The first world war at sea: the main results
The previous part of this article ended with the fact that the years after the Russo-Japanese War were marked by a sharp intensification of the naval arms race, since it seemed to confirm the most important thesis of the theory of "possession of the sea" that it was in the general battle of the fleets that the outcome of the confrontation between industrial powers in a future war, for which they were all actively preparing.
This tendency was fully characteristic of Russia, in which the traditional desire to keep up with the advanced powers was supplemented by bitterness from the Tsushima defeat and the desire at all costs to compensate for the damage caused to them, both purely material and moral. (Undoubtedly, the latter motive was largely inherent in Nicholas II, which, given the role of the monarch in the Russian political system, could not but be of great importance).
To what extent did the events of the First World War at sea confirm, or, on the contrary, denied the correctness of such actions?
It is difficult to answer this question unequivocally. First, because this war as a whole destroyed too many pre-existing beliefs. And, secondly, because its “marine” component cannot but be recognized as extremely contradictory.
In the period 1914-1918, the rapid development of new means of naval weapons (primarily submarines, as well as aviation) led to the fact that the line fleets, which, according to the theory of naval power, were called upon to decide the outcome of the war in a general battle, spent most of it in the bases. One of the consequences of this was the spread of discontent among their teams, which manifested itself strongly at the end of the war. In particular, it was the uprising of the German sailors in Kiel that triggered the start of the revolution in Germany in the fall of 1918 and its subsequent defeat. This factor has manifested itself to an even greater extent in Russia, which will be discussed below.
On the other hand, it cannot be said that the course of military operations at sea completely refuted Mahan's theory. True, the general battle of the fleets could not, according to the canons of this theory, immediately and unambiguously resolve the issue of the outcome of the world conflict. Nevertheless, the British directly linked the final victory of the Entente with the merit of the Grand Fleet in this. True, they saw this merit not so much in his role in the Battle of Jutland (it is indeed very difficult to see it there), but in participation in the blockade of the German coast, which disrupted the supply of vital materials to the Reich and put it on the brink of starvation.
It should be noted that the methods by which this blockade was carried out significantly differed from the previous ones criticized by the same Mahan in his works for inefficiency. During the First World War, the English fleet successfully implemented the method far naval blockade, when direct observation in coastal German waters was carried out by light forces (primarily submarines), and larger ships "pulled up" if necessary, being notified by submariners by radio. This method of blocking the coast proved to be more effective than before, when, as in the days of sailing fleet, blocking ships were constantly in sight of enemy ports. Or, as in the Russo-Japanese War, they needed to set up their own "jump bases" nearby.
In turn, the German naval officers immediately after Jutland tried to understand what exactly "went wrong" and why the Kaiserlichmarines were unable to fulfill their task, which was hinted at in the famous toast "Der Tag" ("For that day!") , actively proclaimed in the wardrooms of German ships in the pre-war period.
This day, according to the subordinates of Alfred von Tirpitz, meant the moment of the decisive battle with the Grand Fleet. And that is why the reasons that, even having managed to win in Jutland “on points”, nevertheless, strategically Germany did not turn the situation in its favor, already hot on the trail became the subject of professional analysis.
And this analysis was very hard-hitting. Thus, the criticism to which the German naval strategy was subjected by the staff officer Wolfgand Wegener was supported by his chief, the commander of the 1st battleship squadron, Vice Admiral Wilhelm von Lans, and caused a real split among the officers and command of the German fleet. But the change in strategy in favor of "unlimited submarine warfare" cost Germany dearly, provoked the transition to the camp of their opponents, the United States, and largely predetermined the final defeat of the "Fatherland".
Perhaps, the event that happened after 1918 influenced the further development of the navies to the greatest extent. (Here it will be appropriate to note that the canonical date 11.11.1918/XNUMX/XNUMX means the conclusion of a truce on Western front. In the east and southeast of Europe, hostilities continued, flaring up, then fading, for several more years. Moreover, this applies not only to the land armies, but also to the naval forces. In particular, the most active confrontation at sea took place in the Baltic between the Red Fleet and the British, sent here to help anti-Soviet forces. Also, the Entente fleets took part in hostilities in the White and Black Seas.
This event was the Washington Naval Arms Reduction Treaty, signed on February 6, 1922. It provided not only for limiting the total displacement of the main sea powers, but also stipulated the limiting sizes and armament of the largest warships. By the way, it was these restrictions that were largely due to the appearance of the first "full-size" aircraft carriers, for which the unfinished hulls of battleships and battle cruisers were "repurposed", the design displacement of which "did not pass" the restrictions established by the Washington Treaty.
The aircraft carriers, which are part of the fleets of the leading naval powers, were entrusted with the tasks of conducting reconnaissance, combating enemy aircraft and inflicting damage on enemy ships. Their ability to independently solve the problems of sinking large ships was so far completely unclear, and this role was still assigned to battleships.
In fact, the Washington Treaty marked the end of the “Marineism” era, when the military power of states was most associated with the size of their fleets. First of all - ships of the line. And although the battleship still retained the status of the most technically complex and expensive weapons system that the advanced powers had, it already had very powerful and rapidly growing competitors. First of all, this applies to aviation, whose progress during the war was so rapid that simultaneously with the Washington Treaty, the theory of "air power" appears (otherwise referred to as the "Doet doctrine." role in the future war, which was previously assigned to the naval fleets: to become a decisive force in achieving victory.
In addition to aviation, other new types of weapons appeared, which also began to claim leading roles in the structure of the armed forces: tank (moto-mechanized) units, etc. But the main problem, the urgency of which was demonstrated by the First World War, was not just the need to divide resources between the construction of the fleet and new types of weapons that emerged during the war. The unusually high degree of mobilization of industry, never and nowhere before found (for its lapidary and expressive designation, the famous Soviet slogan of the times of the next world war, "Everything for the front - everything for victory!" Is best suited) now demanded to think about something else. On the issues of mass deployment of weapons, if necessary, not only at specialized factories (which, in particular, are the contractors participating in shipbuilding programs), but also on the involvement, in the event of war, of a wide range of civilian enterprises capable, on the principles of cooperation, to produce traditionally more complex military products.
All together this could not but lead to the loss of the military fleets of the leading role of the main military "hope and support" of the nations, which they had in the eyes of both society and the state before 1914. Therefore, although the progressive development of their (both in general and of the heaviest linear forces) continued as before, it was now constantly limited by international agreements (London Naval Treaties of 1930 and 1936). And the priorities in the struggle for the allocated resources from the fleet were now challenged by new high-tech types of weapons, whose active development took place in the period after the end of the First World War.
Lessons for the domestic fleet
Let us now turn to the topic of the Russian fleet in the First World War.
His entry into the First World War was marked by two very different patterns of action. In the Baltic, he managed to forestall the enemy, mobilizing and starting mine laying in the Gulf of Finland, in fact, even before the official declaration of war. This was the undoubted merit of Commander Nikolai von Essen - perhaps the most talented Russian naval commander after S.O. Makarov. But on the Black Sea, the beginning of hostilities (which followed almost 3 months after the start of the war!) Was marked by a whole chain of passivity and inaction (in view of the enemy clearly intending to attack), which entered history under the contemptuous designation "Sevastopol wake-up call".
Speaking about the subsequent military activity of the Russian fleet, some aspects should be highlighted. First of all, attention is drawn to the inability of its governing bodies to perform such an important function assigned to them as planning. This manifested itself in two main aspects. First: the impossibility of accurately determining the timing of the onset of war in order to timely ensure the commissioning of the ordered ships. As a result, the construction of neither superdreadnoughts nor turbine cruisers on both seas until the end of the war was not completed. The second aspect was the inability to order exactly those ships that were required for specific tasks. The shipbuilding industry, in turn, was distinguished by the inability to accurately maintain the parameters of the ordered ships. As a result, the "Sevastopoli", which had a draft that did not allow them to operate in the areas of the Baltic that did not have sufficient depth, were not involved in operations in the Gulf of Riga, in which only the pre-dreadnought "Slava" participated. And on the Black Sea, "Catherine II" and her sisterships, possessing a lower speed compared to the Baltic dreadnoughts, could not win a confident victory in the "Hunt for Goeben", limiting themselves to displacing it into the Bosphorus, but not sinking.
Of course, those who disagree with this statement can answer that one way or another, but the German cruiser was neutralized, and this is already good. However, one should not forget that the main purpose of the dreadnought type ships was precisely the sinking of large enemy ships in an artillery battle. For this, they were freed from many of the functions inherent in pre-dreadnought battleships.
Therefore, the inability of the Black Sea battleships, even with an advantage in numbers and weapons, already illustrates their capabilities. And this remark should not be taken as an attempt to question the quality of their crews or command. This disadvantage was largely predetermined by the underestimated value of the design speed in comparison with its Baltic prototypes due to the decrease in the power of the power plant. And those of their structural elements, which, on the contrary, were strengthened on the Black Sea dreadnoughts (that is, armor and mine artillery), in real conditions of service did not justify themselves.
Again, it can be argued that in that war the entire imperial leadership was not at the height of its mission, the result of which was the collapse of the state. And this is also true.
But I mention this, because naval patriots often complain that, they say, the leadership of our country is traditionally inherent in "overland thinking" and underestimation of the role of the fleet, which is why it was often deprived of attention and resources. But in the case of the First World War and the period preceding it, this was definitely not the case.
The love of Nicholas II for the Navy is beyond doubt. Under his leadership, the country gave everything it could for its development.
And what was the result?
The Black Sea Fleet never got down to its main strategic task - the Bosphorus operation. This was largely due to the subordinate role that Russia played in the allied coalition (Entente). She did not have the opportunity to form her position based on her own priorities, completely subordinating her to the allied (that is, in fact, Western) strategy.
The reasons for this situation lie far beyond the scope of this article. And so we will not touch on them.
But the very situation of insufficient competence of the leadership of the fleet, which its patriots are very fond of justifying by transferring responsibility to the political leadership of the country, we note. Moreover, it will be repeated more than once in the future.
The Russian fleet "compensated" for its passivity in the fight against the naval enemy with revolutionary activity, which began from the very abdication of Nicholas, which turned into bloody pogroms of officers in Kronstadt, Helsingfors and Revel. And then this activity continued in the days of the October coup, and later, during the Civil War. Its last outbreak fell on the Kronstadt uprising of 1921. Again, a detailed examination of the causes of this phenomenon will lead us too far away from the main topic. But at the same time, it would also be wrong not to mention it at all among the consequences of the absence of real combat missions solved by the fleet during the war.
Therefore, the new, Bolshevik leadership of the country, which, on the whole, was distinguished by sobriety and pragmatism in approaching its tasks (despite popular accusations of fanaticism and disregard for state interests), did not at all choose the fleet among its priorities. Even during the period of socialist industrialization, the naval development of the USSR was dominated by the ideas of the “new school”, assigning most of the tasks in naval theaters to the light forces of the fleet and not considering it necessary to develop its most “heavy” (“linear”) component.
In fact, the Stalinist leadership turned to the idea of a "Big Fleet" only in the second half of the 30s. The reasons for this turnaround are widely discussed in the specialized literature. In our opinion, although they certainly have a complex, multidimensional character, the main "impetus" was most likely the events of the Spanish Civil War.
On the one hand, for the first time since the First World War, major military operations at sea took place in it. On the other hand, the Soviet military supplies to the republican government, carried out by sea, faced opposition, which was impossible to overcome without the presence of our own warships in areas remote from their shores. So, apparently, this was the “trigger” that forced Stalin to give the “go-ahead” to build his own battleships and heavy cruisers. True, the period of their active construction did not last long and was, in fact, curtailed. The reason for this decision will be discussed in the next part of this article.
Railways: from decline to rebirth
In the previous part of the article, the development of the Russian fleet was considered in parallel with the development of the main thing for it - land transport, whose military importance was extremely important almost from its very inception. Here (and also later) we will continue such a synchronous consideration in order to formulate some conclusions on this score in the final part.
The revolutionary character of the First World War manifested itself, among other things, in a fundamentally new meaning, which in its conditions acquired the problems of military supplies. The unprecedented size of the fighting armies and the constantly growing nomenclature and volume of their material and technical supply during the war made the work of the transport network extremely important. Moreover, for some participants in the war, its water component was the most relevant.
The aforementioned Germany, having lost the delivery of food by land and unable to replace it by sea as a result of the blockade by the British fleet, was eventually defeated. England faced a similar problem, deprived of the sea delivery of the necessary resources, in the conditions of "unlimited submarine war" on the part of the Kaiser's fleet. However, the centuries-old maritime experience allowed her to successfully solve it, resorting to the use of convoys, developing methods of effective combat against submarines that were absent at the beginning of the war, etc. That is, it is precisely the understanding that the sea is a salutary, inherently human-friendly environment that helped to solve the problems with marine supplies in one case and aggravated them in another. This understanding, which is an important part of the mentality, distinguishes the maritime nations from the land ones.
But Russia did not manage to solve its transport problems, aggravated during the war. Moreover, the appearance of some of them was due to the still insufficiently complete preparation for the war. So, intending to begin the struggle for the seizure of the Black Sea straits, the country's leadership could not help but realize that in this case the transport corridor leading through them to domestic ports would be blocked.
Nevertheless, the issue of building a railway from the capital to the north, to the ports on the White and Barents Seas (first of all, this refers to the new port in Romanov-on-Murom, renamed Murmansk after the revolution) was discussed for many years without entering in the implementation phase. The construction of the Murmansk railway began, in fact, only at the beginning of the war and until Russia left it was not fully completed.
As a result, those deliveries weapons and the equipment, which was carried out to Russia by the allies within the framework of the program of military crediting from England, accumulated in ports, and were not exported from them in a timely manner. By the way, it was precisely the need to protect these goods so that they did not fall into the hands of the Germans that motivated the Entente countries to land the first contingents of their expeditionary forces on the territory of the Russian North immediately after the Bolshevik government that came to power concluded an armistice with the central powers.
Another "open" problem in the development of the transport network was the Amur railway, which was supposed to provide communication with Vladivostok (which also turned into an important point of communication between the country and the outside world during the war), exclusively through the territory of Russia, avoiding the Chinese one. Its construction was completed just before the onset of the revolution.
As for the transportation at the existing training ground in 1914-1917, their implementation was faced with an ever-growing tangle of problems, largely inherited from the pre-war period. And if the participation of the railways in the mobilization and deployment of the army in the summer of 1914 was assessed as practically exemplary, then in the future they coped with the tasks assigned to them worse and worse.
Of course, the transport problems of belligerent Russia were not limited to railways alone. For example, in it, during the war, cargoes were still transported on unpaved roads by horse-drawn vehicles, while on the Western Front, according to the well-known expression, "a truck gradually replaced a steam locomotive." But we are interested in the main type of transport - railway. And his condition is usually characterized (and quite deservedly) in one word - collapse.
In light of this, it is quite symbolic that the immediate impetus to the events that led to the beginning of the revolution and the fall of the monarchy - the unrest in Petrograd, also occurred due to the poor work of transport, which failed to provide the capital with bread.
It is also natural that this happened in winter - in a season when the railways always worked with maximum stress, caused by the need to additionally fight against snow drifts and a lack of fuel, the demand for which sharply increases during the heating season. And the misadventures of the imperial train, on which Nicholas II, having made a gross mistake (perhaps the last in the line that marked his reign), left the headquarters in Mogilev, heading to his family in Tsarskoe Selo, which ended in abdication, could take place only in the country, where the rail infrastructure was strongest.
After all, it became possible not to let this train in the direction of Petrograd, to "drive" it to Pskov, where in the end the abdication took place, thanks to the fact that the Provisional Committee of the State Duma, thanks to its incredibly energetic member, railway engineer Bublikov. He was able to send out a circular message through the railway telegraph channels about the transfer of power in the country to a new revolutionary body. And also the demand on his behalf not to allow the forces loyal to the previous government to approach the capital.
It must be said that the telegraph network of the Ministry of Railways was much more extensive than the one that belonged to the postal department. Her devices were mandatory at any, even the smallest railway station: this was required under the conditions of the safe organization of train traffic. Therefore, Bublikov's directive was accepted by all railway workers. That is why we can say that the fall of the monarchy in Russia was largely due to it - the railroad.
The Bolshevik leadership was well aware of this decisive role of the railways in governing the country. And he actively and skillfully used it in the conditions of the struggle for power unfolding in the conditions of the revolution.
The transfer of the capital to Moscow in March 1918 in this sense is a landmark event. Due to this, the location of the Soviet government coincided with the intersection of the country's main railways, along which hostilities developed in the flared up Civil War.
Its initial stage even received the unofficial name of "echelon war". Since it basically boiled down to sending armed detachments on trains in order to capture the stations and the wagons with military equipment located on them. There were a lot of such people by 1918, because due to the revealed defects they were unhooked and put “in reserve”. It was at the expense of these resources, in fact, that the newly created Red Army fought. And subsequently, it was along the line of the Trans-Siberian Railway that the Civil War broke out in the eastern part of Russia. These episodes vividly demonstrate the role that railways played in a continental country with large land areas.
The importance attached by the Soviet leaders to the early restoration of transport is eloquently indicated by the fact that the post of People's Commissar of Railways was held by such prominent representatives as Trotsky and Dzerzhinsky. Nevertheless, the technical condition of the railways was depressing. They needed a major overhaul, which began to be carried out in the early 30s.
This was accompanied by an active discussion in professional circles of the directions of such a reconstruction. A large number of old specialists completely voluntarily went over to the side of the new government, sincerely hoping that it will show more determination in the development of the industry than the previous one. In the course of such discussions, the most radical plans were put forward, including the construction of new "superhighways", for which it was proposed to develop new, especially powerful locomotives, etc.
But a sober analysis showed that the country simply did not have sufficient resources for the implementation of such “ambitious projects”. Therefore, in order to intensify the transportation process, it was decided to use mainly the existing infrastructure. And locomotives, for the most part, continued to be built with a design that originated in the Russian Empire.
This, in particular, applies to the "E" series steam locomotive, which is an absolute "record holder" in terms of the duration of construction (with interruptions from 1912 to 1957) and the number of copies produced (almost 11 thousand). Soviet propaganda extolled other locomotives designed in the 30s: a commodity FD ("Felix Dzerzhinsky") and a passenger IS created on its basis ("Joseph Stalin"). By the way, the movement of “shock workers” in the USSR was initially called “Krivonosovsky” after the locomotive driver Pyotr Krivonos, who set his labor records at FD. And only then it was renamed "Stakhanovskoe" - in honor of the miner A. Stakhanov. But the main "workhorse", "taking out" the lion's share of the transportation, was the "Echo", as the drivers called the locomotive of the "E" series.
The main changes took place in the wagon economy. The freight car fleet has become impersonal. That is, the cars no longer belonged to specific roads, but circulated freely throughout the network. Any malfunction detected during the station inspection was eliminated immediately, after which the carriage went on the next trip - there was no need to return it to its place of registration.
The cars themselves have also undergone significant changes. Now they were built not two-axle, but four-axle (in the terminology of that time - "heavy"). This made it possible to increase the weight of trains without increasing their length, which, in turn, was limited by the length of the station tracks.
Stalin's closest associate, L. Kaganovich, appointed to the post of People's Commissar of Railways, demanded that the transfer of the car fleet to automatic brakes be completed.
As it was said in the first part of the article, the decision on this was made at the end of the XNUMXth century, but in reality, until the fall of the empire, almost nothing was done. And in the course of the revolution and the Civil War, and even more so it was not up to that. Now the work has accelerated significantly. Moreover, instead of the Westinghouse brake, the rolling stock was now equipped with domestic ones - the design of the brilliant inventor I. Matrosov. And, in contrast to the present times, then the "import substitution" operation was carried out successfully. And by the beginning of the war, most of the carriages had pneumatic brakes.
Another important improvement was the introduction of an automatic coupler, which, like the transition to four-axle cars and automatic brakes, made it possible to increase the weight of trains with an unchanged station and locomotive infrastructure. In addition, the presence of a reliable coupling allowed the drivers to drive trains more confidently on sections with a broken profile, without fear that excessive longitudinal forces would lead to their rupture. True, before the start of the war, less than half of the cars in the entire fleet were equipped with automatic couplers.
Deep structural changes in the country's economy are reflected in the specialization of the car fleet. If in the pre-revolutionary period, as it was said in the first part of the article, it was dominated by covered freight cars intended for the transport of grain, then a reflection of the era of industrialization was the fact that the most numerous group was now made up of gondola cars (that is, with high sides, but without a roof ). Their main cargo was coal and ore - the main raw materials for metallurgy and energy. The implementation of industrialization plans was made possible thanks to this new wagon fleet.
When developing it, Soviet engineers took into account the causes of the crisis that befell the domestic railways during the First World War. One of them consisted in the fact that in conditions of a labor shortage, the cars were not always unloaded on time. Accumulating on sidings, such unloaded wagons actually led to a decrease in the available fleet.
Therefore, the key operational indicator adopted by the NKPS was the turnover of the car - the time between one load and the next one. The faster the turnover of the car, the more efficient its use in transportation. The example of the design of the same gondola car shows how this fast turnover was ensured. It was adapted to unload as quickly as possible. Its main method was considered to be the use of an overpass, on which hatches in the floor were opened and the load spilled out of the body under its own weight. But overpasses were not available at all points of unloading. Therefore, in addition to the lower hatches, there were also numerous in the side and end doors, from where it was possible to unload with shovels and on the usual path.
This detail may seem insignificant. But it clearly demonstrates: how, in conditions of a shortage of resources and minimal technical equipment, nevertheless, transport strove to maximize operational performance.
Thus, in conditions of limited resources and technological capabilities, the NKPS, relying on the recommendations of old specialists and with the support of the country's leadership, carried out a technical modernization of the industry, focusing its main efforts on transformations in the carriage economy. Which brought its results.
The Second World War was approaching. The country faced the most terrible test in its history, posing an immediate threat to its very existence, including physical survival.
How did the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Fleet and the People's Commissariat of Railways - two brainchildren of the Soviet state, which it did not leave its attention all these years and from which it demanded a high return both in peacetime and, moreover, in wartime - showed themselves in it?
This will be discussed in the next, third part of the article.