Sunday, 21 December 2014
The Battle of Chemulpo - 9th February 1904
Despite all the attention it has received from historians, the attack on Port Arthur was just a covering operation for the real target of Japan's opening move of the war, the invasion of Korea at Chemulpo. This critical operation was given to Rear Admiral Uriu Sotokichi.
The approach to the port lies between two islands, Richy to the north and Yung-hung-do to the south. Off the south coast of Richy lies the small Philip Island, and north of Yung-hung-do are reefs ending in the Pender Rock. Between this rock and Philip Island is a fairway nearly four miles wide. About three miles inside this line lays the Island of Yodolmi, and here begins the real entrance to the port, a channel nearly ten miles long running roughly northeast up to the place where Rear Admiral Uriu intended to land his troops.
About seven miles up the channel from Yodolmi the Russian cruiser Varyag and gunboat Korietz were anchored. Just to make matters more interesting four neutral vessels were also present in the anchorage, Talbot (Great Britain), Pascal (France), Elba (Italy) and Vicksburg (United States). Uriu reasoned that if the Russians remained where they were, in the midst of the neutral ships, they could not possibly attack his transports and if they came out to do battle he had ample force to destroy them.
Uriu ordered Chiyoda, Takachiho, Asama and the torpedo boats to proceed up the channel with the troop-ships to commence the debarkation at once while Naniwa, Niitaka and Akashi lay to the westward of Yodolmi Island.
The Japanese advance detachment entered Chemulpo and moored near the Russians, while the soldiers streamed ashore in disembarkation operations that continued through that night in which Togo's declaratory assault was being delivered at Port Arthur. To the amazement of the tense Japanese, Varyag and Korietz seemed as phlegmatic and casual as usual, airing out bunting and leaving out booms as though all were well in the affairs of nations.
By the next morning the transports had discharged their passengers and withdrawn from the harbor, along with all of the Japanese men-of-war excepting Chiyoda. The latter delivered to Captain Rudneff of Varyag an ultimatum from Admiral Uriu to vacate the harbor by noon and to the commanding officers of the neutral warships a request that they shift their berths to a safe corner. Talbot's skipper was the future Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly and, despite the Anglo-Japanese Alliance and its unwritten implications, he protested as senior officer present against any violation of Korean neutrality, a measure in which the American captain refused to join.
Rudneff spared Uriu the necessity of making a decision with respect to a harbor attack. Declining to be trapped like a bird in a cage, he resolved to make a hopeless break for the open sea.
True to the general conditions prevailing in the Russian Navy, Varyag was able to attain a scant two-thirds of her maximum speed. Korietz was even slower and of no combatant value anyway but bravely insisted upon tagging along. In formidable array stood the Japanese cruisers. Asama alone was capable of disposing of the weaker Russians but Togo, like Fisher in dispatching Invincible and Inflexible to sink Von Spee's inferior squadron, purposely had sent a force that he was sure would be overwhelming.
Shortly after noon, Korietz started down the channel directly past the Japanese line and soon was overtaken by Varyag. The Japanese had nothing to worry about. They let Asama's 8" rifles do the heavy damage of which they were capable at a range reasonably safe from Varyag's wildly inaccurate return fire. The other Japanese cruisers, particularly the flagship Naniwa, contributed superfluous support and attacked Korietz without effect.
The latter kept partly behind the shelter of one of the islands in the vicinity and in mid-afternoon she followed the battered Varyag back to the harbor, where both took refuge near the neutral warships. Their crews then scuttled the ships. That Varyag had been able to limp back to port with her slaughtered complement and shattered hull was a wonder.
The ships that needed to be painted were not in extravagant numbers but enough to make an appreciable number. The Russians were only represented by the IRN Varyag with assistance rendered by an old gunboat; the IRN Korietz and notification brought to the Chemulpo anchorage by the merchant vessel IRN Sungari.
Within the anchorage itself were a number of other blue water vessels as well as a plethora of smaller fishing boats and other smaller merchant vessels. The neutral flotilla consisted of Great Britain's protected cruiser HMS Talbot, Frances protected cruiser the Pascal, the Italian protected cruiser ITS Elba, a modern Korean gunboat called IKN Yobu and a small flotilla from the United States consisting of the aged Corvette USS Vicksburg and the Colliers USS Pompey and USS Zafiro.
The Imperial Russian Flotilla present at Chemulpo Anchorage
OCR IRN Varyag
GB IRN Korietz
The Neutral Flotilla present at the Chemulpo Anchorage
OCR HMS Talbot
OCR ITS Elba
The United States' neutral flotilla
OCR USS Vicksburg
AC USS Pompey
AC USS Zafiro
The painting of the Russian vessels was as per the previous blogs, with the colours used reflecting those used by the Russian 1st Pacific squadron which is where the ships came from.
The neutral vessels required a little more attention though. The greys and ochres of the British, Italian and French vessels was the same painting techniques as used on the Russian 2nd and 3rd Pacific squadrons.
The hallmark of the American vessels at this time were the white hulls but as always with miniatures at this scale, just painting them a flat white leads to a remarkably flat and boring vessel to look at.
I opted for a base coat of a US Pale Blue Grey followed by straking the surfaces with slightly opaque Brilliant White.
All other surfaces were painted as previously described...