1905-11-17 ROZHDESTVENSKY ON THE BATTLE OF TSU SHIMA
London Times, 17 November 1905, p. 5: ADMIRAL ROZHDESTVENSKY ON THE BATTLE OF TSU SHIMA. (FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.) PARIS, Nov. 16.
M. Ludovic Naudeau has telegraphed to the Journal from Kobe, under yesterday’s date, particulars of some interesting statements made to him by Admiral Rozhdestvensky. The interview took place on board the Russian transport Voronej, in which the Admiral was about to leave for Vladivostok together with 2,250 other Russian prisoners.
The first question asked by M. Naudeau was what the Admiral thought of the opinion attributed to Admiral Togo that, had he proceeded direct to the Far East instead of stopping at Madagascar, he could have inflicted serious damage on Japan, a large number of whose ships were being repaired. Admiral Rozhdestvensky replied that he had at first intended to proceed direct to the Far East, but was obliged to put in at several ports for different reasons, but principally owing to the terrible difficulties occasioned by the German colliers. Besides, the material obstacles which he had to overcome were immense. On arriving at the Strait of Tsu Shima he knew perfectly well that he was about to meet the whole Japanese fleet. He never thought of avoiding battle, as he had come precisely with that object. He admitted, however, that he had not foreseen such a disaster, having hoped that after an indecisive battle, in which both sides would have suffered greatly, the Russian ships could reach Vladivostok. Continuing, the Admiral said: –
“Three detachments, each composed of four ironclads, came in line.... Four cruisers followed... and then came five small cruisers, nine torpedo-boats, and six transports. Our twelve battleships were attacked by twelve Japanese ironclads. During the first half-hour our men fired pretty well. As a matter of fact, they had somewhat more experience and training than people were pleased to admit. It was during this first phase of the battle that we inflicted all their losses upon the Japanese. But our men were suddenly demoralized by the terrible effects of the Japanese fire, and then all was lost. If these same Russian crews had had to deal with Japanese crews of equal value at the beginning of the war, the result would doubtless have been very different.... Admiral Togo’s men, all veterans and accustomed to the thunder of battle, remained unaffected, continuing their fire with composure, and riddling with mathematical precision the first ship of each of our four columns.... In two hours the Japanese victory was complete. One after the other all our ships had been disabled. Unfit for action, foundering, with their guns dismounted, powerless and covered with dead, our fleet ceased to exist at 3 p.m. on May 27.
“You know the rest yourself, as you have visited the Orel. You saw the dreadful state of that ironclad when it was finally captured. But remember that the Orel was the last of its column, and thus suffered comparatively little. Juges donc et conclues. The Japanese victory was entirely won by their guns. In any case the effects of the firing were utterly different from what had been expected. None of our ironclads were pierced by the shells, but the repeated shock of the projectiles bursting against them disjointed their steel plates. The rivets sprang, and the water, rushing in by the holes thus opened, shifted the centre of gravity of the vessels, causing them to upset and sink.”
Admiral Rozhdestvensky went on to say that the greatest danger to battleships was the sheet of fire in which the ships were enveloped in consequence of the explosion of the shells. The paint that covered everything on board was extremely dangerous. The torpedo-boats played quite a secondary part part in the battle. He was absolutely certain that no submarine had taken part in the engagement. He did not conclude, however, that they would be useless in future wars, as they might render valuable service in preventing a blockade. The small guns of 37 to 50 millimètres were, he said, completely useless. In future no ironclad would have guns of less than 75 millimètres, and even few of that calibre. The real guns for fighting would be those of 305 and 240 millimètres.
Provided by Stephen McLaughlin