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Gulf of Riga campaign
Part of the Baltic Sea campaign of the Eastern Front of World War II
Smyshlenyy.jpg
A Soviet destroyer of Type7U
Date 22 June 1941 - August 1941
Location Gulf of Riga
Result German victory
Belligerents
Flag of German Reich (1935–1945).svg Nazi Germany Flag of the Soviet Union.svg Soviet Union
Commanders and leaders
War Ensign of Germany (1938–1945) Admiral Hubert Schmundt Naval Ensign of the Soviet Union (1950–1991) Admiral Vladimir Tributs
Strength
S-boats and minesweepers 2 cruisers
destroyers and motor torpedo boats
Casualties and losses
3 minesweepers sunk and others damaged

2 motor torpedo boats sunk

1 transport sunk and other damaged
1 cruiser damaged

3 destroyers sunk and 1 damaged

1 minesweeper sunk

1 motor torpedo boat sunk

The Gulf of Riga campaign was fought by the Soviet Navy against the Kriegsmarine during Operation Barbarossa in 1941.

BackgroundEdit

During World War I, the Gulf of Riga in the Baltic Sea played a strategical role in naval warfare and was target of the German offensive during the Battle of the Gulf of Riga and Operation Albion. During World War II, after the first weeks of quick German advance alongside the Baltic coast, the Soviet Navy begun operations to clear enemy mines, lay own defensive minefields and dispatching warships (including destroyers) into the Irben Strait to harass German naval shipping to supply their forces by sea.[1] The Soviet Navy in the Baltic Sea at the time was under command of Admiral Vladimir F. Tributs.[2] German commander of the Baltic operations was Hubert Schmundt; who, differently from the Soviets, could only commit lighter naval units including S-boats.[3]

June OperationsEdit

Both sides laid extensive fields of mines in Irben Straits: German operations begun on 21 June 1941 (mines laid by S-boats) and others were laid on the next days; such mines caused early damage to Soviet cruiser Maxim Gorky and destroyer Gordy two days later in the Irben Straits, while destroyer Gnevny sunk. On 24 June 1941 it was Soviet's turn to lay mines in Irben Straits and this was accomplished by destroyers Serdity, Stoiki and Storozhevoi, supported by cruiser Kirov and destroyers Silny, Strashny, Grozyashchi and Smetlivy: over 500 mines were laid in the next two nights. Soviet mines caused the loss of German S-boats S-43 and S-106 on 26 June, the following day other losses were suffered with the sinking of minesweeper R-205 and damages to M-201, R-202, R-203, R-53 and R-63.[4]

German E-Boat S 204 surrenders at Felixstowe on 13 May 1945

A S-boat surrendering in 1945

The first direct clash between the opposing forces occurred on 27 June, when German S-boats S-31 and S-59 torpedoed and damaged, with heavy casualties, the Soviet destoryer Storozhevoi.[5] The ship did not sunk despite losing the whole forehead until the bridge and after extensive repairs returned to service only on 19 September 1943, while Soviet destroyer Smely was torpedoed by S-54 and later scuttled by the own Soviet motor torpedo boat n°73.[6]

July OperationsEdit

Soviet destroyers Serdity and Silny had a surface engagement, on 6 July near Kolka during a minelaying mission, with the German minesweeper M-31 and the larger support-ship MRS-11/Osnabruck: despite enjoying absolute superiority. Soviet ships failed to hit the enemy and Silnyi received a direct hit from the minesweeper (suffering four dead).[7]

Soviet naval units attempted a first attack on a German convoy (Riga was in German hands since 3 July) on 9 July but the attack, carried out by four MO-4 class patrol boats against a group of 6 motorboats with 4 logging ships, was unsuccessful. In July Soviet mines kept on causing damages to minor German units in the Irben Straits: minesweeper M-201 sunk and M-23 was beached but both were later salvaged while M-3131 was lost. New Soviet mines were laid by destroyers Serdity and Silny, covered by Stoiki, Grozyashchi and Smetlivy. However Strashny suffered heavy damage by mine on 9 July. On 13 July a coordinated attack of Soviet aircraft and motor torpedo boats managed to sink a German transport and damage 2 barges and 23 minor barges off Riga. Another mixed attack was carried out on 26 July when a plane sunk German minesweeper R-169.[8]

Soviet destroyers suffered their third loss when Serdity was hit on 18 July by Ju-88 bombers of KGR.806: the ship was scuttled on 22 July after failed attempts to move her.[9]

August OperationsEdit

At the beginning of August, Germans were still laying mines in the Irben Straits. On 1 August, Soviet motor torpedo boats attampted an attack, covered by two destroyers, against S-boats off Cape Domesnas but they only lost the motor torpedo boat TK-122 in the process. Between 6 and 8 August, Soviet destroyers Surovy and Statny shelled German coastal batteries in the Moon Sound. On 17 August however, four Soviet motor torpedo boats attacked off Cape Domesnas again; and during the engagement the German minesweeper M-1707 Lunenburg was first shelled by Soviet ground artillery and then strayed into mines and sunk.

Stalin(EM)

Destroyer Stalin, sister-ship of Artem

Three days laters Germans retaliated when S-58 torpedoed and sunk the Soviet minesweeper T-51 Pirmunas in the Moon Sound. The final Soviet destroyer action occurred on 21 August when destroyers Artem and Surovy made an unsuccessful attack against a convoy:[10] they managed to force the only escort unit, the gunboat SAT-1 Ost, to run aground (later recovered) but this prevented damages to the convoy.[11]

AftermathEdit

The campaign reached its peak with the fall of Riga on 3 July 1941: Soviets destroyers attacked German convoys of barges and small merchants but failed to stop this traffic and lost 3 destroyers in the process. While the Soviet units retreated to Tallinn the Germans completed swept the Soviet defensive minefields.[12]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Daniel Morgan, Bruce Taylor (2011). U-Boat Attack Logs: A Complete Record of Warship Sinkings from Original Sources 1939-1945. p. 105. 
  2. Poul Grooss (2017). The Naval War in the Baltic 1939 -1945. p. 143. 
  3. Hans Frank (2007). German S-Boats in Action in the Second World War. pp. 41–42. 
  4. Donald A Bertke,Don Kindell,Gordon Smith (2012). World War II Sea War, Vol 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies. p. 58-42. 
  5. "Soviet Naval Battles-Baltic sea". Sovietempire.com. http://www.soviet-empire.com/ussr/viewtopic.php?f=149&t=53730. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  6. http://www.navypedia.org/ships/russia/ru_dd_storozhevoy.htm STOROZHEVOY destroyers (project 7U) (1940-1942) navypedia.org
  7. "Soviet Naval Battles-Baltic sea". Sovietempire.com. http://www.soviet-empire.com/ussr/viewtopic.php?f=149&t=53730. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  8. Donald A Bertke,Don Kindell,Gordon Smith (2012). World War II Sea War, Vol 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies. p. 118. 
  9. Donald A Bertke,Don Kindell,Gordon Smith (2012). World War II Sea War, Vol 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies. p. 118. 
  10. Donald A Bertke,Don Kindell,Gordon Smith (2012). World War II Sea War, Vol 4: Germany Sends Russia to the Allies. p. 179. 
  11. "Soviet Naval Battles-Baltic sea". Sovietempire.com. http://www.soviet-empire.com/ussr/viewtopic.php?f=149&t=53730. Retrieved 2 April 2018. 
  12. Spencer C. Tucker (2011). World War II at Sea: An Encyclopedia [2 volumes]: An Encyclopedia. p. 81. 

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