Russian Japanese War of 1904-1905 – Naval

One of my other major enjoyments in wargaming is the age of the pre-Dreadnought battleships. In particular, the Russian Japanese War of 1904-1905. It was this war that caused some consternation amongst the European nations as the Japanese Navy systematically defeated the Russian Navy of the time. In fact, what made the feat even more remarkable was that at the time, the Russian Navy was considered to be the second most powerful navy in the world, behind the British Navy.

The rules I am using for this are the General Quarters rules, published some 20 years ago. These rules are still reasonably popular, even after such a time, as a similar, simple mechanism for resolving Naval combat have not been written. The rules are designed for naval warfare from about 1900 through to the end of the Second World War, although they do concentrate on the First World War and the Second World War to a large extent. There is a website devoted to those General Quarters Rules as well as a site that has a lot of information about Small Navies (naval wargaming). Both link off to a number of other sites. There is a Naval Wargaming page as well.

The models I am using to represent the Japanese and Russian forces are produced by Navwar Productions. In fact, when I visited their shop in London and enquired about ship models for this war, they mentioned that they had a boxed set of models that reproduced all the ships of both fleets present at Tsushima. This cost, if my memory serves me well, about £39.95. Well, one just had to have it, didn’t one? As with all things though, it took me some time to paint them. Well, I found the time over Christmas and New Year 1999 so the fleets are near finished. In fact, the Russians are done and the Japanese about half completed. Finding information about the colours of the various vessels has been fun, and where I have not been able to find specific information, I have done what all wargamers do and estimated (guessed). The results seem to look reasonably consistant and suitably old.

I have added some details of the ships present on the pages detailing the individual fleets present at Tsushima. There is an interesting web site worth looking at that deals with the History of the Russian Navy. If you also try looking a bit further up that site, you will come across more information and pictures. Try the St. Petersburg Expo 96 Site. There are details, from a heroic Russian perspective, of the war with Japan in 1905.

Battle of Tsushima

This battle occurred in the straits between Korea and Japan on the 27th May, 1905. The newly refitted and highly motivated Japanese fleet under Admiral Togo was fresh from earlier victories against the Russians. They faced the demoralised and exhausted Russian Second Pacific Squadron under Vice Admiral Rozhdestvensky.

The Russian Second Pacific Squadron had sailed from the Baltic Sea, successfully “fighting off” a flotilla of British trawlers in the North Sea (thinking they were a Japanese fleet sent to intercept them). The Second Pacific Squadron was being sent to the east to support the First Pacific Squadron, based at Port Arthur. Unfortunately, when the Second Pacific Squadron arrived in the east, the First Pacific Squadron had effectively been removed. Rozhdestvensky’s target then became breaking through the Japanese fleet and sailing onto Vladivostok (the last remaining Russian base in the area). He was reinforced by a third division under Rear Admiral Nebogatoff.

The Russian Second Division in this battle should have been commanded by Rear Admiral Felkerzam but unfortunately he died on 24 May 1905. This was kept secret to avoid demoralising the fleet further.

The battle was a roaring success for the Japanese with 12 capital ships of the Russians being sunk, thus breaking Russian sea power and elevating the Japanese fleet to a high status.

I have constructed the Russian Fleet at Tsushima (in particular, the Second Pacific Squadron) from Navwar models. There are pictures of these models in the Photo Gallery (follow the link to the left and look in the Wagames Figure section). I painted these and I will admit that the colour scheme is not entirely accurate.

Of course, it really is no good having one side and not having the other, so I have also constructed the Japanese Fleet at Tsushima, also from Navwar models and also photographed in the Photo Gallery.

In fact, if you are lazy (like I am, of course), Navwar produce a boxed set of both fleets (in 1/3000th scale) for a fairly reasonable price. Mind you, when you lay the models out for painting you start to appreciate the task that Rozhdestvensky had in front of him in attempting to breakthrough the Japanese Fleet.

Painting and Basing the Ships

I was not sure how to approach the painting of these vessels. I was actually torn between undercoating the castings in black and then picking out the details in lighter colours (black shading) or undercoating the castings in white, painting the detail appropriately and then using ink washes and highlighting. In the end, I sort of setted for a style that combined a little of both.

The Russian Battle Ships and Cruisers were undercoated in white, then the hulls painted black (where appropriate) and the superstructures picked out in white. The decks were painted with a tan colour. The funnels were white or buff (almost yellow). The castings were then washed in black paint and the lighter detail touched up again.

The Russian destroyers were undercoated in white and after dry, three washes of black ink were applied to them, giving them a very dark, almost black appearance.

The Japanese Ships were approached similarly, although I used mire white hulls than in the Russian fleet. White undercoat was applied and then the details were painted. Those Japanese Battle Ships and Cruisers with black hulls were painted with a very dark grey. The white hulled vessels were painted again with white. The decks were painted with a tan colour. The funnels with buff. The whole casting was then washed with black ink. After the ink wash had dried, the white detail was repainted with a thinned white. A second coat of the thinned white was then added which gave the side of the vessels some texture. The deck was painted again with a thinned tan colour and this colour was washed across the main areas (not painted to the edge of the other colours). The funnels were then finished in yellow, as this looks closer to the colour I have seen in illustrations than the buff does.

The Japanese destroyers and torpedo boats were undercoated in white, then a dark grey was applied. A black ink wash was then given to them and the funnels and lifeboats picked out in buff and white respectively.

Being the lazy man that I am, I cheated on the bases. Rather than using filler and sculpting a sea shape on them, I used Hammered Metal Paint. This is a metal paint that gives a glossy hammered metal appearance. It is designed for using over metal work but applied to wood (balsa – which I use – or MDF) a suitable sea like appearance is given.

The results can be viewed elsewhere in Thomo’s Hole.

A Brief Chronology of the Russian Navy to the end of the Russian Japanese War (1905)

Note that this chronology is on an official(ish) Russian Internet site and uses Russion sources for most of its information. One would, therefore, be advised to accept the information with caution, at least until you had a chance to verfify the data. At some point I will get back to validating some of these claims and provide a critical appraisal of them … but not yet!

Click here for the Chronology.

Wargaming the Russian Japanese War

I do like to play naval wargames from this period. I use the General Quarters rules. To make it easier for new gamers of this wonderful period, there are the SDS’ for both the Russian and Japanese Fleets at Tsushima available in the Downloads section of Thomo’s Hole. Feel free to grab a copy.

6 thoughts on “Russian Japanese War of 1904-1905 – Naval

  1. VAGGELIS 1 May 2014 / 5:38 pm

    Hi, I’m interested to play GQIII and Russo-japanese war. Could you please tell me where is the download section so as to download the SDS’ for both fleets?
    Thank you. Vaggelis


    • Thomo the Lost 5 May 2014 / 9:54 pm


      AS I have reorganised and moved this site from a couple of different providers over the past few years I seem to have misplaced the downloads section. Please bear with me whilst I try and locate it – but it will need to wait until I have some leisure time later this week.


    • Thomo the Lost 10 April 2017 / 12:33 am

      Yeah you are correct. I keep getting distracted. Will try and do some more site maintenance over the Easter Break … but no promises 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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