Before we talk about the campaign itself, it is necessary to elaborate in more detail on what the Baltic fleet was in 1918. It consisted of 7 battleships, 9 cruisers, 26 submarines, 62 destroyer squadrons, as well as more 450 ships and ships of various classes and purposes. The main naval base of the Baltic Fleet of Russia was Helsingfors (now Helskinki, the capital of Finland). It was here that the main forces of the Baltic Fleet were stationed. Another major naval base was Revel, where 5 cruisers, 17 submarines and a number of other ships were based. Some ships and vessels, especially of the fleet support, were located in the Ganges (Hanko) and Abo (Turku).
The main reason that prompted the command to transfer ships from Revel to Kronstadt was the continuing offensive of the German troops in Estonia. Germany, having broken the peace negotiations, was advancing in the Baltic States, therefore, the Baltic Fleet ships that were in the roadstead in Reval were threatened by the Germans. Therefore, it was decided to relocate the ships, but because of the ice it was not possible to carry out an operation to transfer ships directly to Kronstadt. It was necessary first to transfer the ships to another Russian port - Helsingfors (now - Helsinki).
From December 1917, the Central Fleet Central Committee of the Baltic Fleet, which represented the interests of sailors, managed the Russian fleet stationed in the Baltic Sea. Established in March 1917, after the October Revolution and the subsequent abolition of the post of commander of the Baltic Fleet, Tsentrobalt became the only body that concentrated in its person all the management of the daily activities of the fleet. The chairman of Tsentrobalt was the famous Pavel Dybenko. However, for all his personal courage, Dybenko clearly did not have enough knowledge to carry out full-fledged fleet management. The same was true of his closest associates - members of Tsentrobalt.
A serious problem of the fleet to the beginning of 1918 was the extremely low level of discipline of the personnel. Baltic sailors were known for their anarchic moods and even subordinate to the Soviet authorities, what to speak of former officers of the old fleet. Meanwhile, without the latter, it was also impossible to manage the fleet, because the sailors, even the most competent and educated, lacked the special knowledge that officers had been taught at naval schools for many years and which they had been improving for years if not decades. . Therefore, naval officers, specialists, who actually carried out the actual command of the ships and subunits of the Baltic Fleet, were involved in fleet management.
In January, 1918 was appointed to assist Pavel Dybenko as Alexey Mikhaylovich Shchastny (1881-1918), a personnel naval officer who served in the “old” navy to the rank of captain of 1 rank and position of flag-captain for the administrative part. Headquarters of the Baltic Fleet Commander. Now, a century after the Ice Campaign, we can with good reason admire this man. A graduate of the Marine Corps, second in academic status, Shchastny began serving as a midshipman in 1901, sixteen years before the revolution. He was promoted from officer of a gunboat coast defense officer, watch officer of gunboats, battleships and cruisers to the commander of a destroyer.
In the first decade of his service, Schastny’s career was difficult to call dizzy - he received the rank of lieutenant in the 1905 year, by which time he had already distinguished himself in the Russian-Japanese war (as commanders and colleagues recalled). In the same 1905 year, he became the commander of the destroyer No. 217, then served as a teacher in the Mine Officer Class, receiving the rank of senior lieutenant in 1910.
Only in 1913, did Shchastny, who by that time served as a permanent member of the Maritime Ministry of the Interdepartmental Radio Telegraph Committee, was promoted to the rank of captain 2. In 1916-1917 he commanded the Border Guard squadron. The rank of captain 1 of rank Shchastny was received after the February revolution, in July 1917 of the year, when he held the position of flag captain of the headquarters of the Baltic Sea Fleet Commander.
17 February 1918, the Board of the Maritime Commissariat sent a directive to Tsentrobalt on the withdrawal of ships from Reval. Shchastny assumed the direct leadership of the operation.
Since the situation was complicated by the presence of ice on the Baltic Sea, it was decided to send icebreakers to Revel, which were to pave the way for ships leaving Reval. A detachment of icebreakers headed the world's first Arctic-class icebreaker "Yermak". 19 February 1918, the icebreaker Volynets brought in tow the 3 raid submarines, and 22 February, February 1918, began the general evacuation of ships. Following the icebreaker Ermak, the ships headed for Helsingfors. The first group of ships of the fleet includes 2 submarines and 2 transport ships.
Already on February 24, a German detachment attempted to break through to Revel, attacking coastal batteries located on the islands of Wulf and Nargen. But under the blows of batteries, the German squad was still forced to retreat. The operation to rescue the Russian ships continued and ended with the redeployment of 236 ships and vessels. In the meantime, 3 March 1918 was concluded the Brest Peace with Germany. According to the conditions of the Brest Peace, Russia was to withdraw all its warships from the ports of Finland, that is, from Helsingfors. At the same time, to remain on ships until the final withdrawal could, according to the terms of the treaty, only minor commands, which in the event of an attack by the Germans, could not offer them resistance.
Two days after the conclusion of the Brest Peace Treaty, 5 March 1918, the German ships approached the Aland Islands, located at a strategic point. There was a real threat of German and Finnish troops seizing the Russian ships stationed in Helsingfors. The fleet was faced with the “second series” of the Ice Campaign - this time the ships had to be withdrawn from Helsingfors to Kronstadt. Alexey Shchastny was again appointed to command this operation, who, moreover, already had experience in the withdrawal of ships from Reval. Shchastny acted in the same way. First 12 March 1918, two icebreakers launched four battleships and three cruisers from Helsingfors. The ships arrived in Kronstadt in five days, March 17 1918.
While the first ships of the evacuated Russian fleet were sailing from Helsingfors to Kronstadt, 12 in March 1918 was introduced a new post of Chief of the Naval Forces of the Baltic Sea. They appointed a personnel naval officer to Rear Admiral Alexander Vladimirovich Razvozov, who received the admiral rank already under the Provisional Government, being the commander of the Baltic Fleet, and before the February Revolution 1917, who commanded the 2 battalion of destroyer destroyers. However, Razvozov did not work well together with the management of Tsentrobalt - already on March 20 of 1918, he was dismissed for refusing to obey the Maritime Commissariat. Instead, the long-awaited promotion was received by Shchastny, appointed by the new head of the Baltic Sea Naval Forces.
Meanwhile, 3 on April 1918, the landing of German troops began on the Hanko Peninsula. 7 April Germans landed in the area of Loviisa. So in Finland, right away, there were thousands of German soldiers before 15, which constituted a great threat to the Russian ships stationed there. In a changed situation, Shchastny was forced to withdraw ships literally at the risk of a German attack.
4 April 1918, the second detachment of ships, which included the 2 battleship, 2 cruisers and 2 submarines, left Helsingfors and six days later, 10 April, arrived in Kronstadt port. There was an equally challenging and difficult task - to withdraw from the Finnish port the third, most numerous detachment of ships, which included 45 destroyers, 3 destroyer, 10 submarines, 5 minelayers, 6 minesweepers, 11 patrol ships and 81 auxiliary ship. From 7 to 11 on April 1918, these ships were also withdrawn from Helsingfors. 11 April 1918, Helsingfors, which was already stormed by German troops, was left by the Chief of the Naval Forces of the Baltic Fleet Shchastny. 14 April 1918 of the year Helsingfors was taken by the Germans, but by this time the vast majority of Russian ships from the Finnish port had already been withdrawn. And this is despite the fact that the lack of crew on many ships reached 70%, for example, the Troop destroyer "Voyiskovoy" took out the entire 4 officer and 8 sailors.
The ice campaign of the Baltic Fleet became a unique example of the evacuation of warships in difficult climatic and military conditions. Despite the fact that the ships were marching on the ice, following the icebreakers, and Helsingfors were already besieged by the Germans, Shchastny was able to conduct a full hike without losing ships. And this despite the fact that the discipline in the Baltic Fleet in 1918 left much to be desired.
Many revolutionary sailors, who were in a state of euphoria from revolutionary events, absolutely did not want to observe military discipline and obey the instructions of the command. Shchastny was an exception. The way he commanded the fleet raised respect for the capable officer in the naval environment. Shchastny sympathized even with revolutionary sailors. It seemed that after the heroic Ice Camp such a person as Shchastny was supposed to receive an award from the young Soviet government - after all, he managed to save almost the entire Baltic Fleet for Soviet Russia. But the opposite happened - already 27 of May 1918, when the Ice Camp was just over, Alexey Shchastny was arrested by the Chekists.
It is now known that the personal commissioner for the arrest of Shchastny was given by the people's commissar of Russia for military and naval affairs Leon Trotsky. Shchastnogo was accused of counter-revolutionary actions and deepening the contradictions between the Soviet government and the fleet. It is noteworthy that the success in the Ice Campaign was regarded by Trotsky as the special actions of Shchastny to increase his authority among the sailors. Shchastny was also remembered for the fact that he allegedly accused the Soviet authorities of almost deliberately trying to hand over the Baltic ships to the German command. It is possible that this was indeed the case - Leon Trotsky was suspected that he was going to "surrender" the ships stationed in Revel and Helsingfors to the Germans. About the true plans of the Commissar Trotsky practically nothing is known today. Who knows, it may indeed have been between Trotsky and the representatives of Germany that there was an agreement on the surrender of the fleet.
They tried to defend Shchastny with the left Social Revolutionaries, who had great influence on the revolutionary sailors of the Baltic Fleet. But even their efforts were unsuccessful. 13 June 1918, the death penalty was revived in Russia, and 21 June 1918 was sentenced to death by Alexey Shchastny. This was the first death sentence imposed by the Soviet revolutionary tribunal. So Trotsky thanked the remarkable commander for the withdrawal of the Russian ships from Revel and Helsingfors. Shot Shchastny 22 June 1918 of the year in 4 hours 40 minutes. He was only 37 years old. Despite the fact that Shchastny was executed on the personal order of Trotsky, in subsequent years, even after Trotsky was declared an enemy of the people, the former chief of the Baltic Sea Naval Forces chose not to mention.
It was only in 1990 that they again started talking about the contribution Shchyadny made to saving the Baltic Fleet. The first to mention this was a military judge, Colonel of Justice Vyacheslav Zvyagintsev, who published in the newspaper Izvestia an article about the contribution of Alexei Mikhailovich Schastny to saving the Baltic Fleet from the Germans. In it, the military lawyer doubted that Shchastny really was guilty of counter-revolutionary agitation in the navy. But the rehabilitation process of Alexey Shchastnogo was delayed. In particular, he was opposed by some famous historians of the Soviet Navy, for whom such an approach was a “breaking stereotype”. Only in the 1995 year, almost eighty years after the execution, was Alexey Mikhailovich Schastny rehabilitated posthumously.