A tanto by Minamoto Hideaki in shirasaya presented to Admiral Sir William Pakenham, Senior Naval Attache to Admiral Togo at The Battle of Tsushima,

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Lot 74
A tanto by Minamoto Hideaki in shirasaya presented to Admiral Sir William Pakenham, Senior Naval Attache to Admiral Togo at The Battle of Tsushima,

Sold for £ 1,792 (US$ 2,220) inc. premium

Asian Art

21 Sep 2004, 10:30 BST

London, Knightsbridge

A tanto by Minamoto Hideaki in shirasaya presented to Admiral Sir William Pakenham, Senior Naval Attache to Admiral Togo at The Battle of Tsushima,
with sayagaki stating:'Zotei Pakenham Taisho kaka/Matsuzaki kaigun taisa'; the blade hirazukuri/fukura-tsuku/suguha hamon with single mekugi-ana and evident 'kesho yasuri' yasurime; the blade inscribed 'Ko koku koro zai Kono Issen'; nagasa 9 inches [23cm.]; inscribed on ura 'Showa Yonen Rokugatsu' [1929], and on omote 'kore Mikasa hodo shumei saku'; in fitted hinoki-wood box with type-written label stating: 'Inscription on the blade: Presented to His Excellency, Admiral Pakenham, by Captain Matsuzaki, I.J.N./The story of this sword forged from the Mikasa's Gun Steel./In order that it may serve as a memorial, this sword has been forged for the use of Naval Officers by the sword maker HIDEAKI MINAMOTO, from a part of the barrel of the right 12" gun of the turret of the MIKASA, which was damaged by an enemy shell, at the battle of the Yellow Sea, on 10th August, 1904, during the Russo-Japanese War.'


  • Provenance: Admiral Pakenham died, unmarried, at San Sebastian on the 28th July, 1933. This tanto is by Pakenham family descent to the present owner.


    Admiral Sir William Christopher ['Paks'] Pakenham, G.C.B., K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O. [born 10th July, 1861] was the second son of Rear-Admiral the Hon. Thomas Pakenham; and the Grandson of the Second Earl of Longford.

    Pakenham entered the Britannia Training Ship as a Naval Cadet, 1874; he served in the MONARCH along the Mediterranean, and was promoted Midshipman in 1876. Two years later, in August 1878, Paks was highly commended for gallantry after jumping into the sea and rescuing a Coxswain who had fallen overboard at Larnaka in Cyprus. Pakenham was promoted Sub-Lieutenant, October 1880, and transferred to the Corvette, CANADA, April 1883, achieving the rank of Lieutenant in October that year. In June 1896, Pakenham was promoted Commander, taking a post with the Naval Intelligence Department from August 1899 to March 1901. He commanded the Sloop, DAPHNE, on the China station before his promotion to Captain in June 1903.

    From April 1904 to May 1906, Paks served as Naval Attache to the Imperial Japanese Navy in Tokyo [Order of the Rising Sun, 1906], suceeding Captain Sir Ernest Troubridge in that important appointment.

    During the Russo-Japanese War of 1905, Pakenham served in Admiral Togo's Flagship, HIJMS MIKASA [The Naval Who's Who 1917, refers] and was present at the historic and decisive Battle of Tsushima, serving in HIJMS ASAHI, 27th May 1905.

    The engagement at Tsushima took place after the Imperial Russian fleet had set sail for Vladivostok from Libau. This enormous voyage, via Vigo, Tangier, Dakar, the Cape of Good Hope and Madagascar, lasted 18 months; the battle which followed, however, effectively destroyed Russia's Baltic Fleet of 49 vessels. Russian losses were said to be 4800 Officers and Men, a catastrophic total which included the sinking of the vessel, Alexander III, with all hands. Japanese losses, by comparison, were three torpedo boats and 117 men.

    It was a defeat of enormous consequence to the tottering Romanovs. Indeed, Orlando Figes emphasises the aftermath of Tsushima in no uncertain terms: 'It was the growing threat of a mutinous revolution at home combined with the prospect of defeat abroad-signalled by the Navy's humiliation at Tsushima in May 1905-which forced the Tsar to sue for peace with Japan' ['A People's Tragedy/The Russian Revolution 1891-1924' by Figes, refers.].

    For Togo and Japan, however, this was a victory which firmly underlined the morale and discipline of the Japanese Imperial Navy. According to 'Fabulous Admirals/And Some Naval Fragments' by Commander Geoffrey L. Lowis [1957], Pakenham 'faultlessly dressed in white tropical uniform.....found himself on the after bridge of the Japanese flagship during the Battle of Tsu-shima. Paks was walking up and down, quietly observing, when a Russian shell exploded nearby splashing...blood over his uniform. Paks ran to the ladder and took himself below.....Paks reappeared again in an even more dazzling clean white uniform! 'He is a brave man', Admiral Togo told the Mikado after the battle.'

    Pakenham's relationship with Togo was presumably good, despite the fact that the Royal Navy had once bombarded Togo's home town of Kagoshima [following the Richardson incident in 1863]. Indeed Togo had studied in England [1871-78] before taking command of the Naniwa-kan during the Sino-Japanese War of 1894. Perhaps Togo's famous 'Z-Flag' signal before Tsushima ['On this battle rests the fate of the Empire; let every man do his utmost'] was discussed with Pakenham who reminded him of Nelson's inspirational signal to the fleet before Trafalgar.

    Whatever the case, Togo and Tsushima entered Japanese Naval lore in much the same way as Nelson and Trafalgar became the cornerstone of the Royal Navy's mythology. Appropriately, therefore, the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich sent a lock of Nelson's hair to the Japanese Naval Academy at Etajima in 1981. This relic now resides in the Museum beside a similar lock of Togo's hair ['Meiji Revisited/The Sites of Victotian Japan' by Dallas Finn, refers].

    As for Pakenham, he achieved further recognition as Fourth Sea Lord of the Admiralty, 1911-1913. He was appointed Aide-de-Camp to King George V, 1912-1913, and served as Rear Admiral Commanding the Third Cruiser Squadron from December 1913 [K.C.B. 31st May, 1916].
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