Japanese cruiser Azuma
Azuma at Portsmouth, 1900
|Ordered:||1896 Fiscal Year|
|Builder:||Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire, Saint-Nazaire, France|
|Laid down:||March 1898|
|Launched:||24 June 1899|
|Completed:||28 July 1900|
|Out of service:||1 October 1927|
|Struck:||15 February 1944|
|Homeport:||Maizuru Naval District|
|Displacement:||9,307 long tons (9,456 t)|
|Length:||131.5 m (431 ft 5 in) w/l|
|Beam:||20.94 m (68 ft 8 in)|
|Draught:||7.21 m (23 ft 8 in)|
|Propulsion:||2 shaft Reciprocating Vertical Triple Expansion (VTE) engines
24 Belleville boilers
17,000 shp (13,000 kW)
1275 tons coal
|Speed:||20 knots (23 mph; 37 km/h)|
|Range:||7,000 nmi (13,000 km) at 10 kn (12 mph; 19 km/h)|
|Armament:||• 4 × 20.3 cm/45 Type 41 naval guns
• 12 × QF 6-inch /40 naval guns
• 12 × QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval guns
• 8 × QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns
• 5 × 457 mm (18.0 in) torpedo tubes
|Armour:||Main belt: 88–170 mm (3.5–6.7 in)
Upper belt: 125 mm (4.9 in)
Deck: 62 mm (2.4 in)
Barbette, Turret, Casemate, Torpedo room: 150 mm (5.9 in)
Conning tower: 75–360 mm (3.0–14.2 in)
Azuma (吾妻?) was an armored cruiser of the Imperial Japanese Navy, designed and built in France. The name Azuma comes from an ancient name for Japan in general, and the Kantō region of eastern Japan in particular. The name is sometime transliterated (archaically) as Adzuma.
Azuma was one six armored cruisers ordered to overseas shipyards after the First Sino-Japanese War as part of the "Six-Six Program" (six battleships-six cruisers) intended to form the backbone of the Imperial Japanese Navy. Almost all of the orders were placed with shipyards in the United Kingdom, but for diplomatic reasons and for the purpose of technical comparison, Azuma was ordered from France and her near sister ship, the Yakumo was ordered from Germany. However, both vessels were armed with British guns, to keep their ammunition compatible with other ships in the fleet.
Azuma was laid down in March 1898, launched on 24 June 1899 and entered service on 28 July 1900. In May 1899 Captain Ogura Byōichirō was sent to France as chief equipping officer, and commanded the vessel on her maiden voyage to Japan, remaining captain until 21 November 1902. 
Although the basic design for all six cruisers in the "Six-Six Program" was essentially the same (utilizing Armstrong-type 8-inch (200 mm) guns and with desired speed of 20–21 knots), each shipyard had considerable freedom to modify the details of the design. In the case of Azuma, the French shipbuilder (Ateliers et Chantiers de la Loire in Saint-Nazaire) used a long, relatively narrow hull with high freeboard, and gun turrets front and back. The boiler room was separated into two compartments, with the aft boiler room located behind the second smoke stack. This gave Azuma a distinctive silhouette, as there was thus a large gap between the first two and the third stack. Azuma used 24 Belleville boilerss, which were considered very advanced for its day. A major innovation was the use of a forced draft device on the smokestacks which enabled the stacks to draw fresh air and exhaust smoke simultaneously. Contemporary British (and German) warships used a separated air inlet located near the deck, which later proved problematic in combat, as there was a tendency to draw fire as well as debris from combat into the engine room. After the lessons of the Russo-Japanese War, this type of forced draft device became standard for most warships.
Azuma used the same scheme of belt armor as Asama with some minor differences. The Harvey armor on the waterline stretched the entire length of the ship, with a height of 2.14 metres (7.0 ft), of which most was normally underwater. Thickness varied from 178 millimetres (7.0 in) amidships to 89 millimetres (3.5 in) at the bow and stern. Deck thickness was 51 millimetres (2.0 in).
The main armament for Azuma was a pair of twin-mounted 20.3 cm/45 Type 41 naval guns of a new design in fore and aft electrically-actuated gun turrets. The turrets were capable of 150-degree rotation left and right, and the guns could be elevated to 30 degrees, giving an effective range of 18,000 meters. Azuma could carry 80 rounds per gun. The secondary side-mounted QF 6-inch /40 naval guns mounted in casemates had a range of 9,140 meters, and could fire five shells per minute (up to seven per minute for a very skilled gun crew). Azuma could carry 120 rounds per gun. Azuma was also equipped with twelve QF 12 pounder 12 cwt naval gun and eight QF 3 pounder Hotchkiss guns, primarily as defense against torpedoes.Azuma also had five 457 mm (18.0 in) torpedo tubes and was equipped with a ram.
However, despite these advancements and innovations, her long hull proved to be a great inconvenience for the Imperial Japanese Navy, as no dry dock yet existed in Japan capable of handling her length, and her Belleville boilers tended to leak steam at high pressures.
Azuma served an important role in the Russo-Japanese War. Azuma, along with five other armored cruisers was part of the IJN 2nd Fleet under Admiral Kamimura Hikonojō. Immediately after the outbreak of war, Azuma participated in Kamimura's unsuccessful raid on the Imperial Russian Navy's anchorage at Port Arthur on 9 February 1904. During the skirmish, she took superficial damage. She participated in the early stages of the Battle of Port Arthur in February, but was reassigned with Kamimura to the task for hunting down the Russian cruiser squadron based out of Vladivostok from March. On 6 March, she participated in the shore bombardment of Vladivostok, and spent the rest of March through July in patrols and unsuccessful pursuit of the Russian squadron in the Sea of Japan and coasts of Korea.
On 14 August 1904, Kamimura's forces finally were able to intercept the Russian cruiser squadron, resulting in the Battle off Ulsan. During this battle, Azuma, assisted in sinking the Russian cruiser Rurik and damaging the Rossia and Gromoboi, taking ten hits in return with only light damage and eight crewmen injured.
Azuma continued patrols of the Korea Strait through February 1905. In an overhaul in early 1905, her 47-mm cannons were upgraded to four additional QF 6-inch /40 naval guns, and the platforms on her masts were removed to improve stability.
Before the Battle of Tsushima on 27 May 1905, Azuma played a crucial role in relaying the position of the Russian fleet from information gathered by reconnaissance ships. During the battle itself, Azuma suffered moderate damage from 15 hits, which demounted her stern battery, killed ten crewmen and wounded 30 others, including a senior officer, and also damaged her steering gear, to the extent that she was forced to withdrawn from the battle for repairs.
After the war, the armored cruisers in the Japanese fleet were rapidly removed from front line service. Azuma was re-assigned to a training role, and due to her large size was used for long distance oceanic navigation training. From December 1912 to April 1913 accompanied the cruiser Soya on a training voyage to Australia. She made another trip from April to August 1914 to Hawaii and to the west coast of North America. In 1917, Azuma was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to return the body of George W. Guthrie, the Ambassador of the United States to Japan, who had died while in office.
World War I
In 1918, during World War I, the Azuma was returned briefly to combat-ready status, but continued to be used as a training vessel and took no part in combat operations. She escorted Iwate on training and goodwill visits to Australia in 1916 and the United States in 1918.
After World War I, Azuma was returned to the Training Fleet and was based out of Maizuru Naval District. From March to July 1919, she accompanied Tokiwa on a training and good-will trip to Australia, and from November to May 1920 accompanied Tokiwa across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.
This was her last voyage. Despite being re-designated a 1st class Coastal Defense Vessel on 1 September 1921, Azuma remained moored to the dock at Maizuru. On 1 October 1927, she was de-rated in status to that of a stationary hulk, used for training by the Imperial Japanese Naval Engineering School. The hulk was stripped of its remaining armaments in 1941.
However, Azuma was not officially removed from the navy list until 15 February 1944. On 15 July 1945, aircraft from the United States Navy TF-38 bombed the hulk and sank it in shallow water. The wreckage was raised and scrapped after the end of the war.
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- Chesneau, Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships, 1860–1905, p. 224.
- Evans, Kaigun, p. 62.
- Kowner, Historical Dictionary of the Russo-Japanese War, p. 269.
- Warner, Peggy (2004). Tide at Sunrise: A History of the Russo-Japanese War, 1904–05. Routledge. p. 200. ISBN 0-7146-8234-9.
- Welles, Benjamin (1997). Sumner Welles: Fdr's Global Strategist : A Biography. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 49. ISBN 0-312-17440-3.