The last Amerikansky Golland
A century ago today, the last American submarine operated by the Russians was put into service.
The 78 assorted Type H (Holland 602) submarines made by Electric Boat in Connecticut, Fore River in Massachusetts, and Canadian Vickers in Montreal, and three British yards (Vickers, Cammell Laird, Armstrong Whitworth, and William Beardmore) then entered service with the U.S. Navy (USS H-1, H-2, and H-3), the Italians, the Royal Navy (and via the Brits on to Chile), and served as Canada’s first submarines.
Added to this were 17 boats ordered by the Tsar’s admiralty for the Imperial Russian Navy in 1916.
Dubbed the AG class in Russian service for “Amerikansky Golland,” they were constructed at a temporary yard outside of Vancouver, then disassembled, taken by ship to Vladivostok, then by rail via the Trans-Siberian to either Saint Petersburg on the Baltic or Nikolayev on the Black Sea where they were reassembled and launched by Russian yards.
Just 11 were delivered to the Russkies before they dropped out of the war in late 1917, leaving the U.S. Navy to take over the six undelivered boats which were commissioned as USS H-4 through USS H-9.
While most operators of the H-class were not terribly enamored with their boats (the U.S. Navy decommissioned all nine of theirs by 1922, the Brits either gave away most of theirs to allies or relegated them to a training role after 1920 as did the Italians, the Canadians scrapped theirs by 1927, and the Chileans, somewhat of an outlier, kept theirs through WWII) the Russians were forced into keeping theirs operational. Although the five Baltic-assigned AGs were lost during the Great War and the follow-on Russian Civil War, of the six in the Black Sea, AG-22 left with White Russian exiles and never returned while the other four were kept in service.
The last AG on hand, AG-26, was finally finished by the workers at the former Russud factory in Nikolaev (now Mykolaiv) and launched on 23 February 1923, seven years after she was originally constructed in Vancouver.
Renamed Tovarsh Kamenev, then Politrabotnik, and finally A-4, she spent her entire career in the Black Sea and carried out 12 war patrols and three blockade-running missions into besieged Sevastopol during WWII.
Operating alongside her four sisters, two were lost in combat, but all gave good wartime service– including logging dozens of attacks on Axis shipping assets during the conflict– despite their odd heritage and funky construction process, one that spanned almost 10,000 sea and rail miles from the Pacific Northwest to the Black Sea.
As noted by Platonov in “Encyclopedia of Soviet submarines 1941-1945“
[T]hese obsolete submarines in every respect took the most active part in the war and even achieved relatively high results, in any case, better than the “little ones”, based on the number of sunken targets per submarine.