Imperial Japanese man-torpedoes fleet We condemn "kaiten" in much the same way as kamikaze pilots. Fu, barbarity. And we have reasons for that. But "kaitens" are just a fresh example. And since история fleet has more than one century, then there are examples of a whole barge. Moreover, the main majority are from civilized Europe, and we did not lag behind much, and in some ways we were even pioneers.
But let's order.
And in order, we had the first firebrand.
This species appeared weapons around the fifth century BC. And it served very well as a psychological weapon for several tens of centuries. THAT firebrand was, as they would say now, a drone. A boat or just a bunch of combustible materials that could be set on fire and directed towards the enemy. And there everything is by the will of the gods ...
But it worked.
Over the years, worn-out ships began to be used as fire ships, because it was not a pity. But the essence remained the same. They stuffed everything that came to hand, set it on fire and sent it towards the enemy.
The efficiency was so-so, but here it was not even a matter of setting fire to enemy ships, but panic. Why did the firebrand live as a spectacular (not effective, namely, spectacular) weapon for so many years?
It's simple. Wood. The main material for the construction of ships with fire, as it were, was not at all friendly. Especially - a tarred tree, wrapped in tarred ropes. Because no matter how ineffective the firebrand was, they were reasonably feared.
And since fire-ships were feared in all fleets, there was a direct reason to use them! Russian sailors also did not shy away from this business, there are references to the use of fire-ships in the battle at Gangut (1714), and Count Orlov-Chesmensky with Admirals Spiridonov and Elfiston in the battle of Chesme in 1770 operated with fire-ships quite normally.
But the most famous use of fire-ships in the Middle Ages is, of course, the defeat of the Great Armada of the Spaniards, who were going to make the British feel bad. The so-called Battle of Gravelines on August 8, 1588, when the Spaniards were very painful and very insulting.
On the night before the battle, the Commander-in-Chief of the British Navy, Charles Howard, Duke of Nottingham, ordered eight old ships, filled with everyone in a row, to be made and launched towards the Spaniards. It is “to the side”, that is, to whom God will send. Without sight and adjustment.
By themselves, the firefighters did not cause much damage, but caused a terrible commotion and caused panic. The Spaniards rushed into the night to cut the anchors, which were attached with ropes for such a quick removal, and then many ships in the commotion inflicted damage on each other precisely because it was impossible to anchor them.
In general, the firecrackers completed the task 100%.
For 500 years, from the 14th to the 19th century, fire-ships quietly existed as a separate class of ships. It is clear that sea suicides were built on the principle of the cheaper the better. We took into account, of course, the ease of loading and placing the warhead, control, simplicity. Usually the fire-ships were single-deck, less often double-deck. They even carried weapons and crew. The guns were required in case a ship with an anti-terrorist boarding team suddenly came across on the way, firstly, and secondly, in order to pass for an ordinary ship.
But there were also characteristic differences between the fire-ship and ordinary ships. Here is a fairly accurate picture of a fire-ship, from which you can learn three differences from a regular ship.
1. The door in the side closer to the stern. Intended for the evacuation of the crew.
2. The hatch, behind which there was a fuse cord that detonates the warhead.
3. The boat was not attached with a rope, as usual, but with a chain. The chain is off.
Let's just say that for the Middle Ages, care for the crew took place, and at the proper level. The crew of such a fire-ship accelerated the ship, directed it to the enemy ship, crashed into it, the fire-ship crew tried to attach their ship to the enemy ship as tightly as possible with the help of boarding equipment, and while the enemy was engaged in cutting and chopping the gear, the crew began to "tear the claws" through that very a door.
And someone set fire to the fuse, which was supposed to cause an explosion of gunpowder in the hold. This could be done even while sitting in the boat, the length of the cord allowed, there would be someone.
Of course, decoupling the two ships was not easy. The opponents understood this, and therefore tried with all their might to prevent a collision of ships. I would say they went out of their way, using guns and handguns. So sometimes not everyone was able to use the emergency door.
In general, the fight against the fire-ships was simple: to sink the ship before it approached. Or a tricky option: to sink the emergency boat. It was not easy, the goal was small, but often the result was worth it: in those days, the crew could easily deploy a fire-ship, since European sailors did not differ in their tendency to commit suicide.
The 18th century brought a new class of ships to the world - battleships. That is, ships sheathed with armor and not so afraid of shells and fire. A new type of firefighters has also appeared, no less strange in terms of application: mine boats.
This class was invented in the USA during the Civil War. On the night of October 27-28, 1864, a steam launch under the command of Lieutenant Cushing, armed with a pole mine, attacked the southern battleship Albemarl, which was in the roadstead.
The crew of the longboat dismantled the "protective boom" made of logs, calmly swam up to the battleship and hit it with a pole mine into the underwater part. The Albemarl sank within a few minutes. The longboat, by the way, died with the entire crew, it is difficult to say whether from a mine explosion, or drowned, drawn into a whirlpool of a sinking battleship.
Convicts unknowingly, but nonetheless. Progress has shown that effective operation requires effective control of the launch vehicle. It is desirable until the last moment.
I liked the idea. Even then, the first submarines were trying to portray something like that, but steam boats were cheaper and more affordable means of delivering mines to the enemy. Statistics say that during the Civil War, the fleet of the Southern Confederation lost about 50 ships, 40 of them - from mines of all types, anchored, towed, pole.
The next step was the use of Whitehead mines, the prototypes of modern torpedoes. Actually, a boat with such a mine was slightly different from a boat with a pole mine, since it gave its crew a slightly greater chance of survival, but, as the first use of such boats by a Russian officer and future admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov showed, the descendants of the fire-ships had about the same psychological effect: During five raids of Makarov's mine boats, the battleship was slightly damaged and the gunboat "Intibach" with a displacement of only 163 tons was sunk.
Unfortunately, there is no exact data on how many Russian sailors died. Considering that operations were usually carried out at night, there should have been fewer casualties than during an attack during the day.
However, it was the psychological effect that affected the already not very active operations of the Turkish fleet.
As soon as torpedoes became torpedoes, and submarines became submarines, of course, the attack distances increased and there could be no question of a fire-ship-style approach. The increased range and rate of fire of naval guns almost put an end to this section, if not for a few nuances.
The first is torpedo boats. They have almost nothing from a fire-ship, but in the 20th century, the use of such ships was essentially no different from their progenitors of the 18th and 19th centuries. The speed increased, but still the torpedo boat approached almost point-blank, overcoming the barrier of everything that could shoot at it.
There is something in common, don't you think?
But there were also special operations, where there was everything from the firefighters of the past. Or almost everything.
For example, the failed operation "Lucid", the purpose of which was to disrupt the so-called landing of German troops in Britain. It was when France ended that the Germans began stirring in the country's ports, which the British interpreted as the beginning of preparations for the landing.
It is clear that the British tried with all their might to resist this. The RAF flew to bomb the transports that were going to Calais and Boulogne. However, the Luftwaffe immediately explained that the defeat in the "Battle of Britain" does not mean that the RAF can feel comfortable in the skies of France.
Then a simply gorgeous plan was developed in the spirit of the Duke of Nottingham.
Were taken three small tankers, already breathing in incense: "War Nizam" (1918), "War Nawab" (1919), "Oakfield" (1918).
The veterans were slightly patched up, and then each was filled with explosives and three tons of "Eger Cocktail": 50% fuel oil, 25% motor oil and 25% gasoline. The mixture was named after the commander of the operation.
Tests carried out by blowing up two trawlers stuffed with this nightmare showed that the explosion of a ton of this hellish mess spreads everything in a radius of about 800 meters.
It was assumed that the tankers would enter the harbors of Calais and Boulogne under neutral flags, approach the congestion of transports, and then the crews, disembarking in the boats, activate explosive devices. And hell will begin.
On September 26, 1940, all three fire ships set off on their last voyage. War Nizam and War Nawab went to Calais, Oakfield to Boulogne.
Alas, "Oakfield" not only did not reach its destination, it actually fell apart on the way to Boulogne, not even a third of the distance. The second to leave the race was "War Nizam", whose engine refused to work.
Carrying out the plan with one ship out of three did not seem like a good idea, and the fire-ships returned to the port. In early October, the British command tried to try again (two), but they also fell through due to a bad campaign. Well, and because of the greed of the British naval command, which regretted the operation of ships that could reach the goal without incident.
But I can't help but remember another operation, which turned out well, just a sight for sore eyes. This is Operation Chariot, which was carried out by British special forces in March 1942.
Much has been written about this operation, but in this case we are interested in the fact that the heart of the operation was actually the fire-ship, into which the destroyer Campbeltown was turned.
The British command in 1942 decided to destroy the largest French dock in Saint-Nazaire, the dock "Louis Joubert Lock". That the Germans could not accept the "Tirpitz" in it.
The main striking force of the operation was the converted destroyer Campbeltown. The ship was lightened, its displacement reduced so that it could safely pass through the sandbanks at the mouth of the Loire. To do this, they removed everything that could be removed from it: guns, torpedo tubes, cut off superstructures and pipes. Eight 20-mm Oerlikon anti-aircraft guns were installed on the upper deck.
Additional reinforcement of the sides and decks with concrete was made so that an accidental projectile would not cause detonation of the charge. An explosive charge weighing 4,5 tons was placed in the space between the usual and constructed second sides, and then all this beauty was poured with concrete. This was done so that the demining team, which would definitely inspect the ship, could not immediately detect the explosives.
In the early morning of March 28, 1942, Campbeltown reached the dock gate under heavy fire and rammed it, just getting stuck in the dock gate.
In parallel, the British were shelling and bombing Saint-Nazaire, as well as the landing of commandos. The commandos, having lost more than half of their personnel (600 of 228 people returned), caused some damage, destroyed several guns, damaged the locks of other docks and the ships in them. But in the end they were forced to retreat or surrender when they ran out of ammunition.
While the fighting was going on, the Campbeltown crew was evacuated. Having repulsed the attack, the Germans relaxed. A large group of Kriegsmarine specialists went to study the Campbeltown stuck in the dock.
Almost nine hours later, at 10:30, the fire-ship exploded as planned, setting up a branch of the Apocalypse.
The dock was effectively incapacitated, killing about 250 Kriegsmarine soldiers and officers, so that the British commandos who suffered heavy losses during Operation Chariot could consider themselves avenged.
Another fleet used by fire ships was the Italian fleet. Taking into account the passion of Italians for compact sea villainy, the production back in 1938 of a series of MT boats (Motoscafo da Turismo), which had the most superficial attitude to tourism, but were light, small boats, capable of accelerating to 60 km / h. Regularly stuffed with 330 kg of explosives, they were excellent sabotage boats. The pilot was at the stern. Having brought the boat to the target and jammed the rudder, he had to jump onto a special life raft before colliding with the target.
Does it look like an 18th century firebrand? As for me - so completely.
The funniest thing in the history of MT boats is that they were used not only by the Italians, but also by the Israelis, who knew how they received several of these boats and used them against their enemies in the Arab-Israeli war of 1947-1949.
The MT boats took part in several operations, the most successful of which was the disabling of the British heavy cruiser York on 26 March 1941. Six boats took part in the operation, which entered the harbor at night and staged a fire show there.
In addition to the seriously damaged York, the Norwegian tanker Pericles was destroyed. All six Italian pilots were taken prisoner, but the operation really succeeded.
Subsequently, the Italians developed two more generations of fireboats: the MTM and the MTR. The former were used, while the latter were unlucky: the Ambra submarine carrying them to the place of operation was sunk.
Four survivors of the MTM war went to the Israeli military, and the Israelis successfully used three of them during the 1947-1949 Arab-Israeli War. In October 1948, the patrol ship "Emir Faruk" and a minesweeper were sunk with the help of fire-boats.
Nowadays, there is no place for firefighters on the battlefield. Yes, there are one-time applications like a terrorist attack with a boat filled with explosives from the American destroyer Cole in 2000, but this is rather an exception to the rule.
I deliberately did not say anything about the torpedoes with the Kaiten kamikaze. Simply because I am very calm about this weapon and I think that the "Kaitens" have not achieved success. The only large ship sunk by the Kaitens was the Missineve tanker with a displacement of 25 tons.
God only knows what a victory. However, like all the successes of the firemen in the 20th century. But this weapon was, if not effective, then spectacular for several centuries.