The Mississippi Squadron II

Bombardment and Capture of Island Number Ten on the Mississippi River, April 7, 1862

Colored lithograph published by Currier & Ives, New York, circa 1862.

It depicts the bombardment of the Confederate fortifications on Island Number Ten by Federal gunboats and mortar boats. Ships seen include (from left to right): Mound City, Louisville, USS Pittsburg, Carondelet, Flagship Benton, Cincinnati, Saint Louis and Conestoga (timberclad). Mortar boats are firing from along the river bank.

Captain A. M. Pennock, commandant of the naval station, and Walke of the Carondelet welcomed the new Mississippi Squadron commander. Although no records survive of their first meeting, Porter reportedly found Walke “an active, impatient man” with ideas similar to his own. The squadron needed attention. The army had signed up many recruits at ratings and pay levels higher than they deserved, causing old hands to grumble. Porter would have to ease some of those men out and discharge hundreds who had come down with river fevers. The squadron’s leaky, makeshift vessels were overdue for repairs, and poor conditions aboard had undoubtedly contributed to the number of ill sailors. Clearly, commanding the Mississippi Squadron would be no easy task.

In his cabin on the Benton, Porter assessed the squadron’s resources for fighting the war on western waters and found them wanting. He told the Navy Department he needed more of everything—gunboats, auxiliary craft, artillery, officers, crewmen, and, most of all, river craft suited for narrow, shallow rivers. Porter would retain the city-class ironclads, but to escort convoys and support the infantry, his squadron needed more versatile vessels. To meet Porter’s demands, the navy built dozens of what became known as tinclads, as well as two stern-wheeled monitors, the Neosho and Osage. The navy would also commission three ironclads, the Tuscumbia, Indianola, and Chillicothe, all launched in 1862, and convert the captured Eastport to carry 6.5-inch armor and eight guns. For his flagship, however, Porter chose the 260-foot tinclad Black Hawk, a former luxury cruise boat converted to carry thirteen guns. Never one to pass up an opportunity for amenities, Porter kept the rich wood paneling and chandeliers in the Black Hawk’s officers’ quarters and installed stalls for horses.

Just prior to the change of command, and for weeks afterward, Phelps carried on the squadron’s active operations at Helena. Without Kilty, Stembel, and Paulding, he had only Walke, Winslow, Dove, Bryant, and Thompson as captains. Phelps thought Winslow and Dove inefficient commanders but considered Walke a “fighting captain.” Fortuitously for Phelps, Winslow asked for a transfer, and Phelps managed to replace Dove with Richard W. Meade as captain of the Louisville. Bryant had fallen ill, so the Cairo also received a new captain, twenty-six-year-old Lieutenant Commander Thomas O. Selfridge Jr. “Received on board Commander Selfridge as our captain,” George Yost wrote on September 12, 1862. “Capt. Bryant being in ill health he was sent home.”

The state of the flotilla’s gunboats appalled Phelps. The Cincinnati had sprung countless leaks, and its engines needed repair. The Carondelet had gone to the yard in Cairo after the engagement with the Arkansas. A survey had found the Louisville in a “disgraceful and dirty condition” and its executive officer, two masters, and surgeons incompetent. The situation in Ellet’s ram fleet was even worse. Disputes were rife, and the rams’ men had taken to plundering, stealing, and luring blacks from plantations. Fortunately, Lincoln realized the ram fleet needed to be under the Navy Department’s command. Consequently, on November 8, 1862, Alfred Ellet was promoted to brigadier general, and his rams were renamed the Mississippi Marine Brigade.

On October 19, with its engines repaired, the Carondelet headed downriver to Helena. It passed Island No. 10 on October 21 and then took on coal at Memphis. Bright and early on October 23, the Carondelet took a pilot on board and, Morison noted, “dropped down amongst the fleet. Came to anchor abreast the city. Here we found Benton, Bragg, Mound City, Louisville, and Cairo.” All the gunboat captains, including Selfridge, the Cairo’s new commanding officer, came on board and visited with Walke. According to Yost, Selfridge had clearly set out to make the Cairo a proper man-of-war with a regular routine. “We drilled considerable to day and I think that our Captain intends to try to soon have the best drilled crew in the fleet,” he wrote in his diary on October 13. “The boat looks much cleaner and nicer now than it ever did before.”

Meanwhile, the Cincinnati had completed repairs at Cairo and had received some new recruits, among them Daniel F. Kemp. On September 16, 1862, Kemp had enlisted in the navy for one year. Rated a landsman, he went by rail to Cairo, Illinois, to the receiving ship Clara Dolsen. Most of the recruits, Kemp recalled, were made guards, as the ship had no marines “to keep the crew in order.” Then, he wrote, “a gunboat came up the river one day. . . . This was the gunboat Cincinnati. We were taken on board the Cincinnati on November 6, 1862.” The new recruits’ first assignment was to take on coal. Kemp observed, “This was a hard, unpleasant job as none of us boys had been used to hard work. However, we were in Uncle Sam’s Navy now, and had to do whatever we were told to do whether we liked it or not. We were getting ready to go down to Vicksburg, and the firemen had to have coal.” Kemp vividly recalled their trip downstream: “We left Cairo one Sunday and started down the Mississippi for our destination, but the river was very low and our progress was very slow, for we had to take soundings quite often so as not to run aground.” The gunboat anchored a short distance from Island No. 10 for several days, due to low water and heavy fog. Then, as the gunboat steamed down the Mississippi, Kemp explained that they “took on board a lot of contrabands, and they were a jolly lot of darkies right from the plantation. They would get together at night and give us a gay old time, a regular plantation jig. The names of their leaders were Alex, Charley, and Black Hawk. Alex would do the patting, and Charley and Black Hawk would do the dancing and the usual shouting and yah yahing.” The Cincinnati continued past Columbus, Hickman, Fort Pillow, Memphis, and Napoleon before arriving at Helena. “We finally reached the fleet, and found anchored there, the Signal, Marmora (Mosquito), Mound City, Carondelet, and Pittsburgh. Also a packet boat and the Lexington, a wooden gunboat.”

The Carondelet had spent the first part of November at Helena, tasked to convoy any vessels running between Memphis and Helena, provided there was sufficient depth of water. Navigating the Mississippi River still proved a challenge, for there was barely enough water for his ironclad boats to move up or down the river, Walke reported to Porter on November 8. He requested any light-draft, armed steamers that were available. He had sent a number of sick sailors to Cairo but cautioned the admiral, “There is still quite a number of officers and men who are very much debilitated by the fever and ague this fall, and I am afraid they will not be fit for duty this winter.”

By the fall of 1862, officials in Washington had grown weary with the lack of progress in the West. Generals Buell and McClellan had been pursuing a style of warfare that reflected their limited war aims. The halting Union advances had prolonged the fighting, and now the president resolved to prosecute the war more aggressively. “The army, like the nation, has become demoralized by the idea that the war is to be ended, the nation reunited, and peace restored by strategy, and not by hard, desperate fighting,” Lincoln said. In late October he replaced Buell with William S. Rosecrans as commander of the Army of the Cumberland, and on November 7 he informed McClellan that Ambrose Burnside would supersede him. Lincoln urged his generals to renew the attack on Vicksburg, which had been delayed by military crises in Kentucky and Maryland and by a Confederate attempt to lever Grant’s forces out of northern Mississippi. Grant had initially declined to renew operations against Vicksburg, citing the need to rebuild railroads in northern Mississippi and Tennessee. In November, however, Lincoln replaced Butler with Nathaniel P. Banks as commander of Union forces in southern Louisiana and gave him the mission of opening the Mississippi River by coordinating an attack on Vicksburg and Port Hudson. Finally, Grant proposed a move south to Grenada, Mississippi, which he expected would engage Confederate forces and enable Sherman to make an amphibious assault downstream from Memphis to Vicksburg.

Naturally, Porter knew the reputation of the man everyone now called U. S., or “Unconditional Surrender,” Grant, but he had never met the general and knew nothing of his plans. One evening, the admiral attended a dinner party on board an army quartermaster’s riverboat. When a man in a rumpled brown coat and gray trousers appeared, the host said, “Admiral Porter, meet General Grant.” The two found a table away from the party guests and sat down. Without fanfare, Grant explained his plan to take Vicksburg. “I need your assistance, Porter,” Grant said, “all you can provide.” Impressed with Grant’s calm demeanor and his determination, Porter pledged his full support for the coming campaign. Then, without taking a bite of supper, Grant rose, clamped down on the cigar in his mouth, and announced he was going to ride back the way he had come.

Back on board the Black Hawk, Porter finalized the squadron’s plans to support Sherman’s expedition up the Yazoo River. Walke, who was now in charge of the Mississippi Squadron’s vessels based at Helena, was given the mission of securing all the landings on the Yazoo where the Confederates could erect batteries, determining the water’s depth, and dragging the river for mines. Porter then sent orders to his commanders to proceed to Helena and report to Walke.

On November 21 Walke, who was still suffering from what he called “Yazoo fever,” received orders to leave for the Yazoo as soon as possible. He was supposed to prevent the erection of batteries at the mouth of the river, or as far as federal guns would reach. If there was insufficient water in the Yazoo for his large vessels, he was instructed to send the Signal and Marmora with some good marksmen to secure a landing for General McClernand’s troops. The admiral also ordered Walke to take all the ironclads at Helena, except for the Benton and the former Confederate Bragg, plus the Lexington and Tyler, and secure control of as much of the Yazoo as possible. “Pick up all the good contrabands you can get, and something may be learned from the most intelligent of them and dispatch it to me,” Porter instructed. He explained that in about ten days he would be pushing downriver with all the light-draft boats he could get finished. Selfridge in the Cairo would be joining Walke at Memphis. The Cincinnati, Pittsburg, and Baron de Kalb, Porter wrote, “will be off on Monday.” With the Carondelet short fifty men, Walke realized he would have to take men from the Mound City and the Benton to fill his complement.

On November 24 the gunboat Marmora arrived with mail, and Morison reported that “dispatches also came in for our captain and immediately all hands were in motion, getting ready for a start down river to Vicksburg.” The next day Walke left Helena in the Carondelet with the Mound City, Signal, and Marmora. The Lexington, led by Lieutenant Commander James W. Shirk, was on its way to Helena with some refugee families. After dropping them off, the Lexington went down to Ashton, Louisiana, destroying every ferryboat it came across. Shirk brought back twenty-four contrabands, all of whom told him “that they are to be free on the 1st of January, but that their owners are getting ready to move them back from the river as soon as possible.” Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation would go into effect on New Year’s Day 1863.

The Carondelet headed downstream accompanied by the Marmora and Signal, each towing a coal barge. On Wednesday, November 26, they met the Lexington, which followed them. The next day Morison wrote, “Picked [up] some more ‘contrabands,’ one of them having lived in the woods for over five months. Passed one plantation where all the slaves on it apparently wanted to come off, but being rather short of provisions, had to decline the honor.” The contrabands claimed that rebel troops had gone to Holly Springs and that all the blacks employed there had been sent to work on the forts at Vicksburg, as well as at another fort about forty miles below it.

The federal gunboats came to anchor off Milliken’s Bend at 4:00 p.m. on November 28, and Walke sent an armed boat crew from the Marmora on a tug. “As they landed, some guerillas in the woods fired on them and wounded one of ‘Marmora’s’ officers in the right side.” After this, they kept a lookout for enemy batteries along the shore. When the little flotilla reached the mouth of the Yazoo the next day, Walke sent the Marmora and Signal up to reconnoiter, accompanied by twenty men and the gunner from the Carondelet. The expedition ascended the Yazoo about forty miles but returned after encountering a masked battery. Although they did not engage the enemy battery, “they shelled the woods, thereby driving in the pickets from the river banks and killing a few of them,” Morison explained. They took two prisoners and a contraband on board and “found that the rebs were busy erecting some more batteries down towards the mouth of the river.”

Observing the water level, Walke decided not to take his ironclads up the river; instead, he sent the tinclads Marmora and Signal to sound the river and look for rebel activity. Suspecting rebel guerrillas in the area, Walke then sent a detachment of twenty armed men, under the command of gunner William Beaufort, to the Marmora to protect the crew while they sounded the river. At 2:15 p.m. his suspicions were confirmed when a party of men fired a volley of musketry at the Carondelet from shore. The gunboat immediately replied with four solid shots and two five-second shells.

Lieutenant Robert Getty took the Marmora and Signal up the Yazoo, and at Twelve Mile Bayou guerrillas fired down on the federal gunboats from the high banks. Getty shelled them, and they disappeared. Upon reaching Anthony’s Ferry, some twenty-one miles up the Yazoo, Getty reported, “I was again subjected to a severe and rapid guerilla fire, which was promptly returned with howitzers and rifles, silencing the enemy.” Finally, at Drumgould’s Bluff, Getty found the enemy’s fortifications. He studied them through his spyglass, determined they were indeed formidable, and then steamed back down to the mouth of the Yazoo. In his report to Walke, Getty claimed that his reconnaissance had confirmed the presence of rebel pickets and some cavalry. The guerrillas were active, he told Walke, but the Confederates had no batteries for twenty-three miles up the Yazoo from its mouth.

On December 1 Walke issued special orders to his commanders. He told them to keep a quarter watch during the night and to maintain sufficient steam to work their engines. Should the enemy fire on any of the vessels, the nearest one would fire immediately. If fired upon by a battery or field battery, then all vessels should go to quarters and place themselves in a position to engage the enemy to the best advantage. Recalling the friendly fire taken by the Carondelet after running past Island No. 10, Walke instructed his commanders to engage any enemy gunboat approaching the squadron with their bow guns in the first order of sailing, “being careful not to fire into each other.”

Walke also sat down to write a report to Porter. He informed Porter that the Confederate fort on the Yazoo “was said to be on a very high bluff concealed from view by another high point.” The passage up the Yazoo was clear to the fort, but he noted that “a land force would be needed to capture it.” He told Porter that he really needed more rams and noted, “The rebels have some good, large steamers at Vicksburg, and I suppose they will come out and surprise us, if they can, but I will keep a bright lookout for that. They can not attack us except with rams, or by boarding in the fog with large steamers.” Walke commented that the weather was “quite pleasant” but added that, having been on blockade duty on the Mississippi since September 1861, he would be happy to see the river open again, “as the ague and fever of this country is, like the rebels themselves, obstinate and treacherous.”



To Leyte Gulf

Sailing towards Leyte Gulf from left to right CA Chikuma, BB Nagato, BC Haruna, BC Kongo and CA Tone.

Toyoda readied his various forces on 20 October for the decisive action to come. Setting dawn of 25 October 1944 as ‘X-Day’, he ordered Kurita and Vice- Admiral Shoji Nishimura’s forces to leave Brunei Bay on 22 October and instructed the three other components of the plan: the transport unit of Vice- Admiral Naomasa Sakonju from Manila, the 2nd Striking Force of Vice- Admiral Kiyohide Shima from the islands of the Pescadores in the waters off Formosa, and the diversionary force of Jisaburo Ozawa from the Inland Sea to set out on their travels so that they could meet the requirements of the plan. Despite their major setbacks in the recent past, the Japanese were still able to put a formidable naval force together for this latest and most decisive battle with the Americans. Apart from Musashi and Yamato, the two super-battleships that formed the apex of his designated Centre Force, Kurita could rely upon the substantial battleship Nagato, the two fast ex-battlecruisers that had been reclassified as battleships Haruna and Kongo, ten heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and fifteen destroyers. Shoji Nishimura’s warships, which were expected to form the southern part of the pincer movement against the invasion fleet in Leyte Gulf, were much less impressive both in quantitative and qualitative terms than Kurita’s Centre Force. Although the southern force contained two battleships (Fuso and Yamashiro), the heavy cruiser Mogami and four destroyers, both of the battleships were relatively old, slow and ponderous. Because their route to Leyte Gulf by way of the Surigao Strait was more direct than that to be taken by Kurita, Nishimura left Brunei Bay seven hours after the cutting edge of Shō–Gō- 1 had left port at 0805 hours on 22 October for its longer, more circuitous voyage through the Philippines to Leyte Gulf via the Sibuyan Sea, the San Bernardino Strait and along the east coast of Samar – a distance of some 1400nm (2,593km). Shima’s group was meant to join it in the Sulu Sea west of Leyte and bring a further mix of two cruisers and seven destroyers to bear when the southern part of the pincer snapped shut. That at least was the theory, but would it work out in practice? Much hung on theory and speculation at this time. Ozawa’s appearance with the 1st Mobile Fleet was a case in point. It was to be a decoy force meant to lure Admiral Halsey 3rd Fleet away from Leyte to the north and enable Kurita, Nishimura and Shima to execute a brilliant pincer movement trapping and eliminating Vice-Admiral Thomas Kinkaid’s 7th Fleet off the invasion beaches in Leyte Gulf. Despite losing so many planes and, even more importantly, experienced pilots in the Pacific campaign, Ozawa could muster more than 100 aircraft for the fleet carrier Zuikaku and the light carriers Chitose, Chiyoda and Zuiho to use. Along with him, Ozawa brought two old battleships (Hyuga and Ise) which, despite having been converted into seaplane carriers, were carrying only guns – a battery of over a hundred light A.A. guns and six rocket launchers – and no aircraft for this operation. Their main purpose was to be the initial magnet for Halsey’s carrier fleet and then subsequently to defend the rest of Ozawa’s carriers with their A.A. armament. Rounding off his force were three light cruisers, eight destroyers and a supply force that brought together a further destroyer, two tankers and six corvettes. Commanding a decoy force with few aircraft at his disposal was no easy undertaking, but if any Japanese naval officer could pull off this risky manoeuvre Ozawa had the fearless qualities to do so.

As part of the plan to shore up resistance on Leyte to assist the 20,000 Japanese troops already there, Naomasa Sakonju was made responsible for bringing in troop reinforcements in the shape of the 30th and 102nd Infantry Divisions to Ormoc, a port on the northwest coast of the island. His force, consisting of the heavy cruiser Aoba and the old light cruiser Kinu, a destroyer and four fast transports, stayed well clear of the invasion sites in Leyte Gulf, but was still found a few miles south of Cape Calavite off the northeast coast of the island of Mindoro at 0325 hours on 23 October by the US submarine Bream which managed to torpedo the Aoba before making good her escape. That hadn’t been in the script and neither were the activities of two other American submarines, Dace and Darter, which were to strike with even more telling effect a few hours after Bream’s moment of partial success. Cruising off the west coast of the island of Palawan, the two submarines picked up Kurita’s Centre Force on their radar screens at 0116 hours on 23 October. They reported the contact to Halsey and closed in on the warships which were intent on conserving fuel and only making about 15 knots during the hours of darkness. Manoeuvring their way into position before dawn broke, the two submarines waited for the Centre Force to pass before Darter fired a spread of six torpedoes at Kurita’s flagship Atago at 980 yards (274m) distance at 0632 hours. Four of them hit home with deadly effect a minute later. Atago took on an almost immediate 25* list and sank within twenty minutes. Darter was far from finished. She also managed to hit the Takao twice two minutes later on her starboard side totally destroying her rudder, carving two sizable holes in her hull, smashing two of her four propellers and flooding three of her boiler rooms. Not surprisingly, she took on a 10* list to starboard. Her day was done. She was forced to limp back to port in Brunei Bay in the company of the two destroyers Asashimo and the Naganami. Well before arrangements could be carried out to save the Takao, however, Dace announced her entrance onto the scene by firing four torpedoes at the heavy cruiser Maya – all of which hit her port side at 0657 hours and literally blew her apart. She took a few minutes to join her flagship in sinking. Rescued from the wreck of the Atago before she foundered, Kurita quickly transferred his flag to the Yamato (much to Ugaki’s chagrin) and forged on ahead determined that he would fulfil his part of the Shō–Gō- 1 plan even if the element of surprise had been lost, which it obviously had been!


Stefan Dramiński.

Thus far, construction plans had been conceived in an atmosphere of ‘no war with Britain’. Raeder informed Hitler on several occasions that Germany’s naval development was not sufficient to cope with a war against a major sea power, but each time the Führer replied by saying there would be no war against Britain because such an act would signal the end of the Reich. Not until early 1938 did Hitler tell Raeder that the Kriegsmarine might have to consider meeting the Royal Navy on a war footing. Even then, he stressed that it would not be before 1948 at the earliest.

By 1937, warship development had progressed sufficiently for the first long-term planning policy to be effected. The plan was intended to remain in force for the years from 1938 until 1948, and would see the fleet develop to the limits of the Anglo-German Naval Agreement. All the original demands and suggestions for new warships were evaluated by Kpt.z.S. Werner Fuchs, and put down on paper as Plan ‘X’. (X being the ‘unknown’ from algebraic equations.) This was an immense document and could not be considered under the terms of the Naval Agreement, so he modified the details and reduced the plan to a practical size. His tailored version was designated as ‘Plan Y’ and was laid before the Supreme Naval Command, who modified the ideas still further. The final version then became known as ‘Plan Z’. It has been suggested that the ‘Z’ stood for ‘Ziel’ or ‘goal’ but the sequence simply progressed from the letter ‘X’ – often used for an unknown quantity in algebra – and just happened to end with ‘Z’.)

Plan ‘Z’ had been conceived under the ideal of ‘no war with Britain’, but matters had to be reconsidered after Hitler told Raeder that there were voices in Britain who were clamouring for another war and Germany might have to fight the Royal Navy after all. However, there were no alternative options and plans went ahead the way they had been formulated.

When the ‘Z’ Plan was being formulated, there were two distinct opinions on naval warfare in the German Navy. One idea, which received the backing of the Supreme Naval Command, was to build a powerful surface fleet consisting of mainly battleships and cruisers. The other idea was to develop a navy centred on submarines and small craft such as torpedo-boats.

Plan ‘Z’ was strongly opposed by Kpt.z.S. Karl Dönitz, who could only muster a long list of foul adjectives to describe the decision. Another opponent of Plan ‘Z’ was Fregkpt. Hellmuth Heye who, acting on an instruction from Raeder, produced a thesis on the subject of war with Britain. He concluded that it would not be possible to defeat Britain by pitting German battleships against her merchant shipping. But it appears that nobody took much notice of Heye during the summer of 1938. Perhaps this was because he was an individualist with unconventional and ‘quite mad ideas’ – which he fully demonstrated towards the end of the war by building up the Midget Weapons Unit to a fantastically high standard, against terrific odds and in an incredibly short time. In addition to Heye, there were several other submarine supporters in the Supreme Naval Command: Hermann Boehm, Fleet Commander, and Hermann Densch, Commander-in-Chief of Reconnaissance Forces, were both in favour of U-boats. In fact, Densch had a pet-saying: ‘We must build submarines on every meadow, in every shed and on every stream – it is our only hope of winning.’

But theirs were only faint cries in the wilderness, for the majority were in favour of a battleship navy. Many in the Supreme Naval Command kept repeating their stereotype views that there would be no war with Britain, and that, under war conditions, Dönitz’s submarine tactics would be found wanting. Several powerful men in the High Command maintained their belief that only the mightiest and heaviest battleships would penetrate the shipping lanes of the Atlantic. They considered submarines to be outdated and obsolete weapons.

The High Command also had some knowledge of Britain’s asdic, which, it was thought, might prevent a successful submarine war. Similarly, they pointed to the Prize Ordinance Regulations (pages 41 and 201), which imposed numerous operational limitations on submarines and further restricted their effectiveness.

The final decision on the type of construction policy to adopt was made by Hitler. The Naval High Command gave him two alternatives: either a battleship fleet or a U-boat dominated navy. Hitler chose the surface fleet outlined in the ‘Z’ Plan and, on 27 January 1939, gave the programme top priority – just over six months before the outbreak of the Second World War. So, it is safe to say that the ‘Z’ Plan had little influence on the outcome of the war.

The new capital ships were to be equipped with eight 406mm (16 inch) and twelve 150mm (6 inch) guns; they would carry four aeroplanes, have a top speed of thirty knots, and a range of over 12,000 nautical miles at a cruising speed of just under twenty knots. (Construction of Bismarck and Tirpitz had, of course, already started before the ‘Z’ Plan was formulated.) The Chiefs of Staff also examined what had been Germany’s main weakness during the First World War – that of trying to operate far out in the Atlantic from bases in the German Bight. This problem was solved by planning to put the new long-range battleships based on the Deutschland into the South Atlantic where they would be serviced by supply and repair ships seeking out remote spots in the Southern Ocean for the more lengthy repairs.

The Russian Navy 1695-1900

Eugene Lanceray. Fleet of Peter the Great (1709).

The Russian Navy was founded by Peter the Great (1682-1725) in the Baltic to protect Russia from then powerful Sweden and on the Sea of Azov to counter the Ottoman Empire. Catherine the Great extended Russia’s control to the Black Sea by adding a fleet based at Sevastopol. Russia maintained small flotillas on the Caspian and White Seas. By the end of the eighteenth century there was also a Pacific Squadron that supported the Russian-American Company colony in Alaska. From Catherine II’s reign until the late 1820s, periods of friendly relations with Britain allowed the Baltic Fleet to deploy to the Mediterranean in a series of campaigns against the Ottomans. A Russian squadron joined an Anglo-French fleet in the victory over Mehmet Ali at Navarino in 1827. Thereafter until the 1854-56 Crimean War, the Baltic Fleet declined into the autocrat’s naval parading force. At the same time the professionalization of the Black Sea developed apace as a result of superior leadership, notably Admiral M. P. Lazarev, and continuous operations in support of Russia’s protracted war with Caucasian mountaineers. Nakhimov’s overwhelming victory against a Turkish Squadron at Sinope in late 1853, which brought Anglo-French intervention in the Crimean War, was, in fact, a continuation of the Black Sea Fleet’s mission to isolate the Caucasian theater of operations from maritime supply.

The 1856 defeat that saw the Black Sea Fleet abolished and made very clear the need for rail connections to link south Russia with the Moscow-St. Petersburg core and to avoid a Baltic blockade, also came at the crucial time when the great steam-and-steel revolution was taking place. This coincided with the scrapping of the IRN’s sailing ships and their replacement both by modern warships, such as those which visited the United States in 1863-64, and in a revival of concern with naval strategy and tactics. Though reduced in size to one thirty-sixth of the million-man army, the 28,000 men in the navy were much more technically proficient and efficient.

Between the beginning (1696) and the end (1917) of its history, the Imperial Navy had far more influence than its modest size and marginal role would suggest. Three key themes emerge. The first concerns the role of the navy in national strategy; the second the relationship between the navy and the process of technological modernization and Westernization; and the third the issue of the professionalization of the officer corps. By the mid-nineteenth century the latter involved the development of a system of advanced schooling for officers, the cultivation of a shared vision of the service through publications for the officer corps (the official and unofficial sections of Morskoi sbornik), and the unsuccessful resolution of the especially difficult question of officer advancement (chinoproizvodstvo) which turned on the conflict between promotion based on bureaucratic seniority or talent and achievement.

The navies that Peter built on the Sea of Azov and in the Baltic were fleets in being that, as in the later Soviet case until the 1950s, had deterrent value, but also served as a “second arm” supporting amphibious operations against hostile shores, a mission that the Black Sea Fleet also developed. Given the demands of maintaining a continental army, the navy had few levers to use to extract bigger budgets. After the early combined operations under Peter, the navy languished until the reign of Catherine II, when it once again dominated the Baltic and won command of the Black Sea. In this period the IRN did venture out of the Baltic and enjoyed some success in battle. Because of the nature of the final struggle with Napoleon, a continental war fought in alliance with Britain and as a result of the debt incurred in prosecuting that war, the navy once again went into decline. The exception to this being the mounting of scientific expeditions and round-the world cruises. Russian naval officers came to see such deployments as necessary for the training of professional naval officers.

The history of the navy from Petrine days to the end of its second century reflected the patterns and tensions between repressive, militaristic autocracy and thoughtful, visionary obshchestvo (educated society). The Crimean War dealt a heavy blow to that structure, challenged its institutions and stimulated the Great Reforms, which included the emancipation of the serfs as a basic move toward a more productive economy and the needs of the armed forces.

In this the admiral, General-Admiral Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevieh, played an important role from 1854 in protecting and training five future ministers in bureaucratic politics and administration and instilling in them the hope that virtue and talent would triumph. He also cultivated an alliance with the naval officers who had been proteges of Admiral Lazarev and brought them into the senior leadership of the navy. With no Black Sea Fleet because of the demilitarization of the Black Sea, this leadership focused its attention on the modernization of the Baltic Fleet and the development of a Pacific Squadron. The visits to the United States in 1863 of Baltic and Pacific squadrons were part of a new naval strategy that embraced such deployments as a deterrent threat to British trade.

By the time of the Great Reforms (1856-70) following the Crimean defeat, the navy was allowed to play a wider role through modernization so as to help the Russian Army preserve the country’s great-power status. From 1856, then, the Russian Navy developed in parallel with Western naval forces and created its own industrial base in alliance with private enterprise. This development rested upon the cultivation of a professional officer corps, where initiative and experience took precedence over seniority. In 1877-78 the Black Sea Fleet, which was almost non-existent-remilitarization had only become possible in 1870 and there were no yards or mills in the South to build modern ironclads-managed to neutralize a much larger Turkish Navy through the aggressive use of mines and torpedoes.

Believing that he should, unlike most Russians, consult affected parties, the grand duke turned Morskoi sbornik (Naval Digest) from a dull official bulletin into a lively journal of discussions, which helped clarify the confusions and the liberations of the Great Reforms.

These abolished the ancien regime and introduced a new world in which local organizations governed what was within their ken. This very much affected the army deprived of its privileged aristocratic officers and its serf soldiers. It also touched an increasingly technological steam and steel navy after 1860. At the same time the implications of the reform process frightened many conservatives in the Imperial family (notably the heir to the throne, the future Alexander III, the bureaucracy, and society). Konstantin Nikolaevich was for them a “red,” a dangerous figure whose ideas could lead to the undermining of the autocracy itself. After the death of Alexander II, the new tsar moved to remove the grand duke from his post as general-admiral and other state offices.

With the grand duke’s departure from leadership of the navy, leadership of the Naval Ministry passed into the hands of men who once again cultivated appearances at the expense of accomplishments and saw initiative and experience as grave dangers to institutional stability. The naval counter reforms, especially the tsenz (promotion based on positions held and time in service) created a bureaucratized force. The Naval Ministry reverted to the purchase of major combatants abroad and failed to develop a staff system to guide the navy in preparation for war. The full implications of this decline were only revealed by the destruction of the Russian squadron at Port Arthur and the defeat of Rozhestvennsky’s squadron at Tsushima (1905).

In the great intellectual debate of the nineteenth century between Westernizers and Slavophiles, the navy proved to be one of the most controversial institutions because it had no roots in Muscovite Russia but was closely tied to the Petrine transformation. It was the ultimate product of Westernization. Slavophiles regarded it as an artificial imposition of an alien state.

Today, the heirs of the Slavophiles have embraced geopolitics and Eurasianism and condemn Russia’s contemporary experiment with democracy and an open society. They speak of a profound cultural and political struggle between Russia as a continental power and the West as an alien maritime world. Eutasian ideologues, such as Alexander Dugin and Alexander Panarin, speak in terms of a decisive contest between a hegemonie thalassocracy, led by the United States with the “pirate” values of “Atlanticism, globalism [mondializm], and liberalism” and a Russian tellurocracy that is Eurasian, anti-Western, and anti-liberal. For these ideologues of the “conservative revolution,” the Petrine transformation and the Great Reforms were nothing more than the seduction of Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, centre, sits on board a bathyscaphe as it plunges into the Black sea along the coast of Sevastopol, Crimea, Tuesday, Aug. 18, 2015. President Vladimir Putin plunged into the Black Sea to see the wreckage of a sunk ancient merchant ship which was found in the end of May.

The French Navy 1914-18

The French navy had emerged from the nineteenth century with what was contemptuously dubbed “a fleet of samples,” the reflection of a confused naval policy resulting from the constant turmoil caused by politics or surrounding the debate over the theories of the Jeune École. The French had seemed on the road to recovery with the passage of the naval law of 1900, which would have provided for a fleet of 28 battleships, 24 armored cruisers, 52 destroyers, 263 torpedo boats, and 38 submarines.27 The law appeared to establish a firm plan for the future, including the construction of homogeneous classes. Unfortunately the minister of marine from June 1902 to January 1905 in the government of the noted radical Emile Combes was Camille Pelletan, another radical who revived the controversies of the late nineteenth century in his attempt to democratize the navy. Pelletan retarded construction of the battleship program, for he was another believer in “cheaper” naval means, such as torpedo boats and submarines. Submarines may have been the weapon of the future, but they were no substitutes for a balanced fleet, and Pelletan played havoc with the naval program at the very moment the dreadnought-type warship was to come into service. French construction fell far behind in both quantity and quality of capital ships. The French built six semidreadnought Danton-class battleships while the other navies were building real dreadnoughts. The first French dreadnoughts were not laid down until 1910, which was not only well after the British and Germans but after the first dreadnoughts of their Mediterranean rivals as well.

The French navy returned to the proper course with a pair of able naval ministers, Vice Admiral Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère and Théophile Delcassé, and the naval law of 1912 provided for a French fleet by 1920 of 28 first-class battle ships, 10 scout cruisers, 52 destroyers, 10 ships for overseas stations, and 94 submarines. The French accelerated this program in 1913 with newer and larger dreadnought classes, but none were ever completed. When war broke out, the French had only two dreadnoughts in service and two still completing their trials. Eight more had been laid down, of which only three were completed. The French had a relatively large number of armored cruisers, but these were big, vulnerable targets, expensive to man, too slow for real cruiser work, and too weak to stand up to real battleships. The program’s scout cruisers also had not been laid down yet—they were scheduled for 1917—and the French suffered severely from lack of this type, which proved invaluable to the British and Germans in the North Sea. Lapeyrère, who followed his term as minister by commanding the 1ère Armée Navale—the major French fleet in the Mediterranean—from 1911 to 1915, also complained of the quality of the destroyers. And many of the submarines were outmoded, their achievements during the war a disappointment despite the gallantry of their crews. To compound their difficulties, the French had the problem of unstable powder, which caused the loss of two battleships before it was solved. The Austrians and Italians had a real chance to catch up, at least on paper. On the other hand, the French retained an advantage in older classes of warships.

On the eve of the war the French navy numbered:

Many of the older ships or smaller torpedo boats or submarines were of little value, suitable only for local defense. In realistic terms, in a fleet action the major French force in the Mediterranean—the 1ère Armée Navale—would probably include:

Once again it is difficult to predict how many of the older battleships and protected cruisers would actually have been included.

France’s first dreadnought-type battleships, designed to counter Germany and Austria-Hungary, the Courbet class (Courbet, France, Jean Bart I, and Paris, completed 1913-1914) had a curiously predreadnought appearance with their high freeboards and five funnels. But they were turbine-driven, carried 12-inch guns, were much larger than their immediate predecessors, and in some cases were even more long-legged than their RN contemporaries. All four units served in the Mediterranean, where the Austrian submarine U-12 torpedoed Jean Bart in its wine store, although it survived this cruel blow. Courbet sank the Austrian cruiser Zenta on 16 August 1914.

France also produced few cruisers in the years leading up to 1908, although the reason for the stagnation in construction was not the result of perceived strategic requirements. The decline of the French cruiser program was the result of the confusion in strategic thought that stemmed from the ideological conflict of the late nineteenth century between the Jeune École, which held to a navy of smaller ships no larger than cruisers, and traditionalists, who believed in a navy centered on battleships. It was also a product of the frequent changes of ministers of marine, each with a program that differed from the previous administration. Cruiser construction and the French Navy as a whole consequently experienced a period of decline.

Between 1896 and 1911, the French Navy slipped from the second most powerful to fourth place. Even so, five armored cruisers were laid down between 1905 and 1908. Only one, Jules Michelet, was completed before the end of 1908. This 13,105-ton ship was essentially a larger version of the Leon-Gambetta-class. This vessel and those that remained on the stocks by the end of this period would be the last French cruisers built until 1922. Although the French Navy would experience a revival after 1909 with the appointment of Vice Admiral Augustin Boué de Lapeyrere as minister of marine, his program did not yield cruisers. The building schedule set out by Lapeyrere called for the completion of 10 scout cruisers by 1920, but this plan was greatly disrupted due to the onset of World War I in 1914.

By 1892, France had experimented heavily with the torpedo and built large numbers of torpedo boats as a consequence of Jeune École thought. Among the types pursued by the French, in tandem with the continued construction of torpedo boats, was a design for a ship that was much like the British Havock. France’s first true destroyers were the four ships of the Durandal class that were launched between 1899 and 1900. The hull of Durandal measured 188 feet, 8 inches by 20 feet, 8 inches by 10 feet, 5 inches and displaced 296 tons; its appearance resembled that of the British boats through its turtleback bow. Its armament consisted of one 2.5-inch gun and six 1.8-inch weapons as well as two 15-inch torpedo tubes. Like all of France’s first destroyers, the ship was equipped with triple-expansion engines that produced a maximum speed of 26 knots.

The intended use of the Durandal-class destroyers was ambiguous owing to chaos in the strategic planning of French naval officials by the turn of the century. The influence of the Jeune École had declined somewhat, but debate raged between advocates of it and traditionalists who based naval power on numbers of capital ships. As a result, the intended purpose of the early destroyers wavered between the Jeune École’s commerce warfare and the concept of protection of battleships as succeeding ministers of marine pursued their own policy on how best to combat Britain in time of war. Nevertheless, the general value of torpedo craft did not waver and resulted in the launching between 1899 and 1902 of another three classes of destroyers that numbered a total of 32 ships. Regardless of their purpose, these ships and the torpedo boats in existence continued to pose a threat to Britain.

From 1902 to 1908, the French Navy, which had been eclipsed in numbers by Germany in 1905, launched 23 more destroyers. The relatively small number in comparison to other naval powers was partially the result of construction delays that plagued French shipyards in this period. These destroyers were not wellsuited to action at sea as their hulls were very lightly built. This design aspect was the result of a French belief at the time that destroyers were primarily coastal defense vessels.

The one significant French destroyer class in this period was the Branlebas class. The 10 ships of this group, launched between 1907 and 1908, were equipped with deck armor. This was a very unusual feature in destroyers due to their relatively small hulls in comparison to capital ships that did not allow for such an increase in weight. Nevertheless, the French were among the most technologically innovative of the age and managed to incorporate it. Their armor consisted of .75-inch steel plating over the deck that covered the propulsion machinery of the craft. This feature was designed to protect against small-caliber plunging shellfire that could punch through the deck and disable the destroyer. The feat was particularly impressive, as the maximum speed of the units of this class was 27.5 knots.

These ships, however, were also too small to maintain station at sea. In an attempt to catch up with the larger destroyer designs of other powers, the French next launched the Spahi class comprising seven vessels. Launched between 1908 and 1912, the hull of Spahi measured 212 (pp) by 19 feet, 10 inches by 7 feet, 7 inches, displaced 550 tons, and was powered by a triple-expansion engine that could generate 28 knots. It mounted six 2.5-inch guns and three 17.7-inch torpedo tubes. The idea of the armored deck was discarded. Two similar classes comprising six destroyers were launched afterward that were virtual repeats of the Spahi class, although the units of the Chasseur class are significant for being the first turbine-powered and completely oil-fueled French destroyers. The final two peacetime classes of 18 ships were larger versions and carried heavier guns, but their value was limited. The ships carried only two 3.9- inch guns and had weak hulls that made their use in heavy seas a problem.

The French Navy was the most enthusiastic advocate of submarines prior to 1900. Its first boat, the Plongeur, was designed by Charles Brun and Siméon Bourgeois, entering service in 1867. It used an 80-horsepower compressed-air engine for propulsion and relied on small stern diving planes and an elaborate water transfer system, also compressed-air operated, to maintain position. This system proved ineffective, and the Plongeur soon was set aside. Electric propulsion underwater seemed a superior solution and was demonstrated by Claude Goubet in two small private venture boats that otherwise were unsuccessful. The French Navy’s return to submarine construction was also all-electric. The Gymnote , designed by Gustave Zédé, entered service in 1888 and was followed by Gaston Romazzotti’s Gustave Zédé five years later. Both boats were largely experimental, relied wholly on batteries without onboard recharge equipment to power their electric motors (severely restricting their range), and required many modifications, especially to their diving plane arrangements, to become effective.

In 1898 the French Navy announced an open international submarine design competition. Maxime Laubeuf’s design, the Narval , was the winner, and, although many of the boat’s features were short-lived, it established the essential characteristics of the vast majority of the world’s naval submarines until the end of World War II. Laubeuf designed the Narval as a double-hulled craft; the inner hull was strongly constructed to resist water pressure, while the outer hull was lightly built and optimized for surface performance. The space between the hulls accommodated ballast and trim tanks. The Narval, like almost all submarines for the next 50 years, was essentially a surface torpedo boat that could submerge to attack and make its escape. Like many French submarines of the next 25 years, it was steam powered: the French Navy was uncomfortable with using gasoline engines in submarines because of the explosion hazard. In 1904 the Aigrette became the first submarine to be fitted with a diesel engine, and with few exceptions all later French submarines used either diesel or steam plants. Steam engines remained attractive because France did not have access to sufficiently powerful diesel engines for its large boats.

Alexander’s Four Fleets

The Fleet of the League of Corinth

One of the burdens placed on the members of the League of Corinth after the allied Greek defeat at Chaeronea, and subsequent recognition of Macedonian hegemony, was to supply ships to aid the war effort. This fleet was established in 336 or shortly before, and its main purpose was to act as support to the land operations being conducted by the field army. This support largely involved them acting as transports and maintaining the lines of supply and communication with Macedonia and Greece. The fleet must have been remarkably heterogeneous and was of moderate size, consisting of 160 ships of which a mere 20 were supplied by the strongest naval power in Greece: Athens. At this time the Athenians had around 300 ships in commission; the supply of only 20 is perhaps suggestive of their level of enthusiasm for Alexander’s expedition. Many of the smaller city-states would have supplied the merest handful. Arrian tells us that the fleet was untrained, each member state evidently only sending the worst ships and sailors at its disposal, simply to honour a commitment. The resulting fleet was effectively useless as a fighting force; it was poorly trained and consisted of large numbers of contingents who had never fought as a cohesive unit before. Coupled to this was Alexander’s total lack of knowledge of naval operations. Realistically it would have been impossible for Alexander to have operated with anything but the most basic tactics. This is strongly suggested by Arrian when he has Alexander, in debate with Parmenio as to whether to engage the Persian fleet at sea, saying that he would ‘not risk making a present to the Persians of all the skill and courage of his men’.

This can only be a reference to the potential loss of Macedonian troops, not Greek sailors, and suggests that Alexander’s naval tactics would rely on boarding Persian ships and fighting hand to hand. This would effectively be to fight a land battle at sea. These tactics are not wholly surprising in a commander who had no experience at all of naval warfare, either directly or through Philip’s tutelage. The tactics that Alexander likely would have employed are, interestingly, exactly how the Vikings fought their naval battles.

Despite the evidently poor quality of vessels supplied by his allies, Alexander’s Greek fleet had proved itself of greater use than simply for logistics and transport alone. Whilst Alexander was besieging the city of Miletus by land, the Persian fleet of some 400 vessels was heading north to relieve it. If the Persians had arrived, the city could presumably have held out against the Macedonians almost indefinitely, as reinforcements and supplies could easily be transported by sea. Nicanor, commander of Alexander’s Greek fleet, arrived three days before the Persians, however, and anchored his vessels off the Milesian coast on the island of Lade. The Persian fleet, unable to find any port suitable to meet its supply needs, and seemingly unable or unwilling to engage the Greeks in these narrow waters, set sail south again. Thus Alexander’s fleet had proved, quite convincingly, that, despite his unwillingness to offer a naval battle, his fleet could still be of considerable military usefulness. This makes the subsequent decision to disband it even more baffling.

Soon after the capture of Miletus, and before the commencement of operations at Halicarnassus, Alexander made one of the most debated decisions of his career: he disbanded his fleet. Arrian gives us five reasons:

• Lack of money.

• The Persian navy was far superior to Alexander’s own.

• Alexander was unwilling to risk any losses, in ships or men, in a naval engagement.

• Alexander believed that he no longer needed a fleet as he was now master of the continent of Asia.

• He intended to defeat the Persian navy on land by depriving it of its ports.

Lack of money is the reason most commonly accepted by modern historians as the major factor in Alexander’s decision; it is also the only reason cited by Diodorus. The conclusion that the decision was financially motivated is flawed for two reasons. Firstly, the fleet was supplied by the member states of the League of Corinth; it is therefore reasonable to assume that the cost of their upkeep would also fall on these states and not on Alexander. The fleet would, effectively, have cost him almost nothing to maintain. Secondly, Alexander should not have been short of funds at this point. Just a few months later at Gordium, during the winter of 334/3, Alexander invested 500 talents on raising a new fleet and 600 talents were allotted to pay for the upkeep of garrisons on the Greek mainland. There seems no reason why Alexander’s financial position should have improved so drastically in just a few short months, we know of no major Persian treasuries in this area that had fallen into Alexander’s hands.

Arrian is correct to say that the Persian fleet was superior to Alexander’s, both in numbers and quality. This is not a reason to demobilize the fleet, however, as this would leave the islands and the mainland defenceless from a naval assault. Miletus had also shown Alexander that a fleet was tactically useful even if he did not offer battle to the Persians. This lack of quality and numbers would be more of an argument for increasing investment in the fleet, rather than ridding himself of it.

Arrian’s second and third points are certainly linked; Alexander was unwilling to offer a naval battle because of the potential ramifications. His strategy would involve a heavy reliance on marines, most likely the hypaspists, given that these were the most versatile heavy infantry troops that he commanded. These were also the troops that were assigned to the final naval assault against Tyre, so it is most likely that they would have been chosen for this mission too. Yet he needed every one of these troops for the land campaign, making a naval campaign even more problematic. Any defeat could also have caused political problems back in Greece too; it would have been an open invitation for general rebellion throughout Greece.

The suggestion by Arrian that Alexander did not need a fleet, as he already controlled the whole continent, is extraordinary and obviously not true. Even if we take Arrian to be referring to Asia Minor, rather than the whole of Asia, then it still was nowhere near true. Besides, there was now nothing stopping the Persians from attacking Alexander’s forces in the rear, which they in fact did at Tenedos. This was a tactic that should have been employed far more effectively than it ever was by the Persians.

This strategy of defeating the Persian navy on land is famous, and, on the surface, fairly sound. In the ancient world warships could not carry any great quantity of supplies and so had to dock at a friendly port every night to resupply themselves with food and fresh water. It is also true that this strategy ultimately worked: the Persian fleet did collapse as Alexander captured key cities on the Phoenician coast. Yet the strategy had at least two serious flaws. The first was that a competent commander, as Memnon surely was, had a free hand to act as he wished in the Aegean; to overrun all of the islands and carry the fight to the mainland where several states would more than likely have revolted given the opportunity. The second was that it does not take any account of the fact that a significant portion of the Persian fleet was from Cyprus, which would theoretically have been unaffected by this strategy; although these ships would still have needed mainland ports in order to operate, they would still be loyal to the Persians and able to harass Alexander’s rear with Alexander having no possibility of using his land army to capture their ports. Alexander essentially relied upon luck to overcome these two problems, which was very uncharacteristic. His planning was usually far more meticulous than this and his strategies were well thought out, which leads me to conclude that his decision here was not a purely tactical or strategic one, but something rather different.

If the decision to disband the fleet was not taken on military grounds, nor forced upon him by lack of funds or any of the other reasons Arrian cites, why did he make this decision? I suspect that the truth lies in something that Arrian comes close to mentioning. He points out that any loss in battle could lead to disaffection and potential rebellion at home, bringing up the question of loyalty. The allied troops with the army were loyal to Alexander, although this could have been because of a fear of reprisals at home if they had rebelled. It could also have been because of the presence of thousands of heavily armed, battle-hardened Macedonians. The fleet would very quickly have been far away from the location of the king or the army, so Alexander’s personality and influence would have had far less of an impact on them and the opportunity for disloyalty would have been exponentially greater, as well as being far easier to act upon. The fact that he retained the 20 Athenian vessels is an indication that he wanted to try to retain some specifically Athenian hostages, but 160 vessels was too great a risk. It is interesting to note that all Alexander ever got from the great naval power of Athens were these 20 vessels along with 200 cavalry; these 20 vessels and their crew, then, were important hostages against the good behaviour of Athens.

The Fleet of Proteas

We know very little about this fleet, or indeed its commander, Proteas. We do know that whilst Alexander was at Gordium in the winter of 334/3, Antipater gave orders for the reconstruction of a Greek fleet. The fleet was raised principally on the island of Euboea and in the Peloponnese, and its primary purpose was to act as a defensive force against the possibility of Persian naval action against the islands or even the mainland. We know very little about the size of this fleet: Arrian simply says ‘a number of warships’ and the only evidence we have of it in action involved fifteen ships attacking a force of ten Persian vessels off the island of Siphnos. The fleet seems to have been in commission only until 332.

The Fleet of Hegelochus and Amphoterus

There is only one reference in Arrian to the construction of a Macedonian national fleet, but we know from Curtius that whilst Alexander was marching between Gordium and Ancyra in the summer of 333 he invested 500 talents in the construction of just such a fleet. This fleet was led by Hegelochus and Amphoterus, but it is evident from Arrian that Hegelochus was in supreme command. Curtius tells us specifically that the former was in charge of the troops and the latter was responsible for the ships and therefore, presumably, their crews. It seems a slight contradiction that the commander of the naval element of a fleet was subordinate to the commander of the marines, but in reality none existed. It was not uncommon in the ancient world for this to be the arrangement and it is even less surprising when we consider the wider situation with Alexander, in which the army was the totally dominant military force. We also know, however, that Amphoterus was capable of acting independently when assignments arose: for example, he was sent to Lesbos, Chios and Cos at the head of a detachment of the fleet in 332. When the Macedonian fleet joined Alexander in Egypt during the winter of 332/1 Hegelochus was reassigned, but we do not know where to. At this time Amphoterus assumed command of both the ships and the marines. The fleet then appears to have been operating off Crete and the Peloponnese. The fleet was decommissioned in 331.

The Cypro-Phoenician Fleet

During the siege of Tyre in 333, soon after the mole was partially destroyed by the Tyrian fireship, Alexander along with his hypaspists and Agrianians set off on a mission to Sidon. Arrian tells us that this mission was ‘in order to assemble there all the warships he possessed’. It is unclear what this line actually means. It could be that Alexander intended to summon his Greek and Macedonian fleets to him; if this were the case, however, there was no need to travel to Sidon, and secondly there is no evidence that any such summons was issued or acted upon by the fleets.

It is perhaps more likely that Alexander believed quite simply that, as he now possessed the ports of Sidon and Byblos, along with many others, he also owned their fleets; he therefore travelled to Sidon to await their arrival home at the end of the campaigning season. Given the slow rate at which news was disseminated in the ancient world, news of the Persian defeat at Issus in November 333 may not have reached the fleet until after the end of the sailing season, so the Phoenician and Cypriot contingents were simply in no position to defect to Alexander until early April. By the time the Phoenician fleet arrived home, the siege of Tyre had been under way for two months. Alexander’s military presence in Sidon would ensure that there would be no difficulty with his taking personal possession of the fleet.

Arrian gives us a quite detailed account of the numbers of ships Alexander acquired: the contingents of Aradus, Byblos and Sidon accounted for a total of about eighty Phoenician vessels. At around the same time he was joined by a detachment ‘from Rhodes and nine other vessels, three from Soli and Mallus, ten from Lycia and a fifty-oared galley from Macedon’. Soon after the news of the Persian defeat at Issus had reached Cyprus, the Cypriot kings also decided to join Alexander at Sidon: their fleet alone totalled some 120 ships. Arrian’s total of 224 ships at Sidon generally agrees with Plutarch’s figure of 200 and Curtius’ claim that 190 ships took part in the surprise attack on Tyre.

The acquisition of the Cypro-Phoenician fleet was undoubtedly the turning point in the siege of Tyre: before this Alexander had no effective fleet and therefore no real means of countering Tyrian naval action against him. This fleet assured that he could probe the outer defences of the city from all directions. This ability to attack from a number of positions and directions simultaneously was another hallmark strategy of Alexander. Even in his set-piece battles we can see his desire to have the Companion Cavalry attack the Persian centre from the right, at the same time as the heavy infantry was attacking from the front. Alexander realized the benefit of such tactics very early during his career and applied it to every possible situation. The ultimate breakthrough came when a group of hypaspists, operating as marines, penetrated the walls at the southern tip of the fortress, not as a direct result of the construction of the mole. The troops on the mole would have had the effect of diverting some of the defenders away from the southern section of the walls, as would the fleet that was operating around the whole perimeter of the besieged city.

Polish Submarines


Wilk (12 April 1929)

Builder: Normand

Rys (22 April 1929)

Builder: Loire

Zbik (14 June 1931)

Builder: CNF

Displacement: 980 tons (surfaced), 1250 tons (submerged)

Dimensions: 257960 x 19940 x 13990

Machinery: 2 Normand-Vickers diesel engines, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts. 1800 bhp/1200 shp = 14/9 knots

Range: 7000 nm at 7.5 knots surfaced, 80 nm at 4 knots submerged

Armament: 6 x 550mm torpedo tubes (4 bow, 1 twin trainable external mount), total 10 torpedoes, 40 mines, 1 x 100mm gun, 1 x 40mm AA gun

Complement: 54

Notes: These submarines were larger versions of the French Saphir class. The Rys and the Zbik were interned in Sweden in September 1939, returned to Poland at the war’s end, and were scrapped in 1951 and 1954. The Wilk escaped to Britain in September 1939, became a training vessel a year later, and returned to Poland after World War II. It was scrapped in 1951.


Orzel (15 January 1938)

Builder: De Schelde

Sept (17 October 1938)

Builder: Rotterdamse

Displacement: 1100 tons (surfaced), 1650 tons (submerged)

Dimensions: 275970 x 22900 x 13940

Machinery: 2 Sulzer diesel engines, 2 electric motors, 2 shafts. 4740 bhp/1100 shp = 20/9 knots

Range: 7000 nm at 10 knots surfaced, 100 nm at 3 knots submerged

Armament: 12 x 550mm torpedo tubes (4 b o w, 4 stern, 1 x quadruple external trainable mount), total 20 torpedoes, 1 x 105mm gun, 1 x twin 40mm AA gun

Complement: 60

Notes: These submarines were designed by the Nederlandsche Verenigde Scheepsbouw Bureaux in `s-Gravenhage, in cooperation with a team from the Polish Navy. They incorporated many features of the earlier Dutch O. 16, including the external trainable mount. The hulls were entirely welded, and all controls were hydraulically operated. The Orzel escaped the German invasion of Poland to the United Kingdom and was mined in the North Sea on 8 June 1940. The Sept escaped and was interned in Sweden until the war’s end, when it returned to Polish service until it decommissioned on 15 September 1969

The Polish Navy two U-class submarines:
ORP Dzik – (ex HMS P52)

ORP Dzik (Boar) was a U-class submarine built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. She was laid down on 30 December 1941 as P-52 for the Royal Navy, but was transferred to the Polish Navy during construction. Launched on November 11, 1942, ORP Dzik was commissioned into the Polish Navy on December 12, 1942. Her name meant “Wild Boar” in Polish.
24 May 1943 Near Cape Spartivento, ORP Dzik fired a 4 torpedo salvo and damaged the Italian oil tanker Carnaro (8357 Brutto Register Tonnage). After the attack, two Italian corvettes dropped over 60 depth charges.
21 Sep 1943 ORP Dzik fired torpedoes in Bastia harbour, Corsica, France and sank the German tanker Nikolaus (6397, former Greek Nicolaou Ourania) and the German tug Kraft (333 Brutto Register Tonnage).
8 Jan 1944 ORP Dzik sank the Greek sailing vessel Elleni (200 Brutto Register Tonnage) with gunfire off Lesbos Island, Greece in position 39.37N, 25.43E.
ORP Dzik destroyed or damaged 18 surface ships both German and Italian with a total tonnage of 45,080 tons. She participated in Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, and also engaged enemy surface ships with her 76 mm cannon three times and the crew boarded two enemy ships. The ORP Dzik earned the Jolly Roger.
In July 1946, the Polish Navy decommissioned her and returned her to the Royal Navy.
In 1947, the ship was transferred to the Royal Danish Navy. She sailed as HDMS U-1 and was later renamed to HDMS Springeren. She was returned to the Royal Navy in April 1958 and scrapped.
ORP Sokół – (ex HMS Urchin)

ORP Sokół (Polish: Falcon) was a U-class submarine (formerly HMS Urchin) built by Vickers-Armstrong at Barrow-in-Furness. Shortly after launching in September 1940 she was to be commissioned by the Royal Navy as HMS Urchin, but instead was leased to the Polish Navy due to a lack of experienced submarine crews. A sister boat to Dzik, both boats operated in the Mediterranean from Malta, where they became known as the “Terrible Twins”.

Shortly after her trials, the boat was handed to her Polish crew, in accordance with the Polish-British Military Alliance and amendments of 18 November 1939 and 3 December 1940. On 19 January 1941 the Polish banner was raised and the boat, commanded by Commander Borys Karnicki, was moved to Portsmouth. There she spent half a year patrolling the Bay of Biscay off the French port of Brest. In September she was moved to Malta, where she was attached to the 10th Submarine Flotilla. She took part in the naval runs on the Italian ports of Taranto and Naples. She also escorted numerous convoys in the Mediterranean. On 28 October of that year, Sokół achieved her first victory by heavily damaging the Italian auxiliary cruiser Città di Palermo. On 2 November in the Gulf of Naples she sank the 2,469-ton transport ship Balilla, with her sister HMS Utmost. On 19 November of the same year, she forced the anti-submarine nets and entered the port of Navarino, where she damaged the Italian destroyer Aviere. She was attacked by Italian torpedo boats and destroyers, but all of the depth charges missed and Sokół managed to escape from the harbour, sinking an additional transport steamer (5,600 tons) with three torpedoes. On 12 February 1942 she boarded and then sank the Italian wooden merchant schooner Giuseppina (362 tons) in the Gulf of Gabes.
On 17 April while in the port of Malta, she was heavily damaged by a German air raid and was forced to return to the shipyard in Blyth to receive repairs. By mid-1943 she had returned to the Mediterranean, where she continued to harass enemy shipment off the coasts of Italy, Northern Africa and in the Adriatic. On 12 September she rammed and sank the fishing vessel Meattini (36 tons). She took part in the allied blockade of the naval bases in Naples and Pula. Off the coast of the latter port, transferred by the Italians to Nazi Germany, Sokół sank a munitions transport (probably the 7,095-ton SS Eridania) and three days afterwards on 11 November the Italian schooner Argentina (64 tons). Between 4 November 1943 and 25 February 1944 she operated in the Aegean from the naval base in Beirut. Among the ships sunk in that period were two transport ships, four schooners and one cutter. In March 1944 both of the “Terrible Twins” left Malta for Great Britain where they were attached to the Dundee-based 9th submarine flotilla. After an additional four patrols off the coast of Norway, in the spring of 1945 she was designated as a training ship and was used by the Royal Air Force for training naval bomber pilots.

Altogether, during her wartime service Sokół sank or damaged 19 enemy vessels of about 55,000 tons in total. All of the commanding officers of the boat, (Lieutenant Commander Karnicki, Lieutenant Commander Koziołkowski and Captain Bernas) were awarded the Virtuti Militari. The full patrol records of the ORP Sokół are stored at the National Record Office, Kew, England.

TYPE 207 (1962)

These boats were very slightly modified versions of the earlier Type 201 class with upgraded sensors. To protect against the corrosion problems of the earlier boats, the first five vessels hulls received a coating of special zinc paint; the next four used a different, corrosion-resistant steel; and the U-1 and U-2 were new hulls built from magnetic steel incorporating all of the original machinery and basic equipment of the original U-1 and U-2. The U-4 through the U-8 were broken up between 1975 and 1977 and the U-1 and U-2 in 1993. The U-9 and U-10 became museum ships in 1993; the U-11 was modified as a target vessel that same year and became a museum ship in 2003; and the U-12 became a sonar trials b o a t in 1993 and was stricken in 2005. The Danish boats had small changes to suit local requirements and were decommissioned in 2003-2004. The Norwegian boats were classed as Type 207 and were built of magnetic high-tensile steel to endow them with deeper diving limits, and they had other minor variations from the German boats. The Stadt was scrapped in 1989; the Kinn was sunk as a target in 1990; the Ula was renamed the Kinn in 1988 and scrapped with the Utsira in 1998; the Utstein became a museum ship the same year; the Sklinna was scrapped in 2001. The Uthaug, the Utvaer, and the Kya were transferred to Denmark between 1989 and 1991 as the Tumleren, the Saelen , and the Springeren , and Denmark also received the Kaura for spare parts. They were decommissioned in 2004. The Skolpen, the Stord, the Svenner, and the Kunna were transferred between 2002 and 2004 to Poland as the Sep, the Sokol, the Bielek , and the Kondor, and Poland also received the Kobben for spare parts. The Polish boats remain in service.


Design work on this class began immediately after World War II as a medium submarine to replace the earlier S and Shch types. Detailed examination of German Type XXI boats strongly influenced the final design, which incorporated, in a less pronounced form, the figure-eight midsection and distinctive stern contours of these boats. There were many detail variations between different series of these submarines, mainly in the exact number and disposition of the guns. Large numbers of these boats were modified for special missions or experiments. Many also went to fleets within the Soviet sphere of influence: 5 to China (in addition to the 21 assembled there from Soviet-supplied components), 8 to Egypt, 2 to Bulgaria, 14 to Indonesia, 4 to Albania, 4 to Poland, 4 to North Korea, and one each to Cuba and Syria. By the early 1980s about 60 boats of the 215 built in the Soviet Union remained in service, and 18 still existed 10 years later.

Poland (four vessels, 1962–1986, retired)
ORP Orzeł (292)
ORP Bielik (295)
ORP Sokół (293)
ORP Kondor (294) – 10 June 1965 raising of the banner, 30 October 1985 lowering of the banner.


This class of long-range submarines was developed to replace the earlier Project 611 type. Like the Project 633 type, they were equipped with a substantially more advanced sonar outfit and could dive deeper than their precursors. In addition to the 17 boats built for export, 2 submarines were transferred to Poland in 1987 and 1988 as the Wilk and the Dzik . All the boats, both Soviet and foreign, were discarded in the 1990s.

ORP Orzeł (291) is a Polish Navy ‘Project 877E’ (Kilo-class) submarine. She is the third Polish submarine to bear the name Orzeł.
The boat was built by the Shipyard Krasnoe Sormovo in Gorky and was commissioned on 29 April 1986 at Riga. On 13 June of the same year Orzeł was transferred to Gdynia where she was named on 21 June. The submarine was assigned to the 3rd Flotilla based in Gdynia.