Union of England and Japan
England was formally neutral in the Russo-Japanese war, but literally did everything so that Japan won. On January 17 (January 30), 1902, the Anglo-Japanese treaty was signed, which had an anti-Russian orientation. The treaty gave Tokyo the opportunity to start a war with the Russian Empire with the assurance that not a single power (for example, France, with which Russia had been an alliance since 1891) would provide Russia with armed support because of the fear of war not only with Japan, but also with the British Empire. London secured the rear of Japan, it could concentrate all its forces to fight Russia. The rear support of Japan was provided by the powerful English squadron stationed in Weihaiwei. Since 1900, it included at least 5 newest battleships, as well as cruisers, destroyers and other vessels. An interesting fact is that almost immediately after the Tsushima defeat of the Russian fleet all five British battleships withdrew from the Far East to the mother country. These ships were needed to deter Russia.
Even before the 1880's alliance, the British began to help build the Japanese fleet. Japan was supposed to be the "ram" of England against China and Russia. In 1895, the Japanese government adopted the first extensive program to strengthen its navy. The Japanese were going to start building warships of all classes, primarily the main ships of the then fleet - squadron battleships, armored cruisers and destroyers destined for active offensive operations. However, Japanese industry, and especially shipbuilding, was still not sufficiently developed to independently implement this program. Therefore, orders for the construction of ships placed abroad. England became the main assistant in the creation of the fleet core. Abroad, 4 squadron battleships were built - all in England, 6 rank X armored cruisers in England and France, 1 rank X cruisers in England and the USA, 5 destroyers - in England.
In 1896, the Japanese government, considering the 1895 shipbuilding program of the year insufficient, adopted an additional program designed for 10 years. It provided mainly for the construction of cruisers and a large number of destroyers of the destroyers. In addition, the planned construction and equipment of naval bases and ports, which were to ensure the combat activities of the Japanese navy in the Yellow and Japanese Seas.
In June 1903, the third shipbuilding program was approved at a special meeting of the Japanese parliament. February 2 The Japanese government entered into contracts with Vickers and Armstrong firms in London to supply two squadron battleships Kashima and Katori with a displacement of 1904 tons each. The project was based on English battleships of the King Edward VII type. The armament of the battleships was as follows: four 16400-mm guns, four - 305-mm, twelve guns - 254-mm, twelve more - 152-mm. Armadillo squadrons laid in February and April 80, and in May 1904, they entered service. The most powerful ships were built in a very short time.
The cruiser Kasuga.
In the prewar period, England provided Japan with comprehensive logistical and military assistance. Unprecedented in the history of military maritime law, British sailors were escorted by two naval cruisers from Italy to the Japanese Empire, escorted by the royal ship. In 1902, the Italian firm Ansaldo received an order from Argentina for the construction of two armored cruisers of the Giuseppe Garibaldi type. The head cruiser of the type "Giuseppe Garibaldi" was laid 1894 year at the shipyard of the firm "Ansaldo" in Genoa for Argentina. For this country was built 4 ship. One bought Spain, three were part of the Italian fleet. Originally, the Argentine cruisers were called “Mithra” and “Fate”, then “Bernardino Rivadavia” and “Maonano Moreno”. The cruisers had a displacement in 7 628 t, the maximum speed - 20 nodes and were well armed. They had good fighting qualities at moderate cost (about 700 thousand pounds) and fast construction rates, which made them attractive for export sales, especially if the customer was on the verge of war.
During the construction of armored cruisers, important political changes took place: the border dispute between Argentina and Chile was resolved peacefully. Both Latin American countries committed themselves in 1902 to establish a balance of naval forces. Previously ordered ships were subject to resale. Argentina refused to cruisers, and Chile from two squadrons ordered in England, the Suifshur type of battleships (they were relatively poorly armed, so they were accepted into service by the English fleet as II rank battleships).
By this time, the Argentine ships were already in a high degree of readiness, and at the beginning of 1903, the Chilean battleships were launched as well. Representatives of Chile and Argentina, acting through intermediaries, immediately began to look for buyers. Considering that Russian-Japanese relations by this time had little doubt about the imminence of a speedy war, Russia and Japan seemed to be ideal candidates for the purchase of warships. Both powers, especially Japan, increased their naval power at an accelerated pace. 28 November 1902, Vice Admiral of the Italian Navy Kandiani, sent a personal letter to his old acquaintance in the Mediterranean, Vice Admiral Nikolai Skrydlov (he will lead the Black Sea Fleet from the beginning of 1903) with an offer from Orlando to sell the battleship laid for Argentina by 12600 displacement tons. Skrydlov reported on this to the Chief of the Main Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Fyodor Havelan. He informed the opinion of the manager of the naval ministry, Admiral Pavel Tyrtov, that there is an instruction from Emperor Nicholas II to build ships only in Russian shipyards.
In January, 1903, Russia refused to buy battleships already launched in England. They were offered to St. Petersburg by the Chilean government through the Rothschild trading house. So that in Russia they did not have time to change their mind, the British acquired ships for their own fleet. In April, 1903, Foreign Minister Vladimir Lamsdorf sent the Naval Minister Abavela a report of the embassy in Rome: representatives of the Ansaldo company privately offered the Russian ambassador to buy two Chilean battleships. In early August, the firm "Ansaldo" transferred to the Naval Headquarters a proposal to buy two armored cruisers. However, the Chief of the Main Naval Staff, Zinovy Rozhestvensky, decided to act on the basis of previous decisions and said that Russia does not intend to acquire ships. Rozhestvensky was convinced that it was enough to ensure the equality of the forces of the Russian fleet with the Japanese, believing that superiority was useless and that there were enough planned measures (emergency measures are not needed). The Russian shipbuilding program was going on as usual; the war in Russia was not particularly feared. Only two regular battleships and two cruisers were sent to the Far East, of which, despite the rush, only the squadron battleship Tsesarevich and the cruiser Bayan managed to arrive at Port Arthur at the beginning of the war.
In November, Japan mobilized its fleet. In December 1903, the Naval Headquarters again rejected the proposal of the already Argentine consul to sell the cruisers built in Italy with a full combat reserve. As a result, almost ready-made armored cruisers were bought by the Japanese. Japan did not miss its chance, unlike the Russian naval department. Both ships - in Japan, they were called “Kasuga” and “Nissin” (armored cruisers like “Kasuga”) - became the most modern armored cruisers of the Japanese fleet by the beginning of the Russian-Japanese war and took an active part in it.
Interestingly, Russia could intercept the new Japanese cruisers, but even here it missed its chance. By this time, a detachment of Russian ships headed by Rear Admiral Andrei Virenius was on the way to the Far East. The squadron consisted of the squadron battleship Oslyabya, the 1-class cruiser Dmitry Donskoy and Aurora, the Almaz cruiser, the destroyers Buiyny, the Blessed, the Fast, the Immaculate, the Pobedovy. ”,“ Vigorous ”and“ Bravy ”, the destroyers №212, №213, №221, №222, three steamships of the Voluntary Fleet:" Eagle "," Saratov "and" Smolensk ". The detachment went from Kronstadt to the Far East. The battleship Oslyabya left Kronstadt together with the cruiser Bayan. The cruiser safely reached Port Arthur, and the squadron battleship due to damage to the bottom, received in the Strait of Gibraltar, was delayed and repaired in Italy. On the way, a number of ships changed directions more than once, they were driven around the Mediterranean Sea. Only at the end of December 1903, the squad arrived in Port Said.
Meanwhile, the new Japanese cruisers on the morning of January 27, 1904, left Genoa and moved to Port Said. The rush was such that the "Nissin" did not complete the work and did not load all the equipment. Armored cruisers marched under the trade flag of England, commanded by English fleet reserve officers Painter and Lee. Crews were mainly composed of English sailors and Italian mechanics, about 240 people in total. Virenius had the opportunity to intercept the Japanese cruisers who were not combat-ready. The war has just begun on January 27. Both cruisers could be the prize of a single "Aurora" or "Dmitry Donskoy." Russia had the opportunity to strengthen the two cruisers and weaken the military power of Japan. The English armored cruiser “King Alfred” (Drake-type cruiser), escorting the Japanese cruisers, was significantly weaker than the Oslyab. The English cruiser with a displacement of 14 376 t, was armed with 2 - 234-mm, 16 - 152-mm and 14 x 76-mm guns. Oslyabya was armed with 4 - 254-mm, 11 - 152-mm, 20 x 75-mm guns. Most importantly, London under no circumstances was going to openly fight against Russia, and especially for Japan, because of some cruisers. British politicians liked to rake in the heat with someone else’s hands, and not to engage in open battle, which could lead to disastrous results. There were chances to intercept Japanese cruisers, but they were not used.
31 January 1904, Virenius's squad finally got to Djibouti, where he received an order from St. Petersburg to go back. The commander of the Pacific squadron Stepan Makarov strongly protested against this decision, realizing that Russia is missing an excellent opportunity to strengthen the Russian fleet in the Far East, but did not take his opinion into account. The delay of the detachment and the subsequent return to the Baltic Sea had quite serious consequences for the course of the war. First, the opportunity to navigate ships to Vladivostok was missed. The Japanese fleet in the spring of 1904 could not leave the Yellow Sea and search for Virenius’s detachment along the straits - Sangarsky, Laperuz, Tatarsky and others. In addition, on the way the detachment could lead a cruising war, disrupting navigation on the Japanese islands. Secondly, the Pacific squadron did not receive the reinforcement it needed, and the opportunity to launch a cruising war was missed. Japan is an island power, and already at that time it depended on the supply of resources. Russian cruisers could deal a very serious blow to the Japanese economy.
In 1902, the Japanese smelted 240 thousand tons of pig iron from their own raw materials and extracted all 10 million liters of oil. And the need of the empire in the same year amounted to 1850 thousand tons of pig iron and 236 million liters of oil. The cost of imports of ferrous metals and hardware in 1901 was 24,4 million yen, oil and oil products - 15 million yen, machinery and equipment for industry - 16,6 million yen, wool and wool products - 12 million yen. These four product groups accounted for more than 54% of the total value of Japanese imports in 1901. During the war, Japan received almost all the heavy guns from abroad. In 1904-1905 Huge quantities of various weapons, including naval ones, including torpedoes and even submarines, were brought to Japan. The cruising war could seriously undermine Japan’s combat capability and even force it to seek peace.
The squadron battleship Oslabya leaves Bizerte, December 27 1903.
To be continued ...