Photos from the Siege of Port Arthur (1904-05)

Harbor view with warships

Battle flags streaming from the main and gaff, the armored cruiser Bayan heads through the narrow Port Arthur harbor mouth for the open sea; behind her in port, the battleships of the First Pacific Squadron are evidently raising steam to follow her in a sortie. This view is taken from the heights east of the city (Golden Hill), where the main defensive batteries were constructed. The peninsula closing the harbor, known as the Tiger's Tail, is directly behind the cruiser; site of the naval base is to the right out of the picture. This may be the sortie to Adm. Makaroff's fiery demise, or to the Battle of the Yellow Sea. Or it could be any of a number of unsung wartime operations. Compare landscape to current photo of the same features and see how the Tiger's Tail got its name. Enlarge picture above.

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The city of Port Arthur (Lüshunkou), a Russian colony on Chinese soil from 1896 on, was the linchpin of Russian imperial power in Manchuria, and the key to its fabulous mineral wealth. In 1894 - 95 Japan had fought China in a short, bloody war and obtained rights to occupy Port Arthur. Thereupon, under the Tsar's intense pressure, Germany, Russia, and France stepped in and excised the territorial concessions from the peace treaty, citing "concern for China's sovereignty." This act of coercion was known as the Tripartite Intervention.

Golden Hill fort, Port Arthur, c.1903Russia soon demonstrated the sincerity of her concern for Chinese sovereignty by moving into Port Arthur herself and attaching it to the Trans-Siberian Railway by a branch line ending at Harbin. Russia then penetrated the surrounding territory and began tapping into its natural resources. The nearby harbor of Dalien was occupied and built up (named Dalny in Russian). Thanks to a nearby coal mine linked by the railway, the colony's industry was largely independent. The port cities were electrified, and the Russian Pacific Squadron's fuel supply was bountiful. Japan well remembered her own bloody battle to gain Port Arthur in 1894, before this plum was reassigned to Russia. Not content with actual possession of the territory, Russia made a practice of poking the Japanese in the eye gratuitously whenever the situation offered. The Tsar had been a committed Japanophobe ever since a deranged assassin made an attempt on his life during a state visit he conducted as tsarevich, in 1889. Attitudes toward the Japanese in his domain showed little understanding, comingling fear and condescension -- the Japanese were commonly called "yellow monkeys" and widely presumed to be subhuman. Fighting a war at such a distance would put an enormous strain on the just-built Trans-Siberian Railway, especially on the sections where the rail line had not been completed yet. Troops and supplies heading east had to be transshipped to the railhead in oxcarts and on foot through the wrath of a Siberian winter. In another sector, tracks were laid across the ice of Lake Baikal during the winter months. In summer, troops had to be ferried across or march around the lake to pick up the line.

So it was a grudge match when Japan went to war with Russia ten years later. At some point Japan's tolerance for being poked in the eye ran out. And on considering, the Japanese reckoned they could take Russia -- or at least, Russia's colonies and forces in the Far East. Japan's war aims were to recapture the coveted port -- a port that the Russians had fortified so heavily it was considered impregnable -- and to run the Russians out of Manchuria, replacing them as imperial masters. Port Arthur thus became the object of one of the first great campaigns of modern, mechanized warfare. In 1904 the Japanese invested, besieged, and captured the strategic fortress and its surrounding railway corridor in mineral-rich Manchuria. They won a resounding victory, but at the expense of nearly half a million casualties.

Click on any thumbnail or the text below it for actual photos and eyewitness illustrations of the monumental siege of Port Arthur.

Click here for a detailed map of Port Arthur, circa 1905. Click here for a brief narrative of the siege.

Harbor view with warships
View of Naval Harbor & Monument Hill. Cruisers Rurik and Varyag in port. For enlarged view, click here.

Russian Commander
Gen. Stoessel

Navy Base Machine Shops

Japanese 11" Howitzer

Outside City
Model of Gun

Japanese Commander
Gen. Nogi

Golden Hill, Site of
Main Forts
- With Retvizan

Russian 229 mm
(9") Battery

Japanese Fleet
Bombarding Forts

Russian Forts

11" Howitzer
Firing on City

View of Naval Base
From Golden Hill

Direct Hit on
Armored Cruiser Bayan

Russian Warships
in Port

Naval Base Before the War
Cruiser Zabiyaka - Naval Chapel

Naval Dockyard

Circa 1903
With Cruiser Varyag

Naval Oil Terminal
in Flames

Russian Warships Sunk
in the East Basin

Sunken Armored
Cruiser Bayan

Mortar Shells
Ready for Assault

Final Assault
on 203-Meter Hill

Defenders After
the Surrender

Drydock & Sunken
Minelayer Amur

Sunken Battleship Pobieda

Sunken Battleship Poltava

Sunken Battleship

Final Assault on 203-Meter Hill: Japanese troops charge through palings and barbed wire. Panoramic Illustration from the Graphic, Dec. 3, 1904.  
Huge enlargement

Panorama of sunken warships at Port Arthur, 1905.

A rather heavily retouched panorama of sunken warships, taken from Golden Hill fairly soon after the surrender.  203-Meter Hill rises behind and to the left of Retvizan. Drydocks are visible on opposite shore, in a zone of devastation that wraps around the base of Monument Hill.   Click for ship identification, or here for enlargement.   Elements of the Japanese salvage fleet are visible at right in the enlargement.

Surrender of Port Arthur

Russian Retreat in Manchuria

Photos of Lüshun Today

These photos were taken by a Russian visitor within the last 8 years.

Monument to
the Fallen

Remains of Fort
on Monument Hill

Anti-personnel Weapons
at the Fort

The Tiger's Tail

Trans-Siberian Railway Route Map shows the entire arena of conflict in Manchuria. Click image to enlarge. Click here to view map in its original layout; here for narrative and photos of Trans-Siberian Railway construction and wartime activity, 1899 - 1905. Click here for a detailed map of Port Arthur, circa 1905.

Relevant Webpages and Sites

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