The Battle of Port Arthur marked the commencement of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, as both countries sought to expand their territory in China and Korea. Japan saw Russia as a threat to the movement of their troops to mainland Asia and on the evening of 8th February 1904, launched a surprise attack on the strategically important Port Arthur, in Manchuria, where the Russian Pacific Fleet of six battleships, nine armoured cruisers and other destroyers were situated.
The attack was planned by Admiral Togo whose fleet boasted seven battleships, five armoured cruisers, fifteen destroyers and twenty torpedo boats, as well as more cruisers in reserve. At just after midnight on 9th February 1904, ten Japanese destroyers slipped unseen into Port Arthur, launching a torpedo attack, resulting in hits to two of the most powerful Russian battleships Retvizan and Tsesarevich, as well cruiser Pallada. However, none of ships were destroyed and damage to the remainder of the fleet was limited by protective torpedo nets which had been placed in the event of such an attack. After the initial surprise, the Russians soon became fully engaged with searchlights and gunfire and at around 0200, Admiral Togo took the decision to withdraw.
Unaware of the limited success of the attack, Admiral Togo, with the rest of his warships, undertook a renewed attack the following morning, in the hope of finishing off the Russian fleet. Much to their surprise, they were met robustly by prepared Russian warships and shore batteries and were once again forced to withdraw to a safe distance. No ships were lost on either side, but several were damaged, including the Japanese flagship Mikasa. The Russians claimed a victory but their warships remained blockaded in Port Arthur.