Monday, March 16, 2015

Ganguts by any other name!

The Russian battleship fleet comprised only two classes of dreadnoughts. The first, the Ganguts (Gangut, Sevastopol, Petropavlovsk, and Poltava—all completed in 1914), had a poor reputation and saw very limited service during World War I. All four cost far more than the original budgets, and they were so delayed by design faults and shipyard blunders that they were obsolete when finally launched. The engines and turbines had to be supplied by foreign firms, although the guns were of excellent Russian manufacture. They were, in fact, something of a combination battleship/battle cruiser and were sometimes referred to as Baltic dreadnoughts, with armament heavier than one-third of contemporary German and Royal Navy capital ships, but primarily designed for close-in waters, such as the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. These four dreadnoughts epitomized the turmoil of the late czarist and early Soviet periods. Gangut’s crew mutinied in October 1915, ostensibly because of poor food, and attacked some of the officers. The uprising was not quelled until the imperial government surrounded the dreadnought with torpedo boats and submarines, threatening to send it and its seditious crew to the bottom. The mutiny had its effect, however, as a planned naval sortie had to be canceled. By the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, the Ganguts were under the influence of the Leninists. All four were taken over by their revolutionary crews, presented to the Soviets, given appropriate revolutionary names (Gangut—Oktiabrskaia Revolutsia; Sevastopol—Parizskaja Kommuna; Petropavlovsk—Marat; Poltava/Frunze) and saw some service during the Russian civil war. All but Poltava/Frunze (damaged beyond worthwhile repair by a boiler-room fire) were extensively rebuilt in the 1930s, probably a case of throwing good money after bad.

During World War II, the three surviving units were used as stationary batteries. Murat reverted to its original Petropavlovsk name (when prerevolutionary themes became more acceptable during World War II), then as an artillery ship it was renamed Volkhov.

Sevastopol and Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya remained on the active list after the end of the war although little is known of their activities. Both were reclassified as 'school battleships' (uchebnyi lineinyi korabl) on 24 July 1954 and stricken on 17 February 1956. Their scrapping began that same year although Oktyabrskaya Revolyutsiya's hulk was still in existence in May 1958.

After the war there were several plans (Project 27) to reconstruct Petropavlovsk, as she was now known, using the bow of Frunze and moving her third turret to the forward position, but they were not accepted and were formally cancelled on 29 June 1948. She was renamed Volkhov, after the nearby river, on 28 November 1950 and served as a stationary training ship until stricken on 4 September 1953 and broken up afterwards.

After World War II two of Frunze's turrets and their guns were used to rebuild Coast Defense Battery 30 (Maksim Gor'kii I) in Sevastopol. It remained in service with the Soviet Navy through 1997

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