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Title: The Battle of Tsu-shima - between the Japanese and Russian fleets, fought on 27th May 1905
Author: Semenov, Vladimir Ivanovich
Language: English
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THE BATTLE OF TSU-SHIMA



  FIRST EDITION           _December 1906_
  _Reprinted_             _February 1907_
  _Reprinted_                _March 1907_
  _Reprinted_                 _July 1908_
  _Reprinted_              _October 1909_
  _Reprinted_            _September 1910_
  _Reprinted_              _January 1912_



  THE BATTLE OF
  TSU-SHIMA

  BETWEEN THE JAPANESE AND RUSSIAN
  FLEETS, FOUGHT ON 27TH MAY 1905

  BY CAPTAIN VLADIMIR SEMENOFF
  (ONE OF THE SURVIVORS)

  TRANSLATED BY
  CAPTAIN A. B. LINDSAY
  2ND KING EDWARD’S OWN GURKHA RIFLES

  WITH A PREFACE BY
  SIR GEORGE SYDENHAM CLARKE
  G.C.M.G., F.R.S.


  NEW YORK
  E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
  1913



“Captain Semenoff’s little volume, which would well repay translation,
is a remarkably graphic and luminous account of Admiral Togo’s
great victory, compiled from notes taken by the author during the
engagement. His account is all the more interesting as he was also on
the _Cesarevitch_ when Admiral Vitoft made his unsuccessful attempt
to escape from Port Arthur on 10th August 1904.... Every word of this
little volume bears the impress of reality, and enables the reader to
form a vivid picture of the various phases of the battle. There is a
plan showing the positions of the contending fleets from 1.20 till 7
P.M.”

            --_Times Literary Supplement_, 17th August 1906.



PREFACE


The paucity of war experience since the introduction of the
steam-driven armoured ship invests the battle of Tsu-shima with supreme
importance. Between Trafalgar and the 27th May 1905, there had been
only two fleet actions on a large scale--those of Lissa and of the
Yalu--and the first was fought before the wooden vessel had disappeared
and the rifled gun had become universal. The various minor engagements
which occurred during this long period were either destitute of
teaching, or failed to provide an adequate basis for conclusions
capable of serving as guides to a rational system of tactics or to a
scientific shipbuilding policy.

It has, therefore, followed, in this country especially, that the
evolution of the warship has been frequently capricious, indicating
the absence of any clear principles, and entailing an immense total
expenditure upon vessels unsuited to our national requirements, but
happily not forced to demonstrate their inutility.

In all wars, whether by sea or land, some few general lessons stand out
unmistakably; but the difficulty of arriving at a just estimate of the
relative significance of the causes which have led to victory or to
defeat is always extreme. Genius, which may be defined as an unerring
sense of proportion, is necessarily rare, and the person with an _idée
fixe_ in favour of some particular method or weapon will generally
discover, in every conflict, evidence in support of his faith. This
tendency will be most marked when national experience of war is
lacking, and we are, therefore, compelled to draw our inspirations from
fighting carried on by other peoples.

In the long series of wars which culminated in the Nelson era, broad
principles had been evolved and had been grasped by the leaders of
naval thought. More than ninety years have elapsed since the British
Navy was called upon to fight a great fleet action, and meanwhile
technical progress of all kinds, advancing by giant strides, has opened
out new possibilities tending to bewilder the imagination and to
invite mistakes and impolicy.

Even when, as now, valuable war experience is available, there is
always a risk of false deductions. Conditions differ so greatly that
generalisations based upon special episodes may be misleading and even
dangerous. Thus the American Navy and our own have unquestionably
suffered from shallow reasoning derived from the peculiar operations of
the Civil War. Similarly, the action off Lissa led to a cult of the ram
which has left a deep impress upon shipbuilding, while a few isolated
successes obtained by torpedoes, in exceptional circumstances, have
given rise to exaggerated claims on behalf of this weapon which can
only end in disappointment.

Instances could be multiplied, and the obvious moral is the vital
necessity for the most careful study by the clearest available brains
before translating any so-called lesson of war into national policy.
In a single year a navy of the magnitude of our own may be committed
to many millions of expenditure, the result of which will affect its
fighting efficiency for nearly a quarter of a century. The vital
need for caution and for profound study of all such experience as is
forthcoming is, therefore, evident.

The battle of Tsu-shima is by far the greatest and the most important
naval event since Trafalgar, and the navy which is able to draw the
most accurate conclusions, technical as well as tactical, from its
experiences and to apply them in terms of policy and of training will
secure marked advantage in the future.

At the battle of the Yalu the Japanese and Chinese fleets were
numerically equal--twelve ships--but the former had only three vessels
(all under 3000 tons) carrying side armour, and eight were protected
cruisers.[1] The Chinese, on the other hand, had five vessels with side
armour, including two battleships, and six protected cruisers.[1] In
heavy armament the Chinese had a great superiority, the Japanese having
the advantage in quick-firing guns, as shown below:

  ------------------------------+------+-------
             GUNS.              |JAPAN.| CHINA.
  ------------------------------+------+-------
  12-inch and over              |   3  |   8
  Over 8-inch and under 12-inch |   8  |  17
  Intermediate                  |  27  |  15
  Q.F. 6-inch and 4.7 inch      |  67  |   2
  ------------------------------+------+-------

At Tsu-shima the classification of armoured ships engaged was as
follows:

  --------------------------+--------+--------
            CLASS.          | JAPAN. | RUSSIA.
  --------------------------+--------+--------
  Battleships               |    4   |     8
  Coast-defence Armour-clad |  ...   |     3
  Armoured Cruisers         |    8   |     3
                            +--------+--------
         TOTAL,             |   12   |    14
  --------------------------+--------+--------

The respective armaments were:

  -------+-------+-------+------+------+---------------
         |       |       |      |      |     Q.F.
         |       |       |      |      +------+--------
   GUNS. | 12-IN.| 10-IN.| 9-IN.| 8-IN.| 6-IN.| 4.7 IN.
  -------+-------+-------+------+------+------+--------
  Japan  |   16  |    1  |  ... |  30  |  160 |  ...
  Russia |   26  |   15  |    4 |   8  |  102 |   30
  -------+-------+-------+------+------+------+--------

In heavy guns (9-inch and over) the Russians had the large
preponderance of 28, the proportion being 45 to 17. In the smaller
types, 4.7-inch to 8-inch, on the other hand, the Japanese superiority
was 50, and in the 6-inch Q.F. type alone it was 58. A fair inference
seems to be that the Japanese secondary armaments played the most
important part in the first and practically decisive period of the
battle.

In both actions the Japanese had the highest average speed--about 2
knots at the battle of the Yalu and much more at Tsu-shima, where the
three Russian coast-defence ships, the older battleships, and the three
armoured cruisers were poor steamers. Excluding, on the Russian side,
the _Sissoy-Veliki_, _Navarin_, and _Nicolay I._, the difference of
average battleship speed was only 0.6 knots; but the condition of the
Russian vessels was such that they could not approach their theoretical
maximum.

These were the antecedent technical conditions of a great battle
which, in the startling decisiveness of its results, and in the fact
that the victors lost no ship, challenges comparison with that of the
Nile. The tangled chain of causation now requires to be unravelled
by the coolest heads at our disposal, excluding all previous bias,
and seeking only to apportion the true relative values of the various
factors involved with the single object of securing the sound direction
of future naval policy.

What part did superior speed play in carrying destruction to the
Russian fleet? What guns established the initial superiority of fire
and wrought the havoc, moral and material, which ensured victory? What
purpose did armour serve, and how did its distribution conform to the
needs of the battle? It is upon the answers to such questions as these
that our naval policy must depend.

Underlying the experience of the battle of Tsu-shima there are
undoubtedly principles of general application. It is for us to
ascertain those principles, and to apply them as a test to all ship
designs and tactical theories.

The merit of this little work is that it records the impressions of
a naval officer who apparently had no official duties to absorb his
attention. Captain Semenoff had also the advantage of being present on
board the _Cesarevitch_ at the action of the 10th August 1904, when
it was vital to the Japanese to take no great risks. He significantly
notes the difference of conditions. At Tsu-shima, Admiral Togo was
determined to force a decisive action. Moreover, the Japanese had,
meanwhile, improved their fuses. Thus, in the later action, “shells
seemed to be pouring upon us incessantly.... It seemed as if these were
mines, not shells.... They burst as soon as they touched anything....
No! It was different to the 10th August.”

Incidentally the author notes the “portmanteaus” (Japanese 12-inch
shell) “curving awkwardly head over heels through the air and falling
anyhow on the water.” This shows that some of the Japanese 12-inch
guns--numbering only sixteen--were so much worn as to be unable to give
adequate rotation to their projectiles, which consequently could only
have hit the Russian ships by accident.

The _Suvoroff_, where Captain Semenoff’s experiences were gained,
was a ship of 13,500 tons, with a continuous armour belt 12 feet
broad, tapering in length at the water-line from 8 inches to 6 inches,
and vertically from 6 inches to 4 inches above. Her heavy armament
consisted of four 12-inch guns in 10-inch turrets, standing upon
10-inch barbettes built up from the armoured deck. The secondary
armament of twelve 6-inch guns was mounted in 6-inch turrets standing
upon 6-inch barbettes, all built up from the upper deck. Below the
6-inch barbettes were armoured ammunition hoists carried down to the
belt level. A main armoured deck (3 to 2 inches) at the water-line
level extended all over the ship.

Such was the _Suvoroff_, which was driven out of the line in less than
forty minutes, and after being reduced to the hopeless state described
by Captain Semenoff, was gratuitously torpedoed by the Japanese. Being
the flag-ship of the Commander-in-Chief she was doubtless singled out
as a target; but, of her three sister-ships, the _Alexander III._ was
sunk by gun fire about five hours after the beginning of the action;
the _Borodino_ also sank in five hours, apparently as the result of the
explosion of a magazine; and the _Orel_ surrendered on the 28th with
main turrets not seriously injured and thick armour not penetrated.

The general impression conveyed by Captain Semenoff, and confirmed
from other sources, is that the Russian ships were overwhelmed by the
volume of the Japanese fire, and that frequency of hitting rather
than weight of shells should be the main object. If this conclusion
is correct, the principle which guided the British Navy in the days
of Nelson--to close to effective range and then deliver the most
rapid fire possible--has been strikingly reaffirmed. Effective ranges
have increased; but this principle remains unchanged and is probably
unchangeable.

The trouble which arose from the outbreak of fire on board the
_Suvoroff_ and from the wreckage of the bridges and spar-deck, the
men killed in the conning tower, the penetration of the armoured deck
near the bow, the down-draught of smoke, the estimate of range (“a
little more than 20 cables”) at a critical moment--all these points,
which present themselves in the narrative, claim attention and careful
comparison with other accounts.

Captain Semenoff’s impressions of the manœuvring of the fleets
may well be somewhat vague; but it is worth collating with other
observations. Lastly, the graphic touches of the author show with
painful distinctness the terrible strain imposed upon human endurance.
Few who read his account of the heroic signalmen “standing silently
and outwardly calm,” unwilling to go below the armoured deck, wishing
only for orders, and feeling “themselves indispensable to the fight,”
will be inclined to accept the recent theory that partly-trained and
half-disciplined men are fit to find a place on board ship in modern
naval war.

Upon a correct understanding of the lessons of Tsu-shima the
expenditure of millions of public money and the efficiency of the Navy
in the near future must mainly depend. If this simple narrative can,
in however small a degree, help us to attain such an understanding, its
publication will be abundantly justified.

            G. S. CLARKE.

LONDON, _10th November 1906_.



TRANSLATOR’S PREFACE


The following account of the battle of Tsu-shima, fought on 27th May
1905, is a translation of the narrative of Captain Vladimir Semenoff, a
Russian naval officer who was on board the flag-ship (_Knyaz Suvoroff_)
during the engagement. It is of more than usual interest, as the writer
had previously served in the _Cesarevitch_ at Port Arthur, and had
taken part in the disastrous sally from that port on 10th August 1904.

At the great battle of which he now relates his experiences, he
was present in an unofficial capacity, which gave him unlimited
opportunity for observation. Moreover, the fact of his being able to
make a series of notes at the time (till too seriously wounded) puts an
additional stamp of reality on to his already most graphic account.

It should be remembered that the Russian Baltic fleet--Russia’s final
and supreme appeal to the God of Battles--left Cronstadt for the Far
East on 11th September 1904, and during all the long months till the
following May was slowly making its way, _viâ_ the Cape of Good Hope,
to Japanese waters. The difficulties encountered during that prolonged
voyage were enormous. The nerves of officers and men, who constantly
apprehended attempts to destroy the fleet, were in a continual state
of tension: news of the outside world and especially of events in
the Far East was practically unobtainable: and yet officers and men,
despite the additional disadvantage of having to take their ships into
action after these many months at sea, fearlessly entered into an
engagement which they knew meant death, and fought their ships with a
self-devotion and courage which has earned for them the admiration of
the world.

Admiral Togo--flying his flag on the _Mikasa_--awaited the enemy in
Japanese waters. His fleet, which, since the fall of Port Arthur on 2nd
January 1905, had been relieved of its blockading duties, had spent the
intervening months in repairing damage and bringing itself up to the
highest state of preparation in expectation of the coming of the Baltic
fleet.

To a nation like ourselves, whose first line of defence is the Navy,
I venture to think that these pages will give food for thought, as,
besides enabling the reader to see the paralysing and awful effect of
high explosives thrown on board a modern battleship in action, they
supply us with a picture of what a losing engagement means to those who
lose.

When first I took up the original volume I read it merely with a
view to extracting information _re_ fire effect, gun power, weather
conditions, formations, and other factors complementary to the result
of the battle. But the narrative appeared so realistic that the thought
occurred to me to place the following translation before the public.

The speed maintained by the opposing fleets during the battle is
shown in the diagram attached. Dates have been expressed according
to the English calendar (which is thirteen days in advance of the
Russian)--otherwise the writer’s own words and colloquial style have,
as far as possible, been faithfully adhered to, to the detriment of
literary style in translating.

It may be mentioned that this narrative comes as a supplement to the
very interesting account by Politovsky of the voyage of the Baltic
fleet to the Far East--recently translated by Major Godfrey and
published by John Murray under the title “From Libau to Tsu-shima.”

Politovsky went down in the _Suvoroff_, and his story ends with the
arrival of the fleet at Shanghai on 23rd May, the date on which he
posted his last letter to Russia. The following narrative commences on
25th May, as the fleet swung out of Shanghai to meet its destiny.

            A. B. L.

_7th November 1906._



TABLE OF CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I
                                                                  PAGE
  Weather on leaving Shanghai--“Order of march”--Instructions
      for taking order of battle--Accident to _Senyavin’s_
      engines--Manœuvres on 26th May--Spoilt by 3rd
      squadron--Unpreparedness of Russian fleet--A forlorn
      hope--Comparison between Russian and Japanese ships--
      Feeling on Board the _Suvoroff_--Togo’s whereabouts--
      A discussion--Will he be misled?--Will the Russian
      fleet slip past?--Which course to follow?--Three
      possibilities                                               1–24


  CHAPTER II

  Not yet discovered--Intercepting Japanese wireless
      messages--Night of 26th May--Doings in the _Suvoroff_--
      The engine-room--The ward-room--Reflections and
      ruminations--Commander V. V. Ignatzius--His
      opinion--A desperate adventure--Dawn on 27th May--The
      _Sinano Maru_ runs into the hospital ships--The fleet
      discovered--Recall of the scouts--Four Japanese ships
      reported--_Idzumi_ sighted 6.45 A.M.--And later the 3rd
      Japanese squadron--Russian fleet takes order of battle--
      11.20 A.M., opens fire--A mistake--Ship’s companies
      have dinner--The alarm--Japanese light cruisers--
      Russians manœuvre--Orders misunderstood--Result--
      Japanese main force sighted--The eve of battle--
      Rozhdestvensky enters the conning tower                    25–50


  CHAPTER III

  Movements of Japanese fleet--A dangerous manœuvre--Russians
      open fire--Enemy replies--“Portmanteaus”--Accurate
      shooting--Author wounded--Comparison with 10th August--
      Japanese fuses--Havoc and destruction--Gun power--
      A new explosive--In the conning tower--The enemy
      untouched--Russian ships on fire--Fighting the flames--
      A shell in the dressing station--Casualties and damage
      everywhere--Again in the conning tower                     51–80


  CHAPTER IV

  The enemy’s superior speed--His attempt to cross the Russian
      T--_Suvoroff’s_ Captain wounded--A funnel shot away--
      Steering gear disabled--She leaves the line--Terrific
      shell fire--Japanese reports--Fore-bridge in flames--
      Demchinsky wounded--Spirit of the men--Fire in the
      dressing station--Attempts to extinguish it--Scene on
      the upper deck--Author again wounded--The hospital--
      Death and destruction in the conning tower--Necessity
      of abandoning it--Transfer to lower fighting position--
      Admiral wounded--Carried into a turret                    81–110


  CHAPTER V

  The _Alexander_ leads the fleet--Attempt to pass astern of
      Japanese column--Enemy turns 16 points--Destruction
      in the _Alexander_--The _Borodino_ on fire--Defeat
      inevitable--3.25 P.M., the _Suvoroff_ heels over--
      Forward turret destroyed--Attacked by torpedo-boats--
      Work of one projectile--Rumoured damage to enemy--
      Effect on men’s spirits--Death of Commander Ignatzius--
      Torpedo-boats approach--Only two serviceable guns--A
      tour of inspection--Effect of Japanese gun fire--Their
      explosive--Kursel the Courlandian--Destruction of
      officers’ quarters--Author again wounded                 111–135


  CHAPTER VI

  4 P.M., fleets lose each other--5 P.M., Russian fleet
      steams northwards--Passes the _Suvoroff_--The
      _Borodino_ leads--The _Alexander_ heeling over--
      Torpedo-boats ahead!--The _Buiny_--Admiral to be
      transferred--Attempts to collect the Staff--Death
      of all hands below--No boats available--Difficulty
      of the undertaking--Rozhdestvensky put aboard--The
      _Buiny_ steams off--Description of the flag-ship--The
      Admiral’s condition--Nebogatoff in command--Sinking
      of the _Alexander_--Overtaking the fleet--Sinking of
      the _Oslyabya_--Also of the _Borodino_--End of the
      _Suvoroff_                                               136–162

  COMPOSITION OF THE OPPOSING FLEETS                               163

  DIAGRAM OF MOVEMENTS                                       _At end._



  TO THE EVERLASTING MEMORY
  OF THE HEROES WHO
  PERISHED!



THE BATTLE OF TSU-SHIMA


In memory of the _Suvoroff_!



CHAPTER I


A fresh breeze mournfully droned through the wire rigging and angrily
dispersed the ragged, low-lying clouds. The troubled waters of the
Yellow Sea splashed against the side of the battleship, while a
thin, cold, blinding rain fell, and the raw air penetrated to one’s
very bones. But a group of officers still stood on the after-bridge,
watching the silhouettes of the transports slowly disappearing in the
rain haze.

On their masts and yard-arms signals were being flown, the last
messages and final requests of those who had been our fellow-travellers
on the long tedious voyage.

Why is it that at sea a friendly greeting of this kind, expressed
merely by a combination of flags, touches one’s heart so deeply, and
speaks to it even more than salutes, cheers, or music? Why is it that
until the signal has been actually hauled down every one looks at it,
silently and intently, as if real words, instead of motley-coloured
pieces of cloth, were fluttering in the breeze, and becoming wet with
rain? Why is it that on the signal being hauled down every one turns
away, quietly moving off to his duty, as if the last quiet handshake
had been given, and “good-bye” had been said for ever?

“Well!--how about the weather?” said some one--to break the silence.

“Grand,” answered another with a smile. “If we get this all the way
to Vladivostok, then thank the Lord! why, a general battle will be
impossible.”

Once more a signal was made to the fleet, and, having cast off the
majority[2] of our transports at Shanghai, we take up our fresh and
_last_ “order of march.”

Ahead, in wedge formation, was the scout division consisting of three
ships--the _Svietlana_, _Almaz_, and _Ural_; next came the fleet in two
columns. The starboard column consisted of the 1st and 2nd armoured
squadrons, _i.e._ eight ships--the _Suvoroff_, _Alexander_, _Borodino_,
_Orel_,[3] _Sissoy_, _Navarin_, _Nakhimoff_. On the port side were the
3rd armoured and cruiser squadrons, _i.e._ eight ships--the _Nicolay_,
_Senyavin_, _Apraxin_, _Ushakoff_, and the cruisers, _Oleg_, _Aurora_,
_Donskoy_, and _Monomakh_. On either beam, and parallel with the
leading ships, were the _Zemtchug_ and _Izumrud_, each accompanied by
two torpedo-boats, acting as scouts for the port and starboard columns.
In rear of, and between, the wakes of these columns steamed a line
of transports which we _were obliged_ to take to Vladivostok[4]--the
_Anadir_, _Irtish_, _Korea_, _Kamchatka_--and with them the repair and
steam-tugs, _Svir_ and _Russ_, ready to render assistance in case of
need. With the cruiser squadron were five torpedo-boats, whose duty
it was to co-operate with the former in protecting the transports
during the battle. Astern of all came the hospital ships, _Orel_ and
_Kostroma_.

This disposition of the fleet would make it possible, if the enemy
appeared unexpectedly, for the various squadrons to take order of
battle quickly and without any complicated manœuvres (_i.e._ without
attracting attention). The scout division was to turn from whichever
side the enemy appeared and to join the cruisers, which were to convoy
the transports out of action, and protect them from the enemy’s
cruisers. The 1st and 2nd armoured squadrons were to increase speed,
and, having inclined to port _together_,[5] were to take station in
front of the 3rd armoured squadron and proceed on their former course.
The result would be that the three squadrons would then be in single
column line ahead, and the centre of our fleet would consist of twelve
armoured ships. The _Zemtchug_ and _Izumrud_ were to manœuvre according
to circumstances and, taking advantage of their speed, together with
the torpedo-boats assigned to them, were to take station ahead, astern,
or abeam of the armoured ships. They were to be on the further side of
the fleet from the enemy, out of the range of his shells; their duty
being to prevent the enemy’s torpedo-boats from getting round the fleet.

Above was the plan of battle, worked out beforehand and known to every
officer in the fleet. The various details as to formations dependent on
the direction in which the enemy appeared, the instructions for fire
control, the manner in which assistance was to be rendered to injured
ships, the transfer of the Admiral’s flag from one ship to another,
the handing over of the command, etc., etc., were laid down in special
orders issued by the Commander-in-Chief, but these details would
scarcely be of interest to readers unacquainted with naval matters.

The day (25th May) passed quietly. Towards evening it was reported
that an accident had happened to the _Senyavin’s_ engines, and all
that night we steamed slowly. In the ward-room of the _Suvoroff_ the
officers grumbled and swore at the “old tubs,”[6] as they nicknamed
Nebogatoff’s ships, but, although natural, it was hardly fair, for we
ourselves were little better. The prolonged voyage had been a long
mournful indictment of our boilers and machinery, while our martyrs of
engineers had literally had to “get oil out of flints,” and to effect
repairs although with no material at hand with which to make them.

That night, the first cold one after six months in the tropics, we
slept splendidly, but, of course, by watches, _i.e._ half the night one
half of the officers and crew were at the guns, and the other half the
remainder.

On 26th May the clouds began to break and the sun shone fitfully, but
although a fairly fresh south-westerly breeze had sprung up, a thick
mist still lay upon the water.

Being anxious to avail himself of every moment of daylight while
passing the Japanese coast, where we would most probably be attacked
by torpedoes, the Admiral arranged for the fleet to be in the centre of
its passage through the straits of Tsu-shima at noon on the 27th May.
According to our calculations this would give us about four hours to
spare, which we employed in practising manœuvres for the last time.

Once again, and for the _last_ time, we were forcibly reminded of the
old truism that a “fleet” is created by long years of practice at
sea in time of peace (cruising, not remaining in port), and, that a
collection of ships of various types hastily collected, which have only
learned to sail together on the way to the scene of operations, is no
fleet, but a chance concourse of vessels.

Taking up order of battle was moderately performed, but it was spoilt
by the 3rd squadron, and who can blame its admiral or captains? When
near Madagascar, and during our wanderings off the coast of Annam, our
ships to a certain extent had been able to learn their work, and to get
to know one another. They had, in fact, been able to “rehearse.” But as
the 3rd squadron, which joined the fleet barely a fortnight ago,[7] had
only arrived in time to finish the voyage with us and take part in the
battle, there was no time for it to receive instruction.

Admiral Togo, on the other hand, had commanded his squadron
continuously for eight years without hauling down his flag. Five of
the vice-admirals and seven of the rear-admirals taking part in the
Tsu-shima battle, in command of squadrons, ships, or as junior flag
officers, were his old comrades and pupils, having been educated under
his command. As for us, we could only regret our unpreparedness, and in
the coming fight there was nothing for us to do but to make the most of
what we had.

Rozhdestvensky thought (and facts later fully justified the opinion)
that in the decisive battle Togo would be at the head of his twelve
best armoured ships. Against them our Admiral was also to lead twelve
similar ships (which he handled magnificently), and in the duel between
them it was thought the centre of gravity of the fight would certainly
lie. The difference between our main force and that of the Japanese
was very material. The oldest of Togo’s twelve ships--the _Fuji_, was
two years younger than the _Sissoy_, which, among our twelve best, came
sixth in seniority! Their speed was one-and-a-half times as great as
ours, but their chief superiority lay in their new shells, of which we
had no inkling.

What with manœuvres, etc., the 26th May passed almost imperceptibly.

I do not know the feeling on board the other ships, but in the
_Suvoroff_ we were cheerful and eager for the fray. Anxious, of course,
we were, but not so over-anxious as to worry. The officers went their
rounds, and looked after their men more than usual; explained details,
talked, and found fault with those immediately under them more than
was their wont. Some, the thought suddenly occurring to them, put their
keepsakes and the letters which they had just written into the treasure
chest for safety.

“He evidently means to leave us!” said Lieutenant Vladimirsky, the
senior gunnery officer, pointing to a sailor who was busy rummaging in
a bag.

“What! made your preparations for going already?”

“I?” said he in amazement; and with a grin--“Yes--I am quite ready!”

“Look here!” said Lieutenant Bogdanoff, the senior torpedo officer, who
was a veteran of the former war and had been wounded at the capture of
the Taku forts--“To-morrow--or rather to-night--you’ll please go to
the office and get your accounts made up!”

This humour had no effect.

“And haven’t _you_ a presentiment? _You’ve_ been under fire before,”
asked a young sub-lieutenant, coming up, with his hand in his pocket,
in which was evidently a letter destined for the treasure chest.

Bogdanoff got annoyed. “What do you mean by a presentiment? I’m not
your fortune-teller! I tell you what! If Japanese guns begin talking to
us to-morrow you will feel something soon enough,--but you won’t feel
anything before then!”[8]

Some more officers approached. Times without number we had hotly
discussed the question,--would we meet the whole of the Japanese fleet
at Tsu-shima, or only part of it?

Optimists asserted that Togo would be misled, and would patrol to the
North to look out for us, as the _Terek_ and _Kuban_ had on the 22nd
gone round the eastern shores of Japan endeavouring to attract as much
attention there as possible.[9]

Pessimists declared that Togo was as well able as we were to understand
the conditions, and would know that a single coaling was not sufficient
to enable us to steam all round Japan; we should have to coal again.
And where? We were no longer in the tropics; the weather here was
anything but reliable, which meant we could not count upon coaling
at sea. Take shelter in some bay?--but there were telegraph stations,
and, of course, intelligence posts, everywhere. Togo would learn of
it in good time, so what would he gain by hastening northward? Even
if we succeeded in coaling at sea and slipped unnoticed into one of
the Straits, we couldn’t conceal our movements there, thanks to their
narrowness. And then--submarine and floating mines, sown along our
course, and attacks by torpedo-boats, which would be easy even in broad
daylight!

It was impossible to pass unnoticed through these Straits even in a fog
or in bad weather; how then could a fleet accompanied by transports
hope to escape observation? Even if the Almighty did bring us through
all this, what was beyond?--the meeting with the Japanese fleet which
from Tsu-shima could always come out across our course while our fleet
would have already been harassed in the Straits by torpedo-boats as
well as every conceivable type of mine.

“Gentlemen--Gentlemen! let me speak!” exclaimed the first lieutenant
and senior navigating officer, Zotoff, who was always fond of
discussions and liked making his voice heard. “It is quite clear that
the best course for us is up the eastern side of the gulf of Korea. My
chief reason for saying so is because here it is wide and deep, while
there is room for us to manœuvre, and it can be navigated without
danger in any weather. In fact, the worse the weather the better for
us. All this has been talked over till nothing more remains to be said,
and considered till nothing is left to consider; even disciples of
Voltaire themselves would admit this. Presumably Togo is no greater
fool than we, and knows this. I assume that he also knows how to use a
pair of compasses and is acquainted with the four rules of arithmetic!
This being so he can easily calculate that, if we steam round Japan,
deciding in the face of our knowledge to brave the mines before meeting
him, it would still be possible for him to intercept us on the road
to Vladivostok, if, at the same time as we come out of the ocean into
the Straits, he starts from ... Attention, gentlemen! ... from the
northernmost point of Tsu-shima. There is no doubt that arrangements
have been made to organise a defence of the Straits by mines. The naval
ports of Aomori and Mororan are on either side. If any one doesn’t
know it he ought to be ashamed of himself. Togo may tell off some of
his smaller mining vessels to go there, but he, with his main force
(I would even go so far as to say with the whole of his fleet)--where
will he be? No, I will put another question: Where ought he to be?
Why! nowhere else but off the northern point of Tsu-shima. He can gain
nothing by loitering about at sea, so he will be lying in some bay.”

“In Mazampo, for instance?” asked Sub-Lieutenant Ball, the junior
navigating officer.

“Mazampo--if you like--but let me finish. It is childish to hope that
the Japanese main fleet will be out of the way. I think we have
reached the culminating point of our adventures. To-morrow the decision
must be made: either vertically”--and, putting his hand above his head,
he energetically waved it downwards in front of him--“or”--quietly
moving his arm out to the right, and dropping it slowly downwards in a
circular direction--“a longer route, but to the west all the same.”

“How? Why? Why to the west?” broke in the bystanders.

“Because though the end may not come at once,” shouted Zotoff, “the
result will be the same! It’s absurd to think of steaming victoriously
into Vladivostok, or of getting command of the sea! The only possible
chance is a dash through! and having dashed through, after two, three,
or at the most four sallies, we shall have burnt all our supplies of
coal, and have shed our blossoms before we have bloomed! We shall have
to prepare for a siege, take our guns on shore, teach the crew to use
bayonets----”

“A bas! A bas! Conspuez le prophête!” interrupted some. “Hear! Hear!
strongly[10] said!” shouted others. “What about Austria’s Parliament!”

“Let him finish,” growled Bogdanoff in his bass voice.

“Having postponed a discussion of questions of the distant future--a
discussion which makes those who take part in it so excited,” continued
Zotoff, availing himself of a quiet moment, “I will venture to say a
few words concerning what is immediately at hand. I foresee three
possibilities. Firstly:--If we have already been discovered, or are
discovered in the course of the day, we shall certainly be subjected
at night to a series of torpedo attacks, and in the morning shall have
to fight the Japanese fleet, which will be unpleasant. Secondly:--If
we are not discovered till to-morrow we shall be able to commence the
fight at full strength, without casualties, which will be better.
Lastly, and thirdly:--If the mist thickens and dirty weather comes on,
thanks to the width of the Straits, we may either slip through, or
be discovered too late, when there will be only the open sea between
us and Vladivostok.--This would be excellent. On these three chances
those who wish may start the totalisator! For myself, preparing for
the worst, and foreseeing a broken night, I suggest that we all take
advantage of every spare hour to sleep.”

His words had the desired effect.



CHAPTER II


Fate had apparently been kind to us, as up to the present we had
not been discovered. The sending of telegrams in the fleet was
forbidden, so we were able to intercept Japanese messages, and our
torpedo officers made every effort to fix the direction from which
they emanated. On the morning of 26th May and later on the same day,
a conversation between two installations had begun, or perhaps more
correctly speaking it was the reports of one ahead of and nearer to us
to which the other, more distant and on the port side, was replying.
The messages were not in cypher, and although our telegraphists were
unaccustomed to the strange alphabet, and notwithstanding the gaps in
the sentences by the time we received them, it was still possible to
pick out separate words, and even sentences. “Last night” ... “nothing”
... “eleven lights ... but not in line” ... “bright light ... the same
star ...” etc.

In all probability this was a powerful coast station on the Goto
Islands, reporting to some one a long way off what had been seen in the
Straits.

Towards evening we took in a conversation between other installations,
which at night had increased to seven. The messages were in cypher, but
by their brevity and uniformity and by the fact that they commenced
and ceased at fixed times, we were able to calculate with tolerable
accuracy that these were not reports, but merely messages exchanged
between the scouts. It was clear that we had not been discovered.

At sunset the fleet closed up, and in expectation of torpedo attacks
half the officers and crew were detailed for duty at the guns, the
remainder sleeping by their posts, without undressing, ready to jump up
on the first sound of the alarm.

The night came on dark. The mist seemed to grow denser, and through
it but few stars could be seen. On the dark deck there prevailed a
strained stillness, broken at times only by the sighs of the sleepers,
the steps of an officer, or by an order given in an undertone. Near the
guns the motionless figures of their crews seemed like dead, but all
were wide awake, gazing keenly into the darkness. Was not that the dark
shadow of a torpedo-boat? They listened attentively. Surely the throb
of her engines and the noise of steam must betray an invisible foe?

Stepping carefully, so as not to disturb the sleepers, I went round the
bridges and decks, and then proceeded to the engine-room. For a moment
the bright light blinded me. Here, life and movement was visible on all
sides. Men were nimbly running up and down the ladders; there was a
tinkling of bells and buzzing of voices. Orders were being transmitted
loudly, but, on looking more intently, the tension and anxiety--that
same peculiar frame of mind so noticeable on deck--could also be
observed. And then it suddenly occurred to me that all this--the tall,
somewhat bent figure of the Admiral on the side of the bridge, the
wrinkled face of the man at the wheel stooping over the compass, the
guns’ crews chilled to the bone at their posts, these men talking
loudly and running about, the giant connecting-rods whose steel
glittered dimly in the dark, and the mighty hissing of steam in the
cylinders--was one and the same thing.

I suddenly remembered the old sea legend of the ship’s spirit dwelling
in every rivet, nail, and screw, which at the fated moment takes
possession of the whole ship with her crew, and turns both crew and
surroundings into one indivisible supernatural being. Of a sudden it
seemed that this spirit was looking right into my heart, which beat
with unusual rapidity, and for a moment it seemed as if I had become
this being to whom the name _Suvoroff_--so sacred to all of us--was no
more than a mere rivet!

It was a flash of madness, which quickly passed, leaving behind it only
a sensation akin to daring and grim determination.

Alongside of me, the chief engineer, Captain Bernander, my old shipmate
and friend, was angrily explaining something to his assistant. I did
not hear what he said, nor could I understand why he was so excited
when everything had been finally settled. Whether for better or for
worse it was impossible to alter things now.

“All in good time, my dear fellow,” said I, taking his arm. “Let us go
and drink some tea--my throat is parched.”

Turning his kind grey eyes on me in astonishment, and without replying,
he allowed me to lead him away.

We went up to the ward-room, which at this hour was usually crowded and
noisy. It was empty. Two or three officers, after being relieved, as
well as some from the nearest light gun batteries, were sound asleep on
the sofas, awaiting the alarm, or for their turn to go on watch. The
messman, however, who was always ready for any emergency, brought us
tea. Again on all sides this dreadful, painful stillness.

“The chief thing is, not to be in too great a hurry.--One straight shot
is better than two bad ones.--Remember that we have not a single spare
shell, and, till we reach Vladivostok, none are to be got,” came in
a somewhat inaudible voice from behind the closed door of the stern
cabin. Evidently a sub-lieutenant, Fomin by name, was holding forth.

“Preaching!” angrily said Bernander, helping himself to some hot tea.

I saw that he was very annoyed about something and wished to unburden
himself.

“Well! tell me all about it! What is the matter?”

“It is all this cursed German coal,” he said, and lowering his voice
and looking rounds--“You know, of course, that we had a fire in the
bunkers?”

“Yes! I know; but surely, thank goodness, they put it out? Do you mean
there’s another?”

“No! Not quite! Listen! There’s a vast difference between
rapid-burning and slow-burning coal. Much more is consumed. Compared to
good coal, 20 to 30 per cent.----”

“Shut up!” I interrupted. “Why, what’s up with you? Are you afraid
you’ll run out? Up till now, surely, you have been burning our surplus!
You ought to have in hand the full normal quantity.”

“Full or not, we shall have less than 1000 tons by morning.”

“But it’s 600 miles to Vladivostok! Where do you want to go?”

“Have you forgotten the _Cesarevitch_? On 10th August, when her funnels
were shot away, she burnt 480 tons in the twenty-four hours! Well--we
are burning more!”

“Pooh! your nerves are unstrung,” I exclaimed. “All your bunkers
haven’t caught fire!”

“You don’t understand!” angrily exclaimed Bernander, and, quickly
finishing his tea, he seized his cap and went out.

I remained in the ward-room, settled myself down in an easy-chair, and,
making myself comfortable, dozed. I heard indistinctly the watch being
relieved at midnight. Some of the officers coming off duty came in to
get some tea, and in low voices abused the infernal rawness of the
night air. Others stretched themselves on sofas, sighing with relief at
being so comfortable, and said: “We’ll sleep till four! it’s a holiday
at home!”

I also went to sleep.

About 3 A.M. I awoke, and again went round the ship and up on deck.
The scene was just the same as in the evening, but it was lighter. In
the last quarter the moon had risen well up, and against the mist,
dimly whitened by its silver rays, the ship’s funnels, masts, and
rigging were sharply outlined. The breeze, freshening, blew cold,
making me pull the cape of my coat more over my head.

Going on to the fore-bridge, I found the Admiral sleeping in a chair.
The Commander, wearing soft slippers, was pacing rapidly but quietly up
and down the bridge.

“What are you doing wandering about?” he asked me.

“O, just having a look round. Gone to sleep?” and I nodded towards the
Admiral.

“Only just. I persuaded him to. Why shouldn’t he? We can take it
that the night has passed all right. Up to the present we haven’t
been discovered. They are still calling each other up, and now, even
though they do find us, it’s late. It will be daybreak in a couple of
hours. Even if their torpedo-boats are near us, they won’t be able to
collect. Besides, how can they find us in weather like this? Look!
you can’t even see the rear of the fleet! It’s 200,000 to 1 against
any one running into us accidentally! But I don’t like the breeze.
It’s freshening. Let’s hope it won’t break up the mist. If it does
to-morrow will mean the end of the _Suvoroff_. But it’s suddenly coming
on thicker,” he said eagerly. “Why, we have been going for twenty-four
hours without being seen. If it is the same to-morrow, we’ll give
them the slip! They are on the move, and keep calling each other up,
and they haven’t yet come on us! They’ll have to wait for our second
coming, out of Vladivostok! That’ll be a different tale. My! what a
stew they must be in! What fun!” and putting his handkerchief in his
mouth so as not to disturb the Admiral, he laughed so heartily, and
seemed so free from care, that I envied him.

It should be stated that V. V. Ignatzius, in the first place, was one
of those who was firmly convinced that the success of our voyage--this
desperate adventure--depended solely on the extent of co-operation
of Saint Nicolas “The Casual” and other heavenly powers, and, in the
second place, bearing in mind the Japanese custom of concentrating
their fire on the flag-ship, he believed that both he and his ship
were doomed to destruction in the first decisive engagement. But, in
spite of this, he never for a moment lost his invariably buoyant and
cheery manner. He joked, chaffed, and eagerly threw himself into all
the little details of daily life on board, while now (I really believe)
he was, inwardly, much amused, picturing to himself the anger and
disappointment of the Japanese in the event of our actually slipping
past them.

But the Japanese “got the 200,000th chance,” and more.

At dawn on 27th May, about 5 A.M., the auxiliary cruiser _Sinano Maru_
almost ran into our hospital ships, and it was due to this that the
whole fleet was discovered. We were unable to see what had happened,
but by the changed character of the messages it became at once apparent
that our presence was known. The scouts no longer merely called each
other up, and we now took in reports, which were being transmitted
further and further to the north.[11]

Messages came in from both sides, so the Admiral recalled the _Almaz_,
_Svietlana_ and _Ural_, in order to protect our helpless rear
(transports) from sudden attack.

About 6 A.M. the _Ural_ came up at full speed, reporting by semaphore
that astern of the fleet four ships, which it was impossible to
recognise in the mist, were crossing from starboard to port.

At 6.45 A.M. a vessel appeared on the starboard beam, which, as her
course brought her nearer to us, was soon recognised as the _Idzumi_.
About 8 A.M., despite the mist, we were able to take her distance as
10,000 yards. The alarm sounding, the after turret threateningly raised
her 12-inch guns, but the _Idzumi_, guessing her danger, commenced
rapidly to beat a retreat.

We might, of course, have detached a good cruiser to drive her off,
but alas! there were in the fleet only two ships answering to this
description--the _Oleg_ and the _Aurora_, also possibly the scout
_Svietlana_; of the remainder, the _Donskoy_ and _Monomakh_ were
respectable veterans, slow, though passably armed. The _Ural_ and
_Almaz_ were swift, but had only toy guns. Besides, each moment we
were expecting to meet our formidable opponent, when every gun and
shell would be of value. If the issue of the battle were to be decided
by a duel between our three armoured squadrons and the twelve best
Japanese ships, the whole of the rest of the enemy’s fleet would fall
to the lot of our cruiser squadron. A struggle for which we must indeed
reserve our strength! Rozhdestvensky decided accordingly to ignore the
_Idzumi’s_ daring sally, and sent no one in pursuit of her.

Shortly after 8 A.M., on the port bow, the _Chin-Yen_, _Matsushima_,
_Itsukushima_, and _Hashidate_ appeared out of the mist, steaming on
an almost parallel course. Ahead of them was a small, light cruiser,
apparently the _Akitsushu_, which hurriedly drew off to the north as
soon as we were able to see her well (and equally she us), and the
whole squadron began slowly to increase their distance and gradually to
disappear from sight.

At about 10 A.M. the light cruisers _Chitose_, _Kasagi_, _Niitaka_, and
_Otawa_, also appeared on the port beam, and it became evident to all
of us that the decisive moment could not now be long postponed.

At a signal from the flag-ship, the 1st and 2nd armoured squadrons
steamed ahead, and, turning “together,” 2 points[12] to port, began to
take position ahead of the 3rd squadron. The transports were ordered
to keep more to starboard and astern of the fleet, while the cruisers
were to cover them on the port side. To starboard of the transports was
the _Monomakh_, detailed to protect them from the _Idzumi_ and suchlike
vessels.

At 11.20 A.M., when the distance of the Japanese light cruisers
was 10,000 yards, the _Orel_ fired an accidental shot (which she
immediately reported by semaphore). Unable with smokeless powder to
tell by which of the leading ships it had been fired, the fleet took it
as a signal from the _Suvoroff_, and opened fire. Of the whole fleet
the fire of the 3rd squadron was the heaviest.

The Japanese cruisers turned to port and, firing also, rapidly drew
off. The flag-ship then signalled, “_Ammunition not to be wasted_,”
and when the firing ceased, “Ships’ companies to have dinner at once.”

At midday, finding ourselves on a line with the southernmost point of
Tsu-shima, we shaped course N.23°E. for Vladivostok.

The officers also had breakfast now, in turn, and as quickly as
possible. To-day there was to have been as usual a big breakfast in the
ward-room, with the Admiral and his Captain and staff as guests: but
on this occasion it naturally could not take place as the Admiral and
Captain were unable to leave the bridge, and the staff only dashed down
to the Admiral’s table to eat a few mouthfuls.

Having gone down to my cabin to fill my cigarette-case before the
fight, I happened to look in at the ward-room at the psychological
minute. Although the dishes were being handed anyhow and whatever came
nearest was taken, champagne sparkled in the glasses, and every one was
standing up, silently listening to the toast proposed by the senior
officer, A. P. Makedonsky.

“On this, the great anniversary of the sacred Coronation of their
Highnesses, may God help us to serve with honour our beloved Country!
To the health of the Emperor! the Empress!--To Russia!”

The ward-room resounded with cheers, and their last echoes had scarcely
died away ere the alarm sounded on deck. Every one rushed to their
stations, to find that some Japanese light cruisers had again appeared
on our port bow, but this time they were accompanied by torpedo-boats,
which evidently intended to cross our bows. Suspecting that their
plan was to lay floating mines (as they had done on 10th August),
the Admiral ordered the 1st squadron to turn to starboard, so as to
drive off the enemy by threatening him with the fire of our five best
battleships.

With this intention the ships of the 1st squadron turned “in
succession” 8 points (90°) to starboard, and should afterwards have
turned “together” 8 points to port. The first half of the manœuvre
was most successfully performed, but the signal for the second was
evidently misunderstood, as the _Alexander_ followed the _Suvoroff_,
while the _Borodino_ and _Orel_, which had already commenced to turn
correctly “together,” imagining then that they were mistaken, turned
back and followed the _Alexander_. Consequently the 1st squadron
found itself in single column line ahead, parallel to the 2nd and 3rd
squadrons, but somewhat ahead of them.

This unsuccessful manœuvre, however, had a most important result. The
enemy’s cruisers and torpedo-boats, afraid of being caught between the
fire of both columns, abandoned their intention of crossing our course,
and hurriedly drew off to port. These cruisers probably also reported
to Togo that we were steaming in two columns, and he (being then out of
sight and far ahead of us on the starboard bow) decided to cross over
to our port side, so as to throw himself with all his strength upon
our port and weakest column.

As soon as the Japanese drew off, the 1st squadron at once increased
speed, inclining to port so as again to take station ahead of the 2nd
squadron.

At 1.20 P.M., when the 1st had got ahead of the 2nd and 3rd squadrons
and was steering on its former course, the flag-ship signalled, “The
2nd squadron, maintaining its formation, will take station astern of
the 1st.”

And now, far ahead of us in the distance, could be dimly seen
approaching through the mist the Japanese main force. Their ships
were crossing our bows from starboard to port, following on an almost
south-west course. The _Mikasa_, as soon as she crossed our bows, at
once altered course to the southward, followed by the _Shikishima_,
_Fuji_, Asahi, _Kasuga_, and _Nisshin_.

Meanwhile, though the flag-ship was already being worked from the
conning tower, Rozhdestvensky was still standing with his staff on the
upper fore-bridge.

I frankly confess that I did not agree with his opinion as to Togo
leading all his twelve armoured ships in column; on 10th August
he ordered six of them to work independently, instead of joining
his squadron. I was inclined to think that Kamimura would operate
independently and, when my six old Port Arthur acquaintances hove in
sight, I said triumphantly:

“There they are, sir--_all six_--just as on 10th August.”

But Rozhdestvensky, without turning, shook his head.

“No, there are more--they are all there,” and he went down into the
conning tower.

“To your stations, gentlemen,” said the Flag Captain quickly, as he
followed the Admiral.

And there, sure enough, following after the first six ships, and slowly
appearing out of the mist, came the _Idzumo_, _Yakumo_, _Asama_,
_Adzuma_, _Tokiwa_, and _Iwate_.



CHAPTER III


“Now the fun will begin,” thought I to myself, going up to the
after-bridge, which seemed to be the most convenient place for carrying
out my duty of seeing and noting down everything, as from there I could
see both the enemy and our own fleet. Lieutenant Reydkin, commanding
the after starboard 6-inch turret, was also there, having dashed up to
see what was going on, as the fight was apparently to commence to port,
and his turret would not be in action.

We stood side by side, exchanging now and again abrupt remarks, not
understanding why the Japanese intended crossing to our port side, when
our weak spot--the transports and cruisers covering them--was astern,
and to starboard of us. Perhaps, having commenced the fight while
steering on the opposite course, and having taken advantage of their
superior speed, they calculated on rounding us from the stern, in order
to fall at the same time on our transports and weak rear! If so, a
raking fire would present no difficulties.

“Hullo! Look! What _are_ they up to?” said Reydkin, and his voice
betrayed both delight and amazement.

I looked and looked, and, not believing my eyes, could not put down
my glasses. The Japanese ships had suddenly commenced to turn “in
succession” to port, reversing their course!

If the reader recollects what has been said previously on the subject
of turns, he will easily understand that this manœuvre made it
necessary for all the enemy’s ships to pass in succession over the
point on which the leading ship had turned; this point was, so to
speak, stationary on the water, making it easy for us to range and aim.
Besides--even with a speed of 15 knots, the manœuvre must take about
fifteen minutes to complete, and all this time the vessels, which had
already turned, would mask the fire of those which were still coming up.

“_How_ rash!” said Reydkin, who could not keep quiet. “Why, in a
minute we’ll be able to roll up the leading ships!”

“Please God, we may!” thought I.

It was plain to me that Togo, seeing something which he had not
expected, had suddenly changed his mind. The manœuvre was undoubtedly
risky, but, on the other hand, if he found it necessary to steer on
the opposite course, there was no other way of doing it. He might have
ordered the fleet to turn “together,” but this would have made the
cruiser _Iwate_ the leading ship in action, which he evidently did
not wish. Togo accordingly decided to turn “in succession,” in order
that he should lead the fleet in person, and not leave success at the
commencement of the action to depend upon the presence of mind and
enterprise of the junior flag-officer. (The _Iwate_ flew Rear-Admiral
Simamura’s flag.)

My heart beat furiously, as it had never done before during the six
months at Port Arthur. If we succeeded! God grant it! Even though we
didn’t sink one of them, if we could only put one out of action! The
first success--was it possible?

Meanwhile Rozhdestvensky hastened to avail himself of this favourable
opportunity.

At _1.49 p.m._, when the manœuvre had been performed by the _Mikasa_
and _Shikishima_ (two only out of the twelve), the _Suvoroff_ fired the
first shot at a range of 6,400 yards, and the guns of the whole fleet
thundered forth. I watched closely through my glasses. The shots which
went over and those which fell short were all close, but the most
interesting, _i.e._ the hits, as in the fight of 10th August, could not
be seen. Our shells on bursting emitted scarcely any smoke, and the
fuses were adjusted to burst inside after penetrating the target. A
hit could only be detected when something fell--and nothing fell! In a
couple of minutes, when the _Fuji_ and _Asahi_ had turned also and were
following the first ships, the enemy began to reply.

The first shells flew over us. At this range some of the long ones
turned a complete somersault, and could clearly be seen with the naked
eye curving like so many sticks thrown in the air. They flew over us,
making a sort of wail, different to the ordinary roar.

“Are those the portmanteaus?”[13] I asked Reydkin, smiling.

“Yes. Those are they.”

But what struck me most was that these “portmanteaus,” curving
awkwardly head over heels through the air and falling anyhow on the
water, exploded the moment they touched its surface. This had never
happened before.

After them came others short of us--nearer and nearer. Splinters
whistled through the air, jingled against the side and superstructure.
Then, quite close and abreast the foremost funnel, rose a gigantic
pillar of smoke, water and flame. I saw stretchers being carried along
the fore-bridge, and I leaned over the rail.

“Prince Tsereteli!”[14] shouted Reydkin from below, in reply to my
silent question, as he went towards his turret.

The next shell struck the side by the centre 6-inch turret, and there
was a tremendous noise behind and below me on the port quarter. Smoke
and tongues of fire leapt out of the officers’ gangway; a shell having
fallen into the captain’s cabin, and having penetrated the deck, had
burst in the officers’ quarters, setting them on fire.

And here I was able to observe, and not for the first time, the stupor
which seems to come over men, who have never been in action before,
when the first shells begin to fall. A stupor which turns easily and
instantaneously, at the most insignificant external shock, into either
uncontrollable panic which cannot be allayed, or into unusually high
spirits, depending on the man’s character.

The men at the fire mains and hoses stood as if mesmerised, gazing
at the smoke and flames, not understanding, apparently, what was
happening. I went down to them from the bridge, and with the most
commonplace words, such as “Wake up! Turn the water on!”--got them to
pull themselves together and bravely to fight the fire.

I was taking out my watch and pocket-book to make a note of the first
fire, when something suddenly struck me in the waist, and something
large and soft, though heavy, hit me in the back, lifting me up and
hurling me on to the deck. When I again got up, my note-book and watch
were in my hands as before. My watch was going; but the second hand was
slightly bent, and the glass had disappeared. Stupefied by the blow,
and not myself, I began carefully to hunt for it on the deck, and found
it unbroken. Picking it up, I fitted it in to my watch--and, only then
realising that I had been occupied with something of no importance, I
looked round.

I had probably been unconscious for some time, as the fire had been
extinguished, and, save for two or three dead bodies on which water was
pouring from the torn hoses, no one was to be seen. Whatever had struck
me had come from the direction of the deck house aft, which was hidden
from me by a mantlet of hammocks. I looked in the direction where the
flag-officers, with a party of poop signalmen, should have been. The
shell had passed through the deck house, bursting inside. Of the ten or
twelve signalmen, some seemed to be standing by the starboard 6-inch
turret, others seemed to be lying in a huddled group. Inside was a pile
of something, and on the top lay an officer’s telescope.

“Is this all that is left?” I wondered, but I was wrong, as by some
miracle Novosiltseff and Kozakevitch were only wounded and, helped by
Maximoff, had gone to the dressing station, while I was lying on the
deck occupied with mending my watch.

“Hullo! a scene that you are accustomed to? Like the 10th August?”
said the irrepressible Reydkin, peeping out of his turret.

“Just the same!” I replied in a confident tone. But it was hardly so:
indeed, it would have been more correct to say--“Not in the least like.”

On 10th August, in a fight lasting some hours, the _Cesarevitch_ was
struck by only nineteen large shells, and I, in all seriousness, had
intended in the present engagement to note the times and the places
where we were hit, as well as the damage done. But how could I make
detailed notes when it seemed impossible even to count the number of
projectiles striking us? I had not only never witnessed such a fire
before, but I had never imagined anything like it. Shells seemed to be
pouring upon us incessantly, one after another.[15]

After six months with the Port Arthur squadron I had grown indifferent
to most things. Shimose and melinite were to a certain extent old
acquaintances, but this was something new. It seemed as if these were
mines, not shells, which were striking the ship’s side and falling
on the deck. They burst as soon as they touched anything--the moment
they encountered the least impediment in their flight. Handrails,
funnel guys, topping lifts of the boats’ derricks, were quite
sufficient to cause a thoroughly efficient burst. The steel plates and
superstructure on the upper deck were torn to pieces, and the splinters
caused many casualties. Iron ladders were crumpled up into rings, and
guns were literally hurled from their mountings.

Such havoc would never be caused by the simple impact of a shell, still
less by that of its splinters. It could only be caused by the force of
the explosion. The Japanese had apparently succeeded in realising what
the Americans had endeavoured to attain in inventing their “Vesuvium.”

In addition to this, there was the unusual high temperature and liquid
flame of the explosion, which seemed to spread over everything. I
actually watched a steel plate catch fire from a burst. Of course,
the steel did not burn, but the paint on it did. Such almost
non-combustible materials as hammocks, and rows of boxes, drenched
with water, flared up in a moment. At times it was impossible to see
anything with glasses, owing to everything being so distorted with the
quivering, heated air. No! It was different to the 10th August![16]

I hurriedly went to the Admiral in the conning tower. Why? At the time
I did not attempt to think, but now feel sure that I merely wished
to see him, and by seeing him to confirm my impressions. Was it all
imagination? Was it all a nightmare? Had I become jumpy?

Running along the fore-bridge I almost fell, slipping in a pool of
blood (the chief signalman--Kandaooroff--had just been killed there).
I went into the conning tower, and found the Admiral and Captain both
bending down, looking out through the chink between the armour and the
roof.

“Sir,” said the Captain, energetically gesticulating as was his wont,
“we must shorten the distance. They’re all being killed--they are on
fire!”

“Wait a bit. Aren’t we all being killed also?” replied the Admiral.

Close to the wheel, and on either side of it, lay two bodies in
officers’ tunics--face downwards.

“The officer at the wheel, and Berseneff!”[17] was shouted in my ear by
a sub-lieutenant--Shishkin--whose arm I had touched, pointing to the
bodies. “Berseneff first--in the head--quite dead.”

The range-finder was worked. Vladimirsky shouted his orders in a
clear voice, and the electricians quickly turned the handles of
the indicator, transmitting the range to the turrets and light gun
batteries.

“We’re all right,” thought I to myself, going out of the conning
tower, but the next moment the thought flashed across me: “They
can’t see what is going on on board.” Leaving the tower, I looked
out intently on all sides from the fore-bridge. Were not my recent
thoughts, which I had not dared to put into words, realised?

No!

The enemy had finished turning. His twelve ships were in perfect order
at close intervals, steaming parallel to us, but gradually forging
ahead. No disorder was noticeable. It seemed to me that with my Zeiss
glasses (the distance was a little more than 4,000 yards), I could even
distinguish the mantlets of hammocks on the bridges, and groups of men.
But with us? I looked round. What havoc!--Burning bridges, smouldering
_débris_ on the decks,--piles of dead bodies. Signalling and judging
distance stations, gun-directing positions, all were destroyed. And
astern of us the _Alexander_ and _Borodino_ were also enveloped in
smoke. No! it was very different to the 10th August.

The enemy, steaming ahead, commenced quickly to incline to starboard,
endeavouring to cross our T. We also bore to starboard, and again we
had him almost on our beam.

_It was now 2.5 p.m._

A man came up to report what had taken place in the after 12-inch
turret. I went to look. Part of the shield over the port gun had been
torn off and bent upwards, but the turret was still turning and keeping
up a hot fire.

The officer commanding the fire parties had had both his legs blown
off and was carried below. Men fell faster and faster. Reinforcements
were required everywhere to replace casualties, even at the turrets
into which splinters could only penetrate through the narrow gun ports.
The dead were, of course, left to lie where they had fallen, but yet
there were not enough men to look after the wounded.

There are no spare men on board a warship, and a reserve does not
exist. Each man is detailed for some particular duty, and told off to
his post in action. The only source which we could tap was the crews
of the 47 millimetre, and machine, guns, who from the commencement of
the fight had been ordered to remain below the armoured deck so as not
to be unnecessarily exposed. Having nothing to do now, as all their
guns, which were in exposed positions on the bridges, had been utterly
destroyed, we made use of them, but they were a mere drop in the ocean.
As for the fires, even if we had had the men, we were without the means
with which to fight them. Over and over again the hoses in use were
changed for new ones, but these also were soon torn to ribbons, and
the supply became exhausted. Without hoses how could we pump water on
to the bridges and spar-deck where the flames raged? On the spar-deck,
in particular, where eleven wooden boats were piled up, the fire was
taking a firm hold. Up till now, this “store of wood” had only caught
fire in places, as the water which had been poured into the boats prior
to the commencement of the action was still in them, though it was
fast trickling out of the numerous cracks momentarily being made by the
splinters.

We, of course, did everything possible: tried to plug the holes, and
brought up water in buckets.[18] I am not certain if the scuppers had
been closed on purpose, or had merely become blocked, but practically
none of the water we used for the fire ran overboard, and it lay,
instead, on the upper deck. This was fortunate, as, in the first place,
the deck itself did not catch fire, and, in the second, we threw into
it the smouldering _débris_ falling from above--merely separating the
burning pieces and turning them over.

Seeing Flag Sub-Lieutenant Demchinsky standing by the ladder of
the fore-bridge, with a party of forecastle signalmen near the
starboard forward 6-inch turret, I went up to him. Golovnin, another
sub-lieutenant, who was in charge of the turret, gave us some cold tea
to drink, which he had stored in bottles. It seems a trifle, but it
cheered us up.

Demchinsky told me that the first shell striking the ship had fallen
right into the temporary dressing station, rigged up by the doctor in
what seemed the most sheltered spot on the upper battery (between the
centre 6-inch turrets by the ship’s ikon). He said that it had caused a
number of casualties; that the doctor somehow escaped, but the ship’s
chaplain had been dangerously wounded. I went there to have a look at
the place.

The ship’s ikon or, more properly speaking, ikons as there were
several of them, all farewell gifts to the ship, were untouched. The
glass of the big ikon case had not even been broken, and in front of
it, on hanging candlesticks, candles were peacefully burning. There
wasn’t a soul to be seen. Between the wrecked tables, stools, broken
bottles, and different hospital appliances were some dead bodies, and a
mass of something, which, with difficulty, I guessed to be the remains
of what had once been men.

I had not had time properly to take in this scene of destruction when
Demchinsky came down the ladder, supporting Flag Lieutenant Sverbeyeff,
who could scarcely stand.

He was gasping for breath, and asked for water. Ladling some out of a
bucket into a mess kettle, I gave him some, and, as he was unable to
use his arms, we had to help him. He drank greedily, jerking out a few
words--“It’s a trifle--tell the Flag Captain--I’ll come immediately--I
am suffocated with these cursed gases--I’ll get my breath in a minute.”
He inhaled the air with a great effort through his blue lips, and
something seemed to rattle in his throat and chest, though not, of
course, the poisonous gases. On the right side of his back his coat was
torn in a great rent, and his wound was bleeding badly. Demchinsky told
off a couple of men to take him down to the hospital, and we again went
on deck.

I crossed over to the port side, between the forward 12-inch and 6-inch
turrets, to have a look at the enemy’s fleet. It was all there, just
the same--no fires--no heeling over--no fallen bridges, as if it had
been at drill instead of fighting, and as if our guns, which had been
thundering incessantly for the last half-hour, had been firing--not
shells, but the devil alone knows what![19]

Feeling almost in despair, I put down my glasses and went aft.

“The last of the halyards are burned,” said Demchinsky to me. “I think
I shall take my men somewhere under cover.” Of course, I fully agreed.
What was the use of the signalmen remaining under fire when nothing was
left for them to signal with!

_It was now 2.20 p.m._

Making my way aft through the _débris_, I met Reydkin hurrying to the
forecastle. “We can’t fire from the port quarter,” he said excitedly;
“everything is on fire there, and the men are suffocated with heat and
smoke.”

“Well! come on, let’s get some one to put the fire out.”

“I’ll do that, but you report to the Admiral. Perhaps he will give us
some orders.”

“What orders can he give?”

“He may alter the course. I don’t know!”

“What! leave the line? Is it likely?”

“Well! anyway, you tell him.”

In order to quiet him, I promised to report at once, and we separated,
going our ways. As I anticipated, the Admiral only shrugged his
shoulders on hearing my report and said, “They _must_ put the fire out.
No help can be sent from here.”

Instead of two dead bodies, five or six were now lying in the conning
tower. The man at the wheel having been incapacitated, Vladimirsky had
taken his place. His face was covered with blood, but his moustache was
smartly twisted upwards, and he wore the same self-confident look as
he had in the ward-room when discussing “the future of gunnery.”

Leaving the tower, I intended going to Reydkin to tell him the
Admiral’s reply and to assist in extinguishing the fire, but instead I
remained on the bridge looking at the Japanese fleet.



CHAPTER IV


After steering on their new course for a quarter of an hour, the enemy
had again forged a considerable distance ahead, and now the _Mikasa_,
at the head of the column, gradually inclined to starboard to cross
our T. I waited for us to incline to starboard also, but the Admiral
held on to the old course for some time longer. I guessed that by doing
this he hoped to lessen the distance as much as possible, which would
naturally have assisted us, since, with our wrecked range-finders and
gun-directing positions, our guns were only serviceable at close
quarters. However, to allow the enemy to cross our T and to subject
ourselves to a raking fire was not to be thought of. Counting the
moments anxiously I watched and waited. The _Mikasa_ came closer and
closer to our course. Our 6-inch starboard turret was already preparing
to fire, when--we sharply inclined to starboard. Breathing freely
again, I looked around.

Demchinsky had not yet gone below with his men but was hard at work,
apparently moving the cartridge boxes of the 47-millimetre guns off
the deck into the turret, so that there should be less risk of their
exploding in the fire and causing greater damage. I went to ask him
what he was doing, but before I was able to say anything the Captain
appeared at the top of the ladder just behind me. His head was covered
with blood and, staggering convulsively, he clutched at the hand-rail.
At that moment a shell burst quite close to us and, losing his balance
from the sudden explosion, he fell, head foremost, down the ladder.
Luckily we saw it and were able to catch him.

“It’s nothing--only a trifle,” he said in his ordinary quick way of
speaking. He tried to force a smile and, jumping up, endeavoured to go
on. But as to go on to the hospital meant another three ladders, we put
him, in spite of his protests, on a stretcher.

A man reported that the after turret had been blown up[20] and almost
simultaneously there resounded above us a rumbling noise accompanied
by the sharp clank of falling iron. Something large and heavy fell
with a crash; the ship’s boats on the spar-deck were smashed to
bits; burning _débris_ fell all round us and we were enveloped in an
impenetrable smoke. At the time we did not know what had happened, but
afterwards we learned that it was the foremost funnel which had fallen.

The terrified signalmen, losing their presence of mind, huddled
together right under the falling spar-deck, and carried us with them in
their rush. It took some time before we could compel them to stop and
listen to reason.

_It was now 2.30 p.m._

When the smoke had somewhat cleared I tried to go to the poop to see
what had happened to the after turret, but along the upper deck no
communication between bow and stern was possible.

I attempted to pass through the upper battery, whence to the poop
the nearest way was through the Admiral’s cabin, but here the staff
officers’ quarters were burning furiously. Turning back, I met Flag
Lieutenant Kruijanoffsky on the ladder hurrying downwards.

“Where are you going to?”

“Into the steering compartment; the rudder is disabled,” he shouted to
me in passing.

“That is all that is wanting,” thought I to myself, rushing up on deck.

Quickly going on to the fore-bridge I could not at first get my
bearings, because, not far to starboard, our fleet was steaming past,
bearing on an opposite course. The _Navarin_,--which ought to have
been astern--was now coming up to us, going at full speed and cutting
through a big breaker. She especially impressed herself on my memory.
It was evident that, owing to our steering gear being out of order, we
had turned nearly 16 points.

The line of our fleet was very irregular and the intervals varied,
especially in the 3rd squadron. I could not see the leading ships; they
were to windward of us and hidden by the smoke of the fires. The enemy
was also in the same direction. Taking my bearings by the sun and wind,
I should say that our fleet was steering approximately S.E., and the
enemy stood to the N.E. of us.

In the event of the flag-ship falling out of the line during the
battle, the torpedo-boats _Biedovy_ and _Buistry_ were immediately to
come to her assistance in order to take off the Admiral and staff and
put them on board an uninjured ship. But, however much I looked on
either side, no torpedo-boats were to be seen. Could we signal? But
with what? All means of signalling had long since been destroyed.

Meanwhile, though we were unable to see the enemy on account of the
smoke, they had a good view of us, and concentrated their fire on
the battered battleship in the hope of sinking us. Shells simply
poured upon us--a veritable whirlwind of fire and iron. Lying almost
stationary in the water, and slowly working her engines so as to get
on the proper course and follow the fleet, the _Suvoroff_ offered her
battered sides in turn to the enemy, firing wildly from those of her
guns which were still serviceable, and, alas! they were few in number.
The following is what Japanese eye-witnesses wrote about us:[21]

    “On leaving the line the flag-ship, though burning badly, still
    steamed after the fleet, but under the fire we brought to bear upon
    her, she rapidly lost her foremast and both funnels, besides being
    completely enveloped in flames and smoke. She was so battered that
    scarcely any one would have taken her for a ship, and yet, even in
    this pitiful condition, like the flag-ship which she was, she never
    ceased to fire as much as possible with such of her guns as were
    serviceable.”

I will quote another extract from a report on the operations of Admiral
Kamimura’s squadron:

    “The _Suvoroff_, subjected to the fire of both our squadrons,
    left the line. Her upper part was riddled with holes, and she was
    entirely enveloped in smoke. Her masts had fallen and her funnels
    came down one after the other. She was unable to steer, and her
    fires increased in density every moment. But, even outside the
    fighting line, she still continued firing, so that our bravest
    sailors credited her with making a plucky resistance.”

And now to return to my personal observations and impressions.

Amidst the rumbling fire of our own guns, the bursting of the enemy’s
shells, and the roaring of the flames, I was, of course, unable to
think about the direction to which we were turning--whether to or
from the wind, but I soon found out. When the battleship, turning on
her course, lay stern on to the wind, the smoke from the flames of
the burning spar-deck leapt right up to the fore-bridge where I was
standing. While occupied in looking for the torpedo-boats, I had
probably not noticed the danger creeping towards me, and only realised
it on finding myself enveloped in an impenetrable smoke. Burning air
parched my face and hands, while a caustic smell of burning almost
blinded me. Breathing was impossible. I felt I must save myself, but
to do so I had to go through the flames, for there was no other way on
to the poop. For a moment the thought flashed across me to jump from
the bridge on to the forward 12-inch turret, but to remember where I
was, to choose places to which and whence to jump, was impossible. How
did I get out of this hell? Perhaps some of the crew who had seen me
on the bridge dragged me out! How I arrived on the upper battery on
a well-known spot near the ship’s ikon, I can’t remember, and I can’t
imagine!

Having recovered my breath, drunk some water and rubbed my eyes, I
looked about. It seemed quite pleasant here. The large ikon case was
still unbroken, and with the exception of the first shell which had
destroyed the temporary dressing station, the quiet of this little
corner had apparently been undisturbed. Among some of the crew who were
standing by I recognised a few of Demchinsky’s signalmen, and, in reply
to my enquiries as to his whereabouts, they told me that having been
wounded he had made his way to the hospital.

They were standing silently and outwardly were calm, but from the way
in which they looked at me I noticed that they were all possessed by
some undefined feeling of fear, as well as of expectation and hope.
They appeared to believe, or to wish to believe that I was still able
to issue the necessary order which would save them, and so they waited.
But what order could I give? I might advise them to go below--to take
cover under the armoured deck and await their fate, but this they could
have done of their own accord. They wanted a different order, for they
still felt themselves indispensable to the fight, if it were to be
continued. These “tempered” men were just the men we wanted.

And to me, indeed, it seemed useless as well as cruel to shatter their
belief--to stamp out the last spark of hope--to tell them the hard
truth--to say, in fact, that it was of no use our fighting, and that
all was over. No! I couldn’t! On the contrary, I was filled with a
desire to mislead them--to feed that flame of hope. Rather let them die
in the happy consciousness of victory, life, and glory, coming perhaps
in a few moments.

As already said, the place where the church was usually rigged[22]--and
which the doctor had (so unluckily) selected for his temporary dressing
station--had been fairly fortunate, but now, abaft the centre 6-inch
turrets, the fire had commenced to make its way. Proceeding thither,
we set to work dragging away the burning _débris_, extinguishing it,
or throwing it overboard through the huge holes in the ship’s side.
Finding an undamaged water-main and a piece of a hose (without a
nozzle), we worked quietly and in earnest. We extinguished some burning
furniture, but alongside it, behind the thin, red-hot, steel partition
separating us from the officers’ quarters, another fire burst forth,
whose roar could at times be heard even amidst the noise of the battle.
Occasionally a man fell wounded, and either lay where he was, or got
up and walked or crawled to the ladder leading below. No attention was
paid to him--What mattered it? one more, one less!

How long we were thus employed--five, ten, or fifteen minutes--I do
not know, but suddenly the thought occurred to me, “The conning
tower--what is happening there?”

I went up quickly, fatigue and depression at once vanishing. My mind
was as clear as possible, and I saw at once that, as the smoke was
pouring through the great rents on the port side, the starboard must
be the windward side. I proceeded thither. Creeping with difficulty on
to the upper deck through the torn hatchway, I scarcely recognised the
place where a short time since we had stood with Demchinsky. Movement
was literally impossible. Astern, the spar-deck had fallen down and was
burning in a bright flame on the deck; in front of me was a heap of
_débris_. The ladders to the bridge had gone and the starboard end of
the bridge had been destroyed; even the gangway under the bridge on
the other side was blocked. I was obliged to go below again and come up
on the port side. Here, matters were rather better, as, although fallen
and burning, the pieces of the spar-deck were not scattered about in
such confusion as on the other side. The 6-inch turret appeared to
be still uninjured, and was keeping up a hot fire; the ladder to the
bridge was whole, but blocked with burning hammocks, which I at once
set five or six men, who were following me, to throw into the water
standing on the deck. Suddenly a shell whistled past us, quite close.
Everything seemed to start up, and splinters rained upon us. “That must
be in the 6-inch turret,” thought I to myself, half closing my eyes,
and holding my breath so as not to swallow the gas. Sure enough, as
the smoke cleared away, only one helpless-looking gun stuck defiantly
out of the turret, while out of the armoured door of the latter came
its commander, Lieutenant Danchich.

“Mine’s done for too; the muzzle of one has been carried away, and the
elevating gear of the other is smashed.”

Going to the door I looked in. Of the gun’s crew two lay huddled up
in a curious manner, while one sat motionless, staring with wide-open
eyes, holding his wounded side with both hands. A gun captain, with a
worried, business-like look, was extinguishing some burning cloths.

“What are you doing here?”

“I want to go to the conning tower.”

“Why? There’s no one there.”

“No one! What do you mean?”

“It’s a fact. Bogdanoff has just passed through; he said it was
all smashed to pieces--had caught fire, and they’d abandoned it.
He went out just as the bridge fell in--right on to me--I wasn’t
touched--lucky!”

“Where’s the Admiral?”

At this moment there was another explosion quite close to me, and
something from behind hit me in the right leg. It was not hard, and I
felt no pain. I turned round to look, but none of my men were to be
seen. Were they killed, or had they gone below?

“Haven’t we any stretchers?” I heard Danchich ask anxiously.

“For whom?” I said.

“Why! for you. You’re bleeding.”

Looking down I saw that my right leg was standing in a pool of blood,
but the leg itself felt sound enough.

_It was 3 p.m._

“Can you manage to go? Stop--I’ll tell off some one to go with you,”
said Danchich, making what seemed to me an unnecessary fuss.

I was annoyed, and angrily said: “Who wants to be accompanied?” and
bravely started to go down the ladder, not realising what had happened.
When a small splinter had wounded me in the waist at the beginning of
the fight, it had hurt me; but this time I felt nothing.

Later, in the hospital, when carried there on a stretcher, I understood
why it is that during a fight one hears neither groans nor shouts. All
that comes afterwards. Apparently our feelings have strict limits
for receiving external impressions, being even deeply impressed by an
absurd sentence. A thing can be so painful that you feel nothing, so
terrible that you fear nothing.

Having passed through the upper and lower batteries, I descended
to the mess deck (under the armoured one), to the hospital, but I
involuntarily went back to the ladder.

The mess deck was full of wounded.[23] They were standing, sitting,
lying--some on mattresses put ready beforehand--some on hastily spread
tarpaulins--some on stretchers--some just anyhow. Here it was that they
first began to feel. The dreadful noise of deep sighs and half-stifled
groans was audible in the close, damp air, which smelt of something
sour and disgustingly sickly. The electric light seemed scarcely able
to penetrate this stench. Ahead somewhere, in white coats stained with
red splotches, busy figures were moving about, and towards them all
these piles of flesh, clothes, and bones turned, and in their agony
dragged themselves, expecting something from them. It seemed as if a
cry, motionless, voiceless, but intelligible, a cry which reached to
one’s very soul, a request for help, for a miracle, for relief from
suffering--though at the price of a speedy death--rose up on all sides.

I did not stop to wait my turn, and, not wishing to put myself before
others, quickly went up the ladder to the lower battery, where I met
the Flag Captain, who had his head bandaged. (He had been wounded in
the back of the neck by three splinters.)

On enquiry I learned that at the same time as the steering gear had
been injured and the flag-ship had left her place, the Admiral and
Vladimirsky were wounded in the head in the conning tower. The latter
had gone below to get his wounds dressed, and had been succeeded in
command by Bogdanoff, the third lieutenant. The Admiral’s orders were
to steer after the fleet.

The fore-bridge was struck by numerous projectiles. Splinters of
shells, which penetrated in large quantities under the mushroom-shaped
roof of the conning tower, had destroyed all the instruments in it,
and had broken the compass, but luckily the telegraph to one engine
and the voice-tube to the other were still working. The bridge had
caught fire, and the hammocks--with which we had proposed to protect
ourselves from splinters--as well as the small chart house behind the
conning tower, were also burning. The heat became unbearable, and
what was worse--the thick smoke prevented our seeing, which, without
a compass, made it impossible to keep on in any particular direction.
The only thing left for us to do was to steer from the lower fighting
position and abandon the conning tower for some place whence one could
see. At this time there were in the conning tower the Admiral, the Flag
Captain, and the Flag Navigating Officer--all three wounded; Lieutenant
Bogdanoff, Sub-Lieutenant Shishkin and one sailor apparently
uninjured. Bogdanoff was the first to come out of the tower on the port
side of the bridge, and, pluckily pushing aside the burning hammocks,
he dashed forward, disappearing into the flames, which were leaping
upward. Following after him, the Flag Captain turned to the starboard
side of the bridge, but here everything was destroyed; the ladder was
gone and there was no road. Only one way remained--below, into the
lower fighting position. With difficulty dragging aside the dead bodies
which were lying on the deck, they raised the hatch over the armoured
tube, and through it let themselves down into the lower fighting
position. Rozhdestvensky, although wounded in the head, back and
right leg (besides several small splinter wounds), bore himself most
cheerfully. From the lower fighting position the Flag Captain proceeded
to the hospital, while the Admiral--leaving here Colonel Filipinoffsky
(the Flag Navigating Officer), who was slightly wounded, with orders
that, in the absence of other instructions, he was to steer on the old
course--went off to look for a place from which he could watch the
fight.

The upper deck being a mass of burning wreckage, he was unable to pass
beyond where the ship’s ikon hung in the upper battery. From here he
tried to get through to the centre 6-inch turret on the port side,
but was unable to, so proceeded to the starboard turret. It was here
that he received the wound which caused him so much pain. (A splinter
struck his left leg, severing the main nerve and paralysing the ball
of the foot.) He was carried into the turret and seated on a box, but
he still had sufficient strength at once to ask why the turret was not
firing, and to order Kruijanoffsky, who then came up, to find the gun
captains, fall in the crews, and open fire. The turret, however, had
been damaged and would not turn. Kruijanoffsky, who had just returned
from the disabled steering gear, reported that the rudder had been
repaired, but that all three communicators with it were cut. Also there
were no means of conveying orders from the lower fighting position
to the steering gear, as voice-tubes did not exist, the electric
indicators were injured, and the telephone refused to work. It became
necessary to steer from the lower fighting position, which meant to
turn round in circles rather than to go ahead.

The events which I am relating in chronological order, and in the form
of a connected narrative were, of course, not recorded in this manner
by me, but were told me at different times and by different people.
To attempt, however, to give in detail these half-finished sentences,
interrupted suddenly by the burst of a shell close by--the jerked-out
remarks thrown at one in passing--the separate words accompanied by
gestures, more eloquent far than any words--would be impossible and
useless. At that moment, when every one’s nerves were highly strung, an
exclamation or wave of the hand took the place of many words, fully and
clearly interpreting the thought which it was desired to express. Put
on paper they would be unintelligible.

Time was measured by seconds; and there was no occasion for words.

There was no actual fire in the lower battery as yet; it was coming
from above. But through the hatches, torn funnel casings, and shot
holes in the middle deck, burning _débris_ was falling below, and here
and there small fires burst forth. The men, however, set to work, most
pluckily rigging up cover for the wireless fighting station with sacks
of coal. The trollies with the 12-pounder cartridges which had been
collected here (as the ammunition supply rails had been damaged) were
in danger of catching fire, so several had to be thrown overboard.
However, despite the difficulties in extinguishing the fire, it was at
length got under.

Besides spreading in the natural course it was assisted, of course, by
the enemy’s projectiles, which continued to rain upon us. The losses
among the crew still continued to be heavy, and I myself was wounded in
the left elbow, as well as being struck by two small splinters in the
side.



CHAPTER V


I remembered that in the event of the flag-ship leaving the line, the
torpedo-boats, _Biedovy_ and _Buistry_, were to come to her in order
to transfer the Admiral and his staff to another and uninjured ship.
In such circumstances, in order to avoid confusion, until the flag had
been transferred or until a signal had been made as to the handing over
of the command, the fleet was to be led by the ship following the one
which had fallen out of the line.

I do not presume to be able to say whether our other ships could see
that no torpedo-boats had come up to the _Suvoroff_! Whether they
could all see that no signal was possible from the battered, burning
battleship, minus funnels and masts! Whether it ought in consequence
to have been taken for granted that the command naturally devolved on
the next ship according to seniority! and whether she should in some
way or another have shown that she had taken over command! In any case
the _Alexander_ (more correctly, her captain, Bukvostoff) carried out
the orders and did her duty. After the flag-ship had fallen out of the
line, receiving no fresh instructions, she took the lead and continued
the fight.

From the time when I saw the _Alexander_ passing close to us on a
south-easterly course, she steamed for twenty minutes, gradually
inclining to the south in order to prevent the enemy from getting
ahead and crossing her T. At the same time the Japanese, elated by
their first success, again endeavoured to realise their main idea of a
concentrated attack on the leading ship, and so wrapped up were they
in this objective that they went ahead too fast, leaving nothing to
prevent the _Alexander_ passing astern in a north-easterly direction.

She immediately took advantage of this and turned sharp to the north,
calculating with luck to fall in force upon their rear and subject them
to a raking fire. The Japanese in their reports fix the time of this
movement differently; some at 2.40 P.M., others at 2.50 P.M. (the
moment of the sinking of the _Oslyabya_, which under the concentrated
fire of six of Admiral Kamimura’s armoured cruisers had left the line
even before the _Suvoroff_). According to my own calculations, the
latter time was the more likely to be correct. If the enemy’s fleet
had turned “in succession,” as it had done at the commencement of the
battle, this manœuvre of the _Alexander’s_ might have been successful,
but, realising the gravity of the moment, Togo, on this occasion,
gave the order to turn 16 points to port “together.” The manœuvre was
not altogether successful. The 1st squadron (_Mikasa_, _Shikishima_,
_Fuji_, _Asahi_, _Kasuga_, and _Nisshin_) performed it correctly, but
Kamimura, with his cruisers--probably not having made out the signal
and expecting the order to turn “in succession” on to the former
course--quickly passed our fleet as well as his own battleships (which
were on the opposite course), and masked their fire. He then had plenty
of room to turn (he turned “in succession”) and, after overtaking the
battleships, to form single column line ahead.

For a moment confusion prevailed, for which the Japanese might have
paid dearly, but owing to its condition our fleet was unable to reap
the advantage. Making full use of their speed, the Japanese not only
succeeded in righting their distances, but attained their object,
_i.e._ came out across the _Alexander’s_ course, forcing her to the
south.

Through the starboard portholes of our batteries we were now able
plainly to see the _Alexander_, which was almost on our beam and
steering straight towards us--the remainder following her. The distance
rapidly diminished, and with our glasses we could clearly see her
battered sides, broken bridges, burning cabins and spar-deck, but her
funnels and masts were still standing. After her came the _Borodino_,
burning furiously. The enemy had already succeeded in forging ahead,
and we now lay between the fleets. Our ships approached from starboard,
_i.e._ the port side of the _Suvoroff_, and we came under a hot fire.
Our forward 12-inch turret (the only one that was now serviceable) took
an active part in the fight, and no attention was paid to falling
shells. I was wounded in the left leg, but only looked down with regret
at my torn boot! We all waited, holding our breath, watching the
Japanese fire, which was apparently concentrated on the _Alexander_. At
times she seemed completely enveloped in flames and brown smoke, while
round her the sea literally boiled, throwing up great pillars of water.
Nearer and nearer she came, till the distance was scarcely 2,000 yards.
Then--one after another, we saw a whole series of shells strike her
fore-bridge and port 6-inch turret, and turning sharply to starboard
she steamed away, having almost reversed her course, while after her
went the _Borodino_, _Orel_, and others. The turn was hastily made,
being neither “in succession” nor “all together,”[24] and the line
ahead formation was not maintained. A deafening clamour resounded in
our batteries.

“They’ve given it up. They are going off. They couldn’t do it,” I heard
on all sides.

These simple folk had, of course, imagined that our fleet was returning
to the flag-ship in order to rescue her. Their disenchantment was
distressing to witness, but still more was it distressing to realise
the true significance of what had happened.

How pitiless is memory!--A scene never to be forgotten came clearly
and distinctly before my eyes--just such another scene--the same
awful picture. After Prince Utomsky’s signal on the 10th August our
battleships had steamed north-west in the same disorder and just as
hurriedly.

“They couldn’t do it!”

And the awful, fatal word, which I had not even dared to think, rang in
my brain, and seemed to be written in letters of fire on the smoke, on
the battered sides, and even on the pale, confused faces of the crew.

Bogdanoff was standing beside me. I caught his eye, and we understood
one another. He commenced to talk of it, but suddenly stopping, looked
round, and said in an unnaturally calm voice: “We seem to be heeling
over to port.”

“Yes--some 8 degrees,” I answered, and, pulling out my watch and
note-book, jotted down: “_3.25 p.m.--a heavy list to port, and a bad
fire in the upper battery._”

I often afterwards thought: why is it that we hide things from one
another and from ourselves? Why did not Bogdanoff express his thoughts
aloud? and why was it that I did not dare to write even in my own
note-book the cheerless word “_Defeat_”? Perhaps within us there still
existed some dim hope of a miracle, of some kind of surprise which
would change everything? I do not know.

After the _Alexander_ had turned, the enemy’s ships also turned
16 points “together,” and this time the manœuvre was successfully
performed--so successfully, in fact, that it seemed as if they were
merely at drill and not in action.

Steering on an opposite course, they passed under our bows, and from
the _Suvoroff_ it seemed as if we could almost cut into their column.
We inclined to starboard after our fleet. (This was, of course, only
imagination, for, not being able to steer by surrounding objects but
only by compass in the lower fighting position, we were in reality
not moving ahead, but were only turning to starboard and to port;
remaining almost in the same place.) In passing close to us, the enemy
did not miss his opportunity of concentrating his fire on the obstinate
ship which refused to sink, and it was, apparently, now that our last
turret, the forward 12-inch, was destroyed. According to Japanese
reports their torpedo-boats came up at the same time as their fleet and
attacked us unsuccessfully, but I did not see them.

A shell entered the gun port of the fourth (from the bows) 12-pounder
gun of the lower battery on the port side, and it was a lucky shot, for
in addition to carrying away the gun it penetrated the armoured deck.
The water poured into the damaged port, and being unable to run back on
account of the list to port, fell through this hole into the mess deck,
which was most dangerous.

Bogdanoff was the first to call attention to it, and we at once started
to make some kind of an obstacle out of coal sacks, and anything else
that was handy, so as to cover the hole and stop the water getting in.
I say “we,” because the few hands left in the battery could not be
brought to obey orders. They huddled in corners in a sort of stupor,
and we had almost to drag them out by force, and were obliged to work
ourselves to set them an example. We were joined by Flag Torpedo
Officer Lieutenant Leontieff and Demchinsky, but the latter could only
encourage us with words, as both his wrists were bandaged.

_At 3.40 p.m._ a cheer broke out in the battery, which was taken up
all over the vessel, but we were unable to ascertain what had caused
it or whence it had originated. Rumour had it that one of the enemy’s
ships had been seen to sink; some even said two--not one. Whatever may
have been the truth, this cheering had the effect of quickly changing
the feeling on board, and the depression from which we had been
suffering, both on account of the fire which we had seen poured into
the _Alexander_, and because of the departure of the fleet, vanished.
Men who had been skulking in corners, deaf to the commands and even
requests of their officers, now came running to us asking: “Where could
they be of use, and what at?” They even joked and laughed: “Hullo!
that’s only a 6-inch! No more ‘portmanteaus’ now!”

Sure enough, since the enemy’s main body had steamed off, we had only
been subjected to the fire of Admiral Dewa’s light cruisers, which, in
comparison to what we had been under before, was almost imperceptible.

Commander V. V. Ignatzius had remained below after the second wound in
his head had been dressed, and, unable to restrain himself at such a
moment, paying no heed to the doctors, he ran up the ladder into the
battery, shouting: “Follow me, lads! To the fire--to the fire! we have
only got to get it under!”

Various non-combatants in the mess deck (belonging to the hospital),
and men who were slightly wounded and had gone down to get their wounds
dressed, doubled after him. A chance shot struck the hatchway, and when
the smoke cleared away neither ladder, nor Commander, nor men with him,
were in existence!

But even this bloody episode did not damp the men’s ardour. It was only
one in a hundred others.

In the lower battery where, owing to insufficiency of hands, fires
momentarily became more numerous, men came, and work went merrily.
Of the ship’s officers, besides Bogdanoff, there came Lieutenant
Vuiruboff, junior torpedo officer, a robust-looking youth, who, in an
unbuttoned coat, rushed about everywhere giving the lead, while his
shout of “Tackle it! Stick to it!” resounding amongst smoke and flames,
gave strength to the workers. Zotoff came for a short time; he was
wounded in the left side and arm. Prince Tsereteli looked out from the
mess deck, asking how things were going. Kozakevitch was carried past,
wounded a second time, and now dangerously. My servant, Matrosoff,
appeared and almost dragged me by force to the dressing station. I got
rid of him with difficulty, telling him to go at once to my cabin and
get me some cigarettes.

“Very good, sir!” he said, going off as he was bid, and we did not meet
again.

“To the guns! Torpedo-boats astern! To the guns!” was shouted on deck.

It was easy to say, “To the guns!” but of the twelve 12-pounder guns in
the lower battery only one, on the starboard side, was now serviceable,
and there was no chance of using it. The torpedo-boats carefully came
up from astern (according to the Japanese, this was about 4.20 P.M.),
but in the light gun battery aft (behind the ward-room) there was still
one uninjured 12-pounder. Maximoff, a volunteer, on whom the command of
the battery had devolved after the officers had fallen, opened a hot
fire, and the torpedo-boats, seeing that this strange-looking, battered
vessel could still show her teeth, steamed off to wait for a more
favourable opportunity.

This event suggested to me the idea of noting the means we had with
which to protect ourselves against torpedo attack, or, more properly,
to what degree of helplessness we had arrived. There were in the lower
battery about fifty men of the crew--all of various ratings. Among
them, however, were two gun captains. Of the guns, only one was really
serviceable, though the gun captains proposed to “repair” another by
substituting for its injured parts pieces from the other ten which were
quite unserviceable. There was also Maximoff’s gun in the stern light
gun battery.

Having finished my inspection of the lower battery I went through
the upper to the forward light gun battery (not one of the turrets
was fit for action), and I was struck with the picture it presented,
illustrating, more clearly than I had yet seen, the action of the
enemy’s projectiles.

There were no fires; everything that could ignite had already been
burned. The four 12-pounder guns had been torn off their mountings,
and in vain I looked on them for marks of direct hits. None could be
seen. The havoc had clearly been caused by the force of the explosion,
and not by the impact of the shell. How was this? Neither mines nor
pyroxylene were stored in the battery, so the enemy’s shells must have
exploded with the force of mines.

To my readers, walking about the crippled wreck of a ship like this
and inspecting the damage done may appear strange, but it must be
remembered that a peculiar, even extraordinary condition of affairs
prevailed on board. “So fearful as not to be in the least terrible.”
To every one it was perfectly clear that all was over. Neither past or
future existed. We lived only in the actual moment, and were possessed
with an overpowering desire to do something, no matter what.

Having again gone down to the lower battery, I was proceeding to the
stern light gun battery, which I wished to inspect, when I met Kursel.

Verner von Kursel, a Courlandian by birth, and a general favourite
with every one in the _Suvoroff’s_ ward-room, had been in the merchant
service almost since his cradle, and could speak every language in
Europe, though he was equally bad at all of them. When they chaffed him
about this in the ward-room he used to say quite seriously: “I think
that I’m better at German than any other!”[25] He had seen and been
through so much that he never lost his presence of mind, and nothing
prevented him meeting his friends with a pleasant smile.

And so now, nodding his head to me in the distance, he cheerily asked:

“Well! How are you passing the time?”

“Badly,” I answered.

“Oh! that’s it, is it? They don’t seem able to hit me yet, but I see
that you have been wounded.”

“I was.”

“Where are you off to?”

“To have a look at the light guns in the stern and get some cigarettes
from my cabin; I have smoked all I had.”

“To your cabin?” and Kursel grinned. “I have just come from there, I’ll
go with you.”

Indeed, he seemed likely to be a useful companion, as he knew the most
sheltered way.

Having got as far as the officers’ quarters, I stopped in amazement.
Where my cabin and the two adjoining ones had been was an enormous
hole! Kursel laughed heartily, thoroughly enjoying his joke, but
growing angry I waved my hand and quickly retraced my steps. Kursel
overtook me in the battery and offered me a cigar.

The fires in the lower battery had all been got under and, encouraged
by this success, we determined to try our luck in the upper battery.
Two firemen produced some new half-made hoses; one end of them we
fastened to the water-main with wire, and the other we tied to the
nozzle. Then, armed with these and using damp sacks to protect us from
the flames, we leaned out through the church hatch whence, having
succeeded after some little time in putting the fire out which had been
burning in the dressing station we were able to go into the upper
battery. All hands worked splendidly, and we soon had extinguished the
fire in the part assigned to the church. Then another fire started
abaft the centre 6-inch turrets--the place which had been selected, on
account of its being protected, for putting the cartridge boxes of the
47-millimetre guns taken down from the bridges. Their removal had been
well ordered, for no sooner had we set about extinguishing the fire
which was now raging near them than they began to explode. Several of
the men fell killed and wounded, and great confusion at once ensued.

“It’s nothing--it will cease in a moment,” said Kursel.

But explosions became more and more frequent. The new hoses were
destroyed, one after the other, and then, suddenly, quite close, there
was a loud crash, accompanied with the ring of tearing iron. This was
not a 6-inch shell, but the “portmanteaus” again. The men became seized
with panic, and, listening to nothing and nobody, rushed below.

When we went down into the lower battery, bitterly disappointed at our
want of luck just when things seemed beginning to go so well, something
(it must have been a splinter of some kind) struck me in the side and I
staggered.

“Wounded again?” enquired Kursel, taking his cigar out of his mouth and
leaning tenderly over me.

I looked at him and thought: “Ah! if only the whole fleet were composed
of men as cool as you are!”



CHAPTER VI


Meanwhile, having turned abruptly away from the _Suvoroff_, our fleet
had steamed off, gradually inclining to starboard so as not to give the
Japanese a chance of crossing its T, which they evidently were trying
to do. The consequence was that both belligerents moved on the arcs of
two concentric circles. Ours on the smaller--the Japanese on the larger.

_About 4 p.m._ it seemed as if fortune for the last time was
endeavouring to smile upon us. In the midst of the thick smoke which
was pouring from the damaged funnels, from the guns which were in
action, and from the fires on board, and which mingled with the mist
still lying on the water, the enemy’s main force seemed to separate
from and lose sight of ours. Japanese reports, of which I have availed
myself, comment very briefly and somewhat obscurely on this event.
Nothing is clear save that Togo, believing our fleet was somehow
breaking through to the north, went thither in search of it. Kamimura
being of a different opinion proceeded with his cruisers in a south and
south-westerly direction. At least, the above will alone explain the
glowing panegyrics which I find in the reports entitled “The Prowess of
Admiral Kamimura.” If it had not been for this “prowess,” possibly the
fight would have ended on 27th May, and our fleet would have had time
to close up and recover.

Steering on a south and afterwards south-westerly course, Kamimura
heard a heavy cannonade proceeding to the west. He accordingly hastened
there to find Admiral Kataoka attacking (till now with little success)
our cruisers and transports. Kamimura, commencing to take an active
part in the fight, then came upon our main body, which, having almost
described a circle with a 5-mile diameter, was returning to the spot
where the _Alexander_ had made her abrupt turn, and round which the
_Suvoroff_ was so helplessly wandering.

_It was about 5 p.m._

I was standing with Kursel in the lower battery smoking and talking of
subjects, not in any way connected with the fight, when suddenly we
seemed to be in the midst of the fleet, which, devoid of all formation,
was moving northwards. Some ships passed to starboard--some to
port--the _Borodino_--Captain Serebryanikoff--leading. The _Alexander_,
badly battered and with a heavy list--lying so low that the water
almost came into the portholes of the lower battery--was still
fighting, firing with such of her guns as were serviceable. I did not
see her, but was told that the whole of her bows, from the stem to the
12-inch turret, were torn open.

Having closed up to the main body, the cruisers and transports steamed
astern and somewhat to port--attacked by detachments of Admiral
Kataoko’s squadron. (In addition to Kataoko himself, Admirals Dewa,
Uriu, and Togo junior were also there.) Kamimura remained further to
starboard, _i.e._ to the east--also heading for the north.

“Portmanteaus” were still raining on us. Word had been received from
the engine-room that the men were being suffocated and rapidly falling
out, as the ventilators were bringing down smoke instead of air; soon
there would be no men left to work the engines! Meanwhile, the electric
light grew dim, and it was reported from the dynamo engines that steam
was scarce.

“Torpedo-boats ahead!”

We rushed to our only gun (the other had been found to be past repair),
but it turned out to be the _Buiny_, which happened to be passing us,
and was on her own initiative coming alongside the crippled battleship
to enquire if she could be of any assistance.

Kruijanoffsky was ordered by the flag-captain, who was standing on
the embrasure, to semaphore to her (with his arms) to “take off the
Admiral.”

I was watching the _Buiny’s_ movements from the battery, when suddenly
the Admiral’s messenger, Peter Poochkoff, hastened towards me.

“Please come to the turret, sir! a torpedo-boat has come alongside, but
the Admiral won’t leave.”

I ought to mention here that Rozhdestvensky had not been to the
dressing station, and none of us knew how badly he was wounded because,
to all enquiries when he was hit, he angrily replied that it was only
a trifle. He still remained sitting on the box in the turret, where he
had been placed.

At times he would look up to ask how the battle was progressing,
and then would again sit silently, with his eyes on the ground.
Considering, however, the state the ship was in, what else could he do?
His conduct seemed most natural, and it never occurred to us that these
questions were merely momentary flashes of energy--short snatches of
consciousness.

On the arrival of the torpedo-boat being reported, he pulled himself
together, and gave the order to “Collect the staff,”[26] with perfect
clearness, but afterwards, he only frowned, and would listen to nothing.

Assisted by Kursel I crept through the open half-port of the lower
battery, out on to the starboard embrasure in front of the centre
6-inch turret. I was in need of help, as my right leg had become very
painful, and I could only limp on the heel of my left.

The boatswain and some sailors were at work on the embrasure, sweeping
overboard the burning _débris_ which had fallen from the spar-deck
above. Lying off our starboard bow, and some three or four cables
distant, was the _Kamchatka_. Kamimura’s cruisers were pouring as heavy
a fire into her as into us, but she was an easier victim.

The _Buiny_ kept close alongside, dancing up and down. Her Captain,
Kolomeytseff, shouting through his speaking trumpet, asked: “Have you
a boat in which to take off the Admiral? We haven’t!” To this the flag
Captain and Kruijanoffsky made some reply. I looked at the turret. Its
armoured door was damaged and refused to open properly, so that it
was very doubtful if anything as big as a man could get through. The
Admiral was sitting huddled up, with his eyes on the ground; his head
was bandaged in a blood-stained towel.

“Sir, the torpedo-boat is alongside! we must go,” I said.

“Call Filipinoffsky,” he replied, without moving.

Rozhdestvensky evidently intended to lead the fleet after hoisting his
flag on another ship, and therefore wanted to have with him the flag
navigating officer, who was responsible for the dead-reckoning and
safety of manœuvres.

“He will be here in a minute; they have gone for him.” The Admiral
merely shook his head.

I have not laid stress on the fact that before transferring him to
another ship it was necessary to try and arrange some means of getting
him there.

Kursel, with the boatswain and two or three sailors, had got hold of
some half-burned hammocks and rope from the upper battery, and with
these had begun to lash together something in the shape of a raft on
which to lower the Admiral into the water and put him on board the
torpedo-boat. It was risky, but nothing else was to hand.

The raft was ready. Filipinoffsky appeared, and I hurried to the turret.

“Come out, sir! Filipinoffsky is here.”

Rozhdestvensky gazed at us, shaking his head, and not uttering a
syllable.

“I don’t want to. No.”

We were at a loss how to proceed.

“What are you staring at?” suddenly said Kursel. “Carry him; can’t you
see he is badly wounded?”

It seemed as if it was only for these words and the impulse they
supplied for which we were waiting. There was a hum of voices and
much bustling about. Some forcing their way into the turret, took
hold of the Admiral by his arms and raised him up, but no sooner had
he put his left leg to the ground than he groaned and completely lost
consciousness. It was the best thing that could have happened.

“Bring him along! Bring him along! Splendid! Easy now! the devil! Take
him along the side! Get to the side, can’t you? Stop--something’s
cracking! What? his coat is being torn! Carry him along!” were the
anxious shouts one heard on all sides. Having taken off the Admiral’s
coat, they dragged him with the greatest difficulty through the narrow
opening of the jammed door out on to the after embrasure, and were just
proceeding to fasten him to the raft, when Kolomeytseff did, what a man
does only once in his life, and then when inspired. My readers who are
landsmen will not realise all the danger of what we were to attempt,
but sailors will easily understand the risk. Kolomeytseff brought his
vessel alongside and to windward of the mutilated battleship, out of
whose battered gun ports stuck her crippled guns, and from whose side
projected the broken booms of her torpedo-nets.[27] Dancing up and down
on the waves the torpedo-boat at one moment rose till her deck was
almost on a level with the embrasure, then rapidly sank away below;
next moment she was carried away, and then again was seen struggling
towards us, being momentarily in danger of staving in her thin side
against one of the many projections from this motionless mass.

The Admiral was carried hurriedly from the after to the bow embrasure,
along the narrow gangway between the turrets and the battered side
of the upper battery. From here, off the backs of the men who were
standing by the open half-port, holding on to the side, he was lowered
down, almost thrown, on board the torpedo-boat, at a moment when she
rose on a wave and swung towards us.[28]

“Hurrah! the Admiral is on board!” shouted Kursel, waving his cap.

“Hurrah!” cheered every one.

How I, with my wounded legs, boarded her, I don’t remember. I can only
recollect that, lying on the hot engine-room hatch between the funnels,
I gazed at the _Suvoroff_, unable to take my eyes off her. It was one
of those moments which are indelibly impressed upon the mind.

Our position alongside the _Suvoroff_ was extremely dangerous, as,
besides the risk of being crushed, we might, at any moment, have been
sunk by a shell, for the Japanese still poured in a hot fire upon both
the flag-ship and the _Kamchatka_. Several of the _Buiny’s_ crew had
already been killed and wounded with splinters, and a lucky shot might
at any moment send us to the bottom.

“Push off quickly!” shouted Kursel from the embrasure.

“Push off--push off--don’t waste a moment--don’t drown the Admiral!”
bawled Bogdanoff, leaning over the side and shaking his fist at our
captain.

“Push off--push off!” repeated the crew, looking out of the battery
ports and waving their caps.

Choosing a moment when she was clear of the side, Kolomeytseff gave the
order “Full speed astern.”

Farewell shouts reached us from the _Suvoroff_. I say from the
“_Suvoroff_,” but who would have recognised the, till recently,
formidable battleship in this crippled mass, which was now enveloped in
smoke and flames?

Her mainmast was cut in half. Her foremast and both funnels had been
completely carried away, while her high bridges and galleries had
been rent in pieces, and instead of them shapeless piles of distorted
iron were heaped upon the deck. She had a heavy list to port, and, in
consequence of it, we could see the hull under the water-line on her
starboard side reddening the surface of the water, while great tongues
of fire were leaping out of numerous rents.

We rapidly steamed away, followed by a brisk fire from those of the
enemy’s ships which had noticed our movements.

_It was 5.30 p.m._

As I have previously remarked, up to the last moment in the _Suvoroff_
we none of us were aware of the nature of the Admiral’s wounds, and,
therefore, the immediate question on board the _Buiny_ was, which ship
was he to board in order to continue in command of the fleet? When,
however, the surgeon, Peter Kudinoff, came to render first aid, we at
once learned of how the matter lay, for Kudinoff declared that his life
was in danger; that he was suffering from fracture of the skull--a
portion of it having entered his brain--and that any jolt might
have fatal results. Taking into consideration the condition of the
weather--a fresh breeze and a fairly heavy swell--he said it would be
impossible to transfer him to another ship. Moreover, he was unable to
stand, and his general condition, loss of power and memory, wandering,
and short flashes of consciousness, rendered him incapable of any
action.

From the _Buiny’s_ engine-room hatch, on which I had chanced to take
up my position on going aboard, I proceeded to the bridge, but found
that I was not able to stand here because of the rolling, and could
only lie. However, while lying down, I was so in the way of those on
duty that the Commander advised me in as nice a way as possible to go
elsewhere--to the hospital.

We were now overtaking the fleet, and the flag Captain decided that
before making any signal, we must in spite of above consult the
Admiral, and this was entrusted to me. Picking my way astern with great
difficulty, I went down the ladder and looked into the Captain’s
cabin. The surgeon had finished dressing the Admiral’s wounds, and the
latter was lying motionless in a hammock with half-closed eyes. But he
was still conscious.

On my asking him if he felt strong enough to continue in command, and
what ship he wished to board, he turned towards me with an effort, and
for a while seemed trying to remember something.

“No--where am I? You can see--command--Nebogatoff,” he muttered
indistinctly, and then, with a sudden burst of energy, added, “Keep on
Vladivostok--course N.23°E.,” and again relapsed into a stupor.

Having sent his reply to the flag Captain (I don’t remember by
whom, but I think it was by Leontieff) I intended to remain in the
ward-room, but there was no room. All the cabins and even the upper
deck were full of men, as, before coming to the _Suvoroff_, the _Buiny_
had picked up over 200 men at the spot where the _Oslyabya_ sank.
Amongst them were wounded sailors who had been swimming about in the
salt water, and others who, when taken up, had been half drowned. The
latter, contracted with cramp, and racked with tormenting coughs and
pains in their chests, seemed with their bluish faces to be in a worse
plight than the most badly wounded.

Passing on to the upper deck I seated myself on a box by the ladder to
the officers’ quarters.

Signals were fluttering from our mast and orders were being given by
semaphore to the torpedo-boats, _Bezuprechny_ and _Biedovy_, which
were now close up to us.[29] We had already caught up the fleet and
were steaming, together with the transports, which were covered, ahead
and to starboard, by our cruisers. Still further to starboard, and
some 30 cables off, was our main force. The _Borodino_ was leading,
and after her came the _Orel_; but the _Alexander_ was nowhere to be
seen.[30] In the distance, still further off, could dimly be made out
in the dusk, which was now rapidly creeping on, the silhouettes of the
Japanese ships--steaming parallel to us. The flashes of their guns
twinkled incessantly along the line, but the stubborn fight was not
yet at an end!

Alongside of me I recognised an officer of the _Oslyabya_, and asked
him what had actually caused his ship to sink?

Waving his arm in a helpless sort of way, and in a voice full of
disgust, he jerked out: “How? it’s not very pleasant to remember.
Absolutely no luck, that’s what sunk her. Nothing but bad luck! They
shot straight enough--but it wasn’t shooting. It wasn’t skill either.
It was luck--infernal luck! Three shells, one after the other, almost
in the same identical spot--Imagine it! All of them in the same place!
All on the water-line under the forward turret! Not a hole--but a
regular gateway! Three of them penetrated her together. She almost
heeled over at once--then settled under the water. A tremendous rush
of water and the partitions were naturally useless. The devil himself
couldn’t have done anything!” he hysterically exclaimed, and, covering
his face with his hands, went on deck.

_About 7 p.m._ the enemy’s torpedo-boats appeared across the course on
which our main force was steering, but rapidly drew off as our cruisers
opened fire on them.

“Perhaps they’ve laid mines!” I thought to myself, and turned on my
box, trying to make myself more easy.

“The _Borodino_! Look! the _Borodino_!” was shouted on all sides.

I raised myself, as quickly as possible on my arm, but where the
_Borodino_ had been nothing was visible save a patch of white foam!

_It was 7.10 p.m._

The enemy’s fleet having turned sharply to starboard, bore off to
the east, and in its place was a group of torpedo-boats, which now
surrounded us in a semicircle from the north, east, and west. Preparing
to receive their attacks from astern, our cruisers, and we after
them, gradually inclined to port,--and then bore almost direct to the
west--straight towards the red sky. (There was no compass near me.)

_At 7.40 p.m._ I still was able to see our battleships, steaming
astern of us devoid of formation, and defending themselves from the
approaching torpedo-boats by firing. _This was my last note._

Feeling weak from loss of blood and from the inflammation of my wounds,
which were dirty and had not been bandaged, I began to shiver. My head
swam, and I went below to get help.

And what of the _Suvoroff_? This is how a Japanese report describes her
last moments:

    “In the dusk, when our cruisers were driving the enemy northwards,
    they came upon the _Suvoroff_ alone, at some distance from the
    fight, heeling over badly and enveloped in flames and smoke. The
    division (Captain-Lieutenant Fudzimoto) of torpedo-boats, which was
    with our cruisers, was at once sent to attack her. Although much
    burned and still on fire--although she had been subjected to so
    many attacks, having been fired at by all the fleet (in the full
    sense of the word)--although she had only one serviceable gun--she
    still opened fire, showing her determination to defend herself to
    the last moment of her existence--so long, in fact, as she remained
    above water. At length, about 7 P.M., after our torpedo-boats had
    twice attacked her, she went to the bottom.”


    TO THE EVERLASTING MEMORY OF THE HEROES WHO PERISHED!



COMPOSITION OF THE OPPOSING FLEETS.


RUSSIAN. JAPANESE.

  1st Armoured Squadron.             1st Squadron.
    _Knyaz Suvoroff._ (_Flag._)        _Mikasa._ (_Flag._)
    _Imperator Alexander._             _Shikishima._
    _Borodino._                        _Fuji._
    _Orel._                            _Asahi._
                                       _Kasuga._
                                       _Nisshin._

  2nd Armoured Squadron.             2nd Squadron.
    _Oslyabya._                        _Idzumo._
    _Sissoy Veliki._                   _Yakumo._
    _Navarin._                         _Asama._
    _Admiral Nakhimoff._               _Adzuma._
                                       _Tokiwa._
                                       _Iwate._

  3rd Armoured Squadron.
    _Imperator Nicolay._
    _Admiral Senyavin._
    _Admiral Apraxin._
    _Admiral Ushakoff._


  CRUISERS

  Cruiser Squadron.                  3rd Squadron.
    _Oleg._
    _Aurora._                        1st Division.
    _Dmitri Donskoy._                  _Itsukushima._
    _Vladimir Monomakh._               _Matsushima._
                                       _Hasidate._
                                       _Chin Yen._

                                     2nd Division.
                                       _Suma._
                                       _Chiyoda._
                                       _Idzumi._
                                       _Akitsushu._

                                     3rd Division.
                                       _Kasagi_
                                       _Chitose._
                                       _Otawa._
                                       _Niitaka._

                                     4th Division.
                                       _Naniwa._
                                       _Takachiho._
  Scout Division.                      _Tsushima._
    _Svietlana._                       _Akashi._


  AUXILIARY CRUISERS.

    _Almaz._                           16 Cruisers.
    _Ural._


  CRUISERS DETAILED FOR CO-OPERATION WITH TORPEDO-BOATS.

    _Zemtchug._                        _Toyohashi._
    _Izumrud._                         _Maya._
                                       _Takao._
                                       _Chihaya._
                                       _Tatsuta._
                                       _Uji._
                                       _Yaeyama._
                                       _Chokai._
                                       _Yamato._
                                       _Tsukushi._


  DESTROYERS AND TORPEDO-BOATS.

  9 Destroyers.                        25 Destroyers.
                                       12 Torpedo-Boats, 1st Class.
                                       55 Torpedo-Boats, 2nd Class.
                                       18 Torpedo-Boats, 3rd Class.


  PRINTED AT THE EDINBURGH PRESS
  9 AND 11 YOUNG STREET.



FOOTNOTES


[1] These cruisers had no armour protection for their guns.

[2] All, except the naval transports carrying war stores, were left at
Shanghai.--A.B.L.

[3] Evidently the _Oslyabya_ was omitted by a printer’s error. She
should come in as the fifth ship, _i.e._ after the _Orel_, and leading
the 2nd armoured squadron.--A.B.L.

[4] Cruel irony! We were attempting to force our way through to our
_base_, and had been ordered to take with us, if possible, everything
in the way of materials and supplies that we might require, so as not
to overtax it. The railway was only able with difficulty to supply the
army, and we were under no circumstances to count upon its help.

[5] “Together” has a literal meaning: the ships all change direction
simultaneously to the same side and at the same angle. By doing this
they take up a new formation, parallel to their former line, and to
starboard or to port of it, moving ahead or not according to the size
of the angle of turning. Shortly after changing direction the order is
again given to turn “together” at the same angle, but to the opposite
side, and the ships thus find themselves once more in single column
line ahead, but at some distance to starboard or to port of their
original course.

“Together” is the direct opposite to “in succession,” when each ship
changes direction as she comes to the spot in which the leading ship
has turned--_i.e._ follows her.

[6] “Samotopy” literally “self-sinkers.”--A.B.L.

[7] Admiral Nebogatoff, with the 3rd squadron, joined the main fleet on
9th May.--A.B.L.

[8] A play upon the words. The Russian translation of “presentiment” is
“feeling before.”--A.B.L.

[9] Fate had not been kind to us. The _Terek_ and _Kuban_ met no one
all the time that they were there, and no one knew of their presence in
those waters.

[10] Verbatim in the context.--A.B.L.

[11] According to Japanese reports, Togo, who was stationed with his
main body somewhere off Fusan, was at this time in complete ignorance
of our whereabouts and was waiting for news from both north and south.

[12] A point = 11¼°.

[13] At Port Arthur the long Japanese shells of big calibre guns were
nicknamed (“chemodani”) “portmanteaus.” Indeed, what else could you
call a shell, a foot in diameter and more than 4 feet long, filled with
explosive?

[14] A flag-sub-lieutenant.

[15] Japanese officers said that after Port Arthur had capitulated,
while waiting for the Baltic fleet, they worked up to their high state
of preparation as follows:--At target practice every gun captain fired
five live shells out of his gun. New guns were afterwards substituted
for those worn out.

[16] According to thoroughly trustworthy reports, the Japanese in the
battle of Tsu-shima were the first to employ a new kind of explosive
in their shells, the secret of which they bought during the war from
its inventor, a colonel in one of the South American Republics. It was
said that these shells could only be used in guns of large calibre in
the armoured squadrons, and that is how those of our ships engaged with
Admiral Kataoka’s squadron did not suffer the same amount of damage,
or have so many fires, as the ships engaged with the battleships and
armoured cruisers. Very convincing proofs of this were the cases of the
_Svietlana_ and _Donskoy_. On 28th May the former was subjected to the
fire of two light cruisers, and the latter to the fire of five. In the
first place, both were able to hold out for a considerable time, and
in the second (and this is most important), they did not catch fire,
although on both ships--the _Donskoy_, which was one of the older type,
and the _Svietlana_, which was like a yacht--there was considerably
more combustible material than on the newer type of battleship.

For a great many years in naval gunnery two distinct ideas have
prevailed--one is to inflict on the enemy, although not necessarily
much (in quantity), severe and heavy damage--_i.e._ to stop
movement--to penetrate under the water-line--to get a burst in the hull
below the water-line--briefly, to put the ship at once out of action.
The other is to pour upon him the greatest volume of fire in the
shortest time--though it be above water and the actual damage caused by
each individual shot be immaterial--in the hope of paralysing the ship,
trusting that if this were done it would not be difficult to destroy
her completely--that she would, in fact, sink by herself.

With modern guns, in order to secure the first of the above ideas,
solid armour-penetrating projectiles must be employed--_i.e._
thick-coated shells (whose internal capacity and bursting charge is
consequently diminished), and percussion fuzes with retarded action,
bursting the shell inside the target. To secure the second idea shells
need only be sufficiently solid to ensure their not bursting at the
moment of being fired. The thickness of their walls may be reduced to
the minimum, and their internal capacity and bursting charge increased
to the utmost limits. The percussion fuses should be sensitive enough
to detonate at the slightest touch.

The first of the above views prevails chiefly in France, the second in
England. In the late war we held the first, and the Japanese the second.

[17] A colonel of the marine artillery--flag gunnery officer.

[18] By the Admiral’s order the iron oil drums, instead of being thrown
away, had been converted into buckets, and these home-made contrivances
were placed about the decks.

[19] In the Battle of Tsu-shima the Japanese losses were:

  Killed                   113
  Dangerously wounded      139
  Severely wounded         243
  Slightly wounded          42

These figures are sufficiently eloquent, even allowing for the reports
of Japanese officers to be somewhat partial. Almost half of the
casualties (252 out of 537) were killed and dangerously wounded, the
other half were severely and slightly wounded--less than 8 per cent.
The total number was insignificant. Our shells evidently either never
burst, or burst badly, _i.e._ in a few large pieces. The Japanese
bursting charge was seven times stronger than ours, and consisted not
of pyroxylene, but of shimose (and perhaps of something still more
powerful). Shimose, on exploding, raises the temperature one and a half
times higher than pyroxylene. In fact, one might say that a Japanese
shell bursting well did as much damage as twelve of ours bursting
equally well. And this ours rarely succeeded in doing!

[20] The ships nearest to us reported afterwards that the armoured
shield on our after turret had been blown right up above the bridges,
and then was seen to fall crumpled up on to the poop. What had actually
happened was not known.

[21] In order to establish a connection between the facts which I
personally saw and noted down, and in order to be able to explain
the Japanese movements, I shall have recourse to sources which can
hardly be suspected of partiality towards us. I refer to two Japanese
official publications which are both entitled “Nippon-Kai Tai-Kai-Sen”
(“The Great Battle in the Sea of Japan”). The books are illustrated by
a number of photographs and plans taken at different moments of the
fight, and contain the reports of various ships and detachments. A
few quite immaterial differences in description of detail by various
witnesses have not been removed, as they only give the stamp of truth
to the publication.

I must request my readers to excuse the heavy, and at times incoherent
language introduced by me in these quotations. The reason for this
is my wish to keep as near as possible to the original, and, in the
construction of its sentences, Japanese is totally different to any
European language.

[22] In a ship there is no proper church compartment. The church is
only rigged when a service is to be held.

[23] There were probably more here than in the whole of the Japanese
fleet.

[24] Whether this turn was intentional or accidental, owing to the
damage done to her steering communicators, will for ever remain a
secret.

[25] Courland is one of the Baltic Provinces where German is
spoken.--A.B.L.

[26] Of all the wounded members of the staff, who were below, under the
armoured deck, it was only possible to “collect” two--Filipinoffsky and
Leontieff. The former was in the lower fighting position, which was
hermetically separated from the mess deck, and received a current of
fresh air through the armoured tube of the conning tower. (All the same
he had to sit by candle light, as the lamps had gone out.) The latter
was at the exit hatch. The mess deck was in darkness (the electric
light had gone out) and was full of suffocating smoke. Hurrying along
to find the staff, we called them by name; but received no answers. The
silence of the dead reigned in that smoky darkness, and it is probable
that all who were in the closed compartments under the armoured deck,
where the ventilators took smoke instead of air, gradually becoming
suffocated, lost consciousness and died. The engines had ceased to
work. The electric light had given out for want of steam; and no one
came up from below. Of the 900 men composing the complement of the
_Suvoroff_, it would not be far wrong to say that, at this time there
remained alive only those few who were gathered together in the lower
battery and on the windward embrasure.

[27] It was impossible to come up on the leeward side, because of the
smoke and flames.

[28] He was transferred to the _Biedovy_ on the morning of 28th
May.--A.B.L.

[29] The _Bezuprechny_ was ordered to go to the _Nicolay_ and to give
(by semaphore) the late commander’s instructions to the new, _i.e._
Nebogatoff. The _Biedovy_ was sent to the _Suvoroff_ to take off the
remainder of her complement, but the flag-ship could not be found.

[30] She had gone down about 5.30 P.M.



Transcriber’s Notes


Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained.

The Diagram of Movements referenced in the Contents is not available.





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