Report from the Commander of the Destroyer “Grozny”

“On 27 May the vessels forming the Second Pacific Squadron entered the eastern Korean Strait, and about two o’clock a battle began with a Japanese squadron appearing from the north-west. This torpedo-vessel was attached to the scouting division enclosing the squadron, and did not take an immediate part in the battle, rather endeavouring to keep near the division, so as to render necessary help if required. The cruiser “Ura” very soon hoisted the signal, “I have a shot below water”. I, with the torpedo-vessel entrusted to my charge, approached her so as to render help if required. As I drew near, I saw that the crew were sitting in boats and crossing to the transport “Anadyr”, and the steamer “Svir”, near at hand. The cruiser “Svietlana” approached for the same purpose, but was compelled to retire, in consequence of the heavy fire concentrated upon her by the Japanese. 

“Seeing that the “Svietlana” had a shot-hole in her, I followed, so as to be in readiness to render help; but the cruiser “Svietlana” resumed her place in the line, and continued the fight. I then turned to the “Ural” and began to pick up men swimming in the water. The senior engineer officer, Speransky, and torpedo-lieutenant Tshoglokov, with eight of the men, were saved. At this time we were in the thick of a terribly telling fire from the Japanese battleship and cruiser division, directed on the cruiser, which, however, continued undamaged. The battle continued with the same severity. At 7 p.m. the signal was hoisted on board the cruiser “Oleg”, “Course N.E. 23°”, and the cruiser division, transports, and torpedo-vessels (destroyers) began to make in that direction. At that time the torpedo-vessel “Buiny” approached, bearing the signal, “Admiral on board the torpedo-vessel, transfers the command to Admiral Niebogatov”. It was not practicable to go north-east, as the whole Japanese lfeet was concentrated in that direction, and a number of their torpedo-vessels appeared, in consequence of which we turned south, and then south-west. The rapidly falling darkness and uninterrupted torpedo-attacks that followed, compelled us to think only of keeping with the cruiser division, and not coming under the fire of our own larger vessels. 

“The battleship division continued action in the darkness. At dawn the “Grozny” appeared near the “Dmitri Donskoi” and the torpedo-vessels “Biedovy” and “Buiny”, at the entrance to the Sea of Japan from the Straits of Korea. The torpedo-vessel “Buiny” approached the “Dmitri Donskoi”,  after which the latter increased her speed, and sent a cutter to the “Buiny”. The torpedo-vessel “Biedovy” then came up. After a short space the “Biedovy” went off, and hoisted the signal, “Grozny, follow me”.  Approaching her, I asked by semaphore what orders, and from whom, receiving the reply, “Admiral Rozhestvensky on board the torpedo-vessel, wounded in the head and other parts; the majority of the staff also here wounded. We are going to Vladivostok; if coal does not hold out, then to Possiet”. So we travelled in company. The torpedo-vessel “Buiny”,  having taken coal from the “Dmitri Donskoi”, followed us; but the former began to slacken a good deal, and a short time later the “Donskoi” turned back, after which we saw her no more. At a little after three o’clock, near the island of Dazhelet, we saw two vessels coming from the Straits of Korea, evidently torpedo-vessels (destroyers), which rapidly overtook us. At close distance, the vessels were seen to be Japanese; one a two-funnelled destroyer, and the other a four-funnelled one. Approaching the “Biedovy”, I asked by semaphore what we should do, and received for reply, “How much speed can you make?”  I replied, “Twenty-two knots”. In reply to the order to go to Vladivostok, I asked, “Why go away and not join battle?” To that I received no reply; but seeing that the “Biedovy” did not increase speed, and not desiring to leave her by herself, I decreased speed, and kept near her until I saw the “Biedovy” display the flags for parley and hoist the Red Cross. Then I gave orders for full speed ahead. In spite of the flags raised, the Japanese torpedo-vessels opened fire on the “Biedovy”; but after some cross-fire, one destroyer approached her and the other pursued me. 

“At a distance of twenty-six cables we opened intermittent fire, in order to stop her. The engagement was carried on at a distance of from fourteen to twenty-six cables. One of the first shots that struck us pierced the side at the waterline on the lower deck, broke the steam-pipe leading to the dynamo engines and the conductors to the turbines [sic]. I immediately ordered steam to be shut off and water to be pumped on deck, so as to prevent fire and stop the steam escaping. The 75 mm. gun was out of action. Midshipman Dofeld was sent to examine the hole and take measures for dealing with it. No sooner had he returned and reported to me the measures taken by him, when the search-light was broken by a 75 mm. shell. The fragments killed Midshipman Dofeld, Junior-Captain Riabov, Zhizhin of the hold, and wounded me and Quartermaster Afanasiev. Having arranged for the removal of the dead, I summoned the assistant surgeon to the bridge to bandage me, and directed Lieutenant Koptev to supervise the firing. I could scarcely see anything owing to blood flowing over my face. I had my left thumb and the right middle finger torn away, and a few slight wounds and scratches on the head and face. Before the bandaging was over, the enemy’s torpedo-vessel evidently received some serious damage, losing her funnel and listing to the right. She then retreated and lowered her topmast flag. As it was not possible, however, to follow her, owing to the extremely limited quantity of coal, I ordered them to continue firing at her until I heard the shouts of the crew, “She sinks she has sunk!” The order to desist was then given, and I went below, leaving Lieutenant Koptev to direct repair of damage, closing shot-holes, and putting the vessel in order. Besides the rank and file killed already mentioned, Quartermaster Fedorov was scalded by steam from the broken pipe and died, and a sailor, Vassiliev, was wounded through the thigh, the bone being shattered. Six shot-holes in all were received, five above the water and one at the waterline, half-submerged. 

“When the battle was over we made for Vladivostok, deciding to go at our most economic rate of speed; but as sufficient coal was not to be had, I ordered all wooden articles – decks and coamings, hatches and scuttles, to be burnt. About 7 p.m. on 30 May we reached Askold Island, almost entirely out of coal, and at the southern extremity met Admiral Jessen, and anchored by his order. On the morning of the 31st, having taken coal from a torpedo-vessel which arrived, we reached Vladivostok. 

“I cannot give due justice to the officers who, in the course of three days and nights, of which two were under almost continuous fire, entirely without sleep, and almost without food, manfully and coolly coped with the fire and repair of damages, not losing self-possession for a minute. The engines did not require to be stopped for a moment nor to slacken speed. The heroic behaviour of the crew is beyond all praise for their complete devotion, self-sacrifice, endurance and courage. I consider it my duty to declare that I find all equally deserving of the highest praise and encouragement”.

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