Summary of Conclusions

The commander of the “Grozny” did not even try to make use of the means I have indicated above. According to his report, he sailed ahead directly he saw the flag of truce hoisted on board the “Biedovy”, which in his opinion meant surrender without battle. In his letter to me he explains such action by saying that he was obliged to sail farther off in order to be more free and to fight with one enemy instead of two; and secondly, being in want of coal, so as to be at the same time drawing nearer to Vladivostok.

No one can deny that it was necessary for him to draw clear from the “Biedovy”,in order to be more free in his action. I have already pointed out that to remain in one place with his engines stopped was out of the question. It is also true that it was right to move farther away from the “Biedovy” in order to separate the Japanese boats. But this distance should have had a limit. It did not make it impossible to remain in sight of the “Biedovy,” since acting thus constituted one means of bringing her crew to their senses. As … Read the rest

Could the Surrender have been Prevented?

I shall now consider whether he had the means of preventing the surrender of the “Biedovy”. 

“In my opinion” writes Captain Andrzheievsky, “the only thing I could have done would have been to fire on the “Biedovy” and sink her, so as to prevent the Admiral falling into the hands of the Japanese. And this idea did enter my head”. I can by no means agree with this opinion. The course which the commander of the “Grozny” considers to have been the only one open to him, seems to me to be such as only to be taken in the very last extremity; I even hesitate to raise the question, Had the commander of the “Grozny” the right, even in the last extremity, to sink a Russian ship and destroy her crew?

It seems to me that he might have fired on the Japanese torpedo-vessels, in the hope that one of his shells might prevent them from capturing the “Biedovy” and oblige the latter to come to her senses and join in the battle. Moreover, the Japanese themselves would have forced the “Biedovy” to do this, since if the “Grozny” had begun to interfere with their capture of the “Biedovy,”, … Read the rest

Duties of those Responsible

If it so happened that the flag-captain formed an incorrect estimate of the situation and made a false step, it was clearly contrary to the regulations and public interests for the rest to consider that they had no other course than blindly to carry out the order to surrender. One cannot help thinking that if Admiral Rozhestvensky had been conscious he would have understood the motives which swayed the flag-captain, and would not have allowed him to surrender under any circumstances. If, however, the Admiral was unconscious, and no others of high rank could influence the flag-captain, the commander of the “Biedovy” and the officers of the vessel could yet have prevented him from carrying out his intentions. When the flag of truce had been displayed –  when the fact of the surrender had come to pass, the commander of the “Grozny” could also have hindered it. What happened on board the “Biedovy”, and why none there hindered the flag-captain (who, moreover, was wounded), I do not know. Several details of the actions of the commander of the “Grozny” appear in his report, and it is possible to examine them. 

No one can object to the primary action of the … Read the rest

Examination of the Facts

In examining this battle I shall follow the report of the commander of the “Grozny”, as well as some additional information he has communicated to me.

At the dawn of day on 28 May, the “Grozny” found herself at the opening of the Korean Straits into the Sea of Japan, in proximity to the “Dmitri Donskoi” and the torpedo-vessels “Biedovy” and “Buiny”. The Admiral had then been removed from the latter torpedo-boat to the “Biedovy”, from which immediately afterwards there came to the “Grozny” the order to follow her. To the question by whom this order was given, the commander of the “Grozny” received the reply, “Admiral Rozhestvensky is on board the torpedo-vessel, wounded in the head and other places. The majority of the staff are also wounded. We are going to Vladivostok. If coal will not hold out, then we go to Possiet”. Soon after this the “Dmitri Donskoi” turned back and disappeared, together with the “Buiny” and only the “Biedovy” in company with the “Grozny” proceeded on the way to Vladivostok.

At a little after 3 p.m., near the island of Matsushima, there appeared two ships, rapidly overtaking them. “On a nearer view” so says the report, “the … Read the rest

Letter from the Commander of the “Grozny”

On these grounds we shall see the most serious accusations based – accusations of want of personal courage. I several times noted in my articles that the “Grozny”, deserted the “Biedovy”, and that this action could be compared with the surrender of the “Biedovy” and of Niebogatov’s division. I was quite wrong in saying this, and am very sorry I committed such injustice. My article was printed on 1 July, more than a month after the battle, while the more detailed report of the commander of the “Grozny” was held back till much later. I did not go so far as to accuse him of want of courage. I believe such a want to be excessively rare among our officers. Also, I know personally first-class Flag-Captain Klanier de Kolon, commander of the “Biedovy” and Captain Andrzheievsky, commanding the “Grozny”. From what I know of them I cannot admit that they had any lack of courage. Yet their means of action, admitting at the time I wrote the complete authenticity of the Japanese report, revealed to me a far greater danger for our fleet than the very rare and accidental absence of courage among some of our officers. It showed that … Read the rest

The Action of 27 May Off the Island of Matsushima

That battle and its details for some time were quite enigmatical. The very short official communications clearly contradicted one another, and the headquarters Naval Staff did not find it necessary to explain these contradictions. At the same time, the event of the Tsushima battle was a very great blow to our prestige, as was also the capture of one of the chiefs of our fleet without a fight, in the presence of a force which was equal to that of the Japanese. The first Russian official news, indeed, published on 2 June, was from the commandant at Vladivostok, General Kazbek. This is what he said:

“According to the captain of the “Grozny”, he went north with the torpedo-boat-destroyer “Biedovy,”, on board which were Admiral Rozhestvensky and his staff. North of the island of Dazhelet (Matsushima) our destroyers met two larger Japanese destroyers, which offered battle. At the time of the encounter we saw that the “Biedovy”, was destroyed by an explosion. The fate of the Admiral is unknown. In the course of the action the “Grozny” sank one destroyer.”

On the other hand, on the eve of the date given, i.e. 1 June, according to the report of Admiral Togo, … Read the rest

Description of the Battle by the Officers of the “Izumrud”

“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 … Read the rest

On Board the “Sissoi Veliky”

The Marine General Staff communicated the following despatch received from Japan and sent by Captain Ozerov, the commander of the battleship “Sissoi Veliky”:

“On 27 May a violent artillery duel continued for six consecutive hours; in the course of this battle a large fire broke out on board my vessel; a dozen holes were caused by projectiles of large calibre, and the vessel heeled slightly to starboard.

“During the evening and night there were three repeated attacks by torpedo-vessels; I sank three of these small craft, but my ship was struck by torpedoes which caused a hole in her hull and damaged the rudder.

“On 28 May, at 10 a.m., my vessel, listing to starboard, began to sink.

“I had twenty-eight killed and twenty-nine wounded; the two doctors on board were suffocated; ensigns Buck and Vsevolozhsky were seriously wounded and are in hospital; Lieutenant Ovander and the artificer mechanic Olenovsky were slightly wounded, and the conductor Demidov was drowned. The remainder of the officers and crew were picked up by three Japanese cruisers.

Further Details from those in the Cruiser Division

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 … Read the rest