February 8th, 2007, 12:27 PM
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1000 or more
An event in search of a POD: the fate of the Beiyang Navy
One of the initiatives taken by Li Hongzhang
in the late 19th century was to equip China with a modern navy, an objective he very nearly achieved. The navy became known as the Beiyang Fleet
; its flagship was the Dingyuan 定远 "Pacificator of Distant Places". This site
provides a comparison between the Chinese and Japanese navies at the time of the Yalu battle in 1894.
Anyone who feels like giving this respectable fleet a chance to make history is welcome.
The history of the Dingyuan can be traced back to 1878. At that time the late Qing Dynasty was rife with corruption and weak. It had paid little heed to coastal defence until one day in 1878 when the Japanese navy intruded into China's territorial waters off the coast of Taiwan Province.
With no way to repulse the Japanese force, the Qing Government decided to build a modern navy. After consulting with both British and German governments, the Qing Court in 1881 finally handed the contract to build the advanced warship to Germany's Vulcan shipmaking plant, at a cost of 1.7 million taels of silver.
Records show that the Dingyuan was recognized as the most advanced battleship of its time, the better of any ship in the mighty fleets of Great Britain and Germany. It measured 94.5 metres long and 18 metres wide with a 30-centimetre covering body armour. Experts say the Ironclad was resistant to any firepower available at the time.
Its four 305-mm calibre Krupp cannons boasted a range of 7.8 kilometres at 500 metres per second. Another two 150-mm calibre Krupp cannons installed at the bow and stern were able to lob shells as far as 11,000 metres with a preliminary speed of 580 metres per second.
Torpedo boats were also carried on board, enlarging the Dingyuan's striking distance and battle effectiveness.
To meet the demands on ship, 20 desalinators were installed which could serve 300 people fresh water daily.
"With many new and hi-tech designs of the time, the birth of the Dingyuan aroused great attention from the world's navy circles," said Professor Jiang Ming, who has been involved in modern navy research for many years. "Its advanced capabilities shocked the world, especially Asian countries."
In 1884 the Dingyuan was finished and sailed back to China, arriving the following year. Also in 1885, the Beiyang Fleet was founded in Weihai, and based at Liugongdao Island, marking the establishment of China's first modern fleet.
"At that time the Beiyang Fleet became immediately well-known because of the birth of world-class warships including the Dingyuan, Zhiyuan and Zhenyuan."
In the following 10 years, the Dingyuan visited Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malacca and Vladivostok, winning fame and glory wherever it went.
However, by the middle of the 1890s the waning Qing Dynasty lost its desire to keep ahead in the naval race, in contrast to the strengthening Japanese navy.
In 1894, Japan's navy made a sneak attack on Chinese warships and troop carriers. In the Yellow Sea Battle of September 1894, the Dingyuan led the Beiyang Fleet in driving the Japanese out. But on February 5, 1895, the Dingyuan was seriously damaged after being hit by a Japanese torpedo and later cannon fire. With surrender not an option, Captain Liu Buchan ordered the ship scuttled. And so ended the brilliant and tragic life of the battleship.