While negotiating a tense crisis that had grown over a decade of increasingly close Russian involvement in Manchuria and Korea (see Sino-Japanese War in 1894 and Boxer Rebellion in 1900), 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.
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.
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.
Here we see a Degtyaryov PTRD-41 team practice anti-air gunnery with a single-shot 14.5×114mm antitank gun.
Don’t laugh, it actually worked a couple of times, reportedly.
According to Soviet sources, one Red Army sniper of 82nd Guards Rifle division, Mihail Lysov, shot down a Ju-87 Stuka dive bomber in October 1941, using such a rifle while another Hero sniper of 796th Rifle Division, Vasily Antonov, downed a much larger Ju88 with four rifle shots of a semi-auto Simonov PTRS-41 in July 1942.
The single shot PTRD and 5-round PTRS were popular in the days of thin-walled tanks such as the PzKpfw I which had just 13mm of armor at its thickest point (the 14.5mm round could zip through 40mm of steel at 100 meters), but as tanks got meaner the guns were basically used to snipe trucks and thin-skinned vehicles at ranges out past 1 km.
However, the Soviets used them in their whaling fleet as late as the 1970s
And they still pop up in the Donbass today…
(U.S. Navy Museum Number: 428-GX-USN 1172664) Soviet strike bomber Tupolev Tu-22M (Russian: Туполев Ту-22М; NATO reporting name: Backfire) Photograph received by U.S. Naval Intellegence, July 1978.
Though the type first flew in 1969 and was operational by 1972, it’s existance was not widely known in the West until it popped up over the Baltic on an excercise in 1980 during the international heartburn over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the footage appeared on state-run TV.
With that ole solstice hitting and even colder nights ahead, remember to bundle up and/or keep warm by any means.
Plus this gives me a reason to share these great Molotov images, used to keep random Panzer crews warm while in the grip of General Winter on the road to Moscow during the Great Patriotic War. Warm hugs from the CCCP.
–In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
In the bleak midwinter, long ago.
75 years ago today:
The standard service heavy machinegun in the western world is the vintage 1933 Browning M2. Those who have used them lovingly call this .50-caliber warlord, the “Ma Deuce”. What you may not know is that, on the other side of the fence, the Soviets invented their own equivalent heavy machine gun. Like the ‘Deuce, this Russia design, while officially labeled as the DShK 1938, it is better known to the russ simply as, Dushka.
During World War 1, the German Army introduced the Mauser 13.2mm TuF round, a huge cartridge of more than four inches in length. This elephant round was introduced to kill British tanks that were just then starting to lumber about in No Man’s Land. In 1921 the US Army, with a little help from John Browning, developed the 12.7x99mm BMG round in response, known and loved today as the ’50-cal.’ The Army, however, did not have a gun that fired the round, the 121-pound water-cooled M1921 Heavy Machine Gun, until 1929. At the same time, the German army was secretly developing a new 13mm round that would be used in a new series of heavy aircraft machine guns.
With Soviet military intelligence well aware of both these developments, they pressed for a monster machine gun of their own.
Vasily Degtyaryov, the Russian machine gun maker equivalent of John Browning, was scratching his head in 1930. Over the course of a forty-year career, this Hero of Socialist Labor personally invented no less than seven machine guns of all sizes, from the PPD-40 submachine gun to the PTRD anti-tank rifle. He had studied directly under Vladimir Fyodorov, the man who invented one of the first assault rifles in the world: the Fedorov Avtomat.
Dushka in technical development.
However, as gifted Vasily was, he had an issue with designing a large caliber heavy machine gun. His efforts led to the creation of the DK (Degtyaryov Krupnokalibernyi) in 1930, a huge air-cooled, gas-operated full auto weapon that used the new 12.7x108mm BT-3 round capable of piercing a half-inch or armor plate at 500-meters.
It weighed in at about 75-pounds and fired from a number four, right turn threaded 42.29-inch long barrel with numerous distinctive fins on its surface to dissipate heat. This innovative barrel system saved the gun from having a heavy water jacket to cool it, which made it about 50-pounds lighter than Browning’s M1921 design while firing a slightly larger bullet. A large donut-shaped muzzle break further identifies the weapon. When firing, a pair of spade grips at the rear of the gun provided a control surface. Fed from a 30-round drum atop the receiver, the gun had a nasty of bending cases, jamming, and other issues. In short, the Red Army loved the gun and the ammunition but hated the feed system.
Enter Georgy Shpagin. Twenty years younger than Degtyaryov, Shpagin had also studied under Fyodorov and worked in the same programs as his elders. Shpagin picked up the task of modifying the DK gun while Degtyaryov moved on to other projects. By 1938, he had effectively designed a metal link system of 50-round belts that are pulled left-to-right into the DK gun, spitting out brass and links downward through the receiver. This new gun was labeled the DShK “Krupnokaliberny Pulemet Degtyareva-Shpagina, DShK” (Degtyarev-Shpagin, large caliber) and by 1939 was being produced as part of a new Five Year Plan. This soon became changed in the field to “Dushka,” which is a Russian slang word that roughly means baby or sweetie.
As I covered over at Guns.com, the Russians spent 35 million rubles (about $580K US) on a sprawling monument to the late firearms engineer Mikhail Kalashnikov that was unveiled in Moscow last week. Besides a nearly 30-foot high statue of Kalashnikov, the base of a monument to St. Mikhail, the Orthodox patron of gunsmiths and warriors, contains a representation of several of the engineer’s designs including an AK42 sub gun, AK47, AKM and AK74 rifles, as well as RPK and PK machine guns.
However, as noted by some sharp-eyed firearms enthusiasts and reported by Russian-based Kalashnikov magazine, just under a Krinkov AKS-74U is what appears to be the parts diagram for a German StG-44 Sturmgewehr.
Which some (notably outside of the Motherland) have contended that the AK was based on for decades.
This has caused understandable heartburn in Russia, and, as Russian firearms wonks pile on to disagree with the lineage of the AK– noting it is as Russian as a Florida pirated movie salesman, the offending diagram has been torched out.
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 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, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother
Here we see the modified Bogatyr-class 1st class protected cruiser Ochakov (Очаков) of the Tsarist Navy as she appeared when first commissoned. She went by several different names and flew a myriad of different ensigns in her time, including that of the first Red admiral and the last White Russian general.
Ordered as part of the Imperial Russian Navy’s 8-year building plan, the German yard of AG Vulcan Stettin won the contract to design and build a class of protected cruisers that, for the time of the Spanish-American War, were modern. The basic design was a 6,000-ton ship with a main battery of 152mm guns, a secondary battery of a dozen 75mm guns, six torpedo tubes (four on deck and two submerged), the capability to carry sea mines and make 23-knots. In short, the Tsar’s admiralty described these ships as “a partially armored cruiser, resembling a high-breasted battleship in appearance, and in fact is a linear, lightly armored ship.”
The cruisers of this type were rightly considered the best representatives of the class of medium armor deck cruisers of their day.
Only class-leader Bogatyr was built in Germany. Follow-on vessels Oleg and Vityaz were built in two Russian yards in St Petersburg, intended for the Baltic Fleet, while two others, Kagul (we’ll call her Kagul I, for reasons you will see later) and Ochakov were constructed in the Black Sea– the latter at the Lazarev Admiralty Yard in Sevastopol. As the five cruisers were built in five different yards spread across the continent, it should come as no surprise that they were all slightly different.
Laid down within 14 months of each other, they were envisioned to commission about the same time, however Vityaz was destroyed by fire on the builder’s ways in 1901 and scrapped, leaving the other four ships to enter service between August 1902 and October 1905, with the hero of our tale, Ochakov, named after a city in Mykolaiv region of Ukraine, joining the fleet on 2 October 1902 though, suffering from several defects in her electrical system and boilers, she was still in what could best be described as extended builder’s trails as late as November 1905.
Trapped in the Black Sea due to Ottoman control of the Straits, Ochakov, and Kagul I did not participate in the Russo-Japanese War in 1904-1905 though sister Oleg fought at the Battle of Tsushima and managed to barely escape to be interned in the Philippines while Bogatyr sortied from Vladivostok for commerce raiding during the conflict.
Speaking of the Black Sea Fleet in 1905, something happened that you may have heard of:
Caught up in the anti-Tsarist backlash that resulted from defeat in the Pacific and loss of two out of three Russian fleets, the country was thrown into the what is described as the Russian Revolution of 1905. Some two months after the war ended, one of the darkest chapters of that unsuccessful episode was The Sevastopol Uprising.
There, one Lt. Pyotr Petrovitch Schmidt, from an Odessa-based naval family of German decent (his father fought at Sevastopol during its great siege in the Crimean War), was something of a rabblerouser.
A graduate of the Naval Officers’ Corps in Saint Petersburg (53rd out of 307, class of 1886) he was soon dismissed to the reserves in 1889 after spending much of his time with the frozen Baltic Fleet on the sick list, but rejoined the warm Black Sea Fleet in 1892 only to transfer into the merchant shipping service in 1900, going on to command several steamers. Recalled to the colors for the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, he was given command of the coal transport Irtysh which was sailing for the Pacific to be sunk at Tsushima but before it left Russian waters he was thrown in the brig for insulting a fellow officer but later let out to rejoin his ship. However, by the time the fleet made it to Africa, he was back on the sick list and sent to the Black Sea Fleet to help hold it down for the duration of the war, nominally given command of Torpedo Boat No. 253.
Stripped of most effective officers and NCOs to man the other ill-fated Russian task forces and left with ships full of raw recruits and untalented leaders, the Black Sea Fleet in late 1905 was a powder keg of inefficiency that led to the famous mutiny of the battleship Potemkin in June, which was quickly put down and the ship recaptured, the 42 men considered to be in the thick of it thrown in the brig on the minelayer Prut.
Enter Schmidt, stage left.
He formed the “Union of Officers-Friends of the People in Sevastopol” and in October 1905 led a crowd to the Odessa city prison to protest the arrest of local revolutionaries and began distributing leaflets. This landed him in the jail alongside the other reds, but he was quickly released. He was cashiered at the rank of Captain 2nd Rank.
However, by 11 November, representative crew members from at least seven Black Sea Fleet warships were attending Schmidt’s group’s fiery meetings, with some calling for outright rebellion. The new sailors’ soviet elected him as their leader.
By 13 November, with an estimated 2,000 sailors and longshoremen in mutiny across Odessa, the officers of the Ochakov beat feet and left the mutineers in charge. The leaderless crew signaled that Schmidt should join them and he did, arriving at around 2 p.m. on 14 November with his 16-year-old son in tow and Imperial shoulder boards still on his uniform. Understrength– just 350 crew, with few senior NCOs and no officers remained– the unfinished warship was clearing for an uncertain fight.
Then they went to get the Potemkin‘s locked up leaders:
Having thrown out the Admiral’s flag on Ochakov and gave the signal: “I command the fleet, Schmidt”, with the expectation of immediately attracting the whole squadron to this insurrection, he sent his cutter to the “Prut” in order to release the Potemkin people. There was no resistance. “Ochakov” received the sailors-convicts on board and went around with them the whole squadron. From all the courts, there was a welcome “Hurray.” Several of the ships, including the battleships Potemkin [which had been renamed St. Panteleimon, the patron saint of accidents and loneliness] and Rostislav, raised a red banner; at the latter, however, it only fluttered for a few minutes.
By the morning of the 15th, Schmidt fired off a telegram to Tsar Nicholas II:
“The glorious Black Sea Fleet, sacredly devoted to the people, demands Your Majesty to immediately call a meeting of the Constituent Assembly, and no longer obeys orders of Your ministers. Commander of the Fleet P. Schmidt.”
While he initially had seven other warships answering his signals, and his little red fleet was a sight that no doubt gave every Bolshevik a lump in their throat, they realistically had no chance.
Over the course of the day, one by one the ships took down their red flag, leaving only the cruiser and a destroyer as the only rebels. Gen. Meller-Zakomelsky, the Tsar’s commander ashore, trained every gun in the harbor– including some 12-inch pieces– on the Ochakov and the gunners were loyal. An ultimatum was issued. The battleship Rostislav, with her 254mm guns and Vice Admiral Alexander Krieger aboard, closed to within 900m of the cruiser.
At 1600, the shore batteries and Rostislav opened fire, riddling the cruiser with at least 2 254-mm and 16 152-mm shells. She was able to get six shots off in return, which missed. A fire soon broke out on Ochakov, and Schmidt stopped the fight, lowered the national ensign and red flag, then hoisted a white one. It was all over in 20 minutes. Schmidt and 35 of the sailors thought key to the uprising were carted off in chains.
In March 1906, Schmidt and three men from Ochakov (sailors AI Gladkov, NG Antonenko, Quartermaster S. P. Priknik) were executed by a firing squad on windswept Berezan Island at the entrance of the Dnieper-Bug Estuary by the crew of the gunboat Terets.
Thrown into a shallow grave, it was unmarked until 1924 when the Soviets began erecting monuments to the people’s heroes of 1905. Of the other 300~ survivors of her red crew and the men that were recycled from the Potemkin mutineers, 14 were exiled to Siberia, 103 imprisoned at hard labor at terms several years, and 151 sent to labor battalions to serve the rest of their original enlistment.
As for Ochakov, her magazines flooded to prevent her from going in one quick puff of smoke, she smoldered for two days but did not sink. Towed into the yard for repairs, the blackened ship had 63 shell holes in her hull and superstructure and several compartments with human remains.
To erase her memory from the fleet, the ship was extensively reconstructed and, oddly enough, given the name of her sister– Kagul, which was in turn renamed Pamyat’ Merkuriya in March 1907.
Returning to the fleet, Kagul II as we like to call her (ex-Ochakov), was a much different ship. She proved relatively effective, rebuilt with lessons learned from her plastering by the fleet in 1905 and from against the Japanese.
She also became a test bed for seaplane use for reconnaissance and scouting purposes.
When the Great War came, the two cruisers served as the eyes of the Black Sea Fleet and hunted for the German cruisers Goeben and Breslau, bombarded fired the Turkish coast, covered mine laying expeditions (and themselves laid several of their own mine barriers) and captured or sank a number of Ottoman and later Bulgarian coasters.
After her Great War redemption, again came the revolution.
On 15 March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II abdicated after a week of riots and mutinies by the Imperial Guard in Petrograd. The Baltic Fleet, Northern Fleet and Pacific Squadron followed suit in swearing allegiance to the Provisional Government, as did the Black Sea Fleet. Memories of the 1905 Mutiny in Odessa and Sevastopol were still strong and, at the end of the month with a red flag on her mast once more, Kagul (II) became Ochakov again, her sailor’s committee in charge.
With the decline of the Russian war effort against the Central Powers, and Lenin and Co removing the Provisional Government in November, the country dropped out of the conflict with the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918. Ceded to German/Austrian control as part of the pact, Ochakov was captured by the Germans in May and remained in nominal service to the Kaiser until the British arrived on 24 November, two weeks after the Armistice.
Turned over to the anti-Bolshevik White Army forces, the largely crewless warship became part of Lt. Gen. Anton Denikin’s Armed Forces of the South of Russia, which led to the cruiser being renamed after that force’s early leader, General Lavr Kornilov (who himself was zapped by Red artillery in April 1918).
In 1919, after Denikin’s attack upon Moscow faltered, he fell back to the Black Sea and evacuated the remnants of his forces from Novorossiysk to the Crimea where Lt. Gen. Piotr Wrangel took over the force, our cruiser included.
The endgame of Wrangel’s effort came in November 1920 when 140,000 soldiers, Cossacks, monarchists and general White Russian diaspora left the Crimea on everything that could float. Wrangel, on his yacht Lucullus, led the working ships of the Black Sea Fleet including two battleships, two cruisers (including our subject), 15 destroyers/escorts, and five submarines first to Constantinople and then to Bizerte in French North Africa where they arrived in December.
There, the fleet in being remained for four years under RADM. Mikhail Berens until its disarmament after the recognition by France of the Soviet Union on 29 October 1924, when her old Cross of St. Andrew was hauled down as ownership had been transferred to the Soviets. After inspection by emissaries from Moscow, Ochakov/Kornilov never left Tunisia and was instead sold as scrap in 1933. Some of her guns were later likely used in French coastal defenses.
Of her sisters, Bogatyr was scrapped in Germany in 1922 after the Reds sold her for spare change along with a number of other Baltic Fleet vessels while Oleg was written off by the Bolsheviks as a combat loss 17 June 1919 after she was torpedoed and sunk by Royal Navy speedboat CMB-4 commanded by Captain Augustus Agar at Kronstadt. As for Kagul I (Pamiat’ Merkuria) she was unable to sortie with Wrangel’s last fleet and, captured at Sevastopol, was renamed Komintern and refitted with material salvaged from Bogatyr and Oleg, later fighting the Germans in WWII until her loss in 1942.
The name Ochakov was celebrated in the Soviet Union, going on to grace a Kara-class cruiser in 1969. Based in the Black Sea (where else?) she was decommissioned in 2011 but later sunk as a blockship to piss off the Ukrainians in 2014.
The more things change.
Displacement: 7800 fl
Length: 439 ft. 8 in
Beam: 54 ft. 6 in
Draft: 20 ft. 8 in
2 shaft vertical triple-expansion steam engines
16 Normand-type boilers
Speed: 23 knots
Endurance: 5320 (10) on 1194 tons coal
Complement: 30 officers and 550 sailors
12 × 152mm (6 in/44cal) Obuhovsky/Canet guns (2 twin turrets and 8 single guns), 2160 rounds
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, singles, 3600 rounds
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 Sea mines
10x 130mm/53cal singles
12 × 75mm (3in/48cal) 11-pounder guns, single
2x 64mm landing guns
8 × 47mm Hotchkiss guns, single
2 × 5-barrel 37 mm guns Hotchkiss guns
2 x Maxim machine guns
6 × 17.7 in (450 mm) torpedo tubes
292 M08 sea mines
Deck: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Turrets: 127 mm (5.0 in)
Casemates: 80 mm (3.1 in)
Conning tower: 140 mm (5.5 in)
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