One can argue for a long time which class of surface ships was the most effective during the Second World War. Precisely surface, because with submarines everything is clear and understandable. As well as with aircraft carriers, but here the work is not of an aircraft carrier as a ship, but of aircraft that this launch delivers to the battlefield.
If so, then the German auxiliary raider cruisers should justly be considered the most malevolent class. For as much tonnage as they sent to the bottom in terms of unit, not a single battleship can boast.
But today we are (for now) not talking about raiders, but about ... almost raiders. About a very peculiar class of ships. Minelayer cruisers, chief weapons which were mines. Specifically today - British mine cruisers of the "Abdiel" class.
The number of mines laid by these ships really arouses respect and curses from the crews of minesweepers in the Mediterranean. The number of ships blown up by these mines is no less impressive. Especially the Italians got it, but that's understandable.
But let's go, as always, in order.
To begin with, where did the idea of developing such a ship come from in the British Admiralty? The Germans are to blame, their minelayer cruisers Brummer and Bremse, who successfully fought the entire First World War, and then were interned in Scapa Flow, where they were studied by British specialists, made a great impression on the experts.
They were fairly fast (up to 28 knots at full speed) for the beginning of the century, ships capable of traveling up to 5800 miles, each having 400 mines on board. Considering that such a range is more than enough to get around the whole of Britain, throwing mines into the water wherever you want. And, you see, 400 minutes is just a huge amount.
Impressed by the German minelayers, the British quickly built what they believed to be a fast minelayer "Adventure". The tasks in the future war for Great Britain in this regard were the same as in the First World War: in which case, quickly throw mines into the Danish straits and block Wilhelmshaven so that various troubles would not get out of there.
"Adventure" turned out to be an unsuccessful copy. Built 10 years later than the Germans, it had a lower speed (27 knots), a shorter range (4500 miles) and took on board fewer mines (280-340 pcs.). In general, the project did not quite work out.
Further, the British tried to implement projects of underwater minelayers. 7 minelaying boats were built. But these boats took only 50 mines aboard, although, of course, secret laying of mines is a big deal. There were projects for converting destroyers into minelayers according to the experience of the First World War, but the destroyer is not the most successful platform for placing mines.
And, speaking of projects, the third project of a surface minelayer was successful.
Strange, but the main priority in the characteristics of the new ship was considered speed and range. Not typical for the British, whose ships did not differ in speed at that time.
In general, it turned out to be something that, in terms of displacement, could be put between the standard British destroyer and the non-standard light cruiser Arethews. The total displacement of the new ships was a little short of the "five-thousanders" and amounted to 4 tons. But clearly not a destroyer either.
As a result, within the framework of the 1938 program, Abdiel, Latona, Manxman were built, according to the 1939 Welshman program, and according to the 1940 program, the Ariadne and Apollo were somewhat different in design.
The result was interesting ships that could put out 156 mines in one raid, had an exceptionally high (almost 40 knots) speed and could be used as transports, taking up to 200 tons of cargo on a closed mine deck. This was a very useful property, the "Ebdiel" type minelayers brought no less usefulness as transports, saving the garrisons of the besieged Malta and Tobruk.
Why are these ships so often referred to as cruisers? Everything is simple and complex at the same time. In terms of their parameters, the Ebdiel-class minelayers were classified by the British naval department as ships of the first rank. Accordingly, an officer with the rank of "captain" commanded such a ship, as well as a light cruiser. Hence the ships were often referred to as "Cruiser Minelayers" or "Minelaying Cruisers", that is, cruising minelayers or mine cruisers.
The task itself can be called very unusual. According to experts of the British Admiralty, such a mine layer should have a minimal noticeable silhouette, and correspond to the latest destroyers in speed and seaworthiness.
The naval department demanded a speed of 40 knots and put it at the forefront. The ship was supposed to be able to move as quickly as possible into the mine-laying area and as quickly as possible, if necessary, get out of there. The range was estimated at 6000 miles at 15 knots. That is, during the night the mine layer had to reach the Heligoland Bay (for example), throw mines there and go back unnoticed.
Armament was not put at the forefront, it was supposed to help the ship fight off single enemy aircraft and nothing more. True, the ship was to be equipped with an asdik-type hydroacoustic station and a stock of 15-20 depth charges. in case of a meeting with an enemy submarine.
For a long time they could not decide what caliber artillery should be on the ship. It was believed that 120-mm guns, like on destroyers, could allow the cruiser, if necessary, to engage in battle with enemy destroyers.
After a long debate, the supporters of installing not four 120-mm guns, but six universal 102-mm guns in three twin mounts, won. This was more advantageous in terms of air defense, and the minesag could get away from a real threat from surface ships due to its high speed.
In the end, we got a ship with a standard displacement of 2 tons, a length of 650 m, a maximum width of 127,3 m, and a draft of 12,2 m.
The first four ships of the series had not yet entered service when two more mine cruisers were ordered: Ariadne and Apollo. They were ordered in April 1941, when the war was in full swing. Apparently, the Admiralty had already tried to foresee possible losses in battles.
And by the way, yes, the laying of the fifth ship took place two weeks before the death of the first of the mine cruisers.
"Ariadne" and "Apollo" were somewhat different from the first four ships, especially in the composition of weapons. The war has already made its own adjustments.
About the names. The British approached this issue in a very peculiar way. The lead ship of the series inherited its name from the leader of the destroyers, which was converted into a fast minelayer during construction and distinguished itself during the Battle of Jutland.
"Abdiel" is a literary hero, a seraphim from the book "Paradise Lost" by John Milton.
"Manxman" - "native of the Isle of Man" - also in honor of the seaplane carrier of the First World War.
"Latona" - in honor of the heroine of Greek myths, the mother of Apollo and Artemis. This name was previously borne by the minelayer.
"Walesman" - by analogy, a native of Wales, that is, simply "Welshman".
"Apollo" is a god from Greek mythology, the son of Latona.
"Ariadne" - also Greek myths, the daughter of King Minos, who gave a clue to Theseus in the Cretan Labyrinth.
Smooth-deck, without forecastle. Very lightweight without a second bottom. Two solid decks: upper and main (mine), under the upper. In the mine deck there were cutouts for the compartments of the power plant. Bulkheads divided the hull into 11 compartments.
In general, the presence of a mine deck, which was not divided by any bulkheads, posed a certain danger and threat in the event of fire or water ingress. It is clear that the mine deck, which was located above the waterline, did not pose a great threat of flooding, but the water that would hit it could lead to the loss of stability of the entire ship.
Apollo and Ariadne were equipped with waterproof cofferdams along the entire mine deck, but this only partially removed the threat.
There was no reservation. Everything was sacrificed for speed, as in the old "Hood". The conning tower and the upper bridge were booked with anti-splinter armor with a thickness of 6,35 mm.
Universal 102-mm installations were covered with 3,2 mm thick armor plates. And that is all. The mine cruisers had to fight for survival with speed and maneuver.
Two propellers of each cruiser were driven by the Parsons TZA system and two Admiralty-type boilers each.
An interesting point: the chimneys of steam boilers No. 1 and No. 4 were led out into the outer pipes, and of boilers No. 2 and No. 3 into a common middle pipe, which as a result turned out to be much wider. And the silhouette of each Ebdiel closely resembled the profile of a County-class heavy cruiser.
Not the best resemblance, to be honest. Small things such as destroyers could, of course, scare off, but who are larger or submarines could try to the teeth.
The speed of these ships is a separate issue. The fact is that measurements of the first ships were not made at all. There was no time for measurements. The only mine cruiser to be driven on the measured mile was the Manxman, which with a displacement of 3 tons and a full power of 450 hp. showed 72 knots, which in conversion gives the maximum speed with a standard displacement of 970 knots.
Yes, many cruisers could envy the power of the Ebdiel machines at that time.
Apollo and Ariadne showed 39,25 knots at partial load and 33,75 knots at full load on tests.
The fuel stock of the ships of the first group included 591 tons of oil and 58 tons of diesel fuel for diesel generators. According to the project, the ships were supposed to pass 5300-5500 miles on this stock at an economical speed of 15 knots. However, the tests of the Manxman showed a lower result: only 4 miles.
The "Apollo" and "Ariadne" had their fuel reserves increased to 830 tons of oil and 52 tons of diesel fuel, which provided them with a slightly longer cruising range, although it, most likely, did not reach the design one.
The main caliber of the mine cruisers consisted of six 102 mm / 45 Mk.XVI universal guns in twin Mk.XIXA deck mounts.
The main universal weapon of the British fleet theoretically had a rate of fire of up to 20 rounds per minute, although the combat rate of fire was lower, 12-15 rounds per minute.
This weapon was not very suitable for fighting surface ships, but a high-explosive fragmentation projectile weighing 28,8 kg, having an initial speed of 900 m / s and a range of 15 km, was very good for fighting aviation.
The cruisers had 250 rounds per barrel.
A four-barreled 40-mm Vickers Mk.VII assault rifle ("pom-pom") served as a means of air defense in the near-field.
The eight-ton unit was driven by an 11 hp electric motor, which moved the barrels vertically and horizontally at a speed of 25 degrees per second. In the event of an emergency power outage, it was possible to direct in manual mode, but at three times slower speed.
The installation provided a high density of fire, the only drawback was the low muzzle velocity of the projectile, which caused the effective firing range to suffer. There were problems with the supply of ammunition, as many have mentioned, but this is solely due to the use of non-standard tarpaulin tapes. When using metal strips, there were no problems with the feeding of cartridges.
The installation's ammunition consisted of 7200 rounds, 1800 per barrel.
And the last line of defense of the ship from air attacks was a quad 12,7-mm machine gun "Vickers". Two such installations were mounted side by side on the lower tier of the superstructure.
Ammunition load of 2500 rounds per barrel.
The first four ships of the series in the standard armament included four Lewis machine guns with a caliber of 7,7 mm on light machines. These machine guns could be placed anywhere, but their practical value was not great.
On the ships of the second group, the composition of the weapons was different.
Only two 102-mm installations were left, in the bow and at the stern.
According to the project, "Apollo" and "Ariadne" were to be armed with three paired 40-mm machine guns Hazemeyer-Bofors Mk.IV and five paired 20-mm machine guns Oerlikon Mk.V.
Paired 40mm Bofors assault rifle in a Hazemeyer mount.
The assault rifle from the "Bofors" company (Sweden) was produced in the UK under license and was one of the best examples of automatic heavy anti-aircraft weapons in the world. A projectile weighing almost a kilogram flew out of the barrel with an initial speed of 881 m / s and flew over a distance of more than 7 km. The machine was powered by a clip-on, one clip contained 4 unitary cartridges. Combat rate of fire was up to 120 rounds per minute and only the need to reload slowed it down.
The weight of the installation was about 7 tons, this masterpiece was equipped with a Type 282 personal guidance radar and a Word-Leonard fire control system, the electric drive system provided vertical guidance within the range from -10 to +90 degrees, the guidance speed reached 25 degrees per second.
Paired 20-mm machine gun "Oerlikon".
The automatic machine of the Swiss company "Oerlikon" was no less famous, reliable and effective. The food was from a magazine from a 60-round drum, because of this, the combat rate of fire was in the region of 440-460 rounds per minute, the Oerlikon shot farther than the pom-pom and more lethal than the 12,7-mm machine gun.
The installation was powered by an electrohydraulic drive.
On the cruisers of the second series, one Bofors was installed in front of the superstructure, in place of the 102-mm installation. Two machine guns were put in place of "pom-poms" in the stern superstructure.
Two paired "Oerlikons" were installed on the wings of the lower bridge and on the former searchlight platform between the second and third chimneys, the fifth - on the aft shelterdeck.
During construction, due to the lack of 40-mm assault rifles, Apollo and Ariadne temporarily received a sixth twin installation of Erlikons instead of the front 40-mm installation.
Mine weapons of the cruisers were, as they say, "in stock". The fact is that since the First World War, a huge number of mines lay in the warehouses of the Admiralty. These were the mines of a very old model, which were installed by hand by hand, just old ones, which were installed using a cable and a winch, and there were also completely new ones, designed to be set using a chain conveyor.
Manual setting of mines
Setting mines using a winch
Setting mines by conveyor method
So, mine cruisers of the "Abdiel" class could place all three types of mines. Easy and casual. The modern conveyor method with a wider track was used as the main one. The chain drive mechanism was located in the tiller compartment on the lower deck. For setting mines of old types (H-II and the like) drum winches were installed in the aft part of the mine deck and a third removable rail. Conversion from one type of mines to another took 12 hours.
The nominal mine load was 100 mines of the Mk.XIV or Mk.XV type, which were taken on two external mine tracks. Two internal mine paths could take another 50 minutes. By various tricks, British sailors could take 156 or even 162 mines all the way. The staging was carried out through four aft gate ports.
Mines were taken on board through six hatches in the deck. The four main mineway hatches were serviced by two electric cranes. Two hatches were served by removable derrick cranes, which were still used to install mine action paravans.
Acceptance of mines at the "Manxman"
The mine equipment included such a unit as a rope distance meter.
It was a drum with 140 miles of thin steel cable 6 mm in diameter with a weight at the end. The wire was unwound from the stern of the ship through a cyclometric wheel having a circumference of 1,853 m (one thousandth of a mile), equipped with a tachometer and dynamometer. According to the Admiralty navigator's manual, the device provided distance measurements with an accuracy of 0,2%. It can be said that this was the accuracy of laying mines relative to each other.
To protect against anchor mines, the ships had four S Mk.I. In the stowed position, they were attached to the bow superstructure, in front of the signal bridge.
Mine cruisers were armed to counter enemy submarines. The main weapon was the Asdic type 128 sonar station, with which it was also possible to detect anchor mines. In practice, it was in this vein that the station was mainly used.
15 depth charges were stored on racks in the stern. That is, enough to make life difficult for any submarine.
By the time the first mine cruiser entered service, the radar station had become an indispensable attribute of the armament of rank 1 ships. Radars were entrusted with two essential functions: target detection and artillery fire control.
Mine cruisers of the first series were equipped with radar types 285 and 286M
The 286M type radar operated at a wavelength of 1,4 m (frequency 214 MHz), had a power of 10 kW and made it possible to detect both air and surface targets. The "bed", as it was called in the marine environment, was fixed to the foremast stationary and worked in a sector 60 degrees wide at the bow. The range was not bad, the bed plane could be detected 25 miles away, the cruiser-class ship - 6-8 miles, which was frankly not enough. Plus, the detection accuracy was very low.
Radar type 285 was intended to control the fire of 102-mm guns, operated at a wavelength of 0,5 m, had a power of 25 kW, a range of up to 9 miles and could be used for both air and surface targets. The antenna system, consisting of six emitters, had the nickname "fishbone" was installed on the director so that the radar beam coincided with the optical line of sight.
There was also a type 282 station for controlling the fire of anti-aircraft guns. It was distinguished by two emitters instead of six on the "type 285" and a smaller range, up to 2,5 miles. The radar antenna was mounted directly on the director of the "pom-pom" on the first four ships or on a 40-mm machine gun on the second.
Starting in 1943, instead of the Type 286 RSL, the ships began to receive the more modern Type 291. Its slang nickname was "The Cross" because the transmit / receive dipoles were mounted on a rotating X-frame. The new radar operated in the meter wave range, had a power of 80 kW and provided aircraft detection at a distance of up to 50 miles, surface ships - up to 10 miles.
In addition to radars, from the middle of the war, mine cruisers were equipped with electronic reconnaissance stations that detect the radiation of enemy radars, and identification friend or foe (IFF) stations.
He began his combat service in March 1941, when he conducted a series of mine laying off the southern coast of England and Brest, where the German battleships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau came. In April 1941 he moved to Alexandria. 21.5.1941/XNUMX/XNUMX laid mines in the Gulf of Patras (Greece), participated in the supply of the garrison of Tobruk, where he made more than a dozen supply flights.
In total, during her participation in the war, "Ebdiel" put out 2209 mines, which blew up a very decent number of ships. Mostly Italian.
- "Carlo Mirabello" 21.05.1941/XNUMX/XNUMX;
- "Corsaro" 9.01.1943/XNUMX/XNUMX;
- "Saetta" 3.02.1943/XNUMX/XNUMX;
- "Lanzerotto Malocello" and "Askari" 24.3.1943.
- "Hurricane" 3.02.1943/XNUMX/XNUMX;
- "Cyclone" 7.03.1943/XNUMX/XNUMX.
1 gunboat: "Pellegrino Matteucci" 21.05.1941/XNUMX/XNUMX).
2 German transports, "Marburg" and "Kibfels" 21.05.1941/XNUMX/XNUMX.
One more destroyer, Maestrale, received heavy damage on January 1, 9.01.1943 and was not repaired.
11 ships and vessels is more than enough to recoup the entire project.
10.1.1942/7/1942 "Ebdiel" arrived in Colombo and by the end of the month made XNUMX performances near the Adaman Islands, after which it was renovated in Durban and in August XNUMX returned to the metropolis.
30.12.1942/1943/XNUMX laid mines off the coast of England, and in early January XNUMX moved to North Africa, where he made several mine laying off the coast of Tunisia, flights to Malta and Haifa. Participated in the landing operation in Sicily.
On the evening of 9.09.1943/54/61 he died at Taranto, blown up by a mine exposed by the German boats S-48 and S-120. Killed XNUMX crew members and XNUMX soldiers on board.
21.6.1941/17/XNUMX arrived in Alexandria around the Cape of Good Hope. Together with "Ebdiel" he participated in the supply of the garrison of Tobruk, making XNUMX voyages.
Sunk on 25.10.1941/87/23 north of Bardia by Ju-XNUMX dive bombers. The bomb hit the area of the second engine room, a fire broke out, which led to the explosion of the ammunition load. The ship sank, XNUMX crew members were killed.
"Latona" turned out to be the only ship in the series that did not deploy a single mine.
In August 1941 he made two flights to Malta, disguised as the French leader Leopard of the Jaguar class. In addition to delivering cargo, he has deployed 22 mines off the coast of Italy.
From October 1941 to March 1942, he laid mines off the coast of Norway, in the English Channel and the Bay of Biscay.
In October 1942 he took part in supply operations to Malta from Alexandria.
1.12.1942/375/2 torpedoed by the German submarine U-XNUMX near Oran and was out of action for more than XNUMX years.
In total, the ship exposed 3 minutes.
On 2.8.1945/1947/1951 arrived in Sydney and was included in the British Pacific Fleet, but did not participate in hostilities. From 1962 to 1969 he served in the Far East. In 1971 he became an auxiliary ship in the mine-sweeping forces of the Navy. In XNUMX she became a training ship, in XNUMX she was withdrawn from the fleet and sent for scrap.
Walesman / Welshman
He began his career with active mine laying.
September-October 1941 - three performances off the coast of Great Britain.
October 1941 - two productions in the English Channel.
November 1941 - staged in the Bay of Biscay.
February 1942 - Bay of Biscay, six performances at 912 minutes.
April 1942 - three performances in the English Channel for 480 minutes.
In May - June 1942 he made three voyages with cargo to Malta. In November, he took part in Operation Torch, delivered cargo to units that had landed in Morocco. Then he again delivered goods to Malta.
1.02.1943/617/2 torpedoed by the German submarine U-148 off the coast of Libya, sank after XNUMX hours. XNUMX crew members were killed.
In total, 1941-1942. fielded 3 mines.
From December 1943 to the end of 1944 he operated in the Mediterranean Sea. After he was transferred to a theater of operations in the Pacific Ocean. Arrived at Pearl Harbor in March 1943.
In June 1944 he set up a barrage near the island of Vewak (New Guinea), took part in operations in the Mariana and Philippine Islands.
At the beginning of 1945 he returned to Great Britain, where he carried out 11 laying of mines (more than 1500). Then he made a supply trip to Sydney with a cargo of spare parts for British ships. Remained in the Pacific Ocean until 1946.
During the war he put about 2 mines.
In 1946 it was put into reserve, in 1963 it was sold for scrap.
At the beginning of 1944, he laid mines off the coast of France (1170 mines were exposed). In June he took part in the Normandy landing operation. In the fall of 1944, he set up anti-submarine obstacles off the coast of England.
13.1.1945/1945/22.4.1945 set up a barrier at about. Utsira (Norway). In February-April 276 he set up anti-submarine barriers in the Irish Sea. XNUMX/XNUMX/XNUMX set XNUMX mines at the entrance to the Kola Bay.
During the war, he fielded the largest number of mines among the sisterships - 8.
Excluded from the fleet in April 1961, sold for scrap in November 1962
It is safe to say that the project turned out to be more than successful. More than 30 thousand mines that were deployed by mine cruisers is a big figure.
Many copies were broken on the subject of whether the Ebdiel could be considered cruisers. Can. Let the displacement and the main caliber of the artillery are not cruising at all, the speed and cruising range, as well as the ability to perform combat missions at a considerable distance from their bases (that is, exactly what was called cruising) allow Ebdieli to be classified as a cruiser.
A completely enclosed mine deck became a peculiar feature of the British mine cruisers. The advantages were obvious, relative security (conditional) and large capacity. The disadvantage was the possible spread of water through the damaged mine deck. It is believed that this is what played a role in the death of the "Welshman".
Mine cruisers or fast minelayers of the "Ebdiel" type are recognized as successful ships, many experts and researchers agree on this. These ships did a great job of laying mines in various areas.
Ships of this class were actually one of a kind. Other fleets used cruisers or destroyers to lay mines. But these types of ships took a small number of mines, and in general, diverting warships to mine laying is not a good idea.
A good example of this is the actions of the Italian navy. The constant diversion of cruisers to mine laying resulted in the fact that Italy began to "pass" British convoys going to Africa and Malta.
Mine cruisers of the British Navy fielded about 31,5 thousand mines during the war, which is 12,5% of the total number of mines put up by the Royal Navy. If you count how much work cruisers and destroyers would need to lay such a number of mines, it becomes clear that the six fast mine cruisers that laid mines from Norway to the Pacific Ocean played a very significant role in that war.