The consequences of an errant shell(story only thread)

This has been in response to those who wanted a "clean" story to read. It also allows me to correct mistakes in typing as they occurred and I may even "fit in" a few extra posts. If I do the later, I will highlight these in blue so people are aware they are new. Also, I will highlight any "flash foward, or future chapters that are out of normal timeline sequence in green. Please feel free to add any suggestions or comments on the main "Errant shell" timeline.

10 August 1904 Yellow Sea

Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft felt the ship shudder as another broadside streaked towards the enemy fleet. He thought back on the events of the day. He had felt pressured to undertake the sortie, both by the Tsar and Viceroy Aleksayev, but so far the disaster that he had secretly thought the day might become had not eventuated. His ships, whipped into shape and out of years of institutional lethargy by Admiral Makarov earlier this same year had performed so far well beyond his expectations.

His squadron had cleared the harbor's entrance at 0955 this morning and made a feint to the south-west to conceal his actual intent, hoping to delay the concentration of the two Japanese forces reported to be at sea. By 1100 hours Vitgelf’s fleet was in the open sea. The Russian squadron consisted of the battleships Tsesarevich, Retvizan, Pobeda, Peresvet, Sevastopol and Poltava, four protected cruisers and 14 destroyers.

At about 1225 his fleet had sighted the Japanese near Encounter Rock at a range of about 11 miles. They headed southeast at 13 knots, while Togo’s Japanese, on an intercepting course, came from the northeast at 14 knots. The Japanese had four battleships, two large cruisers, eight protected cruisers, 18 destroyers, and 30 torpedo boats. At 1239 four Japanese cruisers came into view, fast approaching from the south at 18 knots and had attempted to squeeze the Russians between the two advancing columns.

Just after 1300, the enemy had attempted to cross Vitgeft's “T” and commenced firing their main batteries from the extreme range of more than 8 miles. Vitgeft, on board the battleship Retvizan, had returned fire, but the range was excessive for both sides and no hits had been scored. Vitgeft simply made a quick turn to port, maintained his speed, and increased his range from the Japanese. Their pincer move had failed. It was not until 1325 that, at a range of over 8 miles, enemy battleships opened fire on Vitgeft's flagship, hitting her 12 times with heavy shells. Retvizan had returned fire, hitting the leading enemy battleship three times. For nearly half an hour the two battleship fleets had pounded each other, slowly closing their range, until by 1405 hours they reached about 3.5 miles, at which time both fleets let loose with their secondary 6 inch guns. As they continued to pound each other with all available guns his flagship was beginning to feel its wounds, but clearly so were the Japanese as their battleships sheared off and their cruisers briefly engaged. Vitgelf was able to use the opportunity to steer away from the main Japanese line, breaking through to the open sea.

It was not until 1445 that the Japanese had closed back to within seven miles of the trailing battleship Poltava, which was experiencing engine troubles and had been unable to maintain the fleet's 14.5 knots. Poltava had suffered several hits and he had ordered Vice Admiral Ukhtomsky to fall his division back and help the Poltava, concentrating their gunfire onto the leading Japanese battleship. With Admiral Ukhtomsky's division firing as well, the Japanese broke contact after taking more hits and, using their superior speed, attempted to pull ahead of Vitgeft's fleet, presumably to try an re-establish contact again under more favorable conditions. By 1520 hours the range had opened and the firing had ceased. As the battleships had broken contact, the Japanese cruiser formation had attempted to get into action, but had been driven off by two 12 inch hits on their leading cruiser.

With darkness only 3 1/2 hours away, Vitgeft had believed that he had out ranged Admiral Togo, and would lose him totally when darkness came. However, by 1735 hours the Japanese had closed again to within 3.5 miles of the again struggling Poltava, and opened fire upon her. However, the Poltava was still full of fight and had scored several main battery hits on the Japanese ships. Although the range had dropped to about 3 miles, the secondary batteries of 155 and 203 mm guns were still not hitting and penetrating and both the Poltava and Peresvet, although heavily damaged, were still with the Russian battle line.

Vitgeft looked across at the enemy battleship, anticipating the arrival of his last broadside of four twelve inch shells. He could not anticipate the chaos that one 12 inch shell, fired from the starboard side aft main battery turret would cause. Or the changes it would wreak. All he saw was the lead Japanese battleship rocked by a huge explosion. When it had cleared and he had overcome his own shock, it showed a scene of utter chaos. The leading enemy battleship had blown up, the bow shearing off from the main superstructure. The second Japanese battleship, following far too close astern had struck the hulk of the first amidships, locking the two ships, one doomed and the other clearly in major trouble, together.

With the Japanese fleet seemingly in total confusion and their fire having dropped briefly to almost zero; with their light screening forces strung out, some ships having slowed whilst others having continued on course, Vitgeft ordered his destroyers in for a torpedo attack and took his battle line in closer as well, hoping to hurt the Japanese enough to obtain what had seemingly been impossible just this morning-domination of the seaward approaches to Port Arthur.

By 1922, as he drew his battered but still intact fleet off, he had achieved such a victory. In addition to the enemy battleship that had blown up, his destroyers had torpedoed the leading enemy battleship in a two ship division that had attempted to intercept their attacks on the two stricken Japanese battleships that were locked together. Hit twice, this ship had rolled over and capsized quickly, it’s division mate fleeing. His own battle line had closed the range, ruthlessly pounding both the hulk and it's trapped sister, which appeared to have only one 12 inch gun in action. In twenty minutes of close action, his six battleships had caused a scene of total devastation, leaving both only smoking, riven hulks, sinking and on fire from Russian gunfire delivered at ranges as short as 1-1.5 miles. The remaining Japanese ships seemed to have dissolved into confusion, before finally withdrawing from the scene and leaving the stricken ships to their fate.

He had been bloodied, with all of his battleships suffering damage. Three in particular, Poltava, Peresvet and his flagship Tsesarevich, were heavily damaged, plus he had lost a destroyer, with three more damaged. However, the Japanese had been mauled, losing three of their four battleships, with two cruisers damaged. For Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft, it was a decisive victory, a victory that potentially secured his country’s control of the vital sea lanes.

10 August 1904 Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, near St Petersburg, Russian Empire

Czar Nicholas II had been a man under incredible pressure over the course of the last several months. His own handling of the war, both from the point of view of the public and within his own family had been a matter of some question. Since the war had started in February he had faced a series of overwhelming defeats that had seemingly gathered momentum until he had at times felt powerless to stop events. He himself personally loathed the Japanese, a legacy from his own near death experiences in the islands and had been desperate to glean any positives from the endless series of dispatches from Vladivostok, nearly all of them negative. When the last dispatch had arrived from Vitgelf, it had been a beacon of light among the slough of defeat. That the flagship of the Russian fleet was named the Tsesarevich was to Nicholas a good omen. Sadly it was to prove a mocking one instead.

It was near midnight when he climbed the stairs to his bedroom, one he shared, contrary to common royal custom, with his beloved wife. He felt that an enormous weight had been lifted from his shoulders; this last week with his wife’s pregnancy nearly due and the news from the war it had almost felt like a giant band was across his chest. Tonight it had felt like a reversion to his carefree days as Tsarevich. He had shared a number of vodkas and finished with a few ports in company his old friend Pavel Alexandrovich and now felt decidedly owlish, so much so that he knocked over some papers and a paperweight off his writing desk in the darkness upon a pair of slightly unsteady feet with a crash.

The Tsarina, alerted by the noise, swung herself out of bed, feeling like a whale in the last stages of pregnancy. As she took her second step, she stumbled badly on something on the floor, latterly shown to be a child’s toy, and fell forward, impacting quite heavily on the wooden arm of the settee. It did not seem like a major incident and she went back to bed with her husband after giving him a minor ticking off. She had the reassuring comfort of feeling the baby move consistently through the first part of the night before dropping back off to sleep.

Two days later, on August 12th, labour started, but when their hoped for and prayed for baby boy had finally been delivered, it was not the healthy child they had hoped for, but a boy that, whilst perfectly formed, showed no signs of life. There was to be no 21 gun salute, only stunned silence and grief. Exactly 18 months later, on February 12 1906, when the Empress bled severely and barely survived the birth of a 6th child and a 5th and yet another daughter, eventually called Victoriya after her own Grandmother to mollify the shattered and disappointed former Alix of Hesse, it was clear no hoped for male heir would be forthcoming.
Last edited:
11 August 1904 Pusan, Empire of Korea

As morning dawned over the Imperial Japanese Navy Combined Fleet Vice Admiral Shigeto Dewa contemplated the suddenly disastrous position of the Japanese forces. At the start of the Russo-Japanese war the fleet had contained six battleships. Two had been lost on mines outside Port Arthur in May, Hatsuse and Yashima. Now three more in yesterday's engagement, the Mikasa, Shikishima and Asahi. Only the Fuji remained to face the six battleships of the Russian Pacific Fleet. Perhaps just as badly, the tactical genius and spiritual leader of the navy, Admiral Togo, was also lost, killed instantly by the catastrophic explosion aboard Mikasa. It was a disaster of the first rank.

With only one battleship left, he did not have the firepower to match the Russian fleet. Worse still, whilst it appeared reinforcements were on the way for the Russians, the same could not be said for his own fleet. Thrust into a leadership role, he was frankly unsure of where to go from here.
Battleship Tsesarevich

14 August 1904 Sea of Japan

The battle had been going for five hours so far and he had sunk one Russian armoured cruiser and was still in pursuit of both the others as they fled back to Vladivostok. Vice Admiral Kamiyama's squadron was made up of four armoured cruisers Izumo, Azuma, Iwate and Tokiwa and two protected cruisers Naniwa and Takachiho. All of his ships had taken moderate damage as the two larger Russian armoured cruisers had put up a fierce fight. He would have to turn back soon, the very presence of Vitgeft's battleships at Vladivostok meant he could not push the pursuit too hard.

It was not until 1029 that he received the report from his flag captain. Three enemy battleships, 4 cruisers, 8 destroyers SouthSouthEast of his current force. He had strayed a long way North and was now trapped between two enemy forces, with the superior force blocking his progress back to Pusan. The situation had gone quite quickly from the verge of victory to the edge of defeat.

It was not until early afternoon that Vice Admiral Kamiyama's remaining ships finally pulled away from the Russian's, a lengthy process that had taken almost three hours. Whilst he still had all four armoured cruisers with him, they had not gotten away unscathed. Both of his protected cruisers, Naniwa and Takachiho, had gone down. Both twenty years old and notoriously poor sea boats, they had no real speed advantage in the rising seas over the Russians. Labouring at the rear of his line and quickly coming under fire from the enemy battleships, they had taken a series of damaging hits.

In the finish he had been unable to justify losing his heavier cruisers to save either ship. As it was, his armoured cruisers had taken additional hits extricating himself from the trap that they had found themselves in. Both Izumo and Iwate would require some repairs. At least in consequence they had battered the two badly damaged Russian armoured cruisers still further. Still, the loss of two protected cruiser for one Russian armoured cruiser could best be described as a draw and at the moment the IJN needed better results than draws.
20 August 1904 Kronstadt, St Petersburg, Russian Empire

Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky watched the line of grey shapes following astern. His meeting with Nicholas II on the 14th had been short and brief and had required the intervention of Count Fredericks as the Tsar, grief stricken, had clearly been in no state to contribute meaningfully to the discussion in regards to the departure date of the Baltic Fleet.

It had produced one positive. Nicholas had delegated to Rozhestvensky complete authority to make whatever preparations that had been required. That being the case, he had immediately advanced preparations to depart on his monumental journey. It was clear in his own mind that what he needed was not to be burdened with older, slower and less useful ships and that to actively assist he needed to depart as soon as possible. Less ships would mean less coal and therefore less of a logistical nightmare, which the whole voyage promised to be in any case. It had left some captain's disappointed, but he was convinced it was the right move.

There would be no Second or Third Squadron, no Fleet review at Revel. He had departed with the battleships Imperator Alexandr III andKnyaz Suvorov(the later brand new), Oslyabya, the armoured cruiser Admiral Nakimov, five protected cruisers, 9 destroyers and some auxiliaries.

He had taken only the fastest and most able of the ships available, so that a steady fleet speed of 14 knots could be maintained. As it was the British had refused the use of the Suez Canal, so a long voyage around Africa would be required. He prayed that he could get there quickly enough to make a decisive difference. As it was, it appeared the Pacific Fleet was giving a good account of itself in any case. If they could dominate the sea lanes, they could cut off the Japanese land forces from their sources of supply.
10 September 1904, Liaoyang, Manchuria

It was in many ways a Pyrrhic victory, thought General Oyama Iwao. He had defeated the Russian formations of General Alexei Nikolayevich Kuropatkin, who seemed to be adopting a remarkably passive approach.

When, on the 1st, The Japanese First Army had been poised to cut off Liaoyang from the North, Kuropatkin had decided to abandon the city. The Russian retreat began on 3 September and was completed by the 10th. His own forces had been unable to impede the Russian retreat, primarily due to very heavy casualties, in fact almost 24,000 men, mainly due to the arrival of new, fresh, Russian formations. In addition, he now faced a new problem. Shortages of supply were starting to creep in and there had been no convoys from Japan in the last three weeks, although an effort was promised on the 18th. His exhausted troops needed more ammunition, more food and more men.

Russian arrivals via the Trans Siberian railway were being stepped up and the fighting was developing into a vicious war of attrition that rapidly consumed both men and material. If he could not reinforce it boded ill for the campaign.
18 September 1904, Kure, Japanese Empire

Vice Admiral Shigeto Dewa had the entire Japanese Fleet that was seaworthy assembled to guard the large convoy through to Pusan. It was likely the Russians would try and intervene, but supply convoys had been suspended for a month and the army badly needed both the extra men and material. Ammunition shortages, especially for artillery, were becoming critical and the convoy also carried new high angle Krupp howitzers that it was hoped could be used on Port Arthur and the Russian fleet that lay there.

His forces were a pale shadow of the fleet that had existed at the start of the war. Only one battleship, the Fuji, remained out of six. He would personally command the 1st Division, consisting of: Fuji, the armoured cruisers Kasuga, Nisshin, Azuma, Asama, Tokiwa and Yakumo, 4 protected cruisers and 12 destroyers. 2nd Division under Vice Admiral Kamimura would provide direct protection for the convoy, to consist of the old ex Chinese battleship Chinen, nine protected cruisers, four destroyers and eight torpedo boats. Kamimura's ships consisted of mostly older, far less capable units and he was under no illusions as to their ability(or lack thereof) to stand the Russians off if they broke through to the convoy in force. The convoy itself consisted of 19 ships, many only capable of seven or eight knots.

It would be the seven heavy ships in his first Division that would have to do the heavy lifting. The odds were not great, as potentially he could have all six Russian Pacific Fleet battleships facing him, although only three had been operating recently, probably due to the damage inflicted on some of their units on 10th August.
18 September 1904 Whitehall, London, United Kingdom

Kerr had talked to "Jackie" Fisher, who was to assume the office of First Lord on his return from vacation. It had been agreed. The two ships had spent less than three month as RN vessels, but Fisher had been quite supportive and had agreed that neither really "fitted in" with the RN battleship divisions, being too lightly constructed, armed, and armoured by British standards. They were very much second-class battleships, and their layout was contrary to normal RN practices.

Probably the most extraordinary decision was to allow RN crews to sail them to India, where they were to be handed over to their new Japanese owners, the RN crews to return home to Britain via steamer. Fisher hoped that it would restore the balance of power back to the Japanese, thereby thwarting Russia's Pacific adventures. HMS Swiftsure and Triumph were to be made ready as soon as possible for transfer, along with the two old armoured cruisers Australia and Galatea(both recently allocated to the Channel Coast Guard), plus a pair of older destroyers.
18 September 1904 Alexander Palace, Tsarskoe Selo, near St Petersburg, Russian Empire

Alexandra had been quite insistent in the sometimes heated conversation with her husband. She felt in her own mind that it must be so. Why just look at the alternative choices. Nicholas's brother had pursued an entirely unsuitable romance with her cousin(and his) Beatrice and was now conducting a very public affair with a commoner and had even now asked Nicky's permission to marry her only weeks ago.

Next in line would be his entirely unsuitable Uncle Vladimir with his obnoxious wife. Their children were also bad examples. The oldest, Cyril already had made a bad marriage, the second Boris, a dilettante, the third
Andrei, both backward and chronically shy.

She had to get dear Nicky to see that the future would have to rest with their own children, be they male or female. God knows, her own dear Grandmama had done well enough. He was a young man and would live long enough to see their daughters reach a good age to be able to reign sensibly, assuming a son did not come. Laws that had been made by Tsars could be put aside by Tsars, after all.It was at the very heart of being an autocrat, after all.
Last edited:
19 September 1904 Yellow Sea

Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft had his fleet at sea. He was well aware that a successful interdiction of the Japanese convoy could well bring about a decisive turn about in the war, which had so far, contrary to most experts initial opinions, had not gone in Russia's favour. He had brought his main battle line back up to five, only the Poltava still being under repair. At least one, Pobeda, still had some battle damage and was missing two secondary armament mounts, both still out of action. With his five battleships he had five protected cruisers(his armoured cruisers were still under repair) and 16 destroyers.

If he could smash the convoy or even turn it back, he would have achieved a substantial blow for the army. By later that day, he had, in fact, achieved his objective.

The Japanese Vice Admiral Shigeto Dewa had little choice but to turn the convoy back. The combined weight of fire from three Russian battleships had all been concentrated on the Fuji as he had interposed his own ships between the convoy and the Russian Fleet. His flagship was now very badly battered and had had her forward turret knocked out and one of his twelve inch guns in the aft turret had burst it's barrel. He was now returning fire with only one twelve inch gun and his secondary armament.

The weight of fire from his armoured cruisers was theoretically high, but the Russian battleships did not seem to be taking critical damage from the smaller 6 inch and 8 inch weapons and the Russians had taken care to stay at a reasonable range so as to negate much of the effectiveness of such weapons. If he wished to save the only operational battleship left to the navy, he would have to retreat. That meant the convoy would have to retreat as well. The armoured cruiser Azumo had also taken damage and although he had gained hits on the enemy battleships, particularly the second ship in line, the weight of fire from the Russian had barely slackened. They continued to run parallel with his force, virtually circling around the convoy in a large semi circle, before breaking off and returning, making him engage in a long range duel to keep them at bay. This had been going on for over two hours. Hits, whilst not frequent, had been regular enough to cause significant damage from the larger 12 inch shells.

As it was, Vice Admiral Kamimura had been busy standing off a direct attack on the rear of the convoy from what had initially been thought to be a series of protected cruisers, but had turned out to be ten armoured gunboats, escorted by 4 protected cruisers, 4 destroyers and a few torpedo boats. Kamimura had engaged, destroying a gunboat and a torpedo boat but losing a destroyer himself to a torpedo attack.

The situation at sea was too dangerous and if he continued the action he may well loose nearly all of his force. Despite the army's woes, he would have to turn back. As it was, the Fuji would be out of action for a period of at least a month, probably longer.
Last edited:
19 September 1904 Atlantic Ocean West Coast of Africa

Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky's flotilla of 17 ships had made very good time down the West Coast of Africa and was only about ten days away from there next port of call, which was in German West Africa. They had placed their first stop, Dakar, well behind them.

Whilst they had been unable to use the Suez Canal their unarmed support ships had been granted transit and they expected to rendezvous at Madagascar. So far things had gone well and he did not regret leaving with a smaller forces at all.
20 September 1904, Kure, Japanese Empire

As Vice Admiral Dewa looked over the battered superstructure of the Fuji, he knew that the navy had reached a crisis point. Both the Fuji and the armoured cruiser Azumo would be out of action for some time, the Fuji likely for over two months. Two armoured cruisers would be ready again in two weeks, bringing his total back up to eight, but he would have no battleships to face perhaps six Russian capital ships. He had lost control of the sea lanes. Resupplying the war in Manchuria was now an almost impossible prospect, unless some other means could be found to destroy the Russian fleet.
30 September 1904, Port Arthur

In late August, General Nogi had captured 174 Meter Hill at the cost of horrific casualties, numbering almost 16,000. With things at sea looking more and more unfavourable, he needed to capture the important high ground around Port Arthur to bring the campaign to a close, freeing up his army to support operations against Mukden. He had enough ammunition and artillery for a push on Port Arthur. If that did not succeed, then further offensive operations would be much more problematic.

Having failed in his attempts to penetrate the Port Arthur fortifications by direct assault, Nogi had ordered the to construction of trenches and tunnels under the Russian forts in order to explode mines to bring down the walls. He was aware that reinforcements and supplies were now flowing freely to Port Arthur, the Russians having command of the seas.

Nogi now shifted his attention to the Temple Redoubt and the Waterworks Redoubt (also known as the Erhlung Redoubt) to the east, and to 203 Meter Hill and Namakoyama to the west. Hugely strategically important was 203 Meter Hill: its unobstructed views of the harbor would (if taken by the Japanese) have enabled them to control the harbor and to fire on the ships and fleet sheltering there.

By mid-September the Japanese had dug over eight kilometers of trenches and were within 70 meters of the Waterworks Redoubt, which they had attacked and captured on September 19, 1904.

Thereafter, they successfully took the Temple Redoubt, while another attacking force was sent against both Namakoyama and 203 Meter Hill. The former was taken that same day, but on 203 Meter Hill the Russian defenders cut down the dense columns of attacking troops with machine gun and cannon fire in brutal swathes. The attack had failed; the Japanese were forced back, leaving the ground covered with their dead and wounded.

The battle at 203 Meter Hill had continued for several more days, with the Japanese gaining a foothold each day, only to be forced back each time by Russian counter-attacks. By the time General Nogi had abandoned the attempt, he had lost over 4400 men.

The Russians used the respite to begin strengthening the defenses on 203 Meter Hill yet further, with a shipment of machine guns being emplaced, while Nogi began a prolonged artillery bombardment of the town and those parts of the harbor within range of his guns, however, ammunition shortages allowed only a week of this.

By the end of the month he was at an impasse, lacking the strength and ammunition to conduct further attacks, yet still surrounding the fortress. The losses he had suffered had not been made good, as promised by army high command. Meanwhile the Russians been bringing up more troops, but in particular more weapons and supplies, to Port Arthur.
6 October 1904, Atlantic Ocean, off the Cape of Good Hope

Admiral Rozhestvensky's Fleet had crossed into the Indian Ocean, leaving behind the Cape of Good Hope in the twilight hours, now some five hours ago. He sat in his chair on the bridge of the Imperator Alexandr III. Next stop was Madagascar, then the longest leg of his journey, across the Indian Ocean to French Indo-China.

He would stop there to remove as much fouling as possible from his ships and then proceed on to Port Arthur.
20 October 1904 Liaoyang, Manchuria

The Trans Siberian railway had been officially completed some 24 days hence, helping greatly the problem of logistics for the Russian armies. General Kuropatkin had needed a victory and he had finally achieved one.

The battle began on 5 October 1904, with the Western detachment moving 25 kilometers South across open terrain within minimal opposition, reaching the banks of the Shli River on 7 October. The Eastern Detachment also moved South through mountainous terrain some 36 kilometers, reaching the hamlet of Bianyupusa on 8 October. Kuropatkin gambled that the Japanese general Oyama would perceive that the Western Detachment moving down to the plains was the main thrust against Liaoyang, whereas his main strike force was actually the Eastern Detachment moving into the concealment of the hills. The ruse worked all too well.

The Eastern thrust under Lt General Baron Georgii Karlovich Stackelberg attacked the Japanese 12th Division near the Yantai coal mines, and by nightfall had taken 5000 casualties. The IJA 12th Division, however, had lost even more men. On attacks being renewed the depleted 12th broke, it's fire slackening away with what was later shown to be ammunition shortages.

Stackelberg's forces were able to break through, capturing a large concentration of Japanese artillery on Sankaisekisan (called "One-Tree Hill" by the Russians) and pushing on and recapturing Liaoyang on the 19th. The Japanese had retreated mainly in good order, but had lost over 2,000 men that had been too slow to retreat. Overall, the Russian had lost 4,500 killed and 24,000 wounded, as opposed to Japanese losses of 9,000 killed and 21,000 wounded.

The balance, however, had tipped. Whilst the Russians were now more able to reinforce, the Japanese were less able to do so. With winter coming, supply, particularly of fuel and foodstuffs, would be all important. The war would become more static and artillery would also rise in importance. If one had the ammunition to use it, of course.
30 October 1904 Off the Seychelles Islands, Indian Ocean

Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky's flotilla of 17 warships had been slowed by their fleet train, bringing his total ship numbers up to 25 after the rendezvous between the two groups at Madagascar on the 22nd. They now faced the longest leg of their journey and were almost three days out near the Seychelles.

In truth he was not used to such warm climates, having spent almost the entirety of his life in St Peterburg. The latest news from the Pacific was good and it appeared that the tide of war was starting to turn in Russia's favour. Hopefully the appearance of his own forces would tip that balance completely.

24 November 1904 Cam Ranh Bay, off the coast of Annam,French Indochina

Rozhestvensky's fleet had reached French Indo China. It would only be a five day lay over before the fleet would leave for it's next destination, Port Arthur, where they hoped to arrive on either the 12th or 13th of December. It was important to press on as he had been made aware via electric telegraph of the progress of British reinforcements that were being sent to the Japanese, which were expected in Ceylon before the end of November.
9 December 1904, Singapore Naval Base, British Malaya

Admiral Sir Cyprian Arthur George Bridge, RN, had retired in April 1904 but had been offered a temporary reinstatement if he was to head this fool mission. He had guided the two battleships, two armoured cruisers and two destroyers to Singapore, as ordered.

From here he was to preside over their official decommissioning and recommissioning in the Japanese Navy. What became of them after that he had only a cursory interest in, however, he did not fancy their chances in a fleet engagement. The ships were lightly built and in his personal opinion not equal to other contemporary designs. The two old armoured cruisers were relics, products of the late 1880's design schools. None the less, he had fulfilled his duty and could now go back into retirement slightly more well off in pay.
12 December 1904, Yellow Sea, off Port Arthur

Rear Admiral Baron Uryū Sotokichi had at least the perfect conditions to conduct the attack in, with some low sea mist. His small force of one protected cruiser, 12 destroyers and 8 torpedo boats had no chance against this new Russian squadron in a stand up fight. It was hoped that a surprise attack on a weary fleet nearing the end of their voyage may be able to sink some of the capital ships the Russians hoped to reinforce with.

Torpedoes would be their weapon of choice, not gunfire. There was a similar surprise attack planned on Vladivostok tonight, again with light forces. It was committing nearly all of the IJN's light forces, but without any current operational battleships what choice did they really have?
13 December 1904, Port Arthur, Manchuria

As the squadron anchored in the roads at Port Arthur, Admiral Rozhestvensky was still somewhat in shock. The Japanese small units had pressed their attack with an almost suicidal fortitude and had duly closed to extremely short range before launching their torpedoes. They had suffered, his ships putting up a strong defensive fire directed at the small 200-300 ton destroyers and torpedo boats, sinking five and so damaging another so badly that it had to be scuttled after the Japanese had drawn off.

However, his own forces had not gotten away unscathed. The new battleship Knyaz Suvorov would only fight one battle. Hit once with a torpedo, she had quickly been hit a second time, capsizing rapidly with a very heavy loss of life. The second class cruiser Almaz had suffered some damage from light weapons and one of his own destroyers had also been damaged.

Six hours later, as he ate a simple supper of blood sausage, clotted cream and bread, he was reading the report of last nights raid on Vladivostok. Thankfully, it had been driven off with limited casualties, although the protected cruiser Pallada had sunk after striking a mine. The battleships, clearly the main target, had come through unscathed and two Japanese torpedo boats had been sunk, probably a number of others damaged.
1 January 1905, Kure, Japanese Empire

The arrival of the two battleships, now commissioned into the IJN as Mishima and Tango, had bolstered the fleet. Surely their appearance on New Years Day was a fortuitous sign. Their arrival could not have come at a better time for the struggling Japanese navy. They had no operational battleships at all until the 20th December, when repairs to Fuji had finally been completed.

Vice Admiral Dewa contemplated the forces now available to him. He had sunk a Russian battleship at last, the first since the loss of the Petropavlovsk with Admiral Makarov aboard many months ago. His light forces had suffered but he now had:

First Division:
Battleships Fiji, Mishima, Tango
Armoured Cruisers Nisshin, Kasuga
4 protected cruisers
8 destroyers

Second Division:
Armoured Cruisers
Izumo, Iwate, Azuma, Asama, Tokiwa, Akumo
3 protected cruisers
5 destroyers
4 torpedo boats

Third Division
Battleship Chinen
Armoured Cruisers Atago, Maya
5 protected cruisers
2 destroyers
6 torpedo boats

Only the First and Second Divisions were worthy of the name. The Third Division was full of obsolete, slow, second and third line ships.

The army meanwhile was wasting away in Manchuria, under supplied and forced to forcibly forage to stay in place. This had turned many of the local populace, mainly pro Japanese at the start of the war, against the Japanese forces. He had to get a convoy through to restore the situation, the small amount of supplies brought into Pusan via "fast runs" from cruisers and destroyers had not been sufficient and had cost him a destroyer and two torpedo boats in any case.

Failure was no longer an option. It was a grim thought, as he was well aware that he may now be facing up to eight Russian battleships.