The Battle Of Tsushima : Why The Japanese Won Such A Decisive Victory At The Battle Of Tsushima : The Russo-Japanese War
The Battle Of Tsushima : Why The Japanese Won Such A Decisive Victory At The Battle Of Tsushima The Battle of Tsushima saw the decimation of the Russian Armada at the hands of the Imperial Japanese Navy, marking an important naval battle that ultimately contributed to the outcome of the Russo-Japanese War.
Although there were a myriad of factors contributing to the Japanese victory, I will touch on three major reasons — the difference in naval combat experience, superior Japanese technology, and key allies prior to the actual conflict.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was led by the battle-hardened Admiral Tōgō, a very respected commander who had already defeated Russian admirals Makarov and Tsesarevich.
Admiral Tōgō studied naval strategy in Britain, and by the end of his seven year stay abroad, graduated second in his class. Admiral Tōgō’s academic expertise, combined with his combat experience – two battleship conflicts at Port Arthur and the Yellow Sea -, made him a very formidable opponent for Russian Admirals Rozhestvensky and Nebogatov at the Battle of Tsushima.
Furthermore, the Japanese sailors under Admiral Tōgō’s command had already been trained and made familiar with their vessels through the aforementioned engagements at Port Arthur and the Yellow Sea.
This is in contrast to the Russian sailors at this battle, most of whom had been hastily assembled to serve upon the newly commissioned Borodino-class battleships. The difference in experience between Japanese and Russian Admirals and sailors undeniably had a profound impact at the Battle of Tsushima.
Perhaps this was the very reason that Adrimial Tōgō was able to masterfully maneuver his fleet to “cross the T” of the Russians and begin the battle in a favorable position. Strategy throughout the course of the engagement also seemed to favor the Japanese, in which relentless attacks constantly kept the Russians on the back foot.
Superior Japanese technology also made a difference in the forms of better communications and rangefinders. Although both sides had already adopted the use of radios in the navy, the efficiency in the usage of this particular technology heavily favored the Japanese.
At the time of the Battle of Tsushima, the Russian navy employed German wireless telegraphy sets, which proved difficult in usage and maintenance. On the other hand, the Japanese had developed their own radio sets.
The Imperial Japanese Navy was able to use their native technology much more easily and efficiently, allowing them to better coordinate their strategy during the engagement.
The Japanese navy also utilized the dumaresq computer for fire control, which greatly improved their gunners’ ability to estimate shell splashes. This translated to far more accurate gun fire at further ranges. At shorter ranges, the more modern coincidence rangefinders also added to the list of technological advantages held by the Imperial Japanese Navy.
During the daylight action of the Battle of Tsushima, this technology reigned supreme as the Japanese were able to heavily outgun their Russian opponents, quickly sinking and crippling multiple Russian vessels while sustaining minimal losses themselves.
Japanese shells were also packed with high explosives, Japanese shell from the battle below:
These shells were much more devastating on impact than the traditional armour piercing rounds that the Russian navy was still using.
From a naval point of view, the Japanese also had more powerful allies, mainly in the form of Great Britain.
At this point in time, Britain had control of the most naval resources around the globe, and as such, was able to have an impact on the battle before it even began.
Russian ships were barred from entering shipyards and accessing crucial coal refueling points, forcing the Russian Navy to be docked for unnecessary amounts of time while coal logistics were dealt with.
Not only did this time deteriorate Russian ships to the point of repair, it also weighed heavily on the morale of the crew (who had been out at sea for roughly 7.5 months before the commencement of the Battle of Tsushima).
The Tsar’s Last Armada: The Epic Journey to the Battle of Tsushima by Constantine V Pleshakov does an excellent job of covering the doomed voyage of the Russian 2nd fleet, see map below( blue line denotes the “faster” ships vs the red line which were the “slower” ships that went via the Suez Canal.
Britain also threw its weight around in the procurement of vessels, securing modern cruisers for the Imperial Japanese Navy while blocking the sale of ships to the Russian Armada.
These pre-battle politics ensured that by the time the first shot had even been fired, the well maintained, rested, and modern Japanese Navy was facing an exhausted and demoralized Russian opponent.
The culmination of these three factors, in addition to other more minor reasons, contributed to the overwhelming Russian defeat at the Battle of Tsushima.
The Battle Of Tsushima : Why The Japanese Won Such A Decisive Victory At The Battle Of Tsushima
Written by by Tony Cao
Edited by Adele Su Yan Teo & Andrew Fu