Warship Wednesday November 19, 2014 the Hard-to-Kill Russian Crown Prince

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off 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. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, November 19, 2014, the Hard to Kill Russian Crown Prince

Tsarvitch at Portsmouth 1903
Here we see the Tsar’s own pre-dreadnought battleship Tsesarevich (Цесаревич, also transliterated as Tsarvitch and Czarevitch = “Crown Prince”) of the Imperial Russian Navy at Portsmouth 1903, just after commissioning, on her way to the Pacific.

She was the only ship of her class, built in France at Forges et Chantiers de la Méditerranée, La Seyne-Sur-Mer. The same yard had produced a series of 12,000-ton leviathans for the French Navy (Jauréguiberry et. al.) and patterned the new Russian ship along those lines.

The new ship would be 388-feet long and very beamy at some 76-feet, giving her a 5:1 length-to-beam ratio that was accentuated by her 1900s typical tumblehome hull (now brought back for the USS Zumwalt super destroyer). Weighing in at 13,000-tons due to her thicker armor (up to 10-inches of good German Krupp plate), she was powered by 20 Belleville water-tube boilers who ate coal like it was going out of style.

A view inside one of the 12/40cal mounts

A view inside one of the 12/40cal mounts

Armament was in two pairs of impressive Russian designed 12-inch/40 (305mm) low-angle naval rifles mounted in double turrets fore and aft with six  French-made Canet Model 1892 6-inch gun in double tube turrets arrayed along the hull of the ship.

At the builder's yard on launching day.

At the builder’s yard on launching day.

Capable of 18-knots and able to steam over 6,000nm before needed more coal, she was capable of deploying to the Pacific, which was to be her homeport at Port Arthur.

The Tsesarevich himself. He was born in 1904, with the ship that carried his title outliving him. He was executed July 1918 by the Reds at age 17.

The Tsesarevich himself. He was born in 1904, with the ship that carried his title outliving him. He was executed July 1918 by the Reds at age 17.

The Tsar’s naval architects liked her well enough that they used the design with only minor changes to build five ships of the same type in Russia. Of these five follow-on ships of the Borodino-class battleships, four near-sisterships of the Tsesarevich: Borodino, Imperator Alexander III, Knyaz Suvorov, and Oryol, were all either sunk or captured at the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May 1905 during the Russo-Japanese War. Warship Wednesday-alumni Slava, the last of the class to commission, only survived because she was under construction during the war and never left the Baltic.

Vladimir-Emyshev's painting "Battleship Tsesarevitch"

Vladimir-Emyshev’s painting “Battleship Tsesarevitch”

Laid down 8 July 1899, Tsesarevich was complete by late 1903 and rushed to the Pacific where tensions with the Japanese were mounting. In truth, just 68 days after she arrived at Port Arthur, she was attacked at her anchorage without warning by a torpedo boat of the Japanese Imperial Navy.


Shrugging off damage from a Nippon torpedo, she was hastily repaired. However, Tsesarevich, along with most of the Russian 1st Pacific Squadron, was blockaded in the port while the Japanese landed armies to besiege the far-flung and isolated Manchurian installation. Facing the ignoble fate of being sunk at anchor by Japanese Army howitzers firing over the hills into the harbor, Admiral Vitgeft took command of the fleet, with his flag on the brand-new and recently patched-up Tsesarevich, and sailed out on 10 August 1904 to break the Japanese fleet in half– then make good their retreat to Vladivostok before that harbor was iced in for the winter.


However, things soon turned pretty shitty for the Russians and within minutes, the Russian force of five battleships and four light cruisers and eight destroyers met Togo’s force of four battleships, two heavy cruisers, and seven light. After six hours of vain maneuvering on both sides, Tsesarevich was riddled with over a dozen large-caliber Japanese shells from the Japanese battleship Asahi that killed Vitgeft and shot up most of the ship’s topside.

While the Russian 2iC withdrew back into Port Arthur, (to have his new command sunk in December and his landlubber crews captured when that harbor fell to the Japanese January 2, 1905), Tsesarevich limped away into the night with three destroyers to try to make Vladivostok.

Computer generated image of a Borodino Class Battleship in action at Tsushima. Tsarevitch had her turn in the barrel in August 1904 and four out of five of her sisters would sink the following Spring in that epic naval clash.

Computer generated image of a Borodino Class Battleship in action at Tsushima. Tsarevitch had her turn in the barrel in August 1904 and four out of five of her sisters would sink the following Spring in that epic naval clash.

Unable to do make it Vladivostok due to smoke and sparks escaping from her nearly shot-away stacks, Tsesarevich  instead made for the closest non-Japanese harbor and was interned at the German treaty port of Tsingtao, to be nominally disarmed and sit out the rest of the war under the protection of the guns of the Kaiserlichemarine‘s Far East Squadron. There she remained even when the Japanese sank the Tsar’s Baltic Fleet (renamed the 2nd Pacific Squadron), rushed to avenge previous losses, at Tsushima.

Interned at Tsingtao, 1904.

Interned at Tsingtao, 1904.

Demolished compartment

Demolished compartment

Damage from more than a dozen hits from Togo's fleet

Damage from more than a dozen hits from Togo’s fleet

Damage to her side belt. Note the 6-inch turret

Damage to her side belt. Note the 6-inch turret



A Japanese 6-inch shell through her deck

A Japanese 6-inch shell through her deck

Another view

Another view

When the war ended that September, the rested Tsesarevich sailed back for the Baltic where she, along with her only surviving sister Slava, formed the backbone of the Baltic Fleet. For the next several years, the bruised veteran, the only Russian battleship to make it out of Port Arthur, had a quiet life that consisted mainly of summer cruises around the jetties of the Finnish coastline (then part of the Russian Empire), and winter cruises once that sea froze over to the Med and Atlantic.

Russian battleship Tsesarevich, in Baltic 1913. Note classic white scheme with cap bands. These were the salad-days of her life.

Russian battleship Tsesarevich, in Baltic 1913. Note classic white scheme with cap bands. These were the salad-days of her life.

When the next war erupted, she and Slava, still in their default roles as battle sisters of the Baltic, barred the gates to the Gulf of Finland, supported Russian army operations ashore through naval gunfire, and generally tried to avoid being sunk by the Kaiser’s U-boats.

Russian battleship Tsesarevich, a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, docked Krondsdat, ca. 1915. Note dark wartime scheme

Russian battleship Tsesarevich, a pre-dreadnought battleship of the Imperial Russian Navy, docked Krondsdat, ca. 1915. Note dark wartime scheme

In March 1917, her crew joined the general mutiny of the Baltic Fleet and several of her officers were cashiered at the point of a bayonet. With senior NCOs largely in command of understrength divisions, the ship fought alongside Slava at the Battle of Moon Sound in October. Sadly, Slava was destroyed and Tsesarevich (renamed Grazhdanin= Citizen), took a licking from the German Koenig class dreadnought battleship SMS Kronpriz (Crown Prince, talk about irony).

Tsesarevich dropping it like its hot. Her 4x12-inch and 12x6-inch guns were typical of pre-Dreadnought battleships.

Tsesarevich dropping it like its hot. Her 4×12-inch and 12×6-inch guns were typical of pre-Dreadnought battleships.

She retired to the Russian base at Kronstadt, where the British attempted to sink her during the Russian Civil War without luck while most of her sailors shipped out to fight alongside Red Guards in the Ukraine and Siberia. Deprived of the technical expertise to make the ship function, she never sailed again.

In March 1921, her remaining crew, mainly junior rates who had never seen blue water, mutinied with the bulk of the fleet, this time against the Reds. That didn’t work out so well as the Red Army soon invaded the naval base, killing over 1,000 sailors outright and executing 2600 more after the rebellion was put down.

A non-functional hulk, Tsesarevich/Grazhdanin was stricken 21 November 1925 and scrapped although some of her guns endured as coastal artillery pieces into WWII and likely a few fired rounds in anger against the Germans once more.

Of her wartime enemies, the Japanese battleship Asahi was sent to the bottom by an American submarine in WWII while the German SMS Kronpriz was scuttled 21 June 1919 in Gutter Sound, Scapa Flow after internment following WWI, where her wreck lies today.



French profile for the Tsesarevich

French profile for the Tsesarevich

Displacement: 13,105 t (12,898 long tons)
Length: 118.5 m (388 ft. 9 in)
Beam: 23.2 m (76 ft. 1 in)
Draught: 7.92 m (26 ft. 0 in)
Installed power: 16,300 ihp (12,200 kW)
20 Belleville boilers
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 Vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 5,500 nmi (10,200 km; 6,300 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 778–79
2 × 2 – 305 mm (12 in) guns
6 × 2 – 152 mm (6 in) guns
20 × 1 – 75 mm (3 in) guns
20 × 1 – 47 mm (1.9 in) guns
8 × 1 – 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
4 × 381 mm (15 in) torpedo tubes
Krupp armor
Waterline belt: 160–250 mm (6.3–9.8 in)
Deck: 40–50 mm (1.6–2.0 in)
Main Gun turrets: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Barbettes: 250 mm (9.8 in)
Conning tower: 254 mm (10.0 in)

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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.

2 responses to “Warship Wednesday November 19, 2014 the Hard-to-Kill Russian Crown Prince”

  1. Todd Kauderer says :

    Great article and the damage photos are amazing. I look forward to these articles every week. (BTW – the second picture showing the deck and side drawing in color is actually a different ship of the earlier Peresviet Class.)

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