Commander Kyosuke Eto, IJN

One of the men lost aboard HMS Vanguard was a liason officer from the Imperial Japanese Navy: Commander Kyosuke Eto (written "Ito" in British records of the period). His grandson, Susumu Eto, has generously provided the following information and photographs to honour the memory of his grandfather. "Sam" Eto and his family visited the Orkneys in 1984, and were taken to the site of Vanguard's wreck. Commander Eto was promoted to Captain posthumously.

Commander Eto, IJN

(click here for the Japanese version of the following)

Kyosuke Eto, born on April 7, 1881, in the small village of Gonohe, Aomori Prefecture, at the northernmost tip of Japan's mainland, as the first son of a local sake brewer, was supposed to succeed the house business as the natural course under the primogeniture system, which was a common custom in Japan those days.

When he was a junior high school student, he told his father that he wanted to change to a high school in Tokyo, to serve in the Navy in the future. He is said to have fasted for three days and succeeded in persuading his stubbornly objecting father.

After graduating from the Naval Academy in 1900, his major achievement in his seventeen- year career came when he was only 24 years old, in the "Battle of Japan Sea" against Russia in 1905, Japan's first major war against world powers after Meiji restoration of 1867. He was the commander of the aft turret of the battleship HIJMS Azuma, and contributed a great deal to Japan's sweeping victory. He was conferred his first decoration later. I keep his handwritten draft of a speech he made afterward on the battle, vividly depicting the tense atmosphere of the historical gun battle.

The next major success was in the WWI, when he worked as staff officer of Navy's Heavy Artillery in the battle against Germany in Tsingtao, China. The battle also turned out to be a decisive victory for Japan and the artillery made an outstanding contribution to it.

He was a family man, a rare type in Japan's post- feudal era. Last year, before we sold a house and property, which had been bought by Kyosuke before his departure for the U.K. in 1916, I found, among grandmother's articles left behind, bundles of letters and postcards mailed to her during the one year stay in the U.K. I also found his written will, precisely and thoughtfully directing the survivors on the distribution of the assets he had inherited from his late father as the eldest son. A donation was made on his will in the name of my mother, then five years old, to the village of Gonohe.

In 1917 (probably Saturday the 23rd June, according to Brian Budge's research) Commander Eto was presented to King George V:


The handwritten remarks on the photo in Japanese, besides the HM the King shaking hands with Kyosuke, say:
Gentleman second from the left: Captain Dick, who died with HMS Vanguard. Gentleman third from the left: Admiral Sturdee.

Personal History of Kyosuke Eto

1881 April 7 Born in Gonohe, Aomori Prefecture, Japan
1898 February Enroll in the Naval Academy (Age 17)
1900 February Enlist in the Imperial Japanese Navy (Age 19)
1902 September Promoted to 2 nd Sub-Lieutenant
1903 September Promoted to Sub-Lieutenant

Served as a Judge at Kure Naval Base Court Martial

1904 February On board HIJMS Yugiri (First Class Destroyer), 2 nd Fleet (Age 23)
. November On board HIJMS Azuma (Armoured Cruiser) Divisional Officer, 2 nd Fleet
1905 January Promoted to Lieutenant (Age 24)
. May Served in the Battle of Japan Sea
1906 February Promoted to Staff Officer 1 st Fleet
April Decoration, Order of the Golden Kite, 5 th Class

Decoration, Order of the Rising Sun, 5 th Sun

1907 September Naval Staff College (Age 26)

Naval Gunnery School

1908 September Promoted to Chief Gunner, HIJMS Otowa (Protected Cruiser)
1910 December Promoted to Lieutenant Commander (Age 29)

Promoted to Chief Gunner, HIJMS Kashima (Training Cruiser)

1911 June Married to Kiyo Takahashi (Age 30)
November Faculty, Naval Gunnery School
1912 May Decoration, The 4 th Order of the Secret Treasure
1913 December Promoted to Chief Gunner, HIJMS Kurama (Battle-cruiser)
1914 March Joined the Bureau of Naval Affairs (Age 33)
. September Promoted to Staff Officer, Heavy Artillery, 2 nd Fleet
. October Served in the Battle against Germany at Tsingtao, China
. December Joined the Naval Bureau of Education
1915 July Decoration, The Order of the Golden Kite, 4 th Class

Decoration, The Order of the Rising Sun, 4 th Class

. December Promoted to Commander

Join the Naval Bureau of Technology

1916 May Transfer to the U.K. via Siberia
. August 15 On board HMS Vanguard
1917 July 9 Killed aboard HMS Vanguard, Scapa Flow, Scotland (Age 36)

Posthumous Conferment:

There is a small display about Commander Eto in the Gonohe Library:


Last Updated: 16 June, 2002.

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