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The Tsar's Last Armada: The Battle of Tsushima

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  • The Tsar's Last Armada: The Battle of Tsushima

    Just finishing this work by Constantine Pleshakov on the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War. He paints a picture very much like a Greek tragedy where the Russian fleet is doomed from the onset, but dies bravely.

    My knowledge of this conflict is limited so I would welcome any thoughts on whether or not this perspective has merit. Thanks!

    Regards,
    Dennis
    If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

    Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

  • #2
    As an aside, I was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (where the peace treaty was signed and in a Japanese film on the subject, just background stuff) anyway, yes the Japanese had all the advantages from training, communications, planning better ships (I think anyway). The Russians were brave, kinda like there Charge of the Light Brigade.

    Some light reading on the battle:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tsushima
    In Vino Veritas

    Comment


    • #3
      Given that it took 7 months to sail from the Baltic, Britain wouldn't let the fleet use the Suez, and the resulting ware and loss of speed on the Russian ships. Plus declinig morale. The odds were in Japan's favor.

      Comment


      • #4
        Yes, it does.

        First, on the technical side. All Japanese capital ships were put in service in 1896 or after that. On the Russian side Navarin, Imperator Nicolai I, Admiral Nakhimov and to a lesser extent Sissoi Veliky were already old at the time of the battle. 3 coastal defense battleships who had a lesser displacement than many protected cruisers were certainly not designed for a battle in the open ocean. When Japanese battleships and armoured cruisers looked almost alike, Russian ships ranged from the new Borodino class to old Nakhimov and were per consequent way more difficult to use together. Same goes for cruuisers who werealso outnumber 2 to 1 and destroyers who were modern but hopelessly outnumbered.

        For the artillery part, Russian shells were armor-piercing and were efficient at shorter ranges unlike Japanese high-explosive shells who were efficient at any distances. Russian shells contained fart less explosives, with less explosive power and bad detonators. Combined with a very serious lack of training, battle experience and absence of coordination of fire, it lead that Japanese received far less damage.

        Plus the dammages caused by a long trip, bad construction (Osliabia was almost 2000 tons owerveight), big quantities of coal onboard, plenty of flammable materials, very visible black and yeloow painting,...

        On the human side, Rojestvenski didn't left initiative to the other admirals and admiral Folkersam died some days before the battle. With only one order given during the battle and the Knyaz Suvorov leaving the line after 40 minuts, it can be said that nobody was commanding the Russian fleet and than ships simply followed the matelote.

        Concerning the opinion tha the fleet was dommed from the start, it was shared by almost everybody apart Nicholas II. They just didn't believed in the scale of the disaster.

        On a last note, the luck was also on the Japanese side, like Fuji saved from the explosion of Russian shell in his turret.
        There are no Nazis in Ukraine. © Idiots

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        • #5
          Originally posted by dongar1 View Post
          As an aside, I was stationed at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (where the peace treaty was signed and in a Japanese film on the subject, just background stuff) anyway, yes the Japanese had all the advantages from training, communications, planning better ships (I think anyway). The Russians were brave, kinda like there Charge of the Light Brigade.

          Some light reading on the battle:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Tsushima
          But at least the Light Brigade reached its objective, no matter how incompetent the sequence of events.

          Sincerely,
          M
          We are not now that strength which in old days
          Moved earth and heaven; that which we are we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts
          Made weak by time and fate but strong in will
          To strive to seek to find and not to yield.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Massena View Post
            But at least the Light Brigade reached its objective, no matter how incompetent the sequence of events.

            Sincerely,
            M
            3 Russian ships reached Vladivostok too.
            There are no Nazis in Ukraine. © Idiots

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
              Just finishing this work by Constantine Pleshakov on the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War. He paints a picture very much like a Greek tragedy where the Russian fleet is doomed from the onset, but dies bravely.
              That book was not very good, if you can find it, Tsushima, The voyage of forgotten men by Frank Thiess is much better and gives a much more sympathetic portrayal of Admiral Rozhenvestky.

              Avoid like the plague the Osprey duel book by Robert Forcyzk. That writer believes to be a legend in his own mind, has a blatant anti Russian bias, and suffice to say he dismiss Rozhenvestky as a "screaming imbecile of a commander" Nothing further to the truth.

              Togo won the fame, but Rozhenvestky feat is impressive, to do such an epic ocean voyage with such motley ships and crew, outsmart the japanese by sailing boldly through the Malacca strait, and almost slipping past through Tsushima strait. If he had been a little more luckier, or the fool of the captain of a hospital ship had switched off his lights, he could have succeeded.

              He was given an impossible mission, and he almost succeeded despite the odds. The Russian sailors deserve the utmost respect. They were heroes betrayed by an incompetent government who put them in a hopeless situation.

              I would also like to defend Admiral Nebogatoff, his decision to sacrifice his personal honour and surrender what was left of the Russian fleet to prevent a massacre was the right one.
              CANNON, n.
              An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

              The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce

              http://guerraenucrania.wordpress.com/

              http://pinturasdeguerra.tumblr.com/

              http://pinturasdeguerra-mar.tumblr.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                Thanks to each of you for your input. I agree with the author's take here, and I definitely do not see him as unsympathetic to Rozhenvestky in the slightest.

                The fault is, or seems to be, squarely with the highest levels of naval command and the Tsar. These include a lack of training for the fleet, lack of gunnery practice due to a shortage of shells and delays of one and two months while additional substandard ships the commander, Admiral R, did not at all want were added to the fleet.

                The Japanese did have superior munitions, but I can't fault the culprits there as advances in technology are not always universal or uniform.

                Again, my thanks to those of you who took the time to share your knowledge with me!

                Regards,
                Dennis
                If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

                Comment


                • #9
                  The book nicely described events at the human level leading to the battle but failed miserably in detailing how the battle was fought.

                  Had to use another source to see the movements of the various squadrons.

                  Well my opinion.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Felix C View Post
                    The book nicely described events at the human level leading to the battle but failed miserably in detailing how the battle was fought.

                    Had to use another source to see the movements of the various squadrons.

                    Well my opinion.
                    Very true as well, and thanks for commenting. Though in this case it appears the action or inaction of various people were the critical events. The actual movements of machines only confirmed what the players had ordained.

                    Regards,
                    Dennis
                    If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                    Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by D1J1 View Post
                      Just finishing this work by Constantine Pleshakov on the Battle of Tsushima in the Russo-Japanese War. He paints a picture very much like a Greek tragedy where the Russian fleet is doomed from the onset, but dies bravely.


                      Regards,
                      Dennis
                      I think the Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky was a very arrogant commander, to believe without a doubt that the Japanese were inferior to the Russian Navy as a whole and sailor to a man filtered down to his officer corps during the long voyage and mislead them to believe they were about to go into battle and completly destroy a very unworthy adversary.

                      http://www.greatmilitarybattles.com/..._tsushima.html

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        The perspective of the author is not in line with your thinking, nor in the thought process of the admiral as portrayed in the book. It is possible I suppose, but it isn't a dominant theme in this work.

                        Dennis
                        If stupid was a criminal offense Sea Lion believers would be doing life.

                        Shouting out to Half Pint for bringing back the big mugs!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by ITALICA ONE View Post
                          I think the Russian Admiral Rozhestvensky was a very arrogant commander, to believe without a doubt that the Japanese were inferior to the Russian Navy as a whole and sailor to a man filtered down to his officer corps during the long voyage and mislead them to believe they were about to go into battle and completly destroy a very unworthy adversary.
                          I am shocked, because every book I has read gives the exactly opposite impression. The prevailing mood was not defeatism, the next step, the Russians themselves felt they were doomed and going to a certain death. There are plenty examples of the lack of confidence they had in the construction of their ships, which they knew to be defective, how frustrated was Rozhevenstky with the incompetence of its subordinates and the lack of training of the sailors, and were well aware of how efficient and deadly was the Japanese fleet, they were not under any illusions.
                          CANNON, n.
                          An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

                          The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce

                          http://guerraenucrania.wordpress.com/

                          http://pinturasdeguerra.tumblr.com/

                          http://pinturasdeguerra-mar.tumblr.com/

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Then why didn't the Russian Admiral train his fleet en route ?

                            He could have practiced maneuvers of all sorts during the half year it took him to get there, but instead he kept ships in tight formation, uselessly. He could also have expended 5-10% of his ammo with a little gunnery practice without affecting the coming battle. There must have been something stored at Vladivostok... but did he ever ask to see if there was?

                            BTW- didn't 2 or 3 of those Russian cruisers run off to Manila to be interned?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by The Exorcist View Post
                              Then why didn't the Russian Admiral train his fleet en route ?
                              He did. But to train a ship crew and an entire fleet while at sea is much harder than drilling footsoldiers on the march.



                              He could have practiced maneuvers of all sorts
                              How that could have helped? There's not much that can be done beyond forming in line of battle. Drilling in fleet maneuvers may be useful in a tight spot, like Scheer's combat turn in Jutland, but the problem facing the Russian fleet was it's inferiority in gunnery, shells and damage control.

                              during the half year it took him to get there, but instead he kept ships in tight formation, uselessly.
                              Rozhesventsky was dismissed by the British as a "mad dog" that was paranoid and had fired on some English fishing boats confusing them with Japanese torpedo boats.

                              In Thiess book, it's revealed that the threat was very much real. The Japanese had indeed sent torpedo boats to harass the Russian fleet and make them exhaust themselves during the voyage by the need of keeping constant watch. At the very least this was reported as a possibility by Russian spies and it couldn't be discounted.

                              Aside from the need of keeping on alert to the possibility of a surprise torpedo attack, the tight formation was neccessary to keep the fleet together due to the varying speeds of the motley Russian ships, the fleet was reduced to the speed of the slowest one, without counting breakdowns, wich were numerous. Remember those ships were powered by steam engines, not turbines, and were much more unreliable.

                              Finally, there was the problem of communications. The wireless sets were in their infancy, and orders had to be given by visual signals, mainly signal flags, as heliograph is cumbersome. With untrained crews and commanders, it was neccessary to keep tight formation to see the signals of the formation leader and follow its maneuvers.

                              He could also have expended 5-10% of his ammo with a little gunnery practice without affecting the coming battle.
                              s far as I recall, given the circumstances there they did all what they could to devote time to training and gunnery practice it was not enough to turn raw recruits into able seamen.

                              You apparently don't realize that the fleet had no bases and no friendly ports en route to take in coal, do repairs and resupply. Due to the hostility of Britain, and the pressure brought on France, everything, coal, food, clothing... had to be brought in supply ships, but ammunition loads could not be transported to neutral ports, consequently very little ammunition could be spared for gunnery practice.


                              There must have been something stored at Vladivostok... but did he ever ask to see if there was?
                              If I had read this line first, I would have spared myself the effort of writing a reply because it's obvious you don't know anything about the subject, not even about geography.

                              To arrive to Vladivostok they had first to get past the Japanese fleet, and the only practical route was through Tsushima strait. Rozhentvestky managed to elude once the Japanese by doing the completely unexpected and sailing through Malacca straight, but afterwards there was no choice. The fleet lacked the coal to follow an alternative route and go around Japan and cross through La Pérouse Strait



                              BTW- didn't 2 or 3 of those Russian cruisers run off to Manila to be interned?
                              It must be noted that the Russians had almost nil chances of getting through. Even if they had somehow managed to sneak through Tsushima, when the Japanese realized this, they could still have pursued them and caught up with them, as the Russian ships were slower, with dirty hulls and worn out machinery, , I also dimly recall that they had inferior coal, because the British denied them the purchase of Cardiff coal, wich was the best quality and best suited for ships's boilers.

                              Rozhevenstky did all that a human could do. In my opinion, he should have turned around its fleet to Saint Petersburg and overthrow the Tsarist government.
                              Last edited by von Junzt; 30 Dec 12, 13:27.
                              CANNON, n.
                              An instrument employed in the rectification of national boundaries.

                              The Devil's Dictionary, Ambrose Bierce

                              http://guerraenucrania.wordpress.com/

                              http://pinturasdeguerra.tumblr.com/

                              http://pinturasdeguerra-mar.tumblr.com/

                              Comment

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