In my previous materials, I have repeatedly put forward the idea that the combat value of the Kriegsmarine, especially (by 80%) of its surface unit, was very conditional and questionable. By and large, if it were not for the actions of the Scharnhorst, Gneisenau, the heavy cruisers Hipper and Prince Eugen and the raiders - and in general one could say that there was no efficiency.
And our North is a litmus test showing that the crews of the Kriegsmarine warships, especially their commanders, let's say, were somewhat cowardly and uninitiated.
I wrote how Admiral Scheer showed itself in our waters. And it was not in vain that the cruiser was then put to rest together with the crew; more than one tank division could operate on the saved diesel fuel.
But today we will focus on events of a completely different nature.
End of the summer of 1941. North of our country, the city of Murmansk. The mountain huntsmen Dietl, who were supposed to enter the city, waving their alpenstocks.
At first, everything went blitzkrieg: the huntsmen swept away the frontier posts, severely battered parts of the 14th Army, so that the commander died instead of with the headquarters. Our troops retreated to the river Zapadnaya Litsa and … and that's all. The front froze at this point for three long years. The Murmansk militia, reinforced by detachments of sailors, successfully held off one of the best parts of the Reich.
Today many "experts" dare to say that "yes, if the Germans wanted to …". Well, of course, knowing about the convoys that went from Great Britain and the United States to Murmansk, they did not want to. Planes, submarines, destroyers, "Tirpitz" (theoretically) - and did not want to. The Germans, you know, it was beneficial for the Soviet Union to suffer, thanks to the help of the Allies. A sort of knightly war of sadomasochists.
In fact, the question was about the desperate resilience of the northern people and partly about the commander of the Northern Fleet, Admiral Golovko.
In my opinion, he is the most talented and competent naval commander in the entire history of the USSR. Golovko very wisely allocated the poor resources of the fleet to repel the Germans, helping the ground forces with artillery fire and landing forces.
By the way, the North Sea landings, according to many, were organized three levels better than the Black Sea ones. He did not throw people into the meat grinder. But these landings are generally a separate topic.
Northern Fleet. 8 destroyers, 15 submarines, 7 patrol ships, 1 minelayer, 2 minesweepers, 14 patrol boats. 116 aircraft, half of which were MBR-2 seaplanes. 11 SB bombers, the rest I-15 and I-16 fighters.
The Allies usually had more ships to cover the convoy. And with this fleet, Golovko was supposed not only to meet and escort convoys, but also to patrol territories for the purpose of finding and countering submarines, ice reconnaissance, and supporting troops on land.
In general, Golovko coped brilliantly with the support of the ground forces: he assigned the destroyer Valerian Kuibyshev to the land.
This "Novik", launched in 1915, became a floating battery of Soviet soldiers and ruffled a lot of nerves for Dietl's huntsmen.
The second feat of Golovko was the creation of a patrol fleet. In the north, before the war, a very good trawler fishing fleet was created (to fish for Soviet citizens), and using the power of the naval workshops, Golovko recruited a large number of civilian ships into the ranks of the Northern Fleet.
According to the mobilization plan, 126 vessels were re-equipped in July-August 1941:
- 29 patrol ships and
- 35 minesweepers were converted from fishing trawlers;
- 4 minelayers and
- 2 patrol ships converted from icebreaking steamers;
- 26 patrol boats and
- 30 boats minesweepers from fishing bots.
Great job. And on these ships lay the bulk of the patrol service and escorting convoys along the Northern Sea Route.
What are the Germans?
And the Germans, realizing that Dietl would not be able to cope with the Soviet troops supported by the fleet, the German command decided to send the 6th destroyer flotilla to support Dietl under the command of captain-zur-see Alfred Schulze-Hinrichs.
Five destroyers, Z-16 Karl Lodi, Z-4 Hans Schemann, Z-7 Karl Galster, Z-10 Richard Baitzen, and Z-20 Friedrich Eckoldt were quite a formidable force. The ships had a total displacement of 3100 tons, had a speed of 38 knots and a cruising range of 1530 miles. The armament of each destroyer consisted of 5 128-mm guns, 4 37-mm anti-aircraft guns and 6 20-mm guns. Plus 2 four-tube torpedo tubes 533-mm and up to 60 min of the barrage.
- 20 barrels 128 mm;
- 20 barrels 37 mm;
- 24 barrels 20 mm;
- 40 torpedoes in a salvo.
Plus 300 mines is quite a serious minefield.
Could these ships significantly change the balance of power in the area? Naturally, they could. This is, as it were, ¾ from Golovko's surface forces at his disposal, if that. And even then, conditionally, because there were even fewer "sevens" that were on a par with the German destroyers. For the figure “8 destroyers” is the leader of “Baku”, 4 destroyers of the “7” project and three old “Noviks”. And "Noviks" with all due respect could not equal the German ships.
However, the German commander … No, it is definitely impossible to say that the captain-zur-see Schulze-Hinrichs was a coward. But he clearly had a certain complex. Perhaps because the commander of the 6th flotilla before this appointment was the commander of the destroyer Z-13 "Erich Köllner", which the British sank in the battle of Narvik in just 10 minutes with artillery fire.
So it is not known for what reasons, but Schulze-Hinrichs refused Dietl to use the destroyers in order to end the shelling from the Soviet ships. He was afraid of our coastal batteries and aircraft …
Instead, Schulze-Hinrichs decided to operate in the White Sea, out of the reach of aviation, where he was going to disrupt shipping and fishing and thereby draw off part of the forces of the Northern Fleet.
In principle, it is justified and logical, but in the same White Sea, instead of aviation, the destroyers of Schulze-Hinrichs could run into Soviet submarines. It's hard to say which would have been worse. Considering what the Northern Fleet aviation was, I would prefer aviation in the place of the Germans. 11 SB is not God knows what a striking force. One could easily fight back.
And the destroyers of Schulze-Hinrichs went to the White Sea.
And there were no warships. At all. The patrol service was carried out by those same patrolmen converted from fishing seiners. They were very unsightly, but strong ships, capable of withstanding the onslaught of the northern seas easily and calmly. Not fast, but the Seiner did not need it, usually armed with anti-aircraft semi-automatic cannons 21-K caliber 45-mm and machine guns. Yes, some had hydrophones and depth charges (10-12 pieces) and could only pose a threat to a lost submarine.
And then the destroyers …
Actually, the raid of the same "Admiral Scheer" did not look like that after the visit of the destroyers. It was also possible to drive the battleship when such "patrolmen" are opposed to it, there is no sense in the battle.
The patrol ship SKR-22 Passat was the first on the way of the German raiders. Today, in fact, undeservedly forgotten in the shadow of the heroic "Mist".
A fishing trawler of the Smena type, until the moment of mobilization on June 25, 1941 (Admiral Golovko was very efficient) named RT-102 "Valery Chkalov". Displacement 1,500 tons, speed 10 knots, range 6,000 miles. Armament 2 guns 45 mm, 2 machine guns "Maxim" 7, 62 mm. Plus a radio direction finder "Gradus-K" and military radio transmitters "Breeze" and "Bukhta". Crew of 43 people. The ship was commanded by Lieutenant Vladimir Lavrentievich Okunevich.
Already on July 7, the newly-made patrol ship took part in a combat operation: it landed troops on the western bank of the Zapadnaya Litsa Bay.
On July 13, 1941, the Passat accompanied from Murmansk to Yokanga a convoy of two EPRON rescue vessels, the RT-67 Molotov and the RT-32 Kumzha with 40-ton ship-lifting pontoons (according to other sources, with fuel tanks) in tow. On board the Molotov there was an EPRON rescue team, and the Kumzha carried 13 passengers (six people from the Umba floating base and seven people from the Shch-403 and Shch-404 submarines). The convoy was commanded by a military technician of the 2nd rank A. I. Kulagin on the RT-67. The passage was carried out in poor visibility conditions.
And in the area of the Gavrilov Islands, the convoy met with German destroyers, who safely slipped past the positions of our submarines in the Varanger Fjord near Kirkenes (M-175) and near Kildin Island (M-172).
These were Hans Lodi, Karl Galster and Hermann Schemann. The meeting took place at 3.26 Moscow time. Our signalmen found three ships crossing the convoy. At 3.48 on the course of the convoy, there were three bursts of shells. "Passat" broadcast its call signs, there was no answer, and the German ships opened fire on the RT-67.
Lieutenant Okunevich deployed the Passat, opened fire on enemy ships and began to set up a smoke screen. On the radio, the escorted ships were ordered to leave for Gavrilovskaya Bay and there, if necessary, be thrown ashore.
And the Passat entered the battle with three destroyers.
The result was completely predictable. Two 45mm cannons versus 15 128mm barrels. Yes, the Germans fired 12 guns (according to reports), but this did not particularly affect the outcome of the battle.
RT-32, which was on the way, covered itself with a smoke screen, turned away and went towards the bay. The RT-67, which was leading, was covered by the second salvo of German destroyers and did not have time to maneuver. Fire was opened on the ship from both 128-mm guns and tracer fragmentation from 37-mm anti-aircraft guns. One shell exploded in the engine room and interrupted the steam line, another disabled the engine refrigerator, and the third tore the mast. The trawler lost speed and boats began to be lowered from it. The Germans were shooting almost point-blank by sea standards, from 10-12 cables.
The Passat lasted a little longer. The ship was maneuvering, so it was covered only by the fifth salvo. A direct hit on the bridge killed all the officers (the ship's commander Okunevich, the first officer of the Podgonys, the commander of the BC-2 Pivovarov, the political officer Vyatkin) and several sailors.
Both guns, however, continued to fire, and the crew fought for the survivability of the ship.
It all ended when one shell hit the makeshift artillery cellar. A column of flame rose over the bow of the ship, and the Passat began to sink rapidly into the water bow.
The surviving members of the RT-67 crew showed that until the very moment of diving, the Passat's stern gun continued to shoot at the enemy. Only one man remained near the gun, who continued the battle.
The crew of the "Passat" lowered the boat, only 11 people got into it and the boat was pulled in by the whirlpool of the sinking ship. Several people jumped into the water and tried to swim to the boats from the RT-67. But in the conditions of the White Sea, albeit a summer one, it was unrealistic to do this.
Having finished with the Passat, the destroyers fired at the outgoing RT-32, but did not dare to catch up, fearing shallow water. A torpedo was fired from the Karl Galster after the RT-32, quite accurately, but it passed under the ship.
And the Germans began to finish off the motionless RT-67. The trawler sank almost immediately, along with 33 crew members who did not have time to leave the ship at that time. And on those who managed to get into the boats, the Germans opened fire from 20-mm anti-aircraft machine guns.
After that, considering the task completed, the destroyers went to the northwest.
RT-32 washed ashore. Of the 25 crew members, 12 survived, five were wounded, the rest are in the ranks. Later, boats came from the RT-67. They saved another 26 people, of which only two - from the "Passat". Survived by the gunner of the stern gun Boris Mocel and the submariner from among the passengers Methodius Trofimenko.
26 people out of 99 on two ships.
Three German destroyers destroyed three former trawlers. So-so honor and glory, but there is one interesting nuance. After this "victory" the German ships left for the base, because in this battle they used up almost all their ammunition. The destruction of three trawlers (the RT-32 was removed from the shallows two years later, but they were not rebuilt) took 1,440 128-mm shells, one torpedo, and it is not known how many 37-mm and 20-mm shells.
This despite the fact that the Germans fired from a minimum distance and without a real threat from the trawlers. The two 45mm cannons cannot be considered a threat to the Project 1934 destroyers, which, though not very thick, had armor.
Three destroyers were transported with three unarmed trawlers for over an hour. For comparison, it took the British 10 minutes to send the destroyer Z-13, commanded by Schulze-Hinrichs, to the bottom.
The command of the Northern Fleet sent 5 destroyers and 24 aircraft to the coordinates of the Passat. Unfortunately, they no longer found the Germans.
Until August 10, 1941, the 6th flotilla went out on a free hunt twice more. In the second raid, the destroyers did not find our ships and returned to the base.
In the third raid, on July 24, the Germans sank the hydrographic vessel "Meridian", with a displacement of 840 tons, which was armed with one machine gun "Maxim". Of the 70 crew members and passengers, 17 survived.
On August 10, three destroyers (Z-4 "Richard Bitzen", Z-10 "Hans Lodi" and Z-16 "Friedrich Ekoldt") entered the battle and sank the SKR-12 "Fog" (formerly RT-10 "Winch").
The history of the Fog is better known than the history of the Passat, although in essence they are very similar. Both ships did not have the slightest chance, but entered the battle. Although, the "Fog" did not even fire, since the stern gun was destroyed in the first minutes of the battle, but the crew managed to report the ships and even set the destroyers under fire from the coastal battery.
But if the feat of the crew of the "Fog" is remembered, then the feat of the "Passat", which fully fulfilled its duty to protect the convoy, unfortunately, is not covered in this way in our history.
It is unpleasant, but SKR-22 "Fog", neither 43 members of its crew, nor 13 submariners who were on board and definitely did not sit idly by during the battle, were not awarded any awards. Although attempts to restore justice were made more than once.
Yes, thanks to the memoirs of Admiral Golovko, in 1956 (only in 1956!) From the book "Severomorsk" people generally learned about the feat of the "Passat".
Since 1966, the coordinates of the death of the "Passat" (69 ° 14 ′ N 35 ° 57 ′ E) have been declared the coordinates of the glory of the North Sea people.
But the crew … It's a shame. Yes, we did not fight for the sake of awards, but still.
And now, 80 years after the heroic and absolutely unequal battle, all that is possible is to remember those who took this battle. The crew of the former fishing trawler, which became a patrol ship and died almost completely in the first battle, is worthy of respect and memory as never before.
"Passat" fought like a real warship, protecting the ships of the convoy entrusted to it. One of the unparalleled and little-known feats of that war, on a par with "Fog", "Dezhnev", "Alexander Sibiryakov".
Eternal memory to the heroes.
There is a very beautiful and touching monument in Murmansk. Monument to ships and crews of the trawl fleet.
There is a detail that is not known to everyone. If the name of the captain with the mark “perished” appears on the commemorative plaque, it means that, together with the ship and the captain, all or almost all of the crew died.
Concentration of honor and glory.
What can we say about the seemingly "heroes" of our story, who came to our seas for honor and glory? About the crews of German destroyers?
To be honest, the behavior of the Kriegsmarine crews painfully resembles the actions of the Luftwaffe aces three or four years later. When American bombers' armadas wipe out the neighborhoods of German cities, the best of the aces will shoot fighters, increasing their bills, but offering no resistance to the bombers at all.
The "Aces" of the Kriegsmarine acted in this way at the very beginning of the war. In July-August 1941, five destroyers sank 4 trawlers with four 45-mm guns in all and one small survey vessel with a machine gun. Having spent all the ammunition on a small Passat convoy.
Considering that at the same time the guns of the Kuibyshev and Karl Liebknecht were heartily regaling the Dietl's rangers with shells, frustrating their plans, the same fishing seiners landed troops in the rear of the rangers with impunity, inflicting losses on the Austrian mountain riflemen, then the "battles" German destroyers in the White Sea look really shameful.
However, it is probably not worth reminding how the main majority of the Kriegsmarine surface ships finished their "combat" way.
And it is worth remembering once again the feat of those who were not afraid 80 years ago to go out with them in a completely unequal battle without the slightest chance. These were the real sailors.