Tsushima


The fleets converged on the afternoon of 14 May 1905. The first ship to open fire was Admiral Rozhestvensky's flag battleship Knyaz Suvorov. Three minutes later, under the flag of Admiral Togo, the battleship Mikasa fired back Because the accompanying transports could not travel faster, Admiral Rozhestvensky had reduced his forces' cruising speed to nine knots. Admiral Togo took full advantage. Proceeding at 15 knots, he overtook the Russians and concentrated his fire on the flagships.

During the first forty minutes, the Japanese sho-wered the battleships Knyaz Suvorov and Oslyabya with high-explosive shells, whereupon the Oslyabya sank with its commander, Captain Vladimir Ber, and the majority of its crew. Admiral Rozhestvensky was wounded, and his disabled flagship now became the Japanese target. Control of the squadron was disorganized. The commanders of the battleships Emperor Alexander III and Borodino, Captains Nikolay Bukhvostov and Pyotr Serebrenikov, tried in vain to screen the damaged flagship and bring the squadron back on course toward Vladivostok. The Alexander, Borodino and then the other battleships came under the lateral fire of the Japanese. However, by 1600 hours Ad-miral Togo had lost sight of the Russian ships in the mist and smoke. The Borodino led the battleships to the battle line, where the cruisers were fighting to protect their transports. Under fire from the main Russian forces, the cruiser Kassagi was badly damaged and rendered unoperational.

Having drawn away from the burning Knyaz Suvorov, the Borodino turned northward. Its senior officer, Commander Dmitry Makarov, replaced the wounded Serebrenikov and took charge of the battleship. While travelling northwards, the squadron was overtaken by the battleships of Admiral Togo. The Emperor Alexander III and Borodino were lost just before dusk in the ensuing battle, and, almost simultaneously, the Knyaz Suvorov began sinking after being hit by Japanese torpedoes. Commander Nikolay Kolomeitsov pulled his destroyer Buyny alongside the crippled battleship to save Admiral Rozhestvensky and part of his staff. The surviving officers of the Knyaz Suvorov-Lieutenants Nikolay Bog-danov, Pyotr Vyrubov and Ensign Verner Kursel-refused to abandon ship and thus shared their vessel's fate.

Late in the evening, aboard the Emperor Nicholas I, Rear Admiral Nebogatov took command of the squadron. Admiral Togo ceased firing and ordered his destroyers to rush in and attack the Russian ships at close range. Thirty Japanese destroyers launched 74 Whitehead torpedoes. The battleship Sysoy Veliky along with the cruisers Admiral Nakhimov and Vladimir Monomakh, exploded. Three other ships tried to head for Tsushima but were so badly damaged that they were scuttled by their crews on the morning of 15 May. The Navarin was blown up by floating mines and sank as well.

By nightfall the squadron was badly scattered, with many of the damaged ships left behind to reach Vladivostok on their own. Rear Admiral Enkwist with the cruisers Oleg, Aurora and Zhemchug eventually reached Manila. Under Commander Vasily Ferzen, the fast cruiser Izumrud broke out of the encirclement of Japanese ships. Sailing along the coast, however, the ship was wrecked on reefs and scuttled by its crew. Only three very badly damaged ships-the cruiser-yacht Almaz [Diamond], and the destroyers Bravy and Grozny-reached Vladivostok without assistance. Admiral Rozhestvensky and his staff were transferred from the destroyer Buyny, which was experiencing engine trouble, to the Bedovy, which was then captured by the Japanese on 15 May.

Under the command of Captain Iosif Matusevich, the crew of the destroyer Bezuprechny, engaged for over two hours in a battle with a Japanese cruiser and destroyer; the Russian ship was then lost with all aboard. For more than an hour and a half, under Captain Sergey Shein, the damaged cruiser Svetlana fought several Japanese cruisers. Having fired all their shells, the sailors of the Svetlana opened the ship's kingston valves. When the Japanese ordered the Admiral Ushakov, the single remaining Russian battleship of the squadron, to surrender, Captain Vladimir Miklukha commanded his crew to answer the Japanese with the sound of Russian guns. Within an hour, the Admiral Ushakov sank under St. Andrew's ensign.

In the battle with two Japanese des-troyers, the destroyer Gromky, under Commander Georgy Kern, sank with her colours flying. The last ship to break off the fight was a veteran of the Navy-the cruiser Dmitry Donskoy. On the evening of 15 May, her crew withstood a fierce battle against six Japanese cruisers. On the morning of 16 May the badly damaged ship was scuttled, following the orders of the senior officer, Commander Konstantin Blokhin, who had replaced the mortally wounded Captain Ivan Lebedev.

Following the Tsushima calamity, Russia tallied its heavy losses: 5,045 Russian sailors were killed and 6,106 taken prisoner. Victory cost the Japanese three destroyers as well as 699 officers and sailors. After the battle of 14-15 May, the government of Nicholas II agreed to peace negotiations. According to the Portsmouth Treaty of 23 August 1905, Japan was given the Kwantung Peninsula along with Port Arthur and the southern part of Sakhalin Island up to the 50th parallel.