FEBRUARY 1904 - SEPTEMBER 1905

Dark Shadows

Tsushima Strait, Eastern Channel, 27 May 1905, 2000 hrs.

 After the firing of the big guns had stopped, the crews of the Russian fleet found themselves suddenly overcome with exhaustion. The strain of battle, which they had been under all day was telling on them and most sank into a deep sleep, although the danger was by no means over.

Rear Admiral Nebogatov aboard Imperator Nikolai I was now in command and had managed to restore some order to the fleet after the day's horrors. By steaming on a course of 225, away from the Japanese, he gave the remnants of the fleet time to reform before once again turning toward Vladivostok.

With eight or nine hours of darkness ahead of them and an open sea, there was some hope that the bulk of the remaining Russian ships would be able to break through the Japanese cordon and reach their destination. As Rear Admiral Nebogatov hoisted the signal "Follow me" and began his turn to the north, the Japanese torpedo boats and destroyers gathered all about the Russian formation.

About 2000 hrs began the long series of attacks carried out by the Japanese torpedo boat and destroyer flotillas. They lasted for three hours without intermission. The stormy southwest wind had fallen considerably by the evening, but Admiral Togo states in his official report that a "very heavy sea" was running which greatly impeded the torpedo craft. The night was fairly clear. The Russians were steaming at 9 knots, which was the most they could do; in their attacks the Japanese small craft pressed furiously in on them with such determination and disregard for danger that there were several collisions. At first the Russian vessels were hard to spot, but then some of them turned on their searchlights in a last ditch attempt to repel their attackers.

Navarin took four torpedo hits before sinking with 622 men on board, only three who were picked up sixteen hours later by Japanese small patrol boats survived. Sisoi Veliki was torpedoed in the stern and began to sink very slowly; early the next morning she went to the bottom off Tsushima Island just as Japanese auxiliary cruisers were about to take possession of her. Nakhimov was torpedoed forward and, taking in tons of water, made for Tsushima, she went down the next morning; her crew opened her Kingston valves when Japanese cruisers and destroyers appeared, and thus prevented her capture. Vladimir Monomakh was torpedoed by a destroyer, and was left badly down in the water; her crew next morning opened the Kingston valves when the Japanese approached and sank her.

During the night attacks the Russians had two battleships sunk and two armored cruisers so badly damaged that they were easily disposed of the next day. The number of Japanese torpedoes fired was enormous, but only seven hits were made. Nebogatov's five leading ships escaped undamaged through the long series of onslaughts. On the Japanese side losses were small: Torpedo boats #34 and 35 were sunk by gunfire and #69 sank after a violent collision with Akatsuki II. Yugiri, Harusame, and Sagi were damaged by collision, but not very seriously, and five other destroyers and torpedo boats were put temporarily out of action.