At the turn of the 20th century Imperial Russia clashed with Imperial Japan. Russia’s view of itself was as a gigantic world power able to secure any of its holdings and all but immune from the dangers threatened by Japanese expansionism. This ultimately led to war, and the outcome of the ensuing conflict was a sobering shock to Russia’s fundamental incompetence, while the easy Japanese victory gave that nation the false impression that it was a great naval power able to achieve more than was actually the case. It has been suggested that this misconception sowed the seeds of Imperial Japan’s engagement and ultimate defeat during the Second World War. This interesting period of military history has its ardent aficionados and this special Leonaur edition, featuring two books by noted Russian historian Nicolas Klado, will be a welcome addition to their libraries. The first title examines the vessels and organisation of the magnificent, but destined to be humiliated, Russian navy during the Russo-Japanese War and the second title takes the reader through the pivotal Battle of the Sea of Japan from the Russian perspective. Highly recommended to all those fascinated by naval conflict and by this subject in particular.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket; our hardbacks are cloth bound and feature gold foil lettering on their spines and fabric head and tail bands.
Not more than from ten to fifteen minutes had passed when there was a smash in the officers’ bathroom to port. A small shell, or fragment of a shell, exploding against the side, pierced the door, and settled in the armoured covering to the motor of the electric capstan. At the same time, fragments pierced the port side, at the height of the searchlight, in several places, and the cabin and state-room of the admiral.
When the fragments were scattered among the company in the cabin, our junior surgeon. Von Den, with the assistant surgeon, Kozhevnikov, and the sanitary officers, Zhestkov and Tomilov, bandaged up the wounded. Fortunately, the fragments struck no one, although at this time, among those in the cabins, there were already many wounded. All the medical staff meanwhile displayed surprising fortitude and presence of mind, continuing their work as if nothing special had occurred.
At the same time also a shell, exploding near the mainmast, pierced the mast, swept away a ventilator, shattered the charthouse, and scattered fragments over ‘Flag-Sentry’ Zakhvatov, wounding him in the left temple. Zakhvatov, however, would not go to be bound up, remaining at his post until late at night. Much of the rigging was also torn by fragments, and the flag aft was carried away. Zakhvatov, however, immediately replaced it, hoisting another flag which had been kept in readiness.
By one of the fragments from the same shell, or perhaps of another, exploding in the air, one of our 6" shells was exploded near the officers’ galley. From pressure of gases caused by the explosion, the bolt of the shot-locker was forced down, and the shells in the locker fell out on deck.
Voronin, a sailor, who was standing with his back to the locker with a rocket-case in his hand, fell on deck, mortally wounded. The bottom of the exploded shell rolled to the foot of chief gunner Kostrikin. He, with great presence of mind, seized it in his hands and threw it overboard. Meanwhile, the rest of the crew bravely dealt with the damage caused by the shell. While the sailors dragged the hammocks to one side, and poured water on them, a second-captain of a gun, Olenitshenko, threw overboard some burning rags and tow from damaged rocket-cases, first drenching the latter with water, which prevented the powder in the cases from igniting. He also threw overboard shells which rolled on deck and were dangerous. After two or three minutes gun no. 12 was again loaded and prepared for firing. Midshipman Domenshtshikov (junior gunnery officer) himself aimed and fired it. A well-directed shell struck a single-funnelled Japanese cruiser, and smoke was seen on board her.
At that time we approached the island of Kotsushima, from behind which appeared a single-funnelled, one-masted hostile cruiser, at a distance of fifty cables. The Japanese armoured cruisers and battleships at the same time opened fire on us from the starboard.
We were already engaged on both sides. Japanese shells fell ever nearer. One of them, to port side, exploding above the deck, caused a small fire. The commander of the next platoon, Midshipman Soldatenkov, observing the fire, rapidly extinguished it, with the help of Quartermaster Prikhodko. From the fragments of this shell the crew of gun no. 11 suffered severely. Its first gun-captain, Barishnikov, was mortally wounded. The second gun-captain, Melnikov, also wounded in the groin, did not go at once to be bound up. A sailor, Zuikin, was badly wounded in the hand and foot. Of six men of the crew, only three remained, and they, in spite of the decrease in their numbers, continued at work. After some more firing from this gun, a shell became jammed, and did not clear the barrel.
Under the direction, and with the personal exertions of Midshipman Domenshtshikov, and the help of Conductor Bassanin and Gun-Captain Samoilov, they set to work to clear the gun under the fire of the Japanese. They decided to shorten the cartridge-case. To saw it with a handsaw was a long task, but Midshipman Domenshtshikov cut away the case, and, throwing the superfluous powder overboard, placed the shortened case in the gun and fired, thus setting the gun in working order again. This labour lasted five or six minutes. Gun-Captain Tshetkov also took an active part in this work, after which he offered to remain by the gun instead of Gun-Captain Khvorov, since his own gun would not fire, on account of the range of the enemy being beyond it.
Not long previously this same Gun-Captain Tshetkov, passing along the starboard gangway, threw overboard a shell, which, falling unspent on the deck, had lain there without exploding.
Among the enemy were distinguishable the armoured cruisers Nissin and Kassuga, the former of which was seen without her fore-funnel and with a fire on the bridge.
Then soon followed a series of shot-holes in succession, while clouds of black, stifling smoke, filled the whole vessel. Signal-rockets and cartridges began to burst. Fragments of shells flew on all sides, wrecking everything in their way.
The 75 mm. cartridges stored with the cartridge-cases, struck by fragments, rolled out on deck, and powder from them took fire. Through the action of the gases the nearest carriage to the elevator (or hoist from the magazine to the decks), full of burning cartridges, was thrown off the rail, and, falling backwards down the elevator-shaft, caused a fire there.
Before the explosion the signal was given, ‘Disperse to the starboard side,’ and the crew of the quick-firing guns, hitherto sheltered by the casemates, hurried to their places. The captain of no. 21 gun, Aksenov, directing the gun, succeeded in firing it. The crew hastened up a ladder at a run, the crew of the neighbouring no. 47 gun did not go to shelter, but remained where they were to see the course of the battle. Loading his gun afresh, Aksenov began to point it; an explosion followed, which wounded him in the face and hands, hurling him from his gun. All in flames (his clothes were ablaze) he ran along the gangway, where they drenched him with water, and he lost consciousness. The mere sight of his burnt face, hands, and head, was frightful.