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.

Product Details

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.

Russo-Japanese War Fleets – 1/3000 Navwar

Nineteen years ago I purchased the Navwar Battle of Tsushima pack. Back then if I recall correctly it cost about £19.00 or £25.00 £39.95*. Now, pack 3CBP04 costs £55.00. The pack itself contains all the major vessels from the Battle of Tsushima, Japanese and Russian sides, in 1/3000 scale. I added some extra vessels around the time as well to be able to reproduce most of the vessels involved in that conflict.

At the time I put this set together I did not have much in the way of painting information so painted the Russian fleets in basically the “Victorian Livery” of black hulls, white superstructures and ochre funnels. The Japanese vessels larger than a TBD were painted in a tropical white livery. Over time access to better research and information as well as some nice contemporary prints from Japan suggested that pretty much everything was in the wrong colour. Oh well, my excuse is that at the time I was a wargamer first and whilst an avid reader, my knowledge of nautical matters was limited – but I was learning.

So, I learnt that the Japanese vessels were in grey, and given that later in the 20th century each of the arsenals in Japan used a different shade of grey, I figured at least that the shade of grey was not that important for this project. I started to repaint them.

The Japanese TDBs and torpedo boats were in black. Everything was coal fired at this stage.

On the Russian side, as I mentioned above, everything had been painted in the Victorian Livery. Repaint started there as well. The Black Sea Baltic Fleet, “the Fleet that had to Die,” had very little needing to be done as they were in a Victoria Livery it seems. The Vladivostok and Port Arthur vessels were another matter however. The Vladivostok fleet was reported in some reading I did to be in a dark green colour, presumably to make it harder to discern the vessels against a green landscape. I had the impression that it was a Brunswick green but I may be misremembered the reading of 15 years ago and mixing them up with the pre-World War 1 Austrians. However, I opted for a slightly lighter shade.

The Port Arthur fleet was reported in some reading I did as having been repainted in a cinnamon colour. This is a darker brown and I guess it was to make the vessels harder to discern against the dusty hills behind Port Arthur. The brown shade may also have come from a shortage of paint in the correct shade so that when the paints available in Port Arthur were all mixed together to be able to maintain he vessels tied up there, a brown shade may have resulted. I opted for a lighter shade which I am not happy with and may repaint again when motivation strikes.

Lastly, at this stage of my naval wargaming career, I was taking a quick and easy route to basing. I picked up some Hammered Metal, Coral Blue from the hardware store. The Hammered metal ranges of paint are designed to look like old style metal filing cabinets. When painted on a flat surface they provided a sea effect. On the vessels I have repainted, I added a wake from the vessels to it is easy to see what has been redone and what is still in the original colours I painted in. That Hammered Metal when painted on a flat surface such as a 6’x4′ pieve of particle board. provides a very suitable sea surface.

The only other work I did on these vessels was to add a brass wire mast or masts where appropriate. Photos below.

*Note re pricing. How hazy the grey matter gets over time. It was £39.95 at the time, not the £25.00 I later remembered – although I am now thinking that the Matapan set may have been around 25 quid. I looked back to the original post about the RJW ships from Navwar from about 10 years or so ago and had the price recorded there. In any case, it is a good purchase!

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

One of my favourite periods of Military History is the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05 (RJW). I will also admit to an interest in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95  as well as  these were the last real naval battles of the pre-Dreadnought period (OK, so there was the First Balkan War of 1912-13 as well and the poor performance of the Turkish fleet there but I would still set the RJW as the watershed of the pre-Dreadnought naval battles).

My collection of books on this war includes the Fleet that had to Die by Richard Hough (ISBN-13: 978-1841580449 for a paperback version) and The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-05 by Denis Warne and Peggy Warner  (ISBN-13: 978-0714682341) but until recently I had not seen a copy of Corbett’s work

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).

The publishers do note however that:

it was impossible to reproduce the illustrations that accompanied the 1914/15 edition of this work owing to their size and condition. References to maps, charts, and plates have been left in the text in order to maintain the scholarly integrity of the work. The only known originals of these illustrations can be found in the Library of the Royal Naval College and at the Naval Historical Branch, Ministry of Defense, London.

This is really the only criticism that I could make against this work but perhaps a quick side trip if visiting England could be fruitful.

After the preface, the book commences with the opening page from the 1914 report and notes that the publication is confidential. It then goes on to say:

This book I the property of H. M. Government
It is intended for the use of Officers generally, and may in certain cases be communicated to persons in H. M. Service below the rank of commissioned officer who may require to be acquainted with its contents in the course of their duties, The Officers exercising this power will be held responsible  that such information is imparted with due caution and reserve.

It then notes:

The attention of Officers is called to the fact that much of the information  which this history is based has been obtained through the courtesy of the Japanese Government in giving facilities to our Attaches, and in placing at the disposal of the Admiralty their confidential  History of the War. This was done under the understanding that the information should be kept strictly confidential, and it is therefore most desirable that the lessons learnt from this History should not be divulged to anyone not on the active list.

Japan was an ally of Britain at this time.

There are 25 chapters to the book as well as 12 Appendices. The appendices also include the fleet lists for both navies at the time of the confrontation.

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

I would recommend as well, as a companion set to Maritime Operations in the Russo-Japanese War, 1904-1905, Vols 1 and 2, looking 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 for a view of the war from the Russian side.

The Product Details are:
Paperback : 600 pages
Publisher: Naval Institute Press (March 15, 2015)
ISBN-10: 1591141974
ISBN-13: 9781591141976

As I mentioned, highly recommended. I am now looking forward to getting  copy of Volume 2.

Fleet Admiral – Volume 1 Naval Warfare – 1890-1924

fleetAdmiralMy old mate Bill Madison, designer of the odd game such as Dawn of the Rising Sun — the Russo-Japanese War (and one of my favourites I must admit) and self confessed tragic of the history of the Russian-Japanese War of 1904-1905 (see the Russo-Japanese War Research Society) has turned his hand to writing rules for one of my favourite periods of naval warfare — the pre-Dreadnought period.

Fleet Admiral – Volume 1 Naval Warfare – 1890-1924 is a set of naval wargame rules designed specifically for that period starting about 15 years before the appearance of HMS Dreadnought and running to 1924, when aircraft started to play more of a role in naval warfare other than perhaps as interested observers and spotters. At the start of this period, admirals envisaged ship combats based around a range of 4,000 yards ship-to-ship and by the end of this period, lessons had been learned and big ship guns were opening fire at ranges hitherto thought impracticable.

The rules are divided into a number of broad sections – based on general principles; an example game outlining the various rule mechanisms; specific rule sections covering things such as movement, firing, torpedos, damage and such; and finally a section of tables and charts for use during the game.

The rules themselves adopt a couple of principles that we have generally moved away from. For example, recent rules have adopted the “I go, you go” method of movement (or variations on that) and cumulative damage points affecting flotation, speed and the ability to fight. These simplifications have kept games moving quickly but lose some of the flavour of these queens of the seas battling like the behemoths they were against each other, where a ship can heroically carry on fighting even when pounded to little better than flotsam.

The game scale used is either 1″ or 1cm being equal to 1,000 yards and makes the simplifying assumption that a nautical mile is 2,000 yards or 1,829 metres1. This scale gives a sea area for the standard wargames table (6’x4′) of around 860 square nautical miles, and a greater area of course for those gamers fortunate enough to have a larger area available.

Fleet Admiral also adopts a variable time scale of three minutes for surface moves and one minute per turn for aerial moves. Simultaneous movement is written into the rules and governed by both sides writing movement and firing orders at the start of each move. This may seem a reversion to the practices of the past but it does add the refreshing dimension of trying to second guess your opponent, an ability admirals of the past either possessed and successfully managed to find themselves in better tactical positions than their opponents or missed.

I like this slight, added complication, enabling as it does, for one to do the unexpected and not necessarily to be ground down by all your moves being shadowed by the second player to move.

The ships of the time are split into broad bands based on their size. This is a simple way to work out detection and movement but given the amount of smoke generated by the average coal-burning vessel of the time, I would have thought that apart from heavy fogs, the enemy ships were located where there was a big cloud of coal smoke. Admittedly whether or not they were battleships or destroyers was not so clear until the distance had been closed somewhat.

Vessels are further defined by:

  • length (useful for torpedo attacks and gunnery resolution)
  • speed
  • whether they carried ASDIC, hydrophones, anti-submarine weapons
  • the number of their main and secondary gun directors
  • aircraft carried
  • armour:
    • belt
    • deck
    • barbette
    • main and secondary battery
    • casemates
    • conning tower
    • magazine
    • vitals (important for protected cruisers who tended not to have belt armour but rather armour around the vital areas of the vessel – magazine etc)
    • bulges
  • armament:
    • main, secondary and tertiary batteries
    • light batteries
    • anti aircraft
    • torpedos (whether deck mounted, hull above waterline or hull below waterline)

As mentioned there is a variable move time and so the sequence of play is 1 or 3 minutes in length and follows the general order of writing orders for movement and/or firing with movement occurring simultaneously; combat; detection; reactive fire phase (for recently detected vessels); and damage control.

The rules are explained by an example game (a well known World War 1 battle) which is the next best thing to having someone who knows the rules play with you. They are well cross-referenced.

There is also some degrees of specific period flavour or change. For example, from 1910 onwards ships may engage multiple targets with different batteries depending on the number of directors that are carried. Generally more directors give more accuracy.

There are extensive rules for torpedos and I particularly liked the section “Torpedo Tactics 101”. This outlined different “phases” of torpedo work by Torpedo Boats, Torpedo Boat Destroyers and Destroyers. The phases are:

  • “Strikes” — where the other to attack is given;
  • “Threats” — where the presence of a large number of torpedo vessels prevented the enemy closing the range — or of the threat becoming accepted, turning it into a strike; and
  • “Melees” — where there is a confused close range encounter with combatants trying to strike each other whilst dodge the other sides launched torpedos.

Hits on vessels, whether by torpedo or gunfire, affect different areas of the vessels and have a different effect. For example, a hit on the bow will reduce the speed of a vessel by 1 knot (3 knots of the gun causing the hit was an 8″ or larger gun). A hit on the vessel may destroy a light battery (reducing that fire-power) or main magazine and so on. Hits on previously destroyed areas cause no further damage but may generate more fires.

One other thing I liked was torpedo hits of vessels with tumblehomes will cause those ships to sink faster — look up the effects of waterplanes2 to see why 🙂

The rules also make allowances for those infernal flying machines, both aircraft and airships and the weapons designed over the period to deal with them. Also dealt with are submarines and various anti-submarine weapons such as depth charges3, paravanes, anti-submarine mortars, ASDIC etc.

A series of optional rules also adds further variety and deals with weather effects; the time of year and location (visibility issues); smoke and wind; communications, tactical and otherwise by lamps or flags; mines; and some optional rules from the play-testers.

The rules themselves and the example game take up the first 41 pages; pages 42-52 are some scenarios (Asan and Yalu from 1894; Port Arthur, Yellow Sea and Tsushima from 1904; and Cape Sarych, Dogger Bank and the battle cruisers at Jutland from World War 1 amongst others). The remainder of the book has game tables, aircraft details, airship details, weapon details, blank order sheets and ship information cards.

The ship information cards that need to be completed before the start of battle will require the gamer to have access to Conway’s or Jane’s or the Internet to find the ship information necessary (speed, armour, armament etc).

I played a little test battle on the floor the other night (I haven’t got a wargames table here and double bed was not usable at the time) and the game played well. It was just a couple of pre-dreadnought battleships. It was harder to represent simultaneous movement by myself but it was easy enough playing a scenario from the point where the ships had spotted each other and in the best traditions of navies worldwide, had engaged.

I am not sure whether I would try and play out the full Battle of Jutland as a single wargame with these rules (memo to self – paint those fleets) however that battle tended to break down into a number of separate engagements anyway.

I can thoroughly recommend these rules as an alternative way of looking at the naval battles of the 1890 to 1924 period in 2014. I also like the fact that these rules specifically consider those pre-dreadnought battleships from the Sino-Japanese War of 1894, Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913.

Bill is working on a companion set to take naval warfare through the Second World War.


Footnotes

1. Well, it’s not 2,000 yards but rather was supposed to be 1 minute of arc along any of the earth’s meridians. By modern agreement and convention, the calculation of that value now is agreed at 1,852 metres or 6,076 feet (2,025 yards). It is a simplifying assumption Bill makes but it works.

2. The horizontal plane which passes through a floating ship on a level with the waterline:

3. They are depth charges Bill … not depth chargers 🙂

My Ship’s Come In

Well, several thousand of them really. My ships, in periods from the Russian Japanese War with a couple of extra pre-dreadnoughts through World War 1 and on to World War 2. They have arrived back from Mongolia. So, what came back? There are a couple of pre-dreadnoughts that need painting from WTJ, namely the following vessels:

  • Saiko Maru
  • Kumano Maru x 2
  • A ship with the code 0033101 (Spanish?)
  • Yakumo
  • Navarin
  • Carlos V
  • Asahi

Some of these vessels were extras after doing my Russian Japanese War collection, others are samples that Jim from WTJ sent me. Of course, these came back in company with my painted Japanese and Russian vessels from that War.

Also back and ready for paint is the Italian and Austrian fleets from World War 1. These were a set I put together when I was in Mongolia. I have plans to expand that set to include the French fleet as well as the Turks and Greeks.

In the collection for a while and ready for me to start painting is the Grand Fleet and the High Seas fleets from Jutland. I’ve had these for a few years now and it is time they were painted. Elsewhere here in the Hole you’ll find the article from Mal Wright about warship colours of World War 1 ships. Also there is a link to the collection in the US of World War 1 (in particular) dazzle schemes for merchant vessels. I may need to get a few merchants for the odd World War 1 convoy.

We then move forward to World War 2 where I think, if I look hard enough, I’ll find some German U-Boats, destroyers and other surface vessels as well as some British – but this is still be be confirmed. Definitely in the collection is the return of my French and Italian vessels of World War 2 – two smallish fleets but certainly enough for playing some games with. These are complemented by the Battle of Matapan set – all the vessels from the Battle of Matapan. These, along with all the others that a manufacturer is not specifically identified for, are from Navwar in the UK.

To round out the vessels needing paint, there is the Allied (mostly American) and Japanese fleets from the Battle of the Philippine Sea. There are a bucket-load of vessels for this to paint.

To complement that as well as doing something a little different, I also built a collection of all the vessels from Task Force 57 – the British and Commonwealth Pacific Fleet. Also included in that collection is a large number of 1/3000th scale aircraft. Originally I was going to mount these on a flying style of base – some thing brass wire about 5 cm tall, a metal washer for the base and a tiny hole drilled into the plane. Perhaps even three models would be glued to a single upright. However, after a closer examination again today, maybe I will glue the aircraft to the flight decks of the aircraft carriers.

There is some latitude being taken with the aircraft. Navwar does not make a 1/3000th scale Seafire or Spitfire so a Corsair is going to have to represent them. In any case, Corsair’s were used by a number of squadrons in that fleet.

This then is the plan – along with working on and finishing the Victorian Science Fiction. I’ll blog later on their progress although I will say here that two Aeronef fleets are just about finished.

Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860-1905, editor Robert Gardiner

conways_01.jpgConway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1860-1905 is probably my most used and viewed reference work at the moment (along with The China Steam Navy reviewed elsewhere). Conway’s is the most complete reference on ironclad and pre-Dreadnought vessels in service from the American Civil War through to the Russian Japanese War of 1904-1905.

To read more about this, follow this link.

Korean War Memorial Museum

Korea War Memorial MuseumThe Korean War Memorial Museum notes about it’s raison d’être that “since the end of the Korean War many important war records have been disappearing and that generation [that fought in that war] has also been disappearing”. Korea was established through a number of struggles and the War Memorial Museum was proposed and built to pull all this information together.

So, the purpose of the Korean War Memorial Museum was for the collection, preservation and exhibition of historical relics for all the wars that Koreans fought in. At the front of the museum, there is also a plaza area that is there to serve as a reminder of the past sacrifices in war. It should also be noted that the museum was built to “commemorate loyal martyrs and their services to the nation.” There are, as a result, a couple of areas that most westerners would consider a little “heroic” in their appearance and what is displayed.

Follow this link to read more about the museum.

Poltava and Cataluna from WTJ Naval Miniatures

WTJ Naval is the manufacturing and foundry branch of The War Times Journal. Their main goal is the creation of affordable wargaming miniatures that have clean, accurately scaled features. The current line of 1/3000 scale naval miniatures was kicked off with the release of a long sought selection of pre-dreadnought battleships and cruisers, which will eventually include both war time fleets of the Russo-Japanese and Spanish-American Wars, as well as many rarely depicted European capital ships of this important era. The vessels are 1/3000 in scale allowing players to put on games within a medium to small sized area. Large fleet actions on larger battle zones can also be used. For example, using the General Quarters Rules and replacing the inch measuring system in them with centimetres, the Battle of Tsushima can be fought on an area the size of a standard table tennis table.

To read the rest of this review, click on this link. There are some pictures there of these vessels too.

WTJ Naval Miniatures website has painting guides and a full catalogue.