Soviet cruiser Kirov protected by smoke during
evacuation of Tallinn in August 1941.
Bombs start to fall near ships moored in Tallinn for
Admiral Vladimir F. Tributs.
Soviet Convoy Tallinn to Kronstadt: Night of 27/28 August 1941
The major Soviet warship and transport losses came in August
in one of the least known, although the worst, convoy actions of the entire
war. The Soviets sought to relocate smaller warships from Tallinn to Kronstadt
and to evacuate as many personnel by ship as they could before the Panzers arrived
in the Estonian capital. In the German attack on the hastily formed Soviet
convoy the Soviet Navy lost 18 small warships and 42 merchantmen and
troopships, most to a night encounter with a dense minefield. The following
day, as all major warships fled the convoy, Luftwaffe dive bombers struck
floundering and exposed troopships and transports. Only two survived. Total
loss of life was at least 12,000.
The evacuation of Soviet troops from the Estonian capital
Tallinn is probably the largest destruction caused by sea mines in a single
operation. Soviet minesweeper force was too weak and managed to clear only a
narrow channel through the “Juminda” barrage. In the zone between
Point Juminda and Kalbådagrund were 3 000 mines. To prevent minesweepers from sweeping
channels in this barrage there was also a 150 mm battery on Point Juminda.
Light forces threatened the evacuation convoys from the north. The Germans had
also total air supremacy. The Baltic Red Fleet had earlier during the Summer
used a route close to Estonian coast, but now it was forced to the middle of
Gulf of Finland. Navy ships and transport vessels were to travel through a
single narrow 150-mile channel.
Three large convoys carried most of the troops. A fourth
convoy was made of smaller vessels. Many smaller vessels sailed alone. The
total number of naval ships and small vessels was 153 and the number of
transports and other vessels was 75. The ships and vessels were to be ready for
departure on the roads off Tallinn between the net barrage and boom defence by
22.00 hours on 27 August. A force seven north-east wind delayed the beginning
of the operation for more than 12 hours. The submarine chasers, launches,
minesweepers and other small vessels could not sail in such weather. As a result,
the evacuation fleet had to make its way through the mine barrages in darkness.
The Baltic Red Fleets ships formed three task forces; the main force, covering
force and rear guard. The main force was to protect the first and second
transport convoys in the most dangerous section of the route, from Point
Juminda to Suursaari island. The covering force was to protect second and third
convoys between the islands of Keri and Vaindlo. The rear guard was to protect
the third and fourth convoys from the rear. The small submarines M 98 and M 102
were sent to patrol areas south from Helsinki.
The first convoy had been planned to depart on 27 August at
22.00 hours. A convoy plan in shows three pairs of minesweepers in front,
followed by a minesweeper and the merchantmen in a single line, three
submarines followed the merchantmen and the two destroyers were the last ones.
The flanks were covered by coastal patrol ships, MO-type patrol boats and a
71, Krab First
72, Dzherzhinski First
57, Viesturs (former Latvian) Second
pair, also T 298
91, Lyapidevskiy Second
52, Buyok Third
56, Barometr Third pair
Mobile base Leningradsoviet
Headquarters ship Vironia,
former Estonian merchantman 2026 brt
(former Latvian merchantman Kalpaks) 2190
(former Estonian merchantman Järvamaa) 1363
Voldemars 1932 brt
Floating workshop Serp-i-molot
(former Estonian merchantman Alev) 1446
(former Estonian merchantman Ella) 1523
(former Latvian merchantman Atis Kronvaldis) 1423
Coastal patrol ship Bayan Left flank, minesweeper
without sweeping gear
Patrol boat MO-507 Left flank
Coastal patrol ship Ametist
(former Estonian Sulev) Left
Tug OLS-7 Right flank
Patrol boat MO-208 Right flank
Coastal patrol ship Kasatka Right flank
The submarine Щ 301, motor mine sweepers KTЩ-1201, KTЩ-1206,
KTЩ-1208, KTЩ-1209, KTЩ-1210 and KTЩ-1211, transport VT-505 (Ivan Papanin),
salvage vessel Neptun, schooner Urme (in tow) were also included in the first
convoy, total 36 vessels. One reference list only 32 vessels, he has not listed
Щ 301, Ivan Papanin and Urme. Instead of Neptun he lists salvage vessel Saturn.
One reference differs in the list of motor mine sweepers, KTЩ-1201, -1203,
-1204, -1205, -1206 and list of patrol boats, MO-204, MO-207.
The plan of the second convoy in shows three pairs of
minesweepers in front, followed by Azimuth, Moskva and merchantmen in a single
line and the Tshapaev as last one. The flanks were covered by MO-type patrol
boats and motor mine sweepers.
43 LVP-12 First
44 Izhorets-38 First
42 Second pair
47 Izhorets-69 Second
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1510 Third pair
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1511 Third pair
(former Estonian merchantman Naissaar) 1892
Motor schooner Atta
(Ivan Papanin) 3374 brt
(former Latvian merchantman Ergonautis)
(former Lithuanian merchantman Shauliai)
Coastal patrol ship Tshapaev
Patrol boat MO-214 Left flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1512 Left flank
Patrol boat MO-200 Right flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1514 Right flank
The transport VT-543 (Vtoraya Pyatiletka), tug KP-12 towing
TK-121 and tug Tasuja towing sweeper No. 86 (Izhorets-33), patrol ship Shors,
sweepers No. 84 (Izhorets-28), No. 88 (Izhorets-31) and No. 121 (Izhorets-71),
motor mine sweepers KTЩ-1203, KTЩ-1204, KTЩ-1205 and KTЩ-1509 were also
included in the second convoy. Transport VT-505 (Ivan Papanin) is included in
the convoy plan but it is listed in the first convoy. Minesweeper No. 42 is
included in the convoy plan, but it is not listed. The second convoy had
according to and 34 vessels, but one reference lists only 21. Two references
lists agree with the larger vessels, but some smaller vessels are not listed.
The plan of the third convoy was two pairs of minesweepers
in front, followed by Amgun, the merchantmen in a single line and Kolyvan as
last one. The flanks were covered by MO-type patrol boats and motor mine
58, Osetr First
33, Olonka First
35, Shuya Second
83 Second pair
(Tobol) 2758 brt
(former Estonian merchantman Lake Lucerne) 2317
(former Estonian merchantman Ausma) 1791
(former Estonian merchantman Kumari) 237
(Vtoraya Pyatiletka) 3974 brt
Salvage vessel Kolyvan
Patrol boat MO-501 Left flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1104 Left flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1109 Left flank
Patrol boat MO-502 Right flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1101 Right flank
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1106 Right flank
The third convoy included also minesweeper Jastreb. The
transport VT-543 (Vtoraya Pyatiletka) in the convoy plan is listed in the ships
of the second convoy. According to, and the third convoy had 21 vessels,
inluding the Vtoraya Pyatiletka. Minesweeper Jastreb is not in one reference’s
list, but there is sailing ship Hiiusaar.
The fourth convoy was made of 11 smaller vessels. It had.
Coastal patrol ship Ost
Coastal patrol ship Razhvedtshik
Gunboat I-8 armed
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1503
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1504
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1505
Motor minesweeper KTЩ-1506
Salvage vessel Saturn
Barge TT-1 Torpedo transport
One reference adds to this list a large number of vessels:
Submarine Щ 301, mine sweepers Izhorets-12, Izhorets-17 and TЩ-86, motor mine
sweepers Jastreb, Vaindlo, Voronin, KTЩ-1208, -1209, -1210, -1211, motor
torpedo boat TKA-121, survey ships Sekstant and Vostok, tugs Esro, Kaja,
Paldiski, Venta, Vilma, KP-6, KP-17 and S-101, sailing ship Atta, VR-6, coastal
ships Vaindlo and Vormsi, transport Everita and ice breaker Tasuja. There were
The main Soviet battlefleet under the command of
Vice-Admiral V. Tributs, departed Tallinn harbor at 14.52 hours. The cruiser
Kirov was Tributs’ flagship.
Flotilla leader Leningrad
Tõll (former Estonian) 2417
Mine sweeper T-204
Mine sweeper T-205
Mine sweeper T-206
Mine sweeper T-207
Mine sweeper T-217
The small vessels in the main force were motor torpedo boats
No. 37, 73, 74, 84, 103, 113 and 114, MO-class patrol boats No. 112, 131, 133,
142, 202 and 204. The submarine Щ 405 may have been in the main force.
The covering force sailed under command of rear admiral
Flotilla leader Minsk
Mine sweeper T-203
Mine sweeper T-210
Mine sweeper T-211
Mine sweeper T-215
Mine sweeper T-218
The small vessels in the covering force were motor torpedo
boats No. 33, 53, 91, and 101, MO-class patrol boats No. 207, 212, 213 and 510.
The submarines M 98 and M 102 were in the covering force, but they were sent to
patrol south from Helsinki.
The rear group was made of old destroyers and small patrol
ships. The rear group was under command of rear admiral Rall.
Coastal patrol ship Burja
Coastal patrol ship Sneg
Coastal patrol ship Tsiklon
The small vessels in the rear group were motor torpedo boats
No. 51 and 61, MO-class patrol boats No. 5, 195, 197, 204, 210, 211 and 232.
The first transport convoy sailed between islands Naissaar
and Aegna at 12.15. A mine exploded in the sweeping gear of the first sweeper
pair at 13.09 hours, four miles NW Aegna island. The second convoy passed
Naissaar and Aegna at 15 hours and the third convoy 20 minutes later. The
fourth convoy sailed at 14:15. The main force of Baltic Red Fleet weighed
anchor and departed Tallinn harbor at 14.52 hours. It took the lead with the
cruiser Kirov as flagship.
The Navy ships and convoys formed a line 15 miles long. The
first convoy passed Keri island at 16 hours and was off Juminda peninsula at 1800
hours. Soon thereafter the ships sailed directly to the mines. The steamer Ella
was first to sink. Then began German air attacks, artillery fire from Finnish
coastal batteries and later in the evening torpedo attacks by German
Schnellboots and Finnish patrol boats. All this caused confusion, the train of
ships stretched and sailing through the 200 m wide swept channel became
impossible. The sweeping equipment of many sweeper were damaged by explosions
and drifting mines cut loose from moorings were great danger. The sunset was at
20.40 hours and at 22 hours the visibility was only a cable length. Warships
were not giving much protection to merchant ships, as they were fully occupied
with drifting mines.
On the evening of 28. August following ships were lost:
At 18.05 VT-530
(Ella) from the first convoy hit a mine and sank.
At 18.20 tug LP-5
(S-101) from the fourth convoy that tried to rescue people from Ella hit a mine
icebreaker Kristjanis Voldemars from the first convoy was sunk by bombs.
At 19.40 the
minesweeper Nr. 71 (Krab) sailing in the first sweeper pair of the first convoy
hit a mine and sank.
At 20.11 submarine
S 5 hit a mine and sank in 40 seconds.
At 20.20 rescue
vessel Saturn towing Vironia hit a mine and sank.
At 21.45 Vironia
hit a mine and sank. Vironia from the first convoy was damaged by air attack
18.30 and taken to tow by Saturn from the fourth convoy.
At 20.30 gunboat
I-8 hit a mine and sank.
At 20.48 submarine
Щ 301 hit a mine and sank.
At 20.50 destroyer
Jakov Sverdlov hit a mine and sank after 5-6 minutes.
At 21.57 transport
Everita from the second convoy hit a mine and sank. The ship had drifted
slightly too much south from the sweeped lane.
At 22.05 the
minesweeper Nr. 56 (Barometr) sailing in the third sweeper pair of the first
convoy hit a mine and sank.
At 22.15 coastal
patrol ship Tsiklon from the rear group hit a mine and sank.
At 22.30 destroyer
Skoryj from the covering force hit a mine and sank while towing the damaged
flotilla leader Minsk.
At 22.45 destroyer
Kalinin from the rear group hit a mine and sank.
At 23.00 destroyer
Volodarskiy from the rear group hit a mine and sank.
At 23.05 destroyer
Artyom from the rear group hit a mine and sank.
At 23.00 VT-518
(Luga) from the third convoy hit a mine. As no towing was possible, the master
decided to scuttle the ship.
Barge TT-1 hit a
mine and sank.
The armed tug
OLS-7 disappeared during the night.
Other ships lost on 28.8. are:
hit a mine and sank at 21.00 near Suursaari, or was mined and sank 29.8. at 17
hours west from Suursaari.
Schooner Atta was
torpedoed by Finnish VMV-17.
Before midnight the four convoys had to anchor in the middle
of the barrage. The main force had sailed through the mine barrage and anchored
north from Vaindlo. Flotilla leaders, four destroyers and few transports from
I, II and IV convoys were north of Mohni lighthouse and the bulk of transports
from the II and III convoys north from Juminda. On the morning of 29. August
the ships continued their way. Bombers attacked again and sank several
transport ships. Without air cover and anti-aircraft guns and their possibility
to manoeuvre limited by mines, they were easy targets. During that day
following ships were lost:
At 05.30 tug I-18
was captured by Finnish patrol boats.
At 05.30 tug
Paldiski was captured by Finnish patrol boats.
At 06.51 a vessel
sank in mine explosion, it might have been the salvage vessel of the third
At 07.43 coastal
patrol ship Sneg hit a mine and sank 30 minutes later.
At 08.39 a ship
was sunk by mine.
At 08.41 another
ship was sunk by mine. These two ships may have been transports Naissaar and
Ergonautis from the second convoy.
At 09.06 VT-501
(Balkhash) from the third convoy hit a mine and sank.
At 12.30 VT-512
(Tobol) was sunk by bombs.
At 13.00 VT-546
(Ausma) was sunk by bombs.
At 15.00 VT-524
(Kalpaks) was sunk by bombs.
at 15.07 VT-520
(Evald) was sunk by bombs.
At 17.40 VT-563
(Atis Kronvaldis) was sunk by bombs.
At 18.10 tanker No
12 was sunk by bombs 5 miles east of Suursaari.
was hit 5 miles NW Vaindlo and the ship was scuttled 30.08.
VT-511 (Alev) was
damaged by bombs and sank few miles west from Lavansaari.
Pyatiletka) was sunk by bombs.
A number of ships were beached at Suursaari during 29.8.:
workshop Serp-i-molot was damaged by bombs and beached on southern end.
Papanin) was hit by bombs and the ship was run aground on west coast of
Lucerne) run aground on south end of Suursaari after bomb damage.
was hit by bomb and towed to Suurkylä harbour on Suursaari.
The main naval forces arrived to Kronstadt in the afternoon
of 29.8. The only transport that survived was Kazakhstan. The ship was damaged
by bomb 29.8. at 07:15 near Vaindlo and it arrived to Kronstadt 2.9.
Zubkov summarizes the losses during Tallinn evacuation as:
22 navy vessels,
these were 5 destroyers, 3 coast guard ships, 2 minesweepers, 2 submarines, one
gunboat, one motor torpedo boat and 8 patrol boats.
43 other vessels,
including 19 transports, one tanker, one ice breaker, a floating workshop, 7
tugs and two rescue vessels.
by Jari Aromaa.