At 11.50 the flagship hoisted flag "K." This meant "Ship
not under control." Again something wrong! We all stopped engines, and waited
for the defect to be put to rights. Meanwhile the Japanese were quickly
effecting their junction. At last, at noon the signal was made to proceed at 15
knots. We did not keep up this speed for long. At 12.20 the Pobieda hoisted
flag "K" and hauled out of the line. Again a delay! The enemy had already
joined hands and formed line. At 12.22 our leading ships opened fire. We were
steaming dead slow.
" This is our battle fleetthe flower of the Russian
Navy! " an officer near me on the bridge was exclaiming in a voice choking with
rage. I had not the heart to reprove him, and say : "Hold your tongue, and do
your duty." Might he not have replied : " Have the men who created this
squadron done their duty?"
No, I could not find anything to say which would really
have answered him. My own throat felt as if it were being choked by impotent
At 12.30 the Tsesarevitch, which had for some time been
gradually turning towards East, suddenly turned 4 points to starboard. The
hostile destroyers had been moving about ahead of us, but a long way off. The
Admiral had therefore become suspicious, and, as we found later, not without
cause. Nothing was too insignificant for the Japanese, provided it offered the
smallest chance of success. They had thrown out drift mines (without anchors)
in the direction of our line of advance. The flagship's alteration of course
saved the squadron from the danger of having to steam through this drifting
minefield. All the same, we passed very close to some of them. The Novik
(evidently by order of the Admiral) stopped dead, and allowed the whole
squadron to pass her, signalling: "Attentionfloating mines." Two of these
drifted past us on the port side, at no great distance. (To be accurate, we
steamed past them.)
After we had passed this minefield, we resumed our
The enemy's main body, Mikasa, Shikishima, Fuji, Asahi,
Kasuga, and Nishin, had been steering almost on a parallel course to ours for
twenty minutes, and had fired at long range, 40 to 50 cables [8,000 to 10,000
yards], with long pauses between. At 12.50 the enemy turned about 16 points,
approached us up to 30 cables [6,000 yards], and then steamed away.
It was an exciting moment, especially when the Japanese
squadron turned short across our rear and concentrated its whole fire on our
three cruisers at the end of the line, without our battleships being able to
reply to it. Our regulations do not lay down any definite station in action for
the second-in-command. The spirit of the instructions indicates that he is
always to be where his presence appears desirable. On board the Diana it had
been arranged, as most suitable to local conditions, that I should remain on
the fore upper bridge. Here I could be seen from any part of the upper deck,
and could also be called quickly if necessary. Moreover, I was myself in a
position to overlook almost the whole ship. I could not help seeing if any
projectile hit us, and could, without waiting to be sent for, run to the place
where damage had been done. It will be conceded that the upper bridge was a
capital post of observation. I saw everything.
The sea was boiling all round our rear ships. Of course we
were also firing like mad. Our guns were roaring incessantly. To this was added
the noise of the bursting shell. Clouds of smoke and gigantic columns of water
arose all round us. What chaos ! And yet this picture of the raging of elements
let loose was beautiful. I heard the call for stretcher parties, saw that
blood was streaming on the deck; but this was unable to break the spell. These
things seemed trivialities which could not be helped. How tremendously sharp
and quick is the working of one's thoughts at such moments! A short cry, a
gesture, suffice to explain all that requires to be told.
The Askold [cruiser flagship] only hoisted flags "B" and
"L". Immediately the cruisers went full speed ahead and spread fanshape to
port. In this way they got out of their unpleasant situation, and were at the
same time enabled to bring their whole broadside to bear.
I should just like to have seen how many elaborate signals
would have been necessary to carry out this movement during peace evolutions.
How long it would have, taken, and what confusion there would have been in the
end all the same.
Either fortune favoured us or the Japanese fired badly On
the whole, at least, we got off cheaply. The rear ship (Diana) got no direct
hits. Our sides, boats, superstructures, ventilators, funnels, and masts) were
riddled by small splinters ; yet we had only two men wounded. True, I had seen
the Askold's foremost funnel and the Pallada's starboard cutter each struck by
a shell. But these ships suffered no losses in men, and had no serious damage.
The first encounter had ended in our favour. When they had crossed our tail the
Japanese turned again to southward. They steamed along on our starboard quarter
and kept up a slow fire at long range, which only our battleships could reply
At 1.30 P.M. we (on board Diana) allowed the men to "
stand easy " and drink their afternoon tea, but not to leave their guns.
Groups were formed on the upper deck, chatting with much
animation. Laughter and jokes were heard on all sides. But there was nothing
specially characteristic in all this.
" How about forty winks until the enemy hits us over the
head ? " a young sailor was asking jocularly, and settled down snugly in a
tarpaulin, with part of which he kept off the fierce rays of the sun.
" Don't talk nonsense! " came in a rough tone from an
older man. "God hears everything."
Yet another small, but characteristic episode. As I was
passing along the battery I congratulated the gun- layer of No. 15
gunMalakowon his Cross of St George. Malakow, having been wounded,
had himself hastily bandaged, and at once returned to his gun, to serve it as
It was strange to see how the eyes of this man, who had
only quite a short while ago cheerfully looked death in the face, suddenly
looked troubled. He stammered, half- confused, half-doubting: "Well, sir, if it
I felt annoyed.
"Who is going to order anything? Take it, you dunderhead ;
you have earned it by the statutes. Neither the captain nor I have anything to
say to it. Your superiors don't make you a present of it. You can demand it;
you can go right up to the Tsar with your demand. The law gives you the right
to demand it."
All those around had become silent, and looked on, some
with curiosity, some with unbelief, expressed in their faces. Apparently they
were now hearing for the first time that the law stood above the will of their
superiors. I walked on rapidly, and did not quite realise what I had done. Had
I assisted discipline by my words, or harmed it ?
Towards 3 P.M. we altered course to S. 62° E. The
cruisers were keeping on the port beam of the battleships at a distance of
about 15 to 20 cables [1½ to 2 miles]. They were thus outside the range
of "overs." We were steaming at a moderate speed, but had to slow down every
now and then, so as not to draw too much ahead.
Soon after three o'clock fire ceased altogether. The
enemy's main body, which bore abaft our beam, were now nearly hull down, that
is, we only saw their funnels and superstructure above the horizon. What was
the meaning of this? Perhaps the Japanese were making good their damages.
Anyhow, with our 12 to 13 knots we were advancing very markedly. Our road was
clear. If only our battleships had been able to go the speed they possessed on
In compliance with the flagship's signal we sent our men
Our column now approached those of the battleships.
Semaphore messages were exchanged. Friends asked one another how they were. The
answers we received from the battleships were reassuring.
One of our younger officers could not hold his tongue. "
We seem to be in luck," he said.
He was silenced at once. Seamen are more superstitious
than sportsmen. They dread above all such boasts as the above.
Meanwhile, the Japanese had put themselves to rights
again, and had carried out what they had intended. What could it have been? Who
knows the Japanese? They were once more chasing us.
At 4.15 P.M. the distance was 51 cables [10,200 yards], at
4.40, 47 cables [9,400 yards], and at 4.45, the battle began afresh.
As the cruisers were again within reach of "overs," they
were ordered to resume their former station20 cables [4,000
yards]from the battleships. We turned 4 points to port, and when we had
reached the distance ordered, resumed the fleet course. For an hour and a half
we were now mere spectators of an action in which we could not in any way
The Japanese cruisers, and not only the old ones, but even
the three "Greyhounds," and two armoured cruisers, also kept on the off-side of
their main body. They, as it were, awaited the issue of the duel between the
two main forces. The old Japanese ships, led by the Chin Yen, we could make out
distinctly to the north, all the rest to the south-west.
For me, this was the hardest moment of the whole day. We
had to look on whilst the others were fighting, without being able to lift a
finger in aid.
I must here note that the Japanese shell, on bursting,
produced thick, greenish - brown or black smoke. In the first place, every one
of their hits could thus be seen distinctly; secondly, it gave one in the first
moment the impression that it had produced some catastrophe. On the other hand,
we could only make out the light, transparent smoke of the Russian bursting
shell with binoculars, and even then only with difficulty. Our shell were
loaded with Pyroxyline, or smokeless powder.
This fact was especially demoralising to the common
sailor, who, of course, knows little of the technical part of gunnery.
"Look! How our ships are catching it! The Japanese are
hardly getting anything. It is as if they were charmed. The Holy Virgin has
deserted us!" Remarks such as these I heard here and there amongst the men. All
binoculars and telescopes were turned on the enemy.
All observers were asked to call out loud enough for all
to hear, every time there was a Russian hit. "There is no object in straining
one's eyes. War can't be made without losses.
There is no object whatever in looking at it. If any one
is hit, it is the will of God," I said, as I walked along the battery.
But the spirits got worse and worse. I don't say that we
were threatened with a panic. By no means. We were a long way yet from that.
Our men had stood fire, and were determined to fight to the last. I only felt
that every one was devoured by the terrible thought: " Will our battleships be
able to stand this fire?" They doubted this, and in battle doubt does no good.
Meanwhile, I was carefully watching the course of the
action with my binoculars, and trying to judge of the value of our fire by
estimating the "shorts " and " overs." I was bound to own that our gun-layers
were not shooting worse than the Japanese. It even appeared to me as if in the
long run our fire was more steady and was corrected better. I thought of the
possibility of the battle being renewed on the morrow. If it continued like
this, we should have the advantage inasmuch as we were saving up our
In the proportion in which, in the course of the battle,
the distance decreased, a certain very important advantage on the enemy's side
was bound to tell more and more. The enemy possessed an abundance of secondary
and light armaments, whilst a good third of all our 6-inch and 12-pounder guns
and the whole of the lighter Q.F. guns had remained behind at the land front of
Port Arthur's defences.
Moreover, it was incontestable that luck was on the side
of the Japanese.
Of course the enemy concentrated his fire mainly on our
The funnels of the Tsesarevitch were hit by a large number
of shell. (These hits were particularly easy to see.)
At 5.5 P.M. the Peresviet (flag of second-in-command) had
her main-topmast cut in half, and at 5.8 P.M. the head of her foretopmast went.
These damages were of no importance in themselves, but every one could see
them. The shell which hit the head of one of the topmasts was really a bad
"over," quite a bad shot in factbad, but lucky.
About this time the lashings of the main derrick on board
the Poltava, which had been secured up and down between the funnels, were shot
through. It came down to port with a loud crash. That also was of no
importance. It could not even be called damage, as the derrick had to be got
into this position whenever boats had to be hoisted in. But every one who saw
this accident from abeam was greatly impressed.
At 5.50 P.M. the Tsesarevitch suddenly turned sharp to
port. In doing so, she heeled over so much that cries of terror were heard on
board us, which reminded one of the foundering of the Petropavlovsk. It looked
as if the ship was going to capsize.
Happily, it had only the appearance. For a few moments
every soul on board the Diana, myself included, forgot all about himself and
his ship. Every eye was strained to watch what was now going on in our battle
At first the Retvisan [No. 2] followed in the flagship's
wake. But her captain quickly noticed that. the latter was only hauling out of
the line on account of some damage. The Retvisan, therefore, not only turned
back to the old course, but towards the Japanese. It looked as if she meant to
ram the enemy.
The Pobieda [No. 3] continued on the old course. The
Tsesarevitch turned a complete circle to port and broke through the line
between the Peresviet [No. 4 rear flag], and the Sebastopol [No. 5], exactly as
if she also intended ramming the Japanese. Like the Retvisan, the Sebastopol
also turned to the south, to avoid the Tsesarevitch, and the Peresviet did the
same. The latter had apparently not made out yet what the flagship's intentions
were and did not know whether her movements were intentional or were due to the
ship not being under control. The Poltava [No. 6] continued on the old course.
For a while it looked as if we were on the point of
delivering the decisive blow. In my diary I find noted : "6.5 P.M.Our
battleships are rushing at the enemy in single line abreast." This note is
struck out and the diary continues:"No, it looks as if they intended to
resume the old course and the old formation. Present order of ships: Retvisan,
Pobieda, Peresviet, Sebastopol, Tsesarevitch, Poltava." This is also struck
out) and across the top is written:"An error. No formation whatever. They
are steaming without any order."
The first note refers to the conditions which were the
result of the Tsesarevitch sheering out of the line. The second I must have
written at the moment when the flagship, steering with her engines, tried to
get into the line between the Sebastopol and the Poltava. The latter was the
rear ship and had dropped astern a good deal. The third note represents the
state of utter confusion, when no one knew any more who was leading the
squadron or what course to steer.
The battleships then commenced to turn independently about
I wrote:"6.10 P.M.Our battleships are steering
N.W. 6.20.We are steaming without any formation, course about W. We have
made out the signal in the Tsesarevitch: ' The Admiral hands over command.' "
We saw no other signals.
There was no longer any doubt that Admiral Vityeft and his
immediate successor and Chief of the Staff, Rear- Admiral Matussevitch, had
dropped out. Was the next senior, Rear-Admiral Prince Uktomsky, still alive?
The Peresviet's topmasts, it is true, were shot away, but could not the
Admiral's flag have been displayed on their stumps, on the tops, the funnels or
any other point clearly visible? If the Peresviet flew no flag, it meant that
she no longer had an admiral on board. Consequently Rear-Admiral von
Reitzenstein, commanding the cruisers, became Commander-in-Chief. The
battleships had either to steam without a leader, or the senior captain would
have to take charge until they had formed up with the cruisers.
When the Tsesarevitch turned so suddenly to port, the
Askold, the cruiser flagship, had also turned to the north. Admiral
Reitzenstein, however, noticed very soon that the flagship was not carrying out
a manoeuvre, but simply hauling out of the line. As soon as he saw that our
battleships were getting "clubbed" and that the enemy might take advantage of
this, he resolutely led the cruisers to join the battleships. We at once
understood his intentions. He wanted to join in the action with our forces,
which, though weak, were fresh, and support the battleships, so as to give them
time to reform.
Our battleships were steering about N.W. They were a mere
rabble, one ship overtaking the other. Their fire was so wild, that some of
their projectiles fell very- close to us, as we hurried to their assistance.
The enemy's main body were crossing over in rear of our
battleships, heading about N.E. His six armoured ships, in single line ahead,
were keeping such good station, the intervals between the ships were so small
and so regular, that it looked more like peace manoeuvres than war.
But why was the enemy going away? Did the distance deceive
us? Had he suffered as much as we? Perhaps it would only have required two or
three lucky hits to throw him also into confusion. Why did he not come after us
and try to destroy us? We were fleeing. Could he not, or dared he not?
I drove all these questions out of my mind by force. I
felt as if a veil was before my eyes and I had only one desire: Let us get at
the enemy quickly, so that we can fire ourselves and deaden that dreadful
feeling that we are beaten, that we are flying.
I find it very hard to have to think this over once
again.I will now proceed with my narrative in the sequence of events. I
have noted the exact time by watch against all that now follows.
At 7 P.M. we closed up on the battleships on their
starboard side. They were apparently trying to form line ahead. The Retvisan
was the headmost ship. Again the question arose : Who is leading the squadron ?
Who is in command?
The Askold had the signal flying: " Single line ahead,"
but no distinguishing signal superior.
To whom was this signal addressed? Was it only meant for
the cruisers, or was our Admiral assuming the chief command, because he saw no
admiral's flag flying anywhere, and did he mean the signal to be "general,"
that is, addressed to all ships?
The Askold was not waiting for the other cruisers to come
up astern. She was going at her utmost speed and over-hauling the battleships,
just as if she meant to place herself ahead of the Retvisan as leader of the
squadron. The latter assumption seemed likely. Presumably the captain of the
Pallada thought so too. He did not increase speed so as to follow the Askold,
but even reduced speed, with the evident intention of allowing the squadron to
draw ahead and then to take up his proper station astern of the last
battleship. Our place in the battle formation was astern of the Pallada. We
were waiting impatiently for further orders.
When the Askold had got ahead of the Retvisan, she hoisted
the signal: "Keep in my wake," but again without a distinguishing signal , and
turned to port. In this signal and in this manoeuvre we read the determination
to lead the squadron to seaward again, and against the enemy, who appeared no
longer anxious to fight.
On the Diana's bridge exclamations of joy were heard. We
were delighted at Reitzenstein's bold decision, but our joy was premature.
Uncertainty and terror soon took its place. The Retvisan continued her course.
The battleships did not follow the Askold, and the latter, with her signal
still flying, steamed past us at top speed, like the Flying Dutchman. She
steamed away to the southward, on an opposite course to the rest of the
"So he is not in command of the squadron," the captain
called out. " Yet we must follow him."
To overhaul the battleships and like the Askold to cross
over ahead of them would have taken too long with our poor speed. The captain
therefore unhesitatingly decided to break through the rabble of battleships..
Notwithstanding the sadness of the moment I could not help
admiring the coolness and assurance with which our captain carried out this
All the same, we had waited a little to see whether the
battleships would follow the Askold. This, and our getting clear of the
battleships, took a good ten to fifteen minutes. When we had reached open
water, we saw our Admiral already far to the southward in action with the
enemy's cruisers , and getting out of sight. The captain was outwardly calm,
but he stroked his beard nervously.
"How can I follow him with my 17 knots?" he was muttering
through his teeth. Suddenly he shrugged his shoulders despairingly and ordered
: " Hard a-starboard."
The Diana turned to port and formed in the wake of the
Pallada, which had never tried to follow the Askold.
At 1.20 P.M. we were attacked from the northward by the
Chin-Yen, Matsushima, Itsukushima, and Hashidate. The Kasuga and Nishin, which
had separated from the main body, were approaching from the eastward) and from
the south came the "Greyhounds."
Well, for this company at least we were strong enough.
They did not succeed in doing us any material damage and were obliged to beat a
hasty retreat after a short but hot fight at no more than 20 cables [4,000
In this engagement the Diana was unlucky.
From my post of observation on the forebridge I saw a
mighty column of black smoke rise up suddenly from the starboard side of the
flying deck. I at once hurried to the spot. A shell had struck our Temperley
transporter, which was lying on one of the funnel casings, and smashed it. The
nearest ventilators, the funnel casings, and the funnel itself as well as the
deck were riddled with small splinters, besides which the shell had destroyed a
rising main of the steam fire service (this was really an advantage at the
moment) and disabled seventeen men; five of these were killed outright (amongst
them Sub-lieutenant Kondratyeff) and twelve wounded .
I cannot help mentioning with much pride how very well the
service was carried out on board our cruiser. I ran down as fast as I could
from the upper bridge to the upper deck, but by the time I had arrived
everything needful had been done. I only saw the last stretcher disappearing
down the officer's hatchway. The numbers of the gun, which had fallen out, had
already been replaced from the corresponding gun on the opposite (disengaged)
side. The gun had happily not been injured and was firing away energetically.
Sub-lieutenant Sh had taken over command of the midship group after
Kondratyeff's death. He had a dirty broom in his hand, which had been used to
clear up the deck, and with this dreadful weapon he was chasing back under
cover all those who had rushed over from the port side asking to be allowed to
replace the killed and wounded, so as to have a chance of fighting themselves.
All hands not told off, out of it ! " I ordered, and came
to his assistance. And those brave lads who had been fighting for the right of
being able to get face to face with death, ran back to their places quickly and
obediently at the order of "Number one."
There was no need for me to make any further dispositions,
and I could only approve what had been done. Then I went to the conning tower
to report the effect of the hit to the captain. As I reached the lower bridge,
on which the conning tower stood, I heard some one inside making a report to
the captain. I heard the words: " Under water, just under the sick-bay," and
the captain's sharp voice : " Report to the commander, quick."
" Aye ! aye ! sir, I hear! " I shouted as loud as I could
through the slit between the sides and the roof of the tower. Then I bounded
off the bridge and ran aft. "The boatswain's party to follow me." "Here, sir,"
replied the boatswain. " All present and everything ready."
It was only when the Diana went into dock to be repaired
that we were able to ascertain the exact nature and extent of the underwater
damage sustained in this action. But so that the reader may not be left to
trust to his imagination, I will anticipate, and give a short description of
A 10-inch shell had hit the ship's side under water on the
starboard side, at a very acute angle, in the direction from forwardaft,
and from updown. The hole was just between the edge of the armoured deck,
where it curves down, and the ordinary steel deck above, on which stood the
dispensary, sick-bay, and ship's office. The shell had torn open the ship's
side in a fore-and-aft direction, and had made a hole about 17 feet long and
5½ feet at its greatest width. It was thanks to the fact that the shell
was travelling nearly parallel to the ship's side, that its whole force was
expended in tearing open the ship's side. The armoured deck only leaked very
slightly. But, above all, the light steel deck above the armoured deck had
stood. This saved the ship, as it prevented water from penetrating into the
inner spaces. Certainly this light deck could not resist the pressure of the
water from outside for long. It had already begun to buckle and to open out in
the seams. Still we gained a few precious minutes during which we were enabled
to strengthen and support it. We thus succeeded in confining the dangerous
enemy, who had got inthe waterto a small space.
The first thing I saw below were the sick and wounded. The
doctor and the sick-berth staff were carrying and leading them out of the
threatened spaces. How great the damage was could be seen at a glance. The
wooden planks forming the deck in the sick-bay and the adjoining dispensary
were bursting with loud reports and the water was squirting up through the
openings. The seams of the steel deck underneath might give way any moment and
open up the deck to the sea completely. The carpenter and such of his party as
were stationed in the after part of the ship had at once started wedging down
the deck. Some of the men who were only slightly wounded had assisted. When the
boatswain's party arrived the work went on briskly.
Need I say how these men worked, with what care and with
what zeal they handled the heavy hammers with which the struts were wedged up ?
Those wedges which were preventing the deck from bursting, were working
directly against the sea, the mighty pressure of which had already opened the
seams. It was a life and death struggle. The water-tight doors were closed,
there was no exit upwards. If the sea should get the upper hand, then we should
be the first victims. The starboard after 6-inch gun, just overhead, disturbed
our labours a good deal. Every time it was fired the deck vibrated so much that
the wedges became displaced. Repeatedly the struts threatened to snap, and we
had to give them lateral support. Unconsciously one formulated the criminal
wish: " If only this infernal gun were shot away." Suddenly it ceased, and our
work proceeded more rapidly.
" That will hold now!" exclaimed the carpenter in triumph,
and tapped the deck with his foot, and the boat- swain also said : " It's all
I stopped their jubilations. "Don't say that, for Heaven's
sake ! " I cried. " Don't tempt fate ! You will only spoil everything by
How long had we been at work? The first impression was a
few seconds. When I looked around, saw all we had done, and thought of the
different episodes, I fell into the other extreme and thought we had been half
an hour or more. I looked at my watch. It had got wet and had stopped.
The sick-bay, its bathroom, the dispensary, and the office
presented a sorry spectacle. We stood on the bare steel deck. The wood planking
had been split and torn away in the process of securing down the seams
underneath. It lay about in untidy heaps. The water reached to our ankles, but
what still came in could be kept under with such primitive means as buckets and
swabs. It only trickled through the openings between the bent plates and
through rivet holes where the rivets had been loosened or had dropped out. Some
of these rivet holes were closed up with wooden plugs. Where there was a whole
row of these rivet holes, we laid a cushion or a mattress over them, a plank
over this, placed a strut between it and the beam above, and wedged down. This
part of the work was not so bad. It was no longer a case of fighting the inrush
of water, but merely keeping under what still found its way in. I left this
part to the engineer in charge of the hull and ordered him to flood some of the
port wing- passages, so as to get the ship upright. I myself inspected the
neighbouring compartments, asked those stationed there whether everything was
in order, and then went on deck to make my report to the captain.
When I reached the upper deck I chanced to pass the
starboard after 6-inch gun. Now I saw why it had ceased firing, so opportunely
for us. It was being unloaded from the muzzle. The crew were trying to push the
projectile out again. In the heat of the action it had been rammed in too hard
and had stuck in the grooves of the rifling. '
"A projectile that hadn't been gauged, your honour,"
replied No. 1, almost crying with rage.
"It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good," I thought,
and went on. Without this accident we should hardly have been able to do that
business down below. I found the captain in the conning tower. My report, which
was of course full of technical terms and explanations, would not interest the
reader, nor be understood by the majority. I therefore omit it.