A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 4, 1917: Russian Battleship Peresvet is Sunk Off Port Said

Imperial Russian Navy Bttleship Persevet in 1901
This year I will continue my practice of recounting major events in World War I on the centenary of the event. Since 1917 was a key turning point in the Middle East, with major developments in the Palestine and Mesopotamian campaigns and the Arab Revolt, and, before he year was out, the emergence of General Allenby, the end of the Senussi campaign, and, before the year's end, the Balfour Declaration and the publication of Sykes-Picot by the Bolsheviks. In this month of January alone, there were the Battle Of Rafah in Sinai, the recapture of Kut in Mesopotamia by the British, the taking of the port of Wejh in Arabia by the Arab Revolt, and the promotion of Reginald Wingate from Sirdar to Governor-General in Egypt. And that's just January.

My post today is not as important as any of those things. Only four days into the New Year, the Imperial Russian Navy Battleship Peresvet (also transliterated Peresvyet, Peresv'et: Пересвет) was sunk by a mine several miles off Egypt's Port Said.

Now, several Russian warships were in the Mediterranean when the Turks closed the Straits late in 1914, and they joined with the British and French Mediterranean Squadrons, but Peresvet was not one of them. In fact, what it was doing off Port Said is a rather bizarre tale in its own right. She was headed to the Russian White Sea Fleet in the far north, from Asian waters.

Sagami (rear) in Japanese service
Launched in 1898, Peresvet saw action in the Russo-Japanese War. She fought at Port Arthur and in the Battle of the Yellow Sea, as well as the Siege of Port Arthur. When the Russians surrendered at Port Arthur, they scuttled her. Subsequently the Japanese raised her, rearmed her, renamed her Sagami, and used her as a coastal defense ship.

In World War I, Japan and Russia suddenly found themselves on the same side in the war, and in 1916, Japan sold her (back) to Russia. In April 1916, in Vladivostok, she resumed her previous name and was reclassified as an armored cruiser. She then ran aground and had to be refloated. She was assigned to Russia's White Sea Fleet,  She reached Port Said, and put in for repairs. Ten nautical miles off Port Said on January 4, 1917, she hit two mines and sank, with total losses somewhere between 116 and 167. The mines had been laid by the German submarine U-73.

No comments: