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The Battle in the Baltic Sea, 1944-1945.

Discussion in 'Eastern Europe February 1943 to End of War' started by Friedrich, Jun 20, 2003.

  1. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    "The war in the Baltic Sea 1944-1945"

    by Friedrich von Hammerstein.

    It was the midnight of August 19th-20th 1944 when a heavy cruiser steamed through the Irben route, between Courland and Oesel Island. It moved noiseless, with lights off and slyly to the front.
    This front, of course, meant the Army front on land, because at sea the fighting was all around: the ship could hit a mine at any time, a mine laid by Soviet aircraft weeks or hours ago; the ship could also be attacked by a submarine, even if the General Staff knew that there had not been seen any Russian submarines in the Baltic since 1942, except for the blockaded Finland Bay. Despite of that, it was to be expected that Soviet aircraft raided her at sunrise. Then the antiaircraft artillery of all-calibres on-board the ship could welcome them warmly.
    The big ship, escorted by four destroyers and five torpedo boats was the German heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, whose task was supporting German Army Group ‘North’ with her guns.
    At 0300 hours everybody on-board the Prinz, as she was friendly called, were given the order to attend their battle-stations. With clear decks, she would get into battle as soon as the alarm signal was sounded. She was heading to Riga Bay where the Soviet armoured columns had reached the shores, isolating the German garrison at Riga and the forces in Courland, creating then a gap 25-kilometres-wide. The German armoured units inside the pocket were planning a counterattack to re-establish contact with the city of Riga. The German Army did not have artillery powerful enough to adequately prepare the attack, there was the need to reinforce it with the naval guns.
    On August 20th, at 0700 hours the cruiser shot her first test-rounds. The artillery officer on-board was closely in touch by phone —by ultra short wave— with a Navy hydroplane flying over the objective as well as was in touch with the forward infantry and artillery observers and scouts of the Army. The target was invisible from the cruiser and was the town of Tukkum, 15-kilometres in-land, which was an important railroad centre and there were where the strongest enemy spots were located.
    When the Prinz Eugen shot her first 8-inches rounds, it was heard a noisy mixture of cheerful screams: “Bravo! Exactly on the target! Donnerwetter! My friend, you did as you promised! This is going incredibly good! Vorwärts!
    Everybody were talking loudly and simultaneously. The cruiser requested to “moderate their enthusiasm”. When she kept firing round after round the observers informed that eighty-per-cent were direct hits, despite that the cruiser was not firing from a stable position, she was actually sailing hither and thither. There was no doubt that the Prinz was incredibly accurate.
    Meanwhile, the destroyers were also intervening, giving a good use to their more modest, but effective as well, small guns. When the Riga garrison made an attempt to reach the German armoured columns they were not attacked by the Russians, who had been absolutely taken by surprise. Although the commanders of the Prinz Eugen were very concerned about the possibility of a Soviet air-attack, none took place; not even one Russian plane appeared and the German watchmen searched in the sky, in vain. The heavy bombardment continued unmolested.
    By the late afternoon the Army sent a note of sincere gratefulness to the Prinz Eugen for her effective support. The Russian lines were more than annihilated and by that moment, there was no more need of the Navy’s fire support. “25-ton T-34 tanks had been blown up, two or three at the time by the Navy’s guns. These ‘steel monsters’ actually flew some 3-metres above the ground when the Prinz’s shells exploded” described an Army artillery observer. The heavy cruiser steamed as fast as it could to leave the Bay of Riga to prevent any sudden air-raid; there, the Prinz would have been very vulnerable in those strait and narrow waters. She went back to Gotenhafen without setbacks and there she was made ready to sail once more.

    [ 20. June 2003, 06:03 PM: Message edited by: General der Infanterie Friedrich H ]
     
  2. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Here's it, Erich.

    [​IMG]
     
  3. Greg A

    Greg A Member

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    Very interesting post Friedrich.

    Greg
     
  4. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Fried :

    Great start ! I imagine U will have pics of the Prinz later after single weapons/shields forward, the last one a single mounting on top of the second turret forward......

    great pic ;)

    ~E
     
  5. reddog2k

    reddog2k Member

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    Just a question wasn't the Prinz Eugen with the Bizmark when she sank?
     
  6. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    No, the ships sailed at different directions since 24th May:

    24 May 1941: Between 0555 and 0609, together with Bismarck engages the battle cruiser Hood and the battleship Prince of Wales. Obtains at least one hit on Hood before the mighty British battle cruiser is sunk by Bismarck at 0601. Afterwards obtains three hits on Prince of Wales. Expends 179 20.3cm and 66 10.5cm projectiles and remains herself undamaged. At 1814, in the afternoon leaves Bismarck and heads south.

    http://www.kbismarck.com/peugen.html
     
  7. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    A very large **bumbp** for Gottfried.....

    does it say much about Destroyer activities in August 44 ? suppose you will continue correct ?

    ~E
     
  8. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Herr General, are you going to give us another installement from Cajius Bekker's book for September ?
    I am ready to add my two cents anytime....

    ~E~ [​IMG]
     
  9. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    Don't bloody dispair, Erich! Here it is!

    * * *

    The success of this first ‘live’ attack, after months and years of hard training, gave a new incentive to the German crews in the Baltic. With the exception of an air attack suffered by the Prinz Eugen, she had not taken part in any military operation for more than two years. Some other ships had been in the Baltic for longer, used to train men and officers and specially, submarine crews, whose number didn’t cease to increase. Since Hitler decided that the ‘tin boxes’ were no longer useful and that they should be withdrawn from service, the “Training Squadron of the Fleet” had been reinforced. The OKM saved more than one ship of being scrapped by this method because Hitler himself had approved their use for training matters. Except for some brief periods, when they were sent to Norway, the following ships formed the “Training Squadron”: the old battleships Schlesien and Schleswig Holstein, the ‘pocket battleships’ Admiral Scheer and Lützow, the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen and the light cruisers Nürnberg, Leipzig, Köln and Emden and three training sailing ships.
    The officers and men of these ships that represented an awesome combat unit were deeply disappointed about the passive rôle they had to play in the peaceful task of training men in the quiet Baltic waters while the war was getting hotter in every front, including the seas.
    The Naval General Staff, however, realised of how important the adequate training was and did not allow to change things in 1943 and even 1944. Since the first months of the latter year it became very obvious that the Russians were again dangerous enemies in the Baltic Sea. The intervention of the Prinz Eugen in Riga was an undeniable major success and the Army General Staff was nicely relieved because, with the heavy ships there, they would be able to fight with their backs to the sea. Then the “Training Squadron” became a “Combat Squadron” of ships specially effective. Suddenly, the remains of the Baltic Fleet became involved in the extremely important task of supporting the ground forces which later became not only supporting them, but knocking out the Russian attacks over and over again, so as many men, women and children as possible could escape to the west. Tens of thousands of Germans owe their lives to the in fatigable efforts of these ships and their crews.
    Thanks to the naval artillery’s intervention between October 10th and 23rd 1944, the city of Memel, its inhabitants and the refugees who were there didn’t fall into Russian hands; the Russians, at that time were attacking severely and in great quantity. The ships turned themselves to attack. And yet, when the Prinz Eugen was rapidly going back to Gotenhafen to re-supply of ammunition, an unexpected catastrophe occurred.
    In that very same date, the light 6.000-ton cruiser Leipzig left Gotenhafen by sunset. Her twenty-months training was over and she was going into action but first, she had to pick up hundreds of mines at Swinemünde.
    The sky was cloudy and the night was falling quickly when the Leipzig steamed around Hela peninsula to get into high-seas. At 1950 hours the order to disconnect the Diesel engines —only used in moderate speed— from the propellers’ axis and connect the turbines was given. This meant that the cruiser was going to be with engines-off for a moment. The night was very dark and the fog very thick and “you could barely see fifty-yards-away.” The Leipzig had turned her lights off because several warning had been received that Soviet submarines were marauding those waters, dozens of men on-board searched the darkness while the lonely ship was floating freely.
    At 2000 hours one-hundred cadets abandoned their dormitories, once engine room number 2, which was destroyed by a mine in December 1939. When reparations were made, it was re-arranged as a dormitory for one-hundred men.
    Half of Leipzig’s crew was at their posts and the other half relieved the guard every four hours. Those one-hundred men were going into service at 2000 hours. The minutes passed by. At any moment the engines would be re-connected and the cruiser would move on.
    Then, at exactly 2004 hours the ship shook violently.
    Two of the ship’s carpenters were sat, playing chess in their body shop , between the bridge and the funnel in the upper deck. Precisely at 2004 hours their match was interrupted by an unexpected visitor: the two men stared horrified how the starboard armour split open with astonishing and deafening noise and saw the immense bow of a gigantic ship passing a few inches between the two men. Indeed, it was the bow of a cruiser the one which had thrown away the chess table, the bow of a 10.000-ton cruiser. A second later, the whole body shop collapsed, but fortunately, the two carpenters were able to escape unharmed.
    The terrible hit provoked complete darkness in the ship; even the emergency lights ceased to work. Every man slowly went out from the corners they had been thrown into, while at the bridge, an officer wrote in the log without seeing a thing: “2004, hit by torpedo”.
    The only communication device still working was the acoustic tube in the bridge; another officer cried through it, clarifying: “_ The Prinz Eugen has rammed us! The Prinz Eugen has boarded us!”
    The heavy cruiser had been warned as well about the submarine menace. Therefore, as the Leipzig, she was steaming blindly without any light, in a foggy-night. When the light cruiser came up in her way it was too late to try anything except for switching the engines full-a-stern.
    The Prinz stuck in her sharp bow into the Leipzig, exactly amidships, on starboard side, between the bridge and the funnel. The men in their antiaircraft positions were literally pulverised. With a disastrous screech, the heavy cruiser’s bow stuck in the light one’s side until the very centre of the keel, splitting it in two, making everybody fear that the latter’s backbone would suddenly break and collapse.
    All the technical staff and personnel of engine room number three had been severely burned by the escaping steam from the broken boilers. Engine room number two, where minutes before one-hundred men had been quietly sleeping filled with seawater in two seconds. The last man had left the room four minutes earlier. The guard turn had saved their lives.
    The Prinz Eugen’s bow was opened like shark’s jaws, and hanging from the shark’s teeth was the Leipzig. In that way, stuck into each other, both ships drifted for 14-whole-hours, totally vulnerable to Soviet aircraft and submarines. If those ships would have been in English waters they both would have been sunk for sure. But the Russians did not attack.
    Unwired messages were sent and very soon several tugs and other ships were in scene. Two tugs were given the task of clearing the Leipzig’s bow of water, using sixteen water-pumps, preventing the ship from sinking. For the moment, both ships were still laying together and everybody was afraid of what could happen when they were separated. Despite of their fears they had to try. The manœuver was carefully prepared with acetylene blowpipes and the non indispensable crew was taken on-board other ships. The men remaining on-board of the Leipzig had already their lifejackets on and were ready to jump into the water at any moment.
    At 1000 hours, fourteen hours after the collision, 133.000-horse-power-engines of the Prinz Eugen steamed full-a-stern while the tugs tied the Leipzig and prevented her from moving an inch. If the Leipzig split in two, she would irremediably sink, but it didn’t happen that way. They split out and both remained afloat. Both cruisers seek shelter in Gotenhafen. The Prinz Eugen could steam by herself and the Leipzig was brought to port by the tugs. Two weeks later, the Prinz and the Leipzig were back in the Baltic sailing and shelling the Russians. Even if the Leipzig’s hull was only repaired with some temporary steel-plaques, she had to carry out her duties despite of her condition. Much time after the war, the British sunk her in the Baltic with her toxic-gases load.
     
  10. Friedrich

    Friedrich Expert

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    [​IMG]

    The Prinz Eugen and Leipzig after the collision.

    [​IMG]

    After 14-hours, both ships finally split appart.

    [​IMG]

    The Prinz's bow after the accident.

    [​IMG]

    The Leipzig's starboard side.
     
  11. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    thanks Fried, I'll add a little tidbit tonight my time before the Prinz/Leipzig incident. Thanks for those famous scans as it is pleasant to see details close up instead of a little 4x4 pic in a book. I can imagine in the last pic what the Leipzig boyz must have been thinking......"well it's all over for us now !".......

    ~E
     
  12. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    working on materials out of my data base and 6 different referecnes to give the Z and T-boats their creidt due in the Baltic 1944 onward.
    Maybe by Sontag I will have it started......

    ~E
     
  13. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    still doing research but this week I may make an installment. finding some interesting bits on S-boot ops in 45 and the mission of the Nachtjagdleitschiff in Danzig Bay and the radar coverage this boat providied along with its rescue attempts of the German populace......

    more coming....

    Altenwolf
     
  14. TA152

    TA152 Ace

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    That was an interesting article and great pictures you posted General. I did have several questions about it though.

    What was the toxic-gases load that the Leipzig was carrying when the British sank her ?

    Did'nt the German Navy have ship board radar by that time in the war ? If so why did they not have it on to avoid the collision ?

    Who was Prinz Eugen, the person, not the ship ?
     
  15. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Ta, will let Gottfried answer U, but did you notice the upper 4cm bofors on the upper forward twin gun turret on the Prinz ? At the time of the accident the protective shield had been dropped. Also it does not show but there are also two more 4cm bofors on either side of the forward turrets making 5 for forward and lateral defence. The Prinz was one of the selct few that had a complete Barbara Fla refit before war's end....

    ~E
     
  16. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    Ok guys I see this thread easily becoming multi-paged in format. A question though to you Soviet navy experten.....

    Kvt-Kaptn. [​IMG] Bernd Klug commands 1 S-boot and sinks 4 Soviet TK boats, the 16, 60, 136 and the 200 on March 28, 1945 near Libau, this part of Task F.

    Who knows what a TK boat is ? Any pics....

    danke schön gents

    Altenwolf
     
  17. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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  18. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    that's what I needed to know Kai ! thanks that explains much as the Torpedo boats were the prime enemy resistance in the Baltic to the KM in 1945. Second but doing the most damage was the Soviet subs. The Soviet shore batteries usually missed their KM objectives and were silenced but still obviously posed a thread off and on shore to ground troops.
    found a distorted pic of a smoking Soviet KT hit by from a S-boot. what a strange elongated boat with a oversized forward gun and some mg's by the cabin and at the rear of the ship. Almost like a minatureized steamer with a central vertical smoke stack. sure does not look like a swift, light craft for the waters....

    ~E
     
  19. Kai-Petri

    Kai-Petri Kenraali

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    That´s good to hear, Erich!

    BTW, did you check the site. I mean if you or anybody else has problems with Russian short names for boats this site telss what it is. Like:

    Mine Warfare (MCM) Craft:
    ZM - Minny i Setevoy Zagraditel' = Minelayer
    MT/MTSh - Morskoy Tral'shik = Seagoing (Ocean) Minesweeper
    TSh - Tral'shik = Minesweeper
    BT - Bazovy Tral'shik = Base Minesweeper
    RT - Reydovy Tral'shik 4 ranga = Roadstead (Coastal) Minesweeper 4th rank
    KT - Kater Tral'shik
    RChT - Rechnoy Tral'shik (ex-river)
    Amphibious Vessels:
    BDK - Bol'shoy Desantny Korabl' 1-go ranga = Large Landing (Dock Landing) Ship 1 rank
    BDK - Bol'shoy Desantny Korabl'2-go ranga = Large Landing (Tank Landing) Ship 2 rank
    SDK - Sredny Desantny Korabl' = Medium Landing Ship
    MDK - Maly Desantny Korabl' = Small Landing Ship
    DK - Desantny Kater = Landing Craft
    KVP/MDK - Maly Desantny Korabl' na Vozdushnoy Podushke = Large Air-cushion Vehicle Landing Craft
    KVP/D - Desantny Kater na Vozdushnoy Podushke = Small Air-cushion Vehicle Landing Craft (or Air-cushion Personnel Landing Craft)
    KVP/S - Desantny Ekranoplan = Wing-in-Ground-Effect Amphibious Landing Craft

    etc. etc.

    ;)
     
  20. Erich

    Erich Alte Hase

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    will post an interesting short tidbit on Z-34 commanded by Korvette Kapitän Hetz during it's time in the Baltic in 1945 after work today....

    Altenwolf
     

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