For defensive purposes nature and art have combined to render the place exceedingly strong. Ranges of hills, varying from 300 feet to 1500 feet, surround the port and town almost completely, offering scope for fortification of the most formidable character, advantages which, as far as construction goes, have been well utilized, massive and lofty stone forts occupying every point of advantage. I believe they are of German construction. They bristle with heavy Krupp and Nordenfeldt guns. The elevation on the coast varies from eighty feet to 410 feet. The land defences, though newer than those seaward, are less powerful; the heaviest guns, of 21 and 24 centimetre, are in the latter. Everywhere the forts are supplemented by trenches, rifle-pits, and open redoubts or walled camps.
Such is, or was, Port Arthur, and when we remember how the Turks held Plevna, an open town until the earthworks were hastily thrown up round it, for months against all the force Russia could bring against it, one cannot but feel amazement that a place so powerful should so easily have fallen. Properly defended, it should be unreducible by anything but famine. The coast defences are impregnable, and those inland, though more susceptible of attack, should not fall before anything short of overwhelming superiority of force. I should like to have seen the 20,000 men whom the Japanese led against it take that fortress in forty-eight hours from Osman Pacha’s army. The Mikado’s generals, however, had formed a perfectly just estimate of their own powers as against those of the enemy. In fact, a third of their force could have taken Port Arthur from the ridiculous soldiers who held it.
The garrison in ordinary times amounts to 7000 men, but before the Japanese attack it had been increased to nearly 20,000. This is inadequate; 30,000 men at least should occupy the fortress in time of war, and 40,000 would not in my opinion be too many.
The chief man in the place when I was there was the Taotai, or governor, Kung, a brother, I have heard, of the Ambassador to England. His office, I believe, is civil; the military chiefs were Generals Tsung and Ju. The soldiers, who appeared to range about everywhere pretty much at their own discretion, were an uncouth, rough lot, with very little of the smartness of dress and bearing which we associate with the military character. Everywhere was a most portentous display