10 SEPTEMBER 1921, Page 20


MILITARY students have had to wait a long time for the com- pletion of the valuable Official History of the Russo-Japanese • Official History (Naval and Military) of the Russo-Japanese War. Vol. III. r San-de-put Mukden, The Sea of Japan.' Prepared by the Historical Section bf the Committee of Imperial Defence. London ; H.M. Stationery Ofilco; with Appendix and Cue of Mare. [5,3 103.1 War, the first two volumes of which appeared about 1910. The third volume was finished and, it seems, actually printed in 1914 when the outbreak of the world war induced the War Office to delay the publication. Readers of this massive volume, which is now issued with a large case of excellent maps, will be inclined to regret that it was not made available as soon as it was ready, for it would have helped to check the exaggerated hopes which were cherished at the outset of the Great War. The Russo-Japanese conflict was the first example of modern warfare on a large scale. Looking back on it now, we can see that it foreshadowed the strategic and tactical surprises of the European struggle. The Battle of Mukden, lasting three weeks, was typical of the modern action, in which the masses involved are so great that a swift decision is im-

possible. It illustrated the extreme difficulty, under modern conditions, of outflanking the enemy or even of converting his retreat into a rout. Marshal Oyama's failure to make Mukden a second Sedan was thought at the time to be due to timidity or lack of energy on the part of some of his generals. Recent experience has shown, however, that a resolute rearguard with artillery and machine-guns can hold off the most deter- mined pursuers. At the close of the Battle of Mukden the Japanese appeared to be encircling the Russians, but they could not close the gap—eight miles wide—in time to prevent the escape of the bulk of General Kuropatkin's forces. The long range of modern field guns makes it necessary for an

adversary engaged in a flank movement to make a wide circuit and thus gives time to his opponent to retreat. Further, the Battle of Mukden emphasized the inefficacy of infantry attacks on entrenched positions. The best divisions in the Japanese

army were launched repeatedly against the Russian centre on the low hills fringing the Sha-ho, and failed to make any impression, despite their cruel losses. The Japanese suffered greatly from the few Russian machine guns, but they were slow to realize the folly of such frontal attacks, nor did European generals profit by the experience of the Japanese. Once or twice the Japanese were able to concentrate their heavy artillery and blast a way for their infantry, but they could not move the big guns quickly over the frozen wastes round Mukden, and they tried vainly to save time by throwing the infantry against entrenched positions held by brave men. It is an open secret that the admirably complete and lucid account of the Battle of Mukden, which fills some five hundred pages and is illustrated from day to day in eighteen very large maps, was the work of Colonel Whitton, who was Secretary of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence before the war, and who is well known for his account of the Battle of the Marne. His comments on Mukden, written before August, 1914, are instructive in themselves and help one to realize how much has been learnt since then. He points out, for example, that if General Kuropatkin had had a few air scouts, he would not have remained from February 19th to February 27th, 1905, in ignorance of the fact that General Nogi's army from Port Arthur, forty thousand strong, was concentrating on his right flank, only fifteen miles from his outposts. If the Russian commander had known of this menace to his right, he would not have detached a large force from that wing and sent it many miles eastward to repulse a feint attack on his left wing. The 1st Siberian Corps, like Erlon's corps on the day of Quatre-Bras and Ligny, was thus condemned to a long and futile march and counter-march, and for the whole of a critical week was out of action. The potentialities of the machine gun were well shown in Manchuria. Again and again Japanese battalions attacking redoubts lost from a third to a half of their numbers, or even more, from machine-gun fire. But it is obvious, from the manner in which the author refers to such incidents, that British military authori- ties in 1914 were by no means convinced of the value of machine guns. He felt it necessary to say :-

" Although it may be urged that these results were largely due to the terrain in the east of the battlefield, which was peculiarly adapted to machine guns in defence, it must be remembered that upon ground of an entirely dissimilar nature machine guns had also played a destructive role at the battle of San-de-pu."

Since then, the oldest general has been converted to a belief in the machine gun, the value of which is now perhaps exaggerated. It may be noted that the author criticizes the Japanese somewhat severely for not pressing the pursuit of the beaten Russians. If he were writing now, he would probably modify that criticism, for the Great War revealed

the extreme- difficulty of following up a retreating foe. The Japanese commander-in-chief showed great daring in his plan of battle, for with forces inferior to those of the Russians in the proportion of three to four he attacked a strongly entrenched enemy and sought to envelop him both from the west and from the east. The Japanese generals exhibited a high degree of initiative and helped one another most loyally, and their troops fought desperately. It may be inferred that, when the Japanese failed to execute movements which seem possible to a student of the map, it was because the troops were utterly exhausted by long days and nights of marching and fighting on the bare plains in bitterly cold weather and could do no more. The Russian troops fought well, but the Russian leading was incredibly bad. General Kuropatkin showed a craven spirit at Liao-yang and the Sha-ho, as the first and second volumes of the work made clear, but at Mukden he tried to shift the responsibility for his inaction on to his subordinates, after making every mistake of which a commander could be guilty. General Rennenkampf was one of the few Russian generals who did their duty. We may be sure that the German General Staff, in planning the war, had studied the Manchurian campaign and counted on the gross inefficiency of the Russian Higher Command, which was shown from the very outset in East Prussia, especially at Tannenberg. In his interesting comments on the siege of Port Arthur the author says that the defence " was a triumphant vindication of the stormproof permanent fort provided with a flanked deep ditch." The performances of the twelve- and fifteen-inch guns at Liege, Namur, Maubeuge, Antwerp, and the many Russian fortresses which were thought to be impregnable have thrown grave doubt, since 1914, on the value of the permanent fort. The destructive power of modern heavy artillery was under- estimated.

The volume includes a long and interesting account of Admiral Togo's great naval victory off Tsushima, with maps and plans which elucidate the course of the action. The writer emphasizes the fact that the victory was gained entirely by the gun, and that the Japanese destroyers, though highly efficient, did very little damage with their torpedoes during the night attacks. Jutland taught the same lesson. The Russian defeat " may fairly be ascribed to weak tactics, poor shooting, and faulty construction," but the writer adds that the underlying cause was " lack of preparation and training for war in time of peace."