The battleship King Edward VII firing in 1907
at distances over 4 yards,
and 8 yards is ridiculous
distance for battle.
Rear Admiral R. Kastens,
(board of the battleship Venerable,
at distances over 4 yards,
and 8 yards is ridiculous
distance for battle.
Rear Admiral R. Kastens,
(board of the battleship Venerable,
In domestic sources dedicated to stories of the Russo-Japanese war at sea, the narrative has long become a commonplace, according to which the Japanese fleet, following the example of the British, allegedly mastered the art of firing at long distances for that time, thereby providing itself with an advantage in battles with the Russian fleet. The Russian fleet, not catching the spirit of the times, continued firing practice at close range, which predetermined its defeat in the Russo-Japanese War. In our time, thanks to Internet archives, as well as naval literature and periodicals from the beginning of the XNUMXth century from electronic libraries, lovers of the history of the fleet have the opportunity to verify the truth of the above postulates.
The immediate impetus for writing the proposed article was the post “The Shelling of a Target by the English Fleet in October 1905”, posted in LiveJournal by a longtime opponent of the author of the article. The essence of this post boils down to the conclusion that since the battleship King Edward VII in 1905 accurately fired at practical shooting, it means that the Japanese fleet at Tsushima also fired just as accurately - “there is only one school”. And the results of the battle are proof of this. Without blindly accepting this conclusion on faith, by comparing the results of several firings of the English and Japanese fleets, we will try to find out how true this conclusion is.
Shooting of the English fleet
Let's start with the firing of the English fleet, with the level of artillery training of which, according to the Secretary of the Admiralty, Mr. H. Arnold-Forster, no other fleet could then compare.
In 1901, 127 ships of the Royal Navy took part, according to the order of the Admiralty, in the annual prize firing, which was a test of the combat capability of the ships. Another 47 ships, having failed to comply with the order, refrained from participating in the firing.
According to data published at the time, only one ship - the cruiser Terrible - managed to achieve a shooting accuracy that exceeded 70 percent. Two more ships had over 65 percent accuracy. Seventy-five ships achieved an accuracy of 15 percent, and five ships, including the flagship of the Pacific Station, the armored cruiser Warspite, never hit the target. The firing conditions depended on the caliber of the guns. Heavy guns fired at 15-foot-tall (525 square feet) trapezoidal targets from 1 to 400 yards at 2 knots.
Rapid fire from 1 to 400 yards and at 1 knots was fired at rectangular targets, the same 600 feet high, but reduced to 12 square feet. A total of 15 guns of all calibers fired 300 shells, 1 percent of which hit the target.
In addition to prize shooting, in the same year the Mediterranean Fleet also conducted practical shooting from a distance of 6 yards, this time initiated by the Admiralty, with disappointing results. As you know, in the period from 000 to 1899, the Mediterranean Fleet, which was headed by Admiral Fisher from July 1900, 1, at the initiative of the latter, conducted a series of practical firing at distances from 1899 to 5 yards.
The goal pursued by Fisher at the same time was prosaic - to demonstrate to the Admiralty that effective long-range shooting is impossible without the necessary tools, and thus encourage the Admiralty to fork out and finally begin their massive deliveries to the fleet. Summarized, the results of these experiments, included in a series of articles by Captain E. Harding, are as follows: 10 percent hits at 5 yards and 000 percent at 5 yards.
For reference, the Royal Navy's overall marksmanship at prize shooting in 1901 was 36,3 percent.
Gradually, the Admiralty began to realize that without more thorough training and without appropriate stimulation of gunners, as well as without providing them with the necessary tools of proper quality, long-range shooting could not be successfully carried out. Playing for the public, the Admiralty then demanded that the sailors shoot farther and more accurately, while avoiding the inevitable costs necessary to comply with these instructions.
The facts testify in favor of Fisher's rightness: the capabilities of the gunners of His Majesty's fleet did not correspond to the tasks assigned to them, which is well illustrated by the results of firing a pair of Mediterranean battleships at normal and long distances.
In 1902, the Mediterranean Fleet conducted three prize shootings, during one of which the battleship Formidable fired 22 main battery shells, 14 of which hit the target. The battleship Vengeance fired 19 main battery shells, 8 of which hit the target. Thus, the accuracy of firing of the main caliber guns of the two battleships was 63,63 and 42,1 percent, respectively. Firing conditions were standard for the English fleet of the time: a shield area of 525 square feet at a height of 15 feet, a range of 1-400 yards, a speed of eight knots.
The following year, 1903, during long-range practical shooting (6 yards), these same ships showed different results. The shooting of Formidable made such a depressing impression that the battleship received the nickname “Hand Mouse”, which is insulting for a warship, and Vengeance, which fired two hundred and two shells at the target, achieved only four hits.
In the following year, 1904, these same two ironclads fired at prize shooting from a distance of 2 yards, and the results of the shooting are again pleasing to the eyes of Their Lordships. Formidable fired 500 rounds, 195 of which hit the target. Vengeance fired 134 rounds, 178 of which hit the target. Thus, the overall accuracy of the two battleships was 98% and 68,2%, respectively.
The year 1905 was a turning point for the firing of the English fleet. Rear Admiral Percy Scott, upon his appointment as an ex officio gunnery inspector in 1905, was present at all firings of the Channel Fleet, the Atlantic Fleet, and the Mediterranean Fleet. What he saw shocked him, and he called the results "deplorable." The 68 ships he was present at firing used twenty different methods of firing.
In an attempt to eradicate the established practice, Scott drew up a standard set of rules for conducting competitive firing of ships of the fleet, which for the first time made it possible to evaluate in points and compare both the results of firing and the level of combat training of crews. Checking the level of artillery preparation in the entire fleet was organized and carried out according to a single scheme for each squadron and for each ship.
Since the results of the previous, 1904, prize firing, due to a sharp change in firing conditions, turned out to be worse than the firing of 1903 (the total accuracy of firing of all participating ships in 1903 and 1904 was 46,04 and 42,86 percent, respectively), to training firing in 1905 thoroughly prepared. Apparently, after the triumph of the Japanese fleet in the Russo-Japanese War in "foggy Albion", there was an urgent need to show the whole world that the English fleet was not a fool.
Artillery fire control devices for each individual caliber began to appear on the ships, points were equipped on the masts to monitor the fall of shells. Since, according to the new rules, the firing range increased to 6 yards (000 cables), to facilitate the work of gunners, a rectangular shield of cyclopean, by old standards, dimensions (30 square feet) was adopted as a target. They decided to increase the speed from eight - twelve to fifteen knots.
One hundred ships of six squadrons took part in the shooting, including twenty-seven battleships of seven types with 12 "main caliber guns. Of all the participating ships, through the efforts of the press, the battleship King Edward VII (261,4 points), which took third place in the overall standings of the Royal fleet with the following results:
– 12" guns: 11 shots / 10 hits;
- 9,2 "guns: 31 shots / 15 hits;
– 6" guns: 71 shots / 26 hits.
We do not have similar information for other battleships of the King Edward VII type, however, we have the opportunity to compare the number of points received for the accuracy of shooting by all battleships of this type.
– King Edward VII: 261,4 points;
– Hindustan: 153,7 points;
– Dominion: 148,7 points;
– Commonwealth: 87,2 points;
– New Zealand: 25,7 points.
The variegation of the results obtained by the latest ships of the same type in the same conditions and with exactly the same training of commanders is striking. As you can see, the best result (King Edward VII) differs from the worst one (New Zealand) by more than fourteen times, which does not characterize the new system of training commandors of the English fleet in the best way. In addition to the battleships of the three fleets stationed in European waters, two battleships of the Chinese Station took part in the firing of 1905. As you know, in the early summer of 1905, all of her battleships (Albion, Vengeance, Centurion, Ocean and Glory) received orders to return to home waters.
Three of them, upon arrival in the metropolis, were sent to the armed reserve, while the rest took part in the shooting of 1905, where Albion "knocked out" 46,7, and Glory, which showed the worst result among all battleships, only 11,7 points.
We remind the reader that at the prize shooting in 1903, these two battleships showed the following results:
– 12" guns: 11 shots / 4 hits;
– 6" guns: 117 shots / 57 hits.
- 12 "guns: 21 shots / 7 hits;
– 6" guns: 115 shots / 80 hits.
In 1904, at the prize shooting, Albion improved on the previous year's result. There were 174 hits for 105 projectiles fired. Thus, the overall accuracy of shooting was 60,34 percent against last year's 47,65 percent. However, it was enough to increase the distance from 2 to 500 yards, as the accuracy of shooting fell sharply, and both battleships were at the very bottom of the standings. We do not know how many and what kind of shells Albion fired in 6, but we know that the overall accuracy of her shooting in 000 was 1905 percent (1904 hits per 60,34 shots), while the overall accuracy of the battleship King Edward VII in 174 was 105 percent (for 1905 shots 45,13 hits).
Thus, a paradoxical situation has developed: the battleship, which was in service for less than a year, demonstrated miracles of accuracy at long distances, and the Far Eastern veteran, who had several years of hard training behind him and over a dozen prize shooting with decent results, turned out to be the worst among all battleships.
Many well-deserved shooters like the same battleship Majestic (general accuracy of shooting 58,63 percent in 1903 and 41 points in 1905), who shone in previous years, showed pitiful or insignificant results in the shooting of 1905, which cannot be compared with the successes several armadillos that topped the standings.
In addition to the above, we give one more, very significant example.
The battleship Bulwark fired thirty 1902" shells at prize shooting in 12, fifteen of which hit the target. In 1904, at prize shooting, he fired 190 shells of all calibers, of which 113 (59,47 percent) hit the target.
As you can see, the quality of artillery preparation there was at the proper level. It is understandable: Bulwark is the flagship of the Mediterranean squadron, whose permanent first commander was Captain F. Hamilton, who in the winter of 1905 replaced Captain P. Scott as captain of the largest artillery training school in Portsmouth, and two years later - as a shooting inspector. However, despite all the successes of previous years, in 1905 the main battery guns of the battleship Bulwark at a distance of 6 yards could not achieve a single hit.
All these cases of a sharp decrease in shooting accuracy due to a significant increase in the firing distance perfectly illustrate the correctness of Admiral Fisher, who never tired of repeating that effective long-range shooting is impossible without proper technical equipment. Gradually, this began to be understood in the Admiralty. As you know, in the process of preparing for the firing of 1905, which looks a lot like a large-scale propaganda PR campaign, the fleet received a batch of Lieutenant Mostin's optical sights with a threefold increase, intended for installation on turret guns.
Obviously, the batch of sights was limited, and the presence or absence of such sights when firing at a distance of 6 yards is mainly explained by both the success of the battleship King Edward VII (000 points), which had just entered service, and the failure of the former naval champion battleship Albion ( 374,8 points).
Shooting of the Japanese fleet
And now let's turn our attention to the firing of the Japanese imperial fleet: how similar were the conditions for their conduct and the results obtained to those in England?
The information contained in open sources allows us to conclude that some important conditions for the firing of Japanese and English battleships differed. Judging by the available data, the British fleet, unlike the Japanese, used a wide range of shields of various shapes for caliber shooting, the area of \u640b\u100bwhich ranged from XNUMX to XNUMX square feet. In the Japanese Navy, as far as we know, there were two types of shields at that time.
Shield measuring 48 by 18 yards
Shield measuring 24 by 18 yards
The consumption of 12 "shells at the firing of the two fleets also differed: the British surpassed the Japanese in this indicator, depending on the circumstances, by seven to eighteen times. At the same time, the distance at which the Japanese fired at the shields ranged from 2 to 000 yards, the British - from 1 to 900 yards.
In parentheses, we note that the consumption of 12 "shells by the Japanese was less than not only by the British, but also by the Russians. In our time, it turned out that it was completely in vain, respected R. M. Melnikov, for decades, indignantly reproached the Russian Imperial Navy for "obscenely economical »expenditure of shells in exemplary firing - Japanese battleships in firing spent them noticeably less.
So, during approximately live firing in Port Arthur, held on October 19, 1903, four Russian battleships fired forty-eight 12 "shells, and during the shooting of the Japanese fleet, conducted in April of the same year, six Japanese battleships fired nineteen 12" shells .
A comparison of the shooting accuracy of English and Japanese battleships in 1903 is also not in favor of the Japanese. During one prize shooting, four battleships of the Chinese station (Ocean, Glory, Albion and Goliath), firing seventy-six 12 "shells, achieved thirty-six hits (47,4%). During another prize shooting, three battleships (Ocean, Albion and Goliath ), firing seventy-eight 12 "shells, achieved 51 hits (65,4%).
Battleship Ocean in "Victorian livery" is a multiple Royal Navy prize shooting champion
The Japanese six battleships, which fired, as mentioned above, nineteen 12 "shells, achieved only five hits (26,3%).
The results of firing 12 "guns, as well as firing distances, are tabulated by the author.
In fairness, we note that the distance of the Japanese was noticeably greater than that of the British, but at the same time, the targets of the two fleets were strikingly different from each other. The British probably had a trapezoidal shield measuring 50 feet long and 15 feet high, while the Japanese fired at a well-known island measuring from 24 to 30 meters in length and 10,5-12 meters in width.
In one of the Japanese Internet archives there is a sloppy image of the battleship Peresvet, against which this island is depicted, which was regularly used as a target by the Japanese fleet. The proportions are distorted there, so we improved this picture by replacing the armadillo's sketch with the latter's factory drawing. To the right of the island, for clarity, an English shield is placed - as we can see, it was several times smaller in size than the island.
Hack and predictor Aviator
Thus, based on the foregoing, we can conclude that the gunners of the main caliber guns of Japanese battleships on the eve of the Russo-Japanese War were seriously inferior to their English counterparts in terms of the level of combat training. However, judging by the results of the firing of the Togo battleships in the naval battle on February 9, 1904 near Port Arthur, the Japanese subsequently implemented certain measures aimed at correcting the situation for the better.
We remind the reader that the Japanese squadron, which was moving at a 16-knot course, firing at a distance of 46 to 26 cables, fired seventy-nine 12 "shells at Russian ships. Statistics show that the accuracy of fire of six Togo battleships was 7,59 percent (battleship Petropavlovsk "- two 12" shells, the Poltava battleship - two 12" shells, the Pobeda battleship - one 12" shell, the Bayan cruiser - one 12" shell).
In parentheses, we note that the return firing of five Russian battleships, which fired sixty-five 10 "and 12" shells at the ships of three combat detachments, was more accurate and amounted to 9,23 percent (battleship Mikasa - one 10 "shell and one 10" -12 " shell, battleship Fuji - one 12" shell, cruiser Iwate - one 10"-12" shell, cruiser Kasagi - two 12" shells).
Thus, the facts allow us to conclude that at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, the gunners of the main caliber guns of Japanese battleships were inferior in terms of combat training, both to their English partners and their Russian counterparts.