1905-12-04 THE SEVASTOPOL MUTINY
London Times, 4 December 1905, p. 5: THE SEVASTOPOL MUTINY./STORY OF THE SEAFIGHT. (FROM OUR SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT.) ODESSA, DEC. 3.
I have just returned from Sevastopol. The condition of the Russian postal arrangements necessitated my taking boat to Odessa. Details of the Sevastopol mutiny have been sent by sea via Constantinople. A rough outline of the events I send now by an alternative route.
For a week before Tuesday last the revolutionary agents, led by ex-Lieutenant Schmidt, of the naval reserve, attempted to organize a mutiny, using reports from Kronstadt and Vladivostok as examples of what might be effected economically by showing a bold front. Meetings were held, with the result that a deputation waited on Admiral Chukhnin demanding improved rations, better pay, &c. Admiral Chukhnin refused to receive the demands. On Monday large crowds demonstrated in the streets of Sevastopol, but were quite orderly; in fact, the revolutionaries themselves closed the vodka taverns. But organization had been slow, and the military garrison was increased to 7,000 troops, being hurriedly sent by sea and train. Two regiments were placed in barracks next to the naval depôt barracks standing on a peninsula well in the centre of the harbour. The nearest regiment was partially won over by the sailors in the depôt and deserted without arms. On Monday night a mass meeting of mutineers was held on the depôt parade ground. Admiral Chukhnin sent Admiral Pisarevsky and a staff captain to reason with the meeting, but the mutineers refused to listenand fired on the unfortunate officers.
Lieutenant Schmidt now informed the sailors that both the artillery in the forts and the infantry had promised not to fire in the event of the fleet’s mutinying. It was evident that sufficient support was promised throughout the fleet, for on Tuesday morning sailors began to arrest officers in the streets, and the crew of the cruiser Otchakoff mutinied and incarcerated their officers and the chief petty officers. Lieutenat Schmidt joined the ship, declaring her the revolutionary flagship; but when it came to the pinch it seems that majority of the crews of the other ships were not prepared to go to the same length as the Otchakoff. It must be remembered that since the Potemkin affair a very small proportion of the crews were armed and most of the guns in all the ships were without breech blocks. Moreover, the whole fleet, without steam, was moored within 600 [?] mètres of the shore batteries.
Having made his bid, Lieutenant Schmidt was in despair. At 2 p.m. he sent round a launch to visit each ship and to call upon the mutineers to fulfil their promises. As this launch was crossing the fairway in the direction of the torpedo depôt ship Bug the Teretz, cruiser, fired at her and destroyed her with the first round. Immediately the Otchakoff hoisted the red flag, the only other vessel to do so being one destroyer, which was the only vessel with steam up. The Otchakoff opened fire from her quick-firers on the Rostislav, the nearest ironclad. The destroyer steamed into the fairway, to be immeditely rendered useless by the Teretz. The mutiny dwindled to a fight on the part of the Otchakoff against the fleet and the shore batteries, and was over in a few minutes. The white flag took the place of the red. The emasculated, renamed, and repainted Potemkin took no part.
But, although the fleet mutiny had flickered out, there remained 2,000 sailors in the Lazareff depôt barracks. The military commander of the fortifications had prerpared for them three batteries of field artillery, which were waiting on the historic boulevard 1,500 yards away. These guns opened at once. The sailors had made barricades under the stone approaches to the barracks. In these they had a couple of machine-guns. It was the bombardment of these barracks which so alarmed the populace and gave rise to the fearful stories of destruction. In the evening the artillery commandant, having considered the preparation sufficient, gave the order to the infantry to attack. A choice of three regiments resulted in the Brest-Litoffsky Regiment’s being chosen by lot. The final resistance of the sailors was of the slightest. The infantry advanced to the attack, and lost about a dozen men, and then the mutineers tamely surrendered.
The reports of thousands of casualties are absolutely untrue. The damage to the Otchakoff was severe, but, luckily, none of the interned officers was hurt. With the exception of the destroyer the other ships were barely touched, but the Bug was prematurely sunk, her seacocks having been opened to prevent her store of torpedoes from falling into the hands of the mutineers. It was a most extraordinary seafight. All the ships were moored within five cables’ length of each other. A certain number of mutineers were destroyed when escaping the burning Otchakoff in boats. Schmidt, however, is a prisoner. Hardly any damage at all was done to the town, which was restored to perfect tranquility when I left last night.
Admiral Skrydloff is to succeed Admiral Chukhnin in command of the Black Sea Fleet.
I understand that the railway and telegraph strike at once means the stoppage of all traffic. The postal people say that Count Witte is ready to accede to their demands, but that the Minister of the Interior is obdurate. The situation is indescribable.
ADMIRAL CHUKHNIN’S REPORT. ST. PETERSBURG, DEC. 2.*
Admiral Chukhnin, telegraphing at midnight on Thursday regarding the mutiny at Sevastopol, says: –
“The revolutionaries counted on complete success, assuring the sailors and soldiers that they could remain loyal servants of the Tsar while presenting their demands, and that by avoiding violence and acting en masse they could not fail to succeed. Only the ringleaders were acquainted with the real objects of the mutiny. They deceived the men with pretexts of demands for better pay and improved service conditions. The majority of the mutineers believed that arms would not be employed. The crews of the warships remained loyal. Terrorism and threats of death were employed to force the workmen of the port to strike. The port is empty of shipping.
“The tempest of war has subsided, but not the revolutionary tempest of the Russian people, who are being led uncomprehendingly to civil war and self-destruction.”
Lieutenant-General Meller Zarkomelsky, telegraphing yesterday, reports as follows: –
“The armed revolt has ceased. All the troops behaved brilliantly and performed their difficult duty with devotion. Excitement prevails among the inhabitants, especially the Jews and revolutionaries. Officers are insulted and threatened. The conduct of the Brest Regiment in the capture of the naval barracks was irreproachable, as was also the service of the Bialystok Regiment, the fortress artillery, and the other troops. The prisoners number more than 2,000.”
Provided by Stephen McLaughlin