Makaroff Arrives

Port Arthur, Liaotung Peninsula, 10 March 1904, 0400 hrs.

At this stage of the war the Russian Pacific Squadron was severely demoralized. With the arrival of Admiral Makaroff however, the whole tone of the fleet was changed. He brought with him a number of skilled dockyard hands to expedite the repairs of the ships damaged thus far, and the news that a squadron from the Baltic was to come to their relief. His personality counted for still more, and high spirits took the place of the former apathy and depression. To an assembly of the Senior Officers he announced that his policy would be to husband the fleet and its resources till the reinforcement could arrive, but never to cease efforts to strike the enemy so far as was in his power, and to wear down their strength. "Everyone," says Vladimir Semenoff who was there, "felt the colossal energy of the man; all knew he would make them work, being an untiring worker himself."

They were not deceived. It so happened that the first indication of the energetic action they expected occurred on the night Admiral Togo had arranged for his new series of operations to begin. In the evening Russian wireless began to indicate the approach of the Japanese Fleet, and Admiral Makaroff at once ordered out all available destroyers, instead of the usual slender guard.

Admiral Togo's first act after the failure of his blocking operation against Port Arthur, was to telegraph Japanese Imperial Headquarters a request for four more blockships to sink between those which lay on each side of the entrance. Their preparation would take time. To keep the pressure on the Russians while he awaited the arrival of the requested ships, Togo decided to carry out another destroyer attack against the Russian guard ships and an indirect bombardment of the harbor.

Only two Russian destroyer divisions proved fit for sea, and of these two boats broke down, leaving only six to do the work. The weaker division, consisting of Ryeshitelni, and Steregushchi, was ordered to make a reconnaissance of Thornton Haven, and the other, consisting of four units, was to patrol off Liau-ti-shan. The result was that when the 1st Destroyer Division of the Japanese flotilla reached Liau-ti-shan they found themselves surprised by an undetermined number of destroyers. The enemy was under the dark shore and the Japanese were careless enough to make flashing signals during their approach. They could be seen but could see nothing, and believed they had at least six enemies to deal with. Just as they were engaged in turning and the line was disordered the Russians dashed at them. So close and suddenly did they come that several collisions were with difficulty avoided. A confused action ensued, sometimes at a range so close that grenades could be used. No one quite knew what was happening. The Japanese, being all out of station, were constantly masking each other's fire, but for some minutes the action was very hot and close. Nearly all the Japanese ships were hit and holed again and again, but fortunately for the Japanese none of the Russian shells burst, and as the two flotillas were on opposite courses they soon drew out of range without any boat being actually disabled. Yet so far from executing their orders to destroy the enemy's guard the 1st Destroyer Division, with a loss of 24 killed and wounded, had to close on their battle squadron for assistance. The Russian destroyers had also been to severely damaged to seek to renew the action. In two of them the engines were disabled and one was torpedoed by one of her consorts, though she remained afloat. The casualties included two officers severely wounded and it was not till daylight that they were all back at Port Arthur.

The other Japanese division, also consisting of four boats with the cruiser Chitose as support, had better luck. When they approached the entrance to Port Arthur nothing was to be seen; even Retvizan had gone, and in pursuance of their instructions they dropped dummy mines and Holmes lights. The latter were fired on for a short time, but the firing soon stopped nor could the destroyers by any means draw the forts again. Though they were constantly in the beams of the searchlights but the guns remained silent. The fact was the forts were now under better discipline, and withheld their fire for fear of damaging their own destroyers. Till daylight the Japanese kept up their efforts, and then made for Liau-ti-shan to rejoin the fleet.

As they withdrew they caught sight of the two Russian destroyers that had been sent to Thornton Haven. They were approaching from the S.S.E. to make the harbor. The Japanese at once altered course to cut them off and drive them west to Liau-ti-shan into the arms of the fleet. The Russians, however, altered to starboard, and made for the shelter of the Dalny minefield. Chase was given, and the superior speed of the Japanese quickly enabled them to close to 300 yards. A sharp action began. Both the Russians fought fiercely, but though they got home a good many hits they were soon seen to be in trouble, and the second boat, Steregushchi, was dropping speed fast. By this time the day was breaking, and the chase had come within range of the forts and they began to fire. The leading Russian boat, though she had one boiler damaged by a shell and her captain disabled, was keeping her speed fairly well, and with her engineer in command was now making for Port Arthur. It was seen to be impossible to prevent her escaping, and all four Japanese destroyers closed round Steregushchi and concentrated upon her an overwhelming fire.

It was now broad daylight. The various divisions of the Japanese fleet were proceeding to their several stations for the bombardment, and Admiral Dewa, whose duty was to spot the fall of the shot off the harbor, appeared in the offing. Seeing what was going on, and that the shore fire on the destroyers was too hot for a light vessel like Chitose to approach in support, he sent in his armored cruiser Tokiwa. It was high time. Away towards Port Arthur Novik could be seen coming out to the rescue, and on board of her was Admiral Makaroff himself. The moment he knew of the action he had hoisted his flag, and ordering Bayan to follow as she could, he put to sea. Meanwhile the Russian destroyer had been reduced to a motionless and silent wreck and had hauled down her flag. One of the enemy approached to take possession, while the rest gathered for emergency repairs and to send their wounded to Tokiwa. But the Russian had no thought of surrender. When the Japanese got along side they found the decks a mass of dead and dying; not a single officer was to be seen, and scarcely an unwounded man. One or two were seized and sent off. A few had swum to the boat as she approached. The destroyer's Kingston valves had been opened, nor was it possible to reach them. Two devoted men, to make sure she would never fall into the enemy's hands, had locked themselves into the engine room, and by no means could they be induced to give up their tomb. Preparations were therefore made to take her in tow.

All this time Admiral Dewa was standing in, but the shore fire had grown so hot and accurate that Chitose, and even Tokiwa, after taking in the wounded, had to retire out of range. Thereupon, Admiral Makaroff also turned back, and the Japanese destroyer that was standing by took the sinking vessel in tow. The hawser, however, quickly parted, and Novik was seen coming out again to the rescue accompanied by Bayan. An action seemed imminent, but at this moment Admiral Uriu's division appeared on the horizon, proceeding to its station. His duty was to pass in front of Port Arthur and destroy a signal station and other buildings, believed to be a mining station, which the Russians had set up. The moment he realized the situation he hoisted his battle flag and stood in for the Russian cruisers. Whereupon Admiral Makaroff stopped. Admiral Dewa had just signaled for the prize to be abandoned, and the Japanese destroyers were retiring, while Admiral Uriu; seeing that the Russian cruisers refused to leave the shelter of the forts, passed on to execute his orders. As soon as he was gone Admiral Makaroff put out for the third time to the scene of the wreck, but not a trace of the destroyer was found. She had sunk with all hands. By this time some Japanese battleships had hove in sight; it was low tide; not a Russian battleship could move out; and Admiral Makaroff had no course but to return to port.

The battleships, that had appeared, were Admiral Togo's own sub-division guarding the 1st Destroyer Division, which had been cut up off Liau-ti-shan. When he found what a damaged condition they were in, he decided to commit the bombardment to Rear Admiral Nashiba, with Fuji and Yashima, and himself to stand by the destroyers and take off their wounded. As for the destroyers themselves it was found necessary to send them away at once to the new base at Haiju, where by this time two repair ships had arrived.

As soon as the Admiral had taken the wounded on board, he proceeded to a point in front of the harbor where he could watch the fall of the shot. The bombardment was taking place along the south shore of Liau-ti-shan from the lighthouse on the promontory as far as Rotetsu Tau. This area was entirely masked from the Russian batteries, but as soon as Rotetsu Tau was passed the Golden Hill battery could open with effect, and to avoid the shot the ships had to turn back. When the Rear Admiral had fired his allotted number of rounds Admiral Togo took his place. By a miracle, of the 150 rounds that were fired, Askold was the only Russian ship in harbor that was hit, and that not seriously.

As for Admiral Uriu, he duly carried out a vigorous bombardment of San-shan-tau, to the surprise of the Russians, for although there had been a lookout post there earlier in the war, it had been withdrawn and there was nothing now but a quarantine station. After a considerable expenditure of ammunition the Japanese retired without completing the destruction, as a rising swell made a landing impossible.

Still, besides another destroyer to their score, the Japanese claimed that they had effected their real moral purpose of what used to be called "insulting the enemy in his port," but in fact, according to Russian accounts, the moral effect had been the reverse of what the Japanese hoped. They believed that the aggressive leadership of Admiral Makaroff had prevented the bombardment being carried out thoroughly, and when Fuji and Yashima retired the men cheered, being convinced their fire had driven them off.