My book " Rasplata " in its present form is
considerably more complete than it was on its first appearance. The contents
first came out as a series of essays in the Russ newspaper, and gave rise, at
the time, to a number of articles and comments in the Press, in which these
were generally referred to as "reminiscences."
Against such a
conception of my work I must enter an energetic protest. "Rasplata" in no way
contains "reminiscences," but is simply the diary of an eye-witness, presented
in the form of a narrative. Its whole value lies in this fact. It is material
for the writing of history.
I kept a diary from January 30, 1904, to
December 19 1906 (even a little longer), and made daily entries, on specially
important days even hourly. Everything I tell of here is based on the data of
my diary. In every case, at the moment the event occurred I noted the time by
watch ; the general feeling at the time was noted somewhat later. My diary also
contains conversations and remarks, which I wrote down whilst still fresh in my
mind. Naturally, they stand in a very condensed form-mere headings
" Rasplata, " naturally, also includes observations and
explanations, which I added later. But then this fact is always specially
noted. Moreover, I desire all the more to lay stress on the fact that this is
not a narrative written from memory, but a diary, as I know from personal
experience how unreliable one's memory is. This is especially the case in
action. I have occasionally made myself a perfectly clear picture of this or
that incident, which was decidedly influenced by the statements of others. When
I then read over my diary again, I found my picture did not correspond with the
notes made at the time. These short notes, however, were sufficient in every
instance to enable me once more to bring before my eyes the correct picture of
Here is an example of how one can forget details, even when they
were really important, and had been personally noted in one's diary.
The Japanese state in their official account of the battle of Tsu-shima (May 2
7, 1905), that at 4.40 P.M. I the destroyer division, commanded by Commander
Sudzuki, attacked the battleship Suvoroff which had sheered out of the line and
was burning fiercely, that one of its torpedoes had hit the battleship on the
port side aft, and in consequence the vessel had heeled 10º. None of those
belonging to the Suvoroff, who were taken off by the Buiny, could call to mind
that the ship had been hit by a torpedo. They even protested energetically that
this could not have taken place. It was true, the Suvoroff was at that time a
complete wreck, but still an incident like this was bound to have been noticed.
Many of the Buiny's officers and men, on the other hand, testified that when
their destroyer went alongside the Suvoroff, she was heeling 10º to port,
if not more. The officers and men who came on board the Buiny from the
battleship corroborated this. They remembered that it had been possible to get
the Admiral who was unconscious, on to the destroyer by allowing him to slide
down over the backs of several men. But these men had been standing on various
projections close to the water-line on the starboard side, which was high out
of the water.
By our time it was 4.20. The Japanese reckoned their time
from the meridian of Kioto, our squadron from the noon position of the day
preceding the battle. When was this heel produced? Were the Japanese right in
attributing it to a hit from one of their torpedoes? The battleship's people
declared this to be inadmissible. Was it in consequence of the armour plates on
the port side becoming loosened under the influence of the hail of Japanese
shell, and the seams opening out? None of the eyewitnesses were able to state,
even approximately, when this heel was noticed. I must add that we were only
asked the question several months after the battle. I myself made the greatest
efforts to think it all out and to reproduce the sequence of events from
memory, but had to reply quite candidly: "I don't know any more." When I
afterwards read over the laconic notes in my diary on the battle, I read :
"3.25 P. M.-Strong heel to port; the upper battery is burning fiercely."
Instantly everything came back to me. This note proves that this heel already
existed at 3.25, that is, an hour before the torpedo attack with which the
Japanese connected it. Without my diary I might perhaps have sided with the
view of those who maintained that this hit by a torpedo had never been noticed
in the heat of the action.
I won't boast about my memory (though I have
been told that in this respect God had not dealt with me in a niggardly
spirit), but it certainly is remarkable that one can altogether forget a fact
which had been noted down in writing.
Let me once more emphasise this:
"Rasplata" is not based on reminiscences, but on a diary.
I will not,
however, conceal the fact that occasionally, when under the influence of later
accounts, I have been tempted to omit this or that passage, not to reproduce
the judgment on this or that event, which I had formed on the spot and at the
time. I have resisted this temptation. I said to myself: "It was thus." At that
time we had these ideas, this conception. Perhaps we were sometimes mistaken,
but these mistakes arose owing to what we had gone through and what we had
felt. Do I, after all, mean to write a history of the war? No. I desire, in
this work, to present to the reader a picture of the experiences of one who
took part in the war, and who noted everything he observed at the time and
place in his diary. Up to now none of my old shipmates and comrades of the war
has addressed himself to me with a request for any rectification.
contradictions should be published as to any details, then they emanate from
persons who, by order from above, are engaged upon the writing of History in
the seclusion of their studies, and who base themselves in this labour on
official reports. I do not propose to enter into any arguments with these.