Dianawas one of three protected cruisers of the Pallada Class, named after Greek/Roman goddesses. Diana and Pallada were both laid down in December 1895 and the famous Avrora, laid down in June 1897. The first two were completed in 1902 and Avrora in 1903. Displacing 6,657 tons and armed with eight six-inch/45 cal guns Diana was classified as a Cruiser First Rank in the Imperial Russian Navy.
Dianawas part of the First Pacific Squadron based at Port Arthur. The Japanese fleet launched a surprise torpedo attack on the Russian fleet on the night of February 8-9, 1904. The next morning the Japanese engaged the Russian ships with gunfire. Although Diana was not hit in the torpedo attack, she took one hit near the waterline in the morning action but she was repaired in a few days.
Her next significant action occurred on April 12, when Diana was second in line behind Admiral Makarov’s flagship, Petropavlovsk. The Russian force was returning to Port Arthur from a sortie, when Petropavlovsk struck a mine, blew up and went down in under two minutes, taking Admiral Makarov and most of her crew with her. June 23 saw Diana steam out of Port Arthur in another fruitless sortie by the Russian fleet.
On August 10, 1904 the Diana participated in her third sortie from Port Arthur. In an action known as the Battle of the Yellow Sea, running from 1 PM to 8 PM both the Russian flagship, Tsarevitch, and the Japanese flagship, Mikasa were heavily hit., with the Russian commander, Admiral Vithoft being killed. The Russian plan was to break through the Japanese and then to proceed to Vladivostok. When Admiral Vithoft was killed command passed to Rear Admiral Prince Ukhtomsky aboard Peresviet. Prince Ukhtomsky signaled the fleet to "Follow Me" and headed back towards Port Arthur.
Rear Admiral Reitzenstein aboard Askold, commanding the cruisers, hoisted his own "Follow Me’ signal and continued with the breakout. Askold with Novik, Diana and Pallada headed for the weakest spot in the Japanese line. Pallada subsequently turned around and made it back to Port Arthur but the other three made for the open sea past the Japanese. In a twenty minute engagement the Russians broke through the Japanese line and with a speed advantage over the pursuing Japanese, rapidly drew away. Once past the Japanese, the squadron broke up and the cruisers proceeded independently. Askold went to Shanghai, Novik to Kiachow and Diana proceeded to Saigon, where she was interned by the French. Novik was subsequently run to ground in her attempt to reach Vladivostok but Tsarevitch and four destroyers also succeeded in breaking past the Japanese and reached neutral ports. In the end these were the only ships of the First Pacific Squadron at Port Arthur to survive the war under Russian colors.
After the Russo-Japanese War, Diana returned to the Baltic. During World War One Diana was part of the Second Cruiser Squadron but saw little action, unlike the active roles of the cruisers of the First Cruiser Squadron. She was broken up in 1922. (History from Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1860-1905 and The Naval Annual 1905)
Combrig has just released all three cruisers of the Pallada Class.
Title photo is labeled asDiana in the Encyclopedia of the Imperial Russian Fleet but it appears to be a photograph of Avrora.