“On 27 May, at 8 a.m., at 33° 40’ north latitude and 129 0’ east longitude, the fleet took the direction N. 60 E. It was then formed in sailing order and advanced at a speed of eight knots in a north-easterly direction. At 8.50 from the cruiser “Izumrud” smoke was perceived at 15, of which signal was immediately given to the Admiral. At 9 a.m., at N. 15 E. appeared a division of Japanese cruisers, including the “Matsushima”, “Akitsushima”, “Hashidate”, “Idsukushima” as well as a despatch-vessel of the “Suma” type. Signals were made of the appearance of this naval force to the Admiral, who ordered the first and second divisions of battleships by signal to increase speed and proceed at eleven knots, while the transports, third division of battleships, and the cruisers, maintained their original speed. At 9.40 the Russian Admiral hoisted the signal: “Direction N. 23° E.”. The first and second battleship divisions, proceeding in front, formed in line before the third division. At this moment the hostile cruisers manoeuvred in such a manner as to place themselves on the beam of the “Suvorov” on the port side, and they took a direction parallel to that of our fleet, having their leading vessel of the line to port on the beam of the “Oslabya”, at a distance of about fifty cables, and preceded by four torpedo vessels. The despatch-vessel parted from the division and, taking a north- westerly direction, disappeared on the horizon, which was signalled to the Admiral.
“At 10.I5 four Japanese vessels appeared to starboard, which then passed to port and were recognized as the cruisers “Tshitose”, “Kassagi”, “Nitaka” and “Tsushima”. The torpedo- vessels proceeding in front disappeared ; three cruisers joined the division led by the “Akitsushima”. At 11.15 the “Nicholas” and the battleships of the third division behind her opened fire on the detachment, at the head of which advanced the cruiser “Tshitose” at a distance of about forty-five cables. The cruisers “Matsushima”, “Akitsushima”, “Hashidate”, and “Idsukushima” replied by opening fire on the “Suvorov” after which our first battleship division opened fire on them. The cruiser “Izumrud” cleared for action, was on the beam of the “Oslabya” to starboard. The enemy’s vessels then began to pass to port and were soon out of sight. The cannonade ceased at 11.30. At 11.35 to south-east appeared a Japanese cruiser, which did not approach our fleet, and kept at a sufficient distance away. At midday we were at 93° 58 north latitude and 129° 37′ east longitude, twenty-two miles off the Kozaka lighthouse; we took the direction N. 23 E. The Admiral hoisted the signal. “The crew has time to dine”. At 12.20 the Admiral ordered the “Svietlana” by signals to protect the transports to starboard then he ordered the first and second divisions of battleships to come to eight points to starboard and proceed at a speed of eleven knots. At 12.30, as the second division of battleships had not yet succeeded in tacking, the order to take direction N. 230 E. was cancelled.
“At 1.30 there appeared to starboard, at the moment we were forming in line ahead, the principal Japanese division, consisting of eleven battleships : the “Asahi”, “Shikishima”, “Mikasa”, “Fudji”, “Kassuga”, Nissin”, Iwate”, “Idzumo”, “Adzumo”, “Yakumo” and “Tokiwa”. The Admiral ordered the first battleship division by signals to come at once to eight points to port; he signalled the cruisers and transports to come to starboard ; the “Zhemtshug” to pass abeam of the “Orel” to starboard; and the “Oslabya” to proceed at eight knots.
“The first battleship division, seeing that the enemy were taking an opposite direction and passing to port, turned abruptly eight points to starboard, without reaching the line of battle formed by the second and third battleship divisions. The Admiral then signalled to the second and third divisions: “Form in file”.
“At 1.50 the “Suvorov” opened fire. The enemy replied, concentrating fire on the “Suvorov” and “Oslabya”.
“This was the commencement of the battle.
“At 2 p.m. the “Suvorov”, followed by the whole fleet, took the direction N. 60° E. At 2.25 fire broke out on board the “Suvorov”, which remained for ten minutes to starboard of the line, after which she resumed her original course.
“At 2.45 the “Oslabya” heeling heavily to port, left the line, took the opposite course from that of the fleet, and stopped; her bow continued to dip, and she sank rapidly. Seeing that the “Oslabya” required help, we approached her, preparing the boats for rescue and accompanied by the destroyers “Buiny” and “Bravy” as well as two other destroyers. The “Oslabya” sank before we had time to draw near her; the torpedo-vessels picked up the men of the crew. While remaining for a few moments at the spot where the “Oslabya” had just sunk, we suddenly perceived that we were embarrassing the battleships, which advanced upon us; those of the third division were leading; they were followed by three vessels of the second division as to those of the first, they were engaged in sheltering the “Suvorov”, mastless and without funnels, and on board which a fierce conflagration had just broken out. We did not notice the manoeuvring of the battleships, as we were busy in aiding the “Oslabya”.
“We thereupon moved away rapidly, so as not to hamper the evolutions of the second and third battleship divisions. The cruiser division, which was on the side opposite that of the “Suvorov”, described a segment of a circle, protecting the transports entrusted to them against the enemy’s fire; at that moment the “Kamtchatka” signalled, “I can steer no longer”, and the “Ural”, “I have a shot-hole below the waterline”. During this time the battleships of the second and third divisions, as well as the cruisers, formed in battle array. The “Izumrud” was then outside the line, opposite the space which separated the “Nakhimov” (in front) and the “Oleg”; she sustained the fire of the Japanese cruisers. In front of us, likewise outside the line, and opposite the interval separating the two vessels preceding the “Nakhimov”, was the “Almaz”. The portion of the fleet to which we belonged at this moment sustained the fire of the Japanese battleships and armoured cruisers to starboard, and that of the protected cruisers to port.
“It was then very difficult to follow the different phases of the battle, as we were solely occupied in avoiding collision with the transports, which moved about confusedly, and we were constantly watching the course taken by those of the cruisers preceding us. We fired incessantly upon the enemy’s vessels which passed within our range.
“At 5.15 the battle slackened a little, the fleet formed in two lines ahead. The battleships had at their head the “Borodino”, astern of which proceeded the “Orel”, “Sissoi”, “Navarin”, “Nicholas”, “Apraxin”, “Seniavin” and “Ushakov”. Outside the column, on the beam of the “Nicholas” to starboard, was the “Alexander III”, inclining about 120 to starboard. She remained, however, about level with the “Nicholas” and dipped no more. The “Izumrud” was on the port beam of the “Nicholas”. The cruisers, formed in line ahead, advanced to port, at a distance of about twelve cables from the battleships. At their head was the “Oleg”, on the beam of the “Nicholas”. The ”Zhemtshug” was also in the cruiser column, as well as the “Svietlana” and “Almaz”. The transports were between the battleships and the cruisers, but nearer the latter. At a dis-tance, outside the line, was the “Suvorov”, badly damaged, the “Ural”, whose bows dipped, and the “Kamtchatka”, as for the “Rus”, we did not see her. The destroyers proceeded alongside of us to port. The fleet took the direction north 45° at a speed of eight knots. The Japanese armoured cruisers passed to starboar; our cruisers opened fire on the enemy’s protected cruisers; with regard to the Japanese battleships, they were not
“At 5.30 the “Borodino” hoisted the signal, “Take the direction north-east 23, speed eleven knots”.
“At six o’clock a torpedo-vessel near the “Borodino” hoisted the signal, bearing inversely to the feet so as to be observed by the battleships, “The Admiral entrusts the command to Admiral Niebogatov”. At this moment the “Ushakov” signalled that the “Alexander” required help; this signal was immediately repeated by the “Nicholas”. We were then unable to try to succour the “Alexander III”; since we were separated from her by the battleship line, which directed a vigorous fire on the enemy from their starboard guns.
“The battleships continued to follow the “Borodino”, fighting to starboard ; the “Alexander III” also took part in this artillery duel, and did not leave the rest of the squadron. At 6.35 flames were visible between the funnels of the “Alexander III”, the latter turned off to port, heeled over, and came to a stop between the two rearmost battleships.
“We made at full speed for the foundering vessel, so as to pick up the men of the crew. Our battleships continued to manoeuvre so as to keep distance from seven approaching cruisers of the enemy, of which four were armoured.
“While advancing towards the “Alexander III”, we attempted to launch our boat.
“At this moment, the rapidly advancing armoured cruisers of the enemy opened fire on us. As they continued to advance, we were soon no farther separated from them than a distance of twenty-six to twenty-three cables; we then opened an extremely vigorous fire on them.
“As soon as the last of our battleships was twenty cables off, we put on maximum speed, and, heading to starboard, we rejoined the squadron. We did not succeed in launching the boat.
“While on the beam of the third battleship from the rear, to port, we saw the “Borodino” struck by a projectile of large calibre. Almost immediately a fierce fire broke out on board her. She left the line and turned off to starboard, and rapidly disappeared.
“The “Nicholas” increasing speed, passed the “Orel” and took the leading position.
“The battleships abruptly turned to port, endeavouring to approach the cruisers. The cruisers, for their part, turned to port, towards the transports. The direction was then nearly west; to the north-east appeared the enemy’s torpedo-vessels.
“At 7.30 the “Nicholas” hoisted the signal, “Follow me”, and gradually she took the direction south-west. The cruisers then bore away more to port, separating from the battleships, and engaging with the enemy’s armoured cruisers, which were ahead of them. The “Nicholas”, next, after proceeding for some time towards the south-west, modified her course at night- fall, and put her head north-east 30° . On account of the darkness we soon lost sight of the cruisers and destroyers, and continued to keep station on the port beam of the “Nicholas”, which was followed in line by the “Orel”, “Seniavin”, “Apraxin”, “Sissoi”, “Ushakov”, “Navarin” and “Nakhimov”. It seemed to us as if our cruisers continued fighting. From this moment began attacks of the hostile torpedo-vessels, which persisted all night, but without much result, as we heard no torpedo explosions. The attacks were principally directed against our battleships proceeding in rear; every time these latter turned on their search-lights the enemy to starboard opened fire on them with their heavy guns. Those of our battleships proceeding ahead did not turn on their search-lights. The whole night we intercepted despatches transmitted by wireless telegraphy by the Japanese vessels, but could not decipher them.
“On 28 May, at daybreak, we made out that our division was composed of the battleships “Orel”, “Nicholas”, “Apraxin”, “Seniavin” and the cruiser “Izumrud”.
“While on the beam of the “Nicholas” to port, we noticed smoke, which was immediately reported to the Admiral. The “Nicholas” could not answer our signal. At this moment we saw four funnels on the horizon, which was announced to the Admiral by a fresh signal. While the telegraph was operating, the number of funnels increased to seven ; and one of the Japanese vessels of the “Suma” type left the rest in order to reconnoitre our forces. She was clearly visible on the horizon. The “Nicholas” and “Orel” increased speed. At this moment we observed that the ‘Nicholas was being left behind by the “Orel”.
“Understanding this manoeuvre as the expression of the Admiral’s desire to avoid battle, not to leave the enemy time to concentrate, and to permit those of our vessels in suitable condition to reach Vladivostok, we signalled that we had sufficient coal, and asked permission to proceed to Vladivostok, and increased our speed. The “Nicholas” reduced speed, and answered, “Keep your place”. We then took up a position on the beam, to port of the “Nicholas”. The “Orel” took up position in the line formed by our battleships, and the two vessels leading left the “Apraxin” and “Seniavin” to the rear.
“The Admiral asked these two battleships by signal the condition of their guns. The “Seniavin” replied: “I have only slight injuries, which will be speedily repaired”. Then the Admiral hoisted the signal: “Prepare for battle”; he then turned in the direction of the enemy who, perceiving this manoeuvre, turned to port in order to avoid battle. The Admiral resumed his original course, but soon smoke was perceived on the horizon. The Admiral gave orders to reconnoitre the hostile vessels. We asked: “On which side shall we make our principal reconnaissances?” The Admiral replied: “On the port beam”. We then put on our maximum speed we tacked about, passing to the rear of the sternmost of our battleships in the line, and, putting the head to port, approached the hostile ships, which we recognized as the cruisers “Matsushima”, “Akitsushima”, “Hashidate”, Idsukushima”. They were accompanied by three small cruisers, and formed a single division, apart from which advanced, coming to meet us to port the armoured cruiser “Yakumo”. Returning and lying on the port beam of the “Nicholas” we reported the result of our mission. Our battleships proceeded at thirteen knots. Smoke was then seen astern; and we received the order to proceed and make a fresh reconnaissance. Sailing to meet the enemy’s vessels advancing in our rear, we recognized two armoured cruisers and two protected cruisers. We could not approach nearer them so as to recognize the types to which they belonged, as the armoured cruiser “Yakumo” kept manoeuvring thirty cable-lengths from us. Our sternmost battleship in the line was equally distant from us at about thirty cables.
“We returned to report our mission afresh to the Admiral. The Admiral asked if any Russian vessels were visible. We replied in the negative. We then perceived that the cruisers “Naniva” and “Takatshikho”, manoeuvring to port, were trying to cut us off, while four battleships and cruisers, and among them the armoured cruisers “Nissin” and “Kassuga”, likewise appeared to port.
“The cruisers “Naniva” and “Takatshikho”, seeing that we had not the advantage of speed, manoeuvred so as to cut into our line of ships, while six small, fast cruisers approached us at full speed. At this moment, before us to starboard, appeared the cruisers “Nitaka”, “Kassagi” and “Tshitose”.
“The enemy, at a distance of fifty to sixty cable-lengths, did not open fire as yet.
“When the Japanese battle squadron manoeuvred so as to pass between the armoured cruisers and the division led by the “Matsushima”, all the Japanese vessels began to approach us.
At 10.30 the Admiral hoisted the signal, “I am surrounded”. Then, lowering his flag, he signalled, “Surrender”. As we did not want to yield, we put on best speed, determined if we could not reach Vladivostok to land at some point of the Japanese coast and blow up our vessel.
“The enemy, who had not understood the Admiral’s signal, opened fire. The “Nicholas” without replying, moved towards the Japanese. If certain officers and men of the crew are to be trusted, the “Orel” alone replied to the Japanese fire, while the other battleships advanced towards them without firing.
“The surrender of our battleships distracted the attention of the Japanese from us for a moment, which enabled us to make some headway.
“We first took the direction south-east, so as to avoid the Japanese Cruisers manoeuvring to port and starboard. The cruisers “Nitaka”, “Kassagi” and “Tshitose”, which were to starboard, pursued us ; but as we perceived that we had a slight superiority of speed over them, we decided to proceed northeast”.