and “Bystry” (the last two violated the instructions received before the fight) and the tug “Svir” rescued the men from it. A total of 385 men were raised from the water during the incessant bombardment of the enemy, and 514 were killed.
At the same time, about 14:32, the Russian flagship “Prince Suvorov” stopped steering and began to circulate to the right. The “Emperor Alexander III”, which was following, first followed it, but having realized that the flagship was out of control, led the squadron further (it led the column of Russian ships until 14:50). The confusion was intensified by the Borodino, which was also out of order at that time.
Thus, almost simultaneously the two leading squadron ships under the flags of admiral, “Suvorov” and “Oslyabya”, and the remaining third flagship (“Nicholas I” under the flag of Nebogatov) was in the ranks of the seventh. This led to the loss of control of the squadron.
Subsequently, military historians will note that during these 43 minutes the outcome of the battle was largely decided. In naval combat the success of the first strike often predetermines the outcome of the battle. The main point that killed the best Russian ships was the unsuccessful maneuvering of the commander at the moment of the engagement, which immediately put the ships of the first detachment under the concentrated attack of the entire enemy column, while more than half of the ships of the column were actually out of the battle line. The entire brunt of the battle was taken by the five forward ships, opposing 12 enemy ships. The Russian squadron suffered critical losses, and only a decisive change in battle tactics could possibly remedy the situation. But on the contrary, the Russian squadron began a period of anonymous command, which lasted until 18:05. No one knew who was in command of the squadron that the lead ships were leading into battle, whether they were under the command of their commanders, or whether those had already been knocked out of action by shrapnel that had hit the deckhouse. No one knew what happened to Rozhestvensky. Admiral Nebogatov was disoriented by the notion that Admiral Felkerzam, who was to take command of the squadron when Rozhestvensky was wounded or killed, could be among those saved from the “Oslyab” (the fact that Felkerzam died before the battle was classified). In fact, the subsequent phases of the battle looked more and more like a firing squad, from which the Russian ships tried to dodge, taking the side of the enemy, who still had a speed advantage of 6-7 knots. From that time until the end of the battle the Japanese concentrated their fire mainly on the three remaining battleships of the “Borodino” type (“Alexander III”, “Borodino” and “Oryol”) and partly on the “Sisoje Veliky” which was following them.
Soon “Borodino” repaired the damage and returned to its place in the formation, while “Prince Suvorov” described a complete circulation to the right and cut through the squadron formation between “Sisoi” and “Navarin”. It could only be driven by machines, lost almost all artillery, burned like a torch, and then stalled the machines to repair the rudder. The destroyers “Poor” and “Fast” did not follow the order and the squadron commander”s staff did not remove the damaged battleship. After putting the rudder in a straight position, the ship began to move on its own. Afterwards it was fired by the Japanese ships several times and zigzagged in the general direction to the North-East with the 10-knot turn, trying to accompany the Russian squadron. After a fatal wound of the commander the battleship took the command of the senior artillery officer, Lieutenant P. E. Vladimirsky, who himself rose to the helm. Without main-mast and stern trumpet, with the wreckage of the flying mast sticking out over the wheelhouse, with completely destroyed fore and aft bridges and rostrums, with the blazing fire on the gunwale, the ship continued to repel continuous attacks of Japanese cruisers and destroyers. A shell fragment hit the wheelhouse and wounded Admiral Rozhestvensky and several officers of his staff and the ship for the second time (and this time severely).
Meanwhile, the battleship “Emperor Alexander III” at 14:45 returned the squadron to a north-east course of 23°. It was probably trying to break through to the north behind the main Japanese force. In turn Admiral Togo made a maneuver to change the firing side. Part of the medium caliber artillery on the starboard side of the Japanese ships was already out of action, and the gunners, of course, had been providing fire at the limit of their physical strength all this time. Therefore, Togo, having made at 14:35-14:47 with his 1st squadron to turn “all of a sudden” course away from the enemy and then to the left by 8 rudiments, opened fire on the Russian port side, that is, with almost the same firepower as at the beginning of the battle. The detachment led the Nissin under the flag of Rear Admiral S. Misu. Nevertheless, in those 12 minutes it set its stern to the Russian artillerymen, which they took advantage of. Really, at 14:42 the battleship Fuji was hit by a 12-inch shell, which exploded in the charging compartment of the rear turret. The 12-inch shells would have detonated and the ship would have been inevitably destroyed, but because of the weak incendiary action of the Russian shells, they did not detonate and the water from the cooling pipe, destroyed by the explosion, helped to extinguish the fire. A minute later the Asama again received two shells, both in the stern. The ship settled down 1.5 meters, stopped for a while, then moved on, trying to follow her squadron. It did not enter service until about 5:10 p.m.
But the Russian ships also received a lot of damage at the same time. On the lead “Emperor Alexander III”, which came under concentrated fire, several fires broke out, it with a large roll on the left side went out of order (at 14:50) and, subsequently coping with the damage, entered the formation (probably between the “Sisoi the Great” and “Navarin”). The squadron was led by the battleship “Borodino” toward the northeast. Several holes in the bow just above the waterline got “Siso Velikiy”, through them water began to enter the hull, so the ship lagged behind, stretching the line, so the squadron of Nebogatov, increasing speed, bypassed the 2nd armored squadron, following “Siso” on the left. Due to a shell rupture on the “Admiral Nakhimov” the bow barbette rig was jammed in the starboard side traverse position. The commander of the “Eagle”, Captain of the First Rank N.V. Jung was mortally wounded, and the ship”s senior officer, Captain of the Second Rank K.L. Shvede, took command.
Probably because Kamimura”s squadron continued on its former course to the southeast and thus found itself much to the south of Togo”s squadron, Captain 1st Rank Serebryannikov, who commanded the lead ES “Borodino”, decided not to lead the squadron between two fires, or simply tried once more to break through to the north. In addition, he was still waiting for signals from the flagship and was going to cover it from another enemy attack. At this time the distance to Togo”s squadron was reduced to 11-16 cablets, so the Japanese ships even fired several torpedoes (without success). Noticing the maneuver of the Russians, Vice-Admiral Kamimura turned the ships in sequence and by 15:02 opened fire on the end ships of the Russian squadron, catching up with her from behind on the right. At this time Togo”s squadron crossed the head of the Russian column in the direction from right to left and soon lost her in the fog that appeared. Kamimura also lost the Russians to the fog. Taking advantage of this, the Russian squadron, following “Borodino”, turned sequentially to the south-east and for some time the opponents were moving away from each other.
About 3:15 p.m. the first “run to the south,” which did not last long, was stopped, and the Russian ships again lay down on the north-northeast side in the direction of Vladivostok.
At 15:10-15:15 Kamimura”s detachment came across the long-suffering “Prince Suvorov”, shelled it and attacked it with four torpedoes, one of which the Japanese mistakenly thought had hit the target. At the same time the “Tikhaya” was hit by three 75-mm shells from the battleship”s aft guns with the formation of an underwater hole and left the battle for the rest of the day.
For about 35 minutes, the opponents did not see each other.
The Japanese, having gone to the north-west, made a turn to the north-east course, with the 1st squadron “all of a sudden”, so that it was led again by the “Mikasa”. Thus, the two fleets began to come closer together.
At the head of the Russian column of battleships was the “Borodino”, followed by the “Eagle” and the “Alexander III”. Rear Admiral Nebogatov on “Nikolay I” followed the latter in the wake of three coastal defense battleships (“Apraksin”, “Senyavin”, “Ushakov”) and bypassed the extended line of the 2nd squadron battleships (“Sisoi”, “Navarin”, “Nakhimov”) from the left side.
At 15:40 the opponents saw each other and the battle resumed from a distance of 27 kb. The position of the parties in many respects resembled the beginning of the battle with the difference that Kamimura”s squadron was deprived of the “Asama” and went to the head of Togo”s squadron. Both squads quickly drew closer to the Russian ships, facing them from the left. The Russians fired back fiercely. A junior flagship, Vice-Admiral S. Misu, was wounded in the “Nissin”s” wheelhouse, and a number of hits were received by the Kamimura cruisers. At 15:57 the Shikishima experienced a premature rupture of a shell in its barrel, and the forward turret temporarily went out of action. Togo”s flagship Mikasa had a hole in her armor belt, through which a coal pit was sunk. The Russians especially suffered from the “Oryol” and the “Sisoi Velikiy”. On the latter a fire broke out in the whole 6-inch battery, and the battleship was temporarily out of action, and then took a place at the tail of the column. On the “Eagle” part of the trunk of the left 305-mm gun of the forward turret was torn off.
As the Japanese again covered the head of the Russian column, “Borodino” about 16:00 turned eastward. Kamimura”s detachment was on the left-hand traverse of the Borodin, and Togo”s detachment was on the traverse of the Emperor Nicholas I. The distance between the main forces was 30-35 cable lengths. Between the Russian and Japanese columns zigzagged the badly damaged, almost unguided “Prince Suvorov,” sometimes approaching the enemy to 11 cablets. Approximately at 16:10 “Borodino” again began to turn to the right and led the squadron to the south. Admiral Togo, suspecting the Russians in an attempt to break through to the north under his stern, turned his squadron “all of a sudden” and went north in a frontal formation, soon losing the Russians from sight. Vice-Admiral Kamimura probably did not want to fight without his senior flagship and turned away to the east. At 16:17 the opponents again lost sight of each other.
About the same time a new battle took place near the dying “Suvorov”. The ship, which was firing only one 75-mm gun from the aft casemate, was attacked by the 4th squadron of fighters, four torpedoes were fired at it, and unsuccessfully (the Japanese again thought they had hit). The flagship was again covered by artillery fire from the battleships, which succeeded in hitting the “Murasame”.
By 16:20 KB “Prince Suvorov”, blazing from bow to stern, lost its last pipe and the remnants of the fwm, in the aft casemate the only surviving 75-mm gun continued to fire at the enemy. The surviving staff officers and Z.P. Rozhestvensky, who was wounded in the head, were taken off the battleship (due to his condition he could not control the battle).
The second “run to the south” of the Russian squadron lasted 50 minutes – much longer than the first, but it was he who saved the Russian cruisers and the remaining two transports. The cruiser battle was, in general, independent of the battle of the armored squadrons about south of them, and by the time the Russian battleships appeared the position of the cruisers and transports was critical.
About 16:30 the Russian squadron, going south, met a detachment of Russian transports and cruisers, which fought with Japanese cruisers. Having shelled the enemy cruisers, the squadron, on Nebogatov”s signal, began to lean northward.
The order of the Russian battleships by this time was greatly disrupted. Ahead of the pair were “Borodino” and “Eagle”, which about 16:30 passed on the countercurses between Russian and Japanese cruisers, and the first went under the protection of the non-firing side of the battleships. This maneuver explains the turn to the west of the Russian squadron. The 3rd Russian battleship, which by this time had already managed to overtake the 2nd, followed the first pair and at 16:41 also opened fire on the cruisers of S. Maiden and S. Uriu, whose flagships, damaged by the fire of Nebogatov”s battleships, moved their detachments eastward. The damaged “Alexander III” was sailing between the 3rd and the 2nd armor squadrons, and the ships of the 2nd armor squadron followed it with different courses. At the same time the Japanese battleships were sailing to the south, looking for the enemy and being east of it. At 16:51 Kamimura cruisers, coming to the sound of shots, approached the place of battle and opened fire on the huddled Russian ships and transports, getting hits on “Ushakov” and “Apraksin”. Around this time the commander of the ship was seriously wounded on “Borodino” and the senior officer captain of the 2nd rank D.S. Makarov took command of the battleship and led the squadron.
At 17:00 on the battleship “Emperor Nicholas I” (which was commanded by Nebogatov because of the wound of the commander) was raised the signal “Course northeast 23 °”, on which “Borodino” turned to the northwest. The Russians were on their way to Vladivostok again.
At 5:30 p.m. Kamimura”s cruisers withdrew from the battle, being south of the Russian ships.
From 17:10 to 17:30 the destroyer “Buyny” removed from the “Prince Suvorov” wounded Vice-Admiral Rozhestvensky and 19 of his staff. By this time the “Suvorov” had practically lost the course, controlled from the central post by the mine officer, Lieutenant M. A. Bogdanov. The aft 12-inch turret was blown up, the forward 12-inch turret apparently shot all its ammunition, and the medium-caliber turrets were out of action because of fires above them. The ship had no significant underwater holes. The “Bedovy” destroyer again failed to comply with Rozhestvensky”s order to take off her remaining men.
The Russian squadron, in spite of Nebogatov”s order, was heading north-northwest. By 17:40 it was formed in several wintry columns (the data is contradictory): ahead were the “Borodino” and the “Eagle”, led by the captain of the 2nd rank D.S. Makarov. Lagging behind them and noticeably to the left was the 3rd Armored Detachment, as well as the “Alexander III”. To the left and behind Nebogatov”s column were the remnants of the 2nd squadron (this column was long followed by the “Sisoi”, but the “Navarin” and the “Admiral Nakhimov” went to the tail of the column, injured after 18:30 by the fire of Kamimura”s cruisers). The fourth column was formed by the cruisers “Oleg,” “Aurora,” “Dmitry Donskoy,” and “Vladimir Monomakh,” which were kept on the left traverse of the battleships. The cruisers “Pearl”, “Emerald”, “Almaz”, “Svetlana” and the destroyers went even more to the left, not following the line. There were four remaining transports – “Anadyr”, “Korea”, “Svir” and the badly damaged “Irtysh”. The destroyer “Buyny” with the staff on board and the signal “Admiral on the destroyer” (no one understood which Admiral), which caught up with the squadron at about 18:00, raised the signal “Admiral passes the command to Rear Admiral Nebogatov,” but on the “Nicholas I” this signal was not made out, and at 18:05 the same order was passed Nebogatov voice with the destroyer “Flawless” along with an order to go to Vladivostok.
The Japanese 1st Battle Group was sailing parallel to the right at a distance of about 35 cables, again slowly coming to the head of the Russian column and at 17:42 opened fire on the “Borodino” and the “Eagle”. The 2nd Battle squadron followed far behind the first and at 18:32 began firing at first three ships of the 2nd Armor from a distance of about 40 cables. But then the “Emperor Alexander III”, which with a strong roll on the starboard side and fire was following somewhere in the end of the Russian squadron and to the right of it (the information about its location is contradictory), got into a critical situation. At 18:48 it came under fire of six cruisers of Kamimura detachment and literally in 2 minutes turned over to the starboard side. About 40 men were still hanging on the bottom of the overturned ship. The cruiser “Emerald” approached the place of the tragedy to raise people from the water, but she came under heavy fire and was forced to return to the squadron. Of the 867 crew of the “Emperor Alexander III” no one escaped, so the circumstances of the battle and death of the ship are unknown. It is possible to assume, that it has sunk from distribution on the main deck (which had only one bulkhead) water, got through casemates 75-mm of the guns because of overload of the ship.
The Russian squadron was still led by the “Borodino”, which at 18:30 dodged to the left, to the northwest, from the concentrated fire of Togo”s squadron, which was kept by him on the right traverse in 30-40 cable lengths. But before he could do so, at about 18:50 the Borodino began a great fire, and at 19:00 huge flames engulfed the whole ship, and the stern turret went silent. Long before that, according to the only surviving crew member, all the officers of the battleship had been knocked out. One of the shells, apparently a 305mm from the Fuji, hit the cellar of the starboard 6-inch turret. After the explosion of this cellar, the ship, which had led the squadron steadfastly for four and a half hours, capsized and sank at about 7:12 p.m., a few minutes before sunset. A total of 866 men died on the battleship, and one sailor was subsequently recovered from the water by the Japanese.
Apparently, this was the last shot the Japanese fired in the day battle of May 14, because even before the death of “Borodino”, at 19:02, Admiral Togo ordered to cease fire. One of the last Russian shots was made by the Sisoi Veliky, which hit Kamimura”s flagship, the Izumo, with a 12-inch shell and almost put it out of action. Fortunately for the Japanese, the shell did not explode.
In the meantime “Suvorov”, which had lost the course and was thrown far to the south, about 18:00 was surrounded by the 4th, 5th and 6th battle groups of Japanese, shot at them for hour and a half and then was attacked by the 2nd squad of destroyers, which fired eight torpedoes at it at point-blank range. Three or four of them blew up and at 19:30 the ship, which had been firing the aft 75-mm guns and even rifles to the last shot, turned over and went down with all its men (935 men). Thus, in just 40 minutes three of the four battleships of the same type (“Alexander III”, “Borodino”, “Suvorov”) perished with the entire crew.
But it was nighttime, and Admiral Togo wanted to give his destroyers a chance to orient themselves for the attack, so he did not shoot the burning “Eagle”, but led his troops to the north, assigning the rendezvous point to the island Evenlet. “Emperor Nicholas I” after the death of “Borodino” began to slowly overtake the “Eagle” on the left, going to the head of the squadron. With the last rays of the sun “Emperor Nicholas I” led the squadron of Russian battleships and increased its speed to 12-13 knots.
Of the remaining Russian battleships the most severe damage was sustained by the “Eagle”: part of the left gun barrel was torn off from the forward 12-inch turret, only two shells remained in the aft turret. Of the medium-caliber turrets, only the right nose turret remained in service. The casemates of the 75-mm artillery were partially disabled, and not from armor plates penetration, but from shrapnel through the gun ports. The same shrapnel took out all who were in the fighting cabin. The battleship received about 300 tons of water on the deck and was on the verge of capsizing. The ship practically completely exhausted its combat resource. On “Sisoy” and “Navarin” turrets of the main caliber were in good working order, but both had holes in the bow unarmored part, through which the water flooded the compartments, while on the “Navarin” it could be pumped out, on the “Sisoy the Great” pumps do not cope. On the “Admiral Nakhimov” bow barbette unit jammed, two more rotated manually. The ships of the 3rd Armored Detachment suffered only minor damage, only the Admiral Ushakov had a trim on the bow due to a hole in the fore end. Cases of armor penetration were extremely rare.
If it was a serious mistake to take slow-moving transports into the battle, then it was a serious mistake to assign almost all cruisers and half of the destroyers to guard these transports and then send them all together somewhere to the east. If Rozhestvensky really expected to lead the whole battle at 9-knot speed in a single column, then there is no better protection for the light forces than the non-firing side of the column of battleships (outside the zone of Japanese shell flights, of course). Nevertheless, the order was given and all of them lay down on a course of two rumbos to the right (northeast of 50°), gradually moving southward away from the battleship column.
About 14:00 far at the tail of the column the Japanese detained the hospital ships “Oryol” and “Kostroma”, which excluded the possibility of rescuing the crews of the ships that had perished during the ensuing battle. The second, in accordance with international norms, was released after half a month, and the first was taken as a prize on the grounds that the “Eagle” was used by the squadron for military purposes, in particular to transport the detained crew of the British steamer “Oldgamy”. Ironically, the British were put on the “Eagle” only because of the fear that they might be hit by some stray shell in combat.
About 13:50 the cruiser Izumi tried to approach the transports from the right, but was fired upon and hit by the Vladimir Monomakh, which was marching to the right of the column of transports, and the Oleg with the Aurora. As a matter of fact, the cruising battle began at about 14:30, when the 3rd Battle Group of Vice-Admiral S. Deva and the 4th Group of Rear-Admiral S. Uriu, which by this time had finished their round of the Russian squadron from the south, opened fire on the transports from a distance of about 40 cu. The Anadyr and Irtysh were in a most dangerous position, risking to blow up from the explosion of the huge stocks of shells and pyroxylin stored in their holds. Toward the eight enemy cruisers the “Oleg” and the “Aurora” immediately rushed to the south, starting the fight on the countercourse on the port side and then transferring the fire to the starboard side. The maneuvering fight lasted from 15:10 to 15:35, and about 14:35 the “Dmitry Donskoy” joined the “Aurora” on the Enquist”s signal, thus returning to her squadron. Then the two Japanese squadrons turned in series to the left and lay on a parallel course, west, firing their starboard guns from a distance of 28 cables. The transports, destroyers, and the cruisers guarding them continued to move off to the northeast. About 15:12 a.m. A 76-mm. shell exploded in front of the cabin of the cruiser “Aurora”, and flying into it splinters fatally wounded the cruiser”s commander. The command of the ship took the senior officer, Captain 2nd Rank A.K. Nebolsin, himself wounded. At 15:20 the 6th Battle Group of Rear Admiral M. Togo Jr. approached and joined the 4th squadron of Uriu in a wheelhouse. The 3rd squadron turned to the east and opened fire on the port side.
About 15:35 Enqvist noticed the blazing “Prince Suvorov” to the north and turned the two cruisers from west to north, ordering “Donskoy” and “Monomakh” to guard the transports. By this time the Russians had suffered their first loss – the auxiliary cruiser “Ural” received an underwater breach from the port side in the bow and raised a distress signal. The Enquist signaled the Anadyr to help the Ural, and the Anadyr, in doing so, rammed the tug steamer Rus”. The crew of the “Rus”” moved to the “Svir” and the abandoned “Rus”” was sunk half an hour later by Japanese cruisers of the 6th detachment. About 16:00 from “Oleg” and “Aurora” they noticed that Russian battleships were approaching “Prince Suvorov”, but Japanese cruisers were attacking transports.
The critical moment of the battle was coming, because just about 16:00 “Oleg” and “Aurora” got under the fire of the end armored cruisers of the 1st detachment – “Nissin” and “Kasuga”, which were in the north-east, and from the rear the other light Japanese cruisers were firing at them. By the same time the ships of the 5th battle detachment of Vice Admiral Kataoka appeared on the battlefield at about 16:00. They fired from 43 CAB. “And there would have been a glorious end to the two armored cruisers, if not for the approach of our battleships which also turned to the opposite course. Their movement forced the “Nissin” and the “Kasuga” to retreat and disappear in the fog,” writes V.S. Kravchenko. It happened about 16:30, but before that both cruisers managed to turn to the south-east course towards the transports, and they were followed by the “Zhemchug” and the “Emerald” battleships that had previously kept the non-firing side of the Russian column. At Enquist”s signal “Cruisers follow me,” the cruisers eventually formed into a moving column: the Oleg, Aurora, Dmitry Donskoy, Vladimir Monomakh, Zhemchug, Izumrud, Svetlana, and Almaz.
During this time the “Ural”, from which there was only trouble in the battle, despite its two 120 mm guns, managed to get two more underwater holes and, controlled only by machines, piled on the stern of the cruiser “Emerald”, then stalled. “Anadyr”, “Svir” and the destroyer “Grozny” rescued people from the “Ural”. The reason for the rescue work was not so much the plight of the “Ural” as the signal from its commander: “I have an underwater hole, I can not fix it. Despite such an assessment of the commander, the ship abandoned by the team remained afloat for a long time, until at 17:40 it was sunk by fire from the Japanese battleships and a torpedo. “Svir” tried to take it in tow. Moreover, not only the “Ural” received an underwater hole: the “Irtysh” also received a large hole near the waterline; a roll and trim on the bow arose; the course dropped to 7 knots. The “Korea” transport was also ordered from the “Svetlana” to help the “Ural”, but because the “Korea” did not have a set of military signals, this command was not understood. All this time the transports maneuvered haphazardly under fire, disrupted the formation and interfered with the maneuvering Russian cruisers.
Russian cruisers fought with difficulty with 10 enemy cruisers at a distance of 24 cca, being also under fire from the rear of two battle cruisers of H. Togo”s detachment, but about 16:30 the column of Russian battleships passed between Enqvist cruisers and Japanese light cruisers. Fire from the battleships forced the Japanese cruisers to retreat to the east. It was at this time that the Japanese armored deck cruisers sustained the most damage. About 5:08 p.m. the flagship of Vice Admiral Deva, the Kassagi, received an underwater breach and her speed dropped, but the ship remained in formation until 6:00 p.m. At about the same time the flagship cruiser of the 4th Squadron, the Naniva, was hit in the stern below the waterline. Russian cruisers, transports and destroyers by this time had moved to the left, non-firing side of the Russian battleship column.
The Kamchatka transport received several shell hits after 5:00 p.m., which resulted in damage to the vehicles. The transport stopped and became an easy target. Nevertheless, the small-caliber guns of the “Kamchatka” were firing at the Japanese destroyers, trying to cover the “Prince Suvorov”. After 18:30 the transport was overtaken by the enemy”s light forces, shot and sank. 327 people were killed, including 68 artisans.
The last phase of the cruiser battle came about 5:30 p.m., when from the southwest the enemy”s armored cruisers again tried to attack the transports and destroyers. They were supported by Kamimura”s squadron catching up from the southeast. “Oleg” and “Aurora” again went into battle on a counter-course, followed by “Dmitry Donskoy” and “Vladimir Monomakh” at the signal of Enquist. Russian cruisers again had a hard time, but they fought off 9-10 enemy cruisers, which by 18:00 stopped the fight. At 17:40-18:00 the situation on “Cassagi” and “Naniwa” because of the inflow of water became heavy, and both ships withdrew from the battle. “Naniwa” rejoined the line after installing a patch, and “Kassagi” under escort of “Chitose” went to Aburdani Bay, where it was repaired until 11 o”clock the next day. Vice-Admiral Deva himself did not return to the battle site on the “Chitose” until 21:30, during his absence the remaining two cruisers of the 3rd Squadron temporarily joined the 4th Squadron.
If you give a general assessment of the cruiser battle, it can be noted that the Japanese armored deck cruisers tried to use the same tactics as the armored cruisers – concentrated near the flagship Russian cruiser and tried to take it under concentrated fire from relatively large distances of 20-30 kab. This method did not work, because the “Oleg” and “Aurora” maneuvered at 18-knot speed. Kravchenko comments: “We saved the “Oleg” and “Aurora” from final firing by quickness and frequent change of moves: we knocked the enemy down and did not let him accurately aim. During the whole battle the faithful Aurora never lagged an inch behind her flagship… There were terrible so-called “turning points” when the enemy took aim and successfully concentrated fire on the Oleg, so that the latter looked covered with spray, white foam blowing up, and black smoke with flashes of fire. We often saw the poor ship not withstand this fire, put abruptly on the rudder, turn on eight rudders, and, emerging from the sphere of fire, leave her behind. “Aurora” immediately followed his example, put the rudder, but, rolling by inertia, had to enter this terrible, covered with cast-iron hail before our eyes. Since the Aurora was very slow to obey the rudder, not turning, as the sailors say, “on her heel,” she inevitably had to plunge into this rain every time.” In other words, the Japanese cruisers should have chosen a different tactic: resolutely approaching at the shortest distance, attacking the 3rd and 4th squadrons “Oleg” and “Aurora”, and the 6th squadron – the exploration squadron in a short and brutal battle. Of course, the Japanese would have suffered losses, but nothing could have saved the Russians in this unequal battle. Then the Japanese could calmly destroy the armored but slow-moving old cruisers as well as the transports. But the Russian cruisers did the impossible: during two hours of fighting with considerably superior enemy forces they not only withstood the blow, losing only one armorless cruiser, but they also managed, basically, to fulfill the order to protect the transports, which doomed everybody to death. Two of the six transports were lost in the May 14 battle, of which the crew of the “Sviri” was given time to evacuate.
But even maneuvering, the Russian cruisers suffered losses. The “Ural” was lost. Its commander did not distinguish his courage in battle at all: once the “Ural” escaped fire, hiding behind the hull of the “Almaz”, incidentally, also unarmed. “Oleg” got the most damage, and he was in a sad position, having received 12 holes, many of which near the waterline, had damage in the car. “Aurora” also received serious damage from 10 shell hits. In addition, many men were disabled on her: 16 killed and 83 wounded. “Svetlana” received a hole in the bow and took 350 tons of water. The cruiser got the trim at the bow, the course fell to 17,5 knots. The other cruisers received minor damage.
The Russian destroyers did not directly participate in the battle, being engaged mainly in rescue operations: “Buyny” (damaged the propeller on floating debris), “Bravy” (got hit by a shell in the boiler room), “Fast”, “Grozny”, “Brilliant”. The latter especially distinguished himself by rushing under fire to lift sailors from the water from the “Oslyabi”, although he himself had already received a shell hit, with the flooding of the premises. During this operation, the destroyer received a second hit, which killed the commander. The crew of the “Buyny” also showed initiative and courage in rescuing people. On the other hand, the “Bedovy” abandoned the damaged “Suvorov” in defiance of all orders and joined the cruiser squadron on its own. “Fast” also did not help “Suvorov” and just went under the protection of battleships. “Impeccable”, “Vivacious”, “Gromky”, “Grozny” followed with the cruisers as they were ordered. All of them by the end of the battle were under the protection of the left, non-firing side of the Russian battleships.
Japanese destroyers mostly followed the non-firing side of the battleships and took part in destroying the damaged Russian ships that remained afloat. At 15:27 the 5th fighter squadron attacked the “Prince Suvorov” with five torpedoes fired from 4-2 cables. None of them exploded, but “Cyranui” was damaged by two shells of Russian battleships – 4 dead, 15 wounded. At 16:28 the same “Suvorov” was attacked by the 4th squadron of destroyers. First, the “Asagiri” and the “Murasame” each fired a torpedo to starboard with 4 caps and the “Asashivo” two torpedoes. “Shirakumo” because of the fire of Russian battleships could not attack. According to Japanese data, one torpedo from “Murasame” hit the left side of the battleship and it tilted 10°, but it is doubtful. One shot from “Asagiri” failed – the torpedo misfired. At the same time the “Asagiri” received a hit from the “Suvorov” 75-mm gun, and the “Murasame” was hit by a shell ricocheted off the water from one of the battleships, its speed dropping to 20 knots. About 8:00 the “Suvorov” was sunk by torpedoes of the 2nd destroyer squadron. The destroyers Japanese saved for night attacks. During the battle they kept near the 5th and 6th Japanese battle groups.
Night attacks and maneuvers
With the onset of dusk the Japanese battleships and cruisers withdrew from the battlefield to allow the destroyers the remainder of the light time to determine their choice of targets. Only auxiliary cruisers remained in the southern part of the strait, which, if they detected the enemy, were ordered to illuminate him with a searchlight, then raise the beam upward and guide him in the direction of movement. The 7th Battle Group of Rear Admiral H. Yamada (gunboats) was on duty in the western part of the Strait of Korea, close to the Korean shore. A red light was assigned as an identification sign to distinguish their own. To the north-west of the Russian squadron were the 1st and 2nd destroyer detachments, from the north – the 9th destroyer detachment, from the east – the 5th, 4th and 3rd destroyer detachments, and from the south-east came the 20th, 18th, 1st, 5th and 10th destroyer detachments. Another 9 destroyers of the 14th, 16th and 19th squadrons, during the day sheltered from bad weather, also went to sea to attack. Thus, the destroyers were to attack the vanguard of the Russian column, the destroyers – the rearguard. A total of 17 destroyers and 24 destroyers took part in the night attacks.
The Russian battleships also spotted the enemy about 50 cable lengths away. Since only the south-west direction was free, Admiral Nebogatov turned abruptly to the left by 8 rms without any signal. The rest of the battleships made the turn “all of a sudden,” while significantly disrupting the formation. This looked more like not a maneuver, but a disorderly retreat in the direction of the enemy, that is just in the direction of the Russian cruisers and destroyers. These latter did not understand the maneuver. The cruisers decided that the squadron as an organized force had disintegrated and turned in the same direction themselves. Nevertheless, the battleships quickly restored the line, but the actions of Rear Admiral O. A. Enquist just led to the disintegration of the squadron. Up to this point the actions of the Rear Admiral in combat had been virtually flawless and often brave. But now he raised the signal to the cruisers to “Follow me,” turned southwest, and gave a full 18-19 knot turn. He was followed by all the cruisers except the “Emerald” and the “Almaz”, on which the signal was not noticed: the first was at some distance, keeping closer to the “Nicholas I”, and the second at this moment was maneuvering, trying to avoid collision with the transport. It is absolutely unclear how it is possible to coordinate the order “Follow me” and the forcing of the move, because Enqvist knew that both old cruisers can not develop the speed of more than 13-15 knots. By steering them away from the squadron he condemned them to the fate of lonely wanderers in the night. The same could be said about the “Svetlana”, because they could clearly see from the “Oleg” that she was going with a bow trim. The direct duty of the cruisers was to let the battleships pass to the southwest and guard them from the attacks of the enemy destroyers, but he did just the opposite – he shielded his battleships from them. Thus, in two hours Enqvist (more precisely, the commander of the “Oleg” Captain 1st Rank LF Dobrotvorsky, who had a strong influence on his admiral) committed three gross errors: abandoned and lost his battleships in the night, without protecting them from mine attacks, diverted almost all the cruisers from the squadron, and then abandoned three straggler cruisers. The squadron disintegrated.
The Russian battleships went south for some time, but at the beginning of the 9th hour Nebogatov again lay on a north-northeast course. The ships of Nebogatov”s 3rd Armored Detachment were already prepared during the campaign for night sailing without running lights. The only reference point was a lantern with a narrow beam, placed on the stern of the ship. “Eagle”, which was in the keel of “Nikolay I”, was forced to act the same way (all searchlights were broken), and all five battleships for some time went as a single group. Thanks to the light camouflage they were hardly noticeable. Enemy destroyers were driven away by the cruiser “Emerald”, which kept close to the flagship. The other ships, for reasons of camouflage, most of the fire on the destroyers did not open, although once they fired at the “Emerald” by mistake (no hits). Unable to maintain a 13-knot course, the “Admiral Ushakov”, which received a hole, began to lag behind; in time the “Admiral Senyavin” and “Admiral-General Apraksin” overtook it and it was lost. The remaining ships of Nebogatov”s group escaped the mine attacks safely and headed north.
The three remaining ships of the 2nd Armored Squadron, led by Sisoi the Great, lagged behind, as the slowly filling water battleship was also going at low speed. They were not prepared for movement without lights, so they were clearly visible to the enemy.
The end ship “Admiral Nakhimov” was the first to use searchlights to repel mine attacks, which only made it easier for the enemy. Between 21:30 and 22:00 the battleship received a torpedo in the starboard bow. Not being able to cope with the inflow of water and having got the roll on the starboard side and the trim 8° on the bow, the ship turned off the searchlights and turned westwards, expecting to reach the Korean shore and go to Vladivostok along it. The crew of the cruiser spent the whole night struggling for survivability and was convinced that it would be impossible to keep the ship afloat. The shape of the coast, which turned out to be the northern tip of Tsushima Island, was revealed in the moonlight. After anchoring at a depth of 100 m the cruiser lowered the lifeboats to take the crew off. At the beginning of the sixth hour, when the “Shiranui” fighter followed by the auxiliary cruiser “Sado-Maru” started approaching the cruiser, the order to blow up the ship was given to the commander in response to the demand to surrender, but the detonating ammunition did not work. Eighteen men died in the evacuation. Most of the men were picked up from the lifeboats by a Japanese cruiser, and one boat reached the island, where the sailors were taken prisoner. The Japanese boarded the ship and raised their flag, but when they saw the plight of the ship, they left. The Nakhimov”s commander and navigator, who were hiding on the ship, tore down the flag. About 8:00 a.m. May 15, the cruiser sank at 34°34” N, 129°32” E. The commander and navigator were rescued from the water by Japanese fishermen. Of the cruiser”s crew of 653, 628 survived.
The battleship “Navarin” bypassed the “Sisoi the Great,” but about 22:00 received a torpedo hit to the stern from the port side. Water began to quickly fill the ship, which sank stern to the 12-inch turret. Then the ship went to the nearest shore at 4 knots but about 2:30 a.m. on May 15 three destroyers probably Asagiri, Asashivo and Shirakumo of the 4th squadron attacked the battleship from both sides. It took two more torpedo hits, went to the starboard bow, then capsized and sank. Out of 622 men of the crew only 3 sailors who were raised from the water by the Japanese managed to be saved.
Left alone, Sisoi Veliky vigorously repelled the attacks and maneuvered. But the inflow of water through a hole in the bow could not be stopped, and the ship was more and more bowed down. At 23:15 she was torpedoed astern on the starboard side, unable to steer. The sinking ship backward tried to reach Tsushima island, where about 03:00 am on May 15 it met the cruiser “Vladimir Monomakh” and the destroyer “Gromky”. The request to take the crew was answered by the cruiser that it was also sinking, so the crew began to make life rafts. At 07:20 the battleship was discovered by the Japanese auxiliary cruisers “Shinano-Maru”, “Tainin-Maru” and “Yawata-Maru”. They began evacuating men from the battleship on the longboat and raised the signal on the international vault: “Sink, please help”. When the Japanese asked if the ship was surrendering, the commander answered in the affirmative. Then the Japanese crew hoisted their flag on the ship, although they could not lower the Andreevsky flag, and then began to take the crew down. At 10:05 a.m. the Sisoi Veliky capsized and sank at 35°N, 130°10” E. Fifty men perished on the ship, including 20 killed in the day”s battle.
The cruisers of Enqvist”s detachment were leaving at 18-knot speed at the beginning of the 8th hour to the southwest. About 20:00 the “Vladimir Monomakh” fell behind, about 21:00 the “Dmitry Donskoy” and about 22:00 the “Svetlana. “Oleg”, “Aurora” and “Zhemchug”, which joined on its own initiative, repulsed three torpedo attacks during the night and made three attempts to turn to the north for breakthrough to Vladivostok, but each time after these turns they met enemy destroyers, and about 23:00 – ships, mistaken for Japanese cruisers. As a result each time the cruisers turned to the south-west course. By midnight, because of the many night maneuvers, the cruisers lost sight of their position, and only by morning were they identified by the stars. Considering that the rest of the night would not be enough to break through the enemy forces and assuming that the enemy cruiser detachment was following him on his heels Rear Admiral Enqvist under the advice of the commander of “Oleg” Dobrotvorsky at about 01:00 on May 15 decided to go south. In addition, he believed that the Russian squadron, which was last seen from the cruisers going southwest, would also retreat in a southerly direction. After all the erroneous decisions made by Enquist at the beginning of the night, this conclusion was inescapable. The Russian squadron was lost, its cruisers too, and the ships had sustained serious damage during the battle. The first enemy destroyer or auxiliary cruiser that detected them in the morning near the battlefield would radio about it, and a cruiser detachment would be sent to intercept them. At three o”clock in the morning the Oleg, Aurora, and Zhemchug left the Strait in a southerly direction, gradually slowing to 10 knots.
The straggler cruiser “Vladimir Monomakh” turned north. The cruiser fired at the destroyers several times, and the “Bedovy” and “Gromky” were fired at. Fearing another attack on her own, the cruiser let a Japanese destroyer get close to her, and from a short distance fired a torpedo into her starboard side. The ship began to fill with water, despite all attempts of the crew to stop its spreading, and by morning it was in distress, as the water came up to the furnaces of the last unflooded boiler room. At the same time the ship was attacked several times by mines, which were repelled by the Loudy. The commander decided to go to Tsushima Island, to take the men ashore, and to sink the ship. The destroyer “Gromky” was ordered to break through to Vladivostok. By this time the Japanese auxiliary cruisers “Sado-Maru” and “Manju-Maru” discovered the ship and opened fire on it, wanting to force it to surrender. The captain of the 1st rank V.A. Popov ordered to open the keystones. After convincing themselves that the ship was sinking, the Japanese boarded the ship with lifeboats and forced the captain and senior officer to abandon the ship. Part of the crew was removed by lifeboats from both Japanese cruisers, some landed on the coast of Tsushima Island, and the ship sank at about 10:30 a.m. May 15 at 34°32” N, 129°40” E. There were no casualties during the sinking, but in the day”s battle the ship lost one man killed and 16 wounded.
The Russian destroyers scattered with the cruisers, but survived the night safely. “Bedovy”, “Grozny” and “Buyny” (the latter with damage in the engine) went with “Dmitry Donskoy”, “Gromky” and “Bravy” accompanied the damaged “Monomakh”, “Quick” went with “Svetlana”. “Impeccable” was making her way north on her own. “Vivacious” and the badly damaged “Brilliant” turned south.
The three remaining transports – the “Anadyr”, the “Korea” and the tug steamer “Svir”, having lost the squadron and each other at the beginning of the night, headed south by different routes, aiming to leave for Shanghai. The damaged and slowly filling up with water, the “Irtysh” headed for the Japanese coast in order to save the personnel in case of sinking the ship.
Of the Japanese destroyers at night during the attacks from the artillery fire of Russian ships killed two – No. 34 and No. 35 (both killed 9 men and wounded 21), 8 fighters and 4 destroyers were damaged in varying degrees. In addition, the destroyer No. 69 sank from a collision with an Akatsuki fighter; three fighters and two destroyers were damaged in nighttime collisions and collisions. During the entire battle, 22 Japanese sailors from the destroyers paid with their lives and 82 were wounded. It is difficult to say who was a victim of whom that night. Both sides claimed many victories in their reports, claiming that they had seen many more enemy ships sink than was actually possible. The sinking of Japanese destroyers was attributed to the gunners of the Admiral Senyavin, the Admiral Nakhimov, and the Vladimir Monomakh. The 14th, 16th, 19th, and 20th destroyer detachments were unable to locate the Russian ships during the night.
Day fighting on May 15, surrender of the main forces of the Russian squadron
While the Japanese destroyers were attacking the Russian ships, the main forces of the Japanese fleet retreated northward into the Sea of Japan to intercept the Russian squadron during the day. Admiral H. Togo thought it most likely that the Russians would take the shortest route from the battle of Tsushima to Vladivostok. The speed calculation showed that in the afternoon of May 15 (28) the squadron should pass in the area between the island of Evenlet and the Liancourt Rocks. At dawn on May 15 the 1st battle squadron of Admiral Togo was 30 miles south of Evenlet. The calculation turned out to be correct.
Rear Admiral Nebogatov”s detachment – squadron battleships “Emperor Nicholas I”, “Eagle”, coastal defense battleships “Admiral General Apraksin”, “Admiral Senyavin” and cruiser “Emerald” was detected by the Japanese 5th Battle Group at 05:20 am 100 miles south of Evenlet. Admiral Togo was immediately notified by radiogram. The Russian ships also detected smoke and silhouettes on the horizon and sent the Emerald, which each time identified the enemy and returned to the detachment without moving out of sight. Meanwhile, radio-controlled Japanese combat units tightened the ring around the Russian ships. From 9:30 the detachment was escorted by Kamimura”s cruisers. Nebogatov tried to attack by approaching, but Kamimura, taking advantage of the superior speed, turned aside, as he waited for his battleships to approach. By 10 o”clock the Russian ships were surrounded from the north and north-east by the 4th (without Akashi) and 5th squadrons, from the west and south-west by the 1st and 2nd squadrons of Togo and Kamimura, and from the south by the 6th squadron, near which the cruiser Chitose, flying the flag of S. Deva. This occurred a few dozen miles south of the Leancourt Rocks. Approaching at 43-60 kab. the main enemy forces opened fire, to which the squadron battleship “Eagle” responded with a few shots. Rear Admiral Nebogatov found himself in a hopeless situation. The “Emperor Nicholas I” had obsolete short-range artillery and, moreover, during the day”s battle had used up almost all the high-explosive shells, while the armor-piercing ones were ineffective at large distances. The “Eagle” was left practically without artillery: it could operate only one barrel of 12-inch guns, almost all 6-inch guns were out of action. The coastal defense battleships were inferior to the enemy in the range of their guns, and all the battleships as a whole were hopelessly inferior in speed. In this situation Rear Admiral N.I. Nebogatov, on the advice of his ship”s wounded commander, unilaterally decided to surrender. At 10:34 a.m. the flagship raised the “XGE” signal, which according to the international code means “Surrender”. The ship”s acting commanding officer demanded that a board of officers be convened in accordance with the Naval Regulations. Nebogatov agreed, the officers” board was assembled, but the board was presented with the fait accompli of surrender. Contrary to the tradition of starting with the junior officers” statements, it was the Rear-Admiral and the ship”s Commander who spoke at the board first, pointing out the hopelessness of the situation. The majority of officers remained silent. Because the Japanese didn”t understand the signal and kept shooting, Nebogatov ordered to lower the Steng and Rear Admiral”s flags and raise first the white and then the Japanese flags. The other ships of the detachment, except the Emerald, after some hesitation rehearsed all these signals. The enemy noticed this and ceased fire, and at 10:53 Admiral Togo confirmed his agreement to accept the surrender. At 13:37 Nebogatov and the officers of his staff arrived at the battleship Mikasa, other officers arrived at the other ships, and on the Russian ships the Japanese sailors took the most important machinery, cellars, and weapons under guard. Under escort the ships went to Japanese ports, and on the battleship “Eagle” an attempt was made to sink the ship by opening the pings, timely noticed and suppressed by the Japanese. The sailors of the ships which had surrendered without a fight met with a sharply negative attitude on the part of other Russian prisoners of war. The commander of the “Eagle”, captain of the 1st rank N.V. Jung who died on the way to Japan was buried by permission of the Japanese in the sea as not having surrendered, because at the time of surrendering the ship he was unconscious.
Rear Admiral Nebogatov later explained his decision in court as follows: “Before my eyes stood 2000 families of peasant matrons… I decided to sacrifice my own name, myself, but to save 2000 human lives… It was obvious that we were dead, that the fleet was defeated and further sacrifices were pointless”. In an article published in 1906, Nebogatov argues that the surrender was made in full accordance with Article 354 of the Naval Regulations by joint decision of all officers in conditions of absolute impossibility to inflict even minimal damage to the enemy, because the maximum range of the Japanese was 56 cablets, the Russian ships 50 cablets, and “If we try to get closer, they, being very fast, easily withdraw further, without reducing the distance. We would be extremely easy targets, not being able to answer the enemy.” There Nebogatov also states that before the meeting with the Japanese there were chances to break through to Vladivostok in accordance with the direct order of Rozhestvensky, which explains his decision not to go to Manila for the imminent internment of ships or to the shore to destroy them with the landing of the crew.
The coastal defense battleship Admiral Ushakov, which had fallen behind due to the hole, was following the same course as Nebogatov. The ship was trimmed on the bow and had poor rudder control. The speed did not exceed 10 knots. At first light the cruisers of the 5th japanese battle group and then “Chitose” appeared on the horizon several times, but the battleship evaded them with the eastward course and they didn”t pursue. The ship had a chance to bypass the place of surrender of the Nebogatov ships from the east, but the “Admiral Ushakov” turned northwest, toward the coast of Korea. Therefore about 15:30 it saw directly on a course of the basic forces of the Japanese fleet from which armored cruisers “Iwate” and “Yakumo” under the flag of rear-admiral H. Shimamura were separated for interception. The battleship turned to the south, and at the board of officers during the night it was decided to fight “to the last extremity” and then destroy the ship. About 16:30 Japanese overtook the Russian battleship and the signal was raised on the Ivata: “I suggest you surrender. Your flagship has surrendered.” When the first part of the signal was disassembled, the commander, Captain 1st Rank V. N. Miklukha, said: “We do not need to know the continuation of the signal,” and ordered to open fire, taking a course to approach the enemy. During the battle the battleship maneuvered, but because of the wear of the channels of the barrels and failure of the rangefinders the shells were laying with a large scatter and with shortfalls. It was impossible to use 120-mm guns because the distance to the target was too big. Japanese shells hit the starboard side of the battleship, destroying the unarmored extremities and the battery. Soon the hydraulics in the forward turret failed. The turret was turned by a manual drive. After 30 minutes of the battle because of the roll it became impossible to steer at all, only one 120-mm gun could fire. Then the commander ordered the crew to save themselves and sink the ship by opening the pontoons and destroying the circulation pumps in the engine compartment. The Japanese continued to fire on the sinking ship until it disappeared under water, and then lowered the lifeboats to receive the men. The battleship disappeared under water at 17:48 at 37°N, 133°30” E. On the ship and in the water, 87 men were killed by Japanese shells, 11 were wounded (including 3 dead and 4 wounded in the battle of 14 May). Among the dead, the ship”s commander was also killed. During 30 minutes of fighting the Japanese ships fired 89 8-inch and 278 6-inch shells, achieving 2-4 hits with 6-inch shells and 2 – 8-inch shells. “Ushakov” responded with 30 shots from 10-dm guns and 60 shots from 120-mm guns, all of them missed.
The cruiser of rank II “Emerald”, seeing at 10:34 the signal of her flagship to surrender, forced her speed up to 21.5 knots, skipped between the 1st and 2nd Japanese battle groups and left in the direction of Vladivostok, while making radio interference to the Japanese ships” negotiations. The 6th Battle Group tried to chase it, but the old and slow cruisers fell behind and at 14:00 stopped the chase. “Emerald” maintained high speed for a long time, as a result, some of the equipment of the machines failed and the speed dropped to 15 knots. During the battle on May 14, six men were wounded on the ship. The cruiser”s commander, Captain 2nd rank Baron V. N. Ferzen, who had held himself impeccably during the battle, suddenly panicked. He was afraid to lead the ship to Vladivostok, because he was afraid of being blown up on mines near the port. He did not want to contact the base and ask for an escort by radio, as he tried to maintain radio silence. As a result he led the ship to the Russian coast 300 km east of Vladivostok, where he arrived late at night 15
Rear Admiral O.A. Enquist”s cruisers “Oleg”, “Aurora” and “Zhemchug” were in the morning of May 15 in the East China Sea. Contrary to their hopes, they did not meet a Russian squadron here, except for the tug steamer “Svir”. Because of the distress of “Aurora” Rear Admiral transferred his flag to her and took command of the ship, all three cruisers went to Shanghai for refueling with coal for the subsequent crossing to Vladivostok around Japan. However, calculating that they would not have enough time, stipulated by international law, to refuel with coal and expecting a possible blockage in Shanghai by a Japanese detachment that supposedly pursued them, the cruisers decided to go to Manila, the capital of the Philippines, which was then under U.S. protectorate. As they approached the Philippines, a cruiser detachment was spotted on the horizon. The Russian ships prepared for battle with Rear Admiral Uriu”s Japanese detachment, but the ships turned out to be American. After calling at Manila, on May 20, the Russian ships were interned by order of the American authorities and with the permission of the Russian government. On all three cruisers, 41 men were killed and 156 wounded. Two ships in March 1906 returned to the Baltic, and the “Pearl” remained to serve as part of the Siberian Flotilla.
The 1st rank cruiser “Svetlana”, which had fallen behind the Enqvist detachment, was heading north accompanied by the destroyer “Prompt”. About 5 o”clock Japanese cruisers of the 5th Battle Group appeared in the view of Dagelet Island, but the “Svetlana” evaded them to the west. The captain of the 1st rank S.P.Shein decided to come closer to the shore of Korea, put a patch on, patch the hole, then pump out the water and go to Vladivostok along the Korean shore. About 07:00 the cruisers Otowa, Niitaka and fighter “Murakumo” showed up behind the stern of the “Svetlana”. At about 8:30 a.m. the cruiser opened fire on the Otava by decision of the officers” board. The destroyer “Prompt” kept to the starboard side of the cruiser, the “Murakumo” to the port side, out of range of fire. Both Japanese cruisers were catching up with the “Svetlana” from the port side. Being able to engage only two 6-inch aft guns, the cruiser received several holes near the waterline. “Otava” received two shell hits, which killed 5 men and wounded 23. When all 6-inch shells ran out and the machines were completely out of action, the commander ordered the crew to evacuate to the water and the cruiser to sink by opening the gunwales. The “Svetlana” disappeared under the water at 11:08 at the coordinates 37° N, 129°50” E. The Japanese continued firing until the ship was completely sunk, and many Russian sailors were killed by explosions already in the water. Then the Japanese detachment chased the “Fast”, and the crew of the cruiser was hoisted two hours later aboard the auxiliary cruiser “America-Maru”. A total of 170 men were killed, drowned and died of hypothermia, including the commander, and 36 were wounded.
The cruiser II rank “Almaz” was lucky. During the evening torpedo attacks it first held on to the battleships, and then in view of the low efficiency of its 75-mm guns at 21:15 decided to break through to Vladivostok on its own. The cruiser thought it was going to join with Enqvist”s detachment, but it is not clear how they expected to meet this detachment which was the last time it was seen going to the south-west, going to the north-east. One way or another, the Almaz chose the only correct route – to stay eastward, along the coast of Japan. On May 16th the cruiser took the 16-knot turn and at 11:30 arrived in Strelok Bay and from there to Vladivostok, bringing the sad news of the squadron”s death. The “Almaz” had many minor damages on the hull, in the spars and rigging, 6 dead, 13 wounded. The ship did not stay long in Pacific waters: after the war it went to the Baltic and then – to the Black Sea. It was destined to become the first aircraft carrier ship in the Russian fleet.
The destroyer “Flawless,” which was sailing north on its own, was detected by the Japanese cruiser “Chitose” (flying the flag of Vice-Admiral S. Deva) and fighter “Ariake” about 04:28 a.m. Took artillery action and about 05:11 died with the entire crew of 73. There is nobody from the Russian side to tell about the circumstances and details of this battle.
The destroyer “Quick” at the end of the battle of the “Svetlana” about 11:00 a.m. Before the battle the destroyer had calculated that there would not be enough coal to reach Vladivostok and hoped to get coal from the “Svetlana” in time. She was pursued by the fighter “Murakumo” and the cruiser “Niitaka,” firing her bow guns. The “Fast” unsuccessfully fired torpedoes at the “Murakumo” and at 11:50 a.m. ejected into a coastal shoal near Cape Yonchugap, south of Samcheok City. The crew (83 persons together with the rescued from “Oslyabi”) tried to get to Vladivostok by feet, but by the evening they were captured by the Japanese landing party, which landed from the auxiliary cruiser “Kasuga-Maru”. The sailors from the “Bystry” became distant prototypes of the characters in the movie “Salvation Coast.” During the battle on the destroyer two men died and two more were wounded.
The destroyer “Gromky” asked the commander of “Vladimir Monomakh” for permission to break through to Vladivostok on her own in the morning, but was ordered to stay with the sinking cruiser. When Japanese auxiliary cruisers appeared in sight, the destroyer gave full speed 24 knots, but it was pursued by “Siranui” fighter and minesweeper #63. The destroyer had enough coal to reach Vladivostok only when navigating at 12 knots, but the board of officers unanimously decided to go at full speed to break away from the enemy, and if it did not succeed – to fight. The pursuers kept up and caught up with the destroyer at Cape Chansugap (Korea) about 08:00 a.m. “Loud” fought exceptionally courageously and skillfully. It maneuvered and twice went out to torpedo attacks, but one torpedo sank immediately after leaving the apparatus, and the last was blown away from the stern of the “Siranui” by a jet from the propeller. The destroyer attempted to jam enemy radio communications. After a shell hit the stoker the speed dropped to 17 knots. When another shell knocked the flag off the “Louder”, it was nailed to the mast in full view of the enemy. The “Siranui” also had its flag knocked off four times and received 20 hits. When the ammunition compartments on the “Louder” were flooded, the men began to dive for ammunition. At the beginning of the first hour the destroyer had one boiler, one 47mm cannon, and one machine gun left. After all the ammunition was used up and the machines came to a complete stop, the men fought at a distance of 1.5-2 kb. with rifles. At the last moment the commander, Captain 2nd Rank G. F. Kern, was killed. The gunwales of the destroyer were opened, it began to sink, and at 12:45 it sank. The survivors were picked up from the water by the Japanese. During the battle the destroyer lost 23 men killed and 28 wounded.
The destroyers “Bedovy” (under the flag of Admiral Rozhestvensky) and “Grozny”, after leaving the cruiser “Dmitry Donskoy” in the morning, were moving in a 12-knot economic course in the north direction, bypassing the probable location of the main enemy forces from the west. At about 15:00 they were detected by Japanese fighters “Sazanami” and “Kagero” 30 miles south of the island of Evenlet. The enemy was approaching, but the flagship “Bedovy” did not increase her speed. The “Grozny” asked what was going on, and the flag captain (chief of staff) of the squadron who was on the bridge ordered the “Grozny” to go to Vladivostok by herself. “Kagero” chased “Grozny” and “Sazanami” stayed with “Bedov”. Without firing a single shot at the enemy, approximately equal in strength and speed, and without even attempting to leave, the “Bedovy” was surrendered by its commander on the initiative of the squadron”s flag navigator, Colonel V. I. Filippovsky and the squadron”s flag captain, Captain 1st Rank K. K. Clapier-de-Colong. “Bedovy” was the only warship of the Russian squadron which had not suffered any casualties. The entire squadron staff was taken prisoner, along with the commander of the squadron, Vice-Admiral Z. P. Rozhestvensky, who was concussed in the head. Subsequently, at the trial the officers justified themselves by saying that “the admiral”s life was more expensive than the destroyer. This is partly true, but knowing the character of Rozhestvensky, it is difficult to assume that he would agree with such an argument, if he had been conscious at the time. The man had many personal flaws, but cowardice was not one of them. In addition, at the trial it turned out that while still on the “Buynoy” squadron staff officers offered the destroyer commander to surrender the ship, but he, in accordance with the Maritime Statute required them to report the decision of the officers” council.
Thus, the destroyer “Grozny” was moving away from the “Kagero”, firing from the ineffective aft 47-mm guns and under the fire of two 57-mm and bow 76-mm guns. The destroyer maneuvered, fired its forward 75 mm gun, and came under fire from the enemy”s aft 76 mm gun itself. Both ships have received hits, then “Kagero” about 16:30 has fallen behind, and on the Russian destroyer because of sharp shortage of coal and fear of occurrence of other forces of the opponent have refused initial idea to catch up “Kagero” and again to attack it. During the battle we had 4 killed and 11 wounded, “Kagero” did not have any losses in men. “Grozny” reached the island Askold by 07:00 on May 16, received coal and on May 17 arrived to Vladivostok.
The destroyer “Buyny”, which had lost momentum, was destroyed by the artillery of the cruiser “Dmitry Donskoy” after the crew had been removed.
The destroyer “Bravy” lost the cruiser “Vladimir Monomakh” before dawn and headed for Vladivostok on her own, laying a course along the Japanese coast. For camouflage the masts were cut down and the tubes painted white during the day. Having no meetings with the enemy the destroyer went around the fighting zone from the east and in the morning of the 17th of May came to the island Askold. In doing so, due to the complete exhaustion of coal, it was necessary to burn wooden parts of the hull, machine oil, etc. in the furnace. Having hoisted the radio telegraph antenna with the help of a kite, the “Bravy” contacted the base and a destroyer sent to meet her led her to port. “Bravy” was the third and last ship of the squadron to come to Vladivostok. During the daytime battle on it 5 men were killed and 8 wounded, and also among those rescued from “Oslyabi” 1 killed and 6 wounded.
The destroyer “Brilliant”, with its bow compartments filled with water and its rudder damaged, met in the morning in the East China Sea with the destroyer “Bodny”, which stayed with it to help. Gradually the Brilliant, whose bulkheads began to give way, filled with water. To speed up the sinking of the ship, the gunwales were opened on it, and the personnel along with eight survivors from the “Oslyabi” were transferred to the destroyer “Bodry”. On “Brilliant” killed 6 people, including the commander, and wounded 16. The destroyer itself sank about 05:00 a.m.
After taking the men from the “Shining”, the destroyer “Vivacious” headed for Shanghai to replenish coal supplies for the subsequent crossing to Vladivostok. The ship sailed under stormy conditions, avoiding all oncoming ships, because they suspected the Japanese. However, the coal ran out by 12:00 on 16 May and for four days the crew had been adrift 90 miles from shore, trying to make use of the tidal currents. Fresh water and provisions had almost run out. On May 20, the British steamer Quaylin, which was passing by, took the destroyer in tow and brought it to Shanghai, where the Bodry was interned by the Chinese authorities until the end of the war. One man was killed and nine wounded on the destroyer during the battle.
Due to a big hole near the waterline the transport “Irtysh” was trimmed on the bow and turned 10° to the port side; the speed dropped to 7 knots. That is why it quickly left the squadron and went along the Japanese shore to the north, expecting to take people to land in case of sinking. Water continued to enter the ship”s hull in spite of the patch, so the ship had to come ashore near Waka Mura, 10 miles north of the city of Hamada, Shimane Prefecture. The crew was ferried ashore with the active participation of local Japanese fishermen, and the ship itself sank (or was sunk) 3 to 4 miles offshore. On the transport during the battle 14 men were killed and 35 wounded.
The tug steamer “Svir” about 09:00 in the East China Sea met three cruisers under the flag of Rear Admiral Enquist. When asked, “Where is our squadron and what about it?” the “Svir” replied, “You, Your Excellency, know better where our squadron is. Enquist ordered the “Sviri” to go to Shanghai and send from there to Manila Russian transports with coal. The towing steamer arrived safely in Shanghai on May 16, where it was interned by the Chinese authorities until the end of the war. One man died on the steamer during the battle.
The “Korea” and “Anadyr” transports headed south together. About 09:00, due to a shortage of coal, the “Korea” separated and went to Shanghai, where it was also interned on May 17. Two men were wounded on the “Korea” during the day”s battle. The “Anadyr,” with about 7,000 tons of coal on board for the squadron, without entering any port (as she wished to avoid internment) and keeping away from the busy sea lanes, arrived at the port of Diego Soares (Madagascar) on July 14, whence she returned to the Baltic. In a sense, it was the most “lucky” ship of the unhappy squadron, also because it had no losses in men.
Closely related to the fate of the 2nd Pacific Squadron is the “odyssey” of the steamship Oldgamy. This English steamship was stopped on May 6 by the cruiser Oleg near the squadron because it was carrying a cargo of kerosene to Japan. In a view of absence of documents on cargo and vague explanations of the captain, the steamship has been taken on hospital ship “Oryol”, and the steamship has been declared as a prize and with the Russian prize crew of 41 persons (collected from various ships of a squadron) under the command of ensign on sea part Tregubov in two days has been sent to Vladivostok around Japan. On May 20, while attempting to pass the Friesa Strait into the Sea of Okhotsk, the steamship ran onto the rocks of the island of Urup in dense fog. The next day the steamship was severely damaged by a storm, the crew made their way ashore, and the steamship was blown up. The island turned out to be uninhabited. The crew divided into three parties. One remained on the island, and two – on independently equipped boats went to Sakhalin. All three parties were taken prisoner by the Japanese in various ways, but survived.
The Russian squadron lost killed and drowned 209 officers, 75 conductors, 4,761 lower ranks, a total of 5,045 men. Wounded 172 officers, 13 conductors and 178 lower ranks. Captured 7,282 men, including two admirals. On board the interned ships remained 2,110 men. The total personnel of the squadron before the battle was 16,170 men, of whom 870 broke through to Vladivostok. There are other data on losses: 166 officers and 5,016 lower ranks were killed.
Losses for specific ships are indicated in the description of the course of the battle. From 38 ships and vessels participating on the Russian side, 21 (7 battleships, 3 battleship cruisers, 2 armored deck cruisers, 1 auxiliary cruiser, 5 destroyers, 3 transports) were sunk or exploded by the crews, 7 (4 battleships, 1 destroyer, 2 hospital ships) were taken prisoner, of which hospital ship “Kostroma” was subsequently released. Six ships (3 armored deck cruisers, 1 destroyer, 2 transports) were interned in neutral ports until the end of the war. Thus, the armorless cruiser “Almaz”, the destroyers “Bravy” and “Grozny”, and the large transport “Anadyr” could be used to continue combat operations.
The data on losses differ slightly according to the appendix to the official report of Admiral Togo and according to the “Surgical and Medical Description of the Naval War between Russia and Japan in 1904-1905,” published by the Medical Bureau of the Naval Department in Tokyo in 1905. According to Togo, a total of 116 men were killed on the Japanese squadron, 538 were wounded. According to a second source, 88 men were killed on the spot, 22 died on board the ships, and 7 died in hospitals. Fifty disabled men were found unfit for further service and were discharged. 396 wounded men recovered on their ships and 136 in hospitals. Togo”s casualty figures for specific ships are listed under “Japanese Combined Fleet. The Japanese fleet lost only two small destroyers, Nos. 34, 35, and a third No. 69, in a collision with another Japanese destroyer as a result of fire action. Of the ships involved in the battle, shells and shrapnel did not hit the cruisers Itsukushima, Suma, Avizo Tatsuta, and Yaeyama. Of the 21 destroyers and 24 destroyers exposed to fire, 13 destroyers and 10 destroyers were hit by shells or shrapnel and several were damaged by collisions and collisions.
Fire Exposure Assessments
It is impossible to estimate the percentage of hits on both sides, since the number of shots fired by Russian guns and the number of Japanese shells that hit the target are unknown. It is not known at what rate the artillery of the newest Russian ships malfunctioned. Therefore it is also difficult to judge about the average combat velocity of the Russians.
According to the information of English observer on “Asahi” captain Pekinhem on May 14-15 Japanese ships made 446 shots from 12″ guns (“Mikasa” – 124, “Shikishima” – 74, “Fuji” – 106, “Asahi” – 142), 50 – 10″ and 103 – 8″ shells fired “Kasuga”. In all, the ships of the 1st Combat Group fired 5,748-6″ and 4,046 76 mm shells. The 2nd squadron fired during two days 915-8″, 3,716-6″ and 3,480 76 mm shells, the latter coming from ranges not exceeding 21.5 kb. According to data of Gribovsky, during the whole day battle of May 14 the 1st and 2nd squads fired 11,159 shells of large and medium caliber. According to British observers, the Mikasa fired high-explosive shells from the right 12″ guns and armor-piercing shells from the left. In total, according to the “Surgical and Medical Description…” about 117 shells of 120 mm caliber and above and about the same number of smaller calibers hit the Japanese ships. Hits on the flagship Mikasa (“Shikishima”: 1 – 12″, 1 – 10″, 3 – 6″, 4 – 75mm and several of unspecified caliber; “Fuji”: 2 – 12″, 3 – 6″, 2 – 75mm and 5 of unspecified caliber; “Asahi”: 10 hits, including 2 – 6″; “Kasugu”: 1 to 12″ and 1 of unspecified caliber; “Nissin”: 6 to 12″, 1 to 9″, 2 to 6″ and 4 of small caliber; flagship cruiser “Izumo”: 5 to 12″, 1 to 10″, 3 to 6″ and several of unspecified caliber; “Adzumu”: 7 to 12″, 7 to 6″, 4 to 75mm; “Tokiwu”: 7-8 hits with small caliber shells; “Yakumo”: 1 – 12″, 3-4 – 6″, 2-3 of small caliber; “Asamu”: 3 – 12″, 2 – 9″ and 7-9 of small caliber; “Iwate”: 2 – 12″, 3 – 8″, 2 – 6″, 1 – 120 mm, 5 – 75 mm and 4 of unspecified caliber. Armor penetrations were quite frequent.
Estimate of shells of large and medium caliber fired by the Russian ships of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd squads in the battle of May 14 is very different: about 5200 (M.V. Kotov), 8195 (V.Yu. Gribovsky), etc. More or less accurate data on single ships. Thus, the battleship “Emperor Nicholas I” during the battle on May 14 spent 94 (“General-Admiral Apraksin”: approx. 130 – 10″, approx. 460 – 120 mm; “Admiral Senyavin”: ca. 170 – 10″, ca. 390 – 120-mm; “Admiral Ushakov” (for the battle of May 14): c. 200 – 10″, c. 400 – 120 mm. Hits to “Eagle”: 5 – 12″, 2 – 10″, 9 – 8″, 39 – 6″ hits and 21 hits of smaller caliber; to “Nikolay I”: 1 – 12″, 2 – 8″, 2 – 6″, 5 hits of unknown caliber; to “Apraksin”: 1 – 8″ and 2 hits with small caliber shells; to “Seniavin” – no hits, if not counting shrapnel holes; to “Ushakov” (for the May 14 battle): 1 – 8″ and 2 medium caliber. Estimated values of hits to the dead ships: in the “Prince Suvorov” – 100 hits with shells of 12-6″ caliber, the “Emperor Alexander III” – 50, the “Borodino” – 60, the “Oslyabu” – 40, the “Navarin” – 12, the “Nakhimov” – 18; the total number – 360 (by V.Yu. Gribovsky). Cases of armor penetration are extremely rare.
All participants of the battle were amazed at the difference in damage to Russian and Japanese ships: the consequences of Russian shells bursting were small, about a third of the shells did not burst and left only holes equal to their diameter. When the Japanese shells burst they produced a cloud of small fragments, often held back even by cloth obstacles. The Russian shells produced a few large fragments, but their strength was very weak. In other words, the breezant effect of the Russian shells was low.
The trial of the participants
In June-November 1906 in the Special presence of the Kronstadt port naval court two trials were held on the case of surrender of the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron – the minesweeper “Bedovy” and the ships of Nebogatov”s detachment. The proceedings were held under political censorship; only the surrender of the ships were tried, but not the responsibility for the defeat in battle. At the trial, both admirals, Rozhestvensky and Nebogatov, behaved with dignity, did not hide behind the backs of subordinates, seeking to take sole responsibility.
Contrary to public opinion, which was generally inclined to consider the surrender of the Bedovoye a much more serious crime than the surrender of the battleships, the final verdict of the Bedovoye surrender court was lenient. The flag officer (chief of staff of the squadron), Captain 1st Rank C. C. Klapier-de-Kolong, the flagship navigator Colonel V. I. Filippovsky, the flagship mine officer Lieutenant E. A. Leontiev, and the destroyer commander Captain 2nd Rank N. V. Baranov was found guilty of criminal surrender and sentenced to death by firing squad, but with a petition of the court to the emperor to commute the death penalty to imprisonment for 10 years or even greater mitigation. On the final sentence approved by Nicholas II, the above perpetrators were sentenced to be removed from service without deprivation of rank. Mitigating circumstances have recognized undermining of physical and moral forces of officers of a squadron staff because of difficulties of a campaign, the moral shock of destruction of many ships of a squadron, stay on perishing “Suvorov” and desire to rescue a life of the admiral. Vice-Admiral Z. P. Rozhestvensky was found not guilty due to his inability to realize what was happening because of his severe wound.
In the case of the surrender of the Emperor Nicholas I, the Eagle, the Admiral-General Apraksin and the Admiral Senyavin, on the contrary, the sentences were severe. Even before the verdict was pronounced, all the defendants were demoted in ranks and dismissed from service. N. I. Nebogatov and three ship commanders V. V. Smirnov, N. G. Lishin and S. P. Smirnov were sentenced to execution, but in view of extenuating circumstances the court petitioned the Emperor for commutation of the death penalty to imprisonment in a fortress for ten years, which was approved. Four more officers of Nebogatov”s staff were sentenced to 2-4 months in a fortress, and the acting commander of “Eagle”, captain of the 2nd rank K.L. Shvede, was acquitted because his ship could not give resistance to the enemy. However, Nebogatov and the commanders of the ships were released early after a few months by order of the emperor.
Under the influence of the avalanche of public outrage, Emperor Nicholas II was forced to dismiss his uncle, the Chief of the Navy and Naval Department, Admiral-General Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich, who bore personal moral responsibility for the low combat readiness and unfavorable distribution of the fleet at the beginning of the war with Japan. However, this dismissal was made on his “own will” and was accompanied by “sincere gratitude” of the emperor and preservation of all ranks and titles. The director of the Naval Ministry, Vice Admiral F.K. Avelan, who, incidentally, won the post only in 1903, and had little influence on the Navy during the war, was also dismissed.
It is believed that the direct consequence of the Battle of Tsushima was the end of the Russo-Japanese War with a clear advantage in favor of Japan. However, archival documents indicate that the defeat at Tsushima was not regarded by a number of military commanders as proof of the impossibility of winning the war.
On May 24, 1905, that is, after Tsushima, Nicholas II convened a military council. The following assessment of the situation is recorded in the Journal of the Council.
Adjutant General Dubasov: “Our movement to the east is a spontaneous movement – to the natural frontiers; we cannot retreat here, and our enemy must be overturned and thrown back. To achieve this we must send the best troops to the theater of action. As for Vladivostok, it is not difficult to take it from the sea, and it probably will not hold out for more than three months; but despite this, the war must be continued, because we can and must in the end bring back everything taken by the enemy. The financial situation of Japan is, of course, worse than ours: she is making her last efforts; our means of fighting are far from exhausted.”
General Roop: “I cannot agree to ask for peace immediately. The attempt to offer peace is already a consciousness of powerlessness. The answer would be too grave. Concluding peace would be a great happiness for Russia, it is necessary, but we must not ask for it. It is necessary to show our enemies our readiness to continue the war, and when the Japanese see this, the conditions of peace will be easier.
Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich: “Not to shame, not to insult or humiliate may I suggest going, but to try to find out on what terms we could talk about ending the bloody war. If they prove to be unacceptable, we will continue to fight, not to continue the attempt we have begun.”
The consequence of Russia”s defeat in the war was its transformation from a subject into an object of international policy of the great powers, that is, its foreign policy became more dependent. The prestige of the military might of the empire was lost. From a country with the third largest navy in the world, Russia, which lost almost all the major forces of its fleet, has become a minor maritime power, like Austria-Hungary. The fall of Russia”s prestige in the eyes of world powers led to destabilization of the balance of power in the world, which was one of many causes of World War I. In domestic policy, defeat in the Tsushima battle and in the war led to a sharp increase in the revolutionary movement, growth of national separatism and discrediting the Romanov dynasty and the leadership in general, on the one hand, and to huge material losses (at least 500 million rubles), which caused not less enormous foreign loans, i.e. growth of the financial dependence of Russia, which became one of the essential factors for Russia to enter the World War I and the ruin of the Russian Empire.
On the other hand, for Japan and all Asian peoples, this war was the first major victory, the first in new times for an Asian country to make full use of the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution against a European power. The Tsushima victory made Japan the sixth largest maritime power in the world, especially after its fleet was enriched with the newest ships of its own construction, as well as Russian battleships and cruisers raised in the harbor of Port Arthur or taken prisoner. The victory had a profound effect on Japanese culture and national consciousness. The country gained access to the resources of Korea and China, which greatly accelerated its transformation into a developed industrial power. At the same time, in the minds of part of Japan”s military and political leadership, it gave rise to the idea that with more and larger ships, similar victories could be won over all the Pacific powers, Great Britain, and the United States. During the reign of the politically sober Emperor Meiji, Japan had rightly reaped the benefits of the bravery of its sailors and the wisdom of its commanders, but it was already slowly beginning to emerge on the path that had led to its victories and defeats in World War II.
Even before the battle, on the initiative of Captain Ignatsius (commander of the wrecked battleship “Prince Suvorov”) it was decided to build a temple on the Admiralteysky channel in St. Petersburg in memory of Russian sailors – the Church of Salvation on Waters, in which the names of the dead Russian sailors for the entire existence of the Russian fleet were inscribed on the walls. Since the temple was completed after the Battle of Tsushima, all those who died in it were also mentioned here.
During the Soviet era, the church was destroyed as it interfered with the expansion of the Admiralty plant. Now on the site of the destroyed temple there is a chapel in memory of the temple and its contents.