Russian battleship Knyaz Suvorov
Knyaz Suvorov (Russian: Князь Суворов) was a Borodino-class pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Russian Navy in the first decade of the 20th century. Named after the 18th-century Russian general Prince (Knyaz) Alexander Suvorov, the ship was completed after the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904. She became the flagship of Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, commander of the Second Pacific Squadron that was sent to the Far East a few months after her completion to break the Japanese blockade of Port Arthur. The Japanese captured the port while the squadron was in transit and their destination was changed to Vladivostok. Knyaz Suvorov was sunk during the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905. During the battle, the ship fell out of the main battle line after a shell hit her bridge, killing her helmsman and wounding her captain and Rozhestvensky. She was eventually torpedoed and sunk by Japanese torpedo boats; other than the 20 wounded officers evacuated by a destroyer there were no survivors.
Knyaz Suvorov at anchor in Kronstadt, August 1904
|Name:||Knyaz Suvorov (Князь Суворов)|
|Namesake:||Prince Alexander Suvorov|
|Builder:||Baltic Works, Saint Petersburg|
|Laid down:||8 September 1901[Note 1]|
|Launched:||25 September 1902|
|In service:||September 1904|
|Fate:||Sunk at the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May 1905|
|Class and type:||Borodino-class pre-dreadnought battleship|
|Displacement:||14,151 long tons (14,378 t)|
|Length:||397 ft (121.0 m)|
|Beam:||76 ft 1 in (23.2 m)|
|Draft:||29 ft 2 in (8.9 m)|
|Propulsion:||2 shafts, 2 Triple-expansion steam engines|
|Speed:||18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)|
|Range:||2,590 nmi (4,800 km; 2,980 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)|
Knyaz Suvorov was 389 feet 5 inches (118.69 m) long at the waterline and 397 feet 3 inches (121.1 m) long overall, with a beam of 76 feet 1 inch (23.2 m) and a draft of 29 feet 2 inches (8.9 m), 38 inches (965 mm) more than designed. Her normal displacement was 14,415 long tons (14,646 t), almost 900 long tons (914 t) more than her designed displacement of 13,516 long tons (13,733 t). Her intended crew consisted of 28 officers and 754 enlisted men, although she carried 928 crewmen during the Battle of Tsushima.
The ship was powered by two 4-cylinder vertical triple-expansion steam engines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam generated by 20 Belleville boilers. The engines were rated at 15,800 indicated horsepower (11,800 kW) and designed to reach a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Knyaz Suvorov, however, only reached a top speed of 17.5 knots (32.4 km/h; 20.1 mph) from 15,575 ihp (11,614 kW) during her builder's machinery trials on 9 August 1904. At deep load she carried 1,350 long tons (1,372 t) of coal that provided her a range of 2,590 nautical miles (4,800 km; 2,980 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).
Knyaz Suvorov's 40-caliber 12-inch guns were mounted in two twin-gun turrets, one each fore and aft. They had a rate of fire of about one round per 90 seconds. Sixty rounds per gun were carried. The twelve 45-caliber 6-inch (152 mm) guns were mounted in six electrically powered twin-gun turrets carried on the sides of the ship. They had a practical rate of fire of approximately three rounds per minute and were provided with 180 rounds per gun. Four of the twenty 75-millimeter (3.0 in) guns used against torpedo boats were mounted in casemates just below the forward main gun turret, two on each side. These guns were placed well above the waterline for use in any weather, unlike the remaining sixteen guns, which were mounted in casemates one deck lower and distributed over the length of the ship, close to the water. The unsuitability of the lower deck guns was graphically demonstrated when Knyaz Suvorov's sister ship Imperator Aleksander III made a high-speed turn during her trials, heeling 15°, and began taking water through the lower casemates. Each gun had 300 rounds available. The ship also mounted twenty 47-millimeter (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns for anti-torpedo boat defense. Knyaz Suvorov carried four 15-inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes, one each above water in the bow and one in the stern with two torpedoes each, and a submerged tube on each side forward with three torpedoes each.
Knyaz Suvorov's waterline armor belt consisted of Krupp armor and was 5.7–7.64 inches (145–194 mm) thick. The armor of her gun turrets had a maximum thickness of 10 in (254 mm) and her deck ranged from 1 to 2 inches (25 to 51 mm) in thickness. The 1.5-inch (38 mm) armored lower deck curved downwards and formed an anti-torpedo bulkhead.
Construction began on Knyaz Suvorov, named after Prince Aleksander Suvorov, on 10 August 1901 at the Baltic Works in Saint Petersburg. The ship was laid down on 8 September 1901, when the ceremonial laying of one of the plates was performed by Grand Duke Alexei Alexandrovich of Russia, general-admiral of the Imperial Russian navy. She was launched on 25 September 1902, in the presence of Tsar Nicholai II, Grand Duke Konstantin and King George I of Greece. She was completed in September 1904 at the cost of 13,841,000 rubles.
On 15 October 1904, Knyaz Suvorov, flagship of the 2nd Pacific Squadron, set sail for Port Arthur from Libau along with the other vessels of the squadron. Rozhestvensky had received numerous reports of Japanese agents and torpedo boats disguised as fishing vessels before sailing and he ordered maximum alertness after coaling at Skagen, Denmark on 7 October. Early on the evening of the following day, when the squadron was near the Dogger Bank, the auxiliary repair ship Kamchatka reported that she was under attack by torpedo boats in the rain. About four hours later, the squadron encountered British fishing trawlers working the Dogger Bank in the fog and opened fire on them at very short range. One trawler was sunk and at least three others were damaged; several fishermen were killed and others wounded. The battleships also fired upon and damaged the cruisers Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi. The incident enraged the British population and caused a diplomatic incident with the British that nearly led to war until Russia apologized and agreed to pay reparations on 29 October.
Rozhestvensky led his ships down the Atlantic coast of Africa, rounding the Cape of Good Hope, and reached the island of Nosy Be off the north-west coast of Madagascar on 9 January 1905 where they remained for two months while Rozhestvensky finalized his coaling arrangements. During this time, he learned of the capture of Port Arthur and changed his destination to Vladivostok, the only other port controlled by the Russians in the Far East. The squadron sailed for Camranh Bay, French Indochina, on 16 March and reached it almost a month later to await the obsolete ships of the 3rd Pacific Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov. The latter ships reached Camranh Bay on 9 May and the combined force sailed for Vladivostok on 14 May. While exact figures are not available for Knyaz Suvorov, it is probable that the ship was approximately 1,700 long tons (1,700 t) overweight as she and her sisters were overloaded with coal and other supplies; all of which was stored high in the ships and reduced their stability. The extra weight also submerged the waterline armor belt and left only about 4 feet 6 inches (1.4 m) of the upper armor belt above the waterline.
During the Battle of Tsushima, Knyaz Suvorov was the lead ship in the Russian battle line and she opened fire at the Japanese battleship Mikasa, flagship of Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō at 14:05. Mikasa began to return fire about five minutes later, joined by the battleship Asahi and the armored cruiser Azuma. The battleship Fuji joined the others firing at Knyaz Suvorov around 14:20, which had been set on fire by hits from the other ships. At 14:35, Rozhestvensky and the ship's captain were wounded by splinters that entered the conning tower.[Note 2] Shortly afterwards, Rozhestvensky was knocked unconscious by a splinter in the skull and flames made the conning tower untenable so that the ship had to be steered from her auxiliary control position. Around 14:52, another hit jammed the steering gear after a four point turn to starboard had been ordered and caused the ship make nearly a full circle before she could be steered by her engines. Splinters from numerous shell hits shredded water hoses and made it much more difficult to put the numerous fires out. By this time Knyaz Suvorov's aft 12-inch gun turret had been destroyed by an explosion that blew its roof off onto the quarterdeck, her forward funnel had fallen down and her mainmast had been shot away.
Knyaz Suvorov never regained her position in the battle line and was engaged at short range by Mikasa and the battleship Shikishima as well as five cruisers of Vice Admiral Kamimura Hikonojō's 2nd Division between 15:20 and 15:35. Mikasa and two of the cruisers fired one torpedo each at her during this time, but none of them hit the ship. At 15:39, the unprotected cruiser Chihaya fired a pair of torpedoes and claimed one hit although no change was visible in Knyaz Suvorov's condition. Chihaya was hit by one shell just above the waterline during her attack that forced her to make emergency repairs. Around 15:40 the British observer aboard Azuma reported that Knyaz Suvorov was down by the bow with a heavy list to port and was a mass of thick gray smoke from forecastle to mainmast. By this time, the ship's forward 12-inch gun turret had been knocked out, but some smaller guns were still in action. The Japanese 5th Destroyer Division attacked five minutes later with torpedoes at ranges under 900 yards (820 m), but failed to score any hits with their five torpedoes. The destroyer leader was hit in the boiler room by a three-inch shell that may have been fired by Knyaz Suvorov.
The ship found herself between the two fleets at 16:08 and was fired at by most of the Japanese ships at short range. Observers aboard those ships noted that she resembled "an island volcano in eruption". Mikasa fired two torpedoes and Shikishima fired one torpedo at Knyaz Suvorov during this time without effect. Captain W. C. Pakenham, the Royal Navy's official military observer aboard the Japanese battleship Asahi under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, noted that she was hit by a 12-inch shell near the rear 6-inch turret around 16:30 that caused an explosion and caused flames to spout 50 feet (15 m) in the air. At 17:05 the 4th Destroyer Division attacked with three destroyers; only one of the six torpedoes hit Knyaz Suvorov. The ship which immediately took on a 10° list, but showed no signs of sinking. One shell from Knyaz Suvorov struck the destroyer Asagiri, but did not inflict much damage.
Around 17:30, the Russian destroyer Buinyi, came and took off the wounded officers from Knyaz Suvorov, including Rozhestvensky, leaving an unwounded midshipman in command. The ship continued southwards at about 4–5 knots (7.4–9.3 km/h; 4.6–5.8 mph) and was engaged by many of the Japanese cruisers from about 18:30 until four torpedo boats of the 11th Torpedo Division attacked at 19:20. They fired seven torpedoes of which two or three hit the ship. One was thought to have caused a magazine to explode as a cloud of yellow and black smoke poured out and Knyaz Suvorov listed further to port before capsizing at about 19:30. Other than the 20 officers taken off by Buinyi, there were no survivors of the 928 crew aboard.
- McLaughlin, p. 136
- Campbell, p. 187
- McLaughlin, pp. 137, 144
- McLaughlin, p. 142
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- Silverstone, p. 378
- "Naval & military intelligence". The Times (36562). London. 17 September 1901. p. 9.
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- Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 184
- McLaughlin, pp. 136, 142
- Forczyk, p. 9
- Pleshkov, pp. 91–97
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- McLaughlin, pp. 141, 167
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- McLaughlin, p. 169
- Campbell, p. 129
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- Forczyk, p. 67
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- Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. London, UK: Osprey. ISBN 978-1-84603-330-8.
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- McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-481-4.
- Pleshakov, Constatine (2002). The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05791-8.
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