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ANTONY PRESTON, JOHN BATCHELOR
The Russian Navy, or the Red Fleet as it became after the Revolution, took some years to recuperate from the aftermath of the Civil War and the anti-Bolshevik intervention by Great Britain and the rest of the erstwhile allies of the First World War. Many of the submarines which survived the vicissitudes of 1917-19 were unserviceable, and unfortunately the majority of the new construction had been scuttled. Only ten boats remained in the Baltic by 1922, one in the Arctic and five in the Black Sea. It was to be another nine years before the first new submarines joined the Fleet, which explains why the British submarine L55 was salvaged and incorporated into the Red Fleet; she had been sunk in 1919 during the Intervention, but was raised in 1928 and recommissioned in 1931.
The first of the new programme was the Dekabrist or "D" Class of six units, which came into service in 1931/32. Based on an Italian design, they displaced 989 tons on the surface, and were armed with a 4-in deck gun, a smaller 45-mm gun and eight 21-in torpedo tubes. The Leninets or "L" Class which followed were of similar size and characteristics, but based on L55, and took longer to build; it took from 1933 to 1942 to commission 24 units, and one was never completed. At the same time a smaller type was designed, known as the Shchuka (Pike) or "Shch" Class; 90 were commissioned in 1933-42, and three were scrapped ink complete. They displaced 580 tons on the surface, and had six 21-in torpedo-tubes and a 45-mm deck gun. A further intermediate type, the Stalinets Class (33 units) and a general patrol type known as the Pravda Class (3 units) came into service from 1936 onwards.
Polish Orzel. Two ocean-going submarines were ordered in 1936 from Dutch shipyards. As the Polish Sep and Orzel they were still brand new when war broke out in September 1939. Like the Wilk, the Orzel fled to England, but the Sep was interned in Sweden. They were similar to the Dutch O19 Class, but had an enclosed mounting for the deck guns
The Pravdas did not prove very successful, but the Stalinets Class were very satisfactory in service, because they were able, by a roundabout route, to make use of German expertise. This came about because the Russian dictator, Marshal Stalin, was anxious to help Germany to evade the restrictions of the Versailles Treaty, which prevented Germany from building U-Boats. German design firms were set up outside Germany, in Spain, Holland and Russia to keep the nucleus of a design team together, and although the orders which resulted went to shipbuilders in the countries concerned, the know-how was German. As a price for their help the Russians obtained plans of the Type LA which was built in Spain for Turkey as the Gör, and this design became the basis of the Stalinets or "S" Class.
Norwegian B1. After ordering four boats from Germany before the First World War, Norway built six more to the American Electric Boat Company's designs in 1920-1930. B1 was scuttled to avoid capture when the Germans overran Norway in 1940, but she was later raised and towed to England. Displacement: 420 tons (surfaced) 545 tons (submerged). Length: 17 ft 6 in. Armament: Four 18-in torpedo tubes (2 bow, 2 stem); 6 torpedoes carried; one 76-mm gun. Speed: 15 knots (surfaced) 8·9 knots (submerged)
All these submarines were generally similar in dimensions to the submarines being built outside the USSR, but there were two more types which represented the upper and lower extremes. The "Malyutka" (small) Class displaced only 161 tons in surface trim, and had two 21-in torpedo-tubes; they bore some resemblance to the little "tin tadpoles" of the German UBI Class in 1915. Between 1933 and 1937 over 50 were added to the Russian strength, and two improved types were commissioned between 1938 and 1944. The "M" types were built in sections, the original Malyutka VI and VIbis series having four sections, the Malyutka XII series six sections, and the final Malyutka XV series seven sections, all small enough to allow shipment by rail and canal for assembly wherever needed.
The other Russian submarine type was the "Kreiser" or "Katyusha" type, a big cruiser submarine of 1,390 tons on the surface, armed with two 3·9-in (100-mm) guns, two 45-mm and ten 21-in torpedo-tubes.