Who could have blown up the Novorossiysk?
Since the commander of the battleship, captain of the 1 rank, Alexander Pavlovich Kukhta, was on leave, the duties of the commander were performed by the senior assistant captain of the 2 rank, Grigory Arkadyevich Khurshudov. When the ship moored, part of its crew, including the captain of 2 rank Khurshudov, went ashore. More than one and a half thousand personnel remained on the ship - officers, sailors, cadets of sea schools and soldiers. The senior officer was left to the assistant commander of the ship captain 2 rank Zosim Grigorievich Serulov.
October 29 in 1: The 31 of the night under the hull of the ship from the starboard side in its nose thundered a powerful explosion. It was later determined that it was equivalent to 1000-1200 kg of TNT. The explosion of the body of the battleship was pierced through, in the underwater part a hole of size 150 m² was formed. Since the team's nasal cockpit was located at the epicenter of the explosion, the crew members who were there from 150 to 175 were killed directly during the explosion. After 30 seconds after the first explosion, the second explosion thundered - this time along the port side. It led to the appearance of a dent in 190 m². It is good that the artillery cellars of the battleship were not touched by the explosion, since in this case five cruisers moored alongside would also have fallen victim to the crash. In the resulting hole rushed streams of sea water.
At first, attempts were made to tow the Novorossiysk to shallow water, however, at this time, the Vice-Admiral Viktor Aleksandrovich Parkhomenko, commander of the Black Sea Fleet, arrived at the scene of events and ordered to suspend towing. This decision led to fatal consequences for the people aboard the Novorossiysk. Moreover, the commander did not even immediately agree to the evacuation of sailors and officers who did not participate in the rescue work. Waiting for evacuation on the poop lined up near the 1000 sailors, but it was too late. The list began to grow rapidly and the sailors, lined up on the poop, began to roll overboard. Directly on them flew mechanisms and anti-aircraft installations. Only a few dozen sailors managed to get on boats to neighboring ships. In 4: 14 the ship lay on the port side and soon turned over with a keel. In such a position, Novorossiysk was afloat for a long time, rising to a meter above the water level 2-3. Part of the sailors for some time was in the compartments. However, only nine sailors were able to save - seven people got out through a hole cut through the bottom of the stern, five hours after the ship was tipping over. Two more people were rescued after 50 hours after the Novorossiysk overturned.
The death of "Novorossiysk" occurred in front of the whole of Sevastopol, sailors and officers commanding the Black Sea Fleet. It was especially bitter to realize that precious time was lost when it was possible to save the crew members of the battleship. In total, 829 people died in the crash - sailors and soldiers aboard the Novorossiysk, as well as rescue teams that arrived from other ships of the squadron to carry out rescue operations. Many sailors were immured in the compartments of the sunken ship. The divers involved in the emergency work subsequently reported that the sound of the sailors locked in the hull of the battleship continued until November 1.
Almost a year after the disaster, in the summer of 1956, the Expedition of special purpose underwater operations EON-35 began to lift Novorossiysk using the blowing method. It was only in April 1957 that the preparatory work was completed, after which the purge began - April 30 preliminary, and May 4 - general. On the same day, Novorossiysk surfaced - first the bow, then the feed. Already 14 in May 1957, the ship was towed to Cossack Bay and turned over. Subsequently, he was dismantled for metal and sent to the Zaporizhstal plant.
In 1955, the battleship Novorossiysk was already 44 of the year. Behind this venerable ship, which remained before the catastrophe the most powerful warship of the Soviet fleet, was very interesting. story. The dreadnought "Giulio Cesare" ("Giulio Cesare"), namely the so-called "Novorossiysk" before 1949, was laid down on 24 on June 1910, in Genoa, launched on 15 on October 1911, and on 14 on May 1914, was included in the Royal Navy Italy. "Giulio Cesare" was one of three ships of the "Conte di Cavour", a project which was developed by engineer-general Edoardo Masdea.
During World War I, Cesare, part of Rear Admiral C. Korsi’s 1 Combat Division, was mainly in the port of Taranto because the fleet command did not want to risk expensive new dreadnoughts, allowing them to be used only to counter other similar ships. Therefore, for all the time Italy’s participation in the First World War, Cesare spent only 31 an hour on combat missions and 387 hours on training exercises.
A more difficult test for the ship was World War II. Cesare participated in the fighting in the Mediterranean. On July 9, 1940, on the way back from Benghazi (Libya) to Taranto, “Cesare” was damaged by a shell from the English battleship “Warspite”; on the night of January 8–9, 1941, it was damaged during an English attack aviation to the port of Naples. On January 3-5, 1942, Cesare participated in its last convoy to North Africa, and then was withdrawn from the existing fleet. It was found that deficiencies in the design of the ship could lead to its death from only one torpedo hit.
After Italy withdrew from the Second World War, the powers - the victors began to divide the Italian Navy. The USSR wanted to get new Italian battleships of the Littorio type, but Western countries managed to circumvent the Soviet Union. As a result, the Soviet Union got only thirty-year-old “Giulio Cesare”. But the Soviet command was not very upset by this fact because it planned to build new battleships in the future, and the Cesare could be used to train their crews. 9 December 1948 of the year “Cesare” forever left the naval base in Taranto and headed for Augusta, from where he headed for the port of Vlora in Albania.
February 3 The solemn transfer of the battleship, temporarily designated as Z1949, to the Soviet Union in the person of the commission headed by Admiral Gordey Ivanovich Levchenko took place in Vlore. 11 February 6 was the flag of the USSR Navy raised on the ship. Two weeks later, the ship headed for Sevastopol, where 1949 arrived February 26 of the year. 1949 March 5. The battleship was named Novorossiysk. Thus began the short history of the service "old man - Italian" in the Navy of the Soviet Union.
Naturally, there was a lot of work ahead, not only to modernize the ship, but also to bring it to a state corresponding to the conditions of service in the USSR Navy. For example, there were no radars, small caliber anti-aircraft artillery on the ship, there was almost no in-ship communications and radio communications. It was difficult to organize even the nourishment of the sailors, since they were fed pasta and olive oil in the Italian navy, while the Soviet navy had completely different nutritional requirements for the personnel. It was also necessary to re-equip the cockpits, since they were not intended for Soviet climatic conditions. For six years, very impressive work was carried out on the ship.
After the tragic death of Novorossiysk, the Soviet leadership lowered a number of admirals and senior fleet officers in the ranks and positions. Admiral of the Fleet of the Soviet Union Nikolai Gerasimovich Kuznetsov, Commander-in-Chief of the Soviet Navy, was demoted to Vice-Admiral and dismissed with the phrase “without the right to serve in the fleet”. The Black Sea Fleet Commander, Vice-Admiral Parkhomenko, was lowered to the rank of Rear Admiral and sent to the Pacific Fleet by the First Deputy Commander. Rear Admiral Boris Terentevich Kalachev, Head of the Political Directorate of the Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral Nikolai Mikhailovich Kulakov, Commander of the 24 Division of Water District Protection, Rear Admiral Anatoly Alexandrovich Galitsky were demoted or transferred to other duty stations.
It is still unknown what caused the explosions at the Novorossiysk which led the ship to the crash. If you do not take into account the fantastic version of the intrigues of the KGB, the struggle of Marshal Zhukov against Admiral Kuznetsov and the like, then the most plausible version can be called the mine version, according to which the ship could explode from the German ground mine. In 1941, German aviation and the fleet mined the Black Sea near Sevastopol. Although after the liberation of the city, intensive mine clearance work was carried out, no one could guarantee that the mines in the bays of Sevastopol still remained. For example, in 1956-1958, already after the tragedy of Novorossiysk, 19 German bottom mines were discovered. Three mines were found right fifty meters from the place where the battleship Novorossiysk was killed. The divers involved in the lifting operations also confirmed the version that the explosion had "external" causes - the nature of the breach showed that something had exploded from the outside of the ship.
If not mine, then what could cause the "external explosion" of the battleship? There was also a version of a torpedo attack, according to which Novorossiysk could be attacked by a small or ultra-low foreign submarine. At that time, the Soviet Union was in extremely tense relations with the United States and NATO. It is likely that the enemy country hoped to weaken the power of the Black Sea Fleet by undermining Novorossiysk. Moreover, NATO was very much afraid of modernizing Novorossiysk and equipping it with nuclear weapons.
The third version claims that the death of the battleship "Novorossiysk" could be the work of famous Italian combat swimmers from the former 10 fleet of MAS. Why precisely Italians? The answer to this question is very simple, because until the end of the Second World War "Novorossiysk" was precisely the Italian dreadnought "Giulio Cesare". It was rumored that Prince Yunio Valerio Borghese, who at one time commanded the MAS 10 flotilla, had sworn to avenge the shame and humiliation of the Italian fleet.
It is worth noting that just in 1949, when “Cesare” was transferred to the USSR and became “Novorossiysk”, Prince Borghese was released - his 12 years assigned for war crimes against partisans and the civilian population, he did not wait until the end and was released Naturally, such a unique specialist as Borghese, who was still relatively young (43 of the year at the time of release), could not remain out of sight of Western intelligence agencies. And by itself, Borghese was a fascist fanatic who longed to continue his struggle. In addition, Italian combat swimmers from his flotilla who had a unique experience were young and healthy. Therefore, the version that a foreign submarine delivered the 10 veterans of the MAS flotilla to Sevastopol, after which they did their usual work - they carried out a diversion, looks quite plausible. Considering that Italy was (and remains) a member of NATO, and the leadership of the North Atlantic Alliance was very afraid of the strengthening of the Soviet naval presence in the Black Sea, it is likely that Prince Borghese’s swimmers acted on the direct instructions of the Italian and American intelligence services.
At that time, the version about the involvement of Italian combat swimmers in the Novorossiysk explosion was not officially confirmed. However, they talked a lot about this, and in 2000-e, some details began to surface. So, it turned out that shortly before the tragic events, a cargo ship from Italy came to the Crimea, which hypothetically could have delivered an ultra-small submarine and combat swimmers on board.
Finally, in 2013, an interview with Hugo D'Esposito, a veteran of the Gamma swim swimmer unit, who was part of the MAS 10 flotilla, appeared in the Italian press. According to Hugo D'Eposito, it was the Italian combat swimmers who wanted to take revenge for the bitterness from the division of the Italian fleet and undermined the "Novorossiysk". But besides this phrase, the veteran of the Gamma division did not provide any details. Therefore, it is hardly necessary to perceive his recognition as an unequivocal confirmation of the involvement of the Italians. After all, we all know that in old age people want to draw attention to themselves and their lives, they forget a lot or start to interpret it incorrectly. Whatever it was, but the version of the Italian trail looks quite real.
But there were one more specialists of the underwater war who theoretically could have mined Novorossiysk. This is the famous 12 fleet of the British Navy, commanded by Lionel Crabb, captain of the 2 rank, a legendary personality in the world of underwater saboteurs, who was not inferior in popularity to Prince Valerio Borghese himself. During World War II, and after it, the British combat swimmers acted very successfully, but this is a story for other material.
To be continued ...
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