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The Robley Browne Diaries, Part 3: Korea, Russia, Japan 1899-1900

Posted by Jack Tannett, on March 9th, 2017

Abstract

Between March and September 1899, the ships of the Royal Navy’s China Station were constantly on the move.  Starting in Hong Kong, they travelled north to Formosa (Taiwan), Northern China, Korea (South and North still united as one country at the time), Russia, and Japan.  These diary entries describe Seoul, Korea, where the city gates were closed  each night; a lonely river in North Korea where Robley got lost on a fishing expedition; a shallow bay in Russia where a British warship was grounded on a rock, and the supreme efforts required to free her;  the early days of Vladivostok where the Siberian railway was under construction; a remote army post in the Sakhalin Islands where Robley treated a sick child belonging to the Commandant; a prison colony where the inmates worked the coal mines; the indigenous Ainu people of Northern Japan; the curio shops of ancient Hiroshima; the sea of lights from fishing boats off the enchanting port of Nagasaki; the brothels of Tokyo; and lots more.

These diaries throw light on this part of the world at a time when it was just being opened up to trade, and there was very little, if any, tourism.  We can see the various nations of the world flexing their muscles through their navies, yet largely all acting in common friendship.

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