Daily Event for April 30, 2014

Disaster struck the Imperial Japanese Navy on April 30, 1908 off Magong Island in the Peecadores Islands when the magazine in the protected cruiser Matsushima exploded. The tragedy occurred at 0408 during a training cruise with her sister ships Hashidate and Itsukushima, the squadron was under the overall command of Admiral Yoshimatsu. The ship sank in the shallow water until only the bridge was visible, entombed inside the ship were over 200 Japanese officers and men, including the commanding officer Yashiro Yoshimori.

Matsushima had been built in France in 1891 and was not of a very good design. She mounted only one large gun, a Canet 12.6" and twelve 4.7" along with some smaller guns. She also carried four 14" torpedo tubes. The ship only displaced 4,217 tons and was in every respect a poor fighting ship as was demonstrated during the Battle of Yalu on Sept. 17, 1894. The incredibly slow rate of fire, one round every five minutes, made her ineffective in battle.

Nevertheless after the triumph of the Japanese over the Russians in 1905, the Japanese navy had earned the respect of the world's major sea powers. And when word of the disaster reached the western world messages of condolence were received in Tokyo from around the world. This message from United States President Theodore Roosevelt was sent to the Emperor Mutsuhito;

"The American people are deeply shocked and grieved by the terrible naval disaster which has just caused the loss of the lives of so many gallant officers and men of the Japanese navy. The President, for his own part, expresses profound sympathy and concern."

In total about 207 men were lost, including twenty-three officers and thirty-three cadets. The survivors, about one hundred forty-one, were picked up by her sister ships Hashidate and Itsukushima.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock

Drawing of Matsushima.

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