Dogger Bank Incident, 1904

Contemporary postcard depicting the Russian Second Pacific Squadron firing upon British trawlers. Original believed to be in the public domain.

Location Dogger Bank, Denmark

In October, 1904, Russia was having problems. Japan was doing better than anybody had expected in a War against them, and the Pacific Fleet needed reinforcements. As a result, the Baltic Fleet was deployed to the Far East. Rumors made them believe they had to navigate a minefield while exiting into the North Sea, and that there might be Japanese warships waiting around to attack them. On 21 October, they further compounded the problem by almost provoking the British Empire into entering the War on the side of her ally, Japan. It began when one of the transports reported that they were being attacked by a torpedo boat, actually a passing Swedish ship. Then a fleet of British fishing trawlers were misidentified in the dark as more torpedo boats, and the Russians opened fire. On everything. Not only did they fire on the trawlers, Russian ships fired on each other in the chaos. One trawler was sunk, with two dead and six wounded fishermen, and the Russian cruisers Aurora and Dmitrii Donskoi were damaged with two dead and another wounded. The Russian gunnery was terrible, preventing more casualties in the twenty minutes of firing. Battleship Oryol fired 500 shells with no hits. Russia went on to voluntarily (aka "please don't declare war on us") pay £66,000 in compensation to the fishermen, as the fleet continued on its way to the Pacific. As it turned out Japan didn't need Britain's help anyway, and wiped the sea floor with the Russians at Tsushima the next May.