Military Review

"Let different flowers bloom ..."

In 1868, the Meiji Yixing coup took place in Japan, as a result of which the emperor’s power was restored. The country got out of the control of feudal clans, the Fleet of War became one (the Navy was initially in charge of it) and got a strange set of ships that, with great stretch, could be called military and which obviously did not constitute a naval fleet. It included the ships of the bakufu - the feudal government, and the ships inherited from its defeated opponents, especially the powerful Satsuma clan. Among them was the only battleship purchased from the rebellious American Confederation of the southern states, a wooden corvette and boat, as well as several armed steamers and sailboats. Japan faced a dilemma, either to restore old ships, or to renew the fleet. The Japanese went the second way. In 1870, the landmark of the world's most powerful fleet, the British, was chosen.

More recently, several English instructors arrived in a country that was completely closed to the rest of the world and started training seafarers and transferring modern technology. However, the Japanese were very careful, and the British acted within the framework of numerous restrictions. But over the years allotted to them, the British managed to do a lot of useful things. In addition to the organization of the fleet and personnel training, they have established the purchase of warships.

Corvette "Tsukuba"

True, the beginning did not look inspiring for the first acquisitions, for example, the Tsukuba corvette with a displacement of about 1900 t, built almost 20 years ago in the British colony Burma and then modernized in Metropolitan Starikan (which the language does not turn to be called a cruiser ) developed under pairs no more than 10 nodes. However, the Japanese treated this antiquity, as well as all of its military courts, with great care and love. The artillery was changed twice on it, and according to some information, in the 1892, the Tsukuba even received four 152-mm rapid-fire guns. The veteran left for final retirement after the Russian-Japanese war. The 1400-ton corvette “Asama” purchased in France did not shine with its merits.

"Let different flowers bloom ..."

corvette "Asama"

However, British experts are not limited to these obsolete ships. In the shipyards of England, quite modern armored units of the frigate Fuso (essentially a small battleship) and corvettes Hiei and Congo were created. Edward Reed himself, the chief designer of the Admiralty, developed the project for the latter. With a displacement of 2200, they could develop 14 nodes and had an iron belt with thickness up to 114 mm “Hiei” still managed to actively participate in the Sino-Chinese war and get their share of enemy shells in the battle at the mouth of the Yalu River.

frigate "Fuso"

Having decided quite reasonably "not to put all the eggs in one basket," the War Department abruptly changed the main supplier of ideas and ships. The choice fell on Britain's main rival. By the beginning of the 1880s, French metallurgists and engineers began to arrive in the Far East. They managed to complete the work of their predecessors and establish the construction of cruisers at Japanese shipyards. It is completely logical that at first everything did not go too smoothly. The wooden corvettes “Kaimon” and “Tenryu” with a displacement of only about 1500 were built painfully for about seven years each, entering the system only in 1885 - 1886. However, they turned out to be quite successful and served to the Russian-Japanese war, during which in July 1904, “Kaimon” hit a mine in Talienwan Bay and died, and “Tenryu”, which survived it safely, was excluded from the lists soon after the end of hostilities.

Corvette "Kasuga"

A successful project was modernized, and the following corvettes, Musashi and Katsuragi, were laid on the freed stocks at Ekosuka. Another corvette of the same type, the Yamato, was built at the second state shipyard in Kobe. The ships had a composite set with steel frames and wood paneling and carried full sail gear, taken at the turn of the century, in 1900 year. The construction was also accelerated, although the five-year term for fairly unwieldy units was still insurmountable.

Practical "pieces of wood" were quite suitable for study, but for a serious war, larger ships with powerful armament were required. The Japanese wanted to get the strongest and at the same time cheap modern cruiser, and the French engineers, usually very keenly watching such a characteristic as stability, gave “slack”. Built in Le Havre, “Wenby” possessed all the external signs of typical “French”, such as “Sfax”, “Cecil” or “Tazh”, had a rather thick armored deck and good speed. However, in an effort to satisfy the customer as much as possible, the designers went overboard with artillery consisting of four heavy 240-mm Krupp guns, not counting 150-graphs and other “trivia”. As a result, an overloaded cruiser under full sail dangerously tilted and did not want to return to an even keel. In this state, he left Havre on a long journey to the Far East. But it never arrived there, completely disappearing somewhere between Singapore and Taiwan in October 1887.

The first loud "puncture" was followed by further, albeit not so serious, and of a completely different plan. The reorientation towards France brought the ideas of a “young school” to Japan, which turned out to be quite consistent with the morale of the samurai. Small ships attacking armored giants, in addition to a good opportunity to show the valor of the soldiers, were also inexpensive, just as fast as the rapidly developing power, which had too many desires and needs, could afford.

Corvette "Matsushima"

To implement the new ideas from Europe arrived "heavy artillery" famous French shipbuilder Emil Berten signed a three-year contract to stay in Japan. He proposed a super-original project of a troika of cruisers armed with the heaviest weapons and intended as a response to fight even with large battleships — ordered for the most powerful Northern squadron of the Chinese fleet, Matsushima, Hasidate, and the San Kekan type designation. "-" landscape-ships ", since each unit carried the name of one of the three most famous species in Japan - Matsushima Bay in Miyagi Prefecture, Amano Hasidate sand bank in Miyadzu Bay of Kyoto Prefecture and Ikutsushima Island Hiroshima Bay.

They thought to act as a single detachment, forming a “composite battleship”, in which “Hassidate” and “Itsukushima” were “bow towers”, and “Matsushima” - “stern”. Accordingly, the main gun, one of the most powerful Kane cannons in the world at that time, was located on the first pair in the bow, and on the "trailing" - in the stern. In addition to the monster weapon located in the lightly armored barbet, each of the cruisers carried a solid battery of 320-mm rapid-fire guns, which had just been “put into use”. Shooters were located in a large battery in the center of the hull, firing through ports on both sides in the manner of old frigates. They were actually the main weapons "Sankeykan" But the small size of the ship did not allow to provide them with protection, and therefore they were very vulnerable.

Therefore, neither the strange Berten's idea, nor its implementation can be called successful in any way “Matsushima” failed to develop and so non-sprint 16,5-node speed, their boilers constantly flowed and refused. However, the main drawback was their monstrous 320-graph paper, for the installation of which had to sacrifice too much. The huge guns themselves on such small ships turned out to be practically useless. The 65-ton long barrel, when aiming directly to the board, noticeably tilted its hull, creating additional difficulties for firing, not only of its own, but also of much more effective riflemen. As a result, even when the sea was calm, a “monster” managed to make no more than four shots per hour.

All the flaws of the project are fully manifested in the battle. Severe troubles awaited the type of "sankeykan" in a battle with the Chinese at the mouth of the Yalu River. There, in the four hours of the battle, 320-graph paper gave 14 rounds to the entire trio, but unlike later battles, when the Matsusyma wisely kept out of effective return fire, they had to experience the effects of enemy projectiles. And here all the shortcomings of a cramped and unprotected 120-mm battery showed up. One of the few shells from Chinese battleships exploded among the Matsushima munitions, causing a severe fire in which almost 100 people were injured - about a third of the team, half of which died .

Without a doubt, this hit was the most successful in the whole war and showed the extreme vulnerability of the "pseudolinkor". In the Russian-Japanese war, the "landscape trinity" participated in both major battles, but, neither in the Yellow Sea, nor under Tsushima, achieved a single hit, firing at all less than two dozen shells. In general, the main benefit of the "landscapes", perhaps, was the very process of "assembly" of "Hasidate" at the shipyard in Ekosuke (Two other units were built in France). It was the “assemblies”, since almost all the mechanisms, equipment, materials and drawings in Japan came from Europe, and the work was led by French engineers. So far, there was clearly not enough equipment and skills, and the construction of “Hasidate” took twice as long. He entered service three years later, "little sisters". Nevertheless, experience in creating a modern combat ship turned out to be very useful.


The failure to implement the extravagant ideas of Berten did not go unnoticed by attentive Japanese three years before the catastrophe with Matsusima. In 1892, it was decided to no longer use the services of the French. Mikado ministers quickly diverted back to their main rivals, the British. And very successfully just in the 1890-ies began a rapid ascent of the pyramid of glory Armstrong company and its designers. Actually, it was they who in many ways created the modern Japanese fleet. We have already talked about the Elsvik “Yoshino”, armed exclusively with gunmen and developing the 23 node, which did so much to defeat the Chinese under Yalu. Under the flag of Admiral Tsuboya, he led a "flying squadron" consisting of the most high-speed cruisers, attacking the enemy from the flank and finally destroying his system.


The “flying squadron” includes the most high-speed and modern cruisers, in addition to “Esino”, the Elsvik “Naniwa” and “Takatiho”, as well as the first modern product of Japanese construction - “Akitsushima”. He strongly resembled a smaller version of the American "Elsvikts" - "Baltimore" (which is not surprising, since both projects were made by Armstrong's chief designer William White) and was built from materials brought from Britain.
The pair “Suma” and “Akashi” became the first cruisers completely Japanese built.
Domestic was finally almost everything, from the project and ending with materials, machinery and equipment. The exception was the artillery so as not to produce unnecessary types of guns and shells, they left the British, the production of the same Armstrong.

The British influence, albeit indirectly, was still very strong, both ships were in many ways reminiscent of Akitsushima in terms of layout and characteristics. The introduction of triple-expansion steam engines with a vertical arrangement of cylinders was a step forward, but the boilers obviously “pulled back” the locomotive type by that time almost completely disappeared from all more or less large combat vessels. They became a real headache for mechanics and did not allow developing contract speed, and so quite modest against the background of high-speed "elsvik." Not immediately everything was possible and with such qualities as seaworthiness. The first “Suma” which was put into operation turned out to be insufficiently stable and was heavily flooded with waves, therefore the construction of “Akashi” was delayed by changing the design of the hull, which became smooth-decked. Subsequently, on both cruisers, archaic locomotive boilers were replaced with modern water-tube boilers, but during the Russo-Japanese war, these ships had to suffer a lot during their hikes, trying to maintain something similar to full speed.


Domestic cruisers have been built so far, still too long, from four to five years. With such a pace, with only two shipyards capable of producing relatively large ships, the Japanese fleet would hopelessly lag behind their ambitious plans. Therefore, the search abroad continued. And not without success in 1898, Armstrong delivered another excellent cruiser. With a displacement of slightly less than 4200 T, Takasago had very powerful weapons, including a pair of 203-mm, ten 120-mm and twelve 76-mm rapid-fire guns. At the same time, the ship had excellent protection, which, according to its creators, could withstand even 8-inch shells. So, the thickness of the bevel of the deck in the central part reached 114 mm. In addition, the case had a large number of waterproof compartments, the number of which exceeded one hundred. Another pair of almost completely similar units was ordered in the United States of America to the firms of Crump and Union Iron Works.

Since at that time, overseas technology still lagged behind the capabilities of the Elsvik "magicians", "Kasagi" and "Chitose" had a slightly larger size and displacement with the same weapons and protection. It should be noted that the “Englishman” turned out to be more fast as well, reaching the design 23,5 node, while the “Americans” had to limit themselves to 22,5. The main drawback of these very powerful combat units for their size was caused precisely by their strength. Two and a half dozen guns, protected only by small shields, were located on the deck so closely that any projectile exploded there could cause complete devastation among the calculations. With eight-inch there were quite understandable problems.

A heavy 113-pound projectile would have been difficult to keep even a hefty grenadier, and even more so no heroic addition to Japanese sailors, on the broad, swinging deck. Therefore, the designers tried to help the servants as much as possible by providing the installation and supply with electric motors. The shells delivered by the elevator from the cellars of the ammunition were laid on a special trolley, which traveled along the rails laid on the deck behind the gun. It was, of course, much easier to push a projectile from such a cart into the breech of the gun, but all this “railway facilities” remained highly vulnerable to enemy hits, including fragmentation.

It is clear that so thoroughly loaded ships had very moderate seaworthiness.

Nevertheless, this trio, together with the tried and true high-speed Yoshino during the Russo-Japanese war, formed the 3 squadron of cruisers, which was very actively used for reconnaissance and guidance of their main forces against the enemy. They delivered a lot of unpleasant moments to our sailors, who called them “doggie” for their stubbornness. However, one of the "mutts" did not live up to Tsushima "Takasago" hit a mine in December 1904.

It should be noted that these strong ships were built surprisingly quickly "Takasago" went into operation exactly two years after the laying, and its American "cousins", even faster.

But the Japanese were not standing still. The next pair of domestic cruisers, the Tsushima and the Niitaka, became much more successful than the long-suffering Suma and Akashi. Due to the increase in displacement of about 700 t, they received a single weapon from six 6-inches, supplemented by a dozen 76-graphs. The ships turned out to be completely seaworthy and had enviable stability. Of course, their 20-nodal speed was somewhat lost against foreign records, but it was developed without special problems. The construction time of the country's main shipyard in Yekosuka was also reduced, and Niitaka was commissioned two years later and 20 days after laying, almost catching up with the leading firms of the main maritime powers. It is interesting that both of them had whimsical boilers of the notorious type of Niklos, usually heavily denied by our specialists and historians (mainly on the example of “Varyag”), but throughout their career, Japanese sailors did not experience any particular problems.

But the next domestic-made cruiser, the Otova, was the first to have domestic-made boilers. Doubtlessly called “Kanpon” (that is, “naval” or “naval”), they had higher steam parameters than the vast majority of Western models (including the same Niklos products) and turned out to be quite unpretentious and reliable in operation. Smaller than the predecessors, the size of the ships forced them to return to mixed weapons from the 6-and 4,7-inches of the Akashi type, but the speed was increased to the 21 node.

All Japanese armored cruisers, both high-speed "dogs" and less high-speed units that descended from the stocks in Kure and Ekosuka, were actively used in the Russian-Japanese war. They were literally a servant of all trades, carrying patrols at Port Arthur and carrying out tactical reconnaissance and search in battles. I must say that the command was afraid of the larger and superior in armament (all but “dogs”) Russian “6-thousanders” and preferred to keep their light cruisers at a considerable distance from them, and even more so from our battleships. However, the “trifle” took a very active part in the search for and finishing off the defeated 2 of the Pacific squadron, taking advantage of its numerical superiority.

So, Otova and Niitaka easily caught up with the damaged Svetlana and drowned her after an hour and a half battle. But this immediate combat success was more the exception. The same couple, plus Admiral Uriu's detachment (Naniwa, Takatiho, Akashi, and Tsushima), the six of them could not cope with the old armored cruiser Dmitry Donskoy, although they severely damaged it. There was not always enough speed, because the active service thoroughly “planted” the cars and boilers of almost all units, few of which could develop more 18 nodes by the Tsushima battle. Thus, "Chitose and Akitsushima" were not able to catch up with "Emerald", which broke through the ring of the enemy during the surrender of the squadron remnants. Nevertheless, the activity of the Japanese small cruisers should be recognized as both useful and successful.

Evidence of this is the fact that only four Russian light ships reached Vladivostok.

After the end of the war with Russia, the already extremely motley Japanese cruiser fleet was also enriched with trophies. As a result, a unique situation was created for 1907. In the fleet of the Mikado, there were now cruisers produced by literally all the main sea countries of England, France, the USA, Germany, Russia and Italy. An unimaginable mixture of systems of mechanisms and weapons, various shipbuilding principles and techniques. However, it was the experience of their operation that opened for Japanese designers the opportunity to choose the best, inaccessible to engineers of other powers. And this experience was soon embodied in the original and strong ships.

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  1. Iraclius
    Iraclius 1 March 2013 11: 02
    Thank! The article is very interesting. When you read the story of the creation of the Japanese armored fleet, many of the questions of the defeat of our country in the battle of Tsushima become more or less clear. In technical terms, the British defeated in Tsushima. recourse
    1. knn54
      knn54 1 March 2013 18: 23
      And the Turks who did not miss the new battleships of the Black Sea Fleet through the Bosporus and the Dardanelles. Many thanks to the author.
      Ships of the Nagato type were the first fully designed and built battleships in Japan. Such ships (in 30-40 years) could be built only by GB, Japan and the USA
  2. Iraclius
    Iraclius 1 March 2013 11: 40
    And about the Bosin war, which ended in the defeat of the Tokugawa shogunate and the restoration of Meiji, you need to write a separate article - it deserves it. From there grow the ears of future victories and defeats of the Japanese Empire.
    The film "The Last Samurai" is one of the few contemporary American films that really deserves high praise, because it touches on the lofty and human - duty, devotion, courage and honor.
    “Death is as light as a feather, and debt is as heavy as a mountain” - the ancient samurai proverb accurately reflects the essence of the Bushido code. Since childhood, I have been interested in Japan, its culture, history and language. There are two acquaintances of the Japanese, met in the Far East - still correspond.
    I will say this - there is, there is something so elusive that we are related.
    Passion for contemplation, perhaps ... It is a pity that I had to fight them. The Japanese remember everything for nothing that they smile ... Ryu always bitterly recalls the defeat in the Second World War and says that his people know how to lose and hold a blow no worse than to strike it themselves.
    1. Gad
      Gad 1 March 2013 20: 39
      I agree that the film "The Last Samurai" is a masterpiece in its own way. Although some believe that the film is about the hero of Tom Cruise and he is the last samurai, but I believe that his hero only emphasizes the figure of the real last samurai Katsumoto. It's a pity, but the film was not appreciated at its true worth, the performance of the Japanese actors is amazing.
  3. Shkodnik65
    Shkodnik65 1 March 2013 13: 53
    Many thanks to the author. I liked the article very much.
  4. stroporez
    stroporez 1 March 2013 14: 38
    super article ...........
  5. askold
    askold 1 March 2013 17: 06
    Having carefully studied the first photographs, I came to the conclusion that the depicted there are not corvettes at all. These are the armored cruisers of the same name: the first two-pipe looks like Yakumo or Asama, the second is definitely Asama, and in the fourth photo, a two-pipe with one mast in the middle, it is armored cruiser "Kassuga", bought by the Japanese in 1903 from Chile, built in Italy! Ooh, at the enemy !! Should you direct your wade to the conning tower?
    CARBON 3 March 2013 00: 20
    They took the best from world shipbuilding practice, and by the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War they received a strong balanced fleet. Not without errors and distortions, over 20 years they have created not just a fleet, but have already begun to build quite decent ships on their own.
    The main thing helped them in this, the Japanese created a fleet that was supposed to defeat the enemy's fleet through a general battle or several battles, ensuring dominance at sea. Even Matsushima's apparent "concept spikes" were subordinated to one idea - a general battle. Armored cruisers were not intended for cruising operations, but primarily to support the main forces of the fleet. Yes, in terms of displacement, speed, partly and the weight of the salvo, they were inferior to the newest magnificent cruisers of the XNUMXst rank of the Russian fleet, but they did not need ships in excess, they needed workhorses. More quantity. Conduct reconnaissance not alone, but in a pack, finish off a wounded enemy, again, not one-on-one.