Thursday, January 19, 2012

Battle of Ulsan-RJW

In my continuing effort to capture my previous works in one location today I bring you the Battle of Ulsan.  This battle took place August 14th 1904 just four days after the Russian defeat at the Battle of the Yellow Sea during the Russo-Japanese war.

The History

This action pitted three Russian armored Cruisers of the Russian Imperial Navy (IRN) based out of Vladiastok against four Japanese armored cruisers that had been dispatched to intercept them.  The Russian cruisers originally were suppose to support the main effort and link up with the Russian fleet in the Sea of Japan after the broke out from Port Arthur.  Due to communication errors and lack of readiness the squadron departed late and missed the battle of the Yellow Sea in which the the Russian First Pacific Squadron was crushed by the Japanese.

Not knowing the First Pacific fleet had already been soundly beaten the Russian command ordered Admiral Jessen to sortie and join the rest of the fleet in the Sea of Japan.  Admiral Jensen sailed with the three Russian Armored cruisers Rosia, Gromoboi and Rurik sailed south to link up with the Russian First Pacific fleet he thought was sailing from Port Arthur.




Jessen sailed south, but the fleet had not been sighted by the morning of August 14th 1904.  As the Russian squadron approached Busan, Admiral Jessen informed his captains that he had no intention of attempting to pass Tsushima Straits, and ordered the squadron back to Vladivostok. It was a fateful decision.

The Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) was made up of more modern armored cruisers  Izumo, Azuma, Tokiwa, Iwate, and two protected cruisers Naniwa and Takachiho which were under the command of Vice Admiral Hikonojo Kamimura who had just recently passed very close to the Russian squadron in the dark on opposite courses but neither was aware of the other.  The two protected cruisers while there did not engage in the battle that ensued.





In the early morning hours of 14 August 1904, Vice Admiral Kamimura had been heading back from his night patrol area on a course that took him directly to the Russian squadron.  When Admiral Jessen started to turn back to Vladivostock, he sighted the four IJN armored cruisers.

The situation was ideal for the Japanese. It was dawn on a fine summer day, and the enemy was as far from Vladivostok as it was possible to be in the Sea of Japan, with the IJN between themselves and their distant base.

At 0520 on 14 August 1904 the fleets had closed and the IJN opened fire first. For some reason, Kamimura, in assigning targets, concentrated fire on the Rurik, the last and weakest in the IRNs column. Subjected to twice the bombardment administered to her stronger comrades. Rurik lost most of her officers in a short time.  Although extremely damaged, Rurik remained afloat.  The diminishing number of survivors continuing to fire the few remaining guns until the very last.  In a gallant display of classic heroism that won the admiration of the IJN.

On the easterly run the Japanese ships took some hits, but nothing comparable to what they inflicted. It would be assumed that when the Russians steered away, Admiral Kamimura would have pressed his advantage closer. Inexplicably, this did not happen. Kamimura oddly held his course during the IRN turn, and when the IJN turned a few minutes later, it was to a new tack that actually lengthened rather than narrowed the range.

Sinking of Rurik
The remaining IRN cruisers tried to cover the Rurik, but with increasing damage, Admiral Jessen decided at 08:30 to scuttle the Rurik, and save his other ships by heading back towards Vladivostok. IJN cruisers chased them for some time, and firing continued, with more damage to the Russian cruisers and slight damage to the Iwate and the Azuma. The Russians were in a far worse condition than the Japanese, but Admiral Kamimura then made another inexplicable decision: after pursuit of only three hours, while still on the high seas, and with long daylight steaming hours between the IRN cruisers and Vladivostok, at 11:15 hours the IJN ceased the chase, and turned back towards Busan.

Despite Kamimura's failure to destroy the two remaining Russian cruisers, he was hailed as a hero in Japan, and the Vladivostok Cruiser Squadron never threatened Japanese shipping again.

Battle of Ulsan Refought

This is one of my favorite Pre-Dreadnought sceanrios to game as it is quick and excellent for teaching a new player the rules.  As many already know my naval rules of choice for this time period are Naval Thunder-Rise of the Battleship.

My friend Mike and I have played this one out a few times to include NAVCON 2010.  In the hands of skilled players the results are usually fairly true to history, but every once in awhile rolling dice will result in a few quirks.

Below is an account of one such egagement:

Russian Admiral Jesson's cruisers patrolled the Northern approaches to the Tsushima strait in hopes of finding the IRN First Pacific Fleet.  The IJN Cruisers under Admiral Kamimura set an intercept course closing to a range of 17,000 yrds as the battle opened.

The IJN gunnery was accurate and drew first blood on the Rossia.  The Russians knew they had to manuever past this threat to reach the safe port of Vladivostok.   Admiral Jesson could not hope to out run the superior Japanese cruisers so he choose to mauever head on into them in order to bring his full broadsides to bear.

As he two forces closed in line abreast a fierce melee erupted until finally the two columns closed to Torpedo range letting loose thier deadly salvos as they passed eachother. 

True to form the Torpedoes of the time did not run staright except for one lucky strike on the Rossia opening a huge hole in her hull.

The Russians were not done though.  As the Japanese raked the Rossia the Russian cruisers focused their fire power on the Japanese cruiser Azuma tearing her apart with several well placed salvos while crossing the T of the Japanese line.  Just for good measure they also unleashed another salvo of torpedoes.

Fires started on both Azuma and Iwate, but Azuma took the brunt of the gunnery from two Russian cruisers. The savage exchange proved two much and Azuma's fires were soon extinguised as she  slipped below the waves as the first victim in this contest of wills.

Despite the loss the Japanese also dished out a savage hail storm of fire with main and secondary guns. They also unleashed another round of torpedos that tore into the huge Russian flagship ripping her massive hull from stem to stern with massive flooding.

At the same time the Gromoboi also took multple critical hits.  Rossia's speed was drastically reduced and Admiral Jesson knew it was time to transfer his flag before it was to late.  As he made his way to Gromoboi he looked back just in time to see Rossia slip into the depths.

Meanwhile Iwate and Tokiwa massed their fires on the slower Rurik as they crossed the T of the Russian ship.  The Rurik took several penetrating hits causing flooding that reduced her speed to a crawl.

Not being able to manuever Rurik was overcome by the combined fire of the Japanese cruisers and soon capsized leaving only the Gromoboi which was also taking on water.

Now outnumbered three to one the Russian cruiser stood little chance against the Japanese firepower and manueverablity.  She to was overcome and soon joined her comrades below the waves.

Despite the overwhelming victory sending all three Russian cruisers to the bottom the Japanese received some severe punishment in return.  One cruiser was lost early on and two of the three surviors were reduced below 50% .

War is no romantic affair and this engagement proved no different.  As the surving Japanese cruisers limped for home they had a new respect for their foe.  Yes, they had won a victory, but had definately paid a heavy price.

As mentioned this scenario has proved to be one of our favorites especially for learning Naval Thunder Rise of the Battleship rule system.  As shown in the engagement above it usually proves to replicate combat of that time  period, up close and personal with heavy gunnery.

The Models

The models pictured above are 1/2400 scale resin models produced by Panzerschiffe.

I have used Panzerschiffe for just about all my Pre-dread fleets because they are very affordable and have a decent amount of detail.  In my opinion the only thing lacking for detail in these models is the lack of masts.  As a result through researching the web, time and patience I have added the masts you see in the pcitures. 

The process I use is fairly simple. If you look carefully at the pictures in the OoB and the scenario you will notice the masts in the scenarios are slightly thicker.  That is because these photos were taken before I re-masted these ships using my refined masting process. 

Originally I used styrene rods for the masts and these were some of the first ships I ever did.  Now I use various thickness of piano wire which I purchase from the hobby store.  I then drill small holes in the model at the appropriate locations and insert the guage wire I want to use making sure it is a tight fit.  If it is a two part mast I then glue and upper section to the lower thicher wire.  I usually paint the wire first as the glue seems to bond better for a quick hold.  In order to model the crows nest I use a thin sheet of styrene.  I drill an approprite size hole in the styrene and then use a standard paper hole puch center it over the drilled hole and punch it out.  This is then slid over the mast an glued in place.  Overall I think the masts really add alot to the collection and bring out some eye popping detail on the gaming table especially at the 1/2400 scale.

Once the models are completely painted to my satifaction I mount them on 1"x 3" metal bases that have been pre-pianted.  I use metal bases as my storage trays are lines with magnetic sheets to hold them in place for safe transport.  Once mounted I add the labels and some wakes for visual effect.  Once complete and dry I spray all my military models with two light coats of testors dull coat to seal them and provide a protective coating.

I currently own the entire OoB for RJW.  The Battle of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima will be the subject of future posts.

Hope you Enjoyed it.


  1. Another nice report, Aaron. Thank you, sir.

    -- Jeff

  2. Nice report, and your ships are wonderful. Careful painting and the addition of masts make Panzerschiffe ships look great.

  3. Thanks guys...I already started working on a Post for Battle of the Yellow sea.

    As for the ships I am too critical of myself everytime I see an enlarged pic I notice a minor flaw that good be better.

    Good enough for gaming though. ;)