Tag Archive | Tsushima

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: “80 Sen,” or a young Yamamoto’s Italian Stallion

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 31, 2019: 80 Sen

NHHC Collection Photo # NH 83034

Here we see a crooked image from the files of the U.S. Office of Naval Intelligence, likely a quick snapshot taken from the deck of a rented junk, showing the coastal defense ship (formerly classified as an armored cruiser, or junjokan) Nisshin of the Imperial Japanese Navy as she sat at a Hong Kong mooring buoy, in October 1920. Note the Emperor’s chrysanthemum marking on the bow, and inquisitive members of her crew on the side– likely wondering just who was in the approaching small boat with the camera. You wouldn’t know it to look at her, but this ship had once gone toe-to-toe with a much larger opponent and come out on top, although with the scars to show it.

If you like that photo, how about another two taken the same day, with her crew’s laundry drying and a picturesque junk added for Hong Kong flavor:

NH 83032

NH 83033

Anywho, you didn’t come here for Hong Kong laundry stories.

Built around the turn of the Century by Gio. Ansaldo & C shipbuilders, Genoa, Italy, as an updated version of the Giuseppe Garibaldi armored cruiser class, Nisshin (or Nissin, a name that roughly translates to “Japan”) was designed by Italian naval architect Edoardo Masdea as a vessel only smaller than a 1st-rate (pre-dreadnought) battleship of the era, yet larger and stronger than most cruisers that could oppose it.

The Garibaldi class was innovative (for 1894,) with a 344-foot long/7,200-ton hull capable of making 20-knots and sustaining a range of more than 7,000 nm at 12 when stuffed with enough coal. Although made in Italy, she was almost all-British from her Armstrong batteries to her Bellville boilers, Whitehead torpedoes, and Harvey armor.

Armored with a belt that ran up-to 5.9-inches thick, Garibaldi could take hits from faster cruisers and gunboats while being able to dish out punishment from a pair of Elswick (Armstrong) 10-inch guns that no ship smaller than her could absorb. Capable of outrunning larger ships, she also had a quartet of casemate-mounted torpedo tubes and extensive rapid-fire secondary batteries to make life hard on the enemy’s small ships and merchantmen.

These cruisers were designed for power projection on a budget and the Argentine Navy, facing a quiet arms race between Brazil and Chile on each side, needed modern ships. They, therefore, scooped up not only the Garibaldi (commissioned in 1895) but also the follow-on sister-ships General Belgrano and General San Martín (built by Orlando of Livorno in 1896) and Genoa-made Pueyrredón (1898) to make a quartet of powerful cruisers. These ships, coupled with a pair of battleships ordered later in the U.S., helped make the Argentine navy for about two decades the eighth most powerful in the world (after the big five European powers, Japan, and the United States), and the largest in Latin America.

The design was well-liked, with Spain moving to buy two (but only taking delivery of one in the end, the ill-fated Cristóbal Colón, which was sunk at the Battle of Santiago de Cuba during the Spanish American War) and Italy electing to purchase five further examples of the type.

Why all the talk about Argentina and Italy?

Well, because Nisshin and her sistership Kasuga were originally ordered by the Italians in 1900 as Mitra (Yard #130) and Roca (#129), respectively, but then sold while still on the ways to Argentina to further flesh out the fleet of that South American country’s naval forces, who dutifully renamed them Mariano Moreno and Rivadavia.

At some 8,500-tons (full), these final Garibaldis were 364-feet long overall and were roughly the same speed and carried the same armor plan (with Terni plate) as their predecessors.

However, they differed in armament, with Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga carrying a single 10-inch EOC gun forward and twin 8″/45s aft, while Roca/Moreno/Nisshin carried the twin 8-inchers both forward and aft.

Stern 8"/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship's officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during "Great White Fleet" around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

Stern 8″/45 (20.3 cm) turret on armored cruiser Nisshin on 24 October 1908. Ship’s officers with USN officers from USS Missouri (B-11) during “Great White Fleet” around the world cruise. Note the landing guns on the upper platform. U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph # NH 82511.

[Of note, the same 8-inch EOC guns were also used on other British-built Japanese armored cruisers (Adzuma, Asama, Iwate, Izumo, Tokiwa, and Yakumo) so they weren’t too out of place when Japan took delivery of these ships in 1904 instead of Argentina.]

Both Mitra/Rivadavia/Kasuga and Roca/Moreno/Nisshin were launched, fitted out and ran builders’ trials in Italy under the Argentine flag.

Armada Argentina crucero acorazado ARA Moreno, at 1903 launch. Note Italian and Argentine flags. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

Nisshin Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese NH 58664

Running trials under the Argentine flag, probably in late 1903, just before her purchase by the Japanese. Photo credited to her builder Ansaldo. NH 58665

With the Japanese and Imperial Russia circling each other tensely in late 1903, and Argentina not really wanting to take final delivery of these new cruisers, Buenos Aries shopped them to the Tsar’s kopeck-pinching Admiralty only to be rebuffed over sticker shock, leaving the Tokyo to pick them up for £760,000 each– considered a high price at the time but a bargain that the Russians would likely later regret. The Argentines would later reuse the briefly-issued Moreno and Rivadavia names for their matching pair of Massachusetts-built battleships in 1911

Nisshin photographed at Genoa, Italy in January 1904. This ship was built in Italy by Ansaldo of Genoa and competed on January 17, 1904. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101923

With a scratch British/Italian contract delivery crew, Kasuga and Nisshin (their names are taken from Meiji-period steam warships of the 1860s) set sail immediately for the Far East and were already outbound of Singapore by the time the balloon finally went up between the Russians and Japanese in February 1904. The sisters were soon in the gun line off Russian-held Port Arthur, lending their fine British-made batteries to reducing that fortress, and took part in both the ineffective Battle of the Yellow Sea in August 1904 (where Nisshin was lightly damaged) and the much more epic Battle of Tsushima in May 1905.

Carrying the flag of VADM Baron Misu Sotarō, Nisshin fired something on the order of 180 heavy shells during Tsushima, exchanging heavy damage with the 15,000-ton Russian battleship Oslyabya and others– taking several 12-inch hits to show for it. The Japanese cruiser had three of her four 8-inch guns sliced off and a number of her crew, to include a young Ensign Isoroku Yamamoto, wounded. The future commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II had the index and middle fingers on his left hand shorn off by a splinter, earning him the wardrobe nickname “80 sen” as a manicure cost 10 sen per digit at the time.

The forward gun turret and superstructure of the Japanese armored cruiser Nisshin following the Battle of Tsushima, showing 8-inch guns severed by Russian 12-inch shells

From a different angle

Another view

Aft turret of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Starboard 12-pound gun of Armored Cruiser Nisshin damaged in the Battle of Tsushima

Oslyabya, in turn, was ultimately lost in the course of the battle, taking the Russian Squadron’s second-in-command, Capt. Vladimir Ber, and half of her crew with her to the bottom of the Korea Strait.

Japanese cruiser Nisshin, listed as June 24, 1905, at Kure, which is just a month after Tsushima and may be an incorrect date as she looks almost brand new. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

For both Kasuga and Nisshin, Tsushima was their brightest moment under the Rising Sun.

Greatly modified later with Japanese-made Kampon boilers replacing their Italian ones, along with a host of other improvements, Kasuga went on to serve as a destroyer squadron flagship in World War I looking out for German surface raiders and escorting Allied shipping between Australia and Singapore. She later took Imperial troops to Vladivostok in 1918 as part of the Allied Intervention into the Russian Civil War.

Nisshin during WWI. Colorized photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

As for Nisshin, she also spent her time as a destroyer squadron leader on the lookout for the Kaiser’s wolves and was later dispatched to the Mediterranean as part of the Japanese 2nd Special Squadron (Suma-class cruiser Akashi, the cruiser Izumo, 8 Kaba-class destroyers and 4 Momo-class destroyers). Deployed in late 1917, the squadron was tasked with riding shotgun over Allied troopships steaming between Malta and Salonica and from Alexandria to Taranto and Marseille.

Photographed at Port Said, Egypt, on October 27, 1917. The early French mixed battery pre-dreadnought Jauréguiberry (1893-1934) can be seen at left background. Courtesy of Mr. Tom Stribling, 1987. NH 101922

In all, the force escorted nearly 800 ships and engaged German and Austrian subs something like 40 times (although without sinking any).
After the Armistice, selected crews from the Squadron marched in the 1919 victory parades in Paris and London.

To close out Japan’s involvement in the Great War, Nisshin returned home with seven captured German U-boats, (U-46, U-55, U-125, UC-90, UC-99, UB-125, and UB-143) after stops in Malta and other friendly ports along the way from England to Yokosuka, arriving there in June 1919. The former German boats went on to an uninteresting life of their own under the Kyokujitsu-ki, used for testing, salvage exercises and floating jetties. While most of these submarines were low-mileage vessels of little notoriety, U-46 (Hillebrand) and U-55 (Blue Max winner Willy Werner) were very successful during the war, accounting for 116 Allied vessels of some 273,000 tons between them.

IJN Nissin at Malta with captured German UC-90 U-boat, via IWM

Nisshin, photographed March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58666

Nisshin, photographed in March 1919, with the ex-German submarines O-4 (ex-UC-90) and O-5 (ex-UC-99) alongside. NH 58667

Japanese Cruiser Nisshin U-boats escorting surrendered German submarines allocated to Japan, March 1919, Malta, by Frank Henry Algernon Mason, via the IWM

Disarmed and largely relegated to training tasks, Nisshin and Kasuga were put on the sidelines after the Great War, replaced by much better ships in the Japanese battle line.

Hulked, Nisshin was eventually disposed of as part of a sinkex in the Inland Sea in 1936, then raised by Shentian Maritime Industry Co., Ltd, patched up and sunk a second time in 1942 during WWII by the new super battleship Yamato, whose 18.1″/45cal Type 94 guns likely made quick work of her.

Her immediate sister, Kasuga, used as a floating barracks at Yokosuka, was sunk by U.S. carrier aircraft in July 1945 then later raised and scrapped after the war. Incidentally, the two Japanese Garibaldis outlasted their Italian sisters, all of which were disposed of by the 1930s. Their everlasting Argentine classmates, however, lingered on until as late as 1954 with the last of their kind, ARA Pueyrredon, ironically being towed to Japan for scrapping that year.

Of note, the British 8″/45s EOCs removed from Nisshin, Kasuga and the other Japanese 1900s armored cruisers in the 1920s and 30s were recycled and used as coastal artillery, including four at Tokyo Bay, four at Tarawa (Betio) and another four at Wake Island once it was captured in 1941.

Japanese Special Naval Landing Force troops mount a British-made, Vickers eight-inch naval cannon into its turret on Betio before the battle. This film was developed from a Japanese camera found in the ruins while the battle was still on. Via http://www.ibiblio.org/hyperwar/USMC/USMC-C-Tarawa/index.html

Destruction of one of the four Japanese eight-inch EOC guns on Betio caused by naval gunfire and airstrikes, 1943. Department of Defense photo (USMC) 63618

Nisshin’s name was reused for use on a well-armed seaplane/midget submarine carrier that saw extensive action in WWII during the Guadalcanal campaign, where she was lost.  It has not been reused further.

Specs:

Jane 1914 entry, listing the class as first-class cruisers

Displacement: 7,700 t (7,578 long tons) std, 8,500 full
Length: 366 ft 7 in (o/a), 357 wl
Beam: 61 ft 5 in
Draft: 24 ft 1 in, 25.5 max
Machinery: (1904)
13,500 ihp, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines, 8 Ansaldo marine boilers, 2 shafts
Speed: 20 knots at 14,000 shp, although in practice were limited to 18 at full load.
Range: 5,500 nmi at 10 knots on 1316 tons of coal, typically just 650 carried
Complement: 600 as built, 568 in Japanese service.
Armor: (Terni)
Belt: 2.8–5.9 in
Deck: 0.79–1.57 in
Barbette: 3.9–5.9 in
Conning tower: 5.9 in
Armament:
(1904)
2 twin 8″/45 EOC (classified as Type 41 guns by the Japanese)
14 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
10 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
6 single QF 3-pounder Hotchkiss guns
2 Maxim machine guns
2 landing howitzers
4 × 457 mm (18 in) torpedo tubes in casemates
(1930)
4 single QF 6″/45 Armstrong “Z” guns
4 single QF 3″/40 12-pdr Armstrong “N” guns
1 single 76/40 AAA

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Don’t count on that Tsushima cryptocurrency just yet

The stern plate of Donskoy, via the Shinil Group, who may be one of the biggest hoaxsters of the 21st century.

It increasingly looks like the shadowy group that intended to salvage the “billions” from the Tsar’s lost semi-armored frigate Dmitriy Donskoy, which made headlines last month, was more flash in the pan than gold in the bank.

From Gizmodo:

More bizarre twists and outrageous claims kept coming, culminating in a July 26 press conference in which company President Choi Yong-seok told reporters, “there’s no way for us to figure out whether there would be gold coins or bars on the Donskoi,” and that the company’s previous claims were based on speculation and media reports. He also said he’d only become president a few hours before the conference and the other members of leadership had resigned.

It should be noted that this is not the first time that treasure hunters have promised big bucks from the Tsar’s doomed 2nd Pacific Squadron only to come up short. In 1980, Japanese salvors located the armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov and pulled up an unspecified amount of gold bullion, platinum ingots, and British gold sovereigns– over the howls of the Soviets. The ship reportedly carried 16 platinum bars, 48 gold bars and about 5,000 pounds of British gold coins. The funny thing is– the ingots shown off in 1980 were later found to be made out of lead.

Warship Wednesday, July 25, 2018: Tsar Nicky’s lost (crypto) millions?

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, July 25, 2018: Tsar Nicky’s lost (crypto) millions?

Colorized by my good friend Diego Mar of Postales Navales

Here we see the semi-armored frigate (often classified as a cruiser) Dmitriy Donskoy (or, Dmitri Donskoi) of the Tsarist Imperial Navy in her classic black and buff scheme. Note the Romanov double eagle crest in yellow– house colors– on her bow.

She was the last warship claimed by the military fiasco that was the Battle of Tsushima in 1905 and notably has popped back in the news last week with her (re)discovery by a Singapore-based South Korean treasure hunting group, thus:

Via the Shinil Group

But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s get some context.

In the late 1870s, the Russian navy was fairly powerful, the proud owner of several U.S.-built coastal monitors ready to mix it up with anything sent into their waters, and a reasonable fleet of blue water steam vessels. What they really needed, however, were armored blue water ships capable of ranging far and wide. Enter the armored frigate Minin, some 295-feet overall and 6,100-tons, she was capable of 14-knots and carried a quartet of 8-inch guns and as much as 7-inches of locally made iron armor. Not bad for 1878. At the same time came the Russian cruiser General Admiral, considered the world’s first armored cruiser, combining an armor belt with an armored protective deck in a 285-foot/5,038-ton package capable of making 12 knots.

General Admiral, shown in New York in 1893– but we’ll get to that (LOC photo)

By 1880, the Admiralty ordered the follow-on Dmitriy Donskoy, named after St. Dmitry of the Don who beat the Tartars at the Battle of Kulikovo in the 14th century, one of the largest battles of the Middle Ages and the event that signaled the beginning of the end of the Mongol Yoke over Rus.

The guy on the white horse…

She was the fifth Russian naval ship since 1771 to carry the name– and the last until 2000.

Beefier than General Admiral and about even 10 feet longer and 100-tons heavier (she used heavier steel armor ordered abroad from Cammell Laird to include a belt and armored deck) than Minin, the new armored frigate had more economical engines coupled with larger coal bunkers that gave her three times the range of Minin and a speed of 16-knots (making 16.16 on trials). She could travel for a week at full speed and up to 30 days at a more pedestrian 10-knots. Then, in 1883, came her half-sister, the more refined Vladimir Monomakh, a tweaked 306-foot/6,000-ton vessel to the same layout.

All four of these experimental ships had copper sheathed hulls to cut down on drydocking– and allowing more distant deployments– and were heavily ship-rigged on three wooden masts for extending their range under sail. Their props were originally designed to be lifted to prevent drag while under canvas, but that did not work in practice.

Referred to as armored cruisers by the rest of the world, there was a legit concern (mainly by the British) at the time that these ships would create havoc on sea lanes as commerce raiders in the event of war.

Donskoy spent the first two years of her career with the Mediterranean Sea squadron, then in 1887 transferred to the Pacific, where Russia was eagerly looking to expand.

An 1889 modification saw her wooden masts replaced by lighter steel ones, followed by another tour of the Med, and by 1891 she was back in the Pacific and would sail the world extensively for several years.

She participated in the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893 as the flagship of the Russian squadron, sailing up the Hudson along with the already-mentioned General Admiral, gunboat Rynda (c1885/3,537t) and the new and mighty armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov (c1888/8,609t), the latter a Warship Wednesday alum.

Dmitri Donskoi, Russian navy_LOC-D4-21190

Dmitri Donskoi, Russian navy_LOC-D4-21191

Her officers were a hit with the New York social crowd.

Capt. 1st Rank NA Zelenoy, skipper of the Donskoy, in his full uniform, colorized photo from Detriot Post Card company, via LOC

In 1895 she was extensively modified with new engines and boilers, and her armament updated, shipping for the Far East again the next year, carrying a white scheme for a time.

Ironclad IRN Dmitrii Donskoi picture at the opening of the Vladivostok Drydock, October 7th, 1897

She would spend six years in Vladivostok, then the new Russian enclave at Port Arthur (which they basically stole from the Japanese), and her crew formed a naval battalion that participated in the Boxer rebellion.

Russian Sailors Defending A Barricade Before The Peking Legation 1900 in Boxer Rebellion via the London Illustrated News

At the end of 1901, she returned to the Baltic again for another refit and armament swap (honestly, she changed her batteries so much that it is irrelevant to cover each update, check the specs at the bottom for more details).

She was aging, slow for her times, and poorly armed for her size, and a 1900 Jane’s entry characterized her as such.

Early 1904 saw her leaving for the Far East once again with the cruiser Almaz and a group of new destroyers, but they only got as far as the Red Sea before war came with Japan– over Port Arthur– and she was recalled to the Baltic.

With the war going exceptionally bad for the Russians militarily, and the Tsar’s Pacific Squadron largely bottled up behind minefields and Japanese blockade at Port Arthur, the Baltic Fleet suddenly became dubbed the 2nd Pacific Squadron and soon received orders to sail to the Far East and throw down. The epic story is told best by Constantine Pleshakov in his “The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima.”

It’s a good read…

In the book, Donskoy appears a dozen or more times, derided by Vice Adm. Rozhestvensky as the “cabbie” of the fleet due to her slow speed. First, she caught a broadside from her own fleet in the Baltic (!) during a confusing nighttime skirmish that injured several men and, as British trawlers were harmed, forced the ill-fated warships to sail all the way around the Cape of Good Hope rather than via the London-controlled Suez Canal.

Then, Donskoy became the great fisherman of the fleet in Madagascar– catching some 1,800 pounds of fish in one go via nets but losing a man to a shark. Then came her officers’ rather racy involvement with the nurses of the hospital ship Orel. Anyway, pick up the book, it’s a great read.

The blue line…

Now, in the third act, we have our valiant frigate’s destruction in the Strait of Korea. Part of a four-ship column of cruisers under the flag of the unpopular but politically connected Rear-Admiral Oskar Enkvist– she joined Oleg, Aurora, and her sister Monomakh and were tasked with guarding the auxiliaries in the rear column of the fleet by Rozhdestvensky.

Escaping the carnage of the main fleet action, he ordered the group to make their way as best they could to Vladivostok. The Admiral later caught up to them in the leaking torpedo boat Buiny but during the night of May 27/28, they became separated again. Meanwhile, the Japanese were busy hunting the stragglers. Monomakh was torpedoed by Japanese torpedo boat in the night and surrendered the next day. The Zhemchug, Aurora, and Oleg damaged, managed to make it to Manila to be interned by the Americans under the guns of the old monitor USS Monadnock (BM-3).

By the morning of the 28th, Donskoy, now just accompanied by two torpedo boats– Bedovy and Grozny— found the wounded Rozhdestvensky on his languishing Buiny and transferred him, along with the Donskoy‘s surgeon, to the Bedovy for the final 400-mile run to safety in Vladivostok. Donskoy remained behind to cover the admiral’s retreat and rescue the crew from Buiny then sink her with gunfire. Overall, the ship had more than 300 survivors aboard, mostly from the lost battleship Oslyabya.

Ultimately, Rozhestvensky was captured after his new torpedo boat suffered an engineering casualty later that morning, but Donskoy pressed on alone, filled with survivors she picked up along the way. By 5 p.m. she was sighted by the pursuing Japanese and, some two hours later, was some 30 nautical miles south of Ulleungdo (Dajelet) Island. Over the next two hours, she dueled with the Japanese cruisers Otowa (3,000t) and Niitaka (3,400 tons), together with the destroyers Asagiri, Shirakumo, and Fubuki. It was a hell of a fight by all accounts and the Japanese caught a few rounds in return fire– a rarety in the typical Russo-Japanese exchange.

Zaikin A.Yu. (born 1954) “The last fight of Dmitry Donskoy,” 1995

This left the old Donskoy battered and her skipper, the valiant Capt.1st Rank Ivan Nikolayevich Lebedev, a veteran with some 38 years of service behind him, on his literal last leg, one of some 190 casualties suffered in the final act of Tsushima.

From a Russian memoir of the hellish scene on Donskoy, of her XO, Capt. 2nd rank Konstantin Platonovich Blokhin, being called to the bridge:

The senior officer was on deck when one of the sailors flew up to him and, choking on words, reported:

“Your Honor … the commander asks you.”

Blokhin immediately climbed to the bridge and, peering into the warped and dilapidated cabin, for a moment was dumbfounded. The whole deck shone with fresh blood. Lieutenant Durnovo, leaning against the wall, sat motionless, bent, as if thinking about something, but he and his cap had a skull and horribly pinked frozen brain. The helmsman Quartermaster Polyakov curled up at the binnacle. Lieutenant Giers was lying with his belly open. Above these corpses, gritting his teeth in pain, Lieutenant commander towered alone, barely holding onto the handles of the wheel. He had a through wound in his thigh with a bone fracture.

In addition, his entire body was wounded with small fragments. He stood on one leg and tried to hold the cruiser on the course, himself unaware that the steering gear was broken and that the ship was steadily rolling to the right. Seeing the senior officer, he raised his eyebrows in surprise and said with blue lips:

“I hand over the command…”

“I’ll arrange for you to be transferred, Ivan Nikolayevich, to the dressing station.”

“Do not. I’ll stay here. Try to get to the shade of the island. Do not hand over the ship. Better to scuttle her.”

And with that, Lebedev died and his battered ship limped closer to Ulleungdo Island and was scuttled by her crew in deep water some two miles offshore on the morning of the 29th, sending her survivors ashore where the Japanese took them, prisoner.

Blokhin survived, later becoming a rear admiral. Her mine officer, Lt. Alexander Oskarovich Stark (whose father, Vice Adm. Oskar Viktorovich Stark had ironically been in command of the 1st Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur), went on to command the cruiser Bayan in the Baltic during WWI and died in exile (along with his dad) in Finland in the 1920s.

As for Rozhestvensky, after ducking a death sentence at a court-martial after the war, he lived out the last years of his life in St Petersburg as a recluse and died in 1909 of a bad heart, aged 60. He had lost 4,380 men and 21 vessels– including an amazing seven battleships– over the course of about 24-hours, while another seven of his warships were captured by the Japanese along with a staggering 5,900 men– to include the survivors of Donskoy, of course. The Japanese lost no major ships and suffered about 700 mixed casualties in what could be called the all-time benchmark for a decisive naval victory.

Fast forward a few years, and the stories of the gold started to come out, with the legend going that the vessels were piled high with a mini-fortune to be used to buy coal and supplies aboard as needed due  to the fact that Russia had precisely zero coaling stations between the Baltic and Vladivostok.

In 1933, an author named Garry Berg published a hard-to-find pamphlet, “600 Billion in Water,” holding that four ships of the Rozhestvensky’s 2nd Pacific Squadron sunk at the Battle of Tsushima had a horde of gold, then worth US $5 million, with the largest portions on two cruisers– $2 million carried on Admiral Nakhimov, and another $2 million on Donskoy. In 1980, Japanese salvors located Nakhimov and pulled up an unspecified amount of gold bullion, platinum ingots, and British gold sovereigns– over the howls of the Soviets. The ship reportedly carried 16 platinum bars, 48 gold bars and about 5,000 pounds of British gold coins. The funny thing is– the ingots shown off in 1980 were later found to be made out of lead.

In 2001, a South Korean group said they found Donskoy, which is rumored to hold 5,500 boxes of gold bullion and 200 tons of gold coins aboard her– an incredible cache that today is worth some $130 billion if it is to be believed. The ROK-government-run Korea Institute of Ocean Science and Technology followed up with a claim on the wreck a few years later.

However, no one has been able to salve it.

Now, the Singapore-based Shinil Group has once again stirred the Donskoy pot, saying they have located her stern (she is nearly broken in two) at N37°-29′.2″ E130°-56′.3″ to be precise.

“The bottom of Donskoy is about 40 degrees on the slope of the seabed with its stern 380 meters below the water level, and its bow is at 430 meters. One-third of the stern is bombarded, and the hull is severely damaged. It is a half-broken situation. However, the upper deck of the wooden hull is almost untouched. The armor on the side of the hull is also well preserved, while the anchors, guns and machine guns remain in place. In addition, all three of the masts and the two chimneys are broken, there was also a partial attacked trail of marking on the sides.”

Now, as reported by the Singapore Straits Times, the group is offering a swing at the “Donskoi International” cryptocurrency exchange providing tokens called Shinil Gold Coins (SGCs), backed apparently by gold futures on the wreck, which makes the whole idea of the 2nd Pacific Squadron’s ridiculous 18,000-mile journey to Valhalla seem like an innovative idea in comparison…

As for the Russians, after spending some 95 years trying to forget Donskoy, they renamed the 20-year-old TK-208, a huge Project 941 Akula (NATO: Typhoon-class) ballistic missile submarine built in 1980, as Dmitriy Donskoy.

She is the largest submarine in the world in regular fleet service, assigned to the Northern Fleet at Severodvinsk, and the last of her class on active duty. Her aging R-39 ballistic missiles were replaced with launchers for the new RSM-56 Bulava SLBM and she has been testing them out over the past several years.

Specs:

Displacement 5800 t, 6200 fl
Length 306 ft.
Width 52.1 ft.
Draft 23 ft.
Machinery: two 3-cylinder compound machines, 8 boilers, 7000 hp nominal (7360 max), 1 screw
Speed 16 knots
Range: 3,300 nautical miles @10kts, 900 tons coal
Crew 515, incl 23 officers when built. 571 in 1902
Armor: 114 to 152 mm belt, 12.7 mm – deck
Armament:
(1886)
2 × 203mm / 30 low angle
14 × 152mm / 28
4 × 87mm / 24
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky on wings
4 × 47mm/ 43 Hotchkiss
4 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
4 wheeled .45/70 Fearington “coffee mill guns”
4 381mm surface torpedo tubes abeam, 1 in bow
(1895)
6 × 152mm / 45 Canet
10 × 120mm / 45 Canet
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky
8 × 47mm / 43 Hotchkiss
10 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
4 381mm surface torpedo tubes abeam, 1 in bow
(1902)
6 × 152mm / 45 Canet
4 × 120mm / 45 Canet
6 × 75mm / 50 Obukhov
2 × 64mm / 20 Baranovsky
8 × 47mm / 43 Hotchkiss
10 × 37mm / 23 Hotchkiss
2 × 7.62mm Maxim Machine Guns

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Warship Wednesday October 8, 2014: The Lost Loot of the Nakhimov

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, October 8, 2014: The Lost Loot of Nakhimov

Admiral Nakhimov, NYC, 1893

Admiral Nakhimov, NYC, 1893. Click to big up.

Here we see the one-off armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov of his Majesty the Tsar of Russia’s Imperial Navy as she looked with a black hull and buff stack during the 1893 Columbia Naval Review in New York City. She was a pretty odd duck who had a hard end and a weirder legacy.

In the early 1880s, European powers became fascinated in the “Armored Cruiser” concept. These large ships were to be (stop me if you heard this already) fast enough to outrun capital ships, but sufficiently armed and armored to fight it out successfully against anything smaller. One such class of these vessels was the Royal Navy’s HMS Imperieuse/Warsprite class of very chunky (315-foot, 8500-ton) cruisers.

Well, taking this design and giving it even larger guns and more armor, the Tsar’s naval architects came up with a ship that was 8600-tons and 338-feet long (take that!) while mounting an impressive battery of eight 203mm (8-inch) naval guns protected by up to 10-inches of armor belt.

The ship had an interesting 8-gun arrangement in four twin turrets, one aft, one forward, two amidships. This was actually extremely progressive and was not copied in the fleets of the world until twenty years later

The ship had an interesting 8-gun arrangement in four twin turrets, one aft, one forward, two amidships. This was actually extremely progressive and was not copied in the fleets of the world until twenty years later

Aft barbette mount of the Russian armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov

Aft barbette mount of the Russian armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov

That was actually pretty good for the time, especially when you consider this leviathan could make 17-knots on a standard load with a fresh hull and everything lit with good coal (remember this later).

The new warship, named after Fleet Admiral Pavel Stepanovich Nakhimov, the commander of Sevastopol during its epic Crimean War siege and the man who annihilated the Ottoman fleet at Sinope in 1853, was ordered in 1881.

The namesake Admiral at Sevastopol. He was killed at the siege.

The namesake Admiral at Sevastopol. He was killed at the siege.

Finally laid down at the Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg, she was commissioned at the end of summer in 1888, just before the Baltic froze over.

Note the ship's 1890s scheme. This later changed to an all-white scheme with buff stack and black cap

Note the ship’s 1890s scheme. This later changed to an all-white scheme with buff stack and black cap

Skedaddling out Europe ahead of the coming annual freeze, Admiral Nakhimov set sail for her duty posting with the Russian Pacific Squadron at Vladivostok (and after 1895, Port Arthur). Waving the flag on her epic nine-month voyage, as the strongest Russian ships in that great blue ocean, she was appointed squadron flag.

Over the next fifteen years, she would retain this posting, returning to St. Petersburg every few years for refit in dry-dock and replacement of boiler tubes. This put a lot of mileage on the proud cruiser, but she was able to make stops everywhere from New York to Greece to Toulon on the way each time, waving the crap out of the Tsarist naval jack for all to see.

Admiral Nakhimov, NYC, 1893. Dig the misspelling on the news photo. The detail is exceedingly fine.

Admiral Nakhimov, NYC, 1893, doing that whole waving the Russian Naval Jack thing. Dig the misspelling on the news photo. The detail is exceedingly fine, including the numerous launches on the side of the cruiser– some of these could be equipped with spar torpedoes and conduct their own attacks if needed. Also, note the Torpedo nets deployed. She was the first Russian ship so-equipped. Click to big up.

She took part in some sharp combat a few times, supporting the Boxer Rebellion relief group among others. She then was used as the shuttle boat between Russia and Japan during the diplomatic tension leading to the coming war. In this time period before the Russo-Japanese War, Admiral Nakhimov’s crew included no less a figure than the young naval officer better known as the Grand Duke Cyril, grandson of Tsar Alexander II and cousin of Nicholas II. Cyril would later shamefully tie a red armband on his uniform and lead his elite Guards Naval Infantry battalion to swear personal allegiance to the Revolutionary government in St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution. This, of course, did not stop him from pretending to the throne in exile after the Reds later wiped out half of his family while simultaneously hanging out with the Mladorossi group– who were actually something of a pawn of the Soviet secret police. Anyway, back to the cruiser.

AdmiralNakhimov1900-1903

When war broke out with Japan, the well-used Admiral Nakhimov was back in the Baltic on her regular refit period. This was fortuitous, as she likely would have been sunk at Port Arthur like the rest of the Russian Pacific Squadron. However, let us not congratulate ourselves just yet, as the Russian glass is always half empty.

03

Attached to the doomed “2nd Pacific Squadron” of Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky at the last minute (who didn’t want the aging, slow cruiser), Admiral Nakhimov set sail for her end fate.

voina_452

Sailing with the fleet on its epic ride to Valhalla, eight months later the ship, aged 16 but with years of hard use on her, her hull a forest of underwater vegetation, her boiler tubes leaking, her guns hopelessly obsolete and her armor considered quaint compared to modern Harvey and Krupp designs, rounded the straits of Tsushima on May 28, 1905.

Vladimir-Emyshev's rendering of the batttle cruiser Admiral Nakhimov at Tsushima.

Vladimir-Emyshev’s rendering of the battle cruiser Admiral Nakhimov at Tsushima.

It was an easy day for Admiral Togo’s fleet and soon Admiral Nakhimov had her turn in the barrel, being hit by no less than 30 massive large caliber shells in short order. Somehow, she remained in the fight and even landed some hits on the IJN’s armored cruiser Iwate— some of the only Russian successes of that day. However, in the end, she was doomed. According to the Japanese, they sank her with a torpedo that night. According to the Russians, they scuttled her. The fact that the majority of her crew (623 men out of 651) escaped in good order lends credence to the Russian version of events.

Then, years later, something odd happened.

In 1980 Japanese businessman (and fascist Class A war criminal) Ryoichi Sasakawa financed an expedition to dive on the Nakhimov in her watery grave in some 314 ft. of water 5.5 miles off Tsushima Island. The goal of the mission? What was believed to be by some to be as much as $40 billion in 5,500 boxes of gold bullion, ingots, and British sovereigns, as well as precious jewels and crates of platinum ingots that the ship was carrying when she was sunk. Because surely the Tsar was in the habit of loading billions in precious metal on doomed ships, right?

You see a group of Russian naval officers, including the Nakhimov‘s paymaster, told wild stories after 1905 that the ship had picked up on the way to the Pacific some 700 million francs and 800 million marks worth of metals following the sale by the Russian government of overseas bonds to help finance the war. These officers and their statements circulated enough that groups of enterprising Japanese as early as the 1930s began looking for the ship to salvage its treasure. This continued over the decades as a myriad of groups kept looking for the Pacific’s equivalent of the Spanish treasure galleon. The Japanese considered it spoils of war and even mounted an official government salvage attempt in 1944 during the darkest days of WWII, losing three divers but accomplishing nothing.

Well, Sasakawa found the ship, and even brought up some pictures of the ship and its contents, offering to swap the prize to the Soviets for a group of isolated Japanese islands that the Reds picked up as a boobie prize in 1945. Only, in the end, the Russians didn’t bite and the “ingots” pictured on the Nakhimov turned out to be of iron and lead used in ship repair.

Doh.

Russian in 2007 placed a monument on the ship, which is considered a war grave by the country.

12820.b

One of Admiral Nakhimov‘s original 8-inch guns, raised during salvage operations in 1980, is on display at the Japanese Museum of Maritime Science in Tokyo.

Does this gu nlook familar to the one above? It should.

Does this gun look familiar to the one above? It should.

The namesake admiral and cruiser have proved to be a popular name for later Russian cruisers. A 1920s Svetlana class cruiser carried the moniker as did a 1950s Sverdlov class cruiser and a 1960s Kresta II-class cruiser. The memory of the ship sunk at the Battle of Tsushima, 28 May 1905 is today preserved by the Kirov class battlecruiser of the same name. Currently, in refit (some things never change), she is projected to rejoin the Russian Navy in 2018.

Formerly the Kalinin, the 25,000-ton batttlecruiser was renamed after the Nakhimov once the Kresta class warship with the same name retired.

Formerly the Kalinin, the 25,000-ton battlecruiser was renamed after the Nakhimov once the Kresta class warship with the same name retired.

 

Specs:

49

Displacement: 7,781 long tons (7,906 t) standard
8,473 long tons (8,609 t) full load
Length:     103.3 m (338 ft 11 in)
Beam:     18.6 m (61 ft 0 in)
Draught:     7.7 m (25 ft 3 in)
Propulsion:     2 shaft reciprocating vertical triple expansion (VTE) engines
12 cylindrical coal-fired boilers
9,000 shp (6,700 kW)
Speed:     17 knots (20 mph; 31 km/h)
Range:     4,400 nmi (8,100 km)
Boats & landing
craft carried:     2 × torpedo boats
2 × spar torpedo boats
Complement:     572-650
Armament:     • 8 × 203 mm (8 in) guns
• 10 × 152 mm (6 in) guns
• 4 × 110 mm (4.3 in) guns
• 15 × 47 mm (1.9 in) 3-pounder guns
• 3 × 381 mm (15 in) torpedo tubes
• 40 × mines
Armour:     Compound armor
Belt: 254 mm (10 in)
Deck: 51–76 mm (2–3 in)
Barbettes: 203 mm (8 in)
Turrets: 51–63 mm (2.0–2.5 in)
Conning tower: 152 mm (6 in)

 

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!

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