British Naval Heritage in Micronesia:
The heavy coastal defense guns on the Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands can stem from a number of sources:
From that little general information there is available, it appears as if the guns of the southern battery on the western coast of Mile stem from Japanese manufacture, while other guns may stem from British sources. Both batteries on Taroa are of British manufacture, as is the southern battery on the east coast of Wotje. The battery on the north coasts of Wotje could stem from Japanese gun foundries.
Let us look into those issues in turn:
As a result of the Sino-Japanese war the Japanese navy decided to step up
ordering ships from what was at the time the country with the most advanced
navy and the most advanced dockyards: the United Kingdom. The ship building
programme had already begun a couple of years earlier, but was substantially
intensified following the conflict, with the order of four battleships. Before these orders were placed with British shipyards, Japan had ordered ships from France.
"about 1887 Japan definitely decided to draw all her Q.F. guns, 6 in. or 4.7in., from Elswick, and all heavy guns from Canet. Krupp's pieces were discarded. This resolution was adhered to until 1902-03, so far as Elswick was concerned, but Canet guns were given up some years ago. Elswick guns were, in 1890, shipped to France for the Isukushima and her sisterships. At present (1904) new guns are of the Vickers model" (Jane 1904:73).
Table 4 summarises the battleships built in British dockyards on Japanese orders. In addition, to these, ships were built by a dockyard in Stettin (cruiser Yakumo) and a yard in St.Nazaire (Azuma). In addition, several ships were built in the Japanese dockyard at Yokosuka following European designs (such as the Suma). Six-inch guns were also installed on some protected cruisers of the improved Suma class, namely the Niitak and the Tsushima, both launched in 1902 and in the Otawa, laid down in 1903. The vessels carried six 6 inch each (Jane 1904:212). None of these guns were installed on the Takasago, Kasagi and Chitose, all built in the same period.
|Completed||March 1899||April 1899||Sept 1900||31-Mar-1901|
|12" 40 cal||--||--||--||--|
|8" ? cal||4||4||4||4|
|6" QF 40 cal||14||14||14||14|
|6" QF 45cal||--||--||--||--|
|3 pdr QF||12||12||12||12|
|2.5 pdr QF||7||7||7||7|
|4.7" QF 45 cal||--||--||--||--|
The Mikasa sunk at her moorings during the night 11/12 November 1905, following an ammunition and torpedo explosion. The vessel was raised on 7 August 1906 and repaired. The guns were removed and replaced with Japanese clones.
The last capital ship to be built outside of Japan was the Kongo, a battlecruiser built by Vickers & Sons at Barrow and launched in 1914. A sister ship, the Hiei, was built in Japan after British plans and using British gun mountings (Jentschura et al. 1977:33).--The Kongo was implicated in a bribery scandal, not uncommon in armament sales at the time--nor today for that matter. It appears that two Japanese admirals, Admiral Matusmoto and Admiral Fujii, had been convicted of accepting bribes in connection with the Kongo and the Hiei, the former from the Japanese firm Mitsui Bussan Kaisha (for the Hiei contract) and the latter from Vickers (for the Kongo contract). (Scott 1962:252).
The United Kingdom's shipbuilding programme on behalf of the Imperial Japanese Navy has to be seen on the background of a large scale commercial naval building programme British naval dock yards undertook between 1890 and the beginning of World War I. Not counting construction for the British Navy, as well as for the British colonies, dependencies and dominions (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and so on), British yards, mainly Elswick, but also Vickers, Laird and Yarrow, built over two dozen fully equipped major fighting vessels--battleships or armoured cruisers--for the navies of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Rumania, and even Russia.[Note 1] Further, British Navy vessels were sold to Russia,[Note 2] and outdated warships of other countries were traded widely, which led to further proliferation of British-manufactured armament to Ecuador and Uruguay.[Note 3]In some cases British naval yards laid down ships on mere speculation for future sales. A case in point is the Chacabaco, laid down by Elswick in 1898 and finally sold to the Chilean Navy in 1902 (Jane 1990: 304). In addition, British ordnance companies outfitted vessels for the navies of Greece, Italy and Spain.[Note 4] Only the navies of the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Turkey, Holland and several Scandinavian countries did not obtain naval units or armament from British yards.
|Launched||31 Mar 1896||28 Feb 1896||1-Nov-1898||27-Jun-1899||13-Mar-1899||8-Nov-1900||22-Mar-1905||4-Jul-1905|
|Disarmed||1922||1922||1922||1922||April 1922||April 1922|
|Shipyard||Thames||Armstrong &||Thames||Armstrong &||John Brown,||Vickers||Vickers,||Armstrong|
|Armament by||Elswick||Elswick||Elswick||Elswick||Elswick||Armstrong-Whitworth||Armstrong-Whitworth||Armstrong- Whitworth|
|12" 40 cal||4||4||4 MkIX||4 MkIX||4MkIX||4 MkIX||4||4|
|6" QF 50 cal||--||--||--||12||12|
|6" QF 40 cal||10||10||--||--||--||--||--||--|
|6" QF 45cal||--||--||14||14||14||14||--||--|
|3 pdr QF||20||20||6||6||6||6||3||3|
|2.5 pdr QF||4||4||6||6||6||6||--||--|
|4.7" QF 45 cal||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
This major export business came to a halt after World War I when the naval race had accelerated to such a degree that a reduction of naval powers had been proposed by a number of nations.
The section on Japanese Ordnance factories by Jane's assessment of the fighting ships of the world's navies states that guns were manufactured at the Kure Naval Yard and by the Muroran Steel Works, Hokkaido, which was licensed to built Armstrong's and Vickers types of guns. A treatise on the Japanese Navy in a British Naval Annual mentions that the Japanese manufactured guns mainly at the Kure Naval Yard, but also at the Osaka Naval Yard. The guns manufactured at Osaka were for coastal defense purposes only.
An analysis of the gun foundry markings found on the barrels of weapons captured during World War II, showed that the Japanese also manufactured guns at the Sasebo Naval Yard, and the Yasu Manufacturing Co.
Following the construction of the Fuji and the Yashima in the United Kingdom, armament manufactured by the Elswick Ordnance Company was used exclusively for a time. In addition, "a factory for the construction of Elswick guns was established in Japan," (Jane 1904:313) which led to a proliferation of Elswick clones in Japan. The pieces manufactured in Japan were the 12-inch 40 calibre, the 8-inch 40-calibre and the 6-inch 40-calibre gun as well as the smaller 4.7-inch 45-calibre gun. All were quick firing guns with a breech loading mechanism. In 1902/03, however, the Japanese navy experimented with the Vickers 6-inch 50 calibre gun, which was then adopted as the standard naval weapon (Jane 1904:313).In 1904 contracts were awarded to W.G.Armstrong, Whitworth & Co. Ltd. (Jane 1904:225). The 1904 programme, consisting of the Kashima and the Katori, both built at Elswick used Armstrong-Whitworth guns, among them the new 6-inch 47 calibre gun, mounted in a recoil cradle on a central pivot.
The Japanese built their own versions of the British ships, such as the Satsuma, launched 15 November 1906 and completed 25 March 1910. This vessel was equipped, among others, with 8 6-inch-45 cal QF guns, which were most likely copies of British guns. It seems that Armstrong's, Whitworth & Co had a considerable interest in the Siekosho Steel Company (established in 1900), which acted as the sole agent for Armstrong's, and hence E.O.C., armament sales to Japan from 1911 to 1924. (pers. comm R.Jackson, Chief Archivist Tyne Archives. May 1991).
A slightly different version is given in the (official) history of Vickers Company (Scott 1962), In 1907 the Japanese government invited British, American and continental European companies to enter into arrangements with Japanese financiers for the founding of a large ordnance factory. Vickers and Armstrong's accepted the invitation and founded the Japanese Steel Works with a capital of [[sterling]] 1 million, which was increased in 1909 to [[sterling]] 1.5 million. In this company Vickers and Armstrong's each held [[sterling]] 375,000, while Japanese interests controlled the remaining 50%. The Japanese Steel Works had received all Japanese government orders (Scott 1962:85). This joint venture of Vickers was only one of many of that company. Prior to that, Vickers had opened a number of subsidiary companies with some Vickers capital in Spain, Italy, Japan, Russia and Turkey, manufacturing Vickers gun models in license (Scott 1962:84-87). The Armstrong's Ordnance Company also operated a subsidiary in Italy, manufacturing 6-inch 33, 36 and 43 calibre weapons (Jane 1990:203).
Between 1907 and 1916 the Japanese Navy also ordered a total of seven coastal submarines from Vickers Ltd., and had one such boat also built in license at Kawasaki Iron Works (Jentschura et al. 1977:160-161). Between 1918 and 1927 another 18 submarines were built by Mitsubishi Iron Works in Kobe, again under license of Vickers Ltd. (Jentschura et al. 1977:162-163).
In January 1917, the Japanese Steel Works was appointed the sole agents in Japan for the sales for both Vickers and Armstrong's armaments and commercial products. The Steel Works had proven successful and had acquired a number of subsidiaries, including Wanishi Iron Works. The capital of the parent company had increased to [[sterling]]4 million following investments from Mitsui. Thus Vickers and Armstrong's held now 25% of the capital compared to 50% they had held in 1907.
What did the involvement of the Vickers entail? Apart from making available the technology and the patents, as well as furnishing some capital to set up the companies, the British also provided technical assistance. according to a contemporary source of the mid-1920s Vickers had British experts working on the shop floor of the Muroran gun factory (United States Journal of the Artillery 40, 1923, 256). In 1911 Vickers had a display of its Japan-made weapons at the Japan-British Trade Exhibition (Anonymous 1911).
The increasing naval race between Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as the Japanese activities in China, meant that Japan spent more and more money on its armed forces. In 1921 about 50% of the Japanese budget consisted of military expenditure (Buckely 1970). This obviously suited the British arms manufacturers.
Following the Washington Naval Limitations Treaty of 1922 the Japanese refused to renew the arrangement of the sales agreements. Both Vickers and Armstrong's incurred losses in form of cancelled contracts. By 1929 Vickers and Armstrong's, now merged, tried to pull out of the Japanese business which had made little profit at first and by that time incurred losses. The sale of the British interests was also favoured by the Japanese government, but the sale was drawn out until 1935 (Scott 1962:146-148; 190).
In the light of the above, then, British designed armament was sold to Japan from 1898 to 1914 in the form of completely outfitted vessels, and from 1904 (1907) in the form of patents and technology for steelworks, partially owned by Japanese interests. Although direct sales of vessels ended with World War I, and although business in British armament sales declined following the signing of the Washington Treaty on Limitation of Naval Tonnage, the formal links between the British Armament Industries (Vickers and Armstrong's, later merged) continued until the mid-1930s.
During this time real transfer of goods, as well as technologies occurred.
In the years leading up to World War I the European powers of Germany and the United Kingdom, as well as France, were caught up in an unabated race to develop ever larger navies with ever larger warships. To a lesser degree this was also true for the United States and Japan. The end of World War I and the scrapping of the German Fleet saw the U.S. as one of the largest navies in the world, second only to that of the United Kingdom. After a number of bilateral and trilateral talks, a peace conference was called in Washington to discuss the limitation of the naval powers of Japan, France, Great Britain, the United States and Italy. After long negotiations the following ratio of naval tonnage was approved (Washington Treaty 1922)
Of the vessels not sunk or broken up, "all guns and essential parts of guns, fire control tops and revolving parts of all barbettes and turrets" had to be removed and landed (Washington Treaty 1922 Chapter II, Part 2, Article III, section b, subsection 1). The naval limitation treaty did not require Japan to destroy its guns. As a result the Japanese navy was obliged to disarm and strike a number of vessels. Stricken were: Fuji, Shikishima, Asahi, Mikasa, Kashima, Katori (see table 4).
But even before the official striking off the register, some armament had been taken off during modernisation. In 1910 the Fuji was reboilered and on that occasion the four 12-inch 40-calibre guns were replaced by Japanese model 41 12-inch 40-calibre guns (Jentschura et al. 1977:16). The same replacements happened on the Asahi in 1917 (Jentschura et al. 1977:18).
In addition, Japan took the opportunity given by the Washington Treaty, to upgrade the weapons carried on those vessels which were retained. In 1924 most British and other 6 -inch guns were replaced by Japanese manufacture type 41 6-inch 40-calibre or 6-inch 45-calibre guns (see the rearmament data in Jentschura et al. 1977). The excess number of navy turret mounted guns were released to the Imperial Army after the Washington conference, thus inheriting "modern" 8-inch, 10-inch, 12-inch and 15-inch guns 9USAFPAC 1946:63).
A number of Russian vessels were captured or raised after Tsushima and fitted with Japanese 6-inch 45 calibre Armstrong clones between 1906 and 1908. Some of them, such as the Tango (ex-Poltava) or the Sagami (ex-Presviet) were returned to Russia in 1916 (Jentschura 1977:19). The Russian vessel Poltava, built 1894, was sunk at Port Arthur in 1904, salved by the Japanese in 1905, renamed Tango and refitted with new weapons. It was retroceded to Russia by Japan in March 1916 (Jane 1990:237), leading to the proliferation of British-designed Japanese guns to Russian hands.
Although not yet traced, the rearmament of some vessels, such as the Iwami (ex-Orel) meant that the Russian 6-inch guns were taken off (12 6-inch 45-calibre in this case) and replaced by Japanese weapons of the same or larger calibre. These Russian gun barrels presumably also went into storage [Note 5].
A great number of other 6-inch guns of the 30-calibre, 40-calibre and especially 45-calibre designs were used by the Imperial Japanese Navy as coastal defense guns in Japan proper. It would appear that the IJA used only Krupp guns for that purpose.
While the compilation of guns in table 6 shows the 6-inch guns which had been taken from floating units, the table does not encompass the guns manufactured for coastal defense purposes only.
Comparing the minimum number of 6-inch guns salved from the naval units listed in table 6 with the reported number of guns emplaced in japan, the Aleutians and Micronesia, it becomes clear that not all guns have been used, even if we assume a 50% "mortality" rate. At the time of writing the fate of the remaining guns could not be cleared up.
The Pacific area seems to be replete with "Singapore guns": A Singapore origin has been claimed for the 8-inch guns on Betio, Tarawa, Kiribati (Hinz 1990a:42); for the 7-inch guns on Wake I. (Cohen 1983:107); where also 8" guns from HongKong are said to have been installed (ibid.: 95), for the 120 and 140mm guns on Kiska (Dowell 1976:90, 96; 327), the 127mm dual-purpose guns on Kwajalein (Craib 1989) As this assertion is not uncommon, let us look into this matter in greater detail. Some of the guns are claimed to be "Singapore guns" are very obviously Japanese guns, such as the 127mm dual purpose guns of Kwajalein. Some guns, however, may well come from British bases, such as Singapore or Hong Kong. Before we discuss the origin, let us look at these bases in question and the history behind them.
By the end of 1941 and the beginning of 1942 the Japanese forces overran a number of U.S. and British military bases and possessions
It can be imagined that the Allied Forces were worried about the fate of these weapons and the prospect of future redeployment into other (sub)theatres of war. On the other hand, it could easily be appreciated that the Japanese themselves were in the need to maintain the defense of the newly captured bases in the case of an Allied counter attack.
The Allied Forces conducted a number of intelligence missions, where and when possible, to ascertain the possible removal of such weapons. A number of reports has been produced discussing the presence of such weapons in the bases in question.
However, the Singapore guns alluded to, are 16-inch (406mm) guns (Campbell 1985:24) while the heaviest guns seen in the Marshall Islands are 6-inch coastal defense guns. Therefore the use of the Singapore guns in the Marshall Islands can be ruled out. However, there is still potential that some of the guns were taken from Singapore and relocated to the Pacific bases then still under construction.
Due to the changed political situation in the far east and the Pacific following the redistribution of the former German possessions after World War I, the British Government decided to develop Singapore into the principal South east Asian and Pacific Naval Base. The development plan was modified many times over due to budget and policy changes, as well as due to the Washington Naval Limitations Treaty. It finally ahead in 1924 and was completed in 1930, but was constantly modified until 1939. The existing naval defense had been created in 1909-1911 and comprised of five 9.2-inch and four 6-inch guns (Neidpath 1981:83).
The 1924 development plan saw the deployment of 12-inch and 15-inch naval guns as the main long range armament and 7.5-inch or 9.2-inch as well as 4.7-inch and 6-inch guns as the medium-range and inshore defenses (McIntyre 1979:71).
The 1935 modified plan saw eight pairs of 6-inch guns emplaced (McIntyre 1979:71). In 1937 another pair had been added (Neidham 1981:244). As far as the large guns were concerned, the British Navy had plenty of surplus of guns of 1914-1918 vintage at its disposal (McIntyre 1979:72). We have, at present, no data on the vintage of all of the replacement guns of the 6-inch calibre. In view of the surplus of World War I guns we can assume that the 1909-1911 guns had been replaced by newer models. This appears reasonable as the base was developed almost from scratch. A volume commemorating the 100th year of the Singapore Artillery asserts that the 6-inch guns installed at Singapore as part of the mid-1930s modifications were models Mark XXIV, made in 1938 (Singapore Artillery 1988:35).
In view of these data, then, it is unlikely that the guns emplaced in the Japanese bases in the Marshall Islands come from Singapore. In addition, Denfeld quoting a Japanese source (Namaguchi & Akijama 1942), asserts that none of the guns captured at Singapore were shipped to the Central Pacific.
The main source of confusion seems to be the fact that the Japanese used guns of British manufacture, such as the 8-inch Vickers-Armstrong naval guns, as well as Japanese copies of British guns. As outlined above, the land-based coastal defense guns used by both the Japanese and the allied forces are commonly naval guns taken from decommissioned warships. The two heavy coastal defence guns encountered in the Marshall Islands are 140mm and 150mm guns. The breech block numbers of most guns could be read and traced to give evidence on the origin of the guns.
However, based on the dates of the ships' launching and completion (tables 4, 5), as well as the gun numbers and dates punched into the breech block, some conjectures can be made. The dated guns fall into three age groups: 1898 (Taroa), 1901 (Wotje) and 1905 (Mile). The following is based on the assumption that the gun barrels would be cast after the ship was laid down, but before or around the time it was launched, as the guns needed to be completed and test fired. Based on these assumptions, then, the 1898 gun barrels can belong to the following vessels: cruisers Asama, Tokiwa, the battleship Shikishima , and possibly the cruiser Izumo. The 1901 gun barrels could conceivably come from the battleship Mikasa, launched on 8 November 1900 and completed on 1 March 1902. No other ship would fit that bill. The British built 1905 gun barrels most likely come from either of the two "Elswick battleships", the Kashima and the Katori .
The Japanese gun markings have not been documented in any detail in the U.S., Australian or British literature. Some of the Japanese markings on the gun seem to indicate the arsenal where the gun or the gun mount were manufactured. The known naval arsenals with their Kanji characters and their anchor identification are shown in table 5.
|Navy, Garrison Troops|
|Kure Naval Arsenal|| || |
|Osaka Naval Arsenal|
|Sasebo Naval Arsenal|| ||
|Yokosuka Naval Arsenal|| || |
|British Naval Anchor (for comparison)|| |
In the late 1880s the Japanese military development saw an increasing utilisation of British naval armament, first in the form of British-manufactured 6' and 4.7' quick firing guns, later in form of entire warships being ordered at British shipyards. These ships played an important role in the defeat of the Russian navy at Port Arthur in 1905. At the same time as the Japanese imported armament and ships, a Japanese armament and ship building industry was developed. At first British guns were built in license, later copied and modified. By the same token, British-designed ships were copied.
Over time, Japan rose to be a major naval power in the Pacific, which at the outbreak of World War I was able to annex the German Colonies north of the Equator.
Following the Treaty of Paris in 1919 and the Washington Naval Limitation Treaty of 1922 a balance of naval tonnage between Japan, the U.S.A, the United Kingdom and France had been established, which necessitated Japan to reduce its surface fleet. Old or outmoded vessels were disarmed, struck from the naval register and often scrapped. In addition, a number of other vessels were disarmed and converted.
These guns, most of which were of British manufacture, or which were clones of British guns, were then not destroyed, but kept in storage for future use.
With the defense development of the Mandated Territory of Micronesia, Japan was in need of armament for its coastal defenses. At this time, ten, the weaponry stored in the Naval Arsenals of Kure, Sasebo and Yokosuka was pulled out, tested and shipped to Micronesia.
It was preferred to ship guns of the same type and manufacture together, so that one battery was uniform in its composition. Only at a later time in the war, when the stocks seem to have become depleted, were guns of mixed origins installed, such as at the Japanese base on Kiska in the Aleutian Islands.
These guns served as coastal defense installations until the end of the Pacific War. Despite heavy aerial bombardment by U.S. forces, especially after Majuro and Kwajalein had fallen to U.S. forces, some of the 6 inch guns remained operational until surrender.
|Production||British||Japanese||Russian||Italian||U.S.A. Stored/In Hand|
|select from the following...|
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