If in the naval battles of 1904 the artillery did not sink a single large ship, then in Tsushima it became the main striking factor. Numerous hits by Japanese shells in the battle on May 14 destroyed the Oslyabya, Alexander III and Borodino, deprived the Prince Suvorov of the combat capability, and caused serious damage to many other ships. Russian fire was not so effective. If we discard the myths about the use of new miracle shells or their crazy consumption, it becomes clear that the outcome of the battle was determined by the absolute superiority of the Japanese fleet in the number of hits due to the significantly higher accuracy of firing.
In the memoirs of the Russian participants in Tsushima, the question of the effectiveness of their own artillery usually boiled down to a listing of technical shortcomings. The shells had little explosives, often did not explode, so the results of the firing were not visible. Rangefinders "lied". The scopes got dirty and lost. Organizational reasons were rarely mentioned, and most often they spoke of a lack of practical artillery experience. At the same time, no one spoke at all about the method of fire control.
At the same time, V.E. Grevenits, the flagship artillery officer of the Vladivostok cruiser detachment, called the reason for the low accuracy not rangefinders, sights, guns or gunners, but the shortcomings of the fire control technique caused by a lack of practical experience. The cruiser "Russia", whose artillerymen continuously improved their skills, showed good results then from a distance of 56 ... 40 cab. And who knows how the Battle of Tsushima would have ended if the artillerymen of the 2nd Pacific Squadron had the same skills ...
The purpose of this article is to revise the key technical and organizational factors that formed the accuracy of the fire of the Russian squadron in the Battle of Tsushima.
At that time, the firing range of modern guns made it possible to fire even with a medium caliber at a distance of 60 cab., And the main caliber "Oslyabi" finished off as much as 115 cab. At the same time, the mastered shooting techniques provided accurate fire only at a direct shot distance (no more than 10 cab.), At which no additional means were required to determine the range, except for a mechanical sight. Getting into the enemy at long distances was a huge problem, primarily due to the difficulty of determining the exact distance and calculating various corrections (for the move, for the wind, for circulation, etc.).
The key technical factors providing effective long-range fire were:
• devices for determining the distance (range finders);
• aiming devices (optical sights);
• means of transferring information to tools;
• shells that provide visibility of hits at long distances.
The key organizational factors were:
• organizational structure of artillery;
• method of fire control;
• target selection;
• training for gunners.
When firing at distances exceeding the range of a direct shot, it was necessary to accurately determine the distance to the target. Protractors, which became widespread at the end of the 10th century, were effective only up to 15 ... XNUMX cab. They were replaced by new devices - rangefinders, which could measure much greater distances.
To determine the distance to the enemy on the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, 4,5-foot rangefinders "Barr & Stroud" of the latest model FA3, the production of which began in 1903, were used. The rangefinder base was about 1,37 m and the scale was graduated to 10 yards (000 m). The principle of operation was based on calculating the length of the unknown leg in a right-angled triangle along the length of the known leg (the base of the device itself) and the opposite angle, which is determined at the time of measuring the distance. The operator had to move the prism to combine the upper and lower half of the image in the eyepiece and get the distance to the object on the scale.
On the ships of the combat line, from two to four rangefinders were installed.
According to the passport, the relative error of the FA3 model at a distance of 3 yards (000 m) was 2% (743 m) and increased in proportion to the firing range. At a distance of 1 yards (27,5 m), it reached 6 meters. At that time, rangefinders were improving very quickly. And already in 000, a new, 5-foot model FQ486 will be released with a passport accuracy of 110 m at a distance of 1906 yards (9 m). For this reason, already in 2 in our fleet 78-foot rangefinders "Barr & Stroud" are considered obsolete and will begin to be replaced by more advanced ones.
The practical error of rangefinder measurements was much higher.
The detachment of Rear Admiral NI Nebogatov was the first to reveal this problem, when on March 27, 1905, during the first detachment combat firing from a distance of 50 ... 25 cab. could not achieve hits in any shield. But the conclusions were made promptly: they carefully verified the rangefinders by the stars and introduced regular training to determine the distance to the vessel going to the side. As a result, on April 11, 1905, in the second detachment combat firing from a distance of 60 ... 40 cab. managed to show good results.
The degree of possession of rangefinders on the ships of the detachment of Vice-Admiral Z.P. Rozhestvensky was known from the results of the exercises conducted on April 27, 1905 according to the methodology developed in the detachment of N.I. Nebogatov. The cruiser "Ural" was approaching the squadron, and the range finders had to determine its speed by making two control measurements with an interval of 15 minutes at the same time. Here are the results:
The real speed of the Ural was 10 knots ...
During the Tsushima battle, both the range finders and the people behind them were very vulnerable to fragments of enemy shells. Moreover, in combat conditions, the instruments greatly lost their accuracy even without direct damage. So, on the "Emperor Nicholas I" for the same target, the bow rangefinder showed 42 cabs, and the stern - 32 cabs. On "Apraksin" the readings differed by 14 rooms, on "Senyavin" - by 5 rooms.
Thus, Tsushima showed that rangefinders were an unreliable means of determining the distance due to both the low training of specialists and the failure of devices for various reasons.
When shooting at long distances, traditional, mechanical sights no longer allowed to see the target clearly. For accurate aiming, an optical sight with multiple magnification was required.
On the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, almost all guns with a caliber of 75 mm and above (except for some obsolete ones) received optical monocular sights of the Perepelkin system. They had an 8x magnification and an angle of view of about 7 degrees.
Unfortunately, Perepelkin's sights were developed, manufactured and put into service in a great hurry, so they had numerous flaws. The most serious problem was the misalignment of the sighting line and the axis of the gun, which sometimes occurred after two or three shots. In addition, in battle, the lenses quickly got dirty from soot, dust and splashes. When the use of telescopic sights became impossible, some gunmen switched to mechanical sights.
Means of information transmission
The organization of long-range shooting made high demands on the efficiency and reliability of the transmission of commands and firing parameters to the guns, because the gunner could no longer determine the distance "by eye" and independently calculate the corrections.
By the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, all large modern ships of the Russian fleet had a system of fire control devices from the St. Petersburg plant of N.K. Geisler, model 1893/1894, which ensured the transfer of data between rangefinder posts, a conning tower, a central post, guns and ammunition storage. This system consisted of transmitting and receiving devices connected by a 47-wire cable with a constant voltage of 23V.
Scheme of the Geisler system
Devices of the Geisler system
At the rangefinder station there was a rangefinder key - a device for transmitting the distance to the target in the conning tower and to the guns, and a control rangefinder dial, which showed the same distance that the guns received. There were several ranging stations. Usually they were located in the conning tower or on the fore-mars and on the stern bridge.
In the conning tower there were rangefinder dials that received information from different rangefinders. There was also a separate rangefinder indicator and rangefinder key for transferring the adjusted distance to the guns, and switches for switching the mode of transferring the distance to the gunners either directly from the rangefinders or from the wheelhouse.
In the conning tower there were also: two combat indicators (left and right sides), a signal indicator and a projectile indicator.
The combat indicator was an alidade on a graduated disc with a telescope. When this pipe turned to the target, the selected direction was transmitted to the receiving pointers at the guns. Thus, the gunners received information about the ship on which to fire.
The signal indicator transmitted the commands: "fraction", "attack", "short alarm".
The projectile indicator provided information to the guns and in the cellars which projectiles should be fired (armor-piercing, high-explosive, etc.).
A combat dial and a rangefinder dial were located near the guns. The combat dial showed the direction to the target and the firing commands. The rangefinder dial showed the distance to the target and the type of shells used.
At the entrance to the artillery cellars, projectile markers were placed to convey information about which shells should be supplied.
On the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, the Geisler system was modernized. Firstly, it could transmit rear sight amendments to the guns from the conning tower. Secondly, it was able to report the distance from its individual ranging station to each group.
In addition to the Geisler system, other methods of transmitting information were also used. Communication pipes were used to connect the combat posts with the guns. At the same time, all commands transmitted through the communication pipes and the Geisler system should have been duplicated by voice transmission. For this, people were placed in certain places, who repeated the commands with a voice. Orderlies were assigned to key officers, whose duties included the transfer of commands in the event of failure of regular means of communication. There was also a telephone, which was not popular even in peacetime due to its low reliability.
In combat conditions, the issue of information transmission was very acute. Geisler's wiring and communication pipes were open and easily damaged by shrapnel or fire (they were made using flammable materials). Communication through the negotiating pipes became impossible with a lot of noise from their own shots and the explosions of enemy shells. The voice transmission was all the more not audible. And then they had to communicate with notes through messengers, and this method could not ensure the promptness of information.
A very important factor affecting the effectiveness of long-range firing was the ability to observe the fall of your own shells. In turn, this depended on the device of the main types of ammunition intended for firing at enemy armored ships: high-explosive and armor-piercing. According to the instructions for the 2nd Pacific squadron, the fire should have been started with high-explosive shells, when approaching 20 cab. switch to armor-piercing 10 "and 12" guns, and from 10 cab. - also 6 ”and 120mm.
All armor-piercing shells and high-explosive shells with a caliber of 10 ... 6 "had a two-capsule delayed-action fuse (Brink tube). When hitting the water, such ammunition usually did not detonate, but when it hit the target, it exploded deep inside the enemy ship or even overboard. Together, this made it very difficult to observe the results of their own shooting.
Only high-explosive shells of 12 ”and 120 mm caliber had a fuse of 1894 (Baranovsky tube), which ensured operation when hitting water or the outer parts of the ship.
A very noticeable break with a cloud of black smoke was produced by a cast iron projectile equipped with an 1894 percussion fuse and equipped with black powder. It was he who was used for zeroing in the previous naval battles of the Russo-Japanese War. Pig-iron shells were loaded onto the detachment of ZP Rozhestvensky as practical shells, were used in firing practice and in small quantities on individual ships were preserved until the battle. There were no such shells on the ships of N.I. Nebogatov's detachment.
Thus, the problem of poor visibility of the falls of shells equipped with a Brink tube could well have been stopped by the use of cast iron shells, both for zeroing in and with fire to kill. Moreover, the warehouses had huge stocks of such ammunition. But in fact, this problem was not given due attention. In battle, Russian artillerymen often did not see the results of their firing, which had an extremely detrimental effect on the final accuracy.
Artillery organizational structure
On the ships of the Russian fleet, organizational weapons were combined into groups and plutongs. This division made it possible to conduct concentrated fire simultaneously on several targets.
Plutong is a collection of guns of the same caliber, located within the reach of voice commands and having the ability to fire at the same target. The composition of the plutong is constant: it is either a tower or one or more casemate guns. Each plutong had its own commander, who had to independently control the fire at close combat ranges (up to 10 cab.). In other cases, he had to strictly follow the instructions of higher commanders.
A group is a collection of several plutongs under a single command and firing at the same target. There were two (one per side) or four groups on the ship, usually led by a junior artillery officer. Each group had its own rangefinder.
On battleships of the "Borodino" class, the group commanders were located in the "corner" towers of medium caliber, on the "Oslyab" - in the upper "corner" casemates. The weapons of the plutongs in which they were located were used for sighting and were called "sighting".
Plutoons, which were not carrying group leaders, were called reserves. They came under the control of one group or another, depending on the tactical situation. The leadership within the group was carried out through negotiating pipes.
The central control of the ship's artillery was carried out by the fire control officer - a senior artillery officer who was subordinate to the ship's commander. To transfer commands to plutongs and groups, he most often used negotiating pipes and the Geisler system.
Central fire was the main method of controlling artillery, in which all guns received commands (including target selection, distance, correction) from the fire controller. If it became necessary to fire several targets at the same time, some of the guns were transferred to control from the group. For example, in the first phase of the Tsushima battle, the stern guns switched to group fire due to the fact that the enemy's flagship left their sector of destruction. Another reason for the rejection of the central fire was the damage to the fire control devices in the conning tower, the means of transmitting commands, or the failure of the fire controllers.
Organization of communication through communication pipes
The big problem of fire control in the Russian fleet of that time was archaic ideas, rooted in the sailing era, that the accuracy of fire depends solely on the skills of the gunners. Therefore, the gunners often did not want to listen to the commanders and made amendments on their own. And the artillery officers did not strongly resist this, first of all considering themselves specialists in technology, and not in ballistics and tactics.
Fire control technique
By the beginning of the war with Japan, the Rules of Artillery Service on Navy Ships, published back in 1890, were hopelessly outdated.
New fire control techniques were developed independently in individual fleets, squadrons, squads, or even ships. In 1903, a training artillery detachment successfully fired at the command "Management and action of ship artillery in battle and during exercises" drawn up by the flagship artilleryman of the Pacific squadron A. K. Myakishev. But neither the main naval headquarters, represented by ZP Rozhestvensky, nor the naval technical committee of the fleet, represented by FV Dubasov, gave further progress to this document.
Thus, during the Russo-Japanese War, there were no uniform rules for controlling artillery in battle that would meet the spirit of the times in the navy.
For the artillerymen of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, the flagship artillery officer, Colonel F. A. Bersenev, developed a separate document: "Organization of Artillery Service on the Ships of the 2nd Squadron of the Pacific Fleet", which hereinafter will be called "instructions." Let's consider its main points.
Distance 40 cab. was considered the limit for effective fire. At a longer range, only zeroing in with single shots from medium-caliber guns was allowed in order to determine the moment when to open fire to kill. The first shot was to be fired with the expectation of not reaching the target. The next one - only after receiving the results of the previous one and making adjustments.
The order for the squadron specified that zeroing at a distance of more than 30 cab. the flagship should have started. Having achieved the cover, he had to transmit the data to open fire to the ships coming from behind. At the same time, zeroing was not mandatory. When opening fire from small distances, it was allowed to immediately switch to rapid fire, determining the range by the rangefinder.
After zeroing in (if there was one), at the command "short alarm", it was necessary to switch to rapid fire with the main and medium caliber, that is, to the maximum rate of fire, in which each gun fired a shot when ready. When firing to kill, the firing manager determined the actual distance based on the readings received from the rangefinder stations, calculated corrections for own course, target movement, wind and circulation for medium-caliber guns using tables, and transmitted this data through the Geisler system and by voice. The corrections for the main caliber guns were calculated in plutongs according to the tables based on the corrections for the medium caliber guns.
The fire control technique adopted by the 2nd Pacific Squadron had several significant flaws.
First, the experience of the battle at long distances in the Yellow Sea was ignored, where the "Poltava" managed to hit the "Yakumo" from a distance of about 80 cab. Despite the fact that one of the orders for the 2nd Pacific Squadron said:
The enemy will not dare to oppose ... his fleet except from long distances ... If only we knew how to reach it with fire at the distances from which it will hit us ...
Theoretical and practical training in this direction was not conducted. Fortunately, at the decisive stages of the Tsushima battle, the distance was not great, so this shortcoming did not become critical.
Secondly, when using rapid fire to kill, the problem of distinguishing between falling shells from several ships was not considered.
"Suvorov" in Tsushima, after opening fire, gave the detachment not the targeting data, but the signal to "hit the head", obeying which everyone concentrated fire on the "Mikasa".
As a result, at the beginning of the battle, gunners from different ships of the squadron saw a large number of bursts around the Japanese flagship and could not identify their own among them. Taking into account the problems with determining the range described above, it turned out that almost all the shells flew nowhere.
At the same time, the solution to the problem has long been known and even spelled out in the instructions of A.K. Myakishev for the 1st Pacific Squadron: this is firing in volleys.
Thirdly, only the readings of rangefinders were used to adjust the fire for defeat, the issue of observing the results of their own shooting was not worked out.
Such a method of shooting would be relevant, provided the rangefinders work flawlessly, which, in fact, was not observed. The shells flew with significant hops or undershoots. There was no way to adjust the fire based on the observed results due to poor visibility of the bursts.
For what reasons, at the 2nd Pacific Squadron, it was decided to fire according to the readings of rangefinders at a distance of up to 40 cab. - dont clear. It can only be assumed that it was due to the complexity of managing concentrated squadron fire. But there were other options as well. For example, the instruction of A.K. Myakishev suggested firing according to the indications of rangefinders only from a distance of 20 ... 25 cab., And at distances of 30 ... 40 cab. it was recommended to adjust the fire based on the results of sighting. And, accordingly, the ships of the 1st Pacific Squadron had shells that provided visibility of the results of zeroing and fire at these distances.
Based on the results of practical firing in Madagascar, Z.P. Rozhestvensky, observing the shells flying away to nowhere, one after the other, made additions to the existing methodology with several orders.
First, the admiral clarified the conduct of the zeroing:
When zeroing in, one should, without throwing the first round, by all means throw the second one and, if the first one lay to the right, then by all means put the second one to the left ... Having taken the target at least in a wide fork, one should dispose of the third shot after thinking.
Secondly, he drew attention to the need to adjust the distance and rear sight based on the results of the fall of shells before each shot:
Each gunner must know where the shells of the last shots from neighboring guns fell, and wait for the corresponding correction of the sight.
... Do not throw shells in vain, but correct each tip according to the results obtained.
However, the question of a comprehensive change in the methodology and its development remained open.
The instruction ordered to focus the fire of the entire squadron on the enemy's lead ship. Then this moment was specified in one of the orders of ZP Rozhestvensky. For each unit, the target could be specified separately. If this is not done, then they should have fired at the lead ship or the enemy's flagship.
To save the resource of guns and shells, barrel firing was widely practiced in those days, which differed from practical ones in that the fire was not fired by shells of its own caliber. So, in the Russian navy, during exercises, 47-mm or 37-mm barrels were put into large and medium-caliber guns, and special hollow shells, along the axis of which a rifle barrel was placed, into small-caliber “auxiliary cartridges”.
The training course, described in the instructions for all gunners of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, was started with barrel firing at anchor from small-caliber cannons, first at fixed, and then at inactive shields from a distance of 2 ... 3 cab. (lessons No. 1–3, 20 shots in total).
Then the course continued from the same guns already on the move along the towed shield from a distance of at least 1 cab (lesson no. 4, 50 shots).
After that, they switched to barrel firing on the move from their guns at fixed and towed shields from a distance of 8 ... 9 cab., Including at night (lessons No. 4-8, 25 shots in total).
The course ended with practical firing on the move at fixed shields with training or cast-iron shells during the day (lesson No. 9, 3 shots) and at night (lesson No. 10, 2 shots).
As can be seen from the content of the course, most of it consisted of barrel firing, which was excellent for developing the gunners' skills in aiming the sight at the target and accurately determining the moment of the shot (when the ship is on an even keel). This would be enough for direct fire, that is, at a distance of no more than 10 cab.
However, barrel firing did not help in any way to develop such extremely necessary skills in combat conditions as determining the distance and observing the results of firing, zeroing in and focusing fire, calculating corrections and transmitting commands. This could only be worked out on practical shooting, and only 2 lessons were devoted to them, and only one was daytime.
75-mm Kane cannon with a telescopic sight
The training of artillerymen of the 2nd Pacific Squadron began in the Baltic. In July - September, firing from barrels at fixed or towed shields was practiced. One practical shooting was carried out in Revel: 2-3 shots from large and medium guns at the shields located on the shore. In fact, the squadron set out on a campaign without completing training.
During the few stops between the crossings, artillery exercises continued. Both stem and practical firing on the move were carried out at floating shields from a distance of 15 ... 25 cab. Let us dwell on the latter in more detail: they were organized in Madagascar in January 1905.
According to the results of the first shooting on January 13, Z.P. Rozhestvensky wrote:
Yesterday's squadron firing was extremely sluggish and, to our deep regret, found that not a single ship, with the exception of the Aurora, took seriously the lessons of artillery control in the execution of exercises according to plans.
Valuable 12 ”shells were thrown without any consideration ... Firing from 75 mm cannons was also very bad ...
Valuable 12 ”shells were thrown without any consideration ... Firing from 75 mm cannons was also very bad ...
The next firing on January 18 and 19 went slightly better, but still unsatisfactory:
The expenditure of large-caliber shells is still the same impermissible indiscretion ...
The artillery exercises did not end on a positive note:
Firing large guns on January 25th was a waste of ammunition. Some threw the first two shells in one gulp, and the third after a quarter of an hour, others put all three shells with huge and monotonous undershoots or equally persistent flights, without changing the sight ...
More practical firing was not carried out for reasons of ammunition economy.
The last barrel firing was organized in Cam Ranh on April 3-7, 1905. Thus, 4 months have passed from the date of the last practical shooting to Tsushima. This was a long enough time to lose those few skills that I managed to get.
On the ships of the detachment of NI Nebogatov, the first practical shooting was carried out on March 27, 1905 in the Gulf of Aden at canvas shields from a distance of 50 ... 25 cab. The results were unsatisfactory: not a single projectile hit the target due to errors in range determination. But by the next exercises, held on April 11, they learned how to use rangefinders. And already from a distance of 60 ... 40 cab. two shields were destroyed, and two more were badly damaged.
The ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron had modern technical means to ensure the accuracy of artillery fire: rangefinders, optical sights and a fire control system. The weak point was preparation, not technique. In the Navy, due attention was not paid to the issue of squadron fire control at long distances. The technique adopted by ZP Rozhdestvensky's squadron had significant flaws. Measurement of distance by rangefinders has not been worked out. There was a lack of artillery practice. The precious experience gained in previous battles was not taken into account. In sum, this led to a rout.
Information about the damage to Japanese ships received in the Tsushima battle suggests that the Russian artillerymen, with the exception of one episode, hit infrequently and irregularly. This exception was the first 15 minutes, during which Mikasa received 19 hits. By many indirect signs, it was possible to determine that the "author" of most of these hits was only one ship - "Prince Suvorov" - the only one on which they had mastered the determination of range by a rangefinder.
In the next article, we will look at the accuracy factors of Japanese artillery.