Tag Archives: Kalev

Warship Wednesday, July 15, 2020: 3 Names, 5 Flags, 6 Wars

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1946 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, July 15, 2020: 3 Names, 5 Flags, 6 Wars

Here we see Avtroil, a humble member of the Izyaslav-subclass of the Imperial Russian Navy’s Novik-class of fast destroyers, afloat in the Baltic around 1917. He (Russian ships are addressed as male, not female) would go on to have a complicated life.

Built for the Tsar

Ordered as part of the 1913 enhanced shipbuilding program– the Tsar had a whole fleet to rebuild after the twin disasters of Port Arthur and Tshuma after all– the Izyaslavs were part of an envisioned 35-ship destroyer build that never got that big. Nonetheless, at 1,440-tons with five 4-inch guns and nine 450mm Whitehead torpedo tubes in three batteries, these 325-foot greyhounds were plenty tough for their time. Speaking of which, capable of 35-knots on their turbine suite, built with the help of the French Augustin Normand company, they were about the fastest thing on the ocean. Hell, fast forward a century and they would still be considered fast today.

Class leader Izyaslav. He would later wear the name “Karl Marx” after the Revolution, because why not?.

In the end, only three Izyaslavs would be finished to include Avtroil and Pryamislav, before the Russians moved on to more improved Noviks to include the Gogland, Fidonisni and Ushakovskaya subclasses. They were curious ships outfitted by a multinational conglomerate, as the Russian Imperial Navy’s purchasing agents seemed to have loved variety. They had Vickers-made Swiss-designed Brown-Boveri steam turbines, Norman boilers, and British/Italian armament produced under license at Obukhov.

Laid down in 1913 at Becker & Co JSC, Revel, while Russia was under the Romanov flag, he was completed in August 1917 as the property of the Russian Provisional Government, which was still nominally in the Great War, in effect changing flags between his christening and commissioning.

His new crew sortied with the battleship Slava to fight in the Battle of Moon Sound (Moonsund) in October, one of the Kaiser’s fleet’s last surface action. While Slava didn’t make it out alive, Avtroil did, although he exchanged enough licks with the Germans to carry away three 88mm shell holes in him.

Fighting for the Reds

When the Russian Baltic Fleet raised the red flag in November to side with Lenin’s mob, Avtroil followed suit as he sat in fortified Helsingfors (Helsinki), hiding from the Germans.

Under Russian service

To keep one step ahead of said Teutons, he joined the great “Ice Cruise” in February 1918 to Kronstadt, the last bastion of the Russian fleet in the Baltic.

Painting of the famed icebreaker Yermak opening a way to other ships on the Ice Cruise, seen as the chrysalis moment for the Red Navy. The fleet withdrew six battleships, five cruisers, 59 destroyers and torpedo boats, and a dozen submarines from former Russian bases in Estonia and Finland, eventually back to Kronstadt.

When the Great War ended and the Russian Civil War began, the British moved in to intervene on the side of the newly formed Baltic republics and the anti-Bolshevik White Russians. On 24 November 1918, RADM Sir Edwin Alexander Sinclair was dispatched to the Baltic with the 6th Light Cruiser Squadron (five C-class light cruisers) of which HMS Cardiff was his flagship, the 13th Destroyer Flotilla (nine V and W-class destroyers) and, because the Baltic in WWI was a mine war at a level no one had seen before, the 3rd Minesweeping Flotilla (seven minesweepers) as well as two minelayers and three tankers. Sinclair also brought newly surplus military aid– to include 100 Lewis guns, 50 Madsen LMGs, 5,000 American-made P14 Enfield rifles, and 6.7 million rounds of .303-caliber ammunition– as a gift to bolster the locals against the Reds.

This put the Red Fleet, the most reliable unit in the Soviet military, on the front line of a new war in the Baltic.

Avtroil was assigned to a special task force consisting of the 7,000-ton Bogatyr-class protected cruiser Oleg and his Novik/Ilyin-class destroyer half-brother Spartak (Sparticus, ex-Kapitan Kingsbergen, ex-Kapitan Miklukho-Maklay).

While scouting close to Estonian waters to assess the British disposition near Aegna and Naissaar on the night of 26 December, Spartak bumped into five Royal Navy destroyers. Attempting to escape, the Russian destroyer ran aground at Kuradimuna, and, surrendering, was towed to Tallinn (recently renamed Revel).

The next morning, Avtroil was sent to look for the overdue Spartak. Acting on tips from shore stations who sent sightings of the Russian destroyer to Tallinn, the British destroyers HMS Vendetta and HMS Vortigern are dispatched to intercept. Seeing these on the horizon, Avtroil attempted to beat feet to the East and the safety of Korndstadt but, after a 35-minute chase, ran into a returning patrol of the cruisers HMS Calypso and HMS Caradoc, accompanied by the destroyer HMS Wakeful. The crew of Avtroil struck their red flag near Mohni Island.

They didn’t really have much of a choice in the matter, as the hapless crews of the Russian ships couldn’t coax more than 15 knots out of their speedy destroyers. You have to keep in mind that the most radicalized Red sailors came from the harshly-treated stokers and engineering space guys, many of whom volunteered for Naval Red Guard units who fought on land during the Civil War. This left the Russian Baltic Fleet poorly manned in technical ratings, poorly led (the crews shot their officers and senior NCOs wholesale in 1917, replacing them with 850 assorted Sailors’ Committees), and poorly maintained. No wonder a small British squadron ran rampant over the Gulf of Finland in 1918-19!

Oleg managed to slip through the net only to be sunk six months later by British torpedo boats at anchor.

AVTROIL, right, surrendering to a British destroyer in the Baltic, possibly HMS Wakeful (H88). Naval History and Heritage Command NH 47620

AVTROIL, left, photographed in the Baltic Sea, captured by a British destroyer, right, most likely Wakeful. Wakeful would later be sunk off Dunkirk, torpedoed by the German submarine U-30 on 29 May 1940, taking 638 soldiers and 85 members of the Ship’s Company with her. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983. NH 94210

Welcome to Estonia!

The British towed their second prize in as many days to Revel, the former Russian naval base turned Tallinn, the new Estonian capital. There, the Soviet crews were interned. Those captured Russians who wanted to return home were later exchanged with the Reds for 17 British servicemembers, nine who participated in the raid June 1919 raid on Kronstadt, and eight downed aircrewmen lost in the August/September floatplane raids on the Bolshevik fortress.

Adm. Sinclair arrived in Tallinn on 28 December 1918 for the inspection of the captured destroyers.

THE BRITISH NAVAL CAMPAIGN IN THE BALTIC, 1918-1919 (Q 19334) A sentry aboard the Royal Navy cruiser HMS CARADOC at Reval (Tallinn), showing ice-covered decks. December 1918. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205253750

The captured vessels were soon turned over to the nascent Estonian Navy. On 2 January 1919, RN Capt. Bertram Sackville Thesiger, the skipper of Calypso, met with the brand-new Commander of the Estonian Navy, Capt. Johan Pitka, onboard the uncrewed Avtroil to discuss the transfer. Avtroil would be renamed EML Lennuk while Spartak would become EML Wambola on 4 January 1919.

Destroyer Avtroil in Estonian waters

Estonian destroyer Wambola (ex-Spartak) on the dock at Tallinn. While of a similar design, layout, and armament to Avtroil, he had German-made Vulkan boilers and AEG turbines

Repaired and under a new flag– Avtroil’s third for those keeping track at home– they would sail against the Reds later that summer until Moscow recognized Estonia’s independence the next year.

Lennuk and Wambola in Estonian service note gunnery clocks added by the British and recognition stripes on masts. If you compare this image to the one under Russian service from roughly the same angle, you will note the lack of clocks and stripes. 

Eventually, cash-strapped Estonia– which had suffered through the Great War, German occupation, their own short but brutal campaign for independence and following reconstruction– looked at their surplus Russian destroyers and decided to pass them on for more than what they had in them.

From the frozen Baltic to the steaming Amazon

Laid up since 1920, they were sold to Peru in April 1933 for $820,000, leaving the Estonian Navy with only a single surface warfare ship, the Sulev— which was the once-scuttled former German torpedo boat A32. The tiny republic used the money, along with some public subscription, to order two small, but modern, coastal minelaying submarines from Britain.  

Spartak/Wambola became BAP Almirante Villar while Avtroil/Lennuk would become BAP Almirante Guise, ironically named after a British-born Peruvian naval hero that had fought at Trafalgar.

The reason for the Peruvian destroyer purchase was that Lima was gearing up for a border conflict with Colombia that never really got much past the skirmish stage. Nonetheless, they did serve in a wary blockade of the Colombian coast and exchanged fire with a group of mercenaries squatting on what was deemed to be part of Peru, by the Peruvians, anyway.

ALMIRANTE GUISE Peruvian DD, 1915 Caption: In Colon Harbor, Panama, 26 June 1934, transiting to the Pacific.. She was formerly the Estonian DD LENNUK and Russian DD AVTROIL NARA 80-G-455951

Same as above, different view. 80-G-455952

Same, stern. Note mine-laying stern, her British-installed range clocks, men on deck in undershirts. 80-G-455949

Once in the Pacific, the destroyers were modernized, mounting some Italian-made Breda 20mm AAA guns. Apparently, the Peruvians were also able to get 4-inch shells and torpedoes from the Italians as well. Peru at the time only had a small (~3,000-ton) pair of old protected cruisers, making the repurposed Russian tin cans their most valuable naval assets.

Callao, Peru during the division of Cruiser Division 7 under Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel, USN, May 26 to 31, 1939. Ships from left to right are Peruvian Cruisers CORONEL BOLOGNESI (1906-1958) and ALMIRANTE GRAU (1906-1958), behind BOLOGNESI), destroyers ALMIRANTE, VILLAR (1915-c1954), ex Estonian VAMBOLA ex Russian SPARTAK) and ALMIRANTE GUISE (1915-c1947), ex Estonian LENNUK, ex Russian AVTROIL, and USS TUSCALOOSA (CA-37), SAN FRANCISCO (CA-38), and QUINCY (CA-39). NH 42782

Cruiser BAP Almirante Grau (3,100t, circa 1907, 2x6inch guns), destroyers of BAP Villar and BAP Guise, and an R-class submarine of the Peruvian Navy during naval maneuvers in 1940. The floatplanes are two of six Fairey Fox Mk IVs bought by the Peruvian Air Force in 1933 along with four Curtis F-8 Falcons during tensions with Colombia. The Peruvian Navy operated three Douglas DTB torpedo bomber floatplanes and at least one Vought O2U Corsair. Colorized by Diego Mar/Postales Navales

The low-mileage pre-owned tin cans were put to more effective use in the “Guerra del 41,” the Ecuadorian–Peruvian War. Almirante Guise carried out patrols in front of the Jambelí channel, bombarded Punta Jambelí and Puerto Bolívar, and supported the Peruvian advance on El Oro. Meanwhile, his near-brother Almirante Villar was on convoy duty and fought a one-sided surface action against the elderly Ecuadorian gunboat BAE Abdón Calderón (300t, c1884, 2x76mm guns).

Once the conflict with Ecuador died down, another one was just kicking off. Under U.S. pressure, Peru broke off relations with the Axis powers in January 1942 and, while friendly to the Allies and increasingly hostile to the Axis, only declared war against Germany and Japan in February 1945. The Peruvian Navy was the only force “active” in the conflict, engaging in armed neutrality patrols throughout 1942-43. For those keeping score, WWII would be the Russian destroyers sixth-ish conflict following the Great War, the Russian Civil War, Estonian Independence, the Colombian skirmishes, and the Guerra del 41.

In the 1946 Jane’s, the two Russo-Estonian brothers were listed as Peru’s only destroyers.

Meanwhile, Avtroil’s two brothers back in the Motherland would not have such a sedate Second World War. Izyaslav, naturally renamed Karl Marx, was sunk by a German air raid in August 1941. Pryamislav, renamed Kalinin after Stalin’s favorite yes man, was lost in a German minefield the same month near the island of Mokhni in the Gulf of Finland. Ironically, it was Mokhni where the British had captured Avtroil two decades prior.

The last of his kind, Avtroil, and his half-brother Almirante Villar would endure for another decade.

Almirante Guise via the Dirección de Intereses Marítimos-Archivo Histórico de Marina

Decommissioned in 1949, they were slowly scrapped above the waterline through 1954. Their hulks reportedly remain off Peru’s Isla de San Lorenzo naval base/penal colony. Their names were later recycled for a pair of Fletcher-class destroyers, USS Benham (DD-796) and USS Isherwood (DD-520), acquired in the 1960s and used into the 1980s.

Avtroil/Guise is remembered both in Russian maritime art and Peruvian postal stamps.

The British also have a souvenir or three. His Soviet flag is in the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich while other objects are in the IWM.

Specs:


Displacement: 1,350 long tons, 1,440 full. (Listed as 2,200 late in career)
Length: 325 ft 2 in (listed as 344.5 in 1945)
Beam: 30 ft 10 in (listed as 31.5 in 1945)
Draft: 9 ft 10 in (listed as 11.8 in 1945)
Propulsion: 2 Brown-Boveri steam turbines driving 2 shafts, 5 Norman boilers, 32,700 shp
Speed: 35 knots max (on trials). Listed as 30 knots even late in career.
Oil: 450 tons, 2,400 nm at 15 knots
Complement: 142
Armor: 38mm shields on some of the 4-inch guns
Armament:
(as of 1918)
5 x 1 102mm L/60 Pattern 1911 Vickers-Obukhov guns
1 x 1 76mm AA mount M1914/15
3 x 3 450mm Whitehead torpedo tubes
2 x Maxim machine guns
80 Model 1912 naval mines.
(1945)
5 x 1 102mm L/60 Pattern 1911 Vickers-Obukhov guns
2 x 20 mm/70cal Breda AA guns
3 x machine guns

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Warship Wednesday Nov. 16: Estonia’s national hero, AKA the Soviet’s immortal submarine

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 of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday Nov. 16: Estonia’s national hero, AKA the Soviet’s immortal submarine

allveelaev_lembit_2012_zpsf15f9903-jpgoriginal

Here we see the Kalev-class allveelaev (coastal submarine minelayer) EML Lembit (1) of the Estonian Navy as she appears today on dry land in Tallinn. Curiously enough, the British-built sub was one of the most successful of the Soviet Navy.

Lembit (also Lambite, Lembito or Lembitus) is the elder of Sakala County and national hero who led the struggle of the Estonians against the German feudal lords in the 12th century and the name was seen as a no-brainer for a new Estonian Navy. Their first operational gunboat in 1918 when the country broke from the newly Bolshevik Russia was given the moniker. The country’s first naval combat, on 20 January 1919, was when they sent the gunboat Lembit (which had been the Russian Beiber, c. 1906, 990-tons) to suppress a pro-Bolshevik revolt on Saaremaa island. Lembit was scrapped in 1927, but her name would live on.

The mighty Estonian gunboat Lembit (1918-1927)

The mighty Estonian gunboat Lembit (1918-1927)

Two other Estonian surface ships, the Russian 1,260-ton Novik-class destroyers Spartak and Avtroil, had been captured by British cruisers Caradoc and Calypso and destroyers Vendetta, Vortigern and Wakeful 26 December 1918 and handed over to the Estonians in 1919 who later put them into service as Lennuk and Vambola (Wambola), respectively.

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In 1933, the Estonians sold these two ships to *Peru as BAP Almirante Villar and Almirante Guise who were gearing up for  a conflict with Colombia that never emerged. (*Note: the Peruvians kept them in service, despite their Brown-Boveri steam turbines, Vulkan boilers, and Pulitov armament, until as late as 1952 and their hulks are now in scuttled condition off San Lorenzo)

With the money from the sale of the two pre-owned Russian destroyers (for $820,000), and national subscription of scrap metals and donations, the Estonian government contracted with Vickers and Armstrong Ltd. at Barrow-in-Furness for two small coastal submarines (Vickers hulls 705 and 706).

As the Estonian Navy only had a single surface warfare ship, the Sulev— which was the once scuttled former German torpedo boat A32— they were largely putting their naval faith in the two subs augmented by a half dozen small coastal mine warfare ships, a Meredessantpataljon marine battalion and some scattered Tsarist-era coastal defense installations.

Class leader Kalev and Lembit were ordered in May 1935, then commissioned in March and April 1937 respectively.

eml-lembit-kalev-class-submarine-estonia

Small ships at just 195-feet overall, they were optimized for the shallow conditions of the Baltic– capable of floating on the surface in just 12 feet of water and submerging in 40. Their maximum submergence depth was 240 feet, though their topside and surfacing area was reinforced with 12mm of steel for operations in ice.

Their periscopes were made by Carl Zeiss, and their 40mm gun by contract to the Czech firm of Skoda.

While they did carry a quartet of 21-inch tubes and, if fully loaded and four reloads carried forward, would have eight steel fish to drop on a foe, her main armament was considered to be the 20 mines she could carry.

The Estonians purchased a total of 312 SSM (EMA) Vickers T Mk III anchored sea mines, each with a 330 pound charge and the ship’s 39-inch wide mine tubes were configured for them. These mines used electric fuzes and one, marked I / J-04, was lost in training in 1939, then later found by fishermen from Cape Letipea in 1989. Defused, it is on display at Tallin alongside Lembit. Besides one in a Russian museum, it is the only preserved Vickers T-III.

mine_ema_1

The mines were carried two each in 10 vertical tubes (5 per side).

Oddly enough, the torpedo tubes fitted with brass sleeves to change their diameter to accept smaller WWI-era 450mm torpedoes the Estonians had inherited from the Russians.

Lembits four tubes were sleeved to accept older 450mm torpedoes, though the Soviets removed the inserts to fire regular 533mm ones during the war. The torpedo room kept four reloads (note the cradle to the left) and 16 sailors bunked over the fish.

Lembit’s four tubes were sleeved to accept older 450mm torpedoes, though the Soviets removed the inserts to fire regular 533mm ones during the war. The torpedo room kept four reloads (note the cradle for one to the lower left) and 16 sailors– half the crew– bunked among the fish.

Their 40mm gun was specially sealed inside a pneumatic tube and could be ready to fire within 90 seconds of surfacing.

Close up of her neat-o 40mm Bofors which could withdraw inside the pressure hull. Word on the street is that the Soviet's first generation SLBM tubes owed a lot to this hatch design.

Close up of her neat-o 40mm Skoda-mdae Bofors which could withdraw inside the pressure hull. Word on the street is that the Soviet’s first generation SLBM tubes owed a lot to this hatch design.

The Estonians were rightfully proud of the two vessels when they arrived home in 1937.

Lembit on Baltic trials in 1937

Lembit on Baltic trials in 1937. Some 100 Estonian officers and men trained in Great Britain alongside Royal Navy sailors on HMs submarines in 1935-37 to jump start their undersea warfare program.

Lembit and her sister in Tallin, the pride of the Estonian Navy

Lembit and her sister in Tallin, the pride of the Estonian Navy

Another profile while in Estonian service

Another profile while in brief Estonian service, 1937-40

Lembit was the only Estonian submarine to ever fire her torpedoes, launching two at a training hulk in 1938.

Lembit was the only Estonian submarine to ever fire her torpedoes, launching two at a training hulk in 1938.

In early 1940, the Germans expressed interest in acquiring the submarines from neutral Estonia, which was rebuffed.

With no allies possible due to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact of the year before and the Estonian internment of the Polish submarine ORP Orzeł, which escaped from Tallinn to the UK while the Soviets and Germans were battling Poland (with two guards from Lembit, Roland Kirikmaa and Boris Milstein aboard), Moscow demanded military bases on Estonian soil, threatening war if Estonia did not comply.

The Estonians signed a mutual defense agreement with the Soviets on 28 September 1939, which soon turned into an outright occupation and consumption by the Soviets on 6 August 1940. Her bosun, Herbert Kadajase, removed the ship’s emblem from her conning tower the night before and spirited it away, hiding it at his home.

Thus, the Estonian Navy was amalgamated into the Red Banner Fleet with the torpedo boat Sulev being handed to the Soviet Border Guard and the two British-made submarines cleared for combat.

lembit_4

This view of Lembit and her sister illustrate their “saddle” mine tubes amidships. The bulge on each side housed five mine tubes, each capable of holding two large ship-killing Vickers sea mines. “Allveelaev” is Estonian for submarine

Folded into the 1st Submarine Brigade of the Baltic Fleet, forward based in Liepaja, the ships were given almost fully Soviet Russian crews with a few Estonian veterans (torpedomen Aart Edward and Sikemyae Alfred, electricians Sumera and Toivo Berngardovich, sailor Kirkimaa Roland Martnovich, and boatswain Leopold Pere Denisovich) who volunteered to remain in service, primarily to translate tech manuals, gauges and markings which were written in Estonian.

When the balloon went up on the Eastern Front, Kalev completed two brief combat patrols and set a string of 10 mines then went missing while carrying out a special operation in late 1941. According to some sources, her mines blew up two ships. She is presumed sunk by a German mine near the island of Prangli sometime around 1 November 1941.

The Soviets kept Lembit‘s name, though of course in Russian (Лембит), and she proved very active indeed.

Surviving Luftwaffe air attacks at Liepaja, she made for Kronstadt where he brass torpedo tube sleeves were removed and she was armed with Soviet model 21-inch torpedoes.

1942 entry in Conways Fighting Ship for Russia

1942 entry in Conways Fighting Ship for the USSR, showing Kalev and Lembit.

Lembit was sent out on her first mission in August 1941 with 1LT Alexis Matiyasevich in command (himself the son of Red Army hero Gen. Mikhail S. Matiyasevich who commanded the 7th Army during the Russian Civil War, holding Petrograd against Yudenich’s White Guards in 1919 and later, as head of the 5th Army, smashed Kolchack in Siberia and ran Ungern-Sternberg to the ground in Mongolia).

During the war, Lembit completed seven patrols and remained at sea some 109 days (pretty good for a sea that freezes over about four months a year).

Each patrol led to 20 mines being laid, totaling some 140 throughout the war. These mines claimed 24 vessels (though most did not sink and many that did were very small). She also undertook eight torpedo attacks, releasing 13 torpedoes.

Her largest victim, the German-flagged merchant Finnland (5281 GRT), sank near 59°36’N, 21°12’E on 14 September 1944 by two torpedoes. It was during the fight to sink the Finnland, which was part of a German convoy, that Lembit was hit in return by more than 50 depth charges from escorting sub-chasers, causing a 13-minute long fire and her to bottom, with six casualties.

Some of Lembit‘s log entries are at the ever-reliable Uboat.net.

On 12 December 1944, Lembit– according to Soviet records– rammed and sank the German submarine U-479, though this is disputed. Heavily damaged in the collision, she spent most of the rest of the war in Helsinki.

In Helsinki, Winter 1944-45

In Helsinki, Winter 1944-45

Keeping her in service was problematic and her worn out batteries were reportedly replaced by banks of several new ones taken from American Lend-Lease M3 Lee tanks that the Soviets were not impressed with when compared to their T-34s.

The Soviets, with their stock of prewar Estonian/English sea mines largely left behind in Tallin, tried to use local varieties of their Type EF/EF-G (ЭП ЭП-Г) anchor contact mine but they wouldn’t work properly with the Lembit‘s tubes. This was corrected by a small shipment of British Vickers T Mk IV mines that arrived via Murmansk through Lend Lease in 1943 just for use with Lembit. The T-IV, though slightly larger than the mines Vickers sold the Estonians pre-war, fit Lembit like a charm.

Her crew was highly decorated, with 10 members awarded the Order of Lenin, 14 the Order of the Red Banner, and another 14 the Order of the Red Star.

Awarding of the crew Lembit medals For the Defense of Leningrad June 6, 1943

Awarding of the crew Lembit medals For the Defense of Leningrad June 6, 1943

Finally, by decree of the Supreme Soviet, on 6 March 1945 Lembit herself was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and named an “Immortal Submarine.”

Lembit after the war.

Lembit after the war.

When the war ended, Lembit was decommissioned in 1946, used as a training ship until 1955 then loaned to a shipyard for a time for study–with her specialized gun hatch extensively researched for use with Soviet ballistic missile hatches. During this time period, much of her brasswork, her Zeiss periscope, and other miscellaneous items walked off.

While in postwar Soviet service, Lembit lost her name and in turn was designated U-1, S-85, 24-STZ, and UTS-29 on the ever-shifting list of Russki pennant numbers through the 1970s.

She was sent back to Tallin in the late 1970s, her name restored, and turned into a museum to the submariners of the Soviet Navy in 1985.

Her service was immortalized by the Soviets, who rewrote history to make her Estonian origin more palatable.

Her service was immortalized by the Soviets, who rewrote history to make her Estonian origin more palatable. In Moscow’s version, the hard working people of Estonia saw the error of their independent bourgeois ways and eagerly joined the Red Banner to strike at the fascists.

When Estonia decided not to be part of the new post-Cold War Russia, a group of patriots boarded Lembit (still officially “owned” by the Red Navy) on 22 April 1992 and raised the Estonian flag on her for the first time since 1940. Reportedly the Russians were getting ready to tow her back to St. Petersberg, which was not going to be allowed a second time.

In 1996, the newly independent Estonian postal service issued a commemorative stamp in connection with the 60th anniversary of Lembit‘s launch.

1996-lembit-stamp

Lembit has since been fully renovated and, as Estonian Ship #1, is the nominal flag of the fleet, though she is onshore since 2011 as part of the Estonian State Maritime Museum. Located in Tallin, the site is a seaplane hangar built for the Tsar’s Navy and used in secession by the German (1918 occupation) Estonian, Soviet and German (1941-44 occupation) navies.

The crest swiped by Bosun Kadajase in 1940? His family kept it as a cherished heirloom of old independent Estonia and presented it to the museum

Click to big up

Click to very much big up

In 2011, some 200 technical drawings from Vickers were found in the UK of the class and have been split between archives there and in Estonia.

Her Russian skipper, Matiyasevich, retired from the Navy in 1955 as a full Captain and served as an instructor for several years at various academies, becoming known as an expert in polar operations. He died in St. Petersburg in 1995, just after Lembit was reclaimed by the Estonians, and was buried at St. Seraphim cemetery, named a Hero of the Russian Federation at the time.

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His memoir, “In the depths of the Baltic Sea: 21 underwater victories” was published in 2007.

Specs:

lembit

Displacement standard/normal: 665 / 853 tons
Length: 59.5m/195-feet
Beam: 7.24m/24.7-feet
Draft: 3.50m/12-feet
Diving depth operational, m 75
No of shafts 2
Machinery: 2 Vickers diesels / 2 electric motors
Power, h. p.: 1200 / 790
Max speed, kts, surfaced/submerged: 13.5 / 8.5
Fuel, tons: diesel oil 31
Endurance, nm(kts) 4000(8) / 80(4), 20 days.
Complement: 38 in Estonian service, 32 in Soviet
Armament:
(As completed)
1 x 1 – 40/43 Skoda built folding and retracting Bofors.
4 – 533mm TT, sleeved to 450mm (bow, 8 torpedo load),
20 British Vickers T-III sea mines
1x .303 Lewis gun
(Soviet service)
4 – 533 TT (bow, 8 torpedo),
20 British Vickers T-IV sea mines

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Nearing their 50th Anniversary, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

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