Friday, 26 February 2010

Pre-Dreadnought Photos: Part 7

Another instalment in the series of views of Pre-Dreadnought Era ships that I have collected, this time with a look at various Russian ships from the war in 1904/5.

To kick off, we have an interesting postcard view of the notorious "Dogger Bank Incident", October 21st 1904, when the flotilla of ships of the Baltic Fleet under Admiral Rozhestventski, quite frankly, lost the plot whilst transiting the North Sea, and opened fire on thirty fishing trawlers out of Hull, mistaking them for Japanese Torpedo Boats!

Loose stories at the time, picked up by subsequent historians, blame the captain of the supply ship Kamchatka for drunkenly mistaking a passing Swedish ship for an attacker, and spreading his panic to the whole fleet, which then plunged into alarm, and engaged the innocent trawlers. The British ship Crane was sunk, killing two, and on other boats a further six were wounded, one of whom later died.
How accurate and truthful this account of the cause of the initial confusion was, I think is difficult to judge, but it is interesting in that it attests to the level of fear and consternation the recent naval successes of the Japanese had caused.

The Russians themselves did not get off lightly, in that they expended hundreds of shells, many of which were directed at each other, particularly the Cruiser Aurora, which had one man killed, and was damaged. In terms of disastrous military SNAFUs, it would almost be comical, if not for the needless civilian deaths, which make it a tragedy that was to be a precursor for the later disaster of Tsushima.

The card itself has a postmark of November 16th, 1904, so it tells of the level of outrage felt in Britain, that could see such a depiction produced and circulated so quickly.

In the wake of the incident, the Home Fleet was put on high alert, and a Cruiser squadron was despatched to shadow the Russians until they cleared the English Channel.
This obviously has good prospects of being a 'what-if' scenario in terms of wargaming, and there is also the interesting fact that it is just possible that Japanese Naval personnel and vessels were probably present in Britain at the time, with the amount of them that were built at Elswick on the Tyne......

Another postcard view next, this being a German depiction of the destruction of the Light Cruiser Boyarin by Japanese Torpedo Boats. We have to take this artist's impression with a pinch of salt, in that the ship was actually struck twice by Russian mines off Dalny, so was rather an own goal, more than the result of such dramatic enemy action!

The colour scheme is probably not accurate either, in as much as it is likely that she had been repainted in the lovely green scheme so beloved of Russo-Japanese War gamers; see here:

Anyway, as a postcard, it is an interesting piece of contemporary reportage, 1905 style!

Moving on to some real photographic views, we have a cracking picture of the Battleship Sissoi Veliki, which of course had done service during the Boxer Rebellion naval campaign, but was soldiering on in 1905, until her demise at Tsushima:

There is an absolutely fascinating article by Keith Allen, looking at the technical differences between the Russian and Japanese Fleets, which give a useful insight into the conflict here:

Next, another veteran of the Boxer Rebellion, the modern Armoured Cruiser Rossiya, seen here in an RJW colours scheme, less romantic than the black or white, but illustrative of this turning point for modern naval warfare:

Harking back to the good old days, another veteran, this time the Cruiser Rurik. Resplendent in the older scheme, a ship that definitely, and perhaps rather unfairly, got the short end of the stick at the Battle of Ulsan:

Finally a very interesting postcard view of that old favourite of mine and yours, the Cruiser Varyag, seen here in her last re-incarnation as the Japanese ship, the "Soya". After Chemulpo, the resourceful Japanese had re-floated and refitted her, and she remained in service until 1916:

Of course, her fascinating story did not end there; not for her a resting place off the Korean peninsula - oh, no! Rather she currently resides off the Scottish coast, in the Irish Sea, where a memorial was recently unveiled to commemorate her earlier heroic service:

She had been sold by Japan back to the Russians in March of 1916, and was then sent to the Baltic via Britain; whilst lying in Liverpool harbour in June 1917, the Russian Revolution broke out, and she was immediately seized by the British, and some sources say that she was later offered to the White Russians; in any event, in 1920 she was sold on to a German shipbreaker, and underway once more, this heroic vessel defied the ignominy of being scrapped by sinking en route - Urrah Varyag!


  1. Thanks again for these photos and little touches of history.

    -- Jeff

  2. You're welcome Jeff, glad to know others get as much as myself out of these little windows into the past - I'm an inveterate hoarder/collector, so don't worry, there'll be more pics like these coming soon!