Russia invaded East
Prussia - The Russian offensive started on the 17th
when First Army crossed the border north of the Masurian
Lakes. First contact was made in the Battle of Gumbinnen and an attack on the 20th by three
German corps was held. Gen Prittwitz paniced and wanted to
fall back behind the Vistula River, thus abandoning the
whole of East Prussia. Gen Moltke replaced him with Gen
von Hindenburg, and Gen Ludendorff joined him as chief of
staff. Meanwhile the Russian Second Army had crossed the
border to the south of the Masurian Lakes in the
Tannenberg area, making German retreat impossible. The
bulk of German Eighth Army was therefore moved southwest
by train from Gumbinnen. In the Battle of
on the 26th, the Germans attacked the Russians, turning
both flanks, encircling them, and in just six days
destroying Second Army and taking 100,000 prisoners.
Austria attacked Polish
Galicia - In the south of the strategically vital Russian-Polish
salient, the Austrian commander Conrad took the offensive first to beat the Russian's
mobilization. His main effort was to be on the west with a
strong left wing consisting of First and Fourth Armies.
They were to move north between the Vistula and Bug Rivers
to take the Polish towns of Lublin and Kholm. Russian
plans were similar, and at the Battles of Krasnik (23rd-26th) and Komarov (26th-31st) just within Poland,
the Austrians almost won, but only gained tactical
The First Battle of
Lemberg then took place through into early September.
The weaker Austrian right wing on the southeast flank was
in trouble with its reinforced Third Army outnumbered
three to one by the Russian Third and Eighth Armies. In
of Gnila Lipa River (a
tributary of the Dniester within Galicia) between 26th
and 30th, the Austrians were pushed back to the west of Lemberg. The Russian south or left wing
was now in a
position to outflank the Austrian armies fighting to the
north within Poland.
26th August - German cruiser
'MAGDEBURG' (1912, 4,570t,
12-10.5cm). German light cruisers 'Augsburg' and
'Magdeburg' continued minelaying and making other sorties into
the northern Baltic. Early on the 26th, in thick fog,
'Magdeburg' ran hard aground on the island of Odensholm
at the southern entrance to the Gulf of Finland (59-18N,
23-21E). Escorting destroyer 'V-26' tried to tow her off,
but without success. The crew attempted to scuttle, but Russian cruisers 'Bogatyr' and 'Pallada'
came up and opened fire. 'Magdeburg' was only partly
destroyed and the Russians recovered three sets of the main
German naval codes, complete with the current key. One of
the sets made its way quickly to the Royal Navys
'Room 40' in London. Added to other British captures,
German naval codes were soon broken and gave the Allies a
major advantage at sea.
East Prussia - As
Battle of Tannenberg was being fought, Russian First Army (Rennenkampf)
continued to push slowly into East Prussia north of the Masurian Lakes, but with the battle in the south lost by
the Russians, Rennenkampf took up a defensive position.
German Eighth Army (Hindenburg) moved north to face them
and on the 9th in the First Battle of the Masurian Lakes made a frontal assault which
was repulsed. But on the same day, the Russian's southern
flank in the Lakes area was pushed back out of East
Prussia, they covered their retreat with a small counter-attack on the
10th, and fell back towards the
River Niemen. In the first East Prussia Campaign, two
Russian Armies were broken and 300,000 men lost.
- With the
Russians threatening the Austrian left wing fighting
inside Poland, the rest of Austria's Second Army was brought back from Serbia. In the Battle of
(6th-10th), Austrian Gen Conrad tried to outflank the
Russian's Third and Eighth Armies in the south, but the
gap between Austrian First Army in the north and the rest
of his forces was exploited by Russian cavalry. On the
11th, Conrad ordered retirement behind the San River, and
on the 16th to the Gorlice-Tarnow Line with his left
flank on the Vistula River and the right in the Carpathian Mountains.
The Austrians had now been pushed
back 135 miles west of Lemberg, leaving all Austrian
Galicia in Russian hands, the fortress of Przemysl
besieged, and German Silesia threatened. The cost to the
Austrians was 250,000 men dead and wounded and 100,000
With Germany threatened, four German corps moved 500 miles from East Prussia
to the Cracow area in Austria, just behind the Austrian defences. The relatively small German force became the Ninth Army and with Austrian support prepared
to attack Poland aiming for Warsaw .
Poland - Pushing
north into Poland in the First Battle for Warsaw, the Germans were in
sight of the Polish capital by mid-month . But the Russians had the
advantage in numbers - four armies and 60 divisions
against the 18 divisions of German Ninth Army and the
Austrians. After heavy fighting along the Vistula to the
south of Warsaw , the Germans made an orderly withdrawal
to their own frontier. The Austrians were also pushed back
from the San River, once again leaving behind the
besieged city of Przemysl.
11th October - Russian armoured
cruiser 'PALLADA' (1911, 7,800t, 2-20.3cm). Three German U-boats
had been sent to patrol
the waters off the Gulf of Finland. The Russians were also patrolling the area using
unescorted cruisers, and apparently unaware of the hard
lessons the Royal Navy was learning about the danger from
submarines. Armoured cruiser 'Pallada' was hit by a single
torpedo from 'U-26',
her magazines exploded and the entire crew of 600 men
of British Submarines - The Russian
Baltic Fleet had few really effective submarines and
three British 'E'-class boats were ordered to
make the hazardous journey into the Baltic through the
Sound separating Denmark from Sweden. During the attempt
in mid-month, 'E-11' (Lt-Cdr Naismith) was forced to turn
back, but 'E-1' (Lt Cdr Laurence) and 'E-9' (Lt Cdr
Horton of World War 2 Battle of the Atlantic fame) got
through. Russia had abandoned the naval base at Libau and
the British boats made their way to Reval in the Gulf of
Finland, coming under the command of the Russian C-in-C.
Joined in late 1915 by more 'E' boats and then by four
'C' class, the British submarines came to play an
important part in stopping the German High Seas Fleet
exercising freely in the southern Baltic and disrupting
iron ore traffic from Lulea in Sweden.
Hindenburg was appointed C-in-C German forces on the
Eastern Front. With the Germans outnumbered and the
Austrians in the south shattered, the Russians attacked
towards German Silesia on the 11th. However German Ninth
Army (Gen von Mackensen) had concentrated between Thorn
and Posen on the northeastern border of the Polish
salient, and attacked the flank of the Russian advance
from Poland into Silesia. In the Battle for Lodz. the German drive almost succeeded,
and Mackensen moved at least 50 miles by mid November,
exploiting a gap between Russian First and Second Armies,
but Russian Fifth Army moved up and counter-attacked. The
threat to the German forces was too great and one Corps at Lodz had to struggle against a much larger Russian force
before breaking out in late November.
- German cruiser 'FRIEDRICH
9,700t, 4-21cm). On her way to bombard Libau, armoured
cruiser 'Friedrich Carl', serving as a coastal defence
ship, sank on two mines in a Russian field laid by
destroyers, west-southwest of Memel (54-41N, 20-11E). The
shelling of Libau by other cruisers went ahead.
- German large
torpedo boat 'S-124' (1904, 470t, 3-5cm, 3-45cm tt)
sinks in collision with Danish steamer 'Anglodane' off
the German Baltic coast (55-22N, 12-11E). She was salvaged, and broken up at Kiel in 1915.
- In the Second Battle for
Warsaw, the Russians
pulled back from Lodz and on the 6th, the Germans moved in
as major fighting ground to a halt. The German moves into
southwest and then northwest Poland were only partly successful, but had smashed the Russian Silesian
offensive and removed any threat to Silesia for the rest
of the war. By the end of the 1914, Hindenburg was receiving new troops and others transferred from the
Western Front. But for now the Eastern Front was quiet. In
the north, the Germans held the western part of Poland
including Lodz (but had not reached Warsaw), regained
all East Prussia, and taken the southern part of the
Russian Baltic provinces. In the south, Austrian Galicia
remained in Russian hands.
12th December - Russian
destroyers 'ISPOLNITELNI' and 'LETUCHI' (1906, 400t, 2-45.7cm tt). The two
'Lovki' class destroyers were lost in a snow storm off Odensholm during a planned minelaying operation southwest
of Libau. 'Ispolnitelni' sank after one of her own mines
explodes, and 'Letuchi' capsized trying to rescue the
crew. Few if any men survived from the two ships.
Russian Front -
German Gen Hindenburg pushed for a strategy of victory in
the East, and in mid-month the Kaiser agreed to send four
new German corps to reinforce the Eastern front.
Hindenburg and the Austrian Conrad were to launch separate
offensives from East Prussia and the Carpathians. German
forces included the new Tenth Army (Gen von Eichhorn) on
the northern flank of East Prussia, further south the
Eighth Army (Gen von Below), and Ninth Army (Mackensen)
on the southern flank of the German line opposite Warsaw.
Here they joined the Austrians - from north to south, the
Second, First, Fourth, Third and Second Armies. Russian
forces consisted of the Tenth Army in the north just across
the East Prussian border, the new Twelfth forming
northeast of Warsaw, and the First and Second around
Warsaw - all facing the Germans. Opposing the Austrians were the Fifth, Fourth, Ninth, Third, Eighth and Eleventh
Hindenburg's first aim
was to destroy the Russian's northern Tenth Army and
one of the main railway lines to Warsaw. On the 31st,
to cover movements of Ninth Army elements, Mackensen attacked the Polish
town of Bolimov on the railway line between Lodz and
Warsaw. In the first use of gas in the war, tear gas
shells were employed, but with limited effect. Their
use was not reported to the Western Allies.
- German cruisers 'Augsburg'
and 'Gazelle' -
The Russian minelaying offensive continued to
take a toll of German
warships and merchantmen. Light cruiser 'Augsburg' and
the older 'Gazelle' were damaged in separate cruiser-laid
minefields near the Danish island of Bornholm on the
night of the 24th/25th.
new German Tenth Army attacked the Russian Tenth in the Winter Battle of
Masuria between the
7th and 21st. Fighting in heavy snow, one Russian corps was lost to save the remaining three. The Russian army
was out of the fight for the present with 200,000 casualties
including prisoners - a tactical, but not a strategic
victory for the Germans.
East Prussia - In
the north, the Russians were driven from East Prussia, but held the Germans on the Narew, Bobr and Niemen Rivers.
Austrian offensive led by Third and Fourth Armies,
supported by a largely German southern army made few
gains, and on the 22nd, the besieged Przmesyl Fortress fell to the Russians with the
loss of over 100,000 men. Through until mid April, the
Austrians just managed to prevent the Russian Third and
Eighth Armies breaking through the Carpathian mountain
passes south and invading the Hungarian Plain.
fighting continuing in the south, German Gen Hindenburg
launched a diversionary attack from East Prussia into
Russian Lithuania and Courland. The naval base of Libau on the Baltic coast
was captured in
Galicia - From mid
March, the Austrians managed to stop the Russians
breaking through the Carpathians. Now German
reinforcements reached them in preparation for a major
offensive. The newly formed Eleventh Army was moved from
the Western Front, covered by the attack on Ypres on the
22nd, and placed with the Austrian Fourth under
Mackensen's command behind the Gorlice-Tarnow gap, south
of the Vistula River.
Russians were not prepared for the coming German-Austrian
offensive - the Battle of Gorlice-Tarnow. On the 2nd, a heavy bombardment
started along the line of the Vistula River south to the
Carpathian Mountains. By the 4th, Russian Third Army was almost wiped out and the German-Austrians broke through.
As the great attack continued, the Russians were driven
back from the Dunajec to the San Rivers by the 12th, and
then towards Lemberg. German Gen Mackensen advanced 100
miles in two weeks. The entire Russian line was unhinged
in the south and the Carpathians abandoned. Until
September 1915, with few pauses, the Central Powers
attacked at will, and the Russians forced to withdraw along
the entire Eastern Front.
8th May -
German torpedo boat
small destroyer, 1915, 340t, 2-8.8cm, 2-45cm tt). As the Germans took Libau, 'V-107' had her bow blown off by a
mine in the harbour entrance (56-33N, 20-58E), and
became a total loss. Libau became an important base for
the German Baltic Fleet.
As the German-Austrian
offensive continued along the Galician Front, and the
Russians were driven back from the San River towards Lemberg, Przemysl Fortress
was retaken by the Austrians on
the 3rd and the German-Austrian forces regrouped. In the Second Battle for
Lemberg, the city was recaptured on the 22nd. Now the Eastern Front ran from
Lithuania in the north, looped around Warsaw, and with
most of Galicia back in Austrian hands, continued south
to the Rumanian border. Little remained of the
4th June - Russian minelayer
'YENISEI' (or 'Enisej', 1910, 2,900t, 320
minelaying operations were not without their losses. German 'U-26' (which sank armour cruiser 'Pallada' in
October 1914) torpedoed and sank 'Yenisei' off the Gulf
of Finland to the west of Revel (Tallinn) as she made
her way to Moon Sound.
submarine operations - As the two British submarines continued offensive patrols,
'E-9' (Horton) torpedoed and sank a German collier, and badly damaged destroyer 'S-148', to the west of Windau on the 5th.
Converging attacks from
the north and south were made on the Russian-Polish
salient in the Third Battle for Warsaw. From the north, German Twelfth Army (Gen
von Gallwitz) advanced out of East Prussia, while in the
south, the German-Austrian offensive, including Mackensen's German Eleventh Army, continued. As the
Russians retreated, the province of Courland on the Baltic
coast was occupied and pressure put on the Polish salient
from the northwest and southwest. The Russians prepared to
give up Warsaw.
2nd July - German mine cruiser
2,200t, 288 mines, 8-8cm) and cruiser 'Prinz
On the evening of the 1st, 'Albatross' screened by
armoured cruiser 'Roon', light cruisers 'Augsburg' (SNO,
Cdre von Karpf) and 'Lubeck' with seven destroyers laid
mines in the northern Baltic, south of the Aaland
Islands. The same night, Russian armoured cruisers 'Adm Makarov' (flagship,
Rear Adm Bakhirev) and 'Bayan', and light cruisers
'Bogatyr' and 'Oleg', followed by armoured cruiser
'Rurik' and destroyer 'Novik' sailed south to shell Memel.
Diverted by wireless intelligence and Russian decoding to hunt for the Germans, they encountered 'Albatros', 'Augsburg' and three
of the destroyers on the morning of the 2nd.
was badly hit and beached near Ostergarn on the
Swedish island of Gotland (57-25N, 18-57E) but later
refloated and interned. The German 'Roon', 'Lubeck' and remaining
four destroyers were then sighted by the Russians, and ships of both sides
damaged by gunfire.
As two more German armoured cruisers sailed to give
support, 'Prinz Adalbert' was torpedoed and badly damaged
by British submarine 'E-9' (Horton) north of
The Russians continued to
retreat in Poland and both Warsaw and Brest-Litovsk
fell - Warsaw on the 4th, and the
fortress of Brest-Litovsk on the 25th. The Germans crossed
the border into Russia itself
8th-21st August 1915 - German Naval
Attack on Gulf of Riga
As the Germans advanced east and north into
Russia, a strong naval force (Vice Adm Schmidt) complete
with battleships stood ready on the 8th to break
into the Gulf of Riga to destroy Russian naval forces and shipping,
mines. But first the minefields of the Irben Straits had
to be cleared. Supporting them were eight dreadnoughts,
three battlecruisers, light cruisers and destroyers of
the High Sea Fleet under the command of Vice Adm Hipper.
The minefields proved a tough obstacle, and after German minesweeping
torpedo-boats 'T-52' (ex-'S-52', 1890, 150t) and 'T-58' (ex-'S-58', 1892, 150t)
by mines (57-42N, 21-50E), the first attack was broken
The second attempt
on the 16th. A third German minesweeper 'T-46' (ex-'S-46', 1889, 150t)
mined (57-41N, 21-50E), but further Russian attempts to interfere with
minesweeping were stopped when old battleship 'Slava' was driven off by German
dreadnoughts 'Posen' and 'Nassau', accompanied by three
light cruisers and two destroyers. The main support force
- the remaining six dreadnoughts and three battlecruisers
stayed in the Baltic. On the night of the 16th/17th, German destroyers 'V-99' and 'V-100'
broke through the Irben Strait to look for the 'Slava'.
In a running battle with Russian destroyers,
German 'V-99' (1915, 1,350t, 4-8.8cm, 6-50cm tt,
24 mines) was hit by 'Novik's' gunfire, mined twice, and
with severe battle damage and 21 men dead, scuttled on
the morning of the 17th in position 57-37N, 21-52E.
During the day of the
as minesweeping continues, Russian battleship 'Slava' was hit three times by shells from
dreadnoughts 'Posen' and 'Nassau', and withdrew in to
Moon Sound. The Germans
eventually cleared a passage through the dense minefields,
and on the 19th, passed into the Gulf of Riga to
attack Russian shipping. Late that night,
torpedo boat 'S-31' (or destroyer, 1914, 800t, 3-8.8cm, 6-50cm
tt, 24 mines) was mined and sunk within the Gulf of Riga
off the island of Runö (57-47N, 23-05E).
Earlier on the
out in the Baltic west of Dago, covering German
battlecruiser 'Moltke' was torpedoed in the bow and slightly
damaged by British submarine 'E-1' (Lt-Cdr Laurence) in
her first success with the Baltic flotilla. By the
21st, with too many ships sunk and damaged, the Germans called off the attacks and Riga
was saved from bombardment from the sea. The city did
not fall to the Germans for another two years.
15th August - Russian minelayer
'LADOGA' (ex-old armour cruiser 'Minin',
1878, 6,100t, c900 mines) was lost on mines laid by German 'UC-4' off the Aaland island of
Oro in the northern Baltic.
19th August - British submarine
'E-13' (1915, 670t, 5tt, 1-12pdr).
The Admiralty decide to reinforce the small Baltic
flotilla with four more 'E'-class submarines. Sailing
from the English East Coast port of Harwich on the 14th,
'E-8' got through safely on the night of the 17th/18th,
but 'E-13' ran aground on the neutral Danish island of Saltholm at the southern end of the Sound late on the
18th. Next morning, two German torpedo boats appeared, including the
'G-132', and in spite of Danish Navy attempts to shield
the submarine, opened heavy fire. The disabled 'E-13' (Lt
Cdr Layton) was interned and only returned to the Royal
Navy at the end of the war. Cdr Layton escaped back to
Two more British boats - 'E-18' and 'E-19' -
made the passage to Reval safely in September.
By the end of September,
German General Hindenburg had reach the outskirts of Riga
in Latvia, and in the Battle of Vilna (or Vilnius), captured Vilna on the
border with Lithuania. Subsequent German thrusts towards
Riga and Dvinsk, both on the Dvina River were repulsed. To
offset this, the Russian Baltic provinces of Courland and Lithuania had been occupied, the Polish salient
eliminated, Austrian Galicia retaken, and the Russian
threat to the Hungarian Plains removed. The Russian Front
now ran north to south 600 miles from Riga and the Dvina
River, then just short of Minsk, through the Pripet
marshes and on to the Dniester River at the Rumanian
frontier. The Russian C-in-C, Grand Duke Nicholas was dismissed and his nephew, the Czar assumed personal
4th September - German
'U-26' (1914, 670t, 4-50cm tt, 1-8.8cm).
Operating off the Gulf of Finland, and after presumably
torpedoing a Russian
transport to the NW of the island of Worms on the 30th
August, 'U-26' disappeared. Her previous victims included
armour cruiser 'Pallada' and minelayer 'Yenesei'. She was believed to have been a victim of mines to the west of
the larger island of Dago (c 59-40N, 23-50E) around the
submarine successes - The few Russian and British submarines had been sent out to attack shipping between Germany and
Sweden. The British
boats scored their greatest successes of the war in the
Baltic. On the 3rd, the first German merchant ship victim - 'Svionia' -
was sunk by the gunfire of 'E-19' (Cromie) off Sassnitz in the western
Baltic. Over the next three weeks, another nine vessels, mostly ore-carriers
went down mainly to
gunfire or scuttling by 'E-8' (one ship), 'E-19' (five
ships) off the Swedish island of Oland, and 'E-9' (three
ships) further north off Norrkopping.
15th October -
torpedo boat 'T-100' (or 'S-100', 1901, 390t, 3tt) was lost in
collision with the 2,900grt railway ferry 'Preussen' off
Sassnitz on the German coast (54-30N, 13-43E).
23rd October - German armoured
cruiser 'PRINZ ADALBERT' (1904, 9,700t, 4-21cm) sole sister ship of
the 'Friedrich Carl' lost on mines in November 1914, was also sunk in the Baltic. In July three months before,
'Prinz Adalbert' was badly damaged by a torpedo from Lt
Horton's 'E-9'. On the 23rd October as the escorted
cruiser sailed into Libau on her first cruise, she was attacked by Lt Cdr Goodhart's 'E-8'. Hit in a magazine by
one torpedo, she exploded and sank with the loss of 672
crew (56-33N, 20-28E). German heavy warships withdrew from the Baltic as
the British flotilla continued to attack the
Swedish iron ore trade.
7th November - German light
cruiser 'UNDINE' (1904, 2,700t, 10-10.5cm). British submarines continued their 1915
successes. On patrol in the western Baltic, 'E-19' (Lt
Cdr Cromie) hit 'Undine' with two torpedoes, sinking her
south of the southern Swedish town of Trelleborg (54-59N,
25th November - German light
cruiser 'Danzig' was badly damaged in a newly-laid Russian minefield south of the Swedish
island of Gotland.
28th November - Russian submarine
'AKULA' (c1911, 370t, 4-45.7cm tt
and 4 drop collars). Three days after the mine damage to
the German 'Danzig', 'Akula', herself on a mining mission was probably sunk in a German minefield in the area off Libau.
By the end of the year,
with Riga in the north threatened, half the Russian
Baltic provinces and all Poland lost, and the hard-won
gains in Austrian Galicia retaken by the Central Powers,
Russia counted the cost. Although Russian casualty figures are hard to
confirm, over two million men had been
killed, wounded or taken prisoner.
17th December - German light
cruiser 'BREMEN' (1904, 3,760t, 10-10.5cm) and
large torpedo boat 'V-191' (or destroyer, 1911, 650t,
2-8.8cm, 4-50cm tt). A Russian minefield off German-occupied Courland
between Windau and Lyserort accounted for three German warships in
December. On the 17th, cruiser 'Bremen' and destroyer 'V-191' went down,
position 57-31N, 21-24E. (Some sources report both ships
torpedoed by British submarine
23rd December -
torpedo boat 'S-177' (or destroyer, 1911, 650t, 2-8.8cm,
4-50cm tt). Six days later, the same Russian minefield off Courland accounted
for 'S-177', same class as 'V-191' in position 57-30N,
13th January - German light
cruiser 'Lubeck' was damaged mid-month in a Russian minefield in the middle of the
southern Baltic, between Danzig and the island of
Sea - With
the northern Baltic frozen, few naval operations were possible over the next two months.
now, the Russians had
replaced the men lost in the defeats of 1915, and the
French were appealing to the Czar to launch an offensive
against the Germans to help relieve the pressure on
Verdun. Starting on the 18th, an assault was made in the
north in the Battle of Lake Naroch (east of Vilna) by Russian Second Army.
Shortly over, the battle ended with 100,000 more Russian
casualties for no gains. Now there was a pause as the
Russians prepared for a major offensive later in the year,
but again events in the west led to premature attacks
being launched in June 1916.
The Russian offensive near Lake
Naroch in the
north petered out.
Operations - Three
belligerent submarines were lost late in the month in
- Russian submarine 'SOM' (ex-'Fulton', 1904, 105t, 1-38.1cm
tt). In the northern Baltic off the Aaland Islands, the
old Russian boat was lost in collision with Swedish
- British submarine 'E-18' (1915, 670t, 5tt, 1-12pdr). On the
24th or sometime after, the first of the British boats were lost in action within the Baltic. Accounts vary. Some
sources show 'E-18' sunk off Bornholm in the south by German decoy or Q-ship 'K'. Others that
she went on to torpedo and damage German destroyer
'V-100' off Libau, and on her return in late May/early
June, was lost in a German
minefield, perhaps west of the island of Osel.
27th May - German
'U-10' (1911, 490t, 4-45cm
tt). Leaving for patrol on the 27th, 'U-10' went missing.
She was assumed lost on Russian mines off the Gulf of Finland, possibly
north of the island of Dago (c 59-30N, 21-00E).
Following the Austrian
offensive into Italy in May and an Italian appeal for
aid, the Russians launched a premature offensive south of
the Pripet Marshes aimed at Galicia in what turned out to
be their last great action of the Russian Front - the Brusilov
Offensive. It was led by Gen Alexei Brusilov with the Southwest Army
Group of Eighth, Eleventh, Seventh and Ninth Armies (50
divisions) against four largely Austrian Armies (46
divisions including some German) on a 200 mile front down
to the Rumanian border. A surprise attack was launched on
the 4th near Dubno to the north and, further south, near
the Dniester River. By next day, the flanking Austrian
Fourth Army in the north and the Seventh Army in the
south were close to collapse. By late June, both Austrian Armies had been routed and the Russians
the passes through the Carpathian Mountains. German
divisions were brought from other sectors of the Eastern
Front as well as the Western Front (weakening the attack
on Verdun) to stop the threatened breakthrough. Austrian
divisions were also brought back from the Italian Front
thus ending that drive. As the defences stiffened, the
Russians struggled ahead into July, August and through to
September, but at heavy cost.
Galicia continued in the south, but made limited
15th August -
torpedo boat 'V-162' (coastal defence vessel, 1909,
640t, 2-8.8cm, 2-50cm tt). Dense Russian minefields in the Irben Strait
guarding the southern passage into the Gulf of Riga
continued to take a toll of warships. Screening
minesweeping operations, 'V-162' went down off Lyserort
(57-35N, 21-35E) on the Courland coast.
- Russian destroyer 'DOBROVOLETZ' (1906, 570t, 2-10.2cm,
3-45.7cm tt) was lost six days later in the Irben Straits
on a Russian mine while on a laying operation
The Brusilov Offensive into Galicia finally came
to an end. The Russians had helped relieve the pressure on the
Allies on both the Western and Italian Fronts, and cost
the Austrians and Germans over 600,000 casualties,
including 400,000 Austrian prisoners. But the price paid
by Russia was too great - one million casualties, broken
morale, and a nation ready for revolution.
28th October - Russian torpedo
boat 'KAZANETS' (or
destroyer, or 'Kazanec', 1905, 580t, 2-11pdr, 3-45.7cm
tt). German submarines had concentrated on minelaying in the Gulf of Finland. On the 28th, the old
destroyer 'Kazanets' sank on a mine laid by 'UC-27' off Odensholm at the southern entrance to the Gulf.
On the 5th November,
German and Austria announced that an independent Polish state would be established.
21st, Franz-Joseph, Emperor of Austria and King of
Hungary died at the age of 86. He was succeeded by his
grand-nephew, Charles I, destined to see the break-up of
the Austro-Hungarian Empire in less than two years.
7th November - Russian destroyer
'LETUN' (1916, 1,260t,
4-10.2cm, 9-45.7cm tt). German submarine-laid mines in the Gulf of Finland
continued to account for Russian ships, one to the
successful 'UC-27'. On the 7th, newly completed destroyer
'Letun' was badly damaged north of Reval, laid up and not
- German large
torpedo boats 'V-75', 'S-57', V-72', 'G-90', 'S-58',
'S-59', 'V-76' (or
destroyers, all 1916, 920t, 3-8.8cm, 6-50cm tt, 24
mines). Ships of the 10th Torpedo boat Flotilla suffered
even more heavily from Russian mines - seven out of eleven new vessels
lost during an attack on shipping in the Reval area. On
the way into the Gulf of Finland, late on the 10th,
sank and the damaged
scuttled. An abortive attack was made on Baltic Port, and
as they returned,
were sunk early on the 11th, although casualties were light
(all at c 59-23N, 22-30E).
Russia - Grigori, Rasputin (the 'vagabond' or 'drunkard'), who
exerted such influence over the Czar's wife and thus the
Czar, was assassinated by court nobles. This, together
with food shortages, the huge casualty lists from the
front, and the Czar's unwillingness to liberalize the
government, increased tension within Russia and led to
demonstrations and strikes in the early months of 1917.
continued over the next three months around Riga, in northern Galicia, and at Bukovina to the north of Rumania.
submarines reinforcements - Four more smaller 'C' class submarines - 'C-26', 'C-27',
'C-32' and 'C-35' - reached the Baltic to join the four
surviving 'E' boats under Cdr Cromie, senior officer
since early 1916 when Cdrs Horton and Laurence returned
home to Britain. Arriving by sea at Archangel in the
north of Russia, the 'C' boats travelled overland to the
Gulf of Finland by canal and river.
Little action on the
Russian Front was reported.
Russia - The 'March Revolution' followed demonstrations, food riots
and strikes which paralysed the Russian capital of
Petrograd (previously St Petersburg, then Leningrad, and
now St Petersburg again). The Duma or parliament refused
to obey the Czar's order of dissolution on the 11th, next
day a provisional government was formed, and the revolt
spread to Moscow. On the 15th at his Army headquarters
in Pskov, the Czar abdicated and his brother, the Grand
Duke Michael refused the crown. A few days later, the
House of Romanov ended with the arrest of the Czar and his
family. The revolution then became a struggle between
the moderate liberals of the Duma and the Workers' and
Soldiers' Councils or 'Soviets' set up by the Socialists
Over the next few months, Alexander Kerensky emerged as the leader of a moderate
socialist and provisional government until its downfall
eight months later in November 1917.
Russia - After years in exile,
Lenin, the future ruler of Soviet Russia was allowed by the Germans to return home from
Switzerland, travelling through Germany in a sealed
train. In Petrograd he was joined by Joseph Stalin and from the United States by Leon Trotsky. The Bolsheviks prepared to
continue the Russian Revolution.
Russia - While the Bolshevik 'Soviets'
pressed for peace with
Germany and Austria, the provisional Russian government
remained committed to pursuing the war on the side of the
Allies. Alexander Kerensky, now appointed Minister of War, prepared
for an offensive in July under the command of Gen Brusilov.
- Russian submarine 'BARS' (1916, 650t, 4-45cm tt and 4 drop
collars, 1-6.3cm). Sailing from the Gulf of Finland in
mid-May with other Russian
submarines for operations off the Swedish coast, 'Bars' was lost, probably near Norrkopping to the south of
Stockholm. The cause may have been mines or German depth charge attack
on the 28th. Russian sources suggest she may have been rammed and sunk in
error at an earlier date (the 21st) by a Russian destroyer off the Russian island of
c 11th/14th June - Russian submarine
'LVITSA' (or 'Lvica', 1916,
650t, 4-45.7cm tt and 4 drop collars, 1-6.3cm). As British submarines concentrated on
reconnaissance patrols off the Baltic coast and in the
Gulf of Riga to forestall German moves towards Petrograd, the Russian boats continued the trade war
against the now well-protected Swedish ore convoys.
'Lvitsa', sister to 'Bars' lost in late May, went missing
at this time. She may have gone down to German surface craft attack on the 11th,
or mines around the 14th to the south of Gotland.
On the 1st, Russian Gen
Brusilov launched the Kerensky Offensive into Galicia, but with little
chance of success. Workers' and Soldiers' Soviets controlled many army
units and discipline broke down. However the
attack wnet ahead with the least affected troops
including Poles, Finns and Siberians. The Russian
Eleventh, Seventh and Eighth Armies with some 40 understrength divisions pushed for Lemberg against
exhausted Austrian and some German and Turkish forces.
Little progress was made against the Germans, but Russian
Eighth Army (Gen Kornilov) facing Austrians in the south
advanced 20 miles. On the 19th, the Central Powers with
some German divisions rushed from the Western Front,
launched a counter-offensive. Within a matter of days and
with thousands of Russians deserting, the Front crumbled.
With little serious fighting, the Russian retreat turned
into a rout and the Germans and Austrians advanced at
- The offensive was failing by
mid-month, and Lenin led a Bolshevik rising in
Petrograd which was soon crushed. On the 22nd, Kerensky was appointed Prime Minister of the Provisional Government. Finland announced its independence from
6th July - Russian submarine
'AG-14' (1916, 355/430t, 4-45.7cm tt,
1-4.7cm). For the third month running a Russian submarine
gwnet missing in uncertain circumstances operating against German shipping. The brand new 'AG-14'
was presumed lost off the German-occupied port of Libau
around this date, probably on mines.
As pressure to end the war
grew in Russia, the Central Powers attacked the Russians
as well as the Rumanians in Moldavia at the southern end
of the front. Towards the end of the month, the Germans
started the Riga Offensive in the north.
12th August - Russian torpedo
boat 'LEITENANT BURAKOV' (or destroyer, 1907, 350t, 2-11pdr,
2-45.7cm tt), in use as a despatch vessel was lost on a
mine laid by German
'UC-78' of the Aaland Islands in the northern Baltic.
- Russian destroyer 'STROINI' (also 1907, 350t, 2-11pdr,
2-45.7cm tt). 'Stroini', screening a minelaying operation
in the Irben Straits, ran aground in the Gulf of Riga
off the southern Osel port of Zerel. Badly damaged in a German seaplane bombing attack, salvage
attempts were abandoned.
Continuing the Riga Offensive, and partly to force the Russians
to the negotiating table, German Eighth Army (Gen Oskar
von Hutier) crossed the Dvina River and captured the
important seaport of Riga on the 3rd against little resistance. The
badly beaten Russians withdrew as the Germans prepared to
send in amphibious forces to capture the islands at the
entrance to the Gulf of Finland, and thus threaten
The Great War
is remembered for its trench warfare, but German Gen von Hutier broke the mould using night approach marches,
short heavy opening bombardments, rolling barrages,
infiltration and specialised combat units. 'Hutier'
tactics were used with great success in 1917 against
the Italians at Caporetto and in the 1918 Second
Battle of the Somme.
Russia - Following an attempted coup by
Gen Kornilov, dismissed from his position as Russian
C-in-C, Prime Minister Kerensky declared a Russian
Republic under his leadership.
26th September - Russian destroyer
'OKHOTNIK' (1906, 615t, 2-11pdr, 2-45.7cm tt) was sunk off Zerel in the Irben Strait in possibly the
first such success of its kind. She blew up on a mine
laid by a German
12th-20th October 1917 - Naval Battle for
the Gulf of Riga
landings were made by German forces on the Russian-held islands blocking the entrances to the
Gulf of Riga, partly to trap units of the Russian Navy. In this they
partially successful and ships on both sides were lost or
damaged. The islands, from north to south are present day Estonian Vormi (Worms), Hiiumaa (Dago), Muhu
(Moon) and Saarema (Osel). Osel with heavy shore
batteries at the southern point of Zerel prevented the Germans from breaking through in to the
Gulf, while Moon Island to the north guarded the only
other possible exit for the Russians. German
naval forces, the greatest concentration of the war in
the Baltic included ten dreadnoughts, plus cruisers,
destroyers and minesweepers with air support. The Russians included two pre-dreadnoughts,
cruisers and three small British 'C'-class submarines,
including 'C-27' and 'C-32'.
Arriving off Osel Island
on the 12th, the German dreadnoughts bombarded the coastal
batteries before putting troops ashore for an advance on
the town of Arensburg in the east. The only damage at
this time was to dreadnoughts 'Grosser Kurfurst' and 'Bayern' from mines. To the north, light
forces clashed as the Germans attempted
to approach Moon Island through the passage separating
Dago and Osel Islands.
14th, German land forces had crossed Osel,
cutting off Zerel in the south. Both sides now
concentrated on the struggle for the more northerly Moon
Island area and the Germans brought up heavy warships to support the
light naval forces. During the day dreadnought 'Kaiser' hit Russian destroyer
'GROM' (1915, 1,260t, 4-10.2cm, 9-45.7cm
tt), which was further damaged in action with German destroyers before sinking. However
the Russians still controlled one of the northern
exits from the Gulf of Riga.
Meanwhile, German minesweepers started to clear the Irben Straits in the south to allow heavy units to break
through to the Gulf, but operations were held up by the Russian's Zerel batteries still holding out
at the south end of Osel. These were captured next day on
the 15th, leaving only mines as the remaining
With Osel Island in German hands and the Irben Straits
minefields cleared, heavy German ships entered the Gulf of Riga on the
As they headed north for Moon Island, British submarine 'C-27' torpedoed and
badly damages a support ship.
17th, the Germans approached the southern end of Moon
Island and the entrance to Moon Sound. Dreadnoughts
'Konig' and 'Kronprinz' opened fire on Russian
pre-dreadnoughts 'Slava' and 'Grazdanin' (ex-'Tsesarevitch') respectively. Both
were hit, 'Slava' heavily. The old Russian armoured
cruiser 'Bayan' was also badly damaged by a 30.5cm (12in) shell from
Flooded and with her
draught too great to escape, 'SLAVA' (1905, 13,500t, 4-30.5cm)
was scuttled in
shallow water and finished off by torpedoes from Russian destroyer 'Turkmenets
Stavropolski'. Retreating north, the Russians continued to lay defensive
minefields in the vicinity of Moon Island and just after
midnight on the 17th/18th,
German destroyer 'S-64' (1917, 920t, 3-10.5cm, 6tt, 24
mines), approaching Moon Sound from the north hit one
and sank in position 58-43N, 23-24E.
The Russians evacuated Moon Island on the
as the Germans land, and next day Dago Island was also
occupied. By the 20th, surviving Russian ships had slipped past Worms
Island and made for bases in the Gulf of Finland.
24th October - British submarine
'C-32' (1909, 290t, 2-18in tt) stranded
on a mudbank near Pernau on the north-eastern side of the
Gulf of Riga. She was abandoned and blown up by her crew.
According to Greger, she unsuccessfully attacked a German auxiliary on the 20th and was
damaged by the resulting depth-charges before being run
29th October - Russian submarine
'GEPARD' (1916, 650t, 4-45cm tt and 4 drop
collars, 1-6.3cm) was lost around this time. On patrol
with other Russian
submarines off the
Gulf of Riga and the outlying islands, she was reported on
this date to the northwest of Windau. She may have been
mined at this time or later off Osel on the way home.
29th October - German
'U-52' sank in dock in Kiel after a
stern torpedo exploded. She was raised in October and
returned to service.
Russia - On November 7th/8th, the Russian Revolution ('October Revolution' in the old
Gregorian calendar) started with Lenin's Bolsheviks
seizing the Winter Palace, the place of government in
Petrograd. Prime Minister Kerensky escaped and a
Bolshevik government formed with Lenin as Premier and
Trotsky as Foreign Minister. The Revolution spread
quickly and Russia was soon in chaos as Civil War erupted between the 'Reds' and 'Whites'. The Bolsheviks immediately took steps to
get Russia out of the war.
19th November - German coastal
minelayer 'UC-57' (1917, 420/490t, 18 mines, 3-50cm tt,
1-8.8cm). As the naval war between Germany and Russia came to an end, warships
were still lost to
the many mines laid by both sides. Sometime around the
19th, 'UC-57' was presumed mined off the Estonian coast in
c 59N, 23E.
- Russian torpedo
(or destroyer, 1906, 380t, 2-11pdr. 3-45.7cm tt). Further
north of 'UC-57s' last reported position,
'Bditelni' was lost on a mine laid by German 'UC-78' or 'UC-58' (accounts vary)
off the Aaland Islands guarding the entrance to the Gulf
A preliminary suspension
of hostilities between the Central Powers and Russia was announced on the 5th December, which Rumania soon
followed. An armistice followed on the 15th, and Germany
started to release troops for transfer to the Western
Front. On the 22nd at Brest-Litovsk, to the east of Warsaw, the Russians met
with delegates from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria
and Turkey to arrange peace terms. These included Russian
recognition of the rights of Poland and agreement to the
independence of the Baltic provinces of Lithuania, Courland, Livonia and
Estonia. With the Germans occupying most of these territories, the Russians
option but to accept, although negotiations dragged on into
the new year.
As the Russian Civil War developed, Ukraine refused to join with the
Bolsheviks, and Finland declared
its independence from Russia.
7th December - German medium
submarine 'UB-84' sank off the German coast following
a collision. She was raised and returned to service as a
British submarines -
With Russia and Germany negotiating and with no hope of
leaving the Baltic, the surviving British submarines sailed
for Helsingfors (Helsinki) in Finland. The crews were ordered home and the boats left with a small care and
Russia - Expecting revolution to break
out in Germany, the Russian Bolshevist delegates
at Brest-Litovsk continue stalling and Foreign Minister
Trotsky refused to meet the terms of the Central Powers. The German Foreign Minister,
Baron Richard von Kuhlman increased the pressure. Finland was not spared the agonies of
Russia, and civil war began at the end of the month. Ukraine declared its independence from
Russia and the Russian Bolsheviks, a move shortly
recognised by Germany
and her allies.
Austria-Hungary - Partly due to food shortages,
strikes broke out in Austrian cities in favour of peace.
Russia - On the 9th, a peace
treaty was signed between the Central Powers and the newly independent Republic of the
Ukraine. The next day and simply refusing
to accept any terms, the Russian Bolshevist government just declared the war
was at an end. On the 18th, the frustrated Germans started to advance into Russia against little opposition. Troops
soon occupied the Baltic provinces and later moved into the
Ukraine and Crimea. As the German advance endangered Petrograd, Lenin moved
the capital to Moscow. Elsewhere the Civil War continued to rage. Moscow
was threatened by the Whites, and the rest of Russia was in
chaos. Far to the east in Siberia, the Japanese planned a
landing to protect huge quantities of stock-piled
- Russian submarine 'EDINOROG' (1916, 650t, 4-45.7mm tt and 4
drop collars, 1-6.3cm). Previously damaged by stranding
and now temporarily repaired at Reval, 'Edinorog'
foundered in tow across the Gulf of Finland to Helsingfors (Helsinki).
of Brest-Litovsk -
Under the terms of the treaty signed between Russia and the Central Powers
on the 3rd, European Russia lost 25 percent of its territory and much of its
industrial and natural resources - the Baltic provinces,
Finland and the Aaland Islands, the Ukraine to independence or
semi-independence; and to Turkey, the southern Caucasus districts
of Erivan, Kars and Batum. The Ukraine became a German puppet state; German forces shortly landed on the Aaland
Islands, and on the 7th Germany and Finland
signed a peace treaty. Germany was now able to start transferring large
numbers of troops from Russia to the Western Front.
Civil War and Allied Intervention - The Russian Civil War continued.
The Allies for various reasons, including
keeping Russia in the war and the fear of world
communism, intervened in the struggle. Troops and supplies were later sent to support the White Armies (commanded by Czarist officers)
fighting the Reds in
the Arctic, the Ukraine, Caucasus and Siberia. The
anti-Bolshevist forces included the 'Czechoslovak
Legion', made up of
deserters and ex-prisoners of war from the Austro-Hungarian army which fought its way across
Siberia and later joined the Allies in the west. The war ended in 1920
in the Bolsheviks favour, and by then a number of major warships on both
sides had been lost.
Mainly British warships supported the Allies on their seaward flanks and also
on inland lakes and rivers
Arctic Waters - With the signing of the Brest-Litovsk
warships including pre-dreadnought 'Glory' and armoured
cruiser 'Cochrane' started operations against Murmansk and
Archangel to prevent vast quantities of Allied supplies
falling into Bolshevik
or German hands.
- German medium
submarine 'UB-106' was accidentally sunk off the German coast,
but raised three days later.
Russia - Russia continued in a state of
chaos. In the north, German troops landed near Helsinki to help Gen Mannerheim fight for Finnish independence against
Bolshevik forces. In the south, the Germans pushed further into the Ukraine and
4th-8th April - British submarines
'E-8', 'E-9', 'E-19' (all 1913/15, 655t, 4tt and 1-12pdr), and 'C-26', 'C-27',
290t, 2tt). With the Germans ashore at Hango in Finland
and moving on Helsingfors, the surviving submarines of
the British Baltic Flotilla were taken to sea one at a
time, blown up and scuttled off the port. Between the 4th
and the 8th, 'E-1', 'E-8', 'E-9', 'E-19' and 'C-26',
'C-27', 'C-35' were denied to the Germans in this way. The
senior officer, Cdr Cromie became de facto British
ambassador at Petrograd, but was killed in an incident
involving the Bolsheviks at the embassy.
Far Eastern Waters - Japanese and British Royal Marines landed at Vladivostok in the
British forces including a Royal Marine
detachment, all under the command of Gen Poole landed at Murmansk. A Royal Navy base
was established as HMS 'Glory
13th May - German medium
submarine 'UB-114' sank in Kiel harbour during trimming
exercises. She was raised and later surrendered.
Russia - The Germans continued to advance into southern Russia
and the Ukraine.
- The imprisoned Ex-Tsar Nicholas and his family were executed on the
16th by the Bolsheviks
at Ekaterinburg in the Urals.
Russia - Allied forces continued to enter Russia to support
the Whites and protect ammunition and
supplies. In the north, an Allied
captured Archangel supported by Royal Navy warships. To
the south, a British
naval unit arrived at Baku on the Caspian Sea after
travelling overland from Baghdad. And in the Far East,
Japanese and U.S. troops landed at Vladivostok for
operations in Siberia.
Arctic Waters - Seized at Murmansk in July by the British Navy, the old Russian
five-funnelled light cruiser 'Askold' was commissioned as
HMS Glory IV and continued to serve in the Arctic.
Russia - American troops landed at Archangel in the
- As the Austro-Hungarian Empire approached its end, the United States recognised the Czechoslovaks as an allied nation. Austria-Hungary invited the belligerents to
discussions on peace, but the proposals were rejected by
- German coastal
minelayer 'UC-91' was sunk in collision with SS 'Alexandra Woermann' off the German coast. She
was raised and
- In the north, Allied forces battled with the Bolsheviks around Murmansk and Archangel. In
the Far East, American, British and Japanese
troops entered Siberia and pushed as far west as Lake Baikal. More
fighting took place around the Caucasus in the
Arctic Waters - Fighting took place along the Dvina River,
south of Archangel with the involvement of light naval
Austria-Hungary - On the 3rd, Austria-Hungary accepted an Allied armistice and withdrew from the
5th December - British light
cruiser 'CASSANDRA' (1917, 4,100t, 5-6in). British naval forces
in the Baltic under the command of Rear Adm Sir Walter
Cowan were given the difficult task of protecting the
Baltic States, evacuating German forces, and operating
against the Bolsheviks. Warships on both sides were lost,
some to the many Russian
minefields. On the 5th
the recently arrived 'Cassandra' was mined off the Gulf of
Finland and sinks with 11 dead. (My grandfather
Yeoman of Signals George Smith
one of those rescued)
26th December - Bolshevik
destroyers 'SPARTAK' (ex-'Kapitan I Ranga Miklucha-Maklai') and
(1916, 1,350t, 5-10.2cm, 9-45.7cm
tt). On the 26th/27th, these two modern destroyers
bombard the Estonian port of Reval in the Gulf of
Finland. Captured by a British squadron of light cruisers 'Calypso' and
'Caradoc' and four destroyers, they were later handed over
to the Estonian
Caspian Sea - On the 8th, Bolshevik light naval forces
were in action with the British units that reached Baku in August.
Far Eastern Waters - British armoured cruiser 'Kent' arrived at Vladivostok in Siberia
to support Allied forces
Russia - Guns and guns crews landed
from the 'Kent' at Vladivostok were by now in action far
to the west in the Urals in support of the White
21st May - Bolshevik destroyer
570t, 2-11pdr, 3tt). The Bolsheviks organised a naval
force including old destroyers transferred from the
Baltic for operations on the inland Caspian Sea. In
action against an improvised British Caspian Flotilla
armed with 4in and 6in guns to the northeast off Alexandrovsk, several Russian ships
were sunk including
24th June - British minesweeper
'SWORD DANCE' (1918, 290t, 1-6pdr). As Allied operations continued
against the Bolsheviks on the Dvina River, south of
Archangel, the shallow-draught 'Sword Dance' was sunk by
June - British submarine 'L.55' (1918, 960t, 6-21in tt, 2-4in).
With the British Baltic Squadron blockading the Bolshevik
naval base of Kronstadt on Kotlin Island laying off
Petrograd, warships on both sides were lost. On the 4th
(some accounts say the 9th) 'L-55' was in action with
Russian patrols and sunk by the gunfire of destroyers
'Azard' and 'Gavriil'. She is later raised and
commissioned into the Soviet Navy as 'L-55' (below - sister boat
L.27, Navy Photos).
16th/17th June - Bolshevik light
cruiser 'OLEG' (1904,
6,600t, 16-5.1in). British light forces based on the
north side of the Gulf of Finland in Finnish waters sailed
to attack Kronstadt. Evading the protecting destroyer
screen, coastal motor boat 'CMB-4' (Lt Agar) armed with a
single 14in torpedo, sank the anchored 'Oleg' during the
night of the 16th/17th, but most of her crew were saved.
'CMB-4' escaped safely under heavy fire. Lt Augustine
Agar RN was awarded the Victoria Cross.
3rd July - British
minesweeper 'FANDANGO' (1918, 290t, 1-6pdr). In operations on the
Dvina River, 'Fandango', sister ship of
'Sword Dance' lost a few days before, was also
mined and sunk.
16th July - British fleet
sweeping sloops 'GENTIAN' and 'MYRTLE' (both 1916, 1,250t, 2-4.7in). With the
Bolshevik bases defended by dense minefields, two more
British ships were lost on mines in the Gulf of Finland.
17th/18th August - Attack on Kronstadt
Naval Base - Late
on the 17th, eight British 55ft type Coastal Motor Boats
led by Cdr Claude Dobson in 'CMB-31' headed out of the
Finnish base of Bjorko Sound only 30 miles from Russia's
main naval port. Supported by RAF bombing raids, they
broke into the inner harbour in the early morning. Cdr
Dobson directed the boats headed by CMB's '31', '79' and
'88', while Lt Agar VC in 'CMB-4' remained outside on guard.
As the attacks developed,
cruiser 'PAMIAT AZOVA' (1890, 6,000t) serving as submarine depot
ship 'Dvina' was hit by 'CMB-79' and sunk. In the rapidly
moving action, 'CMB-79' (1917, 11t, 1 or 2-18in torpedoes) was then
lost. The commanding officer of 'CMB-88' was killed and Lt Steele,
second-in-command took over and pressed on.
Accounts vary, but both Dobson's 'CMB-31' and Steele's
'CMB-88' appear to have made one hit each on the two
biggest ships. Dreadnought 'PETROPAVLOSK' (1914, 24,000t, 12-12in) sank in
shallow water and was salvaged later, and pre-dreadnought 'Andrei
17,400t, 4-12in) seriously damaged. The British boats
failed to hit the Russian guardship, destroyer 'Gavriil'
which sank two more of the attackers ('CMB-24' and 'CMB-62' or
'CMB-67' - accounts vary. The surviving
five boats escaped. Cdr Claude Dobson DSO, RN and Lt
Gordon Steele RN were awarded the Victoria Cross.
1st September - British destroyer 'VITTORIA'
(1,100t, 4-4in, 4-21in
tt). Two recently completed 'V' class destroyers of the
Royal Navy were sunk within a few days of each other in
the Gulf of Finland. On the night of the 1st, 'Vittoria'
was torpedoed by Bolshevik submarine 'Pantera' off
Seiskari Island some miles to the west of Kronstadt.
4th September - British destroyer
4-4in, 4-21in tt). Three days later "Verulam"
was mined in the Gulf of Finland.
16th September - British monitors 'M-25'
and 'M-27' (both 1915, 540t, 1-9.2in). By now the Allies had decided to withdraw from
northern Russia. As the evacuation got underway, 'M-25' and 'M-27' of
the White Sea Squadron had to be abandoned
when the Dvina River water level fell. They are blown up
to prevent capture by the Bolsheviks.
21st October - Russian destroyers
'GAVRIIL', 'KONSTANTIN' and 'VLADIMIR' (1916/17, 1,260t, 4-4in,
9-18in tt). As four Russian destroyers
of the same class escaped from the Bolsheviks, three were lost in a British
minefield off Kronstadt in the Gulf of Finland with heavy
casualties. Only 'Azard' escaped. The ships were to be
handed over to the Royal Navy.
SUMMARY OF BRITISH LOSSES FROM BOLSHEVIK INTERVENTION
In April 1918, seven submarines had to be scuttled. Between
December 1918 and September 1919 - just nine months -
British losses amounted to:
1 light cruiser
2 small monitors
3 coastal motor boats
or Greek Navy
Imperial Japanese Navy
or Ottoman Navy