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success, had it been properly handled and disposed. I give a list of the important fighting ships on the two sides, with the year of launch and tonnage, as these data enable a good judgment to be formed of the fighting value, apart from questions of personnel. To show what losses Russia has suffered, I enclose ships, which at the date of writing were known to be disabled, in brackets:
Gromovoi, 1899, 12,300 tons.
(Bayan), 1900, 7800 tons.” Idzumo tons. Total, 9 ships. Iwate }1899, 1900, 9800 tons ..}1890, 980 tons.
Total, 12 ships.
The odds, though distinctly against the Russians, were not so to such a degree as to preclude the hope of an evenly contested battle at sea, or, it may be, a small success, if the Russian personnel had been good. The Russians had one more battleship than the Japanese, if they had four fewer armoured cruisers; and though their ships on the whole were smaller, they were of slightly more modern type. Two of the Japanese battleships were distinctly inferior to the much older Russian Sevastopol class. The Russians of recent years have built exceedingly good ships. The Russians had nothing to gain by waiting. The Japanese fleet was certain to be reinforced, towards the close of February, by two very powerful armoured cruisers which had been bought from the Argentine. Therefore, everything urged the Russians to make an immediate trial of strength, or, if they were not prepared to face so bold a policy, to send their fleet to Vladivostock, where it would have been comparatively secure from torpedo attack. But instead of altering their dispositions to meet the Japanese, Admiral Alexeieff and his subordinate, ViceAdmiral Starck, contented themselves with expressing in public and private derisive contempt for the Japanese navy and army. They took no steps whatever to prepare for war, though Admiral Alexeieff had been deliberately planning a conflict * It is not certain whether this ship is out of action, though she is reported to have been torpedoed.
with Japan since 1895, When he was in charge of the fleet of the Triple Aance in the Far East, and when it is thought by some of the most capable observers that at one moment only the sudden appearance of Admiral Fremantle on the scene, with a British fleet ready for business, prevented Russia from crushing the Japanese. Alexeieff placed four of his good ships (the Gromovoi and three other excellent cruisers) at Vladivostock, where they were more than I ooo miles from the rest of the fleet at Port Arthur ; he stationed the fine fast cruiser Variag and a poor little gunboat at Chemulpho; and the rest of his force he placed outside the harbour at Port Arthur. One gropes in vain for any sign of calculated plan or intelligence in these dispositions. The only thing that can be said about them is that the dispositions of our own Admiralty in critical times have on occasions been not very much better. On February 6 negotiations were broken off by Japan. That is to say, Japan intimated that she had found persuasion useless, and was therefore determined to resort to the other alternative in international disputes, the use of force. But though the Russian authorities in the Far East must have been informed of this event (indeed, we were told during the negotiations that everything was being referred to Admiral Alexeieff), they changed nothing; made no alteration ; did not call in their detachments, and this though they must have known from their secret service that Japan was thoroughly in earnest and that her fleet was ready to act at a moment's notice. If they had troubled to consult their own history, they would have discovered that Russia never waited to declare war, and that in 1853 and 1877 she struck without further notice than the formal cessation of negotiations, which is always accounted an indication that war is coming. Nothing was done to improve the position of the Port Arthur fleet. So events proceeded till the fatal February 8 arrived, which probably ruined the chances of Russia. The Japanese fleet, in what force is still uncertain, but probably with every available fighti ig ship, left Sasebo on the 7th, caught two Russian ships at Chemulpho, and wiped them out on the following day by long-range fire, without a single Japanese casualty. Their torpedo craft the night of the 8th ran in among the Russian battleships off Port Arthur, and did much what they liked with their helpless enemy. After firing two torpedoes each, three of which are known to have taken effect, fatally injuring three of the best Russian ships, if not more, they retired from the scene of action unscathed. Next morning this amazing attack was followed up by the Japanese fleet which shelled the Russian ships at extreme range, and damaged another four vessels. The Russian tactics were wretched, and their gunnery seems to have been beneath contempt. It was a demoralising exhibition on their part, and was followed by further catastrophes in the next few days, as two ships sunk or damaged themselves on the mine field protecting Dalny, and another was disabled in a second torpedo attack. Though some of the vessels injured by gun-fire may be speedily repaired, the torpedoed ships can safely be reckoned as out of the war. Even if the actual rents in their skins are patched up, the shock to the bulkheads and internal fittings will be such that their complete reconstruction below water will be necessary. The Japanese could do nothing with the torpedoed Ting Yuen, when they captured Wei-hai-wei, though on her they had only used their weak 14-in. Whitehead, which is not to be compared with the 18-in. weapon employed at Port Arthur. As for the Vladivostock squadron, up to date it has done nothing but burn coal and steam fruitlessly about the Japan Sea. It should be destroyed before many more weeks are out. At the date of writing, the Russian effective naval force concentrated in the Far East does not exceed four battleships. Against this the Japanese can now place fourteen armoured ships, the two vessels from Europe having arrived. The odds are hopeless for Russia, and there is not the faintest prospect of the naval situation changing. The Russian Baltic squadron would be destroyed or captured if it really attempted to reach the East, but its cruise so far has been rather more fatuous than Admiral Camara's. What has happened is that the Russian navy as a serious force has ceased to exist. There still are Russian ships, built and building, but all confidence in the fleet is gone, and in the Russian personnel there must be just that demoralising sense of inferiority to the Japanese that the French navy felt after the disaster of the Nile. Seven of the best battleships, two of the best armoured cruisers, half a dozen of the finest protected cruisers in the world, are either destroyed or doomed to capture. The balance of naval power has inclined heavily towards the combination of England and Japan, though the present Admiralty is doing its level best to lose the British advantage by underbuilding. As an Englishman who has always liked and admired France, I can realise the shock which this change has meant to France; in a moment her trusted ally has been proved to be a broken reed. Each Russian battleship destroyed seems in French eyes an equal addition to the British fleet.” Yet France has absolute security for the future in the fact that she is now reconciled to England, though it might have been otherwise had these events happened four years ago. As for the fantastic ideas of a Japanese attack on French Indo-China, with which a section of the French press is alarming itself, it may be said here once and for all that neither England nor Japan looks with the smallest disquietude upon the work of civilisation which France is doing in the East. A Japanese attack on Indo-China is as probable as a Japanese attack on India. The success of Japan at sea involves similar success on land, where the great army of which Japan disposes can be used to the best advantage to drive home the blows struck against the Russian fleet. The collapse of the Russian army, to the astonishment of the world, seems to be following the collapse of the Russian fleet. That is the meaning of the retirement from Southern Manchuria, an event which proves the absurd falsity of the Russian myth that a Russian force of 5oo, ooo men had been collected in the Far East. As a matter of fact, it would be difficult to forward the necessary supplies of food, ammunition and stores for an army of over 2 oo, ooo, if so many, by the single line of railway through Siberia. The “irresistible force" which is to be collected at Harbin will therefore be inferior in numbers to the available Japanese army by about 2 to 5. What has happened in the Far East is an upheaval in the political world, comparable with the eruption of Mont Pelée in the physical world. Japan has shattered the prestige of the Russian colossus. She has saved China from dismemberment, and Europe from the calamity which would have certainly followed at no distant date after the disruption of the Chinese Empire. It has always been the aim of Russia to use China against Europe, just as in 1901 she, who is now feigning fears of the “Yellow Peril,” attempted to induce Japan to join her in a combination against England. That is a chapter in history which has yet to be written, but there are men in England and
* How violent the shock has been is shown by the following table: Excluding the Port Arthur and Vladivostock ships, and counting them as pieces which powerful armoured cruisers are: England. France. Germany. Russia.
are off the board, the battleships of the great European Powers stand as follows,
built and building: g England. France. Germany. Russia.
Ready—Large modern battleships . . 29* I i Io 4
The new Chilian ships are included in the British figures “Ready.” The Japan whose mouths may be unsealed by present events and who may write it. The answer to the Russian press campaign,' accusing England of treason to Europe because in defence of British interests she has become the ally of Japan, is provided by that brilliant French officer, General Frey, of the French Colonial Army. “I may add,” he writes, “that England laughs quite rightly, now that she has made the alliance with Japan, at those who reproach her—in the same manner that they will reproach us—for deserting the cause of the Western nations,” and he discusses the idea of France and Russia forming an alliance with China. As General Frey took part in the Pekin Expedition of 1900, his opinion on the alliance is of some interest: he scoffs at the “Yellow Peril.” The truth is that the “Yellow Peril" does not exist. No Eastern State can become formidable to the West unless it adopts Western ideas as well as Western arms. Mr. Pearson's profound error lay in supposing that Western arms alone gave victory. If so, China would have been a formidable Power any time these last twenty years. The roots of Western superiority go far deeper; they are intellectual ; they are economic ; and it is the amazing fact about Japan that she understood this forty years ago. She did not whiten her face ; she civilised her heart. Just as her achievements in naval history are unparalleled, so also in the political and economic sphere there is nothing quite like the flying leap which she has taken in the lifetime of many of us, from the habits, arms, and ideas of the Elizabethan age, to the grim competition of the twentieth century. Retaining the old contempt for pain and death and the old heroic aspirations, she has grafted on to them something even greater than the West can teach, in the strenuous earnestness of her life, her exalted patriotism, the ardour for science and research and the will to go forward, at the cost of whatever sacrifices. And the reward of this fortitude 7 Perhaps it fell to her on that day, in 1900, when at Pekin a great soldier, who had followed the march of the Allied armies, declared : “There are three civilised nations here to-day ; England, Japan, and the United States; the rest are savages.” It may have been severe to the other Powers, but it was not unjustly provoked by the awful scenes of murder and rapine upon the line of march of some of the Allies. The British and American soldiers who marched side by side with the Japanese know the real truth about the “Yellow Peril.” There are worse Huns in the West than any in the East. IGNOTUS.
Modern armoured cruisers—Ready . . I4f 9f 4t O Building . 18 8 3 O 4 in the Far East. f I ditto. # 3 ditto.
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