Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Volume 2 – Julian S. Corbett – Review

Back in September 2018 I reviewed Volume 1 of Julian Corbett’s Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905. Volume 2 arrived recently and replaced my reading list for a period of time as I followed the maritime operations from the Genesis of the Russian Baltic Fleet, through the Battle of Tsushima (or as Corbett describes it, the Battle of the Sea of Japan) and which completes with a look at the two Sakhalin expeditions.

So this volume covers:

  1. Genesis of the Baltic Fleet
  2. Cruise of the Smolensk and Peterburg
  3.  The Dogger Bank Incident
  4. Situation at Port Arthur to the First Attack on 203-metre hill
  5. The Blockade of Kwangtung
  6. 203-metre Hill
  7. Destruction of the Ships at Port Artur and the Torpedo Attack on the Sevastopol
  8. Fall of Port Arthur
  9. Progress of the Baltic Fleet
  10. Japanese Preparations for the Baltic Fleet
  11. Fleet Movements in March and April
  12. Concentration of and the Final Approach of the Baltic Fleet up to Contact
  13. The Battle of the Sea of Japan (Tsushima) in five phases
  14. Admiral Nebogatov’s Surrender
  15. The Sakhalin Expeditions

I will admit that in the past I have tended to stop reading the histories at the climax that is Tsushima so reading the last chapters in this book were well worth the effort.

Adding Corbett to my Kindle copies of Semenoff as well as the works by Hough, and Warner & Warner in particular, I feel I have a good view (at least as good as an historical view can get) of the Maritime side of the Russo-Japanese War (RJW). I will look for further works on the land warfare at the time but I can’t help but wonder if the performance of the Japanese against the Russians during the RJW encouraged the Japanese to take on the Soviets and Mongolians at Khalkin-gol (Nomonhan), a battle that resulted in the Japanese agreeing to a peace with the Soviets and which allowed the Soviets to concentrate on their war with Germany.

Julian Corbett (Later Sir Julian Corbett) wrote the Maritime Operations of the Russo-Japanese War as a confidential publication for the Intelligence Division of the Admiralty War Staff. It was never made available to the general reader until well after Corbett’s death. Corbett composes a picture of the war by writing a continuous narrative that weaves the interrelationship of land and sea events as they affect each other. He examines the political objectives, the geography of the area as well as the naval aspects to tell that story. Because Corbett writes in a continues narratives he is easy to read as well.

Naval Institute Press published a hardback version of Corbett’s work back in 1994. This is the first release of the history in paperback. It is also released in an eBook version (Kindle). As with Volume 1, there are none of the original illustrations that accompanied the 1914/1915 editions of Corbett’s work.

This volume is smaller than the first volume but arguably more exciting. There are 24 chapters in this volume. 11 Appendices and an Index.

For example, on page 404 is Appendix III, which contains a translation of the Instructions for the Vladivostok Squadron  sent by Vice-Admiral Stark to Rear-Admiral Baron Shtakelberg at Vladivostok  and notes:

I must point out that Japan has not subscribed to the Paris Declaration of the 16th April 1856; and therefore we shall not hesitate to inflict as much damage as possible to the enemy on the sea. Being convinced that during war the Japanese merchant vessels will not think twice about flying the flags of other nationalities, I am forwarding to your Excellency copies of the regulations laid down for Japanese merchant vessels, which may be of use in establishing the actual nationality of vessels stopped by you, of which only valuable prizes captured at no great distance from Vladivostok may be sent to that port; all the remainder must be sent to the bottom without consideration of pity and without hesitation.

This book belongs on any naval historian’s bookshelf, and now that it is available in both paperback and electronic form it is available to a wider reading audience.

As before, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, look for a copy of The Russo-Japanese War at Sea 1904-5: Volume 1-Port Arthur, the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Sea of Japan and Volume 2: The Battle of Tsushima and the Aftermath by Vladimir Semenoff These works provide a view of the war from the Russian side.

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In the same way I did with Volume 1, I highly recommend this work, especially for any naval historian, general reader with an interest in naval or Asian history, or anyone interested in the zenith of the pre-dreadnought period.

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