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Russian battleship Oslyabya
Japanese battleship Suwo 2.jpg
A Japanese postcard of sister ship Pobeda after her capture
Career Russian Navy Ensign
Name: Oslyabya
Namesake: Rodion Oslyabya
Builder: New Admiralty Shipyard, Saint Petersburg
Cost: 11,340,000 rubles
Laid down: 21 November 1895[Note 1]
Launched: 8 November 1898
In service: 1903
Fate: Sunk at the Battle of Tsushima, 27 May 1905
General characteristics
Class & type: Peresvet-class pre-dreadnought battleship
Displacement: 14,408 long tons (14,639 t)
Length: 434 ft 5 in (132.4 m)
Beam: 71 ft 6 in (21.8 m)
Draft: 26 ft (7.925 m)
Installed power: 14,500 ihp (10,813 kW)
30 Belleville boilers
Propulsion: 3 shafts, 3 Vertical triple-expansion steam engines
Speed: 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph)
Range: 6,200 nmi (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
Complement: 27 officers, 744 men
Armament: 2 × 2 – 10 in (254 mm) guns
11 × 1 – 6 inches (152 mm) guns
20 × 1 – 75 mm (3 in) guns
20 × 1 – 47 mm (1.9 in) guns
8 × 1 – 37 mm (1.5 in) guns
5 × 1 – 15 in (381 mm) torpedo tubes
45 mines
Armor: Harvey armor
Belt: 7–9 inches (178–229 mm)
Deck: 2–3 inches (51–76 mm)
Turrets: 9 inches (229 mm)

Oslyabya (Russian: Ослябя) was the second of the three Peresvet-class pre-dreadnought battleships built for the Imperial Russian Navy at the end of the nineteenth century, although construction delays meant that she was the last to be completed. The ship was part of the Second Pacific Squadron sent to the Far East during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05, serving as the flagship of Rear Admiral Baron Dmitry von Fölkersam. Oslyabya was sunk on 27 May 1905 at the Battle of Tsushima, and has the inauspicious distinction of being history's first all-steel battleship to be sunk by naval gunfire alone.[1] Sources differ on the exact number of losses, but over half her crew was lost with the ship.

Design and description

The design of the Peresvet class was inspired by the British second-class battleships of the Centurion class. The British ships were intended to defeat commerce-raiding armored cruisers like the Russian ships Rossia and Rurik and the Peresvet class were designed to support their armored cruisers. This role placed a premium on high speed and long range at the expense of heavy armament and armor.[2]

Oslyabya was 434 feet 5 inches (132.4 m) long overall, had a beam of 71 feet 6 inches (21.79 m) and a draft of 26 feet 3 inches (8.0 m). Designed to displace 12,674 long tons (12,877 t), she was almost 2,000 long tons (2,000 t) overweight and displaced 14,408 long tons (14,639 t). Her crew consisted of 27 officers and 744 enlisted men. The ship was powered by three vertical triple-expansion steam engines using steam generated by 30 Belleville boilers. The engines were rated at 14,500 indicated horsepower (10,800 kW), using forced draught, and designed to reach a top speed of 18 knots (33 km/h; 21 mph). Oslyabya, however, reached a top speed of 18.33 knots (33.95 km/h; 21.09 mph) from 15,051 indicated horsepower (11,224 kW) during her sea trials in September 1902. She carried a maximum of 2,060 long tons (2,090 t) of coal which allowed her to steam for 6,200 nautical miles (11,500 km; 7,100 mi) at a speed of 10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph).[3]

The ship's main battery consisted of four 10-inch (254 mm) guns mounted in two twin-gun turrets, one forward and one aft of the superstructure. The secondary armament consisted of eleven Canet 6-inch (152 mm) quick-firing (QF) guns, mounted in casemates on the sides of the hull and in the bow, underneath the forecastle. A number of smaller guns were carried for defence against torpedo boats. These included twenty 75-millimeter (3.0 in) QF guns, twenty 47-millimeter (1.9 in) Hotchkiss guns and eight 37-millimeter (1.5 in) guns. She was also armed with five 15-inch (381 mm) torpedo tubes, three above water and two submerged. The ship carried 45 mines to be used to protect her anchorage. Oslyabya's waterline armor belt consisted of Harvey armor and was 4–9 inches (102–229 mm) thick. The Krupp cemented armor of her gun turrets had a maximum thickness of 9 in (229 mm) and her deck ranged from 2 to 3 inches (51 to 76 mm) in thickness.[4]


Oslyabya, named for Rodion Oslyabya, a 14th century monk of the Troitse-Sergiyeva Lavra and a hero of the Battle of Kulikovo in 1380,[5] was laid down on 21 November 1895 by the New Admiralty Shipyard in Saint Petersburg and launched on 8 November 1898. Problems at the New Admiralty Shipyard seriously delayed her completion until 1903 at the cost of 11,340,000 rubles. The ship sailed for Port Arthur on 7 August 1903, but Oslyabya ran aground in the Strait of Gibraltar on 21 August and was under repair until November at La Spezia, Italy. The ship was in the Red Sea when the Russo-Japanese War began in February 1904 and she was recalled to join the Baltic Fleet.[6]

Oslyabya was fitted with 4.5-foot (1.4 m) Barr & Stroud rangefinders, telescopic gun sights and Telefunken radio equipment when she arrived back in Saint Petersburg.[7] On 15 October 1904, she set sail for Port Arthur from Libau as von Fölkersams flagship along with the other vessels of the Second Pacific Squadron, under the overall command of Vice Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky.[8] En route to Denmark, the battleship was slightly damaged when the destroyer Buistri accidentally collided with her.[9] When his ships reached the port of Tangier, Morocco, on 28 October, Rozhestvensky ordered his older battleships, under the command of Dmitry von Fölkersam, to go through the Mediterranean and Red Sea to rendezvous with his main force in Madagascar. Rozhestvensky led his squadron, including Oslyabya, down the Atlantic coast of Africa, rounding Cape Horn, and reached the island of Nosy Be off the north-west coast of Madagascar on 9 January 1905 where they remained for two months while Rozhestvensky finalized his coaling arrangements. The combined squadron sailed for Camranh Bay, French Indochina, on 16 March and reached it on almost a month later to await the obsolete ships of the 3rd Pacific Squadron, commanded by Rear Admiral Nikolai Nebogatov. The latter ships reached Camranh Bay on 9 May and the combined force sailed for Vladivostok on 14 May.[10]

Rozhestvensky reorganized his ships into three divisions; the first consisted of the four new Borodino-class battleships commanded by himself, von Fölkersam commanded the second division that consisted of the battleships Oslyabya, Navarin, Sissoi Veliky and the armored cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, and Nebogatov retained his ships as the third division. Von Fölkersam, ill with cancer, died on 26 May and Rozhestvensky decided not to inform the fleet in order to keep morale up. Oslyabya's Captain 1st Rank Vladimir Ber became the commander of the 2nd Division while Nebogatov had no idea that he was now the squadron's defacto second-in-command.[11]

During the Battle of Tsushima on 28 May, Oslyabya led the Second Division of the squadron and was initially the target of two battleships and a pair of armored cruisers when the Japanese opened fire at 14:10. Almost immediately, they began inflicting damage, knocking out the rangefinder, wounding the gunnery officer and severing the cables connecting the guns to the Geisler fire-control system. Other hits shot away the mainmast and knocked out the forward gun turret as well as three of her port 6-inch guns. Splinters from one of the many hits entered her conning tower, killing the quartermaster and wounding most of the men inside. This caused the ship to fall out of line to starboard and she was engaged by six Japanese cruisers at short range. More serious were a number of large-caliber shells that struck along the ship's waterline beginning about 15 minutes into the engagement that caused major flooding; they opened up enough of the ship's bow to the sea that her forward motion forced more and more water into her hull and she began listing to port. Flooding of her starboard forward magazine was ordered in an attempt to counteract the list, but it just added more weight forward and destroyed the ship's stability. Oslyabya rolled over to port until her funnels touched the water around 15:15 and Captain Ber ordered "abandon ship".[12] The ship sank a few minutes later, with her starboard propeller still turning, taking Captain Ber and 470 of her crew with her.[13][Note 2]


  1. All dates used in this article are New Style
  2. Neither Forczyk nor McLaughlin provide figures for the number of survivors, while Campbell says that 385 survivors were rescued by Russian destroyers and 514 men went down with the ship.[1][14]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Forczyk, p. 62
  2. McLaughlin, p. 108
  3. McLaughlin, pp. 107–08, 114
  4. McLaughlin, pp. 107–08, 112–14
  5. Silverstone, p. 380
  6. McLaughlin, pp. 107, 110, 112, 114–15
  7. McLaughlin, p. 166
  8. Forczyk, p. 9
  9. Pleshakov, p. 92
  10. McLaughlin, p. 167
  11. Forczyk, pp. 25, 56
  12. Forczyk, pp. 61–62
  13. McLaughlin, p. 168
  14. Campbell, p. 131


  • Campbell, N.J.M. (1978). Preston, Antony. ed. The Battle of Tsu-Shima, Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4. II. London: Conway Maritime Press. pp. 46–49, 127–35, 186–92, 258–65. ISBN 0-87021-976-6. 
  • Forczyk, Robert (2009). Russian Battleship vs Japanese Battleship, Yellow Sea 1904–05. Oxford, UK: Osprey. ISBN 978 1-84603-330-8. 
  • McLaughlin, Stephen (2003). Russian & Soviet Battleships. Annapolis, Maryland: Naval Institute Press. ISBN 1-55750-481-4. 
  • Pleshakov, Constatine (2002). The Tsar's Last Armada: The Epic Voyage to the Battle of Tsushima. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-05791-8. 
  • Silverstone, Paul H. (1984). Directory of the World's Capital Ships. New York: Hippocrene Books. ISBN 0-88254-979-0. 

Further reading

  • 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. 
  • 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