The Battle of the Sea of Japan – Part 13

On reading the official intelligence, my surprise gave way to indignation, for the following reasons. It appeared that the destroyer “Grozny” sailed in company with the “Biedovy” on board which was Admiral Rozhestvensky and his staff. They were pursued by two Japanese vessels, and a battle ensued, in which the torpedo-destroyer “Biedovy” was sunk by an explosion. One of the Japanese vessels, however, was destroyed by the “Grozny”, which then sailed for Vladivostok without ascertaining what had become of the Admiral. I leave for a while the question of the commander’s curious behaviour in abandoning his admiral, and not mentioning him in his despatch. For us this point was clear – the “Biedovy” did not surrender to one Japanese torpedo-vessel without a battle, and, as she perished, the Japanese rescued Admiral Rozhestvensky from the water. How was it that, in sending his despatch of these events to the Press, Togo did not communicate this, and left out what, hours before, was already known to the Ministry of Marine from the “Grozny’s” despatch? Or, was it necessary to pass this despatch through some form of “procedure”? Here is an extract from the “St. Petersburg Gazette”: “The Russian admirals of the fleet which has perished did not possess manhood enough to prefer death to ignominy, and they, with Admiral Rozhestvensky at their head, surrendered themselves as captives. This clinging to life throws a partial light on the cause of the disaster to the fleet. Apparently those alone are victorious who do not fear death. The surrender of the ‘Biedovy’ to the Japanese in particular produces an angry impression, ” etc. 

This insult to Admiral Rozhestvensky was revolting and unjust. May the responsibility for such tactless injustice in regard to the absent and wounded Admiral recoil on those who did not publish the truth So anxiously awaited by the public. 

From Togo’s latest despatches it appeared that the cruiser “Svietlana”, was sunk by two Japanese cruisers, and probably the same fate befell the cruiser “Aurora”. As the “Svietlana” was sunk in proximity to the shore, and during the day, the greater part of the crew was probably saved by the Japanese. The report of the sinking of the “Zhemtshug” appeared premature.

According to Togo the losses of the Japanese were strikingly small. They had only three torpedo-boats sunk and the damage to the other vessels was insignificant. He also confirmed the news that the battle was fought in a fog; which gave a vast significance to the preponderant superiority of the Japanese in torpedo-craft; but from the meagre descriptions of the battle it appeared that it was mainly an artillery duel, the torpedo-craft attacking the Russian ships only when already severely damaged by gun fire, which decided the fate of the battle.

One cannot refrain from turning to certain historical researches on the subject of this frightful catastrophe in the Straits of Tsushima. From those days when the transformation of the war fleet to an armoured one commenced, and wooden ships, which were in the highest degree difficult to sink, began to disappear, two occasions only are recorded of the surrender of ships in such a state that the enemy were able to profit thereby; the cases of the Southern cruiser “Tennessee”, 7 July, 1864, and the Peruvian monitor “Huascar”, 9 October, 1879. 

The former was attacked by the Northern squadron under the command of the renowned Admiral Farragut, after his dash into the Bay of Mobile. In this battle, three armoured and fourteen wooden ships took part on the Northern side, with an immense quantity of guns – in all, 176 Northern guns against 6 Southern. The “Tennessee” was surrounded, corvettes butted her with their stems (there were no rams on them); they fired on the ship from every quarter, and the Southerners struck their flag 14 hours after the battle began, after the commandant had had his foot torn away by a cannon-ball, and the only funnel had been shot away, so that smoke, filling the interior of the vessel, suffocated the crew. Besides this, the ship, although not pierced by shot, was completely shaken to pieces by the thumps of the stems and projectiles from the heaviest guns of that time (11″ and 15″ guns), and she began to fill with water. 

In the second case, the Peruvian monitor “Huascar”, a vessel of 2000 tons (carrying two large and three small guns), fought the two Chilean ironclads of 3500 tons each (“Admiral Cochrane” and “Blanco-Encalada”), carrying 12 large and 4 small guns in both. The fight commenced at a range of 400 yards, which continually diminished. The Chilean warships were on each side of their antagonist. At the commencement of the battle, the “Huascar’s” rudder gear was damaged and the commander, with his senior lieutenant, was killed. Then the next senior officer was killed and one of the two large guns silenced. After this, all the officers except one were either killed or wounded; fire broke out in several places; all the guns were silenced; and it was impossible to work the helm. The crew, which, besides Peruvians, contained many foreigners (some Europeans), lost courage and demanded the surrender of the ship. The only uninjured officer, Lieutenant Pedro Garison, declared, in reply, that he would sooner sink the ship than surrender, and standing, revolver in hand, by the flag, threatened to shoot the first man who attempted to haul it down. But as he had to go below to supervise the opening of the Kingston valves, the crew in his absence seized their opportunity and struck the flag of their own accord. The Chilians immediately sent boats to the “Huascar” but when they reached her the hold had already four feet of water in it, and she began to sink by the stern. In a few minutes she would have gone to the bottom. The Chilean officers boarded, ran to the Kingston valves, and compelled the artificers to close them. Owing to the fine weather, they succeeded in towing the “Huascar”, to the nearest port, and to this very day she is numbered among the units of the Chilean navy.

No other such occurrence is known. In the battle of Santiago, 1898, during the Hispano-American war, the Spaniards surrendered to the Americans, but before doing so they ran their cruisers on the rocks, so that the Americans did not gain possession of a single one. 

I mention these occasions to point out that something quite exceptional, and till then incomprehensible, occurred on board our battleships which were towed into Japanese ports. 

If Niebogatov and the commanders of these vessels were actually guilty we should have known this from a source which would not awaken any doubts. 

In the days of sailing fleets, the surrender of vessels – and I have already indicated why –  happened more frequently, but always after obstinate battle and in desperate and inextricable situations. There appears to be but one exception, that of the Russian frigate “Raphael”, which on 11 May, 1829, encountered a Turkish squadron of fifteen ships between Sizopol and the entry to the Bosphorus, and surrendered without firing a shot. The Turks renamed her “Fazli-Allah”, which signified “Gift of God”. Notwithstanding the enemy’s immense superiority, leaving as it appeared no chance of escape, the commander and all the officers were degraded, and the following decree was issued by the Emperor Nicholas I concerning the frigate herself: “If she falls into our hands, fire must be opened This upon her as being unworthy to fly the Russian flag”. This actually happened. The frigate was with the Turkish squadron at the battle of Sinope, and was set on fire by our artillery. The necessity of defending herself to the very last, and having no regard whatever to the enemy’s preponderance in strength, was brilliantly demonstrated by the brig “Mercury”, which, three days after the “Raphael”, incident, encountered the same Turkish squadron. At first she seemed likely to escape, but two of the larger Turkish warships overtook her and an unequal engagement was unavoidable. On board the “Mercury” were 18 small gun ; on board the two Turkish ships 184 guns of large calibre. The commander called a council of war, in which Lieutenant Prokofiev, as junior officer, first gave his opinion. It was universally accepted. It was decided to “blow up the brig when further resistance was impossible”. This decision was communicated to the crew, who accepted it with a full knowledge of the consequences. The battle lasted for three hours, and the Turks manoeuvred so unsuccessfully that, in addition to the damage caused them by the “Mercury’s” small guns, had to be added that caused to one another in the thick smoke, during which the brig escaped. In addition to other rewards, the Emperor Nicholas I ordered each officer to have a pistol added to his crest, the weapon chosen by the officers for blowing up the brig when it should be impossible to continue the defence. The name of the brig is preserved in the Russian navy in the name of one of its ships “Pamyat Mercurii” (memory of the “Mercury”), which also flies the Georgian flag conferred on the brig. We have also named one of our torpedo-boats the “Captain Kazarsky,” after the name of her commander. 

However, we have dwelt enough upon the past and must continue to sum up events of the present. In Captain Fersen’s despatch it remained undecided why he left Niebogatov’s squadron. The only logical explanation in my opinion is that this excellent officer did not desire to take part in the surrender. From his despatches it is plain that there were nine destroyers with the fleet, and we had news of only four (the “Biedovy”, the “Grozny”, the “Bravy” and the “Buiny”). Indeed, we had only reliable news of three, since the rumour of the “Buiny’s” , destruction had passed through several channels from the crew of the “Dmitri Donskoi”, through the commander of the “Kassuga”, Admiral Togo, and the Japanese Embassy London. The second report, received through similar channels, to the effect that Admiral Felkersham was killed on deck in the battleship “Oslabya” was refuted by the official confirmation of his death some days before the battle. It is clear that the “Oslabya” foundered in consequence of gun fire. The “Sissoi Veliky ” and the “Vladimir Monomakh” apparently sank themselves, when on the morning of 28 or 29 May four Japanese auxiliary cruisers appeared in sight to capture them. Thus those ships, although disabled, continued to keep the sea after an artillery battle and a whole series of torpedo attacks. According to her commander, the cruiser “Admiral Nakhimov” foundered on 27 May, one and a half hours after the commencement of the battle. The cruiser “Dmitri Donskoi”, was also sunk by her own crew, who opened the Kingston valves on the morning of 29 May.

The picture of the battle remained to my mind very confused. After such an event we hear the narratives of a few participants and eye-witnesses; but these narratives of what is uncertain and vague do not make matters certain and clear – indeed, only involved. The main point is, – what led to such utter destruction of our squadron? It is a fact, sufficiently well known, that the narratives of different participants in a battle form unfavourable materials for the construction of a general picture. All turns upon the following facts: Did things go successfully or otherwise in the vicinity of the participant? was he wounded or unhurt? did he take part in the affair to the very end, or only up to a certain moment? His story of the whole battle will usually reflect the impression derived from what occurred immediately round him. It must be observed also that this peculiarity of separate narratives chiefly applies in the case of a land battle, and by no means to the same extent at sea. On land a general estimate of a battle is powerfully affected by locality, even if the battle does not take place upon a specially large area. Though as a matter of fact a general engagement usually occupies a large sphere, incidents happening almost side by side may be concealed by rising ground, a wood, buildings, and so on. What the enemy is doing, his numbers and effective force, are still less visible, all through this influence of locality. The senior officers, and the commander-in-chief in particular, are also invisible, and only make their presence felt by signals received through the telegraph or telephone, or by means of orderlies. 

At sea this is not the case. There is a single smooth surface, and consequently all that happens on every side may be perceived over a very considerable area. Formerly, especially in calm weather, smoke from powder seriously interfered with a wide view, but now there is smokeless powder. Only on a few of the Russian vessels taking part in this engagement did the powder create smoke. The coal used in the Russian fleet was also understood to be smokeless, and, although it may be supposed that there was none of the best quality of coal on board the Russian vessels, the smoke from the funnels would not impede the view. Hostile ships, and their numbers and movements, were all more or less visible. Their admirals could also be made out, and the general scope of their intentions was grasped. True, signals very often refuse to act, but the course of the admiral’s flagship is always visible, and to understand his designs it is only necessary to follow that ship. By doing this no great error could be committed. In discussing the comparative facility of observing the general course of events in a naval battle, however, I must explain that it is strictly necessary to distinguish who the narrator is. For instance, an artificer in the lower part of the vessel near the engines or boilers would see practically nothing; he would only hear the report of firing and feel the vibration of the vessel when a heavy shot struck her armour; and could only speak to the damage to the engines, and report what orders for speed he received from the captain through speaking-tubes, or if the ship sprang a leak; but the cause of this, whether a shell or torpedo from a torpedo-vessel, would be quite unknown to him. The vast majority of men on board are in a similar position, since all are doing their definite duties in little compartments – the casemate, conning-tower, magazines, stokehold, engine-rooms, etc. – whence nothing is visible, or, at most, only part of the horizon. On the other hand, there is a group of men on board who can and have to see a great deal – the commander, the navigating officers (who assist the commander in steering the vessel and her general safety), the officer directing the gun fire, and some few others. To these I referred in speaking of the difference between the dispositions of a land and a naval battle. In the former case the locality impedes the view of all, and in the latter a few can see, thanks to the absence of the obscuring influences of locality. 

Thus a special value attaches to the testimony of commanding officers. But here we encounter utterly unintelligible transmission of this testimony by correspondents. I could give instances where a correspondent did not utter a word of truth. Many of such stories get about, and in a large number of these it is not easy to detect the falsehood. There is much tendency to falsehood, without any possibility of distinguishing and refuting these countless stories. I mention this to assign their proper value to fabrications, and to warn all, so far as lies in my power, from placing too much faith in them. The greatest value, therefore, attaches to the direct reports of commanding officers, and, in consequence, words fail to explain the perplexity and astonishment over the brevity and indefiniteness of the reports sent off at that time, or, if the reports were not abbreviated, then at their delay and mutilation.

These reports of the commanding officers should have been asked for and published without delay, as we lived on foreign intelligence in the style, for instance, of a certain announcement received from London, to the effect that the Japanese had gained a victory over the Russian squadron, “which neither knew how to fire nor to manoeuvre, and joined battle as if they did not want to fight”.

After some time it was possible to attempt to draw a picture of the battle in accordance with the detailed report of General Linievitch. Details lacking in that report have been taken from earlier reports by the commanders of squadrons and individual ships. The sketches attached to this section must be considered as approximate. This is especially the case in relation to the squadron’s position at three o’clock on the day of battle. As early as 25 May the enemy’s wireless messages were taken in on board the cruiser “Ural”, and if such messages were received in our fleet, the enemy must have received them. On the early morning of 27 May our squadron approached the eastern Straits of Korea in two columns, line ahead, the transports being between them. The column to port consisted of three divisions of battleships.

The leading division consisted of four battleships of the “Suvorov” type, which ship headed its column and carried Admiral Rozhestvensky’s flag. She was followed by a division of three battleships (the “Oslabya”, “Sissoi Veliky”, and “Navarin”), and by the protected cruiser, “Admiral Nakhimov”. On board the “Oslabya” the late Admiral Felkersham’s flag was flying. Four battleships of Admiral Niebogatov’s division completed the column. Reckoning about three cable-lengths for each ship in battle formation, the length of that column was about six versts, or four miles. If at the time of the fleet’s entry into the Straits the weather was foggy, the interval between the ships for fear of collision was probably greater, but at the time of meeting the Japanese fleet the fog had cleared up and the interval was very likely normal. To starboard of the battleships was ranged a column of eight transports : – “Kamtchatka”, “Anadyr”, “Irtish”, “Korea”, “Rus”,  “Svir”, “Orel”, and “Kostroma”. Considering the great length of some of these ships, their captains being unused to battle formations, and their heterogeneity, the transports probably extended over a greater distance than the battleships. It is probable that the “Orel” and “Kostroma”, as hospital ships, were somewhere outside the battle zone; but the fact was not mentioned in any of the reports. Near the transports were the torpedo-boats, but nothing was said afterwards about their being grouped into divisions, and this leads me to believe that they were scattered. Two cruiser divisions were to starboard of the transports : ahead a division of four large cruisers (“Oleg”, “Aurora”, “Dmitri Donskoi”, and “Vladimir Monomak “). Admiral Enquist, the commander of the cruiser division, was in the “Oleg”. In the rear was a division of light cruisers under Captain Schein, of the “Svietlana”, consisting of the auxiliary cruiser “Ural”, and the third-class cruisers “Izumrud”, “Zhemtshug”, and “Almaz”. The fleet remained in this formation until 11.30 a.m.

At 7 a.m. the Japanese cruiser “Idsumi”  had already appeared to starboard of our columns, but not until eleven o’clock did the “Vladimir Monomakh” leave the line of battle, at a given signal, to drive off the enemy’s cruiser. Thus for four hours a hostile cruiser was allowed to remain in view of our fleet, to count its ships, observe its position, and continuously communicate, unseen by us, to other Japanese cruisers or coast stations. Therefore Admiral Togo, from 7 a.m., could follow the movements of the Russian fleet as chess-players can follow by telegraph on their chess-table (the map in this case) all the moves of their rival, and study them at leisure. As the weather was misty, the cruiser approached close to our line. This is also corroborated by the fact that she was recognized by our fleet, whereas at a great distance she could easily have been mistaken for the cruisers “Suma”, “Akashi”’ or “Akitsushima”. She evidently tried to come as near as possible as long as we did not interfere with her, in order to make a close observation. Being able to keep on a parallel route with our fleet, she could easily ascertain the latter’s speed because, in order to keep level, she had to go at even speed. To drive off the cruiser at its first appearance was the direct duty of Admiral Enquist, under whose command were several cruisers of greater speed than the old “Idsumi”, which was built in 1883 and had a speed of only 17.5 knots, according to her 1902 trials. He could have attempted to capture or destroy her. This might have failed, of course, had there been behind her a superior force to cover her withdrawal; but even then the value of such a pursuit would have been great. Scouting might have been effected to some advantage by our cruiser detachment. As a fact, our slowest cruiser, “Vladimir Monomakh”, which was a still older vessel (commissioned first in 1882), was despatched against her, but only after a lapse of four hours. Perhaps such a signal was given by Admiral Rozhestvensky himself, who could not observe the Japanese cruiser, hidden by the transport and cruiser columns, but only espied her after some time. All this is still unexplained, but inertia, absence of initiative, and misunderstanding of the situation on the part of the commander of the cruisers, were palpable in the highest degree. He ought to have assumed from the Commander-in-Chief the responsibility of protecting the squadron against the enemy’s scouts. This was the plain duty of the commander of a cruiser detachment. 

In consequence of the same strange arrangement and the immobility of the cruiser detachment, at eleven o’clock, to port of the squadron, a Japanese scouting detachment of two second- class and two third-class cruisers made its appearance. Again, for a whole hour they were allowed to observe the formation of our feet, until as late as 12.20, when (once more at a signal, and not through anybody’s personal initiative), fire was opened upon them by the second group of battleships. This detachment, indeed, ought to have been immediately driven off by our large cruisers, and should not have been allowed to approach within gunshot of our principal ships. 

As it was, the Japanese detachment did not consist of armoured cruisers which could not have been opposed, but of vessels no stronger than Admiral Enquist’s four cruisers. Thus it is clearly demonstrated that it was necessary to have had the cruiser detachment in advance of the squadron prior to the appearance of the Japanese in force. 

Such might have been the case; and there should not have been present the unfortunate detachment of transports, for the protection of which it was said our cruisers were so foolishly arranged, although they could not effect such protection. The  “Idsumi” as well as the Japanese cruisers which appeared on the port side, could then have been not only immediately driven off, but would have been in danger of being cut off from their main forces to the north. The mere presence of our cruiser detachment in advance would have compelled them to avoid approaching our main force. As it was, they coolly disappeared as soon as fire was opened upon them, i.e. after they had completed their mission of scouting. The appearance of the main Japanese force would not have been a surprise to our fleet, as the latter would have received early information from the cruisers posted in front, and could have properly effected its battle formation. 

At any rate, the appearance of the Japanese scouts showed that the enemy’s main force might be expected from the north. The time ought to have been utilised in sending back the transports, pushing the cruisers ahead, and, under cover of these fast craft, which would be able to notify in good time where the enemy’s appearance should be looked for, forming the battleships in line abreast, in which formation the advance through the Straits would be made. This should have been done, more especially after the disappearance of the Japanese scouts. Their reports as to our formation and the presence of transports with our fleet would then have been erroneous, and Admiral Togo’s calculations would have been upset to a certain extent. 

Then, if Admiral Togo had also appeared in line abreast our position would not have been worse than his; and in the event of his appearance in line ahead formation, the advantage would yet have been on our side. It is necessary to add that for our battleships of the “Suvorov” type a line abreast formation had special advantages; because, in comparison with the Japanese battleships, these vessels have considerable advantage in bow fire. Lastly, against the enemy’s line abreast formation the principal part would have been played by the heavy guns of the forward turrets. The medium artillery, borne on the broadsides, can only take a very limited part in such circumstances. Our advantage consisted in a greater number of heavy guns. 

What was really done was this. Immediately after the disappearance of the Japanese scouts a detachment of Admiral Enquist’s large cruisers was placed astern of the battleship column, i.e. was again tied down to the fleet and deprived of independent action. For the protection of the transports on the right wing a detachment of light cruisers was told off, under Captain Schein’s command. At midday, when the fleet assumed the course along Tsushima Island, the first division of battleships drew off more to starboard and occupied a position at three cable-lengths to starboard of the second battleship division. Our feet continued its voyage in such formation up to the moment of the appearance of the enemy’s principal force. Thus, at this moment, our feet was sailing in the formation of four columns, line ahead, leading one of which, viz. the second to port was Admiral Rozhestvensky. At the head of the port column was the “Oslabya”, flying Admiral Felkersham’s flag ; the repairing ship “Kamtchatka” was at the head of the transport column ; and the “Svietlana” headed the starboard column of cruisers. At the head of the columns should have been the most experienced and responsible men – the senior admirals – as manoeuvring in battle is not based on signals, which, as a matter of fact, often cannot be made, but on the rule, “Follow the Admiral” who shows his intentions by the movements of the flagship. In this battle, however, Admirals Niebogatov and Enquist were placed in the rear. Moreover, the Commander-in-Chief was at the head of one of the centre columns; that is to say, his manoeuvring was limited to star- board as well as to port.

And now, in view of such formation, there appeared from the north at 1.40 the Japanese main force, consisting of eighteen ships, according to some descriptions in line abreast. It is possible, and confirmed by many indications among the many descriptions of the battle, that these eighteen ships consisted, in addition to the twelve modern armoured vessels (four battleships and eight armoured cruisers) of the following: the battleship “Tsen-yen”, with four old-type 12″ guns, arranged for bows-on fire; three cruisers of the “Hashidate” type, two of which had one heavy gun each capable of firing over the bow; and two cruisers of the “Naniva” type. To these eighteen ships only three of our force could reply – “Oslabya”, “Suvorov”, and “Svietlana”. These latter, especially the first two, on which the Japanese concentrated their fire, were the first to be put out of action. At this moment our fleet commenced firing; but what firing!

The transports made off to starboard, and were followed by Admiral Enquist to protect them on the port side; the first battleship detachment turned to port, in order to be at the head of the second and third divisions, i.e. to again form one column to meet the enemy’s line abreast formation; in other words, to occupy the most disadvantageous position possible. The natural course for the first battleship detachment would have been to turn to starboard, and form in line ahead of the remaining two divisions; such a manoeuvre would have required less time than the first. The first and second battleship detachments might have turned almost simultaneously. Then our battleship column would have been drawn up parallel to the enemy in line abreast, i.e. would have been placed in such an advantageous position that the Japanese would only do one thing – turn all their ships simultaneously either to starboard or port at right angles, and form a similar column. It was too late for us to arrange a line abreast formation. Such formation requires time, and could not be made under fire. It was necessary to remain in such formation, as we were on the point of encountering the enemy.

The Japanese utilised our disorder and formed column in line ahead. It was necessary for that only to turn their ships to starboard. The re-formed column then turned bodily to port and commenced to outflank the wing of our battleship divisions. They concentrated all their fire against the first battleship division (which included our most powerful battleships) and against the “Oslabya”. As it defiled at a distance of only twenty cable-lengths, the Japanese column was able to develop the full strength of its quick-firing artillery and to make the most of its enormous numerical superiority in this regard. As a result, the “Suvorov” and “Oslabya” were put hors de combat and the “Alexander III” and “Sissoi Veliky” temporarily disabled. To protect them our remaining battleships had to form line ahead to starboard. But it was now too late for this manoeuvre on our part. The Japanese main force had already succeeded in turning our rear, and the three cruisers of the “Hashidate” type, which separated themselves from the main body, together with their scouting division had successfully turned our transports from another side. These had gone off to the opposite wing and become mixed up with the cruisers. 

At 7 p.m. the principal Japanese force had already appeared to starboard of our battleship column, which up to this moment was led by the “Borodino”. All the transports and cruisers were in two groups, led by Admiral Enquist and Captain Schein, and were to port of our battleships. The detachment of Japanese cruisers pursued them from the left rear. Having again concentrated their fire upon our leading ship, the Japanese battleship division sank the “Borodino”. The lead was then taken by the battleship “Imperator Nikolai I”,  flying Admiral Niebogatov’s flag, and the fleet again took the course leading to the Straits. The sun was now setting and the Japanese torpedo-flotilla appeared on the horizon. The Japanese battleship division had moved away, as if they intended to leave free action to the torpedo-boats. At first our battleships and cruisers separated before the approaching torpedo-boats, but the battleships, fearing to remain alone during the torpedo-attacks, and seeing that the cruisers did not intend to follow them, turned for the purpose of joining them. The cruisers should have sacrificed themselves and destroyed the torpedo-boats. The battleships, however, failed to make a junction with the cruisers, for Admiral Enquist, with three of his best and least-damaged vessels, continued his route towards the south and quitted the scene of action. Of the number of cruisers which went to the North the “Izumrud ” certainly effected a junction with the battleships, and this was probably also the case with the “Vladimir Monomakh”. As the result of the night torpedo-attacks the “Imperator Alexander III”, which had been so badly damaged by artillery fire that in any case she would soon have foundered, the battleships “Sissoi Veliky” and “Navarin”, the armoured cruiser “Nakhimov”, and probably also the “Vladimir Monomakh”, were destroyed.

In summing up this battle it is not necessary to say anything specially new – nothing but what, before this war, would have been considered as an established fact. The importance of the scouting service had already been defined by Nelson as follows: “If a fleet is deprived of cruisers and is in pursuit of the enemy I consider it to be in error; if a fleet is trying to avoid the enemy I consider it to be in a dangerous position”. Our fleet was in a dangerous position. Though not without cruisers, the latter were numerically fewer than those possessed by the enemy, and since the fleet did not utilise them they might as well have been absent. The advantages in certain circumstances of being in line abreast formation is also not new. In the literature of naval warfare of all countries this question was energetically discussed a few years before the war. Is it not the irony of fate that the best and fullest investigation came from the pen of a Russian naval writer, Captain Khlodovsky, an exceptionally talented officer, who met an untimely death on board the cruiser “Rurik”, where he had been longer in command than his seniority warranted? We ought to have taken care of such an officer, to have utilised his conspicuous abilities and wide knowledge in the sphere of leading and directing naval affairs ; instead, he was relegated to a position which any officer of ordinary talent could have filled. We do not select officers according to their abilities, but class them all alike, thus spoiling many careers and the hope of ever having efficient naval officers! 

The battle was decided by gun fire; not exclusively of heavy guns, but also with medium quick-firing guns, which literally riddled our ships. The effect of that artillery told as soon as the rival feets came within short range. This is inevitable in every decisive battle. In the artillery duel which decided the fate of the battle, only those ships which had been specially constructed for fleet actions participated in it – battleships and armoured cruisers. Unarmoured cruisers of various sizes attacked the transports, without participating in the battle of the main forces. In the first phase of the battle the body of the Japanese main column contained a few protected cruisers with heavy guns, but they were afterwards separated for combined action with the remaining unprotected cruisers. Once more the great value of armour, its proper distribution, and good shipbuilding generally, was confirmed. All the Japanese battleships and armoured cruisers remained undamaged, while our three best battleships – the “Suvorov”, “Borodino” and “Oslabya” were sunk by artillery fire, a very rare occurrence in modern battles, but which was entirely due to the following causes: excessive overweight and top hamper on board all three; absence of stability; the low position of the ports in the first two, and the obsolete arrangement of the armour on the last. In calm weather it might not have happened, but in a rough sea the waves could freely enter shot-holes and ports situated so near to the waterline. Consequently, the defects which had been so criminally permitted were fatal to them. The torpedo-craft of the enemy played the rôle assigned to them – to attack and sink ships already damaged by artillery. This they effected, and under most favourable circumstances. At night, when the sea became calm, they sank four or five ships among those which were the worst battered by gun fire during the day. To be crippled by gun fire means to be rendered defenceless against torpedo-attacks and quick-firing guns, and to be deprived of the search-light apparatus, which is generally destroyed during an artillery duel. It happened so in this battle, and consequently our vessels could neither see the approaching torpedo-vessels nor fire upon them; and in addition to this unenviable state, they were already half full of water through the damage caused by the enemy’s guns. 

Finally, our damaged battleships were deprived of the assistance of the cruisers and destroyers at the moment when they most needed them and had every right to rely upon them, i.e. during the torpedo-attacks. In my opinion, if the Japanese really had from seventy to a hundred torpedo-boats they should have destroyed more ships – the situation was so favourable for them. This, though, did not happen, and the difficulty of attacking a ship which has preserved its power of repelling attack was fully demonstrated by the fact that those of our ships which were saved from destruction were the ones least damaged by gun fire during the day – the battleship “Orel”, all the battleships of Niebogatov’s detachment, and almost all the cruisers. This was not a mere accident. Meanwhile, how many people repeated the old story that big ships are useless and that naval wars may be settled by torpedo-flotillas? 

For the first few days after the battle, when the news was of such an incomplete and erroneous nature as could only be expected under the circumstances, it was impossible to reason with such people – they did not even want to listen. What appears very strange to me is that if a battle were to take place on land and a defeated army suffered great loss at the hands of cavalry during its flight, nobody would advise doing away with infantry and heavy artillery and introducing cavalry instead. When, however, naval war is spoken of, everybody allows his imagination full play. The necessity of torpedo-craft as an auxiliary arm for fleets has always been recognized, and it was considered impossible to have less than one torpedo-vessel for every battleship and cruiser. During 1901 I was Secretary of a Commission composed of the highest members of our navy, whose object was to define the composition of a modern squadron; how many battleships, armoured and protected cruisers, torpedo-vessels, and auxiliary vessels, ought to constitute a fleet. The inferences of this Commission were highly commendable, but, . . they have never been adopted; and, what is more curious, the existence of the Commission itself was hardly known to anybody in the navy. The results of the Commission came to nothing, simply because one of the members who formed it was regarded with suspicion by another and although these two members did not quarrel, the second one simply placed the whole thing “under the red cloth’.’ So the Russian navy was the sufferer. I know of a good many Commissions which have attained similar results.

Though the Japanese assured us that their submarines did not participate in the battle owing to rough weather, I do not believe it. The waves certainly interfere with submarines, neutralising the periscopes (observing or sighting apparatus), but it is impossible that the Japanese should not have made an effort to employ theirs. Better surroundings for attacking moving vessels could not have been imagined. The conditions most favourable for submarine boats are when the enemy’s ships are stationary. I fully believe that practice has shown the great difficulty of manoeuvring submarines, and firing torpedoes, against a moving enemy. It is a fact that a floating Whitehead torpedo was sighted from one of our cruisers, and it is more than probable that this torpedo came from a submarine. The Japanese will naturally keep strictly secret all the actions of their submarines, whether they were successful or not, because it is to their interest not to allow any one to utilise their fighting experience. If it be accepted that submarines have played a minor part in the battle, even though they may not have actually sunk any ship, the fact is highly important and it is necessary to pay full attention to this new instrument of modern warfare. The perfection of submarines has of recent date been rapidly pushed forward, and they will certainly become a very dangerous weapon, though only an auxiliary one. I make this assertion because as yet the floating navy has not exhausted all means of coping with torpedoes. This question has been ably solved by the Russian naval engineer, Mr. Guliaev, and as long as such means are not exhausted the navy at sea cannot and must not consider itself vanquished. The advantages on its side, in comparison with those of submarines, are far greater. I merely desire to express my opinion that submarines will have to act as an auxiliary weapon for a long time to come, and to play a rôle similar to that now filled by torpedo-boats. In my opinion this does not in any way lessen their importance. It certainly fails to justify the criminal indifference which we have paid to them up to the present.

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