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Warship Wednesday, May 19, 2021: One Tired Fox

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 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, May 19, 2021: One Tired Fox

Naval History and Heritage Command Photo NH 61060

Here we see just a great wheelhouse shot of the Astraea-class 2nd class protected cruiser, HMS Fox, likely around the early 1900s, with her wheels covered in battle honor from the 14 previous Royal Navy vessels that carried the name. A slight ship, she had stamina and would range the globe, pushing up rivers in Africa, fighting pirates, surviving ice floes, storming Dervish forts, duking it out with Germans, sparking Arab revolts, and mixing it up with Bolsheviks across her career.

The eight ships of the Astraea class were slow for what you typically think of for cruisers, capable of making just over 19 knots in peak condition under a forced draft, but they were economical, able to steam for 7,000 nm at 10 knots to overseas deployments across the Empire’s vast colonial assets– which of course was their intended purpose. Just 4,300-tons and 339-feet long, they carried a mixed battery of two 6″/40 (15.2 cm) QF Mark Is arranged fore and aft, eight 4.7-inch (12 cm) QF Mark Is arranged port and starboard, eight Ordnance QF Hotchkiss 6 pounders for torpedo boat defense, and a few smaller 3 pounders and early Maxim machine guns. For offensive use, they had three 18-inch torpedo tubes.

HMS FOX British Cruiser, 1893 Caption: Deck scene, looking forward from the stern. Gun is one of her two 6″/40s. NH 61059

The arrangement of this myriad of weapons gave the Astraeas a very bristly appearance, seen here is the 1897 Brassey’s. Note her three torpedo tubes superimposed along the waterline port, starboard, and a stern stinger

The eight cruisers of the class were built almost concurrently, sliding down the ways at five different yards within 18 months of each other across mid-1894 to early 1896. Our subject was at least the 15th HMS Fox to serve in the Royal Navy since 1656 and was launched 15 June 1893, commissioning three years later at a cost of £256,042.

HMS Fox being launched in 1893. IWM Q38906

Serving on the Cape and West African stations, she was tapped for the “expedition against the Sierra Leone Insurgents” in 1898-9, best known today as the Hut Tax War, where the British were running the same old game since 1775. During the colonial dust up there, Fox, along with the paddlewheel gunboat HMS Alecto and scout cruiser HMS Blonde, would land a 280-strong “naval brigade” to fight Bai Bureh’s rebels. She would also be engaged in some NGFS against targets on the Mano River.

For the action, men aboard her were entitled to wear the Ashantee Medal with the “Sierra Leone” clasp.

Fitted with a Marconi wireless device in October 1901, Fox left Portsmouth, off for the East Indies Station for the next three years in a trip that is very well documented in a 271-page journal of Yeoman F.E. Nobbs and Stoker W.T. Berger, with outbound stops in Malta, Port Said (“Sand is not preferable to green slopes and the foliage is very scarce”), Seychelles, in Aden and Muscat (where a detail applied her name to the famous rock there), India (“During our first week’s stay in Bombay, 850 deaths were reported, not a very cheering record for a health resort”), and Colombo on the way.

Just after New Year’s day 1902, Fox took aboard nine field guns and ammunition for shore service to answer a call to help put down disorder in the Persian Gulf at Koweit (Kuwait), where 120 bluejackets helped support the regime of Sheikh Jabar.

Fox was called to patrol the Somaliland coast, and send her tars and field guns ashore once again in the campaign against the Mad Mullah (Mohammed Abdullah Hassan), joining troops of the East African Rifles, Bombay Sappers & Miners, the Uganda Rifles, and a unit of Boers, setting off on a flying column from Obbia (Hobyo) consisting of “1,000 men and 500 camels” to fight the Dervish rebellion.

Then came cruises and visits in the Pacific, including stops in Singapore, only for Fox to be recalled to Somaliland.

Seizing Illing 

Fox in her pre-WWI scheme. NH 61058

On 21 April 1904, working in conjunction with the torpedo cruiser HMS Mohawk and her sistership HMS Hyacinth as well as the Italian gunboat Volturno, they took 125 Tommys of the 1st Battalion, Royal Hampshire Regiment (under Maj. S.F. Jackson, DSO) aboard, tasked with reducing and capturing the Mahdi’s stronghold at Illing under the orders of Maj. Gen Sir Charles Egerton.

The Hampshires had already been some 10 months campaigning on the Horn of Africa as camel-mounted infantry and had been delayed from an England-bound transport for the operation. “It was a sight to see them, sunburnt and weather-beaten, in the very much worn khaki trousers and old grey backs, standing on the deck of our vessel,” notes the journal.

With each bluejacket sent ashore issued a rifle and 120 rounds of ammunition, they were assembled and sent with the ship’s field guns and Maxims along with stretchers, water cans, rations, and anything else that could be needed.

Between the landing parties of sailors and Royal Marines from the four warships and the Hampshires, 540 men were mustered for the task, equipped with five Maxims in the vanguard. With whaleboats beginning to embark at 0400, the battalion was ashore on a deserted wadi three miles south from Illing by 0730. The expedition then crept towards the port along the beach. By 0830, combat kicked off at a range of 600 yards against fortified blockhouses where the locals were firing through loopholes and supported by a trio of “ancient” 3-pounder muzzleloading carronades firing “bits of old iron” commenced.

Fox answered by shelling the old forts and caves there from a range of 6,300 yards with her 4.7-inch guns, firing 20 rounds of lyddite, shrapnel, and field-pointed common shells to cover the landings. It was all over half an hour of heavy skirmishing with mop-up work commencing the rest of the morning.

The fighting, done at bayonet point, was sharp, with one of Fox’s stokers killed, shot through the lungs, and two more of her crew seriously wounded. In all, the British suffered three killed and 11 wounded, almost all seamen. They captured “sixty corpses and a few prisoners.”

After spending five days ashore razing the works and sorting out souvenirs, the force left by the morning of 26 April. “Illiing had ceased to exist. The walls were flat as those of Jericho, the village had been destroyed, and the fourteen surf boats had been burnt.”

Fox arrived back at Portsmouth in October 1904, flying a 450-foot paying-off pennant, and having steamed more than 60,000 miles in 36 months, putting landing forces ashore on at least three different occasions.

After a period in ordinary, she was dispatched again to the East Indies in June 1908, where she would remain for the better part of 10 years.

On this extended deployment, she would capture slave traders and pirates from stateless dhows off the Arabian Peninsula and be involved in the so-called Dubai Incident or Hyacinth Incident in 1910 that would start with a Christmas Eve party and end up in a “running gun battle, a naval bombardment and numerous deaths” after the RN moved to confiscate a stockpile of “illegal” guns. When the smoke cleared, the Sheikh of Dubai ended up having to hand over to the British some 400 serviceable rifles and pay a fine of 50,000 rupees.

Fox was photographed with some of the Martinis and other breechloaders that were handed in.

Official caption: Arms traffic. The disaster at Dibai. The surrendered rifles on the quarter deck of the HMS Fox, via the Bain News Service collection at the LOC LC-USZ62-104788

Great War

While Fox was overseas in the East, her sisterships were trimmed. Forte had been sold for scrap, Cambrian and Flora were stricken and in line to be disposed of, and Bonaventure was disarmed and converted to a submarine depot. Even with the halving of the Astraea class, the Admiralty was far from hurting for cruisers, with the 1914/15 Jane’s/Brassey’s cataloging no less than 60 light cruisers still active in the Royal Navy heading into the Guns of August.

The active Astraea-class cruisers, Brassey’s 1915, at which point they were old and obsolete, especially for fleet actions.

HMS Fox, Great War era

THE ROYAL NAVY IN THE FIRST WORLD WAR (Q 75397) Protected cruiser HMS Fox. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205320184

When the shooting started, Fox put to sea in search of Germans to fight. This soon led to her hailing and impounding the German merchantmen Australia of the Dutch Australian Lloyd Line (on 10 August 1914), and Hansa Line steamer Holtenfels the next day, both off Colombo.

Then came the search for the missing German light cruiser SMS Königsberg.

Had the two vessels met at sea, it would have been a hard contest with the newer German ship being faster and more maneuverable in addition to being equipped with faster guns, but Fox having an arguably better armor scheme and a heavier battery. Further, Königsberg’s crew were bloodied, having already fought the old Pelorus-class cruiser HMS Pegasus, sinking the 2,700-ton vessel in a surprise attack in Zanzibar harbor, 20 September 1914.

Sailing for Zanzibar and Mombasa the same month, Fox was soon engaged against the Kaiser’s possessions in Africa.

After securing German POWs from the tug Adjutant in October, she joined an expedition to the German colony of Tanzania the next month, filled with troops of 13th Rajputs, 61st Pioneers, 2nd Kashmir Rifles, and 2nd Loyal North Lancashires. Supporting the landings at the key Tanzanian port of Tanga in the first week of November, Fox would fire 10 6-inch and 120 4.7-inch shells during the failed operation known to history as the Battle of the Bees where 1,000 mixed Schutztruppe under then-unknown Lt. Col. Paul Emil von Lettow-Vorbeck bested the British force, capturing much of their equipment.

Fox then raided Dar Es Salaam in German East Africa on 28 November, during which one of her steam launches came close enough to shore to be taken under rifle fire, suffering one killed, three wounded and five counted among the missing (including one who was captured),

Once Königsberg had holed up in the Rufiji River, Fox spent some time there in December on the blockade should the German sortie out then escorted a force to occupy Mafia Island off Tanzania in January 1915. Bombarding the German positions there on 10 January, the cruiser’s skipper impounded a local dhow and, arming it with two Maxim guns and manning it with a junior officer and six ratings, pressed it into active service during the operation.

After Königsberg was neutralized, Fox was released to patrol the Red Sea, where the Ottomans held nominal control of Arabia and threatened the Suez. With that, she spent most of the next three years either sitting in Port Sudan or running her searchlights and cutters across the Great Bitter Lake, with breaks to run to Aden and Bombay as needed and to conduct drills and target practice.

Oh yeah, and help with the Arab Revolt.

With Lawrence & Co.

On 21 March 1916, Fox and the cruiser HMS Suva destroyed the Turkish forts at Umlejh and Wejh in the Hejaz district, which was key in influencing the wavering Arabs to come out against the Ottomans. On 15 June, along with the auxiliary cruiser HMS Perth, Fox steamed into the inner harbor at Jeddah, the port for Mecca, and bombarded the Turkish troops manning the city walls in conjunction with the local insurgents who captured the city the next day.

The Red Sea Patrol, with Fox in the forefront, seized Qunfundah in July on behalf of the Arab cause and a small force from our cruiser garrisoned the town. In that action, Fox fired the warning shot on the town, an event that ended up with some 200 Turkish prisoners who were eager to stop fighting. In January 1917, Fox would move in and garrison Wejh just after the Ottomans quit the town.

Against the Reds

The Armistice cut Fox free of her extended 10-year mission in Asia and Africa and she returned to England. However, her post-war drawdown was cut short, as she was dispatched to join the British Intervention forces in Northern Russia, sent there originally in late 1918 to protect the stockpiles of war stores there from German capture.

Literally cooling her heels in Archangel and Murmansk, her crew was dispatched to put down mutinous Russians on former Tsarist vessels in those harbors.

British Astraea-class cruiser HMS Fox and the old Russian battleship *Chesma at Archangel, 1919. IWM Q 16952

[*Built originally as the Petropavlovsk-class Poltava, the Tsarist battlewagon was lost during the siege of Port Arthur in December 1904, then raised by the Japanese and put into service as the guardship Tango, complete with Miyabara boilers and British-pattern guns from the Kure Arsenal. After participating in the capture of the German treaty port of Tsingtao in 1914, she was later graciously repatriated with the best wishes of the Emperor to the Russian Navy in 1916, serving alongside the British and French in the Med before sailing to Archangel just before the Russian Revolution. With her mutinous crew relieved of their home by the British in 1918, the Interventionists and local Whites used the derelict vessel as a prison hulk until they withdrew in March 1920. The Reds never put her back to use and she was scrapped in 1924.]

It was while in Archangel that Fox found herself bound in an ice floe for six days. Ironically, at the time, her crew included Ireland’s greatest Antarctic explorer, Tom Crean, who earned three Polar Medals while a member of the expeditions of Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton.

A portrait of Tom Crean, February 1915 smoking a pipe. By 1919, he was freezing on Fox while in Russia. A familiar feeling, for sure

Sadly, it was on Fox that Crean suffered a serious fall, causing a head injury that led to the end of his 27-year naval career.

Other than that, Fox’s primary task in Northern Russia was to act as a tender for monitors and gunboats, with her bakers providing bread and her engineers and stokers supplying water and coal. A hub of activity, she was apparently the clearinghouse for small arms such as Lewis guns, as well as mail for the British forces pushing down the Northern Dvina in the summer of 1919, and securing Russian prisoners brought back.

Fox with French troops aboard, 1919

Finally, with the Western Allies growing tired of their involvement in the Russian Civil War, Fox sailed for home in late September.

Paid off, she was sold 14 June 1920 to Cardiff Marine Stores for scrapping.

Epilogue

Fox’s remaining sisters, while seeing wartime service, were far from being as active in the conflict. By 1923, all were sold for scrap except for HMS Hermione which lingered on into 1940 as a training hulk for the Marine Society charity.

Most of Fox’s logbooks from 1913 through 1919 have been digitized and along with assorted letters and make good reading.

Fox is also remembered in maritime art and period postcards.

HMS Fox by Henry J. Morgan, Portsmouth Museums and Records Service collection/ Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

Meanwhile the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich offers several prints of her.

There has only been one further HMS Fox in the Royal Navy since 1920, a Bulldog-class survey ship (A320) that was active in the Cold War.

As for our cruiser, her name, left behind by her crew, is still visible on the rock at Muscat in Oman and outside of Diyatalawa in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) above the old port at Trincomalee, which is known today as Fox Hill, for a reason.

Specs:

 

1914 Jane’s listing for the class

Displacement: 4,360 tons
Length: 320 feet
Beam: 49.5 feet
Draft: 19 feet (21 full load)
Machinery: 2 shaft, 3 cycle TE, 8-cylinder boilers; 7,500 shp (9,500 shp forced)
Speed: 19.5 knots trials on forced draft, 18 max while operational
Range: 7,000 nm @10kts on 1,000 tons of coal (typical coal load: 400 tons)
Complement: 312 officers and men
Armor:
Decks- 2 inches
Engine hatches- 5 inches
Conning tower- 3 inches
Splinter shields on main guns
Armament:
2 x QF 6″/40
8 x QG 4.7″
8 x 6-pounder (57mm) Hotchkiss guns
1 x 3-pounder (47mm) Hotchkiss
4 x Maxim water-cooled machine guns
3 x Above-water 18-inch torpedo tubes.

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Warship Wednesday, March 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

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 31, 2021: NOLA by way of Brazil

Published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Here we see the Elswick-built Chacabucu-class protected cruiser USS New Orleans (later CL-22) at Brooklyn Navy Yard in the 1900s. Prominently displayed is the cruiser’s elaborate stern decoration, which looks a lot like the Brazilian national emblem, and for good reason.

As part of a general Latin American naval build-up, Brazil ordered four cruisers in 1894 from Armstrong, Whitworth & Co from a design by British naval architect Philip Watts at ₤265,000 a pop. These ships, with a 3,800-ton displacement on a 354-foot hull, were smaller than a frigate by today’s standards but in the late 19th century, with a battery of a half-dozen 6″/50 (15.2 cm) BL Marks IX guns and Harvey armor that ranged between 0.75 inches on their hull to 4.5-inches on their towers, were deemed protected cruisers.

For batting away smaller vessels, they had four 4.7-inch (120mm) Armstrongs, 14 assorted 57 mm and 37mm quick-firing pieces, and three early Nordenfelt 7mm machine guns. To prove their worth in a battle line, they had three torpedo tubes and a brace of Whitehead 18-inch fish with guncotton warheads. They would be the first ships in the Brazilian fleet to have radiotelegraphs and were thoroughly modern for their time.

However, their four Vosper Thornycroft boilers and turbines, augmented by an auxiliary sailing rig, could only just make 20 knots with everything lit on a clean hull.

The lead ship of the class, laid down as Chacabucu (Elswick Yard Number 629) for the Brazilian government in March 1895, was sold to the Chileans just six months later with her name duly switched to Ministro Zenteno after a hero of the latter country. The second vessel, Almirante Barroso (Yard No. 630), was ordered in November 1894 and commissioned on 29 April 1897. Yard Nos. 631 and 676 were to be Amazonas and Almirante Abreu.

Amazonas in British waters on builder’s trials with no flags. Photo via Vickers Archives.

When things got squirrelly between the U.S. and Spain in early 1898 over Cuban independence and the lost battleship USS Maine, American purchasing agents were active in Europe both to A) expand Uncle Sam’s fleet, and B) prevent the Spaniards from doing the same.

This led to an agreement to buy from Brazil the old dynamite cruiser Nictheroy, though without her guns, and the two nearly complete cruisers outfitting on the Tyne. Lt. John C. Colwell, the naval attaché in London, personally took delivery of both British-built cruisers at Gravesend, England on 18 March, just a month after the loss of Maine and still a month before the American declaration of war.

With that, Nictheroy became USS Buffalo, Amazonas very quickly became USS New Orleans –the first time the name was carried by an active warship on the Navy List– and Almirante Abreu would eventually join the fleet as USS Albany. New Orleans, ready to go, would be sailed across the Atlantic by scratch crews from the cruiser USS San Francisco while English engineers handled the machinery, recording her Brazilian name in her logbook for the crossing.

USS New Orleans arrives off the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, after crossing the Atlantic. Note oversize commissioning pennant flying from her mainmast, and Brazilian Navy paint scheme. She had been purchased from Brazil on 16 March 1898, while still under construction in England. Sailing on her inaugural Atlantic crossing was a 15-man Marine det commanded by 1LT George Barnett, a future 12th Commandant of the Corps. NH 45114

She proved a popular subject with photographers, after all, she was a brand-new cruiser that descended seemingly from Mars himself, on the eve of the nation’s first conflict with a European power since 1815.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Docked at the New York Navy Yard, April 1898, immediately after her maiden voyage from England. The receiving ship USS Vermont is at the left. Note New Orleans’ extra-long commissioning pennant. NH 75495

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans. The photo is listed as an “8-inch gun crew” although it is a 6″/50 (15.2 cm) Mark 5 Armstrong gun. Perhaps the caption was propaganda. Note the Marine in marching order and the bosun to the left with his pipe in his pocket. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912.

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans, six-inch gun. Note the small guns in the mast. Also, the man photobombing to the right of the frame, likely the photographer (Edward H. Hart) due to his bespoke hat. Published by Detroit Publishing Company, possibly 1898.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Photographed during the Spanish-American War, 1898. Note the change in her scheme from the Brazilian pattern. NH 45115

US Navy protected cruiser USS New Orleans (1898-1930, later PG-34, CL-22) leaving Brooklyn Navy Yard during the Spanish-American War. Photographed by Edward H. Hart, published by Detroit Publishing Company, 1898. Courtesy of the Library of Congress. LC-DIG-DET-4A13959

Her Span Am War service was significant, shipping out of Norfolk three weeks after the declaration and meeting the Flying Squadron off Santiago de Cuba on 30 May. The next day, our new cruiser, along with USS Massachusetts (Coast Battleship No.2) and USS Iowa (Coast Battleship No.4) reconnoitered the harbor, exchanging heavy fire with both Spanish ships and shore batteries.

Attack on Santiago, 31 May 1898 by USS MASSACHUSETTS (BB-2), USS IOWA (BB-4), and USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) by W.B. Shearer. USN 903384

New Orleans went on to spend the rest of her war on blockade duty, shuffling between Guantanamo Bay and San Juan. On 17 July 1898, she captured the French blockade runner Olinde Rodrigues trying to sneak into the latter and sent her, under a prize crew, to Charleston, South Carolina. The steamship was owned and claimed by La Compagnie Generale Transatlantique out of Harve, which later became the subject of a lengthy court case that, in the end, left the New Orleans’s crew without prize money.

USS New Orleans (1898-1929) Halftone photograph, taken during the Spanish-American War and published in the book War in Cuba, 1898. Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977. NH 85648

Immediately after the conclusion of hostilities, she took part in the Peace Jubilee in New York, visited her namesake “hometown” in the Crescent City, then sailed for the Philippines via the Suez, arriving just before Christmas 1899, where she would remain on station for four years.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans on Asiatic Station, 1902. Shown is CPT (later RADM) Charles Stillman Sperry (USNA 1866), skipper, and his XO, LCDR James T. Smith. Note the ornate triple ship’s wheels in the background. Donation of Walter J. Krussel, 1949. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Laid up from 1905 to 1909, she recommissioned in 1910 with a new suite of American-pattern guns and headed to the Far East once again, with a gleaming new scheme worthy of TR’s Great White Fleet.

LOC LC-D4-5521

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Photographed before World War I in her white scheme. Note signalman atop the bridge. Description: Courtesy of Thomas P. Naughton, 1973.NH 92171

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans, quarter-deck over the stern. Note her searchlights and torpedo-busting guns in the tower. Detroit Publishing Company, 1890-1912

Officers, crew, and mascot of USS New Orleans at Yokohama (CL-22), Japan, 1910. Note the flat caps and cracker jacks of the sailors; fringed epauletted body coats and cocked hats of the officers; outfits that were much more 19th Century than 20th. Via the Yangtze River Patrol Association.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) Flying a “Homeward Bound” pennant, circa 1912. Halftoned photo original view was courtesy of “Our Navy” magazine. NH 45118

By 1914, she was back in North American waters, spending time– along with most of the other surface assets of the fleet– in Mexican waters, patrolling that country’s Pacific coast in a haze gray scheme. This was a mission she would continue for three years, alternating with trips back up to Puget Sound where she would serve as a training vessel for the Washington State Naval Militia.

USS New Orleans CL-22. March 1916 crew photo taken during an overhaul at PSNS. Note the difference in uniforms from the China photo taken just six years prior. Via Puget Sound Navy Museum.

When the U.S. entered the Great War, she was transferred to the Atlantic, arriving at Hampton Roads on 27 August 1917. From there, she escorted a convoy carrying Doughboys and materiel to Europe. However, with plenty of ships on tap in the British Isles, the funky third-class cruiser received orders once more for the Pacific, reaching Yokohama from Honolulu on 13 March 1918.

USS NEW ORLEANS (CL-22) En route to the Asiatic Station, early in 1918, note her dark gray scheme. NH 45120

It was about this time that the Western Allies decided to intervene in the affairs of civil war-torn Russia, landing troops in Vladivostok in the Pacific as well as Archangel and Murmansk in the White/Barents Seas.

U.S. Soldiers parade in Vladivostok, Aug. 1918, a mission that would span four years and involve New Orleans for most of that. 

New Orleans would remain off and on as a station ship in Vladivostok until 17 August 1922, as the city’s population had quadrupled from 90,000 to more than 400,000 as refugees from the anti-Bolshevik White Russian forces and the Czechoslovak Legion, the latter formed from Austro-Hungarian Army POWs in Siberia, swelled the port, seeking to escape the oncoming Reds. Sheltered under the guns of American, British, French, and Japanese ships, the city remained the last large holdout from Moscow’s control, only being secured by the Red Army in October 1922 with the withdrawal of the hated “Interventionists.”

Czech Maj. Gen Radola Gajda and Captain E. B. Larimer on the deck of USS NEW ORLEANS, Vladivostok, 1919. A former Austrian and Montenegrin army field officer, Gajda helped the Russians raise the Czech legions in 1916 and would later become a high-level commander in the White Army in Siberia– even leading a coup to get rid of its overall leader, Russian Adm. Alexander Kolchak. Gajda would escape Vladivostok for Europe and briefly become the Chief of the General Staff for the Czech Army in the mid-1920s. Note his Russian cossack-style shashka saber with a knot as well as a mix of Russian, Austrian and Montenegrin medals. NH 1097.

Her last mission completed, and her tonnage held against the fleet in future naval treaties, New Orleans returned to Mare Island on 23 September, after calls en route at Yokohama and Honolulu, and was decommissioned on 16 November 1922. Stricken from the Navy List on 13 November 1929, she was sold for scrapping on 4 February 1930 to D. C. Seagraves of San Francisco, California.

As for her sisters, Chacabucu/Ministro Zenteno remained in Chilean service until 1930 and was scrapped while about the same time the Brazilian Barroso was disarmed and turned into a floating barracks, ultimately being written off sometime later, date unknown.

Zenteno and Barroso, Jane’s 1914 listing.

Albany missed the Span Am War, being commissioned in the River Tyne, England, on 29 May 1900. Sailing for the Far East from there where she would serve, alternating cruises back to Europe, until 1913 she only went to the U.S. for the first time for her mid-life refit. Recommissioned in 1914, Albany served off Mexico, gave convoy duty in WWI, and ended up with sister New Orleans briefly in Russia. With the post-war drawdown, she was placed out of commission on 10 October 1922 at Mare Island and sold for scrap in 1930.

Epilogue

Our cruiser is remembered in period maritime art.

U.S. Navy protected cruiser, USS New Orleans (later PG 34 and CL 22), port bow. Reproduction of a painting by Koerner & Hayes, circa 1897-98.

Her plans are in the National Archives.

A single 4.7-inch Elswick Armstrong gun from each of these English-made Brazilian cruisers in U.S. service is installed at the Kane County, Illinois Soldier and Sailor Monument at the former courthouse in Geneva, Illinois.

SECNAV has done a good job of keeping a “NO Boat” or “NOLA boat” on the Naval List for roughly 103 of the past 122 years.

The second completed USS New Orleans would also be a cruiser, CA-32, leader of her seven-hull class of 10,000-ton “Treaty Cruisers” built in the early-to-mid 1930s. The class would give very hard service in WWII, with three sunk at the horrific Battle of Savo Island. However, USS New Orleans (CA-32) was luckier, earning a remarkable 17 battlestars, going on to be laid up in 1947 and stricken/scrapped in 1959.

USS New Orleans (CA-32) In English waters, about June 1934. Photographed by Wright & Logan, Southsea, England. Donation of Captain Joseph Finnegan, USN (Retired), 1970. NH 71787

The third USS New Orleans was an Iwo Jima-class amphibious assault ship, LPH-11, commissioned in 1968. After a 30-year career, she was decommissioned and later disposed of in a SINKEX in 2020.

A vertical view of the amphibious assault ship USS NEW ORLEANS (LPH-11) underway. CH-53 Sea Stallion and CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters line the flight deck, 6/16/1988. PH2 Weideman/DNST8807549.

The fourth New Orleans is a Pascagoula-built San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, LPD-18, that has been in the fleet since 2007.

PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 21, 2020) A rigid-hull inflatable boat, right, transits the Philippine Sea from the amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18). New Orleans, part of America Expeditionary Strike Group, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit team is operating in the 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serves as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Taylor DiMartino)

Specs:

Jane’s 1914 listing for Albany and New Orleans.

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The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, 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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Only the Greybeards Left

100 years ago in Ukraine, after four years of the Great War and two of Civil War:

Official caption:

Only the Greybeards Left. When the principal men of the Cossack village of Prochnookopskara, South Russia, were called together to meet the representative of the American Red Cross there were none of the fighting age left. Only the old warriors, whose scars gave a good account of their former days but whose bodies had no longer enough vigor to fight under the fearful campaigning conditions of the struggle against the Bolshevists, met in the market place and doffed their astrakhan hats in honor of the visitor who brought help. The American officer at the left of the center surrounded by hetman in huge white caps is Prince Ourousow

Sadly, once the Reds won the Civil War in South Russia in November 1920, just months after the above photo was snapped, commissars began a state campaign of Raskazachivaniye (decossackization) that was genocide by any other name. Many of the old greybeards shown here soon likely found themselves labeled as “kulaks” or “money bags” (bogatei) for owning a few acres of land and were deported to Siberia in chains or stood up against a wall. The lucky ones just lost their land, horses, and guns and were allowed to join the local collective.

Although the Don and Kuban Cossacks were deemed “counter-revolutionaries” by Moscow and targeted for special treatment, it should be noted that at least one-fifth of all of the men in arms from the stanistas (about 30,000) did so under Red banners, with a full division, the First Don, being composed primarily of Cossacks. As such, many of the young men who rode with Budyonny’s Red Cavalry (Konarmiya) returned home to the farm in 1921 to be shown the light of the Workers’ and Peasants’ Paradise.

Babel didn’t cover that.

Warship Wednesday, May 8, 2019: Vladivostok’s Red Pennant

Here at LSOZI, we are going to 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, May 8, 2019: Vladivostok’s Red Pennant

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1921

Here we see the Russian steam gunboat Adm. Zavoyko bobbing around in Shanghai harbor sometime in 1921, as you may observe from the local merchants plying their wares. When this photo was taken, she was perhaps the only seagoing member of a Russian fleet on the Pacific side of the globe. Funny story there.

Built at the Okhta shipyard in St. Petersburg for the Tsar’s government in 1910-11, she was named after the 19th century Imperial Russian Navy VADM Vasily Stepanovich Zavoyko, known for being the first Kamchatka governor and Port of Petropavlovsk commander, the latter of which he famously defended from a larger Anglo-French force during the Crimean War.

This guy:

Vasily Stepanovich Zavoyko 2

The riveted steel-hulled modified yacht with an ice-strengthened nose was some 142.7-feet long at the waterline and weighed in at just 700-tons, able to float in just 10 feet of calm water. Powered by a single fire tube boiler, her triple expansion steam engine could propel her at up to 11.5-knots while her schooner-style twin masts could carry an auxiliary sail rig. She was capable of a respectable 3,500 nm range if her bunkers were full of coal and she kept it under 8 knots.

Ostensibly operated by Kamchatka governor and intended for the needs of the local administration along Russia’s remote Siberian coast, carrying mail, passengers and supplies, the government-owned vessel was not meant to be a military ship– but did have weight and space reserved fore and aft for light mounts to turn her into something of an auxiliary cruiser in time of war (more on this later).

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO plans

Sailing for the Far East in the summer of 1911, when war was declared in August 1914, the white-hulled steamer was transferred to the Siberian Flotilla (the largest Russian naval force in the Pacific after the crushing losses to the Japanese in 1905) and used as a dispatch ship for that fleet.

Now the Siberian Flotilla in 1914, under VADM Maximilian Fedorovich von Schulz– the commander of the cruiser Novik during the war with Japan– was tiny, with just the two cruisers Askold and Zhemchug (the latter of which was soon sunk by the German cruiser Emden) the auxiliary cruisers Orel and Manchu; two dozen assorted destroyers/gunboats/minelayers of limited military value, seven cranky submarines and the icebreakers Taimyr and Vaigach. As many of these were soon transferred to the West and Arctic in 1915 once the Germans had been swept from the Pacific, our little steamer, armed with machine guns and a 40mm popgun, proved an increasingly important asset used to police territorial waters.

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1917

ADMIRAL ZAVOYKO 1917

By 1917, with the Siberian Flotilla down to about half the size that it began the war with– and no ships larger than a destroyer– the 6,000 sailors and officers of the force were ripe for revolutionary agitation. As such, Adm. Zavoyko raised a red flag on her masts on 29 November while in Golden Horn Bay, the first such vessel in the Pacific to do so.

She kept her red pennant flying, even as Allies landed intervention forces at Vladivostok.

Japanese marines in a parade of Allied forces in Vladivostok before French and American sailors 1918

Japanese marines in a parade of Allied forces in Vladivostok before British, French and American sailors, 1918

As for the rest of the Siberian Flotilla, it largely went on blocks with its crews self-demobilizing and many jacks heading home in Europe. The fleet commander, Von Schulz, was cashiered and left for his home in the Baltics where he was killed on the sidelines of the Civil War in 1919.

By then, it could be argued that the 60 (elected) officers and men of the Adm. Zavoyko formed the only active Russian naval force of any sort in the Pacific.

In early April 1920, with the counter-revolutionary White Russian movement in their last gasps during the Civil War, the lukewarm-to- Moscow/Pro-Japanese Far Eastern Republic was formed with its capital in the Siberian port. It should be noted that the FER kind of wanted to just break away from the whole Russia thing and go its own way, much like the Baltics, Caucuses, Ukraine, Finland, and Poland had done already. Their much-divided 400~ representative Constituent Assembly consisted of about a quarter Bolsheviks with sprinklings of every other political group in Russia including Social Revolutionaries, Cadets (which had long ago grown scarce in Russia proper), Mensheviks, Socialists, and Anarchists. This produced a weak buffer state between Soviet Russia and Imperial Japan.

This thing:

The Far Eastern Republic ran from the Eastern shores of Lake Baikal to Vladivostok and only existed from 1920-23.

Now flying the (still-red) flag of the FER, Adm. Zavoyko was soon dispatched to bring a cache of arms to Red partisans operating against the last armed Whites on the coast of the Okhotsk and Bering Seas.

However, after Adm. Zavoyko left Vladivostok, the local demographics in its homeport changed dramatically. By early 1921, the population of the city had swelled to over 400,000 (up from the 97,000 who had lived there in 1916) as the White Army retreated east. With the blessing of the local Japanese forces– all the other Allies had left the city– the Whites took over the city in a coup on May 26 from the Reds of the Far Eastern Republic. As the Japanese were cool with that as well, it was a situation that was allowed to continue with the Whites in control of Vladivostok and the Reds in control of the rest of the FER, all with the same strings pulled by Tokyo. To consolidate their assets, the Whites ordered Adm. Zavoyko back to Vladivostok to have her crew and flags swapped out.

This put Adm. Zavoyko in the peculiar position of being the sole “navy” of an ostensibly revolutionary Red republic cut off from her country’s primary port. With that, she sailed for Shanghai, China and remained a fleet in being there for the rest of 1921 and into 1922, flying the St. Andrew Flag of the old Russian Navy. There, according to legend, she successfully fended off several plots from foreign actors, Whites, monarchists, and the like to take over the vessel.

By October 25, 1922, the Whites lost their Vladivostok privileges as the Japanese decided to quit their nearly five-year occupation of Eastern Siberia and the Amur region. White Russian RADM Georgii Karlovich Starck, who had held the rank of captain in the old Tsarist Navy and was the nephew of the VADM Starck who was caught napping by the Japanese at Port Arthur in 1904, then somehow managed to scrape together a motley force of 30 ships ranging from fishing smacks and coasters to harbor tugs and even a few of the old gunboats and destroyers of the Siberian Flotilla and sail for Korea with 10,000 White refugees aboard. His pitiful force eventually ended up in Shanghai on 5 December, where it landed its refuges, and then proceeded to sell its vessels (somewhat illegally) in the Philippines the next year, splitting the proceeds with said diaspora. Starck would later die in exile in Paris in 1950. His second in command, White RADM Vasily Viktorovich Bezoire (who in 1917 was only a lieutenant), remained in Shanghai and was later killed by the Japanese in 1941.

As for Adm. Zavoyko, once the FER voted to self-dissolve and become part of Soviet Russia, she lowered her St. Andrew’s flag, raised the Moscow flag, and sailed back home to the now-all-Soviet Vladivostok in March 1923 where became a unit of the Red Banner Fleet– the only one in the Pacific until 1932.

To commemorate her service during the Revolution and Civil War, her old imperialist name was changed to Krasny Vympel (Red Pennant). She was also up-armed, picking up four 75mm guns in shielded mounts, along with a gray scheme to replace her old white one.

For the next several years she was used to fight pockets of anarchists and White guards that persisted along the coast, engage stateless warlords, pirates, and gangs along the Amur, and shuffle government troops across the region as the sole Soviet naval asset in the area. She also helped recover former Russian naval vessels towed by the Japanese to Northern Sakhalin Island (where the Japanese remained in occupation until 1925).

In 1929, she stood to and supported the Northern Pacific leg of the Strana Sovetov (Land of the Soviets) seaplanes which flew from Moscow to New York. After that, with her neighborhood quieting down, she was used for training and coastal survey work but kept her guns installed– just in case.

Tupolev TB-1 Strana Sovyetov

Tupolev TB-1 Strana Sovyetov floatplane, 1929. The two planes would cover some 21,000 km to include a hop from Petrovavlask to Attu, which our vessel assisted with.

During WWII, with the revitalized Soviet Pacific Fleet much larger, Adm. Zavoyko/Krasny Vympel kept on in her role as an armed surveillance vessel and submarine tender, occasionally running across and destroying random mines sewn by Allied and Japanese alike.

In 1958, after six years of service to the Tsar, five years to various non-Soviet Reds, and 35 to the actual Soviets, she was retired but retained as a floating museum ship in her traditional home of Vladivostok in Golden Horn Bay.

Krasny Vympel 1973

Krasny Vympel 1973, via Fleetphoto.ru

Today, she remains a popular tourist attraction. She was extensively rebuilt in 2014 and, along with the Stalinets-class Red Banner Guards Submarine S-56 and several ashore exhibits, forms the Museum of Military Glory of the Pacific Fleet.

Krasny Vympel 75mm guns maxim via Fleetphoto.ru

Krasny Vympel 75mm guns and Maxim, via Fleetphoto.ru

She has been the subject of much maritime art:

As well as the cover of calendars, postcards, pins, medals, and buttons.

You can find more photos of the vessel at Fleetphoto.ru (in Russian) and at the Vladivostok City site

Specs:

Archive of the Modelist-Designer magazine, 1977, № 9 Via Hobby Port.ru http://www.hobbyport.ru/ships/krasny_vympel.htm

Displacement — 700 t
Length: 173.2 ft. overall (142.7 ft. waterline)
Beam: 27.88 ft.
Draft: 10 ft.
Engineering: 550 HP on one Triple expansion steam engine, one coal-fired boiler
Speed: 11.5 knots; 3500 nm at 8
Crew: 60
Armament:
(1914)
1 x 40mm Vickers
2 x Maxim machine guns

(1923)
4 x 75-mm low-angle
1 x 40mm Vickers
2 x Maxim machine guns

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, 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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Warship Wednesday, Sept. 20, 2017: The Potemkin’s little red brother

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 commissioned. 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.”

Bogatyr. Colourised photo by Atsushi Yamashita/Monochrome Specter http://blog.livedoor.jp/irootoko_jr/

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.

OCHAKOV (Russian Protected Cruiser, 1902-1933). View made on the deck looking aft toward the ship’s twin 6-inch mount and the bridge. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1986. Description: Catalog #: NH 101049

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 descent (his father fought at Sevastopol during its great siege in the Crimean War), was something of a rabble-rouser.

Schmidt

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 really 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 the 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.

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss Floatplane being hoisted aboard the Cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in February 1915, in the Black Sea. Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drapshil of Margate, Florida, 1984. Description: Catalog #: NH 100152

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

Russian Navy Curtiss F-type flying boat serial number 15 seen in the Black Sea, with the cruiser KAGUL (1902-1933) in the background. Information accompanying this photograph indicates that it was taken during the 28 March 1915 operation off the Bosporus. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida, 1984.Catalog #: NH 100153

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 minelaying expeditions (and themselves laid several of their own mine barriers) and captured or sank a number of Ottoman and later Bulgarian coasters.

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

Unidentified personnel seen on deck aboard the protected cruiser KAGUL (1902-1934) in The Black Sea on 20 March 1915. A twin 152mm/ 6-inch, 45-caliber gun turret appears in the center. Description: Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983 Catalog #: NH 94406

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

AMALIA (Turkish Merchant Ship) Photographed in the Black Sea at the time of capture on 4 May 1915 off the Rumelian coast. This 430-register ton merchant ship was carrying a cargo of petrol. This view was taken from aboard the Russian cruiser KAGUL (1902-1932) which made the capture while on a raiding cruise. Description: Courtesy of Boris V. Drashpil Catalog #: NH 94798

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

Photographed in Port at Novorossiysk on the Black Sea on 27 March 1916 (old style calendar, 13 days behind present western dating). Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1893 Catalog #: NH 94408

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.

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian "Wrangel-Fleet." From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

GENERAL KORNILOV Possibly photographed at Bizerte, where the ship spent 1920 to 1932 as a unit of the White Russian “Wrangel-Fleet.” From the P.A. Warneck Collection, 1981; Courtesy of B. V. Drashpil of Margate, Florida. Catalog #: NH 92158

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.

Specs:

Displacement: 7800 fl
Length: 439 ft. 8 in
Beam: 54 ft. 6 in
Draft: 20 ft. 8 in
Propulsion:
2 shaft vertical triple-expansion steam engines
16 Normand-type boilers
23,000 hp
Speed: 23 knots
Endurance: 5320 (10) on 1194 tons coal
Complement: 30 officers and 550 sailors
Armament:
(As built)
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
(1917)
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
Armor:
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)

If you liked this column, please consider joining the International Naval Research Organization (INRO), Publishers of Warship International

They are possibly one of the best sources of naval study, images, and fellowship you can find. http://www.warship.org/membership.htm

The International Naval Research Organization is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the encouragement of the study of naval vessels and their histories, principally in the era of iron and steel warships (about 1860 to date). Its purpose is to provide information and a means of contact for those interested in warships.

With more than 50 years of scholarship, Warship International, the written tome of the INRO has published hundreds of articles, most of which are unique in their sweep and subject.

PRINT still has its place. If you LOVE warships you should belong.

I’m a member, so should you be!

Warship Wednesday April 12, 2017: The Tsar’s German tin-can four-pack

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, April 12, 2017: The Tsar’s German tin-can four-pack

Courtesy of Mr. Boris V. Drashpil of Margate, Fla., 1983. Catalog #: NH 94425

Here we see a group of five German and Russian destroyers in the bay at Kaiochau (Jiaozhou), China, then part of the German colonial concession in late 1904. If the ships look similar– the German vessels are in gleaming white tropical scheme while the Russians are in a gray war coat– that is because all the above were recently produced by the firm of Schichau, Elbing, Germany, for the respective emperor-cousins. Why are the Russian ships in a German harbor? Well, that’s because they just made it there by the skin of their teeth after Battle of the Yellow, 10 Aug. 1904, running from the Japanese.

Why are the Russian ships in a German harbor? Well, that’s because they just made it there by the skin of their teeth after Battle of the Yellow, 10 Aug. 1904, running from the Japanese.

But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

The Tsarist Imperial Navy of the 1900s was an amalgam force that included not only capital, second-line and support ships made in Russia, but also craft purchased from France, the U.S., Germany, Great Britain and Italy. Girding for war with everyone from the Ottoman Empire to Sweden to Japan, the Russian Admiralty liked to hedge their bets.

The nation’s first class of modern “tin cans” were a large group of 27 300-ton Sokol-class vessels built at Yarrow and at Russian yards with British assistance between 1895-1903. Capable of making better than 30-knots, they were armed with two 15-inch (381mm) torpedoes and one 75mm gun, as well as several smaller 3 pounders.

Then came an exploratory order for five Forel-class ships from France, the single Som-class ship from Laird in England, and four Kit-class destroyers from Germany in 1899, all of nominally the same size– 350-tons. Armed with a trio of 15-inch tubes with six (three plus three reloads) Whitehead torpedoes capable of a 900-yard range, they carried a single 75mm gun with 160 rounds and five rapid-fire Hotchkiss 3 pdrs with 1350 rounds.

Fueled by four coal-fired steam boilers, they could make 27-knots or better. The destroyers were given one 24-foot whaleboat, as well as one 17-foot, one 19-foot, and one 12.5-foot canvas boats. In all, the boats were probably not enough to cram the 67-man crew into all of them if need be, but at least a good size portion could land ashore at once. The hulls were 35mm wood plank frames covered with 3mm of steel.

Our four German-built ships: Kit (Whale), Skat (Skate), Kastatka (Killer Whale), and Delfin (Dolphin), were laid down in 1899 at Schichau and completed by the summer of 1900. The cost of construction of each destroyer averaged 472,000 rubles or 1,020,000 German marks.

Russian officers in Elbing. 1900

Once complete, the four German-built units formed the First Detachment of the destroyers of the First Pacific Squadron under the overall command of Cdr. Kita Kevnarsky and sailed from Kronstadt in the Baltic on 12 October 1900 to Port Arthur– Russia’s new Pacific concession wrested away from China in 1895– arriving at the latter on 23 April 1901.

Delfin/Besstrashnyy as completed, click to big up 1200×918

In 1902, they were renamed and their “fish” names later used for early Russian submarines. The Kit was called Bditelnyy (Vigilant), Delfin became Besstrashnyy (Fearless), KastakaBesshumnyy (Silent) and SkatBesposhchadnyy (Merciless).

Kit/Bditelnyi with her white scheme at Port Arthur, prewar

Kit/Bditelnyi with a more warlike gray coat. Note the 75mm canet gun forward

Then, after just a couple years of quiet peacetime service, came the Russian Pearl Harbor, when Japanese torpedo boats skirted into Port Arthur at night and made hay with the resting Tsarist battle line before an official declaration of war.

A Japanese woodblock print of the torpedo boat attack on Port Arthur

Our class leader, Kit/Bditelnyy, made patrols to sea and, due to ruptured boiler pipes after hitting a mine in October later was relegated to the role of a floating artillery battery, hitting out at Japanese land positions as they grew closer.

She was destroyed by her crew 20 December 1904 as the Japanese closed in and was later salvaged.

The other three ships of our class, as you probably figured out from the first image of this post, made it out of Port Arthur.

When the Japanese attacked the Port in February 1904, Delfin/Besstrashnyy reportedly landed a hit on the Japanese Yarrow-built destroyer Akatsuki but did not do her any great damage. Akatsuki later hit a Russian mine and was written off. After helping evacuate Russian troops along the coastline before the Japanese blockade was airtight, she slipped out with her two sisters and the rest of the capable fleet for the Battle of the Yellow Sea which saw Russian Admiral Wilhelm Vitgeft’s plan to break out for Vladivostok before that port was iced in foiled by Japanese Adm. Togo’s fleet.

Though inconclusive, both sides suffered a mauling (the Japanese battleship Mikasa was hit 20 times by large caliber shells while the Russian pre-dreadnought Peresvet had 39 hits) while the three German-made destroyers of Vitgeft’s were low on coal and forced to withdraw towards China rather than make for either Port Arthur or Vladivostok.

Making it to Kaiochau, they were disarmed and interned by the Chinese government on 15 August for the remainder of the conflict.

After the war, the three surviving destroyers were modernized in 1909 with larger 17.7-inch torpedo tubes and a second 75mm gun. To balance the increase in topside weight, the Hotchkiss 47mm battery was replaced by six lighter 7.62x54R Colt M1895 machine guns.

Serving together in the Siberian Flotilla based in Vladivostok, the interwar period between fighting the Japanese and scrapping with the Germans was quiet.

Life in the Siberian Flotilla. Note the straw boater hat and Mosin M.91 rifle. Sailors of the flotilla were often dispatched for land service ashore to protect Russian interests in the area.

When the Great War erupted, the tin cans put to sea to fruitlessly scout for German ships until Vladivostok iced over and they continued their operations from the Chinese coast into the summer of 1915.

Once the threat of enemy raiders in the Pacific abated, two of the three destroyers– Delfin/Besstrashnyy and Kastaka/Besshumnyy— were ordered to sail for the Arctic Sea Flotilla at Murmansk in the Barents Sea in early 1917, arriving there that September.

Beshumnyi, note her post-1909 arrangement with two radio masts

There, they were in turn captured by the British when they seized the port after the Russian Revolution and remained part of the White forces in that region until early 1920 when the Reds recaptured the pair in poor condition. With parts for their Schichau-built plant hard to come by in 1920s Europe, the old girls were broken up in 1924-25.

Skat/Besposhchadnyy, in her 1904 arrangement, showing her with a single mast

Skat/Besposhchadnyy, unable to make the trip back to Europe, was captured by the Japanese Navy when they landed in Vladivostok in June 1918. Turned over to the Whites there, she was scuttled in 1922 so the Reds couldn’t use her further.

Between the four ships, they saw a lot of weird action in their 20~ year lifespan and some changed flags 3-4 times serving Tsar, White and Red governments with some allied intervention in between. But hey, that’s Russia for you.

Specs:
The destroyer of the “Kit” type:

(Longitudinal section, bilge plan, and top view)

1 – aft flagpole; 2 – 47-mm gun; 3 – stern bridge; 4 – “17-foot” mined vehicle, 5 – chimney, 6 – Francis system boat, 7 – galley, 8 – chopping (combat) felling, 9 – mast, 10 -75-mm gun, 11 – 12-steam boiler, 13-main machine, 14-officer rooms, 15-non-commissioned officer’s cabin, 16-aft cockpit of the crew, 17-propeller, 18-pen handle, 19-pit pit, 20-condenser, 21 – Officer’s cabins, 22 – Cabin-room, 23 – Cabin of the ship’s commander, 24 – Buffet, 25 – Wash basin, 26 – Anchor, 27-like hatch, 28 – Throat pit, 29 – Engine hatch, 30 – Skylight.

Displacement: 354 tons (full)
Length: 200-feet (61 m) (between perpendiculars)
Beam:  23-feet (7 m) (the largest for frames)
Draft: 5.9 ft. (1.8 m)
Engines     2 triple-expansion steam engines, 6,000 shp, 4 Shichau water-tube boilers
Speed:       27.4 knots full

Coal: 90t, 1500-mile range 10 kts.
Crew     62-67
Armament:
(1900)
1x75mm Canet gun
5x47mm (3 Pdr) Hotchkiss
3x trainable 381mm TT with six torpedoes
(1909)
2x75mm Canet guns
6x MG
3x trainable 450mm TT with no reloads

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Caucasian horsemen and their rare bolt-guns

Here we see a group of of the 2nd General Krukovskii’s Mountain-Mozdok Regiment of the Terek Cossacks, with their distinctive Cossack model Mosin-Nagant Model 91s.

Members of the 2nd Gorsko-Mozdoksky Regiment of the Terek Cossacks, undated cossack mosin

The Cossacks were organized somewhat differently than the regular line cavalry and also varied slightly between the different “hosts” (voyska)—Don, Kuban, Terek, Astrakhan, etc.—however, in general, a Cossack regiment consisted of six companies (sotni), grouped into two battalions (diviziony) of three companies. Each host maintained a “1st regiment” of men on active duty with the regular army. Each of these regiments had a “2nd regiment” back home on the farm of those who had recently completed service and could be recalled within two weeks. Then there was a further “3rd regiment” of older men in their 30s and even 40s who could muster to the flag inside of a month if needed.

The small Terek host hailed from the Caucasus Military District along the banks of the Terek River and had their headquarters at Vladikavkaz, now the capital city of the Republic of North Ossetia–Alania, Russia.

In peacetime the Terek host provided four “1st regiments” (1st General Krukovskii’s Mountain-Mozdok, 1st Sunzha-Vladikavkaz, 1st Volga, 1st General Yermolov’s Kizlyar-Grebensk) along with four batteries of horse artillery while the Terek Guard Watch [Terskaya Okhranaya Strazha]  remained in the krug itself to handle bandits and raiders and the Terek horse farm kept breeding and breaking ponies. The Tereks also had the honor of providing two squadrons [Terskaya Kazach’ya Sotnya] to the Tsar’s own personal household cavalry escort [Sobstvennyi EGO IMPERATORSKAGO VELICHESTVA Konvoi].

'The Last Inspection" depicting Tsar Nicholas II inspecting the cossacks of the convoy at Pskov March 15, 1917 after he abdicated. The men of the unit in many cases had been with the sovereign for decades and at that moment, was the last loyal force in the country.

‘The Last Inspection” depicting Tsar Nicholas II inspecting the Cossacks of the convoy at Pskov March 15, 1917 after he abdicated. The men of the unit in many cases had been with the sovereign for decades and at that moment, was the last loyal force in the country. These men were made up of two sontia of Terek Cossacks and another two of Kuban.

When the war kicked off in 1914, the four “2nd regiments” as well as the quartet of “3rd regiments” were swiftly called up, which is what you see in our brave, if aging, lads above.

The 2nd Mountain-Mozdok Regiment found itself part of the Russian Imperial Army’s 1st Caucasian Cavalry Corps of Lt. General Nikolai Nikolayevich Baratov (Baratashvili)  fighting the Turks in Persia during the Great War. The corps, as its name implies, was formed of almost two-thirds horse mounted units but did have some artillery (38 guns) and infantry attached. It was composed of the Cossacks mentioned above and reinforced by such exotic units as the Georgian Cavalry Legion (which Colonel Kaikhosro Cholokashvili, later a white partisan leader in the Russian Civil War served in), Omansky Cossack Regiment, the Katerinadraski Cossack Regiment, a unit of Armenians, and Shkuro’s Kuban Special Cavalry Detachment (under Andrey Shkuro who would also lead white partisans in the Civil War). This assemblage of units was as colorful and interesting as any that graced the battlefields of the Napoleonic Wars. It would fight the Ottoman Turks and their German allies across the deserts of modern day Iraq and Iran for the next four years and survive to be the last of the Tsar’s armies.

The Russians supported the Persian Shah and even provided officers for his own Cossack brigade of bodyguards. They fought rebellious tribes, demonstrators and bandits on the Shah’s behalf and served the greater Russian political good in the region.

General Baratov landed at Bandar-e Pahlavi in November 1915 and marched rapidly to Tehran where the Shah (Ahmet) was in hiding at the Russian Legation after being forced out in a coup. The Russian force reinstalled the Shah and then marched to the Hamadan to scatter the pro-German tribes and small units of Turkish troops.

He attempted to relive the British Forces under siege at Kut and indeed made it as far as Hamadan (some 100 miles away). Baratov fought Ottoman forces consisting of scattered Mesopotamian infantry, some Persian irregulars, and a handful of German officers. The Russians routed a Turkish force under German Count Kaunitz at Kangavar. Pushing on, they captured Kermanshah on February 26, 1916 and Kharind on March 12th where the army encamped and awaited an advance on Baghdad. It was not until the Turkish Gen. Ali Ishan Bey’s XIII Corps entered the theater (June 1916) that Baratov was finally met by a sizable force. The two forces met at Khanaqin where Baratov withdrew after a sharp skirmish.

Gen. Baratov led his force back into Persia to regroup and attempt to link up with British forces in northern Mesopotamia. In January 1917 the Grand Duke Dimitri Pavlovich Romanov was sent to join Baratov’s unit as punishment for taking part in the assassination of Rasputin. The Grand Duke met the general at the Cavalry Corps headquarters at Kasvin in northern Persia. The two became fast friends and the young Romanov, who had represented Russia at the 1912 Olympics in equestrian events, served on the general’s staff.

After the Russian Revolution (March 1917) Baratov’s forces began to suffer terrible desertions. By the time the Bolsheviks opened peace negotiations with the Germans and Turks in November 1917 Baratov could barely field an effective regiment. Many of his Cossacks would return hundreds of miles from Persia to their stanisa villages only to join the new White cause in the brewing Russian Civil War.

Baratov did in fact meet with a force sent north from the British in April 1917 which included a Col. Rowlandson, who would served as a liaison until the Caucasian Cavalry Corps linked with the British Dunsterforce in February 1918. By this time the Caucasian Cavalry Corps only consisted of Baratov, Gen. Lastochkin, Col. Bicherakov, Col. Baron Meden and about 1000 loyal Kuban and Terek cossacks (including our veterans of the 2nd Mozdoc). The rest of the Russian soldiers had left for home or deserted and milled around the town on their own recognizance. Baratov and his men, largely a forgotten army with no home, assisted the British in Persia until the end of World War One.

Many of the Russian officers found appointments as aides and eventually transitioned into the British Army. The Grand Duke Dimitri even came away with a commission as British Captain at the time. When the last of Baratov’s troops dissolved near Baku as part of Dunsterforce in August 1918, the old Ossetian general supported the fledgling state of Georgia, which was briefly independent. He lost a leg to a terrorist’s bomb there in 1919 and left the country just before the Red Army occupied it.  He died in 1932 while in Paris in exile. While in France he worked as senior editor of the Russki Invalid newspaper and was president of the Union of White Officers veterans group. He is buried in the Russian cemetery in St-Genevieve de Bois and his diaries and correspondence are held at the Hoover Archives.

As for the distinctive rifles shown above, the Soviets used the  Cossack/Dragoon pattern to convert the overly-long M91 into the more common M.91/30 that we know today.

izy mosin nagant 91 30

99 years ago today

'The Last Inspection" depicting Tsar Nicholas II inspecting the cossacks of the convoy at Pskov March 15, 1917 after he abdicated. The men of the unit in many cases had been with the sovereign for decades and at that moment, was the last loyal force in the country.

‘The Last Inspection” depicting Tsar Nicholas II inspecting the Cossacks of the Konvoy at Pskov, March 15, 1917 after he abdicated. The men of the unit in many cases had been with the sovereign for decades and at that moment, was the last loyal force in the country. (click to big up)

Within a year of the abdication of the Tsar, Russia would withdraw from World War I only to be plunged into a horrific Civil War and resulting diaspora and famine that would kill an estimated 12 million.

The painting above is by Pavel Ryzhenko.