Based upon evidence of participants in the Tsushima battle who returned to St. Petersburg from the cruiser division of Admiral Enquist, we give here a detailed description of the successive events of this engagement, as observed from the cruiser division up to the night of 28 May. As is known, this division parted from the Russian fleet and appeared at the American port of Manila.
“At dawn on 27 May the fleet formed into two columns line ahead, of which that to starboard consisted of the first and second battleship divisions (‘Suvorov”, “Alexander III”, Borodino”, “Orel” and “Oslabya”, “Sissoi Veliky”, “Navarin”, “Nakhimov”). That to port comprised the third battleship division and the cruiser division (“Nikolai I”, “Apraxin”, “Seniavin”, “Ushakov” and “Oleg”, “Aurora”, “Dmitri Donskoi”, “Vladimir Monomakh”). Ahead of the fleet in wedge formation was the scouting division (“Svietlana”, “Almaz” and “Ural”). The cruiser “Zhemtshug’”was on the starboard beam of the “Suvorov” and the “Izumrud” on the port beam of the “Nikolai I”. The torpedo-craft were distributed as follows : “Biedovy” and “Buistry” near the “Zhemtshug”, the “Buiny” and “Bravy” near the “Izumrud”, the “Blestiastshy” and “Bezupretshny” near the “Oleg”, and the “Bodry”, “Grozny” and “Gromky” near the transports. Behind the columns of war-vessels proceeded the column of transports in line ahead (“Anadyr”, “Irtish”, “Kamtchatka”, “Rus” and “Svir”). Astern of the fleet, at the distance of three or four miles to starboard and port, were the hospital vessels “Orel” and “Kostroma”.
“On 26 May, and on the night of 26-27 May, telegraphic signals, which appeared to be Japanese cipher telegrams, were taken in. On the morning of the 27th the scouting division passed astern of the fleet and formed into line ahead astern of the transports. The “Dmitri Donskoi” and “Vladimir Monomakh” had orders to protect the transports in battle: the former to port and the latter to starboard. With a very foggy horizon, the squadron proceeded at nine knots N.E., between the islands of Tsushima and Iki. At 6.30 a.m. on the starboard side of the feet appeared a Japanese cruiser of the “Idsumo” type, heading on a parallel course. She kept pace with the fleet at a distance of about 60 cables. At 7.10 signals were made from the “Suvorov” to the “Zhemtshug” and “Izumrud” to go ahead and get on her beam. At 8.45, on the port beam of the cruiser division, were seen in outline five vessels proceeding in line ahead, parallel with the course of our fleet : the *”Matsushima”, “Idsukushima”, “Hashidate”, “Naniva” and “Takatshikho”.
“At 9 a.m. the following orders were given from the “Suvorov” by signal: “In the event of the appearance of the enemy astern, the battleships are ordered to form front starboard to port and the cruisers and transports to go ahead”. The enemy’s cruisers seen to port kept away from the fleet at a distance of about 60 cables, and went ahead on a parallel course. Half an hour later the Japanese cruisers, having outdistanced our ships, were hidden by the fog. At that time our first and second battleship division on signal increased speed to eleven knots, and on board the “Suvorov” the signal “To arms” was hoisted. From the “Suvorov” the signal was given “At midday course N.E 23”. At 10.20, when the crews were ordered by signal from the “Suvorov” to dine, there were seen from the “Oleg” to port and abaft the beam, the outlines of the Japanese cruisers “Tshitose”, “Kassuga”, “Nitaka” and “Tsushima” overtaking the feet. At1I0.50 our first and second battleship divisions by signal from the “Suvorov” increased speed to eleven knots and all turned suddenly to port. In five minutes they again formed in line ahead, as the Japanese cruisers, overtaking the squadron, drew near. At 11.10 when they were at a distance of about 40 cables, fire was opened upon them from the coast-defence ship “Admiral Ushakov” which was speedily taken up by the third battleship and cruiser divisions. At 11.I5 the signal was given from the “Suvorov” – “Waste no ammunition”. The Japanese cruisers soon turned to port, and, ceasing firing, drew off rapidly. At a distance of from 70 to 80 cables from the feet they again kept on parallel course. They were soon invisible, and at 11.30 firing ceased. The Japanese cruiser on the starboard of our fleet was also hidden in the fog. At midday, by signal, all the battleships formed into one column line ahead, and then began to lie upon a course N.E. 23°. From the “Suvorov”, the signal was given for nine knots and the “Svietlana” was ordered to guard the transports. At 12.30, when the line of armoured vessels had formed for the new course, the first battleship division went ahead and to starboard. The fleet continued in this formation up to 1.30, when the enemy was seen from the “Suvorov”. The first battleship division, turning to port, joined the second and third battleship divisions. On board the “Suvorov” the signal was hoisted, “Cruisers and transports keep more to starboard”. Then at 1.45 appeared the Japanese battleships, evidently taking a counter course. The cruisers, following instructions to keep on the side of the battleships opposite from the enemy at the time of battle, out of range of hostile shot, inclined their course to starboard, and increased speed so as to get clear of the middle of the line of armoured vessels on their right. To starboard, and astern of the “Oleg” and “Aurora” were the transports, having beside them the “Dmitri Donskoi” and “Vladimir Monomakh” and the scouting division in line ahead.
“At 1.50 firing began on our side and from the enemy. The first battleship division at that time had not formed ahead of the second and third divisions, and at the head of the port column was the battleship “Oslabya” upon which the Japanese concentrated their fire. In five minutes the leading Japanese armoured vessel “Mikasa” on a line with the “Oslabya” took a course parallel to that of our fleet, and the following vessels turned and followed her: the “Shikishima”, “Asahi”, “Fudji”, “Nissin”, “Kassuga” and the other six armoured cruisers. The Japanese feet outstripped ours, and headed, with the clear intention of barring our way to the north, maintaining a raking fire along the line of our vessels. The fire of the leading battleships of the enemy was directed on the “Suvorov”, which, with the first battleship division, took the lead of our column, while the rear Japanese vessels continued to fire on the “Oslabya”. Both flagships were literally riddled with shells. At 2.15 a fire broke out on board the “Suvorov” at the stern and at 2.30 the “Oslabya” heeled over to port (towards the enemy). There was also a fire on board her, near the captain’s cabin. To avoid being surrounded, our battleships began to incline to starboard, towards E., and during this movement the “Borodino” left the line to starboard. After repairing damages, however, she soon retook station. Our cruisers and transports to starboard of the battleships also bore away to starboard. At that time, to south of the island of Kotsushima, the “Idsumo”, seen in the morning, appeared again, and began to cannonade our transports, which were a little astern and to starboard of our cruisers. The “Oleg” and “Aurora” increased speed, so as to approach the “Idsumo”, and opened fire upon her, which was also taken up by the “Vladimir Monomakh”, moving towards her from her place on the starboard side of the transports. She followed in the track of the cruisers and inclined northwards, and the scouting division ahead also opened fire. The “Idsumo” began to withdraw, and ceased firing. A fire was soon noticed on board of her, and she was lost in the fog. At 2.25, from southwards appeared two divisions of Japanese protected cruisers. They followed one another in line of four and five vessels. The number of the ahead, with an interval between divisions. enemy’s vessels was now ten. The “Oleg” and “Aurora” turned on the enemy and joined battle with them on opposite tacks. The enemy kept at a distance of about fifty cables off, and our cruisers did not suffer greatly from their fire.
“The Japanese battleships continued to keep parallel with our vessels, and shelled the “Suvorov” and “Oslabya” which suffered severely from their extraordinarily accurate and rapid fire. The “Suvorov” had already lost her masts, and the “Oslabya” had had her after turret rendered useless. Our ships evidently replied energetically, but their fire was far less rapid and accurate than that of the Japanese. At 2.40 the “Oslabya” heeling over more and more, left the line to starboard, and lay heading almost on the contrary tack. In a few minutes she turned over and sank, her bows dipping first. Fifty minutes had passed since the opening of the engagement. The line of our battleships had considerably extended by this, and the ships of the third division were astern, in spite of the fact that the speed of the squadron did not exceed ten knots. Later on, about 3 p.m., our battleships turned S. and then W. In consequence, the Japanese battle-squadron also turned to starboard and the battle proceeded on parallel courses. At 3 p.m. the Japanese repeated their manoeuvre and attempted to outflank our battleships, in consequence of which our feet turned N. and went on the opposite tack to the enemy, whose fire, as before, was concentrated on the “Suvorov”. At 3-35 the “Suvorov”, without masts or funnels, and all on fire, but still continuing to use her guns, was compelled to leave the line to port, i.e. the side of the enemy. The rest of our battleships continued the battle, drawing away to the north.
“The Japanese, leaving a few vessels, among them the “Nissin” and “Kassuga” to deal with the “Suvorov” turned to port, in consequence of this, and assumed a parallel course to our battleships, again beginning to turn their flank. Then the leading battleship, “Imperator Alexander III” began to bear away to the right, but soon, having received serious damage, left the line to starboard. The “Oleg” and “Aurora” while contending with the Japanese cruisers, noticed the position of the “Suvorov” and that our battleships were proceeding northwards. They hastened at full speed to the “Suvorov’s” assistance. On the way they passed the “Ural” and saw signals of distress from her, also that her bows were sinking and boats were being launched. The “Anadyr” close by, was ordered by the “Oleg” to pick up men from the “Ural”. At the same time the “Svir” hastened to assist, under the enemy’s fire. The “Zhemtshug” and our torpedo-vessels approached the “Suvorov” and “Alexander III” which had left the line. The Japanese protected cruisers which approached from astern, in consequence of the “Oleg” and “Aurora” turning, also began to turn N.E. Soon after the “Suvorov” left the line our battleships took an opposite course, going to the assistance of her and the “Alexander III”. This movement forced the “Nissin” and “Kassuga” to withdraw and vanish in the fog.
“About four o’clock the “Oleg” and “Aurora”, seeing the approach of the main fleet to the help of the “Suvorov” and noticing the perilous position of the transports, which were now lying in the direction of the enemy’s protected cruisers, with the “Vladimir Monomakh” and “Dmitri Donskoi” – these had joined on signal from the “Oleg” – went to assist the transports – the enemy having turned to starboard. The “Zhemtshug” and “Izumrud” also joined the cruiser division. Later, our cruisers began to bear away to the left. Through these changes the cruiser division came under a cross-fire from the Japanese protected cruisers on one side, and from the “Nissin” and “Kassuga” on the other. The “Oleg” and “Aurora” on which the chief fire of the enemy was concentrated, suffered more then than during the whole of the battle. In the wake of the “Oleg” quartermaster Bieloussov and signallers Tshernev and Iskritch observed a Whitehead torpedo with a bronze warhead making towards them. The impact of this they avoided by putting the rudder over. The “Aurora” which was falling into line, was warned by semaphore, and was thus enabled to avoid it also. The “Vladimir Monomakh” following the “Aurora” struck the middle of the torpedo with her stem, cutting it in half, so that the torpedo did not explode. The Japanese battle-squadron now formed a loop on our starboard side, and again appeared on a parallel course to our fleet. About five o’clock our fleet began to turn northwards. The “Alexander III” listing deeply, and the “Suvorov” joined it afresh, the latter wrapped in flame and thick black smoke, with the after turret shattered. Our cruiser division, comparatively distant from the battleships, then in- creased speed and joined them, continuing to engage the enemy’s cruisers, which kept a parallel course.
“Noticing that our battleships had altered their course, the Japanese proceeded northwards, in consequence of which our ships, with the “Borodino” at their head, turned to starboard and pointed E. The enemy’s cruisers, travelling on a parallel course with ours, then appeared across the bows of our squadron, and were compelled to turn to port. Our cruiser division, overtak-ing the battleships, followed them in line for some time. The transports, torpedo-vessels, scouting division, “Dmitri Donskoi” and “Vladimir Monomakh” (which had rejoined the transports), “Zhemtshug” and “Izumrud” were at this time within a circle formed by our squadron. When the Japanese again began to outflank our armoured vessels, the latter, bearing off to the right, took a contrary course, W., and the Japanese again appeared astern, and began to turn once more. About 5·30 our transports were again near the enemy’s protected cruisers, which opened fire on them. Observing this, the “Oleg” and “Aurora” left the line, and opened fire on the enemy. To reinforce them, signal was made by the “Oleg” to the “Dmitri Donskoi” and “Vladimir Monomakh” to form line. The transports were ordered to bear more to starboard. At that time the battleship “Sissoi Veliky” left the line on account of a serious fire, with which, however, she was successful in coping, and again retook her station in the line. About 6 p.m., the Japanese cruisers were lost below the horizon ; their battleships began to overtake our feet, and the firing in the rear was renewed with the same vigour as before.
“At the same time one of our torpedo-vessels passed along the line of vessels of our squadron, flying the signal: “The Admiral entrusts the command to Admiral Niebogatov”. Our battleships, with the “Borodino” at their head, having the cruisers, transports, and torpedo-vessels to port, began to draw into line and steer N.W., gradually changing course for north, so as to head N.E. 23 , a course leading to the exit from the Straits of Korea. The “Orel” followed the “Borodino” closely; then, at some distance behind, came the “Nikolai I”, “Apraxin”, “Seniavin”, “Alexander III”, “Ushakov”, “Sissoi Veliky”, “Navarin” and “Nakhimov”. From the battleships, the “Suvorov” and “Oslabya” were missing ; the “Ural” from the cruisers; the “Kamtchatka” and “Rus” from the transports. The torpedo- vessels were all present, except the “Buiny” seen in the rear of our squadron. The sun had set when, about seven o’clock, the Japanese battle squadron, in a line with ours, and wishing to bar our way northwards, concentrated their whole fire on our then leading ships. Soon a fire on board the “Borodino” was observed, and increased in intensity. The Japanese still cannonaded her, and within a few minutes the hapless battleship, having fired her last shot from the 12″ turret gun, all wrapped in flame, lay on her starboard side, and turned over.
“As this occurred, the torpedo-vessel (destroyer) “Buiny” came up from astern, flying the signal, “The Admiral is on board the torpedo-vessel”. The “Buiny joined” other torpedo-vessels and soon turned to the south.
“Immediately after the destruction of the “Borodino” all our battleships turned almost simultaneously to port, and, no longer keeping line, headed south. After the fleet turned, surrounding the transports and torpedo-vessels, the cruisers turned also, and headed S.W. At that time the “Oleg” was followed by the “Aurora”, “Vladimir Monomakh” with the “Dmitri Donskoi” some distance behind. The “Zhemtshug” kept to port of the cruisers, where were all the other units of the squadron. Before darkness fell, on the horizon, from S.W. through W. to N., numerous divisions of the enemy’s torpedo-vessels were seen, barring the progress of our fleet northwards. After seven o’clock it grew dark, and incessant torpedo-attacks astern and to port began. Up till 11 p.m. firing was continued, our ships using their search-lights, so as to show up the attacking torpedo-craft”.