Warship Wednesday Feb 5: Russian Thunder

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, Feb 5:  Russian Thunder

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

Here we see the Tsar’s armored cruiser Gromoboi (Thunderbolt) as she looked when visiting Australia in 1901. Built as a large warship capable of independent operations in far-flung seas, her primary role was to be that of a commerce raider against the British merchant fleet. You see when she was laid down 14 June 1897, it was Edwardian England that was seen as the greatest threat to Holy Russia, and not the Kaiser’s Germany.

The Russian cruiser Gromoboi shortly before its launch note imperial footman leaning over to get a better view.

The Russian cruiser Gromoboi shortly before its launch note imperial footman leaning over to get a better view.

An improvement on the earlier Rossia and Rurik class armored cruisers that came just before her, she was 481-feet long and tipped the scales at some 12,500 tons with a full load. This made her roughly the same size (and even larger in some cases) than the Pre-Dreadnought battleships of her age.

Oddly, her steel hull was sheathed in arsenic treated wood, to prevent fouling in distant harbors where drydocks were not available

Oddly, her steel hull was sheathed in arsenic-treated wood, to prevent fouling in distant harbors where drydocks were not available

Her battery of 20 eight and six-inch guns made sure she could slaughter any merchant ship, gunboat, or cruiser while her 19-knot speed enabled her to outrun the lumbering turn of the century battleships of the 1890s. The only ships fast enough to catch her were small scout cruisers and torpedo boats which her fifty small-caliber rapid fire guns and six inches of Krupp cemented armor belt could shrug off.

A handsome sight with her four funnels venting her 32 boilers

A handsome sight with her four funnels venting her 32 boilers

Capable of cruising over 8000-miles on a single load of coal, she could cross the Atlantic or sail to the far-flung Pacific with ease.

And she did.

Ordered from the Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg, she was commissioned November 1899, firmly a 19th-century ship in a 20th-century world. To keep her hull from fouling in tropical waters, it was sheathed with wood. Her three shafts were turned by amazingly and over complex series of 32 Belleville water-tube boilers with thousands of tubes that needed constant attention.

Note the Romanov eagle on her bow and the Imperial Russian Naval ensign fluttering. This ship was made to show the flag around the world

Note the Romanov eagle on her bow and the Imperial Russian Naval ensign fluttering. This ship was made to show the flag around the world. You have to dig the 3-inch gun as a hood ornament too. 

Her crew numbered nearly a thousand men to feed and care for these boilers, shovel 2400-tons of coal, and man her incredibly varied suite of weaponry.

Besides her twenty 8 and 6 inch guns in casemates, the cruiser had more than fifty of these smaller canet style guns to ward off torpedo boats. They offered little protection for their crews from splinters.

Besides her twenty 8 and 6 inch guns in casemates, the cruiser had more than fifty of these smaller canet style guns to ward off torpedo boats. They offered little protection for their crews from splinters.

She left the Baltic the spring after her commissioning and the gleaming white cruiser made appearances in Germany, Britain, and Australia on her way to the Tsar’s new colony of Port Arthur, recently garnered from ailing Manchu-controlled China by a lease.

Vladivostok cruisers in 1903. From left to right you have the Rossia, Bogatyr, Gromboi and Rurik ("Russia", "Hercules", "Thunderbolt", "Rurik") by Valery Shilyaeva

Vladivostok cruisers in 1903. From left to right you have the Rossia, Bogatyr, Gromboi, and Rurik (“Russia”, “Hercules”, “Thunderbolt”, “Rurik”) by Valery Shilyaeva. Click to embiggen.

Stationed in Vladivostok by 1903 along with the cruisers Rossia, Rurik and Bogatyr and the auxiliary cruiser Lena, their enemy changed from the planned British merchant fleet to that of the Japanese merchant fleet by a twist of fate in 1904 when the Russo-Japanese war started. The enemy soon bottled up most of the Russian Pacific Squadron inside Port Arthur but neglected to do so for the cruiser squadron at Vlad.

The last thing you wanted to see if you were a Japanese merchant ship in the North Pacific in 1904...

The last thing you wanted to see if you were a Japanese merchant ship in the North Pacific in 1904…

Painted a thick grey coat and made ready for war, the four cruisers formed a raider group that haunted the Northern Pacific Ocean, sinking the occasional Japanese ship. Led by the Baltic German commander Vice Admiral Karl Petrovich Jessen, they were a force to be reckoned with and almost drove the Japanese to drink.

Rossiya and Gromoboi sinking the unarmed wallowing 1,000-ton freighter, the Nakanoura Maru, built in 1865, just days after the war started in Feb 1904.

Rossiya and Gromoboi sinking the unarmed wallowing 1,000-ton freighter, the Nakamura Maru, built in 1865, just days after the war started in Feb 1904.

Their most important victory was against the Hitachi Maru, a 6,172 gross ton combined passenger-cargo ship built by Mitsubishi Shipbuilding in Nagasaki, for NYK Lines.

While transporting 1238 people, including 727 men of the 1st Reserve Regiment of the Imperial Guard of Japan and 359 men from the IJA 10th Division and 18 Krupp 11-inch (280 mm) siege howitzers desperately wanted for the siege at Port Arthur, the Hitachi Maru was found by  the Gromoboi in the southern Korean Strait between the Japanese mainland and Tsushima on June 15, 1904. The Tsar’s cruiser shelled and sank same which led to the resulting “Hitachi Maru Incident,” which ignited both British (the ship had a British captain) and Japanese anger (due to the loss of the politically important Imperial Guard regiment which included several officers from the Japanese petit nobility).

In all the cruiser force made six sorties from Vladivostok and sank 15 Japanese ships and captured two (British) merchant vessels.

The Japanese sent a fleet to Vladivostok to blockade the port and shelled the cruisers at anchorage. When the Russians did manage to emerge again in August, the fleet of six cruisers of Japanese Admiral Kamimura Hikonojō’s fast fleet caught up with the Rossia, Rurik, and Gromoboi off of Ulsan, Korea.

Japanese postcard with their version of how the Battle of Ulsan played out

Japanese postcard with their version of how the Battle of Ulsan played out

The resulting battle was a tactical Japanese victory fought over the morning of 14 August 1904.  Improved Japanese fire-control as well as a 2:1 ratio in hulls and guns won the day.

The Rurik was hit by a shell in her unarmored stern and the steering mechanism was destroyed, immobilizing her rudder in an elevated position, resulting in her being the target of intense bombardment by the Japanese cruisers. The stricken Russian ship was scuttled while Gromoboi and Rossia were able to slip their attackers and make it back to Vladivostok.

Gromoboi riddled with shrapnel after the battle. Dont worry though, its just a flesh wound

Gromoboi riddled with shrapnel after the battle. Don’t worry though, it’s just a flesh wound

All six of the Japanese cruisers received damage as did the two remaining Russian ones. The Gromoboi was riddled with shell fragments from 22 direct hits, severely damaged and had 91 dead and 182 wounded during the battle. Most of these deaths came from gunners manning the unprotected light canet guns on her decks.

Whereas the Japanese ships were able to return to the shipyard for repair, the two Russian ones could only retire to the primitive port facilities at their Siberian port. Unable to be repaired, they sat out the rest of the war and did not sortie again.

Iced in 1904-1905

Iced in 1904-1905

After spending the winter of 1904-1905 iced in, she emerged in the spring and hit a mine on 24 May, the war ended without her sailing from port again.

Following the end of the war, she was sent to the Baltic again to reinforce the fleet there. Rode hard and put up wet, she spent six years in the shipyard and emerged in 1911 with a refurbished engineering suite and upgraded fire control. Her armament was modified after experiences in the war, receiving 18-inch torpedo tubes and reducing the number of unprotected guns, and several searchlights were added.

When WWI started in 1914, she was still in the Baltic. Modified as a fast minelayer (18-knots was fast in 1914), she sortied from Krondstadt to German-frequented waters several times, sewing 200 mines per trip. Her armament was changed once more during the war and her displacement went to almost 14,000-tons.

On August 10, 1915, she tangled with the much larger and stronger German battlecruiser SMS Von Der Tann (23,000-tons, 8×11-inch guns, 9.8-inches of armor), in the waters around the Gulf of Finland. Both ships sailed away afterward, with the Gromoboi weaving her way back home safely.

Becoming part of the Red Banner Fleet by default in 1918, she survived both British and White Russian efforts to sink her during the Russian Civil War as well as the Bolshevik siege of Krondstat in 1921 only to be scrapped by a German company in 1922. No monument or memorial exists to her and her three unusual wars.

Hard aground in the port of Libau, she was scrapped in place in 1922 by the breaker who lost her there while under tow.

Hard aground in the port of Libau, she was scrapped in place in 1922 by the breaker who lost her there while under tow.

There is though, a memorial to her most famous opponent, the Hitachi-Maru Memorial Stele. It is located at the Yasukuni Shrine, Chiyoda, Tokyo, Japan.

800px-Yasukuni_Hitachi-Maru_Memorial_Stele

Specs:

click to embiggen

click to embiggen

Displacement:     12,455 long tons (12,655 t)
Length:     481 ft (146.6 m)
Beam:     68.6 ft (20.9 m)
Draught:     26 ft (7.9 m)
Installed power:     14,500 ihp (10,800 kW)
Propulsion:     3 shafts, 3 vertical triple expansion steam engines, 32 Belleville water-tube boilers
Speed:     19 knots (35 km/h; 22 mph)
Range:     8,100 nautical miles (15,000 km; 9,320 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 874 officers and crewmen
Armament:

(as built)
4 × 1 – 8-inch (203 mm)/45 guns
16 × 1 – 6-inch (152 mm)/45 guns
24 × 1 – 75-millimetre (3.0 in)/50 guns
12 × 1 – 47-millimetre (1.9 in)/43 guns
18 × 1 – 37-millimetre (1.5 in)/23 Hotchkiss Gatling guns
4 × 15-inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes

(after 1911)
4 × 1 – 8-inch (203 mm)/45 guns
22 × 1 – 6-inch (152 mm)/45 guns
4 × 1 – 75-millimetre (3.0 in)/50 guns
4 × 1 – 47-millimetre (1.9 in)/43 guns
2 × 18-inch torpedo tubes

(after 1915)
6 × 1 – 8-inch (203 mm)/45 guns
22 × 1 – 6-inch (152 mm)/45 guns
2x57mm guns
2 × 1 – 47mm high angle AAA guns
2 × 18-inch torpedo tubes
200 mines

Armor:     Krupp cemented armor
Belt: 6 in (152 mm)
Deck: 1.5–3 in (38–76 mm)
Conning tower: 12 in (305 mm)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find http://www.warship.org/

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Tags: , , , , , , ,

About laststandonzombieisland

Let me introduce myself. I am a bit of a conflict junkie. I am fascinated by war and warfare, assassination, personal protection and weaponry ranging from spud guns and flame throwers to thermonuclear bombs and Soviet-trained Ebola monkeys. In short, if it’s violent or a tool to create violence it is kind of my thing. I have written a few thousand articles on the dry encyclopedia side for such websites as Guns.com, University of Guns, Outdoor Hub, Tac-44, History Times, Big Game Hunter, Glock Forum, Firearms Talk.com, and Combat Forums; as well as for print publications like England Expects, and Strike First Strike Fast. Several magazines such as Sea Classics, Military Historian and Collector, Mississippi Sportsman and Warship International have carried my pieces. Additionally I am on staff as a naval consultant and writer for Eye Spy Intelligence Magazine. Currently I am working on several book projects including an alternative history novel about the US-German War of 1916, and a biography of Southern gadfly and soldier of fortune Bennett Doty. My first novel, about the coming zombie apocalypse was released in 2012 by Necro Publications and can be found at Amazon.com as was the prequel, Chimera-44. I am currently working on book two of that series: "Pirates of the Zombie Coast." In my day job I am a contractor for the U.S. federal government in what could best be described as the ‘Force Protection’ field. In this I am an NRA-certified firearms, and less-than-lethal combat instructor.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

yokosukasasebojapan.wordpress.com/

The U.S. Navy and the Western Pacific

The Writer in Black

News and views from The Writer in Black

Stephen Taylor WW2 Relic Hunter

World War 2 Historian, Relic Hunter and expert in identification of WW2 relics

USS Gerald R. Ford

Mission Ready, Qualified & Competent, On Time Execution!

The Unwritten Record

Exploring History with the National Archives Special Media Division

Stuff From Hsoi

Writing about whatever interests me, and maybe you.

Louisville Gun

Thoughts and Musings on Gun Control & Crime

Ted Campbell's Point of View

An old soldier's blog, mostly about Conservative politics and our national defence and whatever else might interest me on any given day

CIVILIAN GUNFIGHTER

Identifying the Best Training, Tools, and Tactics for the Armed Civilian!

MountainGuerrilla

Nous Defions!

Under Every Leaf.

A Site for the British Empire 1860-1913

JULESWINGS

Military wings and things

Western Rifle Shooters Association

There is no effective political opposition party to counter the Communists.

Meccanica Mekaniikka Mecanică

The Mechanix of Auto, Aviation, Military...pert near anything I feel relates to mechanical things, places, events or whatever I happen to like. Even non-mechanical artsy-fartsy stuff.

Eatgrueldog

Where misinformation stops and you are force fed the truth III

The LBM Blogger

Make Big Noise

%d bloggers like this: