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Soviet Naval Battles -Lakes (Ladoga,Peipus,Onega,Ilmen)-WW2

Soviet cogitations: 309
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 01 Dec 2019, 12:06
The naval warfare on the Eastern Front during the WW2 (Great Patriotic War) was the largest conflict involving the Soviet Navy and without doubt it was the greatest naval war ever faced by a socialist or communist nation. In five years of warfare (excluding preliminary conflicts like the Winter War), the Soviet Navy endured times of sacrifice and losses, fighting against a formidable foe and writing bloody and glorious pages of naval war history poorly known in the western world.
Decades after the end of the war, destruction and confidentiality of documents make numerous details still unknown, it is only after modern-day researches of authors that a number of false myths and wrong claims (committed by all sources, post-war) receive a neutral assessment.
Contrary to the popular western belief that the naval warfare played no real part in the war, the Soviet Navy engaged in specific operations in the different areas of competence of the Fleets (Baltic, Black Sea, Northern, Pacific, and other Flotillas).
During the decade before the war, the Soviet Navy initiated large programs of expansion with a number of warships entering service (including cruisers and destroyers): such plans not completed in time, and by the time of the Nazi invasion, the shipbuilding programs stalled or diverted to wartime emergency plans.
The Soviet leadership, wisely realized how the submarine warfare was a key of strategic success and despite all classes of warships increased in numbers, submarines received a peculiar attention (with over 200 submarines in 1941!).

Naval warfare in Lakes was peculiar and locally interesting.
Ladoga Lake become a very important area of operations, because the supply lines directed toward Leningrad.
Axis forces attempted to cut these lines, employing a small group of Italian motor torpedo boat (MAS) and Luftwaffe-manned artillery ferries. All these attempts however failed to achieve success, and the Soviet naval operations in Ladoga turned probably one of the most successful for the Navy in the entire war for tactical victories and strategic outcome! The preservation of the naval supply lines allowed the resistance of Leningrad during the brutal siege. By the end of 1942, enemy operations almost ended on the Lake: Soviet Navy transferred “Malyutka” submarines in 1943 but they had no chance to encounter enemy targets.

Warfare in other Lakes was also interesting, even if less important on the war strategy. Onega Lake was poor of events (both sides restrained and the only true combat meeting was insignificant). Peipus Lake was the location of a rare Soviet surface victory (by destruction) scored against an officially rated Kriegsmarine small vessel. Finally, Ilmen Lake included a rare Soviet offensive behavior raiding and seizing schooners serving for the occupant German Army.

This article is a cross work of multiple sources, including direct contacts on and with modern-day Russian authors. Significant German sources also are and Not very good as source (including some mistakes and outdated primary sources), is the Romanian site Italian sources (blogs) are somewhat terrible for the same reason.
The database Navypedia is also a good source, even if contain some mistakes or lack details and fate of vessels.

Personal research on this page include use of original sources fully available online: “War Diary – German Naval Staff Operations Divisions” translated in English by the US Navy (sadly not all documents survived the war).
Similar Soviet, German, Finnish and British documents are studied by Russian sources of and they constitute (being primary source) a more realistic source compared to earlier Soviet, German and western books wrote in ‘80s.





29 January 1940
Six Finnish biplane bombers Fokker C.X attacked Soviet ships anchored at Saunasaari.
Auxiliary gunboat Oranienbaum and patrol ships Razvedchik and Dozornyi defended with heavy anti-aircraft fire: one Fokker C.X (serial FK-111) shot down (pilots KIA), while a second Fokker C.X (serial FK-89) heavily damaged but belly-landed in airfield. Razvedchik suffered splinter hits, while the minesweeping boat n°32 sunk and n°34 damaged, two Soviet sailors killed.

Photo of Razvedchik in 1905. The two patrol vessels were sister-ships: both were former designed vessels for escorting the Czar’s yachts.


2 September 1941
Soviet sources claim MO-4 type submarine chasers seized a motorboat.
There is no confirmed Finnish data about losses of military boats nor fishing crafts, and there are scarce details over the Soviet report. It is possible they simply recovered a previously abandoned boat during the summer retreat.

16 October 1941
A German Ju-88 bomber (3./KGr806, serial number 1180) shot down likely by Soviet gunboat Konstruktor. Victory shared with anti-aircraft artillery and fighters. Crew captured.

Photo of Konstruktor in 1945. She was an old WWI-era warship originally classified as "torpedo cruiser" but de-facto a torpedo boat/small destroyer.

15 August 1942
Italian motor torpedo boats MAS-528 and MAS-527 attacked Soviet gunboats Nora and Selemdzha and submarine chasers MO-199, MO-202 and MO-209. Italians torpedoes missed the gunboat Selemdzha that was however lightly damaged (1 WIA) by gunfire from MAS-527 that took herself a direct hit from return fire with heavier damage. It was the only Italian attack on Ladoga with some little result: Italian sources still nowadays wrongly claim a “Bira-class” gunboat sunk despite all vessels are known and accounted-for.


Italians claimed to have sunk a "Bira class" gunboat during the attack, but the torpedo exploded on the seabed (causing the confusion). The first engagement on Lake Ladoga was actually a Soviet success.

25 August 1942
Soviet submarine chasers MO-206, MO-213 and MO-215 seized the Finnish small guard motorboat E-32 (2 POW, later provided intelligence).

28 August 1942
Italian motor torpedo boats MAS-528 and MAS-527 attacked the Soviet gunboat Sheksna without success. Italian sources wrongly claim the sinking of a barge.

Photo of gunboat Sheksna, real target of the attack, easily confused with a civilian ship because she was indeed the ex-Finnish armed icebreaker Aalokas took as trophy after the Winter War.

1 September 1942
Soviet submarine chasers MO-201, MO-213 and MO-215 engaged the Italian motor torpedo boat MAS-529. During a short artillery fight, suffered a direct hit with damage but successfully escaped at high-speed. Six (and later other two) Finnish G.50 aircrafts later strafed the three soviet submarine chasers, causing light damages (6 WIA).

MO-215 has been preserved. Currently the preserved boat-monument is in bad shape.

29 September 1942
Italian motor torpedo boats MAS-528 and MAS-529 attacked the Soviet gunboat Lachta without success (no damage on both sides).
This was the fifth and last encounter between Italians and Soviets in Ladoga Lake.

Photo of Lachta, showing her strong 100mm guns. Ex-civilian converted ship.

10 October 1942
The German flotilla of Siebel-class artillery ferries attempted to approach Suho Island but failed due bad weather.
The flotilla encountered the lonely Soviet submarine chaser MO-175, sinking her with gunfire (9 POW). The loss represent the only Soviet vessel sunk by enemy surface action in the Ladoga Lake.

22 October 1942
Battle of Suho Island
After the failed approach on 10 October, the German flotilla on the Lake accomplished a landing operation/raid against Suho Island.
Interestingly, Luftwaffe men operated the flotilla and the whole operation planned with the sole intention of motivate its existence before the incoming winter would freeze the Lake.
The flotilla included 7 infantry boats and 11 escort artillery ferries (heavy SF-11, SF-13, SF-15, SF-17, SF-21, SF-23, SF-25 and the light SF-12, SF-14, SF-22 and SF-26), the transport ferries (T-2, T-4 and T-6), a command-ferry and an hospital ferry and the Italian motor torpedo boat MAS-528, the landing party was formed by 70 soldiers.
The first immediate Soviet naval response was the reaction of small minesweeper T-100 (ex-Finnish tug seized after Winter War) alongside submarine chaser MO-171.
Landed German troops successfully destroyed 2 artillery pieces of 100mm, but failed to destroy the third one, while the lighthouse was damaged but not fully conquered.
Artillery ferry SF-22 suffered a direct hit from the survived coastal gun, and grounded: while attempting to rescue the grounded vessel SF-12, SF-13, SF-14 and SF-26 all grounded too because the Luftwaffe crewmembers did not possess proper hydro-geographic maps about the rocks.
Alerted, the Soviet Navy dispatched the gunboats Bira, Selemdzha and Nora with submarine chasers MO-198, MO-201, MO-205, MO-206, MO-214: by the time of their arrival, Germans recovered SF-14 but facing the stronger Soviet vessels and unable to save quickly the ferries, they scuttled heavy ferries SF-12, SF-13 and light ferry SF-26. Effectively, Germans lost these vessels due indirect Soviet action (their presence, with risk of seizures).
Interestingly, the Soviet Navy later recovered SF-26 (entered service as DB-51).
In clear disadvantage, the Germans retrieved the landed troops and escaped with SF-21 covering the retreat and opening fire against the survived artillery piece on the island.
The heavy artillery barge suddenly experienced leaks (unclear if by splinters or some failure) and the Germans abandoned her, partially scuttling the vessel.
While Bira and Selemdzha chased the main German flotilla, the sister-ship Nora encountered the abandoned SF-21 and sunk her with short-range 76mm shelling.
Photo of gunboat Nora
Soviet submarine chaser MO-214 seized the abandoned infantry boat I-6 (hull-number "J 6"): originally towed to SF-21, the Soviet vessel fond it floating and undamaged.
During the chase of German Flotilla, gunboats Bira and Selemdzha suffered light damage (2 WIA on Selemdzha) and MO-198 suffered 1 WIA: the Germans escaped having suffered minor splinters on multiple units (1 KIA, 14 WIA). Soviet motor torpedo boats TK-61 and TK-81 attempted a torpedo attack but failed, while it is unknown the activity of the Italian MAS-528.
During the ground fighting on the Island, the Germans lost 22 KIA (5 counted as MIA) and 43 WIA (two died of wounds), while the Soviet garrison lost 7 KIA, 23 WIA (two died of wounds) and 6 POW. Germans paid a high price for their raid: the relatively low-profile operation, proved costly in human and material losses. The Battle of Suho currently recognized as a rare decisive naval battle won by the Soviet Navy. The battle marked the end of the main Axis naval operations in Ladoga Lake.

Soviet celebrative painting, showing minesweeper T-100.

27 May 1943
German bomber He-111 (serial n°8542, 2./KG53, crew MIA) and German bomber He-111 (serial n°160423, 7./KG53, crew MIA) shot-down while attacking ships. During the raids, damages inflicted to harbor and buildings of Novaya Ladoga, while also MO-206 suffered damages. Some sources claim both were shot down by aircrafts but actually Soviet fighters failed to intercept the planes, and indeed gunboats Bira and Bureya (that recently received upgraded weapons including more effective 130mm and 37mm) made one claim each in addiction to claims by anti-aircraft ground fire.

Bira possessed a third main gun, compared to sister-ships of the same class, like Bureya.
Soviet cogitations: 309
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 01 Dec 2019, 12:08

4 September 1942
Finnish auxiliary gunboats Karhumäki, Ilmari and patrol boat VTV-1 engaged in combat with Soviet gunboat KL-12, later reinforced by gunboats KL-11, KL-15 and the smaller BK-22, BK-41, in two separate skirmishes. The largest and only real direct surface engagement between the opposite sides in Onega Lake resulted in no damage or casualties on both sides.

8 July 1943
Soviet gunboats KL-40, and smaller BK-12 and BK-21 attacked a Finnish tug towing a barge, but they forced to flee after Finnish artillery opened fire. Very light splinter damages inflicted on smaller gunboats.

14 September 1943
Soviet gunboat BK-12 covered motor torpedo boats TK-83 and TK-93 armed with rockets during a shelling against ground targets. Soviet sources claimed a small boat suffered direct hit and sunk, but denied by Finnish sources. Finnish batteries returned fire without scoring hits.
Soviet cogitations: 309
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 01 Dec 2019, 12:16

12 August 1941
Soviet small gunboat Embach, escorted by a couple of unidentified KM boats, clashed with German small boats (manned by Army) after having landed a scout group. There is no German account of the battle: one soviet KM boat suffered light damages (1 WIA) and claimed to have sunk a German boat (not confirmed).

With the German ground advance in 1941, the Soviet Flotilla scuttled all boats (many later recovered by Germans) and operations resumed only in 1944 with the establishment of a new force.

13 June 1944.
Soviet gunboats BK-213 and BK-322 attacked a group of 4 German minesweeping boats. During the fight, KM-19 damaged by direct hit with 3 WIA and forced to escape with other two units but KM-08 was left behind and suffered multiple direct hits until BK-213 performed a ramming attack and pushed the boat on rocks. Germans suffered 5 KIA, 4 POW (two died of wounds) and 2 survivors escaped capture hiding on shore. BK-213 suffered light damage due ramming attack (2 WIA).
German aircrafts later strafed the boat to prevent Soviets recovering her. Interestingly, it is the only known proper German Kriegsmarine rated military boat lost by direct combat action from a Soviet surface combatant (excluding motor torpedo boats, seizures or ships abandoned). BK-213 also known for a successful action against a small Finnish convoy in 1941.

This small victory was still locally important: great was the moral value being the Peipus Lake the same one that saw the historical Battle of the Ice that saw the Teutonic Order defeated by Alexander Nevsky.
It's also interesting that BK-213 was the same unit involved in 1941 in another successful ramming attack against a group of Finnish barges and motorboats. The second battle on Lake Peipus resulted also in the first German unit sunk by soviet gunfire in Baltic.

23 June 1944
German gunboats MAL-14 and MAL-16 engaged three Soviet BKA small gunboats. No damage reported on both sides.

14 – 15 July 1944
German gunboat MAL-21 and ship Baltenland engaged two Soviet BKA small gunboats and two minesweeping boats.
Germans wrongly claimed one sinking (no Soviet loss), and Soviets believed to have inflicted damages (none reported).
A second skirmish the following day, with MAL-14, MAL-20 and MAL-21 against four Soviet BKA again resulted in no damage.

17 August 1944
German gunboat MAL-20 reportedly engaged Soviet artillery and unidentified gunboats, running aground while also suffering from air attack with 2 KIA, 11 WIA.
Ship freed two days later and moved to Dorpat where scuttled to avoid seizure. Soviet sources make no confirmation of engagement, on that day the Flotilla engaged in landing operations suffering losses because of Luftwaffe air attack but securing a bridgehead.
Interestingly, the Soviet air force preemptively sunk or damaged a number of MAL and other German crafts on the days before the landing operations.

26 August 1944
German gunboats MAL-14 and MAL-24 with support from ground artillery engaged five unidentified Soviet gunboats at the mouth of Embach River.
Germans claims hits on enemy without own damage, but there is no direct Soviet report of this skirmish (likely without result as the previous ones).

16 – 19 September 1944
German gunboat MAL-14 and MAL-21 engaged Soviet gunboats for the last time in Peipus Lake. Claim of one sinking and one damaging does not match real losses.
The next day again they claimed to have fought a group of Soviet gunboats and finally scuttled on 19 September after having expended all ammunition.
Soviets reported only a shelling operation by five BKA small gunboats on ground targets (on 18 September) and possibly the MAL engaged the group at distance.

German operations of MAL gunboats brought no result, while Soviet air operations in the lake eliminated the whole force. Soviet boats focused primarily on landing troops and suffered own losses against Luftwaffe.
Soviet cogitations: 309
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 01 Dec 2019, 12:24
No major fighting occurred on the Lake, because in 1942 Germans organized a local Flotilla but Soviets restrained from actions (the situation completely reverted in 1943). Details of Ilmen Lake operations are scarce but Soviet boats operated aggressively in 1943 with uncommon and successful harassing raids!

17 September 1943
Soviet motor cutter n°3 (BMK-70 type) seized a fishing schooner (3 POW including a woman).

This cutter was likely the smallest Soviet Navy vessel to achieve a success against an enemy target.

30 September 1943
Soviet patrol boats Ya-6 and Ya-7 (both of Ya-5 type) seized two fishing schooners (4 POW).

Ya-29 of the same class (but with rockets-launcher)

2 October 1943
Soviet patrol boats Ya-6, Ya-7 and Ya-8 (all of Ya-5 type) seized two fishing schooners (4 POW).
Germans pressed local collaborationists to fish for their Army. This incident and the two previous cases on the lake represent a rare case of local repetitive successful raids achieved by Soviet surface units (excluding motor torpedo boats). Captured fishing schooners retained by the Soviet Navy and re-armed as auxiliary patrols. Similar successes were rare for the main fleets, resulting only in occasional victories during surface engagements.

8 October 1943
By this date, the Soviet flotilla declare destruction of the enemy forces on the lake: the final toll of claims (excluding the confirmed seizures) include 10 armed boats (likely police-boats), 16 armed schooners (likely with few weapons) and 10 schooners (cargo or fishing boats). This large amount of claims cannot be confirmed, but appears likely that at least part of it was realistic.
Soviet cogitations: 309
Defected to the U.S.S.R.: 20 Feb 2010, 11:57
Resident Admiral
Post 01 Dec 2019, 12:25
NEW PAGE ADDED - LAKE warfare in WW2
1) Added re-worked content, removed from other pages.
2) Inserted anti-aircraft successes.
3) More details about the Battle of Suho Island and Ilmen Lake operations
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