Woe from wit. On the methods of concentrating artillery fire on one target in the Russo-Japanese War

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Woe from wit. On the methods of concentrating artillery fire on one target in the Russo-Japanese War
Woe from wit. On the methods of concentrating artillery fire on one target in the Russo-Japanese War

The article "On various methods of fire control of the Russian fleet on the eve of Tsushima" compared the methods of artillery fire adopted by the Pacific Squadron (author - Myakishev), the Vladivostok cruiser squadron (Grevenits) and the 2nd Pacific squadron (Bersenev, with corrections by Z. P. Rozhdestvensky). But this topic is very large, so in the previous material it was possible to cover only the issues of zeroing and fire to kill during individual shooting, when one ship is firing at the target. The same article is devoted to the concentration of fire on one target by a detachment of warships.

As seen concentrated fire on the Pacific Squadron

The technique of conducting squadron fire on one target is prescribed by Myakishev in a very simple and understandable manner. According to his instructions, in this case, the lead ship should perform the sighting, by default - the flagship, since the flagship usually goes ahead. Then the target ship should show the distance (in one number) to the ships of the squadron following it, and then give a full side salvo.

As a result of these actions, our other ships, following the lead, received the distance from it to the target, and in addition, the result of the fall of a volley carried out for a given distance. Myakishev believed that by taking advantage of all this, the gunners of other ships would be able to calculate the necessary adjustments to the sight for their ships, which would ensure the effective defeat of the enemy.

At the same time, Myakishev fully admitted that "something might go wrong," and therefore demanded to fire to kill with volleys. From his point of view, the gunners were able to distinguish the fall of their own volley from the fall of the volleys of other ships and, thanks to this, adjust the sight and rear sight.

The sequence of actions described above, according to Myakishev, should have been used at a distance of 25–40 cables. If, for some reason, the distance at which the fire will be opened is less than 25 cables, then the shooting should be carried out without zeroing, according to the readings of the rangefinder. At the same time, the salvo fire was replaced by a fugitive one. Well, but shooting at a distance of over 40 cables Myakishev did not consider at all.

As seen concentrated fire in the Vladivostok cruiser detachment

According to Grevenitz, everything turned out to be more complicated and interesting. He distinguished three "kinds" of detachment shooting.

Woe from wit. On the methods of concentrating artillery fire on one target in the Russo-Japanese War
Woe from wit. On the methods of concentrating artillery fire on one target in the Russo-Japanese War

We will postpone the first of them until better times, since now, dear reader, we are talking about the concentration of fire, and not about its dispersion. And regarding the concentration of fire, Grevenitz made two significant reservations.

Firstly, Grevenitz saw no reason to focus the fire of a large squadron on a single ship. From his point of view, no battleship, no matter how well protected, will not be able to withstand the impact of three or four ships equivalent to it.

Accordingly, Grevenitz proposed to form several detachments of the indicated size as part of the squadron. Such detachments were supposed to maneuver "according to previously received instructions", which implies the possibility of separate maneuvering, if such, again, was prescribed in advance. Each such detachment must choose a target for concentrated fire independently, however, the detachment can be given priority targets in advance - say, the most powerful enemy ships.

According to Grevenitz, the concentration of squadron fire on several enemy ships will not only quickly disable the most powerful and dangerous enemy combat units, but also minimize the losses of your own squadron from enemy fire. Here he quite rightly noted that the ship's accuracy "sags" when it is under enemy fire, and that the general concentration of fire on a single target will lead to the fact that other enemy ships will be able to smash our squadron "in range" conditions.

Undoubtedly, the division of the squadron into detachments and the concentration of fire on several enemy ships at once favorably distinguishes the work of Grevenitz from the work of Myakishev.

Interestingly, Grevenitz believed that the "squadron leader" should not be on the ship of the line at all, but that he should raise his flag and be on a fast and well-armored cruiser in order to be able to observe the battle from the side. The idea was that in this case, the flagship, being at a distance, would not suffer from the concentration of enemy fire and, if necessary, could approach any part of the squadron without breaking its formation. Accordingly, the admiral will be better informed and will be able to more effectively control both maneuvering and artillery fire of his ships.

There was a rationale in these theses of Grevenitz, of course, but the problem lay in the sheer weakness of the means of communication of those times. The radio was hardly reliable enough, and the antenna could easily be disabled, and the flag signals could simply be overlooked or misunderstood. In addition, it takes a certain time to give an order with a signal - it needs to be dialed, raised, etc. At the same time, the admiral leading the squadron could control it by simple changes in the course of the flagship, even with completely downed halyards and destroyed radio.

In general, I am inclined to assess this idea of Grevenitz as theoretically correct, but premature, not provided with the technical capabilities of the era of the Russo-Japanese War.

But back to the squad shooting technique.

She, according to Grevenitz, should have been as follows. At a distance of 30-60 cables, the squadron battle should have begun with zeroing. In this case, the flagship of the squadron (hereinafter referred to as the flagship) first indicates with the flag the number of the ship at which the squadron will fire. However, the rest of the ships of the detachment are allowed to open fire on it only when this flag is lowered. The flagship, without lowering the flag, starts zeroing in and conducts it as described in the previous article - in volleys, but not using the “fork” principle. Apparently, Myakishev did not suggest using either “forks” or volleys, limiting himself to zeroing in from a single gun, that is, in this matter, the Grevenitz technique also had an advantage over the one that was available on the 1st Pacific Squadron.

But Grevenitz had other significant differences as well.

Myakishev proposed transferring only the distance to the enemy from the flagship to the other ships of the squadron. Grevenitz, on the other hand, demanded that the rear sight be transmitted along with the distance - according to his observations, in most combat situations, the horizontal aiming angle corrections for the flagship's guns were quite suitable for two or three ships following it. In my opinion, this idea of Grevenitz is very reasonable.

According to Myakishev, the flagship was supposed to give the distance to the enemy only after the zeroing was completed, and according to Grevenits - whenever the flagship's fire controller was giving corrections to his guns. For this purpose, on each ship of the squadron, two hand semaphores were to be constantly in service (not counting the spare), with the help of which it was necessary to inform the next ship in the ranks about the distance and rear sight given by the flagship artilleryman - the fire control.

Accordingly, from other ships they could observe, if I may say so, the "history" of zeroing in the flagship and refuel the guns, giving them actual amendments. Then, when the flagship took aim and lowered the flag, thereby giving permission to open fire to the rest of the squadron ships, they could engage in battle with minimal delay.


Personally, this order seems somewhat far-fetched to me.

The desire to make it possible for each ship to see changes in the zeroing parameters is a good thing, but what about the inevitable time lag?

The shooting ship can show the current distance and the correction to the rear sight in time. But while they see him on the next one, while they rebel, while these readings are noticed on the next ship in the ranks, it may turn out that the shooting ship will already fire a salvo at the new installations, and the end ship of the detachment will receive information about the amendments of the previous or even earlier salvo.

And finally, fire to kill. Myakishev, as already mentioned above, with concentrated fire at long distances, by which he understood 30-40 cables, relied on volley fire. Grevenitz was sure that during the concentrated fire of several ships on one target, it would be impossible to distinguish the fall of the shells of his ship from the shots of other ships of the detachment. Alas, it is not clear whether this judgment of Grevenitz applied to volley fire or not.

Myakishev did not deny the usefulness of rapid fire, but believed that when firing at long distances, by which he understood 30-40 cables, volley fire to kill would distinguish the shooter from the fall of his own volleys from others firing at the same target. For Grevenitz, volley fire was not at all taboo - he directly recommended zeroing in with volleys of 3-4 guns, citing the fact that at distances of 50-60 cables a single burst might not be noticed. And Grevenitz did not at all suggest returning to zeroing from one gun at distances of less than 50 cables. However, unlike Myakishev, Grevenitz in no case recommended firing to kill with volleys. After zeroing in, he had to switch to rapid fire, at least from a distance of 50-60 cables.


With individual shooting, Grevenitz considered it possible to adjust the sight and rear sight according to the results of quick fire. To do this, it was necessary to observe a certain "midpoint of the shells hit." Apparently, it was about the fact that during rapid fire, bursts of shells falling into the water, as well as hits, if any, would still form a kind of ellipse, the midpoint of which could be determined by visual observation.

It is possible that in some circumstances this method worked, but it was not optimal, which later led to the transition to salvo firing. And it is quite possible to assert that when firing at least two ships at one target with rapid fire, it will be practically impossible to determine the "midpoint of shell hit" for each of them.

But, I repeat, firing volleys for Grevenitz was not forbidden, so it remains unclear: either he simply did not guess before the volley fire to kill, or thought that even salvo firing would not make it possible to adjust the sight and rear sight with concentrated fire of the detachment one by one goals.

As for detachment fire at medium distances, Grevenitz understood it in exactly the same way as Myakishev - shooting according to the rangefinder data without any zeroing. The only difference was that Myakishev considered it possible to shoot like this at a distance of 25 cables or less, and Grevenitz - no further than 30 cables.

As seen concentrated fire on the ships of the 2nd Pacific Squadron

It must be said that Bersenev's work practically does not consider the issues of concentrating fire on one enemy ship. All control of such fire, according to Bersenev, comes down to only two remarks:

1. In all cases, fire must be concentrated on the enemy's lead ship. Exceptions - if such has no combat value, or if the squadrons disperse on counter courses at a distance of less than 10 cables.

2. When firing at the lead enemy, each ship in the formation, making a shot, informs the “aiming” of the next matelot so that the latter can use the results of the shot as a zeroing. At the same time, "The signaling method is announced by a special order for the squadron," and what should be transmitted (distance, rear sight) is unclear.

Thus, if Myakishev and Grevenitz gave the technique of squadron (detachment) firing, then Bersenev has nothing of the kind.

Nevertheless, one should not think that the 2nd Pacific was not at all preparing to conduct concentrated fire on the enemy. In order to understand this, it is necessary to look at the orders of ZP Rozhestvensky and the actual shooting in Madagascar.

To begin with, I will quote a fragment of Order No. 29, issued by Z. P. Rozhdestvensky on January 10, 1905:

“The signal will indicate the number of the enemy ship, according to the score from the lead in the wake or from the right flank in the front. The fire of the whole squad should be concentrated on this number, if possible. If there is no signal, then, following the flagship, fire is concentrated, if possible, on the lead or flagship of the enemy. The signal can also target a weak ship in order to more easily achieve a result and create confusion. So, for example, when approaching by head-on and after concentrating fire on the head one can indicate the number to which the action of the entire artillery of the first (lead) squadron squadron should be directed, while the second squadron will be allowed to continue to operate on the originally chosen target."

It is quite obvious that Z. P. Rozhdestvensky introduced detachment fire on the 2nd Pacific Squadron: from the text of his order it follows that in those cases when the flagship shows the number of the enemy ship with a signal, then the squadron should concentrate fire on the indicated target, and not a squadron as a whole. The squadron was trained in the "detachment" method of conducting concentrated fire in Madagascar.

Thus, the senior artilleryman of the Sisoy the Great, Lieutenant Malechkin, testified:

"Before the start of firing, usually the lead ships of their detachments (Suvorov, Oslyabya and others) determined the distances either by sighting, or with instruments and showed their matelots this distance - with a signal, and then each one acted independently."

In this respect, the control of artillery fire, according to Rozhestvensky, corresponds to the proposals of Grevenitz and is more progressive than that of Myakishev. But there is an extremely important moment in which the commander of the 2nd Pacific Squadron "bypassed" both Myakishev and Grevenitsa, namely, shooting "whenever possible."

This phrase is used by ZP Rozhestvensky whenever he writes about concentrated shooting: "On this number, if possible, the fire of the entire detachment should be concentrated … Following the flagship, fire is concentrated, if possible, on the lead or flagship of the enemy."

Both Myakishev and Grevenitz ordered to conduct concentrated fire at the designated target, so to speak, "at any cost" - their methods did not provide for the transfer of fire from a separate ship of the detachment to another enemy ship on their own initiative.

But order number 29 gave such an opportunity. According to its letter, it turned out that if any ship of the detachment, for any reason, could not conduct effective concentrated fire at the designated target, then he was not obliged to do this. From the testimony given to the Investigative Commission, it can be seen that the ship commanders used the opportunity given to them.

So, for example, the battleship "Eagle", unable to conduct effective fire on "Mikasa", transferred it to the closest armored cruiser. This is also indicated by the analysis of hits on Japanese ships in the outset of the Tsushima battle. If in the first 10 minutes the hits were recorded only in Mikasa (6 shells), then in the next ten minutes out of 20 hits, 13 went to Mikasa, and 7 to five other Japanese ships.

However, if ZP Rozhestvensky, within the framework of the organization of concentrated shooting, divided the main forces of his squadron into two detachments, then he should have been given simple and understandable instructions on the choice of targets for each detachment. He gave them, but the tactics of fire fighting, chosen by the Russian commander, turned out to be very original.

The fire control of the 1st armored detachment raises no questions. ZP Rozhestvensky could indicate the target for the concentrated fire of four battleships of the "Borodino" class at any time, while the "Suvorov" retained the ability to give signals. Another thing is the 2nd armored detachment, headed by "Oslyabey". Oddly enough, but, according to the letter of order number 29, the admiral in command of this detachment had no right to independently choose a target for concentrated shooting. Such an opportunity was simply not foreseen. Accordingly, the target for the 2nd detachment was to be indicated only by the commander of the 2nd Pacific squadron.

But, reading and rereading Order No. 29 dated 1905-10-01, we will not see there a way in which ZP Rozhestvensky could have done this. According to the text of the order, he could designate a target either for the 1st armored detachment, raising a signal with the number of the enemy ship in the ranks, or for the entire squadron, for which he had to open fire on it from the flagship Suvorov without raising any signal. There is simply no way to assign a separate target to the 2nd squad.

Of course, reasoning theoretically and wanting to assign different targets to the two squads, one could first order the squadron's fire to focus on one target, which the admiral will designate for the 2nd squad, and then transfer the fire of the 1st squadron to another target, raising the appropriate signal. But this will cause a significant delay in sighting at the target designated for the 1st detachment, which is unacceptable in battle.

Moreover. If you think about it, then the opportunity to assign a target to the entire squadron was only at the outset of the battle or at the moment of its resumption after a break. After all, only then the target on which the Suvorov opened fire, without raising a signal, could be seen and understood by the rest of the ships of the squadron. And in the course of the battle, when all the ships are fighting - try to figure out to whom the Suvorov's fire was transferred there, and who would monitor it?

The conclusion is paradoxical - having split the squadron into 2 detachments, Z. P. Rozhdestvensky provided for the indication of the target only for one of them - the 1st armored one.

Why did this happen?

There are two options here. Perhaps I am mistaken, and the authority to select the target was nevertheless delegated to the commander of the 2nd armored detachment, but this was done by some other order or circular that is unknown to me. But something else is also possible.

It should be understood that the orders of Zinovy Petrovich did not cancel Bersenev's instructions, but supplemented it. Thus, if some situation was not described by Rozhestvensky's order, then the ships of the squadron should have acted in accordance with Bersenev's technique, which required the concentration of fire on the lead ship of the enemy formation. But given the fact that the Japanese had an advantage in speed, it was to be expected that they would "press" on the head Russian battleships. It is unlikely that the Oslyabya and the ships following it would have been able to effectively hit the Mikasa: then the ships of the 2nd armored detachment would have had no choice but to disperse fire on the enemy ships closest to them.

It can be assumed that ZP Rozhestvensky did not really believe in the effectiveness of the concentrated fire of the 2nd armored detachment, in which two of the four ships were armed with outdated artillery.


Perhaps he saw the need for such concentration only in cases where:

1) in the outset of the battle H. Togo will be substituted so much that the fire of the entire squadron at one ship will be justified;

2) during the battle "Mikasa" will be in a position convenient for concentrating the fire of the 2nd armored detachment on it.

Both options seemed tactically unlikely.

Thus, it turns out that, according to order No. 29 of 1905-10-01, concentrated fire should have been conducted by the 1st armored detachment, while the 2nd dispersed fire on the Japanese ships closest to it, disturbing them and interfering with the aiming shooting at the leading Russian ships. This tactic made sense.

In the outset of the Tsushima battle, the following happened.

If ZP Rozhestvensky wanted to concentrate the fire of the entire squadron on Mikas, then, in accordance with his own order No. 29 of 1905-10-01, he would have to open fire on Mikas without raising any signal. He raised such a signal, thereby ordering only the 1st armored detachment to shoot at the Japanese flagship and allowing the rest of the Russian ships to shoot at Mikasa only if they were quite sure of the effectiveness of their fire.

I would like to note that ZP Rozhdestvensky's description of the choice of targets leaves much to be desired.

All the same could have been written down much easier and more clearly. But when evaluating certain guiding documents, one should take into account the existence of a fundamental difference between the order and the methodology.

The methodology should cover, if possible, all scenarios. It should explain how to act in the bulk of combat situations and what to be guided by in the event of an abnormal situation not described in the methodology.

An order is often drawn up to concretize a particular issue: if, say, a squadron has an established understanding of the rules for conducting a fire fight, then the order is not at all obliged to describe these rules in full. It is enough to indicate only the changes that the issuing order wishes to make to the existing order.

For the rest, the methods of concentrated shooting adopted by the 2nd Pacific Squadron are very close to those proposed by Myakishev and Grevenitz.

Zeroing should begin if the distance to the enemy exceeds 30 cables. The lead ship of the detachment was supposed to shoot. He should have shown the distance and corrections for the rest of the ships to the rear, that is, along the horizontal aiming angle, as Grevenitz recommended. And according to Myakishev, only the distance should have been shown.

But ZP Rozhestvensky, like Myakishev, believed that it was necessary to provide these data not with every change of sight and rear sight, but only when the lead ship was aimed. Data should be transmitted not only with a semaphore, as recommended by Grevenitz, but also with a flag signal. Each ship of the detachment, noticing the data transmitted to it, must rehearse them, showing the next matelot behind it.

As for the sighting, the best results would probably be given by a salvo sighting with cast-iron shells, carried out by the "fork" method. Myakishev suggested shooting with cast iron shells, Grevenitz with cast iron shells and volleys, ZP Rozhdestvensky with a fork.

As you can see, none of them guessed right.

The fire to kill at Grevenitsa and Rozhdestvensky should have been fired with rapid fire, at Myakishev - in volleys, because the latter seemed to be able to distinguish between the fall of their shells when the fire was concentrated on one target.

Why - like?

In fact, the analysis of the effectiveness of various methods of zeroing and shooting to kill with concentrated shooting at one target "pulls" for a full-fledged article, which I plan to write later. And now, with the permission of the dear reader, I will answer another question.

Why does the article begin with the words "woe from wits"?

There are two fundamentally different ways of conducting concentrated fire - with and without centralized control.

In the first case, the shooting of several ships is controlled by one artillery officer, and this is how the Russian Imperial Navy tried to shoot.

According to Myakishev, Grevenits, Bersenev, Rozhestvensky, the fire control of the flagship carried out the zeroing, determined the corrections, and then broadcast them to the other ships of the squadron or detachment. Strictly speaking, this, of course, is not a complete cycle of fire control, because here it turned out, rather, control of the zeroing: after receiving the distances and correcting to the rear sight, each ship had to fire to kill on its own.

Probably, we can say that full control, when one person directs both the targeting and the fire to kill the whole compound, was implemented after the Russo-Japanese War on the ships of the Black Sea Fleet.

I cannot say for sure that, unfortunately, I do not have the shooting techniques that guided the Black Sea Fleet on the eve of the First World War.

But, in any case, the Russian Imperial Navy, both before and during the Russo-Japanese War, and later, tried to master and put into practice precisely the centralized control of concentrated fire.

The second variant of concentrated fire was the firing of several ships at one target without any centralized control. That is, each ship fired completely independently: he himself determined the parameters of the target, he carried out the zeroing, he himself controlled the effectiveness of the fire to kill without any regard for the other ships firing at the same target. Judging by the information I have, this is how the Japanese fired.

Which of these methods is better?

On paper, of course, centralized control of concentrated fire had clear advantages.

Alas, in practice it has completely failed to justify itself.

Let us recall the history of the same Black Sea Fleet, where the centralized fire control of the pre-dreadnought battleships was brought, I am not afraid of these words, to unimaginable perfection.

Tsushima's lessons were learned. They did not skimp on combat training - the Dotsushima Russian Imperial Navy could not even dream of spending training shells for firing Black Sea battleships. The statement that after Tsushima one battleship per year began to spend as much shells on shooting practice as before Tsushima - the entire squadron in which he was listed may be an exaggeration, but not so large.

And there is no doubt that the individual Black Sea battleships fired better than any ships of our fleet during the Russo-Japanese War. Various methods of centralized fire control were tried, and during the exercises the Black Sea squadron confidently hit the target with a second or third salvo, even for more than 100 cables.

However, in two real combat episodes, when our superbly trained battleships clashed with the Goeben, they failed miserably in concentrated fire with centralized control. At the same time, when the battleships fired individually, they achieved good results. In the battle at Cape Sarych, "Evstafiy", "waving his hand" at centralization, with the first salvo managed to hit the "Goeben", which, alas, became the only one for the whole battle.


But there is a feeling that only the constant change of course allowed the battlecruiser to avoid other hits.

At the Bosphorus, our two battleships - "Eustathius" and "John Chrysostom", concentratedly fired at the "Goeben" without much result, having spent 133,305-mm shells in 21 minutes and having achieved one reliable hit. Let's take into account that the battle began at a distance of 90 cables, then the distance was reduced to 73 cables, after which the "Goeben" retreated. But the Panteleimon approaching the battlefield, firing individually, slammed a 305-mm projectile into the German-Turkish flagship from the second salvo from a distance of about 104 cables.

If we look at the practice of other fleets, we will see that in the same First World War, firing volleys, possessing incomparably more advanced rangefinders and fire control devices, no fleet sought to conduct concentrated fire on one target.

Under Coronel, the Scharnhorst fired at Good Hope, and the Gneisenau at Monmouth, and the British responded in exactly the same way. Under the Falklands, the battlecruisers Stardie also distributed their fire on the German armored cruisers. In Jutland, the battlecruisers Hipper and Beatty, who fought fiercely, strove for individual cruiser versus cruiser fire, without trying to focus the entire squadron's fire on one target, and so on.

In fact, in the main naval battles of the First World War, concentrated fire, with rare exceptions, was conducted either by mistake or by force, when for some reason it was not possible to distribute the fire to other enemy ships.

Thus, in my opinion, the problem was not that the methodology of centralized control of concentrated fire, which was used by the 2nd Pacific Squadron, had certain shortcomings. In my opinion, the very idea of a centralized fire control of a ship formation for those years turned out to be flawed. In theory, it promised many advantages, but at the same time it turned out to be completely unrealizable even with the technologies of the First World War, not to mention the Russian-Japanese one.

The Japanese did it easier. Each of their ships determined for themselves who to shoot: of course, they tried to hit first of all the flagship or the leading ship. Thus, the concentration of fire on one target was achieved. If, at the same time, some ship ceased to see its own falls and could not correct the shooting, it, without asking anyone, chose another target for itself. By doing so, the Japanese achieved a good hit rate.

So why do I still write "woe from wits" in relation to Russian shooting techniques?

The answer is very simple.

The Russian Empire began to create a steam fleet much earlier than the Japanese and had much more traditions and maritime practice. Long before the Russo-Japanese War, Russian sailors tried centralized fire control of one ship, when firing was carried out under the direction of a senior artillery officer, and were convinced of the advantages that such an organization provided. The next, completely natural step was an attempt to centralize the control of the firing of several ships. This step was absolutely logical, but at the same time it was erroneous, since it was impossible to implement such control on the existing technical base.

In my opinion, the Japanese, having embarked on the development of modern warships much later than our compatriots, simply did not grow to such nuances by the Russo-Japanese War. They even reached the centralization of fire control of one ship only during the war itself, and they spread this practice everywhere closer to Tsushima.

I believe that it was precisely the "late start" and the lag in the theory of fire control that prevented the Japanese from making such a promising, but at the same time erroneous, attempt to centralize the control of concentrated fire.

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