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Subject: Messina Strait AAR rss

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Joe Czarnecki
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AAR: The Battle of Messina Strait, 14 January 1904

On 31 December 2011, The International Brotherhood of Rivet Counters, Local No. 2, Dallas chapter, ran the Battle of Messina Straits.

The scenario is based upon Avalanche Press’s 1904-1905 Operational Scenario No.1.

At 08:00, on 12 January 1904, the Imperial Japanese Navy’s two new, Italian-built armored cruisers depart Genoa, bound for Port Said, Singapore and Japan. Nisshin and Kasuga are partly crewed by contractors/mercenaries for the voyage to Japan and their efficiency is somewhat lacking.

Determined that these two powerful units should not reach the impending war zone in the Far East, the Imperial Russian Navy moves its units in the Mediterranean to intercept. Calculating a likely cruising speed of 10 knots, the Russians estimate the Japanese will enter the Strait of Messina from the north at approximately 08:00 on 14 January.

At 11:00, 12 January 1904, IRN protected cruiser Aurora departs Piraeus, Greece, making 11 knots. Thirty minutes later, the obsolete cruiser Dmitri Donskoi and torpedo boat destroyers Bezuprechni, Blestyashtchi and Vidni depart Chania, Greece, making 10 knots. A further hour later, and battleship Oslyabia and torpedo boat destroyers Buistri, Byedovi, Bodri, Bravi and Buini sortie from Bizerte, making 8 knots

At 08:00, 14 January, the Japanese ships pass Cape Peloro col Pilone and enter the Strait. Visibility is 10,000 yards and the sea is calm. There is heavy merchant traffic in the Strait, both north and south bound, as well as ferry traffic between Messina to the west and Reggio Calabria on the east. Dead ahead they sight the cruiser Aurora, lying outside the Mole of Messina’s harbor with steam obviously up.

Aurora made better time than planned to Messina, dropping anchor at 07:30 and awaiting the appearance of the Japanese. Sighting the two armored cruisers entering the Strait, the Russian cruiser weighs anchor and accelerats into the stream on an easterly heading, heedless of the traffic pattern. Seeing the Russian ship moving toward them and uncertain of the Russian’s intentions, the Japanese also break the traffic pattern and alter course to hug the Calabrian shore to the east.

Proceeding south, the Japanese are passing Villa San Giovanni when they sight ships dead ahead, apparently emerging from Reggio Calabria. They soon make out the antiquated cruiser Dmitri Donskoi, followed by three torpedo boats heading north toward them. The old Russian cruiser turns sharply to port, to cross the Japanese cruisers’ bows Increasingly uneasy to see so many ships of a hostile power, the Japanese commander alters course to starboard, heading out into the stream to avoid being trapped against the shore by the column coming up from the south.

Dmitri Donskoi and consorts have only just arrived and after a brief look into Reggio Calabria’s harbor, are heading north to join Aurora. Just as the Japanese fear, their intention upon sighting the Japanese is to trap them against the shore, and Dmitri Donskoi turns to port into the stream in an effort to set the Japanese up for her destroyers which continue north. As the Japanese move away from the coast, the destroyers turn to port, angling for a better position.

As the Japanese shear toward the on-coming Aurora, the Russian cruiser puts its helm over to starboard and turns south, then suddenly slows. The Japanese cruisers, which have been gradually accelerating, abruptly gain ground on the Aurora as the Russian turns away and assumes a roughly parallel course, and as they do, they sight farther down the Sicilian coast to starboard another Russian ship. Oslyabia is coming up from the southwest, bringing five more torpedo boats after a relatively slow passage.

They Japanese commander’s nerve is wearing increasingly thin. He has a modern Russian cruiser paralleling him on the port bow with an older cruiser swinging about, seemingly intent on joining up behind the first. On his starboard bow, a Russian battleship is now turning to cross his bow, followed by a string of torpedo boats. Another group of torpedo boats is on his port bow, turning toward him.

Ordered to deliver his ships to Japan, but having scratch crews, the Japanese commander would much prefer to break contact and run for Port Said. However, he is growing increasingly apprehensive and has long since sent his crews to battle stations and has his fire control parties, such as they are, tracking the Russian warships. In this environment, at 08:25, one of his lookouts screams “Torpedo!”

The Japanese commander orders a hard simultaneous turn to port, into the torpedo at 08:26, and orders his ships to open fire. One of the few survivors of Nisshin later reports seeing this torpedo pass closely down the ship’s starboard side. Nisshin’s main and secondary batteries lash out at the Aurora, while Kasuga’s main battery targets the destroyer Bezuprechni to the east. Aurora and Dmitri Donskoi reply immediately against Nisshin and Kasuga, respectively, targets they will remain stubbornly focused on for the next ten minutes. Oslyabia also opens fire, directing her main battery on the lead cruiser—Nisshin—and her secondary battery on the trailer—Kasuga. In the following minutes of violent maneuvering, the antiquated Dmitri Donskoi expends a mere 40 rounds and fails to land a single hit. Even the relatively new Aurora only hits after five minutes of firing and lands only three shells of 99, all of which expend themselves on the heavy belt and turret armor of the Japanese cruiser. No damage is done.

Oslyabia keeps sight of the enemy longer, firing until 08:40, but enjoys almost as little success. Her slow-firing main battery expends 31 rounds, none of which hit. Her secondaries unleash 219 rounds, of which 11 strike their target, ten of them stopped cold by Kasuga’s armor. Only one shell, landing at 08:38, causes any damage of consequence, bursting in the handling passage for the port side secondary battery of the Japanese ship and felling many of the ammunition passers and reducing that battery’s rate of fire.

Nisshin initially engages Aurora with her main and secondary batteries, but misses, then shifts to one of destroyers to the east with her secondaries on that side, while the main battery and the secondaries on the other side engage Oslyabia. The secondaries score a hit on the Blestyastchni at 08:32. The main battery and secondaries score two and six hits respectively on Bezuprechni at 08:36. The weight of metal striking Bezuprechni is so devastating the little torpedo boat sinks instantly. Nisshin’s main battery expends 68 rounds and obtains two hits. Her secondary batteries expend 245 rounds and obtain eight hits.

Kasuga initially fires her forward 10” gun against Bezuprechni, but misses, and takes Oslyabia under fire with her aft 8” armament, scoring a single 8” hit on Oslyabia. The round punches through the indifferently protected Russian ship’s belt armor and explodes in a boiler room. A third of the battleship’s boilers are knocked out, and flooding produces a slight but noticeable starboard list and cuts the Oslyabia’s speed to 15 knots. This strike, at 08:28, is the only round to hit any of the three large Russian ships. Kasuga also fires on several destroyers, hitting Blestyastchni with a 10” and an 8” round at 08:30 and 08:32, respectively. At 08:32, the starboard secondaries shatter the Vidni with seven 6” rounds, sinking her outright at the same time Nisshin destroys Bezuprechni.

Troubling for all ships is stubbornly insistent merchant traffic, much of which fails to give way even when prudent. Even in the face of radically maneuvering warships, and gunfire—which combatants on both sides appear to keep scrupulously away from the non-combatant vessels—many of the merchantmen continue to plod onward. Many maneuvering decisions are taken as much to avoid merchant ships, some holding a steady line and others maneuvering unpredictably, as to engage or avoid the enemy.

Nisshin and Kasuga execute an emergency turn to port at 08:26 to avoid a torpedo, running east, then turn hard to port again two minutes later, having now fully reversed course to the north. At 08:30, they again turn hard to starboard, running east once more and steadying up for several minutes to give their batteries a chance to find their targets. However, with the promontory below the Azienda Sanitarium rapidly looming ahead, the two ships again turn hard to starboard, falling once again into column on a southerly heading at 08:34.

Aurora, after initially paralleling Nisshin and Kasuga at the start of the action repeatedly puts her helm over to starboard to varying degrees, describing a loop to starboard and avoids several collisions with merchants and the Dmitri Donskoi, only one of them close. By the end of the action Aurora has swung through 320 degrees of the compass and maintained a steady course for only three minutes. Having initially turned to starboard when the Japanese went to port, Aurora works up to her top speed of 19 knots, but never does really catch up with the action. She dogs the Japanese starboard quarter at progressively longer ranges, firing her last salvo at 08:36 before merchants and the Oslyabia foul her range.

After initially turning to cross the Japanese bows in a port turn immediately prior to the action, the Dmitri Donskoi puts her helm over to starboard, resulting in a larger looping S-curve. Initially tracking through 135 degrees to port and steadying up just before the action broke out, Dmitri Donskoi goes to starboard at 08:28 and tracks through 255 degrees of the compass. The old cruiser avoids several collisions, including a narrow escape with a merchant, and the need to back down hard at 08:42 to avoid the Oslyabia passing ahead. Dmitri Donskoi only fires for ten minutes, checking fire at 08:36 after merchants and Oslyabia foul her range.

Oslyabia initially maneuvers to starboard to cut off the Japanese, but seeing them swinging to the east, immediately turns back to a northerly heading to keep her firing arcs open. However, the action continues heading east, causing the battleship to again turn to starboard 08:32 in a hard turn intended to rapidly bring the Japanese back into broadside firing arcs. Oslyabia, slowed to 15 knots by a hit, but by virtue of being north-bound at the start of the action, is now in a starboard turn nearer the Japanese than either the 16-knot Dmitri Donskoi, or the 19-knot Aurora. As the action progresses around the circle to the east and then south, the Oslyabia tracks across the bows of her two consorts and blocks their fire. Oslyabia tracks through 150 degrees of the compass to starboard by the time the gunfire action ends. Oslyabia checks fire after 14 minutes as one target has sunk and the other has passed into the immediate environs of the port of Reggio Calabria.

At 08:34, as Nisshin and Kasuga put their helms hard to starboard to avoid the Calabrian coast, once more coming south, a line of three destroyers that entered the action with Dmitri Donskoi crosses their “T.” After continuing north when Dmitri Donskoi broke away at 08:20, and being nearly run down by a merchantman, the Bezuprechni, Blestyashtchi and Vidni come hard to port, seeking to cut the Japanese cruisers off as they head into the stream, then swing back hard to starboard as the action races back to the east, then hard to port again as the Japanese head north, then hard to starboard as the action again heads east. The violent maneuvers prevent any torpedo fire, so the three ships steady up on 090 at 08:34, to attempt to set up a shot only to meet with complete disaster. Both Japanese cruisers turn violent south and directly into the line of Russian destroyers. Close range fire shatters and sinks Bezuprechni at the head of the line to the east, and Vidni at the rear of the line to the west, while the bow of the rapidly slewing Nisshin cuts the Blestyashtchi in two! All three Russian torpedo boats sink within the space of two minutes, none having fired a torpedo.

However, Mars, Neptune and Fortuna are not smiling on the Japanese. Running over the wreckage of Blestyashtchi fouls Nisshin’s steering gear, locking her in a hard starboard turn and bringing her into the sights of the second line of Russian destroyers.

The five destroyers led by Oslyabia break away from her at 08:24, avoid a merchant, swing to starboard, head northwest and accelerate to 20 knots. At 08:30 they swing to the east and steady up on 090 to cross the “T” of the on-rushing Japanese. At 08:36, having held a steady course, they discharge three torpedoes each. Lead destroyer Buistri launches on a bearing of 045 True, aiming for the Kasuga as that ship continues south past the hapless Nisshin. One of the three torpedoes from Buistri strikes the Kasuga, but fails to explode. Byedovi and Bodri, the next two in line, launch on 030 True and one torpedo from each strikes the circling Nisshin amidships. Both torpedoes detonate. Bravi and Buini, the last two destroyers are too far away to use their 30-knot torpedo setting and fire at 25-knot setting on a bearing of 045 True. Bravi’s torpedoes miss and Buini’s never reach the Nisshin’s track.

Byedovi’s and Bodri’s torpedoes are well aimed and the two that hit strike quite close to each other. Already heeling to port in her turn, Nisshin begins to rapidly flood from the two hits on her port side and within two minutes, as her port rail dips beneath the surface and water pours into her casemates, the Nisshin abruptly breaks in half and sinks. Both ends of the ship are visible for much of the day in waters only 8 to 12 fathoms deeps before they eventually disappear entirely below the waves.

Immediately after launching torpedoes, the Buistri turns hard south to clear the shore and bar the path to Reggio Calabria while the boats reload torpedoes. Kasuga continues firing with all batteries, hitting Bravi once and Bodri eight times in six minutes. Burning from stem to stern, the shattered Bodri sinks at 08:44.

The commanders of Bravi and Buini, seeing Nisshin run down the Blestyashtchi, and having missed with their torpedoes decide to ram the Kasuga as that ship cuts their line ahead of them. Bravi crashes into the Kasuga abreast the cruiser’s starboard engine room at 08:40, flooding that space and laming the cruiser. Kasuga’s forward progress wrenches the little torpedo boat back long her starboard side and twists the boat around to a southerly heading. Hit by a shell and set afire, the blazing torpedo boat bravely turns toward Messina, but with blazes aboard even worse than those that engulf Bodri, the Bravi is abandoned four minutes later.

With his ship limited to 11 knots by the loss of an engine room, Kasuga’s skipper realizes he cannot escape and turns to port, running for Reggio Calabria, only to have the torpedo boat Buini crash into the cruiser’s starboard quarter. Like Bravi, the Buini is wrenched around to a southerly heading, but unlike Bravi, the Buini does not burn and limps toward Messina at 6 knots.

Kasuga, however, is in desperate condition. Rammed twice, she is not quite as badly hurt below the waterline as Nisshin was, but fires break out in the aftermath of the collisions. Kasuga ceases fire at 08:46 as she passes behind Buistri and Byedovi and into the environs of Reggio Calabria. A massive blaze and a lesser fire erupt at 08:40 as a result of burning Bravi dragging down Kasuga’s side. The small fire is out within two minutes, but the larger conflagration engulfs the after third of the ship. By 08:48, the fire appears under control, but flares up again. Desperate fire-fighters twice prevent the flames from reaching the magazines by the narrowest margins. A quarter of the ship’s damage control personnel perish fighting the flames. Finally, at 08:52, flames are no longer visible to observers in the harbor at Reggio Calabria. Only smoke issues from the blackened and listing cruiser.

The Russian battleship, both cruisers and two destroyers are clearly visible, standing outside Reggio Calabria when, at precisely 09:00, the Kasuga explodes, raining debris on the harbor.

Rescue operations, primarily of an impromptu nature commence almost the moment the gunfire ends. A Japanese cruiser and five Russian torpedo boats have all sunk within one nautical mile of the Calabrian coast between the busy ports of Messina and Reggio Calabria, and under the shadow of a sanitarium on the bluff overlooking the battle. Fishing boats and pleasure craft comb the waters, but mostly find corpses. They rescue less than 60 men from the Russian craft, many badly burned from the fires on Bravi and Bodri. Rescuers also retrieve less than 100 men from Nisshin, mostly stationed topside or in the starboard side casemates. Harbor craft find a similar number of men from Kasuga, but many are again badly burned, and primarily from the forward part of the ship. The only captain to survive his vessel’s loss is the lieutenant commanding Bravi.

The Italians initially intern the rescued combatants, but soon release them, having no desire to break relations with either power, however much public bombast ensues.

In the wake of the battle follows international diplomatic chaos. Italy denounces both Japan and Russia for doing battle within her territorial waters. The Russians pointedly expose the Italians as “merchants of death” for selling warships to Japan, while the Japanese protest they did not start the action. The claim is impossible for the Japanese to support at the time given they have only the word of a single lookout who survived the break-up and sinking of Nisshin. None of the many civilian ships sighted a torpedo wake, and cruiser Aurora’s log is held classified by the Russian Navy and when eventually released mentions no torpedo launch. No copy of the unadulterated log survives, but logistical records show the requisition of one torpedo from the damaged destroyer Buini to the cruiser Aurora after the battle. No record of Buini receiving a torpedo from Aurora exists. In spite of 100 intervening years, the Russian Navy stubbornly refuses to acknowledge firing first at Messina, and claims the torpedo was transferred to replace a defective unit aboard Aurora. The mystery remains unresolved as no impartial eyewitness survives the action. Neutrals uniformly report that gunfire appeared to erupt simultaneously.

The Japanese attempt to make political hay of the deaths of contractors and British mercenaries aboard their ships, but the far from arousing public sympathy, the effort backfires. Although the British cabinet and military would be happy to go to war with Russia, neither the British royal family nor public are amused to discover that British soldiers-of-fortune could spark a larger conflict with European powers. Far from invoking the 1902 Anglo-Japanese Treaty, the British stand tediously by its terms as no second power has declared war on Japan. Connections between the British and Russian royal families, and the strain conflict with Russia places on the budding effort to build an Anglo-French entente stay Britain’s hand, although the commander of the Channel Fleet fairly foams with the desire to fight the Russians. The Japanese complain bitterly to their allies behind closed doors, especially once Oslyabia and Buini turn up at Toulon seeking repairs. British ministers turn a deaf ear to Japanese pleas, simply asking if Japan would truly like to fight France as well as Russia.

Worse for the Japanese is a far-fetched rumor spread by the Russians that the Japanese provoked the battle, and destroyed the ships themselves. The Italians unwittingly support the Russians in this. The embarrassing break-up of one of Genoa’s newest export cruisers leads to Italian denial that the damage suffered at Russian hands could have sunk either vessel.

The claims by the Russians and Italians are thoroughly dubious with respect to Nisshin and few naval experts consider sabotage a likely cause for the loss of Nisshin. Dives on the wreck do not resolve the issue as both torpedoes struck Nisshin amidships in the vicinity of the point of break-up, leading naval constructors to suspect two hits in approximately the same place were indeed, too much for the ship’s structure. Other speculation centers on damage possibly caused by the ramming of Blestyashtchi, particularly when investigators find twisted wreckage from the torpedo boat entangled with the Nisshin’s screws and rudder.

The suspicion of scuttling arises primarily from the circumstances of Kasuga’s loss. Anchored, damaged and at bay, the cruiser’s explosion at precisely 09:00 is viewed as an act of defiant self-immolation by the Japanese. To a European culture steeped in tales of suicidal apologies for failure to the Mikado, the idea of an explosive act of hara kiri seems plausible, although patently ridiculous given her captain was a British mercenary and much of the crew was Italian and Arab. The semi-submerged wreck at Reggio Calabria is subjected to extensive dives by naval experts from many nations, first and foremost, Americans familiar with the hulk of the U.S.S. Maine in Havana.

Forensic reconstructions and extensive documentary research amongst writings of the few dozen survivors of the Kasuga eventually point to an alternate explanation. Several Kasuga survivors were members of the firefighting parties who, overcome by smoke, were evacuated to the foredeck before the ship blew up. Recollections in their letters reveal that fire twice threatened the ship’s after magazines, heating the bulkheads to the point that paint began to burn on the surfaces in the magazine. Computer simulations point to the likelihood that in spite of beating down the fire the magazine overheated and exploded nonetheless. Nothing in the letters or reports of Kasuga’s few surviving officers indicate any effort to scuttle the ship. Nonetheless, at the time, the possibility of Japanese self-destruction helps the Russians deflect the blame for killing non-Japanese aboard Nisshin and Kasuga.

Both nations are roundly denounced for engaging in battle in an international strait, the territory of a neutral nation far from the war front. The Americans particularly denounce the hazarding of neutral shipping, however both nations point to their chivalrous conduct in refraining from firing toward or over merchants in the Strait.

The battle is a stunning loss for the Japanese, who feel the need of more ships for their already numerically disadvantaged fleet. It is also a tremendous shot in the arm for Russian confidence. Japan immediately declares war, decrying Russian perfidy and loudly denouncing the encounter at Messina as an ambush. Unfortunately the early war declaration derails carefully planned Japanese opening moves and the Messina victory stimulates the Russian naval leadership at Port Arthur to greater confidence and diligence. A Japanese attempt to torpedo the Pacific Fleet in the Port Arthur roadstead is met by alert patrols and almost immediate gunfire, leading to complete failure and damage to several destroyers in exchange for a single torpedo hit on a cruiser. The more vigorous Russian patrolling also makes a particular effort to hunt and kill Japanese minelayers and a sortie by the Pacific Fleet forces several Japanese invasion convoys to turn back, disrupting the timing of Japanese offensive land operations.

--

This scenario presents a difficult challenge for the Japanese player. His orders are to reach Port Said, and subsequently bring his ships to Japan. War has not yet been declared and the situation is tense. As Russian ships come into sight he must question their appearance and intent. How to maneuver? The environment is a narrow strait full of merchant traffic. Steering closer to the coast gets out of the traffic lane for the most part, but also limits maneuvering, even though it can make it difficult for either the Dmitry Donskoi group or the Oslyabia group to join the action. There may not be a right answer. Ultimately the Japanese player must keep in mind his objective: to round the tip of Calabria and escape. The goal is not as simple as it seems.

For the Russian player the question is whether the Japanese player’s nerve will break before the Russian can achieve an optimum beginning to the action. Having played this partly once and fully once, both Japanese players held fire until the first torpedo emerged from Aurora. In the first game the Japanese managed to reduce the speed of the larger Russian ships with some good hits and looked to make their goal if the torpedo boats did not succeed in catching them. In the second action, described above, the violent maneuvers necessary to escape the first torpedo (which had a 68% probability of hit) and various merchant ships, while trying to make those maneuvers serve a tactical purpose, threw off Japanese fire. However, they still lamed Oslyabia with a hit to the propulsion plant, which might have paid dividends but for the interpenetration of the Russian destroyer lines.

The challenges the Russian player faces are legion. The large ships are uniformly slow, none capable of 20 knots. Even the torpedo boats can barely muster 26 knots and acceleration is painfully slow. The Russian guns are weak, as is their armor, while the Japanese guns are quite hot. Russian torpedoes are pathetic, having less than a quarter of the range of Japanese weapons and the smallest of warheads.

The obvious challenge for the Japanese is being outnumbered and facing enemies whichever way they turn in a tight strait. The Russian challenge is how to use their numbers to box in the Japanese and employ one or both of two trump cards: the penetrating power of Oslyabia’s main battery and the torpedoes of the destroyers. However, those two “trumps” come with severe limitations. Oslyabia’s main guns may be able to penetrate the Japanese armor, but their rate of fire is dismal and their fire control poor. And the torpedoes are so slow, carry such weak warheads, and are so short-ranged the vessels launching them must close to suicidal ranges. These facts made ramming a logical decision for the Russian destroyers, especially given it would take them too long to reload. The Russian mission is to stop the delivery of the two cruisers and if a one ton, 25-knot torpedo won’t do the trick, you might as well try a 350 ton 26-knot torpedo boat.

One logical question is “Why not wait until all the Russian forces, especially the torpedo boats, can get close to the Japanese before firing?” There are two reasons. First, the farther south the Japanese proceed, the more maneuvering room the widening strait offers them. Second, there is no guarantee the Japanese commander’s nerve won’t break at some point prior to achieving such a concentration. A single cruiser closing may simply be an unwanted, but perfectly legal tattle-tale. Keeping track of a pair of armored cruisers with a battleship, two cruisers and eight destroyers strains the limits of credulity.

Merchant traffic in this scenario also presents a challenge. It’s mobile, it’s neutral and it has a mind of its own. Merchant skippers don’t always react, don’t always give way, and frequently maneuver inconveniently. There were two merchants that almost seemed to want to get killed in the scenario described above and one effectively ended the gunfire action by interposing itself—inadvertently—between the two sides and persistently steering courses to avoid the action that just continued getting in the way. Masking by merchants and friendly ships was a significant factor throughout the action.

--

Nisshin

Fired 52 rounds of 8” and scored 3 hits.
Fired 190 rounds of 6” and scored 7 hits.

Sank Vidni by gunfire.

Struck by 3 rounds of 6” AP, which caused no significant damage.
Struck by 2 torpedoes that flooded both engine rooms and destroyed a propeller shaft.

Rammed and sank Blestyashtchi, but suffered a jammed rudder as a result.

DEs: 133, 131, 608, 173, 180, 172, 183, 610, 616, 607, 609, 613

Kasuga

Fired 34 rounds of 10” and scored 1 hit.
Fired 20 rounds of 8” and scored 2 hits.
Fired 279 rounds of 6” and scored 16 hits.

Sank Bezuprechni by gunfire.
Sank Bodri by gunfire.
Hit Bravi with gunfire.
Hit Oslyabia with gunfire.

Struck by 11 rounds of 6” AP, one of which detonated in the starboard secondary battery ammunition passages, reducing rate of fire by half.
Rammed by Bravi and Buini, which flooded an engine room and started a massive fire.
Sank from a magazine explosion caused by DE 603; in the course of fighting the fire survived two rolls of 05 on a 01-04 chance of explosion and then, when the fire was reduce to a mere 10 points, rolled a 03!

DEs: 106, 609, 121, 154, 611, 602, 170, 157, 603, 510, 605, 502, 608. Sunk.

--

Oslyabia

Fired 63 rounds of 10” and scored 0 hits.
Fired 219 rounds of 6” and scored 11 hits.

Hit Kasuga with gunfire.

Struck by 1 round 8” AP which damaged and flooded a boiler room.

Aurora

Fired 99 rounds of 6” and scored 3 hits.
Fired 1 “alleged” torpedo and scored 0 hits.

Hit Nisshin with gunfire.

Dmitri Donskoi

Fired 40 rounds of 6” and scored 0 hits.

Bezuprechni

Struck by 1 round of 10” CPC, 1 round of 8” CPC and 7 rounds of 6” CPC.

DEs: 103, 179, 613, 602, 604, 611, 612, 610, 104 and catastrophic damage. Sunk.

Blestyashtchi

Struck by 2 rounds of 6” CPC.
Rammed by Nisshin.

DEs: 617, 129, 601 and catastrophic damage. Sunk.

Vidni

Struck by 7 rounds of 6” CPC.

DEs: Catastrophic damage. Sunk.

Buistri

Fired 3 torpedoes and scored 1 hit on Kasuga. Dud.

Byedovi

Fired 3 torpedoes and scored 1 hit on Nisshin. Shared credit for sinking Nisshin with Bodri.

Bodri

Fired 3 torpedoes and scored 1 hit on Nisshin. Shared credit for sinking Nisshin with Byedovi.

Struck by 8 rounds of 6” CPC and set ablaze from stem to stern.

DEs: 101, 616, 608, 611, 175, 603, 601, 607 and catastrophic damage. Sunk.

Bravi

Fired 3 torpedoes and scored 0 hits.
Rammed Kasuga, flooding engine room. Shared credit for sinking Kasuga with Buini.

Struck by 1 round of 6” CPC.
Caught fire after ramming.

DEs: 156, 617, 133, 129, 617, 604, 501, 602, 603, 613, 603, 607, 606. Abandoned due to fire and sank.

Buini

Fired 3 torpedoes and scored 0 hits.
Rammed Kasuga, igniting fires. Shared credit for sinking Kasuga with Bravi.

DEs: 126.

--

Observations:

The entire action was conducted at less than 5,000 yards. Masking of targets by other ships, friendly, enemy and neutral was a significant factor and terminated the gunfire action.

All Russian torpedoes were fired within 1,000 yards; 9 within 500 yards.

Russian 6” guns proved unable to penetrate 5” armor even at point blank range.

Oslyabia’s main armament turned in a dismal performance.

Dmitri Donskoi was miserably ineffective and proved principally a mobile navigational hazard to other Russian and neutral ships. As the ship used to have sails, and mounted only six guns in two broadsides of three, its ineffective gunfire was no surprise.

Although torpedoed, Nisshin’s loss was a result of DE 616.

Although rammed, Kasuga’s loss was a result of DE 603.

Japanese secondary batteries proved very effective against torpedo boats at the low ranges in this battle, and given the lack of resilience in their 350-ton targets.

The first time we played this scenario, I blew the Aurora’s first torpedo shot badly and did not force the Japanese to maneuver disadvantageously. I also overshot my mark to make a torpedo attack with Dmitri Donskoi’s torpedo boats. As a result, Frank’s Japanese cruisers looked like they might outpace Oslyabia and had only to stand off the approach of Oslyabia’s torpedo boats.

The second time we played this scenario, I got Aurora’s torpedo shot perfect and forced Marshall to maneuver violently and disadvantageously. I also maneuvered my forces to box him in, although I narrowly averted numerous collisions. Unfortunately, the violent maneuvering prevented the three torpedo boats with Dmitri Donskoi from getting their torpedoes off. However, the situation was saved by Oslyabia’s torpedo boats which I had maneuvered as a backstop formation in case the closer torpedo boats failed to get a shot. The Nisshin’s mishap when ramming Blestyashtchi proved the decisive moment of the action. It set up Nisshin’s sinking by torpedo and inspired the ramming of Kasuga.

To win with Russian equipment in this period you must be prepared to fight like a demon, bleed profusely and have a little luck.
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Morten Lund
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Really great AAR, the only thing I miss are some maps and graphics of the action
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