About a feat of the legendary cruiser “ Varangian “ it is known practically to all. But not many know that in hands of the commander of the cruiser was “ key “ by the beginning of overland war of Japan against Russia. But he could not or did not want to seize the unique opportunity.
1904 “ Varangian “ met in neutral Korean port Chemulpo. The situation foretold fast war, and the commander of the cruiser Vsevolod Rudnev understood: if the Japanese ships block a narrow output waterway from raid, then “ To the Varangian “ it will be necessary - to die heroically the only thing. But “ above “ it was not wanted to be understood. The instruction which arrived from the imperial deputy admiral Alekseev said: “ Not to interfere with disembarkation of the Japanese troops if that was made before declaration of war... Not to leave Chemulpo without order " at all;.
Unlike the Russian naval government, the commander of the Japanese fleet the admiral of Togo perfectly understood all this. But death “ Varangian “ did not arrange it, it had other views of the cruiser - to present it as a gift to the emperor by anniversary of accession to the throne. And “ gift “ was worth it. It was the powerful ship which had high speed - 24 knots, and having on twelve 152 - mm and 75 - mm of tools, ten tools of smaller calibers and six torpedo tubes. Kanonersky boat “ Korean “ appeared at this time in Chemulpo port, did not interest Japanese. She already noted the fifteenth anniversary, and from nine of its tools only three had big caliber and decent range of firing.
on February 5 from captains of the foreign ships Rudnev learned
about a gap Japan of diplomatic relations with Russia. It did not begin to remove the ships from raid - did not decide to violate instructions of the imperial deputy. It was necessary to try to obtain distinct orders from the envoy in Korea to whom he submitted as the captain - a statsioner. But the valid councilor of state Pavlov all hoped that instructions will come from the ministry. And only on February 8, when from arrived by steamship “ Songhua “ (one more got into a trap) the American military agent it became known that Japanese plan to begin war next day, Pavlov sent “ Korean “ with the report to the Port - Artur.
But an exit in the sea is already blocked by the Japanese squadron, and “ Korean “ having evaded from the torpedoes which are let out on it and “ having snapped “ several shots from a gun, returned on raid. After it the bay included part of the Japanese squadron. Torpedo boats surrounded the Russian ships, and transports under cover of cruisers began to land a landing.
There came the moment when the commander is forced to ask himself a Hamlet question: “ To be or not to be? To step through instructions and to attack Japanese (winners at us do not judge) or to wait for orders? “. Formally, torpedo attack on “ Korean “ Japanese began military operations. On artillery their three easy cruisers and four torpedo boats covering transports with a landing are approximately equal to the Russian ships. And in the conditions of a close bay when the Japanese ships are deprived of maneuver, chances of success in fight considerably increase.
We do not know whether Rudnev understood that he was in his hands “ key “ by the beginning of overland war with Japan. If it destroys the landing ships, then will break capture of Korea by Japanese and for some term will remove their overland operation against Russia. And in those conditions each additional day meant much. Rudnev made the decision to wait. Do we have the right it for it to blame?
By the evening the Japanese ships left a bay, and the Russian ships did not even try to go in the dark for break that was quite real at good knowledge of a waterway. In the morning of the next day commander “ Varangian “ received the ultimatum from the commander of the Japanese squadron. Now to choose there was nothing. About surrender there could not be also a speech; there was an attempt of break with fight and if it does not turn out - heroic death. And here again there is a riddle - why break of two ships, but not one “ Varangian “? Together with “ Korean “ which actual speed only 9 - 10 knots, chances of break are equal to zero. If to remove team from a gunboat, then the cruiser will receive a reserve of skilled gunners (in the forthcoming fight the biggest losses will be among them), and absence in a wake of a slow mover will allow to use advantages of speed and maneuver fully. Rudnev had the right for such decision, but went for break together with “ Korean “.
Rudnev reported about the decision to commanders of the foreign ships which were already going to leave raid not to disturb Japanese. Seamen of the foreign ships, understanding that Russians go on a certain death, saw off them shouts “ Ur “. By the Italian ship the orchestra executed the anthem of Russia.
An exit to the high sea was blocked by the Japanese squadron from 6 cruisers and 8 torpedo boats. The ratio 2 to 14 speaks for itself, but “ Varangian “ and “ Korean “ went straight on a squadron, and at 11 hours 45 minutes from the cruiser “ Azama “ the first shot sounded. In reply struck 8 - the inch " tool; Korean “. Unprecedented fight - " was started; last parade “ as called it then the author of the song about “ Varangian “.
Japanese concentrated the main fire on “ Varangian “ hoping with low-speed “ Korean “ to be quit then; they understood that until the gunboat afloat, the cruiser takes advantage in speed. Fire hurricane fell upon the cruiser, on it were put out of action or almost all tools are damaged, steering drives are killed, repeatedly there were fires. “ Varangian “ received 5 underwater holes and strongly tilted. On it died 31 and more than 190 people were wounded. It is difficult to believe, but “ joint account of fight “ the proceeding about an hour, it is obvious in favor of the Russian ships. They sank a torpedo boat and three cruisers are seriously damaged; and one sank subsequently, and two got up on long dock repair.
Hard covered with wounds “ Varangian “ it was forced to disengage and accompanied “ Korean “ not received direct hits to return on raid. The cruiser could not continue fight, and Rudnev made the decision to destroy the Russian ships, and their commands to place by the foreign ships. Only the commander American " refused to accept the Russian seamen; Vicksburg “.
About 16 hours on “ Varangian “ opened valves, “ Korean “ blew up, “ Songhua “ set fire, and then drowned.
In Russia about results of fight, destiny of the ships and people learned only on February 18 from the telegram sent by Rudnev from Shanghai. Before considered that the ships and their teams were lost as Japanese reported about that. Soon name “ Varangian “ started gleaming on pages of newspapers and magazines. The event about which journalists learned from the foreign seamen who became witnesses of a feat amazed the world.
For Russia war developed extremely unsuccessfully, the press openly accused the military management of lack of talent. In these conditions fight at Chemulpo was very useful; there was an opportunity to show the first real fighting success and to bring its participants to the level of national heroes. Preferred to forget about what preceded fight.