Category Archives: russia

105mm Echos in the Russian Kurils

In the windswept and remote northern portion of Kuril Islands chain in the Sea of Okhotsk, currently-Russian owned Paramushir (AKA Paramushiro or Paramushiru) was part of the Japanese Empire from 1875 through 1945. During WWII, the local garrison, formed around the Imperial Japanese Army’s 91st Infantry “Future” Division (with six infantry and two artillery battalions), crisscrossing the island with a maze of coastal artillery positions and fortified bunkers, ready to pull an Iwo Jima on invading American (or Soviet) landing forces. Following the American liberation of the Aleutians in 1943, regular bomber air raids stitched up the island.

When the Russkies arrived in force on 18 August 1945, although the surrender of Imperial Japan was announced by Hirohito three days prior, both sides still wanted to fight for the frozen Kurils, and for two weeks, Soviet troops carried out the final opposed landing operation of the war.

Soviet-era painting depicts the landing of Soviet forces on Kurils, where two inexperienced Russian Naval Infantry divisions learned the same bloody lessons the U.S. Marines had already paid for on Tarawa

In the end, the Russians suffered some 1,500 casualties taking Paramushir and nearby Shumshu– which saw the last Japanese tank combat in history.

Soviet anti-tank teams on Shumshu island during the Kuril landing operation. August 1945. While the Degtyaryov PTRD-41 (shown) and Simonov PTRS-41 14.5x114mm anti-tank rifles were hopelessly obsolete by 1942 on the Eastern Front, they could still penetrate 30mm of steel armor at 500 meters, which was more than enough for Japanese Type 97 Chi-Ha/Shinimoto and Type 95 Ha-Go tanks arrayed against them in the Kuriles which boasted 25mm and 12mm, respectively, at their toughest parts.

Today, Paramushir is home to a small Russian settlement (the Japanese locals were deported to Siberia in 1947) and the parts that are not current military bases are often visited by historians of all stripes to poke around and look for WWII sites and objects. One such expedition recently photographed a fairly well-preserved Japanese Type 92 10 cm (105x737R) howitzer still buried in its hillside position.

The long-barreled Type 92 was well-known to U.S. troops, having been the bane of American positions at Corregidor and Henderson Field. The Soviets, meanwhile, had experienced the gun in 1939 at Khalkhin Gol where some guns fired so many shells in such a short period that they reportedly glowed red

Pistol Pete was a type 92 10cm field gun used by IJA at Guadalcanal.

Brezhnev’s Big 7

U.S. Army Training Aid, GTA 30-3-23, September 1981, official caption: “A composite view of Soviet combat equipment known as the Big 7.’ Shown are: 1. A ZSU-23/4 armored anti-aircraft weapon, 2. A T-72 tank, 3. An SA-8 Gecko surface-to-air missile system mounted on a three-axle amphibious vehicle, 4. A Mi-24 HIND-D gunship with one nose machine gun and four anti-tank missiles, 5. A BMP amphibious armored infantry combat vehicle with a 73mm smoothbore gun and an anti-tank missile, 6. An M-1974 122mm self-propelled gun, 7. An M-1973 152mm self-propelled gun.”

DOD Graphic DAST8512646 via the National Archives

Commonly seen at the time in Red Square May Day parades and grainy intel photos from along the Iron Curtain and in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan, these were all top of the line at the time the training aid was circulated and are still encountered around the world today, making this 40-year-old poster still kinda relevant. 

Barbarossa at 80

Some eight decades have passed since what is arguably the largest land invasion in modern times kicked off,
Unternehmen Barbarossa, pitting 3.8 million German, Hungarian, Italian, Finnish, Slovak, and Romanian troops against the scandalously unexpecting Soviet legions of Generalissimo Stalin.

German soldiers crossing Soviet border post ,June 22, 1941, Barbarossa

Safronov Viktor Alekseevich (b. 1932.) – June 22, the border

Red Army anti-tank gun crew wiped out. “They fought for Homeland.”  By G. M. Zykov

Although the wave would eventually break on the outskirts of Moscow– even Napolean had at least captured the vacated Kremlin some 120 years prior– the war on the Eastern Front was far from over and would claim millions on both sides.

Today, Barbarossa is seen through the lens of a myriad of conflicting issues even today in Germany.

Meanwhile, the Russians have a view that nothing is forgiven, or forgotten. 

Ice Station Zebra, Russian 2021 Edition

As part of Russian wargames in the Arctic, three Russki submarines just surfaced from under the ice, a pretty decent show of force for the region and a nice ICE-EX for any nation.

From the Russian Ministry of Defense:

Today, the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin, listened via video conference call to the report of the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Navy, Admiral Nikolai Yevmenov, on the ongoing Umka-21 complex Arctic expedition. Admiral Nikolay Evmenov reported that since March 20, 2021, in the area of ​​the Franz Josef Land archipelago, Alexandra Land island and the adjacent water area covered with continuous ice, under the leadership of the Main Command of the Navy, a comprehensive Arctic expedition “Umka-2021” is being conducted with the participation of the Russian Geographical Society … “For the first time, according to a single concept and plan, a complex of combat training, research and practical measures of various directions is being carried out in the circumpolar regions,” the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy emphasized.

During the expedition, according to Admiral Nikolai Evmenov, 43 events are envisaged, of which 35 have been completed to date, including 10 jointly with the Russian Geographical Society. All activities of the expedition are carried out as planned. The Commander-in-Chief of the Navy said that more than 600 military and civilian personnel and about 200 models of weapons, military and special equipment were involved in the expedition. All planned activities take place in harsh climatic conditions: in the area of ​​the expedition, the average temperature is minus 25-30 degrees Celsius, the thickness of the ice cover is up to 1.5 meters, the wind in gusts reaches 32 meters per second.

Admiral Nikolai Evmenov reported to Vladimir Putin that within the framework of the Arctic expedition, for the first time in the history of the Russian Navy, three nuclear submarines surfaced from under the ice in a limited area with a radius of 300 meters; flight to the polar region with refueling in the air of a pair of MiG-31 fighters with the passage of the geographic point of the North Pole; practical torpedo firing by a nuclear submarine from under the ice, followed by equipping a hole at the torpedo’s ascent point and lifting it to the surface; tactical exercise with a subdivision of the arctic motorized rifle brigade in adverse weather conditions.

“Based on the results of the measures taken, the samples of weapons, military and special equipment participating in military-technical experiments have generally confirmed their tactical and technical characteristics in conditions of high latitudes and low temperatures,” said the commander-in-chief of the Russian Navy. Admiral Nikolai Evmenov also added that the Arctic expeditions of the Navy will continue in the future.

As noted by The Drive, the three subs are all top-shelf boomers: 

[T]wo sails belonging to Delta IV class submarines, also known as Project 667BDRM Delfins. It’s possible that the third boat could be either a member of the Borei class, or the lone Borei-A class submarine presently in service, the Knyaz Vladimir. The Borei and Borei-A designs are Russia’s most advanced ballistic missile submarines.

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 time period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, March 24, 2021: Nicky’s Dangerous Dolphin

Here we see the primitive one-of-a-kind submarine, Delfin of the Imperial Russian Navy cruising around the Krondstadt roadstead in August 1903, proudly flying the St. Andrew’s ensign. A sometimes-cranky little boat in perhaps the world’s most unlucky fleet, she would nonetheless leave a huge mark on naval history.

On 19 December 1900, Lt. Gen Nikolai Kuteinikov, head of shipbuilding for the Russian Admiralty, authorized a commission to begin work towards a submersible torpednyy kater, or torpedo cutter. While negotiations with Irish engineer John Philip Holland’s concern in American to purchase one of his submarine boats proved fruitless as Holland wanted a 10-unit package deal for a whopping $1.9 million, the Russians decided to roll their own. After all, how hard could it be?

Assigned this task was a team under promising young naval architect Ivan Bubnov. Bubnov, just 28 at the time, was fresh from the construction of the new battleship Poltava. As it would turn out, he would end up as Tsarist Russia’s Simon Lake.

Laid down on 5 July 1901 at the Baltic Shipbuilding & Mechanical Plant on Vasilevskiy Island– today’s historic 165-year-old OJSC Baltic Shipyard– the subject of our story was at first dubbed Torpednyy Kater No. 113, then later switching her pennant to Minonosets (destroyer) No. 150 before leaving the slipways.

The design was simple. Made in two symmetrical halves of rounded 8mm nickel steel then riveted and forge welded together over an internal framework, the submersible was just 64 feet long– the same size as USS Holland (SS-1).

Using flat iron plating on the vessel’s top decks for added strength, her fixed periscope-equipped conning tower/wheelhouse doubled as a hatch. Just 113 tons, she had ballast tanks on each end and could take on nine tons of seawater (in 15 minutes) to submerge to a maximum depth of about 150 feet. Obukhov was contracted for the blow system, which included a small electric air compressor that took four hours to refill completely empty air tanks.

Longitudinal section of submarine “Dolphin” via Ivan Grigorievich Bubnov’s Russian submarines: The history of creation and use of, 1834-1923.

He (Russian warships are never referred to as being female) used a French-made Soter-Garle electric motor and 64 Fullmen lead-acid batteries to achieve 7.5-knots submerged for short periods, and a German-made 300hp Daimler gasoline engine to reach 8.5 knots on the surface. Control was through a series of six rudders.

In short, he has been described as “like the USS Holland (SS-1) but worse.”

By September 1902, he was launched, and the following Spring was undergoing trials under the command of Capt. (3rd Rank) Mikhail Beklemishev, a 44-year-old torpedo tactics instructor on the submarine commission who had learned his trade on destroyers in the 1890s. During the construction of the Russian submarine under his command, he had traveled to the U.S. and met with Mr. Holland ostensibly on a shopping trip, and both observed and went to sea on Holland’s early Type 7 submarines at Electric Boat in Groton. Ironic considering Delfin’s description.

All the plankowners were volunteers recruited by Beklemishev.

Accommodations for the 13-member crew were cramped– remember the boat was shorter than a mobile home today and most of the spaces were taken up by machinery. Berthing was via hammocks and seabags strung over the wooden deck in the bow covering the batteries. A small stove for heating canned food and a novel electric samovar provided tea made up the galley. Fresh water amounted to about 40 gallons and the head consisted of a sand-lined closet. Officers’ quarters in the middle of the boat for the skipper and XO amounted to two stuffed sofas and a small dining table, all bolted to the deck around their own O-club cistern. Workstations had wooden stools similarly affixed to the deck.

He was armed with a pair of 1898 pattern 15-inch Whitehead torpedoes held outside of the submarine in a trapeze arrangement designed by Polish engineer Dr. Stefan Drzewiecki. Termed a “drop collar,” Drzewiecki’s girder launching system would become standard on Tsarist submarines through 1918 as well as a few French classes.

French submarine Espadon seen at Cherbourg, France. Note the 17.7-inch torpedo in the Drzewiecki drop collar external launching system on her deck. Also, note her very Delfin-like main hatch with a periscope on top.

They could launch their steel fish with the submarine either submerged or surfaced and were operated via a hellbox inside the sub. The total price of the new submersible was 388,000 gold rubles.

In two rounds of sea trials in the Gulf of Finland during the summer of 1903, Beklemishev and crew were able to spend several days in a row on the ocean and found the craft to perform satisfactorily, both on the surface and submerged.

The occasion of her launch for sea trials. Note the two Whitehead torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars at her stern. Also, Beklemishev is the goateed officer on deck.

The same day, with a better view of the Whiteheads. 

On 16 August, Tsar Nicholas II, aboard his yacht Alexander and with the battleship Slava in escort, reviewed the little submersible torpedo boat and received the details of his trials directly from Beklemishev.

The well-known image of the Tsar (second from center, hands on sword) receiving the report from Beklemishev (far left) aboard Minonosets No. 150 on 16 Aug 1903. Bubnov stands behind the emperor and looks like he is waiting for Beklemishev to say something crazy.

Laid up during the annual Baltic Sea freeze over, Minonosets No. 150 was given several modifications to correct errors observed during her sea trials to include a second periscope as well as redesigned rudders and diving planes.

Lessons learned in her construction and operation were used by Bubnov to create a larger, 100-foot submarine from the Minonosets No. 150 design– the six-boat kerosene/electric Kasatka (killer whale) class– which had four drop collared torpedoes. To compare with foreign types, the Admiralty purchased six 137-ton boats with bottoming wheels from Simon Lake (Osetr-class), three 209-ton subs from Krupp in Germany (Karp, Karas, and Kambala), a gifted midget sub from Krupp (the trailerable 40-foot Forel) and seven 105-ton boats from Mr. Holland (Som-class). Beklemishev was pulled from command and placed in charge of what was effectively the first Russian submariner school. Whereas the Russians only had their sole domestic-made boat in 1903, within a year they had more than two dozen soon on the way from multiple sources.

On May 31, 1904, all Russian destroyer submarines were given names by order of the Tsar, and “Minonosets No. 150” was christened Delfin.

When the ice melted, Delfin was ready for fleet operations but looked slightly different.

Note the second periscope

During regular operations in a rapidly expanding specialty branch, Delfin was used increasingly as a training boat, and on a practice dive while at the shipyard in June 1904, she went to the bottom under the command of LT. Anatoly Cherkasov along with 37 men and, tragically, remained there due to an issue with an improperly closed hatch, filling the sub’s interior with seawater except for a two-foot air bubble at the top of the boat. When finally rescued, Cherkasov and 23 of his crew had perished with the young officer voluntarily giving up his place to allow others to survive on the increasingly fetid air.

The first Russian submariners to be buried as heroes, they would not be the last. Amazingly, the survivors all elected to remain in the branch.

The grievous loss led the Russians to develop some of the world’s first submarine rescue tactics and vessels, including the rescue ship Volkhov, ordered in 1911 (which still, amazingly, endures as the Kommuna in Black Sea Fleet today.)

Raised and repaired, Delfin fired test torpedoes at a target hulk in October and, along with seven other small submarines, were hauled out of the water, fitted to railcars, and shipped via the single track Trans-Siberian Railway some 4,060 miles to the Siberian Flotilla’s base in Vladivostok as a pitched war was on with the Japanese in the Pacific.

Russian submarines on railcars to Vladivostok, 1904. The closest to the photo is Nalim/Burbot, a Kasatka-class boat. Four Kasatkas, notably just larger refinements to the Delfin’s design, were sent to the Pacific along with Delfin and two Holland-produced Som-class boats. 

The trip included a break at Lake Baikal where, as the spur around the world’s deepest freshwater body of water was not complete, they had to be transferred to a ferry to cross to the other side. The sight of submarines on a ferry crossing a lake in Siberia must have been a sight.

By 23 December 1904, Delfin arrived at Vladivostok and, once put in the water through a hole chopped in the iced-in harbor, made a test dive in the Pacific on 12 February. Two days later, along with the Holland-produced Som, he made a cautious combat patrol under the ice to the sea and soon was venturing further out to as far as 120 miles offshore, later operating with Kasatka as well.

Imperial Russian Submarines Delfin and Kasatka prepared to go out to sea for a patrol against the Japanese.

In all, by May, he spent 17 days at sea including eight on patrol. Together, Delfin, Som, and Kasatka reportedly came across two blockading Japanese destroyers 70 miles out and, attempted to get close enough to fire a torpedo volley– the Whiteheads only had a range of 1,500 yards– but were unable to due to the disparity in speed.

Speaking of the first submarine war in the Pacific, the Japanese ordered five of Mr. Holland’s boats in the summer of 1904, and quietly– so as not to flout American neutrality too much– they were constructed, dismantled, shipped from Connecticut to Seattle by rail and then, under the supervision of Arthur Leopold Busch, shipped to Japan for reassembly at the Yokosuka Naval Arsenal. However, the Japanese Holland boats weren’t ready for combat until after the end of the war.

Holland-built No 1 Class Submarine No.2 pictured at Yokosuka Naval Arsenal on May 1st 1905

Delfin’s war was cut short when, on 5 May, he suffered a gasoline explosion in port that singed crewmembers and popped 29 rivets. The smokey submariners were able to escape before he sank (for the second time in two years). Raised, he needed three months of repairs ashore before she was able to take to the water again.

Imperial Russian Submarine Delfin raised after sinking On May the 5th 1905,

The next Spring, on 11 March 1906, acting on behalf of the Tsar, the Minister of the Sea, Admiral Alexei Birilev decreed that Russia’s submersible “destroyers” were actually submarines and finally listed on the naval rolls as such.

Delfin would spend the next decade in the Far East, becoming the granddaddy of the Pacific Submarine Division. There she underwent a regular cycle of summertime cruises followed by winter lay-ups sans batteries and to keep the hull out of the ice. Each spring, she would receive additional equipment and improvements, making her much less spartan and much more survivable. Notably, she would suffer at least two other fires in her service they were quickly contained. In 1910, he performed a role of a torpedo testing craft, firing no less than 43 fish that summer while submerged.

Russian Siberian Military Flotilla, Ulysses Bay 1908, submarine Delfin (far left) along with submarines Kasatka, Skat, Nalim, Sheremetev, Osyotr, Kefal, Paltus, Bychok or Plotva, with the destroyer Grozovoy offshore. 

In August 1914, with the Great War upon the world, Delfin would take on war shot torpedoes and, along with the other subs of the Siberian Flotilla, would undertake fruitless combat patrols with a weather eye peeled for German and Austrian vessels.

Deflin’s 1914 Jane’s listing as part of the Russian Siberian Flotilla. Note the “Bubnoff” reference. The Russians entered the Great War with over 40 submarines, one of the world’s largest users

In March 1916, with the Kaiser’s wolves long cleared from the Far East except for the occasional surface raider, it was decided to ship Delfin from frozen Vladivostok to equally frigid Archangel in the White Sea, to be used in the defense of Kola Bay. Packed on railcars as far as Kotlas, he was transferred to barges on the Dvina River in June to take up to Archangel. Damaged in transport, he was not repaired and successfully placed in the water at her new homeport until September.

Badly damaged in a storm in April 1917, the commander of the Northern Fleet sidelined Delfin in favor of a new American-built Amerikanskiy Golland (Holland)-class submarine that was soon to arrive in port. Used briefly for training, Delfin was stricken from the fleet’s list in August 1917.

Later transferred to the local White Sea merchant fleet, he would be repurposed to a shift-lifting pontoon for salvage work, and then, on 16 March 1932, it was ordered by the Council of Labor and Defense Commissars that she be scrapped.

Epilogue

Delfin today is remembered in several pieces of maritime art.

As for his fathers, submarine designer Bubnov would design no less than 32 subs for the Tsar including the successful Akula and Bars classes, with the latter seeing service in both world wars. He would also lend his expertise to the Gangut-class battleships, which would cover themselves in glory and endure into the 1950s.

I.G. Bubnov near to submarine Akula on the dock of Baltic factory

Made a Major General, Bubnov was ushered out of the design bureau with the fall of the Tsar but never left St. Petersburg, dying in the city’s Typhus epidemic in 1919 during the Civil War at the ripe old age of 47. The Soviets later named two merchant ships after him in the 1970s and 80s.

Beklemishev, Delfin’s first and most successful skipper, remained with the fleet until 1910, retiring as a Major General in charge of diving and submarine training. After teaching at various universities in the capital, he was appointed to the shipbuilding commission during the Great War, a position he was surprisingly able to keep for a while even after the Reds took over, even though he was arrested several times. Comrade Beklemishev retired for good in 1931 and passed away five years later in St. Petersburg, err Leningrad, and his grave was lost during the siege of the city in WWII. Both his son and grandson would go on to be Soviet merchant officers of some renowned, with the latter having a rescue tug named in his honor.

Speaking of honors and rescues, the grave of Delfin’s lost 24 submariners remain at Smolensk Orthodox Cemetery on Vasilevskiy Island in St. Petersburg, not too far away from that of Bubnov, who is celebrated today and has his likeness on several stamps and institutions.

Since 1996, a new holiday, the “Day of the Submariner” has been a national occasion. Implemented by order No. 253 of Admiral of the Fleet Felix Nikolayevich Gromov the “Day of the Submariner” is celebrated annually on 19 March, citing the 1906 order given by Adm. Birilev adding the term to the fleet and changing the submersible “destroyers” into official submarines, of which the Russians have had several hundred since then.

Last week, on the 115th anniversary of Birilev’s order, the Russian Navy, submarine vets, and their families held services across the country, including at the graves of the Delfin’s crew and the monument for the lost submariners of the Kursk, a more recent disaster.

Specs:

Via ‘“Submarines of the Tsarist Navy” (Spassky, I. D., Semyonov, V. P., Polmar, Norman), an excellent English primer to early Russian subs. 

Displacement: 113 tons surfaced; 126 tons submerged
Length: 64 ft
Beam: 11 ft
Draught: 9 ft 6 in
Propulsion: 1 shaft petrol / electric, 300 hp/120 hp
Speed:
10 knots surfaced; 6 knots submerged after 1910.
Complement: 22 officers and men after 1910
Armament:
2 external 15 in torpedoes in Drzewiecki drop collars.

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Echos of the Tsar: 1er REC at 100

The French Army’s 1er Régiment Étranger de Cavalerie (1er REC) was created on 8 March 1921 at Sousse in Tunisia. An important and historic trading post and waypoint, at the time the city was small, numbering just 25,000 inhabitants, most of whom were French colonials, Maltese, and a large contingent of exiled White Russians.

Speaking of which, the new mounted cavalry unit, the first in the French Foreign Legion, contained a large number of skilled horsemen who learned their trade in the Tsar’s Cossack and Horse Guard units and had, until very recently, still plied it under the banners of counter-revolutionary warlords such as Kaledin, Kransov, and Mamontov.

An undated photo of members of the 2nd Gorsko-Mozdoksky Regiment of the Terek Cossacks. Note the M91 Cossack Model carbine, placing the time frame into the early 1900s at least. 

In all, of 1er REC’s inaugural draft of 156 troopers, 128 were Russians. As many were former officers and nobles, the unit soon gained the nickname “Royal Etranger.” The regiment was soon balanced out by former out of work cavalrymen from Austria, Germany, and Hungary, which surely led to some interesting Friday nights once the wine was broken out.

The unit would soon see use in Syria and Morocco as traditional cavalry and by the late 1930s would trade in their horse flesh for armored cars and light tanks. Equipped after the Torch Landings by the U.S., the reinvigorated unit would help liberate metropolitan France in 1944 and take the war to the Germans in 1945, the first time 1er REC operated in Europe. They earned battle honors for actions in Colmar and Stuttgart. 

Post-war was far from the outbreak of peace for the Legion, and 1er REC was heavily involved in Indochina for nine hard-bitten years before coming back to open rebellion in Algeria in 1954.

1er Régiment étranger de cavalerie in Indochina

M8 Greyhound of 1REC, Indochina

Once France quit North Africa, they moved to France in 1967 and today remain the Legion’s only dedicated armored unit, using 105mm cannon-equipped AMX 10 RC 6×6 fighting vehicles and based (when not on campaign) at Camp de Carpiagne in Aubagne.

1er REC AMX 10 RCs making it rain with their 105mm guns, Nov 2018

In the 1980s they served in Chad against the Libyans, took fire along U.S. Marines in Beirut, then raced into Western Iraq in Desert Storm, policed the Former Yugoslavia, and have been heavily involved in both Afghanistan and more recently the unending French nightmare in Mali.

Their motto is “Nec Pluribus Impar” (Like no other)

1REC always used horsehair plumes, on their lances, an Ottoman tradition

Fast Torpedo Boats on a Cold February Night

Some 117 years ago today, similarly over a Monday night/Tuesday morning, a Japanese force under ADM Togo conducted a pre-emptive strike on the Russian fleet at anchor in Port Arthur– without a declaration of war.

“The Japanese torpedo destroyers, the Asagiri and Hayadori, attacking the Russian Men-of-war.” Chromolithograph print showing Japanese torpedo boats sinking Russian battleships. From The real illustration of the Japano-Russian War. No. 3, published April 1904. LOC LC-DIG-jpd-02520

Using a force of 10 destroyers, the first Japanese torpedos were in the water at 00:28 on the snowy Tuesday morning of 9 February 1904 and the force withdrew from the harbor by 02:00. Of the 16 torps fired, just a few hit their targets, damaging the pre-dreadnoughts Retvizan and the Tsesarevich and the protected cruiser Pallada— all of which were returned to duty in a few weeks.

Related: Combat Gallery Sunday: The Martial Art of Watanabe Nobukazu

“The destruction of Russ[i]an torpede [sic] destroyers by Japanese torpede destroyers at Port Arthur — the illustration of the war between Japan and Russia (no. 5).” Woodblock by Ryōzō Tanaka. Published April 1904. LOC LC-DIG-jpd-02531

The night engagement and a delusory surface action the next morning likewise was unspectacular, resulting in a total of about 100-150 dead on each side. Though tactically ineffective, Togo did achieve surprise on the Russian bear and the fleet at Port Arthur never managed to leave the harbor successfully during the resulting war, which proved disastrous for the Tsar.

Ghosts of Torpedo Tubes Past

Alternatively described by the Soviets/Russians as a “submarine chaser” or a “frigate” the vintage Udaloy I-class destroyer Marshal [Boris] Shaposhnikov (BPK 543) was commissioned the same year that young upstart Gorbachev was named General Secretary of the CPSU and had been ordered while Brezhnev was still around.

The 8,000-ton Shaposhnikov recently emerged from a three-year modernization that included the installation of 16 huge vertical-launched Kalibr cruise missiles to augment his (Russian warships are always masculine) Uran anti-ship missiles and Kinzhal SAMs. Assigned to the Pacific Fleet, Shaposhnikov just pulled off a complete live-fire test of all systems in the waters of the Sea of ​​Japan.

The below shows not only the missiles, 100mm AK-190 main gun, and AK-630 CIWS going loud but has a great view of the distinctive trainable four-pack 21-inch torpedo tubes, reminiscent of old-school WWII era tubes.

I guess if it ain’t broke…

Just three Udaloys are in fleet service with the Russians today although several others are in reserve with at least two of those sidelined ships– Admiral Levchenko and Admiral Chabanenko— expected to be reworked to the same standard as Shaposhnikov.

By comparison, the oldest American Tico, USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), is still almost two years newer than Shaposhnikov and is expected to head off to red lead row very soon.

The Saga of Russian Broomhandles

Just $25 fully outfitted! Deal!

Designed by the Feederle brothers in conjunction with Paul Mauser, over a million DWM Construktion 96 autoloading pistols– in addition to their M712 Schnellfeuer machine pistol brothers as well as unlicenced Spanish Astra/Royal/Azul and Chinese boxcannon clones– were crafted between 1896 and 1945. While never fully adopted by their home country, “Broomhandle” Mausers circled the world and have been seen in nearly every conflict large and small since the days of the Boer War (where a young Winston Churchill carried his London-bought “ripper” of a pistol during his work as a correspondent) and the Boxer rebellion.

Available on the commercial market in Imperial Russia for almost 20 years before the Great War ended importation, the C96 was a favorite for Russian officers, who had to buy their own sidearms and sword.

During the Russian Civil War, this love grew rabid as high-ranking Bolsheviks loved the big, flashy German-made automatic.

Red Guards of the Vulkan factory in Petrograd dressed in their Sunday best. Note the officer in the second row with his C96

Soviet commissars with C96 Mausers

Hell, they were even present (along with Browning FN 1900s, Nagant revolvers, and M1911 pistols) at the Romanov extermination. 

One favored user of the C96 was a four-time knight of St. George, former Imperial Dragoons Sgt. Maj. Semyon Budyonny, the impressively bewhiskered Red commander of the Konarmiya, the Bolshevik’s feared 1st Cavalry Army during the Russian Civil War and Russo-Polish War.

This guy

Reds of “Budyonny’s Cavalry Army” (Konarmia) the key Bolshevik fire brigade of the Russo-Polish War. Note the mix of French Adrian helmets, Cossack shapskas, and Trotsky Budenovka caps for headgear. Also, note the Cossack at the left is wearing the 1909 pattern officer’s web gear to include a trench whistle near his left armpit. As pre-Civil War Cossack officers in the Konarmia were rare, this officer has likely had an interesting tale– though notably, he has ditched his shoulder boards.

“Proletarians, to Horse Russian!” Soviet Republic. c. 1919 recruiting poster for Budyonnys Red Cavalry Konarmia

Budyonny was presented an engraved C96 in honor of his wartime service in 1921, and it is maintained in the Russian Army Museum, where it was placed after his death in 1973.

Nonetheless, the gun remained popular with Soviet officers into WWII, showing up occasionally with those who undoubtedly remembered the status symbol of 1918-20.

Russian Soviet Cossacks watering their horses in the Elbe river 1945. Note the distinctive Mauser C96 Broomhandle pistol holster on the Cossack colonel’s belt, which has been bedazzled. As he looks to be in his 50s, it is possible he dated to the old Konarmia days, or at least inherited it from someone who did. 

In addition, Spetnaz was schooled in the use of the vintage C96 during the Cold War, as the Broomhandle was expected to be encountered on the ground locally in the course of their operations in Asia and Africa on hearts and minds missions to support those in international brotherhood. 

Soviet Spetsnaz Special Operations in training 1980s C96 Mauser Broomhandle

No longer Fearless

Here we see the Project 956 (Sovremenny-class) destroyer Bezboyaznennyy (Fearless) arriving at the breakers to be turned into shveynyye igly, or sewing needles in the Russian naval parlance.

Laid down 8 January 1987 at built by Severnaya Verf 190 St. Petersburg, Bezboyaznennyy served with the Soviet/Russian Pacific Fleet from 1990 until 2002 when she was decommissioned. It had been thought that she would be refurbished and returned to service, after all, she had only served on active duty for about a decade, but it looks like she is in very poor shape indeed, and that will not be the case.

A big, almost cruiser-sized tin can, the 8,500-ton Sovremennys were Moscow’s answer to the Spruance-class with the bonus of toting big carrier-killing SS-N-22 Sunburn AShMs.

Some 21 were completed.

The Russians still have at least six Sovremennys on active service, one (Bespokoynyy) as a floating museum in St. Petersberg, and two others– Nastoychivyy and Burnyy— formerly in mothballs, being refitted to rejoin the fleet.

The Chinese also have four variants on their own.

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