Military Review

Battle trawlers of the Northern Fleet

Battle trawlers of the Northern Fleet

The patrol ship "Passat" on the night of July 13 1941, escorted two rescue ships. The transition began in foggy and rainy weather, but a day later it became clear, and three German destroyers unexpectedly emerged at the intersection of the course of the Soviet ships. Having found the enemy, the commander of the “Passat”, senior lieutenant V.L. Okunevich, gave the order to the escorted ships to go to the shore to take refuge in the bay of Gavrilovskaya, radioed the enemy ships and rushed towards the fascists. Two sorokapyatki, that's all the armament of the "Passat" against destroyers guns. However, the patrol sailors entered into an unequal battle, seeking to divert attention from rescue ships. One ship was already seriously damaged, but the “Passat” with its fire and smoke screen made it possible to lower the boats and escape the crew (more than 70 people). The second vessel managed to escape without loss. But the Passat itself fell under concentrated fire. He was defeated and plunged into the water, but the stern gun continued to operate. It fired at the enemy the last surviving sailor. Such was the feat of this small ship.

"Passat" refers to the patrol ships of the type "RT". These plain-looking ships, built on the basis of ordinary fishing trawlers and having, as a rule, a team of former fishermen, turned out to be truly invaluable unskilled laborers of the war. They were not as impressive and solid as the battleships and cruisers, they did not carry in themselves the grace and swiftness of destroyers, but their contribution to the Victory and the overall heroism of the crews is difficult to overestimate.

In the years of the prewar five-year plans, quite a powerful trawl fleet was created to extract fish in the White and Barents Seas, which on the eve of World War II consisted of 86 sea trawlers. These were mostly steam two-masted vessels with steel hulls, specially designed to operate in the harsh conditions of the Arctic. They had a transverse set system, one deck, a superstructure in the aft part and a forecastle. The total displacement was 1100-1200 t, the length of the 51 meter, and the draft and the height of the freeboard was approximately at 4,5 m. Steam four-cylinder machine with a capacity of 650 l. with. provided the ship with a speed of 9,5-11 knots, which fell sharply during a heavy storm. The longest cruising range was up to 4000-4300 miles, 40-50 autonomy days. The team numbered 40 people. There were two boats. The special equipment and premises included a steam trawl winch with 8-10 tonnes, trawls, a cargo boom, a hold for receiving 400 tonnes of fish, installations for processing fish waste into flour and obtaining fish oil. The trawlers were relatively well provided with radio communication and navigational instruments, some of them also had radio direction finders.

The war caught the fishing fleet behind routine peace affairs in various areas of the Northern Basin. Within two days, all trawlers arrived in Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. In the very first weeks, some of them were converted into minesweepers and patrol ships to replenish the connection of the protection of the Northern water area fleet.

The expansion of the area of ​​military operations and the need to ensure the escort of transports demanded the formation of the White Sea military flotilla. Its combat core consisted of ships converted from trawlers. On 30 September 1941, the White Sea military flotilla consisted of 33 such vessels, or 75% of the total number of large ships. In total, the Northern Fleet from the total number of patrol ships and minesweepers (54 units) to the beginning of 1942 of the year counted 47 ships of this type that received the cipher "RT".

The ships were reequipped mainly at the Murmansk Ship Repair Plant and the Krasnaya Kuznitsa Arkhangelsk Plant. These works, which took two to three weeks to complete, were accompanied, as a rule, by urgent repair of mechanisms, since most of the trawlers were operated for several years without being docked. At the same time, ships were manned by personnel, a significant number of which were fishermen.

In the course of re-equipment on trawlers, some of the special devices were removed (arrows, trawling arches, etc.), the mounting of decks of the forecastle and canopy was intensified, tools, machine guns, and trawls were installed. To increase the firing angle of the stern gun, the boats and davits were transferred from the canopy to the main deck. The bow of the fish hold was retracted under the artillery grab, fenders of the first shots were provided near the guns, nests were built for depth charges, smoke bombs and trawling buoys, trawl trawls were built on both sides in the area of ​​the trawl winch; for foremen and sailors were equipped with fenders. To a large extent, the capitals' bridges and navigation cuts were equipped: negotiation tubes for nose and stern guns were carried out, range finders were installed, replaced with more powerful ship searchlights. The artillery armament on the converted guard ships consisted mainly of two 76-mm cannons and two Maxim machine guns, and on the minesweepers - of two K-34 guns and two machine guns. However, due to the lack of new guns on the six ships of the White Sea military flotilla, old 45-mm cannons of the Kane and Lander systems had to be installed with an elevation angle of 21 °, which could not fire on high-flying aircraft.

Some patrol ships of the main fleet base (for example, Passat, Fog) were armed only with 45-mm guns. “RT” type minesweepers were armed with Schulz contact sea trawls and snake trawls. Armament during the war was constantly improved. In the spring of 1942, many minesweepers of the RT type were installed by low-speed guards from TOK-1 mines, some sentry ships received bomb-bombs, and seven minesweepers were acoustic trawls. The artillery and anti-mine armament of the ships by the summer of 1943 was especially strengthened. Thus, on ten minesweepers and seven patrol ships of the “RT” type, two additional 20-mm Oerlikon automatic cannons were installed, sixteen minesweepers received more advanced Oropesa contact trawls, and nine Congo trawls; on some ships, they increased machine-gun armament, updated radio communications equipment. In March, two minesweepers (TCH-1944 and TCH-61) supplied 64 with electromagnetic trawls.

Converted ships took an active part in hostilities: guarded transport vessels at crossings, carried patrol service, engaged in trawling, and the delivery of military cargo and personnel. In the area of ​​the main base of the Northern Fleet, there were about 20 former trawlers that were part of the patrol ship division and the division of marine minesweepers for the protection of the water area. The fighting in the Kola Bay took place in the face of vigorous Nazi aviation and submarines. Repeatedly, ships of the "RT" type had to act against superior enemy forces. The heroic exploits of the crews of the Passat patrol ships (former Chkalov) and Tuman (former Winch), which entered into an unequal battle with enemy destroyers in 1941, are widely known. A lot of difficult trials fell on the personnel of the RT type ships, which fought with the enemy as part of the White Sea naval flotilla. In the navigation of 1941, 1942, 1943, they bore the main burden of protecting internal convoys and maintaining sentinel services in the White Sea and the Arctic.

The experience of using ships converted from trawlers in the North during the Great Patriotic War allows us to evaluate their combat capabilities. Regardless of class, they were intended mainly for escort purposes. Suffice it to say that in the White Sea military flotilla, the 58 ships spent time at sea for escorting transport ships, 22% for sentinel services, and only 11% for trawling, although minesweepers accounted for most of the converted trawlers, 9% was occupied by combat training . This was due primarily to the need to guard a large number of caravans in the arctic regions, on 400-1000 communications and more miles. It is known that during the war years, the 1470 internal and 77 allied convoys passed in the zone of the Northern Fleet, resulting in a total of more than 4030 transports.

Good seaworthiness and durable hulls allowed ships of the “RT” type to perform combat missions in conditions of strong sea and ice conditions. Thus, despite the 77-point storm, TFR-12, for three days in September, 1942 was on the watch line of the Cape Holy Nose - Cape Kanin Nos. “TFR-74” with freezing and snow charges in the 10-point storm fulfilled the 28 of October 1942, the difficult task of removing stones and towing the Roshal steamer off the coast of New Earth. During the period of winter navigation 1943-1945. “RT” type ships were successfully used on the White Sea as an “intermediate escort” at the edge of the ice during the transfer of Allied transports from destroyers to icebreakers and back. The main disadvantage of the ships of the type "RT" was that in speed they were significantly inferior to the vehicles protected by them (8-10 versus 12-14 knots.).

The trawlers showed themselves relatively well in repelling the attacks of enemy aircraft. Despite the lack of anti-aircraft weapons in the early years of the war and much less room for maneuver as compared to special-purpose warships, the converted ships on the high seas repeatedly fought off enemy aircraft. Applying a maneuver of evasion and firing from guns and machine guns, even such low-speed ships could repel the attacks of enemy fighters and bombers.

More dangerous for ships of the type "RT", devoid of sonar equipment, were fascist submarines. Having the ability to act covertly, they also exceeded the trawlers in speed and artillery caliber (88-mm guns against 76- and 45-mm). In the most difficult situation were escorts guarded by ships of the “RT” type in a collision with submarines away from bases, when timely support by aircraft or high-speed anti-submarine ships was impossible. So, the convoy "BA-18" consisting of four transports and five escort ships (minelayer "Murman", minesweepers "TSH-31", "TSHCH-63", "TSHCH-40", "TSHCH-42") October 1 1943 of the year around the islands of the Arctic Institute had to repel multiple attacks of three fascist submarines of the Viking group. Taking advantage of the speed, the boats easily walked away from pursuit and again took up positions to attack. Despite the courage of Soviet sailors, the convoy lost two transport and "TSC-42".

Former trawlers "SKR-25", "TSCH-39", "TSCH-57", "TSCH-58", "TSCH-55", "TSCH-64" and other ships during the war years entered into artillery combat with enemy submarines boats, forcing them to move to a submerged position. The fascist artillery duel failed even when meeting with the armed trawler RT-89 22 in October 1944 north of Cape Holy Nose.

As minesweepers, ships of the “RT” type were used during the war mainly for controlling trawling of installed fairways from Arkhangelsk to Murmansk and Novaya Zemlya and only to a small extent for continuous trawling of obstacles from anchor mines in the White Sea and at Pechenga. With trawls delivered, they traveled more than 59 thousand miles. The trawling was most difficult in winter conditions, at the Cape Ostryi Ludki in the White Sea, when “TSHK-60” destroyed a serpentine trawl for several minutes. The trawling of non-contact landmines ships of the “RT” type were rarely involved. Here is one of the few examples: in October 1942 of the year “TSCH-32” under the command of Senior Lieutenant I.I. Dugladze, together with three British minesweepers, participated in the destruction of enemy acoustic mines in the Yugorsky Ball. It should be noted that the crew of this ship repeatedly differed in the performance of other tasks of the command, for which, by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 31 was awarded the Order of the Red Banner by May 1943.

In the White Sea and the southeastern part of the Barents Sea, the main danger during the 1941-1943 period was represented by mines torn from anchors. They were destroyed from guns, as a rule, along the way, but when a large number of mines were found, it was necessary to use ships or coastal parties on purpose. The minesweepers TSCH-46 and TSCH-47, in the period from 12 to 19 in October 1941 of the year, destroyed around 40 floating mines in the Mezen gulf. And from June 15 to 8 July 1943, the ships of the “RT” type destroyed at the rate of convoys from Cape Kanin Nos to the Kara Gate 25 mines.

The experience of the combat use of re-equipped trawlers showed that with strong hulls, the power of the main machines was insufficient, this did not provide the necessary speeds when evading torpedoes and bombs, when attacking submarines and mines sweeping with new trawls; lack of steering wheel area made it difficult to maneuver. The lack of aft artillery cellar caused a great inconvenience, therefore, in battle, to feed the shells to the stern guns, a large number of people had to be attracted. The durability of auxiliary mechanisms and devices was not ensured, due to the fact that they, as a rule, were powered from one steam line. The survivability of the ships was reduced due to the lack of longitudinal bulkheads in water tanks, which also made it impossible to align the roll of the ship. Disastrous for ships of the type "RT", who did not have a sufficient number of watertight bulkheads, turned out to be undermined by mines or hit by torpedoes. The 250-kilogram bomb bombs at a distance of 5-10 m, as a rule, did not damage the hulls of the ships, there were no breaks in the seams and pop-up rivets, however, the cast-iron parts (cabinets of telegraphs, dynamo brackets) broke down, the radio equipment broke down , flew out of the nests magnetic compasses. The most serious damage occurred when the bombs pierced the ship and exploded near the bottom.

Despite all this, ships of the Northern Trawl Fleet, along with other ships and boats converted from civilian ships, played a large role in the Great Patriotic War, especially in its first, most difficult period, when the Northern Fleet experienced an acute shortage of naval personnel.

Converted ships, many of which died during the performance of combat missions, made it possible for the command to gain time needed to replenish the Northern Fleet with special-purpose warships, which in 1944 took the main burden in escorting numerous convoys. Best of all, “RT” showed itself in patrols - as messengers of ships and escort ships in conditions of rarefied or young ice, where the use of high-speed warships was impossible or irrational. And armed with “airlikons” of the RT, they also performed the tasks of air defense well.

Kobchikov E. Yu. The Fight and the Death of the Fog Patrol Ship // Gangut. 1993. No.6. C. 26-34.
Kozlov I., Shlomin V. Red Banner Northern Fleet. M .: Voenizdat, 1977. C. 126-128, 267-269.
Weiner B. The Northern Fleet in the Great Patriotic War. M. Voenizdat, 1964. C. 296, 297.
Puzyrev P. Re-equipment of trawlers into warships of the Northern Fleet // Shipbuilding. 1985. No.5. C. 56-58.
Kiselev A., Krasnobaev A. History Murmansk Trawl Fleet. Murmansk: Murmansk Book Publishing House, 1973. C. 100-104.
Shitarev V. Workers and Warriors // Technique of Youth. 1985. No.12. C.20-21.

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  1. Volga Cossack
    Volga Cossack 31 May 2016 06: 45
    Legendary boats. I read about their service as a child ...... and the True Heroes served on them - I’ll say without pathos ......... it’s a pity they didn’t save a single monument. Eternal Glory to civilian sailors who immediately became military !!!! Glory and memory are ours.
  2. avia12005
    avia12005 31 May 2016 08: 21
    Great people have great heroes and great ships.
  3. qwert
    qwert 31 May 2016 09: 17
    I completely agree. It was always striking that everyday combat work was essentially an everyday feat. After all, you can’t call anything else a feat of access to the sea of ​​these boats. There is no constructive defense characteristic of warships, no increased strength standards, additional bulkheads and means of fighting for survivability, nor speed. And it is possible to cross with a German submarine and a junkers and a destroyer, and even with a drifting mine. At any moment, an explosion of a torpedo or mines may break out. And in such conditions, ordinary fishermen went to sea to protect the transports of caravans. What is this if not a feat? And who then thought about this? No one, just went to sea and worked.
    By the way, I can’t recall which of Pikul’s novels tells of such an armed trawler.
    1. profane
      profane 1 June 2016 14: 41
      Requiem Caravan PQ-17
  4. Bureaucrat
    Bureaucrat 31 May 2016 09: 28
    Pikul has a novel Ocean Patrol. It just describes something like that.
    1. masiya
      masiya 31 May 2016 10: 12
      I read a book thing, the main thing is written accurately and correctly.
  5. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 31 May 2016 10: 08
    However, due to the lack of new guns on six ships of the White Sea naval flotilla, it was necessary to install the old 76-mm guns of the Kane and Lender systems with an elevation angle of 20 °, which could not fire at high flying aircraft.

    Hmm ... in fact, the Lender cannon is the first domestic anti-aircraft gun in caliber 3 ". So the claims to its UVN seem a bit unfounded. Another thing is that the ballistics of the 30-caliber barrel was, to put it mildly, not quite" anti-aircraft ".
    Shells weighing 6,5 kg had V0 = 588 m / s.
    The maximum horizontal range is up to 9500 m. Reach in height with a 22-second tube is 5800 m, and with a T-3-6100 m
  6. Alexey RA
    Alexey RA 31 May 2016 10: 17
    On the battle "Passat":
    Having received reports from the observation posts about the death of the convoy EPRON, at 4 h 50 min the chief of staff of the fleet ordered the commanders of “Loud”, “Thundering” and “Swift” to go to sea and destroy three enemy destroyers. Three minutes later, the ships anchored. At 5 a.m., the Northern Fleet command issued an additional order for the immediate preparation of the destroyers “Valerian Kuibyshev” and “Uritsky” for the campaign. At 15 hours and 6 minutes they anchored and went after the “Loud”, “Thundering” and “Swift”, which were already leaving the Kola Bay.
    Having united at the Kildinsky reach, five Soviet destroyers in search of the enemy passed from the mouth of the Kola Bay to the north about 86 miles. However, when the crews of the MBR-6 aircraft, who returned from the flight at 14:7 and 35:2, reported the discovery of a group of five more powerful enemy destroyers, the fleet commander, Rear Admiral A.G. Golovko, at 10:11 to the destroyer battalion a radio message: "Return to the base, in the sea, the enemy destroyer flotilla of the Raeder type." At 10:37 a.m., the Soviet destroyers turned on the opposite course and at 15:25, they gave up anchors in Vaenga Bay.

    Due to the superiority of the enemy, the actions of the Northern Fleet were limited to airstrikes:
    Aviation of the Northern Fleet during July 13 from 4:30 to 15 hours made 48 sorties in search of German ships, which were conducted by the MBR-38 and GST seaplanes of the 2th air regiment (118 sorties), as well as SB bombers 29nd Aviation Regiment (nine sorties). The very first flight of a pair of MBR-72s of the 2nd squadron of the 2th air regiment led to success. At 118 hours 5 minutes, 15 miles north of the Gavrilovsky lighthouse, the planes detected destroyers "presumably of the" Theodore "type, following the wake formation at 20 ° at a speed of 340-23 ​​knots. Finding the aircraft, the destroyers increased their speed to 25 knots, rebuilt themselves into a wedge formation and covered themselves with a smoke screen. At 32:5 a.m. a pair of MBR-23, going along the ships, dropped eight FAB-2 bombs from a height of 1000 m (from under the clouds), which fell, according to the pilots' report, with an undershoot of 100 - 10 m ahead of the lead ship of the destroyer " Hans Lody ".
    An hour later, at 6 hours and 25 minutes, enemy ships were discovered by another pair of MBR-2s - the 2nd unit of the 2nd squadron of the 118th air regiment. The destroyers continued heading north at a speed of 18 knots. Due to difficult weather conditions (rain and fog), it was not possible to strike at enemy ships.
    Subsequently, the German destroyers of the 6th flotilla were discovered twice: at 7 hours 24 minutes and 7 hours 31 minutes by a seaplane link — three GTS of the 4th squadron of the 118th air regiment. In the first case, according to the pilots' report, 38 knots, 2500 FAB-34 bombs were dropped on two destroyers following the same course northward at a speed of 100 knots. They lay to the right of the lead destroyer, according to pilots, 70 - 100 m, without causing damage. All subsequent flights of Soviet aviation on July 13 to search for and destroy the 6th flotilla of German destroyers ended, unfortunately, to no avail.

    © E.Yu. Kobchikov. On the beam of the Gavrilovsky lighthouse (battle and death of the Passat patrol ship)
  7. Berkut24
    Berkut24 31 May 2016 10: 55
    I ought to tell American "professionals" the stories of how Russian fishermen on trawlers with a forty-five on the tank went hunting for Dönitz's wolves, like peasants with a spear for a bear ... So that they don't really hope for their wunderwales.
    1. Alexey RA
      Alexey RA 31 May 2016 12: 13
      Quote: Berkut24
      I ought to tell American "professionals" the stories of how Russian fishermen on trawlers with a forty-five on the tank went hunting for Dönitz's wolves, like peasants with a spear for a bear ... So that they don't really hope for their wunderwales.

      In fact, in those days the US had its own "mobilizers" in the coastal PLO. It was all called "Hooligan Fleet" ("Hooligan Patrol").
      To protect the coast, the Cruising Club of America sports organization proposed the use of sailing yachts for patrol duty. Radio stations were installed on light yachts, large ones were armed with machine guns and a small number of depth charges. The crews underwent a short briefing. As a result, at the end of August, 100 small and 70 large yachts were patrolled in a chain along the entire Atlantic coast at a distance of maximum line of sight.

      Initially, the actions of yachtsmen were voluntary. And the command of the US Navy was somewhat cool about the undertaking. But while there was a debate at headquarters, data on the submarines discovered began to arrive with enviable regularity. But due to organizational problems, the Navy did not have time to respond to signals. As a result, on May 4, 1942, by order of the Naval Operations Commander Admiral Ernest J. King, a Coastal Picket Patrol was created. The patrol was divided into 6 operational groups: North, Narragansett, New York, Delaware, Chesapeake and South. Shift patrols were organized and patrols were coordinated, and communication with the Navy was established. Subsequently, fishermen and, in general, owners of everything that could swim joined the fleet. The command was forced to make certain requirements for the courts. The vessel should have been capable of staying at sea for 2 days at cruising speed. It was also the duty of the patrols to search for and rescue those in distress at sea.

      And in Great Britain, in general, with the beginning of the war, the mobilization of trawlers took place. They were equipped with several guns, bomb throwers, hydroacoustics, diluted the civilian command with reservists of the fleet and graduates of military schools - and formed PLO formations from the "tyulkin fleet" to help the naval personnel. PLO trawlers performed exactly the same tasks. as corvettes with sloops - they guarded the approaches to the bases, provided the PLO of the convoy passage areas and escorted the convoys.
      On Militer, the assistant, there were memories of Denis Rainer, who served on such ships. The people gathered there ... peculiar.
      I remember the case when, after an attack with depth charges in an extremely tight space, our compass began to give unexplained failures. I decided that it should be carefully checked and adjusted. Lang wondered again:
      “Why bother with this, sir, if we already know the mistake?” The Lord is with you sir! On my old trawler, we used to walk along the Canal to the north-north-west and returned home to the north-north-east. And everything was fine. You just need to know the amendment!
    2. Anglorussian
      Anglorussian 1 June 2016 01: 29
      Ernest Hemingway on Doenitz Wolves went on his yacht.
  8. infantryman2020
    infantryman2020 31 May 2016 12: 51
    Quote: Berkut24
    I ought to tell American "professionals" the stories of how Russian fishermen on trawlers with a forty-five on the tank went hunting for Dönitz's wolves, like peasants with a spear for a bear ... So that they don't really hope for their wunderwales.

    First, study the military history. They had a similar thing on WWII on a larger scale than ours.
    And then look stupid.
    1. moskowit
      moskowit 1 June 2016 19: 37
      Even the great writer Ernst Hemingway patrolled the waters of the Caribbean on his boat ...

      "... In 1941-1943, Ernest Hemingway organized counterintelligence against Nazi spies in Cuba and hunted for German submarines in his boat in the Caribbean ..." (from Wikipedia).
  9. Cerberus
    Cerberus 1 June 2016 16: 45
    not the Baltic but also fought ...
    the eternal memory of the fallen.
  10. ilyaches
    ilyaches 22 June 2016 02: 04
    Thank you, interesting article.