It soon became known that in those few hours the X German flotilla ceased to exist: only four of the destroyers of 11 in the morning returned to the base. The Russians didn’t shoot a single gun shot that night, didn’t fire a single torpedo!
This episode still remains one of the most mysterious in stories World War I, excites the minds of researchers, the imagination of writers, artists and filmmakers who are trying to answer the question: "Whose handiwork?"
And few of them pay attention to the fact that a week before these events, the head of the mine division of the Baltic Fleet, Rear Admiral Mikhail Kedrov, was rewarded with St. George weapons for the fact that, "personally directing the operation at sea, on the night from 4 to 5 of October, 1916 of the year put an important minefield in the rear of the enemy" ...
Dreaming of the sea
The future admiral was born on September 13 1878 in Moscow. It is not clear where, but the boy, who saw the sea and the ships only in pictures, from an early age, an overwhelming craving for ocean expanses and raging winds appeared. Therefore, having graduated with honors from 4, the Moscow Cadet Corps, located on Krasnokazarmennaya Street (and, by the way, which gave it that name), he travels to St. Petersburg. There, the young man takes the entrance examinations to the Marine Corps - the oldest military school of the Russian fleet, leading its history from the famous Navigation School, founded by Peter I back in 1701 year.
It was here that the future admirals F. F. Ushakov, D. N. Senyavin, F. A. Klokachev, M. P. Lazarev, P. S. Nakhimov, V. A. Kornilov, V. I. Istomin. In 1899, midshipman Mikhail Kedrov emerged from the same walls, who did not yet know that he was destined to join this glorious cohort of Russian naval commanders.
The initial duty station of Mikhail Alexandrovich was the Herzog Edinburgh semi-armored frigate, in which the newly-built naval officer made his first ocean voyage. Despite his advanced age - the sailboat was launched in 1875 year - this ship was an excellent training ground for young officers of the Russian Imperial fleet: it could sail and sail using steam engines, learn the basics of 203-mm and 152 artillery firing -mm ship guns, other wisdom and subtleties of naval life.
Apparently, midshipman Kedrov succeeded in all of this pretty much, because immediately after returning from the march he was promoted to lieutenant. And he received a new appointment - to the Pacific Fleet, to the Port Arthur naval base. Where arrived shortly before the start of the Russian-Japanese war.
Three ways to die
After the appearance of Vice-Admiral Stepan Osipovich Makarov in Port Arthur, Lieutenant Kedrov assumed the position of his personal flag officer and for several months carried out the most important missions of the fleet commander.
Only due to the coincidence of circumstances Mikhail Alexandrovich did not appear on board the battleship Petropavlovsk on that ill-fated day when a ship that blew up in a mine bank and broken in half in a matter of minutes took the team and 657 to the depths of the ship: Lieutenant Kedrov in a day before the tragedy came out on the destroyer "Boyky" to explore one of the sea areas.
After that, he served for a short time at the headquarters of the governor in the Far East, and then, thanks to his perseverance, he soon found himself on the ship — assigned to the battleship Tsesarevich, on which the chief of 1 Pacific squadron, Rear Admiral Wilhelm Karlovich Witgeft held the flag .
Fate continued to test the strength of the young officer: during the next shelling of the fortress by the Japanese siege artillery, Lieutenant Kedrov, who was on the shore at that time, was shell-shocked and wounded in the leg by a fragment of a shell exploded nearby, was hospitalized. However, having learned of the squadron being prepared to sail into the sea, having undergone treatment, he ran away from the hospital to the battleship. The commander of the "Cesarevich" captain 1 of the rank N. M. Ivanov, seeing Mikhail Alexandrovich leaning on a cane while moving around the ship, wanted to report him off. But in the end, he just waved his hand: when breaking through the battle formations of the Japanese fleet to Vladivostok, which the Russian squadron intended to undertake, every officer was on the bill ...
8.30 28 July 6 battleships, 4 cruisers and 8 destroyers emerged from Port Arthur into the open sea, where the blurred silhouettes of seventeen Japanese battleships and armored cruisers accompanied by forty-eight destroyers and destroyers were visible.
The first shot sounded in 12.20. After that, opponents until the onset of darkness actively maneuvered, then diverging to the maximum distance for shooting with the main caliber of 80 cable (14,8 kilometers), then more than halving it. And all this time they exchanged volleys of ship guns, carrying fire from target to target.
The battle lasted with varying success until 17.40, while the 305-mm projectile of the Japanese battleship did not turn around the foremast of the Tsesarevich. His fragments hit Rear Admiral V.K. Vitgeft, flagship navigator Lieutenant N.N. Azaryev and four other officers who were on the bridge, seriously wounded Rear-Admiral N.A. Matusevich's squadron headquarters and Lieutenant M.A. Kedrov. Mikhail Alexandrovich had a burned face, punched the right hand and shoulder, the skin on the head was deeply cut from the right temple to the ear. To top it all off, he again got the strongest concussion.
After the death of the commander of the Russian squadron collapsed. Each ship acted alone, relying on the power of its boilers and the accuracy of the gunners. Only the ensuing darkness saved the Russian cruisers and armadillos from destruction. Most of them turned back to Port Arthur. Wounded "Diana" went to the French Saigon, which had two underwater holes "Askold" took refuge in the Chinese Shanghai. And the Tsesarevich, who suffered the most, after he broke away from the Japanese who were pursuing him, barely walked to the German naval base in Qingdao.
Almost three months spent Mikhail Alexandrovich in a German hospital. But as soon as he began to recover, he began to think how to get to the war again. The native battleship was interned and could not leave the neutral port until the end of hostilities. Independently to get to Port Arthur or Vladivostok was unreal. It remained to hope for some lucky occasion.
And he introduced himself. In Qingdao, rumors spread that in the nearby Kampang Bay, the 2 th Pacific Squadron of the Russian fleet, following from the Baltic to the aid of besieged Port-Arthur, would soon anchor. Without delaying a day, Cedar set off. And he sighed with relief when he saw the warships standing in the bay under the flag of St. Andrew.
After being presented to the squadron commander, Admiral Zinovy Petrovich Rozhestvensky, he was appointed artillery officer to the auxiliary cruiser “Ural”. A few days later the squadron took off with the anchors and continued on its way to the Sea of Japan, to the island of Tsushima.
On May 14, at the entrance to the Korean Strait, it was “Ural”, which was walking in the reconnaissance detachment, first discovered the Japanese fleet, after which it received an order to withdraw to the end of the squadron system to protect the transports.
But this did not save the lightly armored cruiser from destruction: the enemy covered it with the first volley - the projectile exploded on the stern deck. Then several more hits followed, and in 15.35 the left side was pierced below the waterline. All attempts by the emergency party to get a plaster under the hole on the move were unsuccessful. And when another projectile turned the right-hand side of the Ural, the cruiser commander signaled: “I am dying, but I don’t give up!” After which he ordered the crew to open the Kingston and leave the ship.
Destroyers and other vessels of the Russian squadron, who were near the site of the tragedy, picked up the wounded and sailing sailors and officers in the boats. Lieutenant Kedrov, along with other 325 crew members, was on the Anadyr transport. His commander did not catch up with the squadron leading the battle on a crowded ship, but lay back.
Subsequently, it turned out that this was the only right decision, which allowed Anadyr to reach Madagascar in a month, where he dropped anchor in the French port. The French did not begin to intern Russian transport, justifying themselves in front of Japanese diplomats and the world community by remoteness from the theater of operations.
So after the repair of cars, the replenishment of coal, water and food "Anadyr" returned safely to their homeland.
From war to war
In 1906, Mikhail Aleksandrovich decides to expand his knowledge: unexpectedly for many, he enters the Mikhailovsky Artillery Academy. For two years, she has been persistently studying all sections of ballistics, fortification, the history of military art and the basics of military administration, tactics and strategy, theoretical and practical mechanics, and improving knowledge of foreign languages.
Together with the diploma of graduation from the academy, he receives production as a lieutenant commander and a new appointment — he becomes the senior officer of the training ship Peter the Great. Constructed by Rear Admiral A. A. Popov in 1872, this ship became the first full-fledged armored battleship of the Russian fleet and for a long time remained one of the most powerful in its class. However, by the beginning of the 20th century, the battleship was morally obsolete, and since 1903 has been used as a base for training gunners.
For six years, Mikhail Alexandrovich was preparing the commanders and officers of coastal and naval artillery units for the Baltic Fleet. At the same time, he prepared and published several scientific papers on the tactics of linear combat of heavy artillery ships and the use of artillery in naval combat. He also wrote a number of teaching materials and instructions on sighting, controlling and massaging shipboard artillery fire.
In 1912, the naval minister I. K. Grigorovich, making a report to the sovereign, described Kedrov as one of the most talented naval officers. Nicholas II remembered the name. In July of the following year, the emperor personally assessed the level of artillery preparation of the ships of the Baltic Fleet, found him very high, and granted Mikhail Alexandrovich his adjutant adjutant.
But Kedrov did not become a court officer: in the same 1913, he took his place on the captain's bridge of Peter the Great. On it and met the First World War.
Both practitioner and theoretician
The war began for Kedrov with a very unusual mission. 26 August 1914, near the island of Odenholm in the fog, hit the stones of the German light cruiser "Magdeburg". The destroyers sent to his rescue managed to take part of the crew, but then they were driven away by the fire of the Russian cruisers Bogatyr and Pallas, who intercepted the distress signal of the Magdeburg and also all pairs descended to the scene of the accident.
In the turmoil of battle, the Germans did not have time to destroy the ship's documents, including signal books with codes and ciphers. According to the instructions, it was supposed to be done in the firebox, but the engine room of the stranded ship was flooded with water that entered through a hole in the hull. What to do in such a situation, the commander of the ship Corvette-Captain Habenicht did not know and therefore just threw the folder with signal books overboard. What was noticed by the sailors of the Russian boarding party, already approaching the cruiser in the boats. And it was not difficult for divers to lift secret documents from the bottom.
So in the third week of the war, the Russian fleet was able to read almost all the negotiations of the German ships among themselves and with the coast. Until the end of 1917, Habenicht was kept under heavy guard by gendarmes and did not have the slightest opportunity to inform his motherland of his mistake. And the Russians, loyal to their allied duty, decided to transfer copies of the Magdeburg signal books to the British Admiralty. This task was entrusted to perform Mikhail Alexandrovich Kedrov.
In response, a friendly gesture from the British suggested that the Russian officer serve some time on their ships. Permission for this was obtained, and Mikhail Alexandrovich was given the opportunity to become closely acquainted with the peculiarities of life and the organization of service in the Royal Navy of Great Britain, to which he was seconded for a year. During this time, he sailed on the British cruiser "Theseus", the battleships "Conqueror" and "Emperor of India", where he primarily studied the use of artillery in naval combat.
Immediately after returning home, Kedrov was appointed commander of the battleship Gangut, based in Helsingfors. Mikhail Aleksandrovich did not have time to accept the new position, as the sailors performed on the ship, almost ending in tragedy.
The reason for the buzz was ridiculous: after the rush work on loading coal for dinner, the team was prepared buckwheat porridge, rather than the pasta relying in such cases in a nautical way! The reasons for sailor unrest lay much deeper. Since the beginning of the war, one of the most powerful ships of the Russian fleet stood idle in the naval base, not taking part in combat operations. Leaflets began to appear on the battleship, in which the sailors "explained" that the Gangut was inactive because of the conspiracy of the "gold-hunters" of German origin. Therefore, the command of the senior officer Baron E. E. Fittinging on cooking porridge instead of pasta with meat was perceived by the team as the machinations of enemies.
Captain 1 rank Kedrov barely managed to get the sailors, already snatched their weapons, to come to their senses. Passions subsided, but the investigation was still appointed. As a result, 95 of the lower ranks was arrested, 26 was sentenced to hard labor for the period from 4 to 15 years, the rest were scattered around other crews. If we take into account that all this happened in the midst of the war on a warship, then we can only marvel at the gentleness with which the government reacted to the rebels.
Mikhail Alexandrovich, the officers and most of the sailors were impatient to prove that, despite the annoying fact, the battleship did not lose combat capability. And soon such an opportunity presented itself: 11 November 1915 of the year “Gangut” and Petropavlovsk of the same type with it under cover of cruisers took to the sea. The enemy ships were not found during the hike, but they put a minefield from 550 mines to the south of Gotland. And already on November 25 on these mines the German cruiser Danzig was blown up. Thus, the Gangutzians swept away the stain of shame.
Mikhail Aleksandrovich’s service on the battleship continued until the summer of 1916. The ship rarely went out to sea, there was plenty of free time, and Kedrov dedicated it to scientific work. He has published several articles on the improvement of tactics for the use of heavy naval artillery, one of the first in the world to systematize questions concerning the rules of firing from three-gun turrets. After that, in all military fleets, Mikhail Aleksandrovich was talked about as an extraordinary naval artillery theorist, who had predicted a great future for him.
28 June 1916, the Kedrov received a rear admiral shoulder straps and a new appointment - commander of the mine division of the Baltic Fleet. In this post, he changed Alexander Vasilyevich Kolchak, who had gone to Sevastopol, to take command over the Black Sea Fleet.
No matter how strange it may seem, it was thanks to the admiral shoulder straps that Mikhail Alexandrovich finally got the opportunity to break into the sea, change the comfortable cabin of the battleship commander for a vibrating and open to the winds captain bridge of the destroyer.
He had long dreamed of this. And the ships of the Baltic Mine Division under Kedrov, like under Kolchak, never stood on the quay walls. It was thanks to the activity of the Russian destroyers that the Germans suffered the lion's share of their losses in the Baltic during the First World War. Including lost overnight almost the entire X flotilla, which was based in Libau and consisted of the newest destroyers.
Alas, Kedrov had a chance to fight for less than a year. Immediately after the February Revolution, he was appointed Deputy Minister of the Navy. In fact, Mikhail Alexandrovich led this department for several months, since A. I. Guchkov, who headed both the military and the naval ministries in the Provisional Government, was, to put it mildly, ignorant of naval affairs. And if to take into account that since April 1917, Kedrov has also become Chief of the Marine General Staff, one can imagine how much trouble the admiral had at that time.
By the summer of 1917, Kedrov’s relations with A. F. Kerensky had finally deteriorated. It seemed to the Prime Minister that he alone knows how best to wage "war to the bitter end," he took any comments from military experts as obstinacy and undermining his own authority. And so he sent the admiral out of sight to London, where in the Russian Government Committee Mikhail Alexandrovich began to coordinate the activities of the agents of the Russian fleet. That is, in fact, headed the naval intelligence of the empire. Which, alas, remained only a few months.
The Last Campaign
Admiral Kedrov was lucky: fate was pleased to save him from direct participation in the battles of the Civil War. Those two and a half years that rivers of blood flowed in Russia, Mikhail Alexandrovich was in the capital of Great Britain. But he did not idle, but continued to fulfill his duty to the Fatherland as he understood it.
First, at the Special Meeting at the Russian Embassy in London, he headed the Allied Operational Committee on the Russian merchant fleet, which the revolution found in foreign ports. After A.V. Kolchak declared himself the supreme ruler of Russia, he instructed his comrade and comrade-in-arms Kedrov to organize transports to supply the white armies leading the fight against the Bolsheviks in the north, south and east of Russia. So all the caravans of ships carrying weapons, ammunition, uniforms and foodstuffs that arrived in Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Novorossiysk, Sevastopol, Kerch, Odessa and Vladivostok in 1918 – 1920 years were collected, loaded and sent to the ports of destination thanks to the efforts of Mikhail Alexandrovich.
And yet again, the admiral had to visit Russia washed with blood: it so happened that it was Kedrov who had the last large-scale operation of the Civil War - the evacuation of the Wrangel army from the Crimea.
This dramatic episode of national history in Soviet times was not given due attention either in school textbooks or in more serious works. Therefore, the absolute majority of our citizens today have the illusion that after the loss of the Crimean isthmuses, the remnants of the whites ran randomly to the coast, en masse climbed the ships in the ports, which immediately fell off the moorings and tried to quickly hide behind the horizon ...
In fact, this was not the case.
Since the whole struggle against the Bolsheviks was transferred to the Crimea, the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the South of Russia, General Wrangel, was ordered to fleet commander Vice Admiral MP P. Sablin to develop a plan for evacuating the army and rear institutions from the Crimea to Constantinople in case of a red breakthrough peninsula. In order number 002430, which fleet headquarters received another 4 on April 1920, the baron demanded, “observing full secrecy, in the shortest possible time to prepare the necessary number of vessels for the transportation of 100 thousand people, distribute them to ports so that they could start landing in 4 – 5 days after the start of withdrawal from the isthmuses ”.
The work on the evacuation plan began immediately; all the higher ranks of the fleet, devoted to the text of the secret order, took an active part in it. It was their skills that helped prepare everything necessary to save the remnants of the Russian army from complete annihilation.
In mid-September, Vice Admiral Sablin became seriously ill. The doctors were powerless to do anything, honestly warning the fleet commander that he had only a month to live, two from strength. Mikhail Pavlovich asked Wrangel to attend to the search for his successor, himself recommending to call Rear Admiral Kedrov from London. The baron was not personally acquainted with Mikhail Alexandrovich, but he listened to the opinion of the dying naval commander. And did not regret it.
In early October, Kedrov arrived in Sevastopol and introduced himself to the commander-in-chief. Subsequently, Wrangel will write in his memoirs: “He had a reputation as an exceptionally intelligent, decisive and knowledgeable sailor. With a personal acquaintance made the best impression on me. After some hesitation, the admiral agreed to accept the post. This choice turned out to be extremely successful. The unprecedented in the history of the evacuation of the Crimea largely owes its success to Admiral Kedrov. "
October 12 1920, five days before the death of Admiral Sablin, Mikhail Alexandrovich was appointed commander of the Black Sea Fleet. And he energetically set to work on finalizing the evacuation plan and its implementation.
To all the Crimean ports, in which the combat and transport ships of the fleet were already concentrated, Kedrov appointed senior naval commanders, who had unlimited rights within their official duties. Rear Admiral Alexander Mikhailovich Klykov became the “dictator” of the port of Evpatoria, Rear Admiral Pavel Levitsky, Yerta, Rear Admiral Mikhail Alexandrovich Berens, Kerch, the captain of the 1 rank Ivan Konstantinovich Fedyaevsky was in charge of loading in Feodosia.
8 November 1920, the Reds broke through Perekop and entered the Chongar Isthmus. 10 November Wrangell ordered an evacuation. For three days, troops carrying weapons, ammunition, and logistics services, including company box offices and regimental flags, were loaded onto 126 ships. The families of officers, civil and military institutions — almost everyone who wished — went up to the decks. The total number of voluntary exiles was about 150 thousand people.
On November 14, after not a single military unit remained in Sevastopol, Baron Wrangel and his staff officers rose aboard the General Kornilov cruiser, where the fleet commander Admiral Kedrov kept the flag. In 14.50, the cruiser commander received an order to anchor, which was immediately duplicated on the radio to the commanders of naval units based in other ports. In the open sea, the ships gathered at the meeting point and, lining up in a marching warrant, headed for Constantinople.
The Russian fleet, led by Admiral Kedrov, set out on his last expedition.
Away from home shores
16 November 1920, the Russian ships that left the ports of the Crimea, anchored in the outer raid of the Turkish capital. The fleet that survived the worst storm in the sea lost only one ship: with a squall flown overturned it overturned and instantly sank the overloaded destroyer, taking the officers and Cossacks of the Don Regiment to the bottom of the 250. The rest safely crossed the sea. Wrangel was admired by the coordinated actions of the Russian sailors, the highest discipline and organization that prevailed on the ships, despite all the drama of the situation. Right at sea, even before the end of the march, the baron produced Kedrov as vice-admiral.
While diplomats puzzled over what to do with the refugees and where to place the regiments that refused to disarm, naval officers headed by Mikhail Alexandrovich solved their problems. Directly in Constantinople began the demobilization of steamers, as well as auxiliary military courts of the Russian fleet, the disbanding of services and institutions that had become completely unnecessary in a foreign land.
After all the transformations, the concept of "fleet" could hardly be attributed to what was left to stand in Fashion Bay under the flag of St. Andrew. And on November 21, the Black Sea Fleet was renamed the Russian squadron. Its commander remained Vice-Admiral M. A. Kedrov.
However, a squadron of military relations continue to be very formidable force: in its composition were 2 battleship, 2 cruiser, 10 destroyers, 4 underwater and 3 gunboats, 5 minesweepers, 3 armed icebreakers, 19 transports, 2 hydrographic vessel, 4 armed tug, training ship and submarine floating base.
The political status of this armada was not determined until December 1, until the Council of Ministers of France, again largely due to Kedrov’s personal efforts and long-standing ties, did not agree to accept Russian warships in the Tunisian port of Bizerte. And on December 8, four squadrons of the Russian squadron went to the coast of North Africa. In addition to sailors and officers, there were about 5400 refugees on her ships.
In Bizerte, the squadron was gradually reduced due to lack of funds for the maintenance of ships. The last crew was put ashore at the end of 1922 of the year. Part of the ships was transferred to the French merchant fleet, and some went to Italian and Maltese shipowners. The warships went for scrap: over the last of them, St. Andrew’s flag was 30 October 1924 lowered.
And what about Admiral Kedrov? 31 December 1920, when the last ship of the squadron arrived at Bizerte, Mikhail Aleksandrovich surrendered command to Rear Admiral M. A. Berens and left for Paris. In France, he played a prominent role in the life of Russian émigré organizations, but he avoided politics. He directed all his efforts mainly to support the officers of the Russian Navy who found themselves in a foreign land. In the Russian All-Union Union, he held the position of deputy chairman for a long time, from 1938, and until his death, was vice-chairman of the Union of Cavaliers of St. George.
In 1945, Mikhail Alexandrovich joined the delegation of Russian émigrés who visited the Soviet embassy in Paris and welcomed the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany. Then he received an invitation to return home: in the embassy, Kedrov was offered a Soviet passport prepared in advance for him.
But the admiral did not accept the gift.
The last commander of the Russian Navy 28 October 1945 of the year died and was buried at the émigrée cemetery of Saint-Genevieve-des-Bois.