The little Imperial Russian gunboat Korieits has the distinction of firing the first gun shot of the Russo-Japanese War. This ship and sister, Mandjur, were armed with two eight inch/35 cal, one six inch/35 cal, four 4.2 inch, plus six QF guns. They also had one above water 15-inch torpedo tube. Korieits had a displacement of 1,270 tons and a maximum speed 13.3 knots.
February 8, 1904 saw the Varyag, protected cruiser, and Korieits at anchor in the Korean port of Chemulpho, south of Seoul, 400 miles east of Port Arthur. The Japanese Fleet had planned torpedo attacks on the Russian First Pacific Squadron for the night of February 8-9. Earlier the senior officer, Captain of the Varyag had sought to leave Chemulpho, where he was isolated and rejoin the main fleet at Port Arthur but he was forbidden to leave by the local Russian diplomatic minister. As Admiral Sir Cyprian Bridge, RN, stated in his analysis of the action; "If nothing else can, the result of this prohibition, which sealed the fate of both Russian vessels, ought to show the impolicy of permitting diplomatic officials to control naval movements." Admiral Bridge further stated concerning the dispersal of significant segments of the Russian Pacific Fleet; "It is however, only fair to those authorities (Russian Naval Command) to say that impolitic dispersal of men-of-war in distant seas is usually adopted in deference to the demands of diplomatists and consuls whose ignorance of naval strategic requirements is profound." (The Naval Annual, 1905 at page 124)
On the afternoon of February 8, Korieits took to sea, bound for Port Arthur. She had only steamed three miles when she encountered Japanese Rear Admiral Uriu with his squadron of cruisers and torpedo boats. The Korieits saluted the Japanese flag but the salute was not returned. The cruiser Asama blocked the Korieits from proceeding to open water. With this Korieits cleared for action. The Russians stated that four torpedo boats then attacked and fired three torpedoes. Two went wide and one ran under the gunboat. Korieits fired two shots (the first gun fire of the war) at the Japanese and steamed back to Chemulpho. In late afternoon the Japanese force sent three cruisers and five torpedo boats into the Chemulpho anchorage, where they took up positions around the two Russian vessels. There was no attack on the Russian vessels that night but the next morning the Japanese consul informed the captain of the Varyag that he would be attacked at 4:00 PM that afternoon, unless he left before noon. The Russians raised anchor at 11:45 AM and sailed towards the overwhelming Japanese force. After a 35 minute action the Russians returned to the anchorage. Korieits had not been hit by the Japanese, who had concentrated on Varyag. "The Korieits had already recognized the hopeless character of the struggle in which she was engaged and had steered for the anchorage." (The Naval Annual, 1905 at page 126) The Russians blew up the Korieits with the hull breaking into three parts and the fore part turning upside down.
All photos of the Combrig 1:700 model of the Korieits are from Combrig.