Flotsam of the Tsar’s 1st Pacific Squadron

Camp Kanzense. Matsuyama. Japan, Spring 1905: A group of Russian sailors from the assorted warships sunk by Japanese artillery in the mud of Port Arthur during the siege there. Cap bands show they are from the Баян (Bayan), Бобр (Bobr), Варяг (Varyag), Гиляк (Gilyak), Забияка (Zabiyaka), Паллада (Pallada), Пересвет (Peresvet), Победа (Pobeda), Полтава (Poltava), Ретвизан (Retvizan), and Отважный (Otvazhnyy).

Unlike Japanese EPOW camps in WWII, the Meiji era camps of the Russo-Japanese War were reportedly very hospitable, and the “guests” were returned in good health after the peace. It was only after the corruption of the Bushido code by the 1930s Japanese military elite that the treatment of captured enemy troops and sailors was seen as a dim and distasteful burden. 

When the fortress seaport was scandalously surrendered by Baron Anatoly Stoessel to the Japanese on 2 January 1905, despite having another 30-to-60 days worth of shells and supplied on hand, some 8,985 Russian sailors were marched off to captivity along with 878 Army officers and 23,491 of the Tsar’s soldiers.

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