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Battle of Alexander Fort
Part of the Southern Front of the Russian Civil War
Date21 May 1919
LocationBay of Tyub- Karaganskom in Caspian Sea.
Result British victory
Belligerents
 United Kingdom  Russian SFSR
Commanders and leaders
United Kingdom David Norris Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic A.V.Burov
Strength
5 auxiliary cruisers, 1 seaplane carrier 1 auxiliary cruiser, 1 destroyer, 1 minelayer, 1 floating battery, 2 submarines, minor units
Casualties and losses
2 auxiliary cruisers damaged. 5 killed, 7 wounded. 1 auxiliary cruiser damaged. 1 destroyer, 1 minelayer, 1 floating battery and auxiliary units lost.


The Battle of Alexander Fort (or Battle of Tyub-Karaganskom), was a naval battle fought in Caspian Sea during the Russian Civil War.

Background[edit | edit source]

As part of the allied intervention in Russian Civil War, the Royal Navy established the British Caspian Flotilla. Most of the ship were merchants converted in auxiliary cruisers. The commander of the force was Commodore Davis Norris who planned an attack against the key Bolshevik naval base in the Caspian Sea. The attack resulted in the larger naval engagement of the front, with large use of auxiliary cruisers (converted and armed merchant ships).[1]

Battle[edit | edit source]

Despite the presence of two small submarine and a destroyer on the Bolshevik side, superior number of auxiliary cruisers advantaged the British ships. On 20 May some first accidents occurred: a seaplane from the tender Aladir Useynov crashed while on reconnaissance mission, meanwhile two ships could not join the British task force (Slava and Bibi-Eybat: both suffering for engine troubles), additional engine troubles forced Sergie and the auxiliary cruiser Zoroaster to turn back.

Still the Norris’s ships could enjoy superior numbers: on day 21 May, the flotilla approached Alexander Fort and the Bolshevik lost the patrol boat Schastlivyy due grounding while attempting to distract the British. Once the main battle erupted, at first the Bolsheviks appeared victorious: a direct hit was scored on the bridge of Kruger (but with little damage), while other two direct hits caused more harm to the Emile Nobel suffering 5 killed and 7 wounded. The first phase of the battle resulted into a temporary British retreat and Emile Nobel had to pull out from the fight.

Shortly later, Commodore Norris engaged once more the Bolsheviks focusing the superior high-fire of his ships: this time results were different when Kruger shelled and sunk the floating battery n°2 (responsible of the previous hits on the British ships with loss of 12 men). The destroyer Moskvityanin was quickly lost due grounding after multiple failures on guns and engines. The depot-ship Revel was full of oil and a large explosion was triggered after she was hit, mortally damaging the minelayer Demosthenes (later scuttled) and engulfing with the detonation also the mine-carrier Tuman, the auxiliary ship Gelma, the smaller Zoroaster (not to be confused with the British ship) and a number of small barges. The small submarine Minoga was also damaged by fire, meanwhile the Bolshevik flagship, the auxiliary cruiser Caspian was damaged after 2 direct hits.

Commodore Norris halted fire having caused such losses to the enemy and after having spent most of the ammunition. During the battle, the Bolshevik submarine Makrel attempted to move in attack position but could not carry on the attack. Soviet propaganda later claimed the British halted their fire due Makrel’s action but the British ships never noticed the danger.[2][3]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

The day after the main engagement, the Bolsheviks evacuated the remains of their flotilla without British disturbance. The second seaplane from the tender Aladir Useynov scored a direct hit with a bomb on the grounded destroyer Moskvityanin, before crashing due accident.

The Bolshevik flag-ship Caspian, despite damaged, was fit enough to lead the evacuation of the garrison: Kruger and Ventured attempted to intercept the convoy but the sudden arrival of the destroyers Karl Liebknecht and Yakov Sverdlov resulted in a brief stand-off and the British ships retreated.

Commodore Norris had scored a significant victory over the Bolshevik Navy, sinking enemy ships with little losses and forcing the Bolsheviks to leave an important base. However, the White Admiral Kolchack criticized the lack of the complete destruction of the Bolshevik flotilla.

Two days later, on 23 May, British motor torpedo boats scuttled some of the wrecks left in the harbor by soviets.[4]

Order of battle[edit | edit source]

Royal Navy

British Caspian Flotilla

Auxiliary Cruisers

  • HMS Kruger (flagship)
  • HMS Zoroaster (not engaged)
  • HMS Emile Nobel (damaged)
  • HMS Asia
  • HMS Venture
  • HMS Windsor Castle

Tenders:

  • Aladir Useynov
  • Sergie (not engaged)

Bolshevik Fleet

  • Auxiliary Cruiser Caspian (flagship, damaged)
  • Destroyer Moskvityanin (lost)
  • Minelayer Demosthenes (lost)
  • floating battery n°2 (lost)

Submarines:

6 patrol boats (one lost) 18 merchants/transport/support ships including depot-ship Revel (lost).

References[edit | edit source]

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