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The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

Russian Battleship


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Greetings All!

Here’s a tricky little identification problem to keep you amused over the festive season!

The picture below was taken by my grand father in the latter stages of the war. He was serving on HMS Southampton at the time, and took quite a number of photo’s, which have been passed down to me. Unfortunately, there’s little to identify most of them – a few pencilled words on the reverse at best.

This particular one (which has nothing at all written on it) has had me stumped for quite some time, but while visiting the PRO last week and confirming that Southampton made at least one trip to the White Sea ports of Pechenga and Murmansk (June 1918), I thought I would have another go at it, and I think I’ve finally managed to identify her.

‘Jane’s Fighting Ships of WW1’ contains the following:

'Poltava… sunk at Port Arthur in 1904; salved by Japanese in 1905 and re-named Tango. Training ship 1909. Retroceded to Russia in March 1916, and re-named Tchesma.'

together with a photograph of a ship labelled “In White Sea” which seems a reasonable match.

It also contains this entry:

‘Tango… Sunk at Port Arthur in the War 1904, salved in 1905. Deleted during the War.’

together with a photo labelled “Present appearance”, which again looks plausible.

Searching the web, I’ve come across a few references:

‘Poltava sunk at Port Arthur on 5th December 1904; salved by Japanese in 1905 and re-named Tango. Retroceded to Russia in March 1916, and re-named Poltava. Renamed Tchesma 1917.’

‘On 22 November a heavy-calibre shell detonated an ammunition magazine and destroyed the battleship Poltava.’

‘Dec.05 > In Port Arthur harbour, the battleship Poltava is blown up when a magazine is struck by a Japanese shell.’

Photo depicting, “The Russian pre-dreadnought battleship Poltava sunk at Port Arthur as a result of bombardment by Japanese land based artillery during the siege of Port Arthur (December 1904)” at:


So, the question is, have I got the right ship (Tchesma nee Poltava), or is this just more self-delusion? Any info would be much appreciated, particularly where it resolves some of the apparent inconsistencies in the above.



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There are certainly great similarities between your photo and one I have of the Poltava in 1902. Same arrangement of turrets, barbettes, funnels, masts, etc. Looks a good match.

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This from "Dictionary of Disasters at Sea Durring the Age of Steam", Charles Hocking.

"1st Class battleship, 1894; 10960 tons. Four 12" guns, twelve 6", two 2.5 ", twelve 3 pounder, 28 MG's and 6 torpedo tubes.

The Russian battleship Poltava was one of the Pacific Squadron based on Port Arthur at the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War in February, 1904. The ship had an official complement of 651 officers and men. She took part in the battle of the Yellow Sea (August 10th, 1904) in which she was heavily damaged. Her losses in personnel amounted to one officer and 11 men killed, and three officers and 40 men wounded.

The failure of most of the Russian Fleet to break through to Vadivostock compelled a return to Port Arthur, where the ships reverted to their former inactivity, being shelled by the japanese investing army. On December 5th, the Poltava was struck by an 11" howitzer shell in one of her magazines and blew up."

Terry Reeves

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