Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya


Wakamiya (Japanese: 若宮丸, later 若宮艦) was a seaplane carrier of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the first Japanese aircraft carrier. She was converted from a transport ship into a seaplane carrier and commissioned in August 1914. She was equipped with four Japanese-built French Maurice Farman seaplanes (powered by Renault 70 hp (52 kW) engines). In September 1914, she conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids.

Japanese seaplane carrier "Wakamiya"
Port of registry
BuilderRobert Duncan and company, Port Glasgow
Launched21 September 1900
CompletedOctober 1901
Noteschartered by Russia during Russo-Japanese War; Captured by Japan on 12 January 1905
Commissioned17 August 1914
  • Takasaki Maru on 14 February 1905[1]
  • Wakamiya Maru on 1 September 1905[2]
  • Wakamiya on 1 June 1915[3]
  • Miscellaneous ship on 14 February 1905
  • Rented to NYK Line on 22 March 1907
  • Returned to IJN and reclassified transport ship on 9 March 1912
  • 2nd class coast defence ship on 1 June 1915
  • Aircraft carrier on 1 April 1920
Stricken1 April 1931
FateSold to Eizo Aoki on 26 November 1931, scrapped in 1932
General characteristics
TypeSeaplane carrier
Displacement7,720 long tons (7,844 t)
Length111.25 m (365 ft 0 in)
Beam14.6 m (47 ft 11 in)
Draught5.8 m (19 ft 0 in)
PropulsionVTE engines, 3 boilers, 1 shaft, 1,590 ihp (1,190 kW)
Speed10 knots (19 km/h; 12 mph)
  • 2 × 3.1 in (79 mm)/40 DP guns
  • 2 × 47 mm AA guns
Aircraft carried4 × Farman MF.11 seaplanes

Early careerEdit

Wakamiya was initially the Russian freighter Lethington, built by Duncan in Port Glasgow, United Kingdom, laid down in 1900 and launched 21 September 1900. She was captured on a voyage from Cardiff to Vladivostok during the Russo-Japanese War near Okinoshima in 1905 by the Japanese torpedo boat TB No. 72. She was acquired by the Japanese government, renamed Takasaki-Maru until given the official name of Wakamiya-Maru on 1 September, and from 1907 was managed as a transport ship by NYK.[4]

In 1913 she was transferred to the Imperial Japanese Navy and converted to a seaplane carrier, being completed on 17 August 1914. She was a 7,720-ton ship, with a complement of 234. She had two seaplanes on deck and two in reserve. They could be lowered onto the water with a crane, whence they would take off, and then be retrieved from the water once their mission was completed.

Siege of TsingtaoEdit

From 5 September 1914, Wakamiya conducted the world's first naval-launched air raids during the first months of the First World War from Kiaochow Bay off Tsingtao, which is located in China. On 6 September 1914 a Farman aircraft launched by Wakamiya attacked the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth and the German gunboat Jaguar in Qiaozhou Bay; neither ship was hit.[5][6] Her seaplanes bombarded German-held land targets (communication centers and command centers) in the Tsingtao peninsula of Shandong province and ships in Qiaozhou Bay from September to 6 November 1914, during the Siege of Tsingtao.

Japanese Maurice Farman seaplane, 1914.

British officers serving in the Battle of Tsingtao commented on the operations of the Wakamiya:

Daily reconnaissances, weather permitting, were made by the Japanese seaplanes, working from the seaplane mother ship. They continued to bring valuable information throughout the siege. The mother ship was fitted with a couple of derricks for hoisting them in and out. During these reconnaissances they were constantly fired at by the German guns mostly with shrapnel, but were never hit. The Japanese airmen usually carried bombs for dropping on the enemy positions.

— Report by Lieut. Commanders G.S.F. Nash and G. Gipps, HMS Triumph, 18 November 1914.[7]
Two of Wakamiya's Maurice Farman seaplanes stationed on land in Tsingtao after 30 September 1914.
Three IJN Maurice Farman seaplanes

On 30 September, Wakamiya struck a German mine and had to be repaired for a week. On this occasion, her seaplanes were transferred on land at Shazikou (沙子口海岸), from where they accomplished further scouting and attack missions:

The seaplane corps and three Henry Farman 100 h.p. seaplanes were, in consequence of the damage done to the mother ship, landed at the Base already established at Laoshan Harbour (to the West of the Bay so nearer to Tsingtao), and this proved eminently satisfactory.

— Report by Lieut. Commanders G.S.F. Nash and G. Gipps of HMS Triumph, 18 November 1914.[7]

Altogether the seaplanes made 49 attacks, dropping 190 bombs on German defenses until the German surrender on 7 November. According to the British Naval Attaché to Tokyo, Captain Hon. Hubert Brand, who had been stationed for three months on Imperial Japanese Navy warships throughout the battle, the bombs used by the seaplanes were about equivalent to 12 pdr. shells.[7]

Later developmentsEdit

Wakamiya was modified as a regular aircraft carrier with a launch platform on the foredeck in April 1920 (when she was renamed Wakamiya-kan 若宮艦). She accomplished in June 1920 the first Japanese take-off from an aircraft carrier. It is thought she had a pioneering role in developing aircraft carrier techniques for the Japanese aircraft carrier Hosho,[8] the first purpose-built aircraft carrier in the world.[9]

She was used as a trials ship after 1924, stricken 1 April 1931, and scrapped in 1932.


  1. ^ 14 February 1905, Ministerial ordinance No. 119, Named capture steamships Okinoshima Maru and two vessels, Minister's Secretariat, Imperial Japanese Navy
  2. ^ 1 September 1905, Notice No. 120, Named capture steamships Wakamiya Maru and six vessels, Minister's Secretariat, Imperial Japanese Navy
  3. ^ 1 June 1915, Notice No. 76, Transport ship Wakamiya Maru renamed warship Wakamiya, Minister's Secretariat, Imperial Japanese Navy
  4. ^ Source NYK Archived 18 May 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Donko, Wilhelm M.: "Österreichs Kriegsmarine in Fernost: Alle Fahrten von Schiffen der k.(u.)k. Kriegsmarine nach Ostasien, Australien und Ozeanien von 1820 bis 1914". (epubli, Berlin, 2013). pp. 4, 156–162, 427.
  6. ^ Layman, R.D. Before the Aircraft Carrier (Naval Institute Press, 1989) does not name the ships and gives the date as 27 November.
  7. ^ a b c "Wakamiya Maru at Tsingtao". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  8. ^ Pike, John. "IJN Wakamiya Aircraft Carrier". Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  9. ^ "The Imperial Japanese Navy was a pioneer in naval aviation, having commissioned the world's first built-from-the-keel-up carrier, the Hosho." Source.


  • "Sabre et pinceau", Christian Polak, Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie Française au Japon.
  • Histories of Naval organizations #8, author: Ministry of the Navy, printed: Hara Shobō (Japan), original plot in January 1940, reprinted in October 1971
  • Monthly Ships of the World, "Kaijinsha". (Japan)
    • No. 481, Special issue Vol. 40, "History of Japanese aircraft carriers", May 1994
    • No. 522, Special issue Vol. 47, "Auxiliary Vessels of the Imperial Japanese Navy", March 1997

External linksEdit

  • IJN Wakayama seaplane carrier
  • World aircraft carrier list: IJN Wakamiya
  • The Wakayama-Maru off Tsingtao
  • Operations of Tsingtao (Japanese)
  • Japanese aviation chronology (Japanese)