Fight in the Yellow Sea 28 July 1904 g. Part of 3: V.K. Witgeft takes command
From previous articles we saw that the experience of V.K. Witgeft as a naval commander is completely lost in the background of his opponent Heihatiro Togo, and the squadron over which the Russian Rear Admiral took command was quantitatively, qualitatively and in training of crews significantly inferior to the Japanese the fleet. It seemed that things had deteriorated completely, but this was not so, because with the departure of the governor, the paradigm “Take care and not risk it!”, Hitherto fettered the fleet, suddenly unclasped its claws.
And it happened, surprisingly, thanks to the governor Alekseev. And it turned out this way: the admiral himself was the commander-in-chief of the theater, and therefore the direct leadership of the squadron did not threaten him - it seems like not by rank. Therefore, the governor could calmly wait until the deceased S.O. Makarov will not receive a new fleet commander, appointing someone else, for example, the same V.K. Witgefta. Instead, Alekseev is acting quite politically: shortly after the death of Stepan Osipovich (for several days he was replaced by the prince and the junior flagship of Ukhtomsky) he arrives at Arthur and quite heroically takes command. This, of course, looks spectacular and ... does not require absolutely no initiative from the governor: since the squadron suffered heavy losses, there is no talk of confrontation with the Japanese fleet. So, you can, without fear of anything, raise your flagship over the battleship "Sevastopol" and ... do nothing in anticipation of the new commander.
After all, what happened at S.O. Makarov? The fleet, although much weaker than the Japanese, still tried to conduct constant and systematic combat work, and this (despite the loss) gave our sailors invaluable experience and constrained the actions of the Japanese, and there was nothing to say about raising the morale of the Arthur squadron. Nothing prevented these practices from continuing after the death of Petropavlovsk - apart from the fear of loss, of course. It is impossible to lose without a war, and Stepan Osipovich understood this very well, risking himself and demanding the same from his subordinates: as mentioned earlier, the question was whether S.O. Makarov is a great admiral or not, remains controversial, but the fact that nature rewarded him with well-known enterprise, personal courage and leadership qualities cannot be two opinions. C.O. Makarov was not afraid of losses, but the vicegerent Alekseev was a completely different matter. The latter, of course, sought to command the fleet during the wartime, only all his actions suggest that, being ready to try on the laurels of the combat admiral, the governor Alexeyev did not want and was not ready to accept the responsibility of the fleet commander.
The fact is that no matter how weak the Arthur squadron was, but as soon as it became clear that the Japanese were preparing a landing only sixty miles from Port Arthur, the fleet simply had to intervene. It was not at all necessary to attempt to attack the Japanese with the last three battleships remaining in service (of which, moreover, Sevastopol could not develop more 10 nodes until May 15 when it was repaired). But there were high-speed cruisers and destroyers, there was a possibility of night attacks - the problem was only that such actions would be associated with a greater risk.
Squadron battleship "Poltava" in the West Basin of Port Arthur 1904
And this put Admiral Alekseev before an extremely unpleasant dilemma: at your own peril and risk, organize a counterpart to the Japanese landing, fraught with losses, or enter history the commander of the squadron, in which, under the very nose, the Japanese carried out a major landing operation, and he didn’t even strike a finger to stop them. Neither option promises political profit and therefore the governor Alekseev ... hastily decreases from Port Arthur. Of course, not just like that - having previously sent a telegram addressed to the Sovereign Emperor with a rationale why Alekseev, well, it is extremely urgent to be in Mukden and having received the appropriate command from the Sovereign. So, Alexeev’s urgent departure is motivated by train - since the Emperor himself deigned to order ...
And right there, even before the governor’s train arrived for its intended purpose, Admiral Alekseev suddenly became a champion of active operations at sea: he gave instructions to V.K. Witgeftu attack the landing site by 10-12 destroyers under the cover of cruisers and the battleship Peresvet!
After all, how interesting it is: it means “to take care and not to risk” and suddenly - a sudden passion for risky and even adventurous operations in the best traditions of Admiral Ushakov ... What (just by chance!) Completely contradicts the instructions given by the governor VC. Witgeftu upon departure:
Alekseev, experienced in intrigues, excellently furnished the case: if the squadron chief action officer did not attack the Japanese - well, he, the vicar had nothing to do with it, because he gave a direct instruction to attack, and the rear admiral did not execute the order. If V.K. Witgeft will risk attacking the Japanese and will suffer defeat with sensitive losses, which means that he violated the orders of the vicegerent without the need not to risk them when they left. And in that extremely unlikely event, if the rear admiral left on the squadron succeeds - well, it’s wonderful at all, most of the laurel wreath in this case will go to Alekseev: it happened “according to his instructions” and V.K. Vitgeft is only the chief of staff of the governor ...
In essence, V.K. Witgeft plunged into a trap. Whatever he did (except, of course, the heroic Victoria over the Japanese fleet) - the fault would lie solely on him. But on the other hand, the direct order to protect the forces entrusted to him no longer dominated him: Admiral Alekseev could not give V.K. Witgeft direct instructions "to sit down and do not stick out", because in this case, the deputy would be accused of inaction of the fleet. Thus, V.K. Witgeft was able to carry out military operations according to his understanding without special violation of the instructions given to him - and this was the only (but extremely important) plus in his unenviable position.
That's just why, in fact, unenviable? After all, the position of S.O. Makarov was no better: he led the squadron at his own peril and risk, but after all he had to answer if he had happened. But only Stepan Osipovich was not afraid of responsibility, but Wilhelm Karlovich Vitgeft ...
It is not so difficult to assess the actions of the rear admiral for the three months of the squadron command, which also became the last months of his life. Certainly, temporarily, I.D. The squadron commander Rear Admiral Vitgeft did not become a worthy successor of the Makarov traditions. He did not organize the proper training of the crews - of course, the training program was and was executed, but will you learn a lot while anchored? And in the sea for the entire period of his command V.K. Witgeft led the squadron only twice. The first time was June 10, which seemed to be a breakthrough to Vladivostok, but retreated, seeing the Japanese fleet. Again, the rear admiral came out on July 28, when, fulfilling the will of the Emperor, he nevertheless led the squadron entrusted to him for a breakthrough and died in battle, until the last time trying to carry out the order given to him.
Regular fighting? Not at all, the 1 officers had to forget about the dashing, minable night raids in search of the enemy. Periodically, the ships of the Arthur squadron went out to support their own troops with artillery fire, but that was all. Still in the merit of V.K. His efforts to clear the free passage to the sea from mines are usually made to Vitgeft, and this was indeed a worthy deed of an experienced admiral in a minefield. The only problem was that VK Witgeft fought with the investigation (mines), and not with the cause (the ships that set them up). Recall, for example, “Opinions expressed at the meeting of Flagships, land generals and commanders of the ships of the first rank. 14 June 1904 g ":
But coastal artillery, in any case, was not a panacea for enemy mines. The word Vl. Semenov, at that time - to the senior officer of the cruiser "Diana":
What is it? Any ships, in view of the squadron ... and no one could do anything? And all because even the Makarov's “trifle”, as a cruiser on the outer roadstead, was abolished by the governor, for “as if something had not happened,” and V.K. Witgeft, though, in the end, decided to restore duty, but not immediately. There was no question of keeping several destroyers ready for a night attack and destroying impudent Japanese during the next mining attempt.
As a result, a vicious circle arose - V.K. Witgeft had every reason to fear the Japanese mines, and only because of this he could not strive to bring his ships to an external raid. Despite all his efforts to organize the trawling (and in this matter, the rear admiral’s management should in no case be underestimated), the waters before Port Arthur turned into a real minefield, which is why during the attack of the port-arthur squadron at sea, 10 June, the squadron battleship Sevastopol was blown up. Sam V.K. Witgeft at the same meeting of the Flagships of June 14 noted:
It is known that 10 June, during the exit of the Arthur squadron, its ships stood at the anchorage in the outer roadstead, and no less than 10 Japanese mines were caught between the ships, so the rear admiral was largely right. But it should be understood that such a density of mine settings was only possible due to the fact that Japanese light ships felt at home around Port Arthur - and who allowed them to do this? Who actually locked up the light forces of the squadron and cruiser in the inner harbor of Port Arthur? First - the governor, and then - Rear Admiral V.K. Witgeft. And despite the fact that the detachment from Bayan, Askold and Novik with the destroyers could have done some pretty dirty tricks on the Japanese even during the period of the squadron's maximum weakness. The Japanese regularly patrolled near Port Arthur with their armored cruisers, and yet all these Matsushima, Sumy and other Akitsushima could neither leave nor fight the Russian squad, and the doggie would not be very good, decide they are in battle. Of course, the Japanese could try to cut off the Russian cruisers from Arthur, but in this case no one prevented them from bringing a pair of battleships to the outer raid for the duration of the operation. In one way or another, it was possible to provide cover for light forces, there would be a desire: but here it is for Rear Admiral V.K. Witgefta and was not.
Squadron battleship "Sevastopol"
It can be assumed that V.K. Witgeft felt temporary. We absolutely know that he did not consider himself capable of leading the powers entrusted to him to victory. It is likely that he saw his main task only to save the ship crew and people by the time of arrival of the current commander of the squadron, and in the viceroy, who soon after leaving, began to “mobilize” the rear admiral for active actions, he saw an obstacle for that he considered it his duty. Judging by the documents available to the author of this article, the viceroy’s expectations were as follows: active operations by cruisers and destroyers (but without undue risk!), Early repair of damaged battleships, but for the time being they are under repair, and the rest cannot be used - remove their guns in favor of the land fortress. Well, there, you see, the new commander arrives in time. If not, wait until all the battleships are ready, return the guns to them and then act according to the situation.
VC. Witgeft was wholeheartedly for disarming the fleet, he was not only armadillos, but also ready to disarm the cruiser (here the governor had to restrain the impulses of his chief of staff) - just to not lead the ships into battle. One can hardly talk about cowardice - apparently, Wilhelm Karlovich was sincerely convinced that he could not achieve anything with active actions and would only fill up the whole thing. Therefore, V.K. Witgeft quite sincerely urged the flagships to accept the famous “Great Charter of the Fleet's Abdication”, as it was later called in Port Arthur, according to which artillery of the battleships should be brought ashore to enhance the defense of the fortress, and the destroyers should now be kept as the eye of the future for future operations. It is possible that V.K. Witgeft really was sure that he was acting for good. But if so, then we can only state: Wilhelm Karlovich did not understand people at all, did not know how and didn’t know how to lead them and, alas, didn’t understand at all what his duty to the Fatherland was.
After all, what was happening on the squadron? C.O. Makarov died, causing general depression, and the etching of the "Makarov" spirit and any initiative during the command of the governor only worsened the situation. But on April 22, the governor left Arthur, and everyone seemed to even sigh with relief, knowing that there certainly would be nothing with the viceroy, but with the new commander ... who knows?
VC. Witgeft should not have been overly concerned about preserving the ships. Well, let's say he would transfer technically sound battleships to the newly appointed squadron commander - then what? What is the use of serviceable battleships if their teams have had less than 40 practice days since the S.O. command since November last year? Makarov? How to defeat a skilled, experienced, numerically and qualitatively superior enemy with such crews? These were the questions that Wilhelm Karlovich had to attend to, and the answers to them were to continue what Stepan Osipovich Makarov began. The only sensible act in place of the new commander would be the resumption of systematic hostilities and the most intensive training of squadron battleships remaining on the move. Moreover, the formal permission for the active actions of V.K. Witgeft received.
Instead, after some three days from taking office, the rear admiral urges the flagships to sign the "Great Charter of the Renunciation of the Fleet." As Vladimir Semenov wrote (“Payment”):
26 April, the text of the "Great Charter" became known in the squadron, which dealt a severe blow to its morale, and in less than a week, on May 2, V.К. Witgeft finished it off completely. It's amazing how the new commander managed to turn the only indisputable Russian victory weapons in moral defeat, but he succeeded.
Now there are different views on the role of V.K. Vitgefta in undermining the Japanese battleships "Yashima" and "Hatsuse". For a long time, the opinion prevailed that this success was not due to, but contrary to the actions of the rear admiral, and the matter was made solely thanks to the valor of the Amur mine commander captain 2 rank F.N. Ivanova. But then an assumption arose that the role of V.K. Witgefta is much more important than it was considered. Let's try to figure out what happened after all.
So, after some 4 hours after the departure of the governor of 22 on April, V.K. Witgeft gathered the flagships and captains of the 1 and 2 ranks for the meeting. Apparently, he suggested that they should mine the approaches to the internal raid in order not to miss the Japanese firefighters, but this proposal was rejected. But the second paragraph of the minutes of the meeting read:
However, neither the place nor the time of mine setting was not specified. For some time, everything calmed down, but then the rear admiral was disturbed by the commander of "Amur" captain 2-rank F.N. Ivanov. The fact is that the officers noticed: the Japanese, carrying out the near blockade of Port Arthur, follow the same route over and over again. It was necessary to clarify its coordinates in order not to be mistaken, exposing a mine can. For this kavtorang asked V.K. Witgefta on special orders to observation posts. VC. Witgeft gave such an order:
Several of the observation posts located in various places took the bearings of the Japanese detachment during the last passage of the latter, and this made it possible to accurately determine its route. Now it was necessary to lay mines, and this was a rather difficult task. In the afternoon, Port Arthur had Japanese ships that could sink the Amur or simply notice the laying of mines, which immediately condemned the operation to failure. At night there was a great risk of encountering Japanese destroyers, and besides, it would be difficult to determine the exact location of the minelayer, which caused a great risk of putting mines at all where they should be. The task looked uneasy, and V.K. Witgeft ... withdrew from her decision. The right to determine the exit time of the minzag was delegated to Rear-Admiral Loshchinsky, chief of the mobile and mine defense.
On the morning of May 1, Lieutenant Gadd, who was on duty at the signal station of Golden Mountain, discovered a blocking detachment of Rear Admiral Deva. Gadd interrogated other posts and came to the conclusion that the laying of mines was possible, and he informed the mine defense headquarters and Amur. However, the exit minzaga remained quite risky, why Rear Admiral Loshchinsky did not want to take responsibility for himself - instead of sending Amur to lay mines, he asked for instructions from the squadron headquarters. However, V.K. Apparently, Vitgeft did not crave this responsibility either, since he ordered to tell Loschinsky on the phone:
But Loschinsky even now didn’t want to send his Amur to his combat mission with his own will. Instead, he, taking with him the mine-commander, went to the meeting - to report to V.K. Witgeftu and ask for his permission. But V.K. Instead of direct instructions, Witgeft answers Loschinsky:
In the end, V.K. Still, Witgeft gave a direct instruction by raising a signal at Sevastopol:
It took almost an hour for these altercations, which, however, played a mine statement only on hand - the Japanese ships were moving away from the place of the play. The case was risky - “Amur” was separated from the Japanese by a very small distance and a strip of fog: it could be noticed, in this case the minelayer would be doomed.
But if V.K. Witgeft did not seek to determine the time of the launch of the mines, he determined the exact location of the staging - in 8-9 miles and it is completely incomprehensible what he was guided by. The Japanese couldn’t damage this barrier; they walked more seaward. Admiral did not want to put a barrier outside the territorial waters? But in those years, the zone of territorial waters was considered to be three miles from the coast. In general, the decision is completely inexplicable, but the commander of “Amur” received just such an order and violated it by putting a minefield at 10,5-11 miles away.
The fact of violation of the order was reflected as in the report of F.N. Ivanova V.K. Vitgeftu, and in the report V.K. Witgefta - deputy, and therefore can not cause doubts. Accordingly, it can be argued that the official point of view on this question is correct, and the role of V.K. Witgefta in this operation is small. Of course, he supported (and maybe even put forward) the idea of an active mine setting, and F.N. Ivanov (at his request) to determine the route of the passage of the Japanese troops, but this and all that can be recorded in the asset of the rear admiral.
It is very sad that, having started at least some active actions, V.K. Witgeft could not use them to raise the morale of the squadron. Having laid mines, he simply had to admit that on these mines somebody would blow up and there would be a need to finish off the enemy squad. Moreover, even if no one was blown up, but the ships were “ready for the march and battle” (the battleships could be brought to an external raid), still such readiness to attack the enemy caused great enthusiasm on the squadron. Instead, as Vl. Semenov:
As I believed then, I believe so now: they would be “rolled out”! .. But how was it possible to go to the raid without having any fumes? .. Brilliant, the only one in the whole campaign, the moment was lost ...
... This blunder affected the squadron worse than all the losses.
We will never be able to do anything! Where to us! - hot heads used to say biliously ... Not destiny! - they said more balanced ... And somehow they immediately decided that there was nothing more to wait for, that it remains only to acknowledge the justice written in the "great charter of renunciation" ... I have never seen such a decline in spirit. True, later the mood got stronger again, but it was already on the basis of the determination to fight, in any case and in any situation, as it were necessary, as if "spite" someone ... "
Even when the success of the mine setting became apparent, V.K. Witgeft was still hesitating - the cruisers did not receive an order to raise pairs at all, and the destroyers only with a great delay. The first explosion under the stern of "Hatsuse" sounded in 09.55, the Russian destroyers were able to enter the external raid only after 13.00. The result did not hesitate: the Japanese took the damaged Yasima in tow and left, driving the destroyers off with cruisers. If temporarily I.D. Rear-Admiral Vitgeft had a squadron commander under the destroyers and cruisers at the time of the blast, their joint attack could have finished not only with Yasima, but perhaps also of Sikisima, because at the first moment after the blasting the Japanese panicked, opening fire by water (assuming they were attacked by submarines). Yes, and the later actions of Japanese sailors betrays their strongest psychological shock. “Hatsuse” died in view of Port Arthur, “Yasima” was led to the island of Encounter Rock, but according to the official Japanese history of the war at sea, it soon became clear that the possibilities of fighting for the survivability of the battleship were exhausted. The ship was anchored in a solemn atmosphere, to the cries of "Banzai!", The portrait of the Emperor was carried out, and then the whole crew of the battleship organizedly went aboard the cruiser "Suma".
Squadron battleship "Yashima"
But this is according to official history, but the report of the British observer, naval attache, Captain W. Päckinham, contains a “slightly different” vision of those events. According to S.A. Balakin in “Mikasa” and others ... Japanese battleships 1897 — 1905 ”:
Only by a timely attack, the Russians had good chances to increase the number of dead Japanese battleships from two to three. But even if this did not happen, there is no doubt that 3 in May, the 1 th squadron of the Pacific Ocean could, if not crush the Japanese supremacy at sea, then it was essential to shake it and strike a powerful blow, seriously confusing all the Japanese cards. If on that day the Russian fleet was led by a resolute admiral capable of taking risks, then ...
Imagine for a second that on the eve of May 2 in K.V. Witgefta would be infused with the spirit of Admiral F.F. Ushakov - what could happen in this case? At dawn, all the Russian ships took to the outer raid - if they could get close to the Japanese squadron after an explosion at the mines of their battleships or not, the question was fortunate, and let's say that they failed, and the Sikishima with the cruisers left. But it is obvious that after the “confusion”, the Japanese will come into confusion, since the Commander of the United Fleet simply will not be ready for the death of two of its battleships without the slightest damage to the Russian fleet - which means it's time to strike at the site of the Japanese landing at Bitszyo!
Surprisingly, but the fact is that such a move had excellent chances for success. Indeed, literally several hours before the blast on the Russian mines Yasima and Khatsuse, the armored cruiser Kasuga rammed the armored decking Yosino. The latter immediately went to the bottom, but the Kasuga also got it - the ship was heavily damaged, and another armored cruiser, the Yakumo, was forced to haul the Kasuga in Sasebo for repairs. Kamimura, with his armored cruisers, was looking for the Vladivostok detachment at that time, since Kheyhatiro Togo quite reasonably believed that to block the weakened Arthur squadron his 6 squadron battleships and three armored cruisers would be more than enough. And indeed - 2 May V.K. Witgeft could lead into battle only three battleships, an armored and four armored cruisers, and 16 destroyers, and such forces, of course, had nothing to dream of crushing the backbone of the United Fleet.
But on May 2 everything changed, and the absence of Kamimura with his 2 squad could play a bad joke with Togo: on this day, the United Fleet forces were scattered, and he could immediately throw into battle 3 battleship, 1-2 armored cruisers (and rather, all the same), several armored decks, yes 20 destroyer units - i.e. roughly equivalent to the Russian forces. Yes, of course, Mikasa, Asahi and Fuji were stronger than Peresvet, Poltava and Sevastopol, but the 28 battle of July 1904 r testified irrefutably - at that time the Russian battleships were able to withstand hours of battle with the Japanese, without losing combat capability. Moreover, according to Vl. Semenov’s attack on Bitszyvo by the ships remaining in the ranks of the ships were discussed in a lively manner by the officers of the squadron:
And if such actions were discussed when Togo had six battleships, now, when he had only three at his disposal ... and even four, if Sikisime could join the main forces before the Russian ships approached Bitszyo? In any case, as long as the main forces of both squadrons would have tied each other in combat, the armored "Bayan", with the support of armored "six thousand meters", could easily have broken through and attacked the landing site. It is extremely doubtful that her immediate cover, the old men of “Matsushima” and “Chin-Yen” under the command of Vice-Admiral S. Kataoka could stop them.
Perhaps such an attack would not have been successful, but it would have the most significant impact on the Japanese command. What can I say - only a timid exit of the Russian squadron 10 June, when VK Vitgeft did not dare to fight with the Japanese and retreated because of the enemy to the external raid under the cover of coastal artillery caused a certain change in the plans of the Japanese command - the very next day after the squadron sailed into the sea, the army commanders were notified:
And what effect could the decisive battle of the main forces have at that time, almost because of the landing site?
However, all these are only unrealized opportunities and we cannot know what they could lead to: all of the above is nothing more than a despised by many genre of alternative history. Nevertheless, the author of this article considers it appropriate to show how really wide the choice of solutions was for VK. Witgefta, and how modestly he took advantage of the opportunities presented to him.
Returning to the real story, it should be noted that during the period of command of V.K. Witgefta did a good job at the port facilities, and even the repairmen: the work on damaged battleships was carried out very quickly and efficiently. But can it be credited to a rear admiral? The fact is that 28 in March 1904 was a naval officer, who previously commanded the battleship Tsesarevich, received production in the rear admirals and was appointed commander of the port of Port Arthur. This officer was distinguished by his extraordinary management, reorganized the work of the port facilities, which made the fleet not aware of any problems with coal, or with materials, or with repair work. His name was Ivan Konstantinovich Grigorovich, as it is known, he later became Minister of the Navy: and I must say that if he was not the best, then he was one of the best ministers in the entire history of the Russian State. Also in no case should not forget that S.O. Makarov brought along with him one of the best domestic ship engineers - N.N. Kuteynikov, who immediately took an active part in the repair of damaged ships. Such subordinates should not have ordered what to do - it was enough for them not to interfere, so that the work was done in the best possible way.
Thus, we can already with the usual sadness state that V.K. Vitgeft did not cope with the duties of the squadron chief - he did not want and could not organize either crew training or systematic combat, and did not prevent the landing of the Japanese army that threatened the Russian fleet base Port Arthur. In addition, he completely failed to prove himself as a leader, and his actions to disarm the fleet in favor of the fortress and the inability to use the gift of Fate (which this time appeared in the person of Amur mine-laying commander FN Ivanov) had a very negative effect on the combat the spirit of the squadron.
But by the beginning of June, the damaged battleships were back in service - now the Russians had 6 squadron battleships against four Japanese, and it was time to do something ...
Продолжение следует ...
- Andrei from Chelyabinsk
- Fight in the Yellow Sea 28 July 1904 g. Part of 2. Squadron received by V.K. Vitgeft
Fight in the Yellow Sea 28 July 1904 g. Part of 1: Wilhelm Karlovich Vitgeft and Kheyhatiro Togo
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