The Japanese Battleship Fuji

This Week in 1897: A naval foretaste of Japanese ingenuity

The eyes of the world are on Japan after the devastating earthquake and tsunami that hit the country earlier this month. What has come to light, among all the destruction, is the amazing energy of its people.

This attitude has long been recognised and admired by Britain. In a 1897 report, The Engineer marvelled at the speed at which Japan had built up its impressive naval powers: ’It may not be known to all readers of The Engineer that it is within the lifetime of the present generation, or the last quarter of a century, that the Empire of Japan – the Island Kingdom – has placed itself, by the marvellous energy of its ruler and people, well within the ranks of the Great Powers of the civilised world’.

“Sliding ground ways used were 300ft and 400ft respectively “

The article takes a look at Fuji, the first battleship for Japan built by the Thames Ironworks and Shipbuilding company in Blackwall. Its construction followed a 13-year study by the Japanese government into two heavy armament vessels.

Once built, Fuji was the heaviest ship of her class to be sent afloat from a building slip in a dockyard. At a weight of almost 7,500 tonnes, it was on average 2,000 tonnes heavier than preceding battleships. It had a length of 406ft and a breadth reaching 73ft.

’Some facts in connection with her launch will, we think, be interesting,’ said The Engineer. ’Due to her weight, very substantial launching ways and cradle had to be provided. The sliding ground ways used were 300ft and 400ft respectively.’

Fuji became one of six battleships used in the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War. The story of its construction remains a testament to the ingenuity of both British and Japanese engineers.