Military Review

Baltic Fleet in World War II

Baltic Fleet in World War II

In most works on the Patriotic War of 1812, the authors hardly mention actions fleet in the Baltic. The only truly important operation of the ship's fleet is the transfer from Finland to the Baltic States of the corps necessary to defend Riga and St. Petersburg or to act on the flank of the Napoleonic troops advancing on Moscow. The transfer was prepared in mid-June, but only in mid-September reinforcements arrived near Riga. Only decades later did acquaintance with the collection of documents on Russian-Swedish relations make it possible to understand how politics intervened in the actions of the fleet.


As of 1 in January, 1812, the Baltic ship fleet, according to the lists, consisted of a 41 battleship, 17 frigates and a significant number of smaller and auxiliary ships. However, the 9 of the battleships remained in England under the contract of Vice Admiral Dmitry Senyavin with the British government, the 9 ships were in construction and the 3 were turned into block shields. 11 ships were in Arkhangelsk, and they should be carried to the Baltic. The Baltic ship fleet had all 9 combat-ready battleships. Frigates in the ranks were also significantly less than the lists. Transport ships turned out to be small for the transportation of a large landing force. The rowing fleet consisted of 7 gems, 1 corvette, 28 yachts and hackles, 246 gunboats, 130 ols, 51 paratroopers and 87 auxiliary vessels, mainly built in recent years. Ships and frigates, with the exception of the Emmanuel frigate in Revel, were stationed in Kronstadt, while the rest of the ships, transport and rowing fleets were scattered in various Baltic ports. In the crews and ship artillery there was a significant shortage.

The country was at war with England. But the English fleet was limited to the protection of trade with Sweden and the blockade of straits leading to the Baltic Sea. The British understood that Russia would become an ally in the near future. Despite the fact that the world was not signed, on April 6 the chief commanders of the Baltic ports and the commander of the cruiser detachment were instructed not to touch the ships under the English flags if they did not attack themselves. English ships in the ports should be taken as merchant ships of other friendly nations. This was the way to establish an alliance with England.


There was another threat to the country. Napoleon, dissatisfied with the fact that Alexander I violated the continental blockade by his actions and interfered with the conquest of England, in February 1811 threatened the Russian emperor with war and began preparations for this war. In August, the 1811 of the year in Danzig stood 80 gunboats built in Denmark. Napoleon wanted to use them in the attack on Russia. In February, 1812, in Sweden, it became known that the French were preparing to carry out many gunboats through the Holstein Canal. All this indicated that Napoleon’s troops could threaten St. Petersburg.

It took countermeasures. In February 1812, the main port commanders were instructed to prepare rowing ships by April. On March 10, the emperor ordered in St. Petersburg to build gunboats suitable for carrying troops and capable of operating at shallow depths by the beginning of the 60 campaign. 21 March was followed by a proposal by the Navy Minister de Traversay of the Admiralty Board to order in all the ports of trustworthy ships to the service of the ship and rowing fleets. 28 March, the maritime minister turned to the Ministry of Finance for the allocation of money for important and urgent expenses.

On March 14, the Admiralty Board was instructed to return the British officers to the fleet, who in 1808 were fired from the fleet in favor of Napoleon. Then de Traversay announced:

“By the highest order, fleets are appointed to command the campaigns that are being prepared for the campaign: the Baltic Naval Admiral Tet and, under his command, Rear-Admiral Greig; Baltic rowing Rear Admiral von Moller 2; the squadron of ships located in the port of Arkhangelsk, Vice-Admiral Crone and under the command of his rear admiral Klokachov. "

Foreign flagships were considered more suitable than Vice-Admiral Dmitry Senyavin, a Russian naval commander. In the future, we will try to explain why this happened.


In the spring and summer of 1812, there was a fear in the capital for Petersburg and Kronstadt. Measures were taken to equip all ships capable of navigation, preparing the export of archives and valuables, educational institutions. Three ships cruised between Red Hill and Long Nose to fight the French armed ships.

In order to protect Petersburg from a strike from the west over land, guns from other fortified points were transported to the Riga fortress. The port was to become the main base for the rowing fleet. May 11, the Minister of Marine, ordered the commander of the rowing fleet, Rear Admiral von Moller, to quickly send the first squadron of 40 gunboats to Sveaborg and Revel to enlist the personnel and head for Riga. Following the first squadron, the second and the third were sent to Riga with a total of 60 units. In the Baltic, they were preparing to fight the French gunboats. They were afraid that they would prove to be a serious dangerous force in the struggle for Riga, the only fortress on the way to Petersburg. However, Napoleon, not sure of his naval power, refused to attack the northern capital and chose the direction of Moscow. On the left flank, he directed the body of Macdonald.

Neither the French squadron, nor the mass of enemy enemy gunboats in the Baltic appeared. Ship fleet got only one serious task. After Napoleon’s troops crossed the Neman and launched an offensive deep into Russia, it was necessary to transfer Thaddeus Steingel’s corps from Finland to the Baltic states.

In fact, this corps was prepared to help Sweden to seize Norway. In December, 1810, Colonel Alexander Chernyshev, expressed to the heir to the Swedish throne, Carl Johan the idea that the loss of Finland in the war with Russia could be reimbursed to Sweden; an idea emerged that Norway could become a compensation. In the Russian-Swedish negotiations this idea was discussed in 1811 year. At the same time there was information that Napoleon was preparing for war with Russia. The Emperor of France sought from Karl Johan, former Marshal Bernadot, that Sweden should be on his side, but the heir to the Swedish throne shied away from such proposals. Karl Johan had to declare war on England at the request of Napoleon, but he furnished this announcement with conditions that the Emperor of France did not like. The heir to the throne believed that the alliance with Russia allows him to maintain independence from France. In the future, he also planned to establish an alliance with England, which was important for Sweden, dependent on foreign trade.


The Russian emperor allied with Sweden determined the choice of the Swedes between France and England. Napoleon helped the choice. In January, 1812, the French occupied Swedish Pomerania. The French privateers oppressed the Swedish trade. Under these conditions, the King of Sweden, Charles XIII 23, January 1812, sent a secret instruction to the ambassador to Russia. According to the instructions, Alexander I’s consent to Norway’s accession to Sweden as a compensation for Finland should be conditional on entering into a union with Russia. The Swedes were going to achieve the goal of the actions of the Russian-Swedish troops against Denmark, which belonged to Norway. The king then proposed that joint forces act in Europe against Napoleon. By this time, Sweden has not yet received the consent of England to the accession of Norway to Sweden and the transfer of the island in the West Indies.

In Russia, the thoughts of Charles XIII were ready to be received positively if Sweden did not submit to Napoleon and supported the Russian troops in the impending invasion of the French troops. Alexander I, in instructions from February 25 to General Petr Sukhtelen, whom he sent to Sweden, indicated: if Sweden is going to seize Norway, it must act quickly, and then, together with the Russian troops, sabotage in the rear of Napoleon, in Germany. In the event of a French invasion of Russia, the emperor promised to allocate the 24 battalion commanded by Suhtelen, but recommended resolving the issue with Denmark on the transfer of Norway to Sweden by peaceful means.

24 in March was signed by the Russian-Swedish alliance treaty, and 30 in March de Traversay informed Lieutenant-General Steingel, who commanded the troops in Finland, that the fleet from Kronstadt would be sent to Sveaborg to transport troops to the Aland Islands; there was appointed a collection point for the Russian and Swedish troops, which were then supposed to be sent to the area of ​​future actions. Part of the troops should be transported on Swedish ships. But the order to load the troops was delayed. The squadron of Theta arrived in Sveaborg on June 15, and on June 16, after Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, the maritime minister told Steingel that, in order to load the troops, we should expect the command of the Swedish crown prince Karl Johan.

Under the 24 treaty, March, the emperor of Russia singled out 15 – 20 thousand Russian troops, which together with 25 – 30 thousand Swedes were to land in Germany to violate Napoleon’s plans. Previously, the Swedes under the command of Karl Johan could use these troops to annex Norway to Sweden, taking it away from Denmark by peaceful or military means. The Swedes were to allocate vessels for the transport of the Russian corps.


Most of the ships of the Baltic Fleet from Kronstadt moved to Sveaborg. There, the ships and troops intended for the carriage followed orders to await the command of Karl Johan. Since the parliament did not allocate funds and troops for an overseas enterprise in Sweden, the emperor Xnumx August gave Steinheil a decree to form a corps for 18 thousand people to reinforce Lieutenant General Essen's corps operating near Riga. Steinheil was supposed to sink the troops as quickly as possible. On the same day, Admiral Tet was ordered to transport Steingel’s troops to Riga. However, because of the shallow waters, the ships could not approach Riga. It was decided to lead the landing in Revel. 15 August troops were landed on the shore. 27 people, not counting the officers, transported to the squadron, the rest - on mercenary ships. On September 8840, the Steingel corps arrived in Riga, which made it possible to step up actions and disrupt the implementation of the MacDonald plan.

Knowing about the movements of the Baltic Fleet, the eminent Russian fleet historian Nikolai Kallistov wondered why the landing of Steinheil’s troops was not carried out in early August to disrupt Napoleon’s communications from Minsk; during the retreat of the French troops, the troops in Germany were also not landed. The surprise is understandable, for the historian did not know the now famous documents about the Russian-Swedish negotiations.

The emperor himself did not decide on the landing of troops in the Baltic States. Alexander I was not pleased with either the delay in the actions of the Swedes or the possible use of Russian troops in Norway. He feared that he would not have time to use the troops for sabotage in Germany. Knowing that French troops were approaching Koenigsberg, the emperor traveled to Vilna to the army.


In mid-May, by order of Napoleon in Denmark, the deployment of French troops in Danish cities was announced. Denmark gave Napoleon his corps, which was delivered in Europe and allowed the liberated French troops to move to the Vistula. On the night of June 12 1812, Napoleon's troops invaded Russia. Alexander I did not refuse obligations under the contract with Sweden. 22 June he reported on the withdrawal of troops and offered Karl Johan to hurry to commit the planned diversion before the end of the summer. Karl Johan 24 June, learning about the invasion, wrote that his actions are delayed only by the fact that the peace treaty with England has not been signed. On July 1, he informed Alexander I that by the end of July, 35 Thousands of Swedes would be sent to boarding sites, and the second army was gathering near the borders of Norway. He recommended that Riga be strengthened in order to divert some of Napoleon’s forces.

In a letter to Karl Johan from 17 July 1812, Alexander I reported that the army had managed to avoid a general battle. But MacDonald's corps approached Riga for the siege of the city. There was a danger to St. Petersburg. Therefore, the emperor wrote: “I believe, therefore, that the landing of our united forces in Reval at the present time would be extremely useful. I leave this issue to your discretion, depending on military plans in. vy-va and with trust I rely both on your friendship to me and on your desire to witness the triumph of a common cause. ” He was going to wage war to the end.

On August 18, at the meeting of Alexander I and Karl Juhan in Abo, the second additional convention to the Russian-Swedish alliance treaty of March 24 of 1812 was signed. Under the convention, Alexander I undertook to increase the number of auxiliary corps to 35 thousand people, with 25 thousand people supposed to arrive in Skåne (Sweden) by the end of September, and the rest in November. Immediately after the arrival of the first detachment, Karl Johan was to launch an operation against the Danish islands. Sweden claimed the island of Zealand and did not object to the extension of the border of Russia to the Vistula, but everything was tied to the agreement of England. Nor was sabotage in Germany abandoned. After the convention was signed, the fall of Smolensk became known, and Karl Johan suggested temporarily relocating Thaddeus Steingel’s corps near Riga. After that, the carriage of the case was made.

Riga covered the direction of St. Petersburg. Shortly after crossing the border, the French Marshal MacDonald sent one of the divisions to the city. The military governor, Lieutenant General Essen, took measures to defend the fortress. He agreed to the offer of British Rear Admiral Martin for help. 24 Jun Martin with several small ships arrived at Riga. These ships, together with their chief commander of the Port of Riga, located in the mouths of the Dvina. For the defense of Riga, vessels of the rowing fleet were hastily transferred; The last squad arrived on July 31. Gunboats, calling on the way from Kronstadt to Sveaborg, took on board and brought troops to Riga from Finland.

As early as mid-July, 6 Riga gunboats and 4 English bots made artillery detachment retreating to Dvina on Riga with artillery fire. Gunboats and English ships that arrived arrived along the Dvina River up to Dinamünde and the River Aa to prevent the enemy from crossing. Soon the cannon fights had to fight the enemy batteries. They successfully acted in the defense of the city.

In August and early September, the Russian ships took part in the blockade and bombardment of Danzig, along with the English squadron of Rear Admiral Martin, which forced the French to withdraw troops from Pillau and Memel.

In mid-September, gunboats participated in the capture of Mitawa; Russian sailors transported troops across rivers, destroyed river barriers, collected cannons and other trophies, destroyed the reserves collected by the enemy for the siege of Riga. In October, most gunboats were transferred for wintering in Sveaborg.

Many who distinguished themselves in hostilities were awarded. The first of the sailors in the 1812 war of the year was awarded to the next Decembrist Thorson. Michman was sent on a boat from the cruiser detachment to Libau for mail and water. When the boat approached the coast, Thorson saw Prussian soldiers occupying the city. They opened fire. The officer ordered to hastily push off and put the FOC. The boat went under shelling hundreds of Prussians. Thorson was wounded in the leg, the sailor and the batman were killed. Despite the wound, the midshipman sat at the helm, and ordered the sailors to lie under the banks. Yet six more sailors were injured. 31 July Thorson received a personal decree awarding him the Order of St. Anne III class.

As for the fleet ship, the emperor was going to take him to England or Sweden, to save him from the French. Even before the official notification of the beginning of the war, 13 of June ordered by the emperor de Traversay instructed to withdraw the squadron of ships stationed in Arkhangelsk behind the bar (shallow washed in the estuary of the Northern Dvina) and bring it into operational condition as soon as possible in case of the emergence of the French fleet .

As part of the guns was removed from the Baltic ships to take the landing, 28 August de Traversay wrote to Tet, so that the missing guns could be taken to the ships. He suggested that the admiral detain hired transports and part of the military courts in Revel in case of troop transportation. September 3 squadron Theta arrived in Kronstadt, and on September 4, the Minister of Marine announced the need to prepare for the next hike. 8 September de Traversay hurried the preparation of the squadron.

Karl XIV Johan. Portrait brush
Fredrik Westin. XIX century.
Skokloster Castle, Sweden


When the French occupied Moscow, there was a danger that Napoleon would direct his attention to Petersburg. There was concern for the fate of the fleet. In late September, the expedition preparations began. Tetu should have divided his forces into two groups, with one of which he was to speak in a week, and the second, commanded by Rear Admiral Korobka, would go out later. The commander-in-chief of the Kronstadt port received an order to prepare ships, convert the ship “Mikhail the Archangel” into transport, load it with hemp and other supplies for the squadron. On September 28, the highest decree ordered Tetu to go with a squadron to Gothenburg (Gothenburg). There he was to unite with the English admiral Somarets and join the squadron of Vice-Admiral Kroon, who had already come from Arkhangelsk. On the crew ships should have been enough just to control the sails. United squadron should go to England and follow the orders of the British government. De Traversay gave Tet's personal instructions and detailed instructions.

Apart from small vessels, the first squadron should have been 7 ships and 3 frigates, the second - 3 ships and 2 frigates. October 8 de Traversay ordered Tetu to be ready to act as two detachments or separately; The ship's 2 should be immediately sent for delivery to the Sveaborg Naval Cadet Corps. October 15 Tet with the first squad made of Kronstadt; at the end of the month the Box with the second detachment also performed. Crone, not having received a decree to stay with the English squadron, October 9 arrived in Sveaborg. He received the order of the emperor without delay to go back to Gothenburg. Having prepared a squadron in two weeks, Crown 28 October left Sveaborg.

On November 1 de Traversay sent Tet a prescription throughout the fleet sent to Gothenburg. The emperor allowed for joint cruise with the English to use only a part of the ships that were sheathed in copper, and the unplaced Arkhangelsk to enter into the docks for plating. He demanded that the forces united with the British be used directly against the common enemy. Of the ships left by Dmitry Senyavin in England, the 4 should have been repaired during the winter. In this case, the articles of the convention that Vice Admiral Senyavin concluded with Admiral Cotton in Lisbon had to be considered. The entire fleet was to return to the Baltic Sea as early as possible next spring. The guns from the unsuitable ships of the squadron Senyavin should have been taken away, and the materials used for repair.

November 12 squadron joined in Belte, November 18 anchored in Gothenburg. From there, by order of Theta, they had to follow to England on their own. In late November, they all gathered at Sheerness's raid. Despite the fact that 19 on April 1813 of the year was followed by a decree that the entire squadron returned as early as possible in the spring, Box returned in October 1813 and Tet returned in the summer of 1814. Kallistov concluded from a number of facts that the Baltic Fleet as a whole was accepted by England as a guarantee of Russia's participation in the struggle against Napoleon until complete victory.

It can be assumed that precisely for this reason, Alexander I refused to offer Kutuzov to stop at the border and continued the advance of his armies to Europe, despite the huge losses and expenses. He performed a commitment to England. Most likely because the squadrons going to England were headed not by Russians, but by the British.


Without the help of Russia, Carl Johan could not decide to invade Denmark. The order to the English fleet of Admiral Somarets to return to England forced him to abandon the operation against Denmark until spring. After joining Norway, Karl Johan hoped to lead the Russian-Swedish-Norwegian troops in Germany. But he did not intend to enter the war until England joined the Russian-Swedish treaty.

Since Denmark refused to cede Norway to Sweden, February 4, 1813, Karl Johan in a letter to Alexander I suggested hurrying with the capture of Zealand. Then it was necessary to carry out a landing in Germany in order to influence the governments of countries remaining under the influence of Napoleon. By this time, England agreed to conclude an agreement with Sweden, provide it with subsidies and guarantee the accession of Norway. Alexander I 16 February concluded a treaty of alliance with Prussia. An indefinite truce was established with Schwarzenberg, who commanded the Austrian forces. There were reports of the desire of Denmark to make peace with England and break off relations with France. In addition to the Russian corps, the Prussian corps was also put under the command of Karl Johan. In January, 1813, Sweden broke off diplomatic relations with France and began negotiations with England to conclude a union treaty. The contract was signed on 3 March. And already 5 in March, Karl Juhan reported in a letter to Alexander I that he was beginning to transfer troops to Pomerania. In March, 1813, Alexander I offered to launch an offensive on the continent without losing time in Denmark. Soon the same decision was made by the Swedish government under the pressure of England, which established military operations in Germany as a condition for negotiations with Sweden. In 1813, the united forces successfully attacked in Germany.

In 1813, the Baltic rowing fleet (more than 70 canlodok, 2 bombardier boats, the frigate Amphitrida, 4 bombarding ships, etc.) blocked and shelled Danzig, helping the besiegers. The flotilla was commanded by 1 rank captain Count Heyden, while the naval forces were controlled by Rear Admiral Alexei Greig. The rowing fleet left due to the autumn weather before the delivery of the fortress, but with its actions it ensured the victory. The ship fleet acted with the British during the blockade of the French and Dutch shores and returned to Russia after the fall of Paris.

Thus, the value of the Baltic Fleet of Russia was significantly higher than many thought. Responding to those who underestimated the importance of naval force in the war with Napoleon, Kallistov believed that it was the Russian ship fleet that forced Napoleon to abandon the French fleet in the Baltic Sea in 1812, despite the fact that it was large in size and made up of ships of the new construction.

At the same time, Kallistov noted that the fleet allowed Russia to receive the only thing that she achieved during the Napoleonic wars, the Belostok region, which she received under the Treaty of Tilsit in exchange for the Ionian islands and territories in the Adriatic Sea occupied by the actions of the naval forces. And Norway received Sweden from Denmark under the Treaty of Kiel, which was signed on the night of January 3 1814.
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  1. Mareman Vasilich
    Mareman Vasilich April 12 2014 11: 38
    There are always many who underestimated us, only where are they now. On the other hand, this is good, the more surprises the enemy, the more pleasant for himself. The only pity is that the rulers did not see the Anglo-Saxon meanness, and together they could uproot this abscess on the body of mankind.
  2. Sour
    Sour April 12 2014 14: 00
    The author should be commended. On such a meager topic as the role of the fleet in the war of 1812, he wrote such a voluminous article. We are waiting for an article on the role of the fleet in the Caucasian War. I am sure that the author will succeed. Squeeze at least 2-3 paragraphs.
    1. Sergey S.
      Sergey S. April 12 2014 17: 20
      Moreover, the author did not even bother to mention the real contribution of the Baltic sailors to the victory over Napoleon.
      Namely, in the Battle of Kulm, the sailors of the Guards crew (St. Petersburg, now the Decembrists Avenue) as part of the Guards Division showed epic stamina, for which the crew received the St. George flag, and became guards in our understanding.
      And before that, the crew was called the Guard because the royal yachts were assigned to it.

      Attempts by today's authors to divert attention from the feat of arms in Soviet times lead to such peculiar results.