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Inter-War Period 1918-1939

RUSSIAN BOLSHEVIK WATERS 1919
Royal Navy Operations in Outline

Note by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

HM Monitor M.27 on River Dvina, North Russian
 

for more information

LONDON GAZETTE NAVAL DESPATCHES
(in edition order)

North Russian Expeditionary Force - White Sea (31063)
Caspian Sea (31590)
Baltic Sea (31856)
North Russian Expeditionary Force (31906)
North Russia in 1918 (31970)

ARMY DESPATCHES
Northern Expeditionary Force (31850)
North Russia - Naval mentions (31938)

 

North Russian Expeditionary Force

from the Scrapbook of Yeoman of Signals George Smith

 

 


 

 

January 1919

Far Eastern Waters - British armoured cruiser 'Kent' arrived at Vladivostok in Siberia to support Allied forces

 

April

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 Russians.

 

May

Caspian Sea

21st - Bolshevik destroyer MOSKVITYANIN (1906, 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 the 'Moskvityanin'.

 

June

Arctic Waters

24th - 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 Russian mines.

Baltic Sea

4th - 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 was later raised and commissioned into the Soviet Navy as 'L-55' (above - sister boat L.27, NavyPhotos).

16th/17th - 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.


..... the aftermath of the Russian Revolution

on the reverse - "Group of Russian Royalist Officers took passage in HMS Forester passing Black Sea, landed at Sverlina, Roumania.  Sat. June 21st 1919" (with thanks to  Frederick Appleby)


July

Arctic Waters

3rd - 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.

Baltic Sea

16th - 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.

 

August

Baltic Sea

17th/18th - 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'. Lt Agar VC in 'CMB-4' remained outside on guard.

As the attacks developed, old armoured 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 Pervozvanny' (1908, 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.

 

September

Baltic Sea

1st - 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 - British destroyer 'VERULAM' (1,100t, 4-4in, 4-21in tt). Three days later "Verulam" was mined in the Gulf of Finland.

Arctic Waters

16th - 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 were blown up to prevent capture by the Bolsheviks.

 

October

Baltic Sea

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

In April 1918, seven submarines had to be scuttled. Between December 1918 and September 1919 - just nine months - additional British losses amounted to:

1 light cruiser
2 destroyers
2 small monitors
1 submarine

4 minesweepers
3 coastal motor boats

 

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