The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners' Advocate reported on 20th January 1888 that given the uncertain state of diplomatic relations between the European powers, many people fled fearing that the Russian warship was present in Newcastle to start a war; however, those fears were quickly allayed when the goodwill nature of the visit became known.
The Russians didn’t even realise what kind of consternation had been caused in Newcastle by their ship approaching the coast. Citizens who gathered on the shore, were trying to guess the nationality of a ship approaching from the north. Later on, local reporters could not find out which signal had been raised above the Fort. Do we see an English naval ship or is it a German? It is noteworthy, that nobody had guessed that it was a Russian ship until the Rynda entered the port and requested a pilot. The Great Duke and his entourage spent the first night in the Great Northern Hotel.
The following day Newcastle officials drove the Russians in a coach on a sight seeing trip through the city and also climbed the hill to Fort Scratchley, from where there was a panoramic view of the city and its suburbs. (Later a detailed description of the Fort was reported to the Imperial Naval Ministry). A local newspaper wrote that the Russian officers had sent long coded cables to St-Petersburg on that day.
In the end, Fort Scratchley’s heavy guns were not needed, the Russians had a pleasant visit, whilst quietly noting all the salient strategic features available and particularly the coal handling facilities should a later invasion occur and then departed for more social functions in Sydney.
The defences of Newcastle were rightly ordered, built and manned, but the question remains, would they have been able to resist a possible attack by the Russians, an interesting consideration.
His Imperial Royal Majesty’s Ship (HIRMS) Rynda was almost a brand-new vessel, only having seen two years service. She was built in St. Petersburg, in 1885, and had a net register of 1,800 tons and a gross measurement of 3,000 tons. Her dimensions were Length 365 ft; beam 42 ft; and depth 18½ feet. The engines were of the most modern construction, of 3,000 horsepower, and were capable of maintaining a speed of 16 knots per hour on a moderate consumption of coal.
Rynda’s armament consisted of twenty three guns, ten large forty pounders and thirteen of small calibre.
On board HIRMS Rynda - 1888
The Imperial Russian Naval Ensign
....the story in brief