Military Review

Ships of Armageddon (part 1)


History battleship fleet Russia, construction, battles and the death of "Empress Maria" and the battleship "Novorossiysk".

Battleship "Empress Maria"

Displacement: 23 413 t.
Dimensions: length - 168 m, width - 27,43 m, draft - 9 m.
Maximum travel speed: 21,5 nodes.
Navigation range: 2960 miles with 12 nodes.
Powerplant: 4 propellers, 33 200 hp
Reservations: deck - 25-37 mm, towers - 125-250 mm, casemates 100 mm, wheelhouse - 250-300 mm.
Armament: 4X3 305-mm turret, 20 130-mm, 5 75-mm guns, 4 450-mm torpedo tubes.
Crew: 1386 people.

Ship history:
The decision to strengthen the Black Sea Fleet with new battleships was caused by Turkey’s intention to acquire three modern battleships like the Dreadnought abroad, which would immediately provide them with an overwhelming superiority on the Black Sea. In order to preserve the balance of power, the Russian Naval Ministry insisted on the urgent strengthening of the Black Sea Fleet. To speed up the construction of battleships, the architectural type and the most important design decisions were made mainly according to the experience and model of the four Sevastopol type battleships laid out in 1909 in St. Petersburg. Such an approach significantly speeds up the process of developing strategic and tactical tasks for new battleships for the Black Sea. The Black Sea battleships were also replaced by such advantages as three-gun towers, considered to be an outstanding achievement of domestic technology.

The rate was made on the broad attraction of banking capital and private entrepreneurship. The construction of dreadnoughts (and other ships of the Black Sea program) was entrusted to two private factories in Nikolaev (ONZiV and Russud). Preference was given to the project of Russud, which "with the permission" of the Naval Ministry was led by a group of prominent naval engineers who were in active service. As a result, Roussud received an order for two ships, the third (according to his drawings) was commissioned to build an ONZiV.

11 June 1911, along with the official bookmarking ceremony, new ships were credited to the fleet lists under the names "Empress Maria", "Emperor Alexander III" and "Empress Catherine the Great". In connection with the decision to equip the lead ship as a flagship, all ships of the series are ordered by the Minister of Marine IK. Grigorovich was ordered to be called ships of the type "Empress Maria".

The design of the hull and the booking system of the “Black Sea people” basically corresponded to the design of the Baltic dreadnoughts, but were partially refined. The Empress Marie had 18 main transverse watertight bulkheads. Twenty triangular-type water-tube boilers fed turbine units operating on four propeller shafts with brass screws of diameter 2,4 m (rotational speed at 21-nodal speed 320 rpm). The total power of the ship's power plant was 1840 kW.

Ships of Armageddon (part 1)

Under the contract from 31 of March 1912 of the year, signed by the Marine Ministry with the Plant of Ruds, the “Empress Maria” should have been launched no later than July. The ship’s full readiness (presentation for acceptance tests) was planned for August 20 1915, another four months were devoted to the tests themselves. Such high rates, which were not inferior to those of advanced European enterprises, were almost sustained: the plant, which continued to be built, launched the ship on October 6 on October 1913. The tightly approaching wartime forced, in spite of the sad experience of the past, to lead the development of working drawings simultaneously with the construction of ships.

Alas, not only the growth of plants that built such large ships for the first time affected the progress of work, but also the “improvements” so characteristic of domestic shipbuilding during construction that led to a super-design overload that exceeded 860 tons. As a result, 0,3 m, and formed an unfortunate trim on the nose. In other words, the ship "sat down pig." Fortunately, some constructive lifting of the deck in the nose is hiding. A lot of excitement was also delivered by an order in England of turbines, auxiliary mechanisms, propeller shafts and stern gears, placed at the John Brown factory by the Russoud company. The air smelled of gunpowder, and it was only by a fluke that the "Empress Maria" managed to get her turbines in May 1914, delivered by an English steamer that had slipped through the straits. The noticeable failure in contract deliveries by November 1914 forced the ministry to agree with the new ship readiness dates: "Empress Maria" in March-April 1915. All forces were sent to the early introduction of "Mary" into operation. For it, by agreement of the factories-builders, the 305 mm machine tools and electrical equipment of the towers arrived from the Putilov factory.

According to the 11 approved wartime year of 1915, 30 conductors and 1135 of the lower ranks (of which 194 were extra soldiers) were appointed to the Empress Maria team and were combined into eight ship companies. In April-July, new orders from the fleet commander added another 50 man, and the number of officers was brought to 33's.

And then came that unique, always full of special troubles day, when the ship, starting an independent life, leaves the factory embankment. By the evening of June 23, 1915, after the consecration of the ship, raising the flag, guis and pennant sprinkled with holy water over the Ingul raid, Empress Maria started the company. In the dead of night on June 25, apparently, in order to pass the river before dawn, they removed from the moorings, and at 4 a.m. the battleship set off. In readiness to repel a mine attack, passing the Adzhigol lighthouse, the ship entered the Ochakov raid. The next day conducted test firing, and on June 27 under guard aviation, destroyers and minesweepers battleship arrived in Odessa. At the same time, the main forces of the fleet, forming three lines of cover (up to the Bosphorus !!!), remained at sea.

Having taken 700 tons of coal, the day of June 29 "Empress Maria" went to sea after the cruiser Memory of Mercury and at 5 in the morning 30 June met with the main forces of the fleet ...

Slowly, in the consciousness of their own grandeur and significance of the moment, "Empress Maria" entered the Sevastopol raid on the afternoon of 30 June 1915 of the year. And the jubilation that swept the city and the fleet that day was akin, perhaps, to the general joy of those happy days of November 1853, when the same raid after the brilliant victory at Sinop returned under the flag of P.S. Nakhimov 84-gun "Empress Maria". The whole fleet was looking forward to the moment when the Empress Maria, going out to sea, would sweep beyond its limits the pretty tired of “Geben” and “Breslau”. Already these expectations "Mary" was assigned the role of the first favorite of the fleet.

What changes in the balance of forces at sea did the entry into service of the "Empress Maria", how did it change with the beginning of the war and what impact did it have on the construction of the following ships? The extremely threatening situation before the war, when Turkish dreadnoughts already expected to sail in England was expected to appear in the Black Sea, remained tense even after England did not release the ships ordered by the Turks. A new and already real danger was now represented by the German cruiser “Goeben” and the cruiser “Ureslau” because of the political maneuvers of the British Admiralty or because of its phenomenal luck, who managed to circle the Allied Anglo-French naval forces and broke into Dardanelles. Now the advantage of the "Empress Maria" eliminated, and the entry into service of the next battleships gave a clear advantage to the Black Sea Fleet. The priorities and rates of construction of ships have also changed. With the beginning of the war, the need for destroyers, submarines and amphibious landing craft necessary for the future Bosporus operation became especially acute. Their order slowed down the construction of battleships.

At the Empress Maria, they tried their best to speed up the program of acceptance tests, which began with the departure from Nikolaev. Of course, many things had to turn a blind eye and, relying on the obligations of the plant, to postpone the removal of subquality work for a time after the official acceptance of the ship. So, a lot of complaints were caused by the aero-refrigeration system of ammunition cellars. It turned out that all the "cold", regularly produced by "refrigerating machines", was absorbed by the heated electric motors of the fans, which instead of the theoretical "cold" were driving their heat to the ammunition cellars. Turbines were also forced to worry, but there were no significant problems.

On July 9 the battleship was put into the dry dock of the Sevastopol port for inspection and painting of the underwater part of the hull. At the same time, gaps were measured in the bearings of the stern tubes and propeller shaft brackets. Ten days later, when the ship was in the dock, the commission began testing submarine torpedo tubes. After the withdrawal of the battleship from the dock, the devices were tested by shooting. All of them were accepted by the commission.

6 August 1915, the battleship Empress Maria took to sea to test the mine caliber artillery. On board was the commander of the Black Sea Fleet, A.A. Bergard. Shooting from 130-mm guns was carried out on the go 15 - 18 nodes and ended successfully. On August 13, the selection committee met on board a battleship for testing mechanisms. The battleship withdrew from the barrel and went to sea. The average draft of the ship was 8,94 meters, which corresponded to a displacement of 24400 tons. By 4 hours of the day, the number of revolutions of the turbines was brought to 300 per minute and started the three-hour test of the ship at full speed. The battleship made tacks between Cape Ai-Todor and Mount Ayu-Dag, at a distance of 5 - 7 miles from the coast in deep water. In 7 hours of the evening, the full-speed tests of the mechanisms were completed and on August 15 in 10 hours of the morning the battleship returned to Sevastopol. The Commission noted that during the 50 hours of continuous operation, the main and auxiliary mechanisms operated satisfactorily and the commission found it possible to take them to the treasury. In the period from 19 to 25, the commission accepted torpedo tubes, all ship systems, dewatering facilities and capstan devices into the treasury.

By 25 August, the acceptance tests were completed, although the ship's fine-tuning continued for many more months. At the direction of the fleet commander, to combat nose trim, the ammunition of the two nose towers (from 100 to 70 shots) and the nose group of 130 mm guns (from 245 to 100 shots) had to be reduced.

Everyone knew that with the entry into operation of Empress Maria, the "Goeben" would not leave the Bosphorus without extreme need. The fleet could systematically and on a larger scale solve its strategic tasks. At the same time, for operational operations at sea, retaining the administrative brigade structure, formed several mobile temporary formations, called maneuverable groups. The first included the "Empress Maria" and the cruiser "Cahul" with the destroyers designated for their protection. Such an organization allowed (with the involvement of submarines and aviation) to carry out a more effective blockade of the Bosporus. Only in September-December 1915, maneuverable groups ten times went to the shores of the enemy and spent 29 days at sea: Bosporus, Zunguldak, Novorossiysk, Batum, Trabzon, Varna, Constance at all shores of the Black Sea could be seen then long and low squaring along the water silhouette of a formidable battleship.

Still, the capture of the “Goben” remained the blue dream of the entire crew. Officers of Mary had more than once to remember the unkind words of the leaders of Genmore along with Minister A.S. Voevodsky, who cut off at least 2 of the cruise node at their ship when drawing up a design task, which left no hope of chase success.

Information on the Breslau exit for Novorossiysk’s sabotage was obtained on July 9, and the new commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Vice Admiral A.V. Kolchak immediately on the "Empress Maria" went to sea. Everything was as good as possible. The course and time of exit Breslau were known, the interception point was calculated without error. The seaplanes escorting the "Maria" successfully bombed the UB-7 submarine guarding its exit, preventing it from going on the attack, the destroyers who were ahead of the "Mary" intercepted the "Breslau" and tied it with combat. The hunt turned on all the rules. Destroyers stubbornly pressed trying to leave the German cruiser to the shore, "Cahul" hung relentlessly on the tail, frightening the Germans with their own, though not reaching volleys. “Empress Maria”, who developed full speed, could only choose a moment for the right volley. But either the destroyers were not ready to take on the adjustment of the Mary’s fire, or the shells of the reduced ammunition of the nose tower were protected on it without risking to throw them at random into that smoke screen, which Breslau immediately wrapped around when dangerously close shells fell, but that decisive salvo, which could have covered the Breslau, did not work. Forced to desperately maneuver (cars, as the German historian wrote, were already at the limit of endurance), Breslau, despite its 27-nodal speed, steadily lost in the distance traveled in a straight line, which decreased from 136 to 95 cable. Saved by chance the flown squall. Hiding behind the shroud of rain, the Breslau literally slipped out of the ring of Russian ships and, clinging to the shore, slipped into the Bosphorus.

In October 1916, the whole of Russia was shocked by the news of the death of the newest battleship of the Russian fleet, the Empress Maria. 20 October about a quarter of an hour after the morning rise the sailors, who were in the area of ​​the first tower of the battleship “Empress Maria”, who was standing together with other ships in the Sevastopol bay, heard the characteristic hiss of burning powder, and then saw smoke and flames emanating from the embrasure of the tower and fans located near it. Fire alarms were played on the ship, the sailors smashed fire hoses and began to flood the turret section with water. In 6 h 20 min ship rocked a strong explosion in the cellar area of ​​the 305-mm charges of the first tower. A column of flame and smoke shot up to a height of 300 m.

When the smoke cleared, a terrible picture of destruction became visible. The explosion tore out a section of the deck behind the first tower, demolished the conning tower, bridge, nose tube and foremast. In the hull of the ship behind the tower there was a dip, from which pieces of twisted metal protruded, flames and smoke escaped. Many sailors and non-commissioned officers, who were in the bow of the ship, were killed, seriously injured, burned and thrown by the force of the explosion overboard. The steam line of auxiliary mechanisms was shut down, fire pumps stopped working, electric lighting was turned off. Then followed a series of small explosions. On the ship, orders were given to flood the cellars of the second, third and fourth towers, and fire hoses from port boats were taken that approached the battleship. Fire fighting continued. Ship tug launched a lag in the wind.

By 7 am the fire began to subside, the ship was on an even keel, it seemed that he would be saved. But after two minutes there was another explosion, more powerful than the previous ones. The battleship quickly began to sink its nose and roll to the starboard. When the bow and gun ports went under water, the battleship, having lost stability, tipped up with a keel and sank at a depth of 18 m in the bow and 14, 5 m in the stern with a slight trim on the bow. The engineer-mechanic midshipman Ignatiev, two conductors and 225 sailors died.

On the next day, October 21 1916, a special commission to investigate the causes of the death of the battleship “Empress Maria”, chaired by admiral N. M. Yakovlev, departed from Petrograd to Sevastopol by train. One of its members was appointed general for assignments at the Navy Minister A. N. Krylov. In a week and a half, all the remaining sailors and officers of the battleship “Empress Maria” passed before the commission. It was established that the cause of the ship’s death was a fire that occurred in the nose cellar of 305-mm charges and caused an explosion of gunpowder and shells in it, as well as an explosion in the cellars of 130-mm guns and torpedo warheads. As a result, the board was destroyed and the kingstones flooded the cellars, and the ship, having great destruction of the decks and watertight bulkheads, sank. It was impossible to prevent the destruction of the ship after damage to the outer side, aligning the roll and trim by filling the other compartments, since this would take a considerable time.

Having considered the possible causes of a fire in the cellar, the commission focused on the three most likely: self-ignition of gunpowder, negligence in handling fire or gunpowder itself, and, finally, malicious intent. In the conclusion of the commission it was stated that “it is not possible to reach an accurate and evidence-based conclusion, it is only necessary to estimate the probability of these assumptions ...”. The spontaneous combustion of gunpowder and the negligence of handling fire and gunpowder were considered unlikely. At the same time, it was noted that on the battleship “Empress Maria” there were significant deviations from the requirements of the statute regarding access to the artillery cellars. During the stay in Sevastopol, representatives of various factories worked on the battleship, and their number reached 150 people daily. The works were also carried out in the shed cellar of the first tower - they were performed by four people from the Putilov factory. A family roll call was not carried out by the artisans, and only the total number of people was checked. The commission did not rule out the possibility of “malicious intent,” moreover, noting the poor organization of the service on the battleship, she pointed out “the relatively easy possibility of executing malicious intent.”

Recently, the version of “malicious intent” has been further developed. In particular, in the work of A. Elkin it is stated that at the “Russud” plant in Nikolaev during the construction of the “Empress Maria” battleship, German agents were operating, at the direction of which the sabotage on the ship was committed. However, many questions arise. For example, why there were no diversions on the Baltic battleships? After all, the eastern front was then the main thing in the war of the warring coalitions. In addition, the Baltic battleships were put into operation earlier, and the access control on them was hardly more severe when they were half-built with a large number of factory workers on board at the end of 1914 leaving the Kron Stadt. Yes, and German espionage agents in the capital of the Empire Petrograd was more developed. What could give the destruction of one battleship on the Black Sea? Partially facilitate the actions of “Goeben” and “Breslau”? But by that time, the Bosphorus was securely blocked by Russian minefields and the passage of German cruisers through it was considered unlikely. Therefore, the version of “malicious intent” can not be considered definitively proven. The mystery of “Empress Maria” is still waiting to be solved.

The death of the battleship "Empress Maria" caused a great resonance throughout the country. The Ministry of the Navy began to develop urgent measures to raise the ship and put it into operation. The offers of Italian and Japanese specialists were rejected because of the complexity and cost of living. Then A. N. Krylov in a note to the commission for reviewing projects for raising the battleship suggested a simple and original way. He envisaged raising the battleship upward with a keel by gradually displacing water from the compartments with compressed air, putting it in the dock in such a position and patching up all the damage to the side and deck. Then it was proposed to bring the entirely sealed ship to a deep place and turn it over, filling the compartments of the opposite side with water.

The project engineer A. N. Krylov was taken over by ship engineer Sidensner, the senior shipbuilder of the port of Sevastopol. By the end of 1916, water from all feed compartments was air-pressed, and the feed floated to the surface. In 1917, the entire body has surfaced. In January-April, the ship 1918 was towed closer to the shore and unloaded the remaining ammunition. Only in August, 1918, the port tugs "Aquarius", "Fit" and "Elizabeth" took the battleship to the dock.

130-mm artillery, part of auxiliary mechanisms and other equipment were removed from the battleship, the ship itself remained in the dock in the upward position with its keel to 1923. For more than four years, the wooden cages on which the hull rested were rotted. Due to the redistribution of the load, cracks appeared in the base of the dock. “Maria” was taken out and stranded at the exit from the bay, where she stood upwards with a keel for another three years. In 1926, the body of the battleship was reintroduced into the dock in the same position and finally dismantled in 1927. Works performed EPRON.

When the battleship overturned during a catastrophe, the multi-ton turret of the ship’s 305-mm guns fell from the battle pins and sank. Shortly before the Great Patriotic War, these towers were raised by epronts, and in 1939, the 305-mm guns of the battleship were installed near Sevastopol on the famous 30 battery, which was part of the 1-nd coast defense artillery division. The battery heroically defended Sevastopol, 17 on June 1942, during the last assault on the city, it fired at the fascist hordes that burst into the Belbek valley. Having spent all the shells, the battery fired blank charges, restraining the onslaught of the enemy until June 25. So, more than a quarter of a century after the shooting of the Goeben and Breslau Kaiser cruisers, the guns of the battleship “Empress Maria” started talking again, bringing down the 305-mm shells now on Hitler’s troops.

Ships of Armageddon (part 2)
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  1. His
    His 11 June 2011 14: 38
    What strikes us in this film is our modern realities - when half the money was then stolen by officials with contractors. Really the period of absence of theft of state money can only be in the conditions of the USSR? Is Russia always an irrational control device?
  2. Eric
    Eric 12 June 2011 13: 11
    Russia is always hyenas (on the suction and behind the hard workers) who love a freebie! Common hyenas are dragged a little ... Special hyenas are dragged along a krupnyak respectively and climb as high as possible!
    1. DenZ
      DenZ 1 September 2017 09: 20
      Well, yes, in the West only all are white, fluffy and toothless. Naive young man.
  3. The comment was deleted.