Battle of the icebreaker “Alexander Siberians” with the cruiser “Admiral Scheer” on 25 August 1942. P. p. Peacock, 1945. © /
In the ancient tales and Hollywood blockbusters the hero defies the numerous enemies in and out of the battle victorious. In life sometimes it is otherwise — being face to face with the enemy having numerical superiority, you are faced with a difficult choice. That is correct, it is wiser to take a hopeless battle or surrender at discretion? To answer in the comfort of home is easier than standing in front of a real enemy.
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About the great Patriotic war we know a lot and do not know almost nothing. About how they fought with the enemy in the North, is written much smaller than on the battles for Moscow and Stalingrad. But these battles for the outcome of the war meant a lot.
Across the North sea was the path of the allied convoys carrying aid to the Soviet Union. Ships went to the ports of Murmansk and Arkhangelsk, and the road was full of dangers. Adolf Hitler gave orders to his admirals to end the allied convoys, cutting the thin thread linking the USSR with the coalition partners.
In the summer of 1942 Hitler’s Navy launched the operation “Wunderland” (“Wonderland”). Its aim was to prevent the passage of allied convoys in the Barents sea from the East, the Northern sea route.
In the Kara sea to intercept the convoys were sent to the heavy cruiser “Admiral Scheer”. The armament of the cruiser was six 280 mm guns of the main caliber, eight 150 mm guns of medium caliber and anti-aircraft guns: six 105 mm and eight 47 mm calibers, as well as ten paired heavy anti-aircraft guns. In addition, the “Admiral Scheer” was equipped with two four torpedo tubes caliber 533 mm.
Plan for the operation, the heavy cruiser was supposed to appear in the Kara sea secretly without revealing nationality, and found the court of the caravans by surprise.
The Cruiser “Admiral Scheer” Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org
Icebreaker “Sibiryakov”: a hard worker who is called up for the war
The Soviet Navy is a major force in the Kara sea do not possess. Under the gun had put even a normal civilian court.
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So was the icebreaking steamer “Alexander Sibiryakov”. Built in 1908 at the shipyard in Glasgow in the early years of his career he was named “Bellaventure” and was used to harvest seals.
In 1915, the “Bellaventure” was purchased by the Ministry of trade and industry of the Russian Empire for a winter flight in the White sea. The new name of the ship given in honor of the Explorer of Siberia Alexander Sibiryakov.
After the revolution, the ship continued to engage in peaceful activities to supply the cargo of the Northern villages. In 1932 on the “Sibiryakov” were the first in the history of a through navigation along the Northern sea route from the White sea to the Bering in a single navigation.
In 1941, the icebreaker supply vessel became a soldier, joining the icebreaking detachment of the white sea flotilla under the name of LD-6 (“Ice 6”). “Sibiryakov” has installed two 76-mm guns, two 45-mm guns and two 20 mm anti-aircraft gun “Oerlikon”.
In the military status of the icebreaker continued to deliver the goods in the Northern towns and at the weather station.
Postage stamp of the Soviet Union. The icebreaking steamer “Alexander Sibiryakov” Photo: Commons.wikimedia.org
Meeting at the island and the whales
August 24, 1942, “Alexander Sibiryakov” left the port of Dikson, in a flight to the Northern lands. On Board were 104 persons and 349 tons of cargo. The purpose of the flight was the replacement of personnel, supply of polar stations on the North Land and the organization of the new station at Cape Molotov.
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About the possibility of meeting with major German ship it was not information that it may receive in the way of “Sibiryakov” was not.
At this time, “Admiral Scheer” in the Kara sea. Get close to the convoy, heavy cruiser was not able to go the distance artillery fire due to the heavy ice. Maneuvering, the captain, William Meentzen-Balken tried to find a passage to the convoy ships.
Without information on ice conditions in the Vilkitsky Strait and routes for the safe movement it was impossible. “Admiral Scheer” was a spy plane, but it crashed during landing. Captain Mardsen-Balken thought it necessary to capture any Soviet ship, having received information from him.
At 13:17 on 25 August 1942 near the island of Belukha signalman “Alexander Sibiryakov” noticed the smoke of the unknown vessel. A strange ship raised the flag of the United States, and gave the name “Tuscaloosa”, which, however, was “decoded” as the Japanese “Sisema”.
“Ally” had requested information on ice conditions in the Vilkitsky Strait. From the captain of the “Sibiryakov” Alexander Kacharava had serious doubts — and an American ship in front of him? The ship alarm was declared, and in the Main administration of the Northern sea route left the telegram: “I Met the foreign cruiser. Watch us.” The return telegram read: neither American nor Japanese vessels in the waters of the Kara sea.
“Admiral Scheer” on the way to Norway. February 1942. The picture was taken on Board the cruiser “Prinz Eugen” Photos: Commons.wikimedia.org
The Germans, to listen to the broadcast, I realized that opened. On the “Admiral Scheer” raised the flag of the Navy of the Third Reich and turned on the equipment to radio interference. German signalman gave the command: “shut down the radio, to lower the flag and surrender”. Sounded a warning shot.
Old hard worker-ship with four guns was one on one with a modern and heavily armed Nazi cruiser.
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Lieutenant Kacharava was faced with a choice: to take the fight without the slightest chance of success, or to give up saving people’s lives.
The Germans were convinced that the “Siberians” surrender. And at this point, the shots of cannons of the Soviet icebreaker has covered the deck of the “Admiral Scheer”, damaging its anti-aircraft guns.
The Nazis were furious. “Sibiryakova” fire was opened from the guns of the main caliber.
Fire “Admiral Scheer” was divided into two aft guns, killed the gunners. Were demolished the mast and damaged the radio. Another shell hit the bow deck, where exploded barrels of gasoline, which burned many sailors. The expense of the victims were already in the tens, the icebreaker was on fire, but the surviving guns continued to meet the Germans.
New getting knocked out of the steam boiler “Sibiryakov”. The icebreaker is completely lost in the course and gave the trim on the nose.
The captain of the “Sibiryakov” was seriously wounded. He managed to transmit the order to the senior mechanic, Bourko: “open the seacocks. Get these people. Come on out for myself.”
Command of the vessel took the Commissioner Elimelech. On his orders radioman Arshavin broadcast a radio message: “he himself was then called, ordered to leave the ship. Burning, goodbye. 14 h 05 min.”
The Commissioner and chief engineer, opened the seacocks, died with the ship. On a sinking “Sibiryakov” continued to fight the last gun, while his calculation was not destroyed by the Germans.
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Rescue fireman Vavilov
On floated the boat was slightly more than 20 survivors of seamen. The boat was sent to a German e-boat — the Germans hoped to obtain secret documents and ciphers. At the sight of the Germans a few people jumped from boats into the water, preferring to die than to be captured. One of the sailors rushed to the Nazis and was shot. 18 sailors were Captured, among whom was a wounded captain Kacharava.
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Fireman Paul Vavilov, kept on the surface thanks to the wooden remains of dead ship sailing nearby saw the boat when it was already empty — the Germans were taken prisoners. Having managed the last effort to climb it, Vavilov sailed to the island of Beluga.
There, hiding from polar bears at the top of the tower located on the island of the lighthouse, Vavilov spent 34 days. Fed tainted cookies found in the boat, cooked the brew.
Losing hope for help, Vavilov was ready on a homemade raft out to sea, but his desperate signals noticed from one of the steamers. A few days later escaped sailor was taken to the mainland seaplane.
A short but desperate battle, “Alexander Sibiryakov” had consequences — “Admiral Scheer” failed to maintain its presence in the Kara sea in secret. Without receiving information about the state of the ice, the cruiser was not able to reach the paths of caravans. Subjecting the bombing Dixon, “Admiral Scheer” went to Norway, not complying with the main objectives of the campaign. In April 1945, the cruiser, and not in conflict with the Northern route of the allies to be bombed in the dock of the Keel.
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The Germans acknowledged that the crew of “Alexander Sibiryakov”, took the fight, acted courageously. Captured members of the crew of the ship was in a concentration camp. 13 of them survived and returned Home after the war.
In the Soviet Union with the respect to decide for a long time could not. Returned sailors checked by the competent authorities, and they continued to work in the Navy.
Only in April 1961 decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the members of the crew dead and the living, “for courage and tenacity in battle with the Nazi cruiser “Admiral Scheer” during the great Patriotic war” was awarded the state awards. The captain of the steamer Alexander Kacharava was awarded the order of red banner.
Long before official recognition of the place of death of the steamship “Alexander Sibiryakov” sailors of the Soviet ships were designated the mourning horns.
28 April 1965, by order of the commander of the Northern fleet the coordinates of the place of the battle and the death of icebreaking steamer “Alexander Sibiryakov” was declared a place of fighting glory in memory of the ship, who died without lowering of the flag.