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Japanese battleship Asahi
Japanese battleship Asahi 3.jpg
Asahi seen in a 1905 postcard
Class overview
Operators:  Imperial Japanese Navy
Preceded by: Shikishima class
Succeeded by: Mikasa
Built: 1897–1900
In commission: 1900–1942
Completed: 1
Lost: 1
Career (Japan)
Name: Asahi
Namesake: A stanza of Waka[1]
Builder: John Brown & Company, Clydebank
Laid down: 1 August 1897
Launched: 13 March 1899
Commissioned: 28 April 1900
Reclassified: As 1st-class coastal defence ship, September 1921
as submarine depot ship, 1 April 1923
as submarine salvage ship, 1928
as repair ship, 1938
Struck: 15 June 1942
Fate: Torpedoed and sunk by USS Seawolf, 25/26 May 1942
General characteristics (as built)
Type: Pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 15,200 long tons (15,400 t) (normal)
Length: 425 ft 3 in (129.6 m)
Beam: 75 ft (22.9 m)
Draught: 27 ft 3 in (8.3 m)
Installed power: 15,000 shp (11,000 kW)
25 Belleville boilers
Propulsion: 2 shafts, 2 vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 9,000 nmi (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 836
Armament: 2 × 2 – 12 in (305 mm) guns
14 × 1 – 6 in (152 mm) QF guns
20 × 1 – 12-pounder guns
6 × 1 – 3-pounder guns
6 × 1 – 2.5-pounder Hotchkiss guns
4 × 18-inch torpedo tubes
Armour: Harvey armour
Belt: 4–9 in (102–229 mm)
Deck: 2.5–4 in (64–102 mm)
Gun turrets: 6 in (152 mm)
Barbettes: 10–14 in (254–356 mm)
Conning tower: 14 in (356 mm)
Casemates: 2–6 in (51–152 mm)

Asahi (朝日 Asahi?) was a pre-dreadnought battleship built for the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN) in the late 1890s. As Japan lacked the industrial capacity to build such warships herself, the ship was designed and built in the UK. Shortly after her arrival, she became flagship of the Standing Fleet, the IJN's primary combat fleet. She participated in every major naval battle of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 and was lightly damaged during the Battles of the Yellow Sea and Tsushima. Asahi saw no combat during World War I, although the ship participated in the Siberian Intervention in 1918. The ship was reclassified as a coastal defence ship in 1921 and served as a training and submarine depot ship after she was disarmed in 1923 to meet the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. Asahi was modified into a submarine salvage and rescue ship before she was placed in reserve in 1928. She was recommissioned in late 1937, after the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War, and used to transport Japanese troops. In 1938, the ship was converted into a repair ship and based first at Shanghai, China and then Camranh Bay, French Indochina from late 1938 to 1941. Asahi was transferred to Singapore in early 1942 to repair a damaged light cruiser and ordered to return home in May. She was sunk en route by the American submarine USS Seawolf with very little loss of life.


Combat experience in the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895 convinced the Imperial Japanese Navy of weaknesses in the Jeune Ecole naval philosophy, which emphasized torpedo boats and commerce raiding to offset expensive heavily armoured ships. Therefore Japan promulgated a ten-year naval build-up programme, to modernize and expand its fleet in preparation for further confrontations, with the construction of six battleships and six armoured cruisers at its core.[2] These ships were paid for from the £30,000,000 indemnity paid by China after losing the First Sino-Japanese War. As with the earlier Fuji and Shikishima-class battleships, Japan lacked the technology and capability to construct its own battleships, and turned again to the United Kingdom for the four remaining battleships of the programme.[3] Asahi, the fifth battleship of the naval programme, was ordered from the Clydebank Engineering & Shipbuilding Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland.[4]

Design and description

The design of Asahi was a modified version of the Formidable-class battleships of the Royal Navy with two additional 6-inch (152 mm) guns.[5] The ship had an overall length of 425 feet 3 inches (129.6 m), a beam of 75 feet (22.9 m), and a normal draught of 27 feet 3 inches (8.3 m). She displaced 15,200 long tons (15,400 t) at normal load.[6] Asahi had a complete double bottom with 55 water-tight compartments and she was subdivided into 223 water-tight compartments in the main part of the hull. The ship was fitted as a flagship and her crew numbered about 773 officers and enlisted men, including the admiral's staff.[7]

The ship was powered by two vertical triple-expansion steam engines built by Humphrys, Tennant, each driving one propeller, using steam generated by 25 Belleville boilers at a working pressure of 17.03 bar (1,703 kPa; 247 psi).[8] The engines were rated at 15,000 indicated horsepower (11,000 kW), using forced draught, and designed to reach a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)[6] although Asahi reached 18.3 knots (33.9 km/h; 21.1 mph) from 16,335 indicated horsepower (12,181 kW) during her sea trials on 23 March 1900.[9] She carried a maximum of 2,000 tonnes (2,000 long tons) of coal which allowed her to steam for 9,000 nautical miles (17,000 km; 10,000 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[6] The ship was fitted with three steam-driven 4.8-kilowatt (6.4 hp) dynamos.[10]

Asahi's main battery consisted of the same four Elswick Ordnance Company 40-calibre twelve-inch guns used in all of the preceding battleships. They were mounted in twin-gun barbettes fore and aft of the superstructure that had armoured hoods to protect the guns and were usually called gun turrets. The hydraulically powered mountings allowed the guns to be loaded at all angles of traverse while they were loaded at a fixed elevation of +13.5°.[11] Each mount could traverse at total of 240 degrees.[12] They fired 850-pound (386 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,400 ft/s (730 m/s).[13]

The ship's secondary armament consisted of fourteen 45-calibre 6-inch (152 mm) quick-firing (QF) guns mounted in casemates. Eight of these guns were positioned on the main deck and the other six guns were placed above them in the superstructure. They fired 100-pound (45 kg) shells at a muzzle velocity of 2,300 ft/s (700 m/s).[14] Protection against torpedo boat attacks was provided by twenty QF 12-pounder 12 cwt[Note 1] guns.[15] The 12-pounders fired 3-inch (76 mm), 12.5-pound (5.7 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 2,359 ft/s (719 m/s).[16] Lighter guns consisted of eight 47-millimetre (1.9 in) three-pounder Hotchkiss guns and four 47-millimetre 2.5-pounder Hotchkiss guns. The former guns were mounted in the superstructure and the latter in the fighting tops.[17] The three-pounder gun fired 3.19-pound (1.45 kg) projectiles at a muzzle velocity of 1,927 ft/s (587 m/s) while the 2.5-pounder fired 2.5-pound (1.1 kg) shells at a muzzle velocity of 1,420 ft/s (430 m/s).[18] The ship was also equipped with four submerged 18-inch torpedo tubes, two on each broadside.[5]

The waterline main belt of Asahi consisted of Harvey armour 8.0 feet (2.44 m) high, 3.6 feet (1.11 m) of which was above the waterline at normal load, and had a maximum thickness of 9 inches (229 mm) for the middle 224 feet 0 inches (68.28 m) of the ship. It was only 4 inches (102 mm) inches thick at the ends of the ship and was surmounted by a six-inch strake of armour that ran between the barbettes.[9] The barbettes were 14 inches (356 mm) thick, but reduced to 10 inches (254 mm) behind the upper armour strake.[19] The barbette hoods were protected by 10 inches of armour on their face while their sides were 6 inches thick and the roof was 1.5 inches (38 mm) thick.[20] Diagonal bulkheads connected the barbettes to the side armour, they were 12–14 inches thick, but only 6 inches thick at the lower deck level.[9] The frontal armour of the casemates protecting the secondary armament was also 6 inches thick with the rear protected by 2-inch (51 mm) armour plates. The flat portion of the deck armour was 2.5 inches (64 mm) thick and 4 inches (102 mm) thick where it sloped down to the sides of the ship. The conning tower was protected by 14 inches of armour.[19]

Asahi, like all the other Japanese battleships of the time, was fitted with four Barr & Stroud FA3 coincidence rangefinders that had an effective range of 8,000 yards (7,300 m). In addition the ships were also fitted with 24-power magnification telescopic gunsights.[21]

Construction and career

Asahi, literally "rising sun", a poetical name for Japan, was laid down on 1 August 1899 in Clydebank, Scotland by the Clydebank Engineering & Shipbuilding Co. and completed by John Brown & Company which purchased the company before Asahi was completed.[22] She was launched on 13 March 1899 and completed on 31 July 1900, her completion was delayed by about three months when her bottom plating required repairs after running aground off Southsea while returning from her sea trials. The ship departed England on the day of her completion[23] and arrived at Yokosuka, Japan on 23 October 1900.[4] Asahi became flagship of the Standing Fleet on 22 May 1901 and she was assigned to the 1st Battleship Division of the 1st Fleet when the Combined Fleet was formed on 28 December 1903.[23]

At the start of the Russo-Japanese War, Asahi, commanded by Captain Hikohachi Yamada, was assigned to the 1st Division of the 1st Fleet. She participated in the Battle of Port Arthur on 9 February 1904 when Admiral Tōgō Heihachirō led the 1st Fleet in an attack on the Russian ships of the Pacific Squadron anchored just outside of Port Arthur. Tōgō had expected his surprise night attack on the Russians by his destroyers to be much more successful than it actually was and expected to find them badly disorganized and weakened, but the Russians had recovered from their surprise and were ready for his attack. The Japanese ships were spotted by the Boyarin which was patrolling offshore and alerted the Russian defences. Tōgō chose to attack the Russian coastal defences with his main armament and engage the Russian ships with his secondary guns. Splitting his fire proved to be a bad idea as the Japanese 8-inch (203 mm) and six-inch guns inflicted very little significant damage on the Russian ships who concentrated all their fire on the Japanese ships with some effect. Although a large number of ships on both sides were hit, Russian casualties numbered only 17 while the Japanese suffered 60 killed and wounded before Tōgō disengaged. Asahi was not hit during the engagement.[24]

The ship participated in the action of 13 April when Tōgō successfully lured out a portion of the Pacific Squadron, including Vice Admiral Stepan Makarov's flagship, the battleship Petropavlovsk. When Makarov spotted the five battleships of the 1st Division, he turned back for Port Arthur and Petropavlovsk struck a minefield laid by the Japanese the previous night. The Russian battleship sank in less than two minutes after one of her magazines exploded, Makarov one of the 677 killed. Emboldened by his success, Tōgō resumed long-range bombardment missions, which prompted the Russians to lay more minefields which sank two Japanese battleships the following month.[25] During the Battle of the Yellow Sea on 10 August, Asahi, now commanded by Captain Tsunaakira Nomoto, was second in line of the column of Japanese battleships, behind Mikasa, and was one of the primary targets of the Russian ships. She was only hit by a single 12-inch shell which wounded two crewmen. Both guns in her aft 12-inch gun turret, however, were disabled by shells that detonated prematurely in their barrels. In turn she concentrated most of her fire upon the battleships Poltava and Tsesarevich although both ships were only lightly damaged by the Japanese shells which generally failed to penetrate any armour and detonated on impact. The ship made the critical hits of the battle when two of her 12-inch shells struck the bridge of Tsesarevich, killing the Russian squadron commander, Vice Admiral Wilgelm Vitgeft, two of his staff officers and the ship's quartermaster. The ship's wheel was jammed to port by wreckage and then slowed to a halt which threw the rest of the Russian ships into total confusion. The second-in-command, Rear Admiral Prince Pavel Ukhtomsky, eventually gained control of the rest of the squadron and headed back to Port Arthur.[26] Slightly more than two months later, on 26 October, Asahi struck a mine off Port Arthur while on blockade duty. Severely damaged, she was under repair at Sasebo Naval Arsenal from November 1904 to April 1905.[4]

Battle of Tsushima

At the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905, Asahi again followed the battleship Mikasa into combat, this time against the Second and Third Pacific Squadrons detached from the Baltic Fleet. Mikasa opened fire at the battleship Knyaz Suvorov, the Russian flagship, at 1410, and was joined by Asahi and the armoured cruiser Azuma shortly afterwards. Within an hour the Japanese ships had started a serious fire aboard the Russian ship, badly wounded the fleet commander, Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, knocked out her rear 12-inch gun turret, and jammed Knyaz Suvorov's steering so that she fell out of formation. The Russian ships were concentrating their fire on Mikasa during the early part of the battle and Asahi was not damaged during this time. Tōgō was able to cross the T of the Russian squadrons. Knyaz Suvorov's steering was later repaired, but she blundered between the Japanese and Russian fleets several times later in the battle and was heavily damaged. Asahi seems to have mostly engaged the battleships Borodino and Orel later in the battle although Fuji fired the shots that caused the Borodino's magazines to explode and sink her. She fired more twelve-inch shells, 142, than any other ship during the battle. In total, Asahi was hit six times during the battle, but none of them damaged her in any significant way.[27] While Asahi's casualties are not precisely known, the Japanese only lost 110 men killed and 590 wounded to all causes during the battle.[28] During the battle, Captain W. C. Pakenham, the Royal Navy's official military observer under the Anglo-Japanese Alliance, took notes of the battle's progress from a deck chair on Asahi's exposed quarterdeck. His report confirmed the superiority of Japanese training and tactics and publicized the victory in the West.[4]

Post-war career

In 1908, Asahi was part of the Japanese fleet which escorted the American Great White Fleet through Japanese waters during its round-the-globe voyage.[6] The ship was assigned to the 1st Fleet in 1908 and 1910–11.[23] In 1914, Asahi became a gunnery training ship and in 1917 she was re-armed with Japanese guns replacing her original British-made guns. Also that same year the ship was assigned to the 5th Division of the 3rd Fleet.[23] The following year she became flagship of her division and participated in the Japanese intervention in the Russian Civil War. She escorted troop convoys to the Russian Far East and was guard ship at Kamchatka from January to August 1918. Asahi was reclassified as a first-class coastal defence ship on 1 September 1921[23] and began disarmament in 1922 at Yokosuka in compliance with the terms of the Washington Naval Treaty. The ship was reclassified as a training and submarine depot ship on 1 April 1923 and her disarmament was completed in July of that same year. Her displacement dropped to 11,441 long tons (11,625 t) with the loss of her armour and guns, and her speed was limited to 12 knots (22 km/h; 14 mph).[6]

Asahi began the first stage of her conversion to a submarine salvage ship with the installation of the specialized salvage equipment from February to August 1925.[23] From 1926 to October 1927, the ship's 25 Belleville boilers were replaced with four Kanpon Type RO boilers at Kure Naval Arsenal. One of her two funnels was also removed,[4] and two large lifting frames were installed[6] as part of the second stage of her conversion. The ship conducted experiments in submarine rescue using the old German submarine 0-1 (ex-U-125). In May 1928, Asahi was fitted with a 19 metres (62 ft 4 in) compressed-air aircraft catapult on her forecastle and successfully launched an E2N1 Type 15 seaplane. After repeated accidents, the catapult was replaced by one powered by gunpowder. On the completion of testing in 1928, Asahi was placed in reserve.[4]

In November 1937, after the Marco Polo Bridge Incident that started the Second Sino-Japanese War, Asahi was taken out of reserve, and was used as a transport to land troops in an amphibious landing at Hangzhou Bay. Afterwards the ship began conversion at Kure as a repair ship which was completed on 18 December 1938. Asahi was fitted with dummy wooden main battery fore and aft to resemble an old battleship after her arrival in Shanghai on 29 December. In May 1939 the ship was modified to act as a torpedo depot ship and carried out patrols between 29 May and 7 November 1940. She was transferred to Camranh Bay, French Indochina on 15 November and transported the 11th Base Unit from Kure to Camranh Bay 19 November–7 December 1941.[4]

From 13 March 1942, Asahi was stationed at Singapore, and performed repairs in April on the light cruiser Naka that had been torpedoed by the submarine USS Seawolf off Christmas Island. Departing Singapore for Kure on 22 May, the ship was sighted by the submarine USS Salmon on the night of 25/26 May 1942, 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Cape Paderas, Indochina. Of Salmon's four torpedoes, two hit the ship in her port central boiler room and aft spaces. At 0103, moments after being hit, Asahi sank at 10°00′N 110°00′E / 10°N 110°E / 10; 110Coordinates: 10°00′N 110°00′E / 10°N 110°E / 10; 110. The ship's captain and 582 crewmen survived, although 16 men were killed.[4]


  1. "cwt" is the abbreviation for hundredweight, 12 cwt referring to the weight of the gun.


  1. 敷島の やまと心を 人問わば 朝日ににほう 山ざくら花, (Shikishima-no Yamatogokoro-wo Hito-Towaba Asahi-ni-niwou Yamazakurabana?) by Motoori Norinaga.
  2. Evans & Peattie, p. 15, 57–60
  3. Brook, p. 125
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 Hackett & Kingsepp
  5. 5.0 5.1 Preston, p. 189
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 Jentschura, Jung & Mickel, p. 18
  7. Lengerer 2009, pp. 26, 52
  8. Lengerer 2008, pp. 22, 24, 26
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Lengerer 2008, p. 27
  10. Lengerer 2009, p. 50
  11. Brook, p. 126
  12. Lengerer 2009, p. 26
  13. Friedman, pp. 270–71
  14. Friedman, pp. 275–76
  15. Chesneau & Kolesnik, p. 222
  16. Friedman, p. 114
  17. Lengerer 2009, p. 28
  18. Friedman, pp. 118–19
  19. 19.0 19.1 Campbell, p. 47
  20. Lengerer 2009, p. 25
  21. Forczyk, p. 28
  22. Silverstone, p. 326
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Lengerer 2008, p. 30
  24. Forczyk, pp. 24, 41–44
  25. Forczyk, pp. 45–46
  26. Forczyk, pp. 48–53
  27. Campbell, pp. 128–35, 260, 262
  28. Warner & Warner, p. 519


  • Brook, Peter (1999). Warships for Export: Armstrong Warships 1867 – 1927. Gravesend, Kent, UK: World Ship Society. ISBN 0-905617-89-4. 
  • Campbell, N.J.M. (1978). Preston, Antony. ed. The Battle of Tsu-Shima, Parts 1, 2 and 4. II. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 46–49, 127–35, 258–65. ISBN 0-87021-976-6. 
  • Chesneau, Roger; Kolesnik, Eugene M., eds (1979). Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860–1905. Greenwich, UK: Conway Maritime Press. ISBN 0-8317-0302-4. 
  • Evans, David; Peattie, Mark R. (1997). Kaigun: Strategy, Tactics, and Technology in the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1887-1941. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 0-87021-192-7. 
  • Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. Oxford, UK: Osprey. ISBN 978 1-84603-330-8. 
  • Friedman, Norman (2011). Naval Weapons of World War One. Barnsley, South Yorkshire, UK: Seaforth. ISBN 978-1-84832-100-7. 
  • Hackett, Bob; Kingsepp, Sander (2010). "IJN Repair Ship Asahi: Tabular Record of Movement". Kido Butai. Retrieved 2 August 2012. 
  • Jentschura, Hansgeorg; Jung, Dieter; Mickel, Peter (1977). Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869–1945. Annapolis, Maryland: United States Naval Institute. ISBN 0-87021-893-X. 
  • Lengerer, Hans (September 2008). "Japanese Battleships and Battlecruisers – Part II". In Ahlberg, Lars. pp. 6–32. (subscription required)(contact the editor at for subscription information)
  • Lengerer, Hans (March 2009). "Japanese Battleships and Battlecruisers – Part III". In Ahlberg, Lars. pp. 7–55. (subscription required)
  • Preston, Antony (1972). Battleships of World War I: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Battleships of All Nations 1914–1918. New York: Galahad Books. ISBN 0-88365-300-1. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World's Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-88254-979-0. 
  • Warner, Denis; Warner, Peggy (2002). The Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904–1905 (2nd ed.). London: Frank Cass. ISBN 0-7146-5256-3. 

External links