Great Sea Fights: The Battle of Tsushima, Part 1 – The Events

May 2021

The Battle of Tsushima was the decisive naval action between Japan and Russia that effectively ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-5 and one of the most important naval battles in history. It was the first in which radio played a major part; the action that demonstrated the power of the all-big-gun battleship, leading to HMS Dreadnought of 1906 and the Anglo-German dreadnought race; the first time a modern battleship was sunk by guns, and largely fought at previously unimaginable ranges of up to 12,000 metres (eight miles); the first, and last, decisive steel battleship action (the Russians lost eight battleships and more than 5,000 men while the Japanese lost only three torpedo boats and 116 men); the first modern defeat of a great European power by an Asian nation; and arguably the battle that made both the First World War more likely and another great fleet action less likely.

This episode, Part 1 of 3 explores the strategic situation running up to the battle and the events of the battle itself.

The script has been prepared with the help of Tim Concannon and Nicholas Blake.

This podcast episode has been designed to sit alongside an innovative video we have created of the battle. The video shows the animation of an eyewitness battle plan drawn by William Packenham, a Royal Naval officer then attached to the Japanese fleet – who witnessed the events first hand from the decks of the battleship Asahi. The battle plan has been redrawn using the time-stamps given  so that we can now see the positions of the two fleets in real time as the events unfolded – you can, in effect, watch the battle plan be drawn as if you were Packenham sitting at his desk.

To catch up on the rest of the series, listen to Part 2, the Russian perspective and Part 3 the Japanese perspective.

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