The mysterious disappearance of the "Shchuka"* diesel-electric torpedo submarine remained a mystery for decades, until divers from the reconnaissance and diving team put an end to this war drama. Historians, in turn, literally minute by minute, were able to restore the events associated with the destruction of Sch-405.
It turned out that on June 11, at 22.25, Shch-405 left Kronstadt on a military campaign to the shores of Sweden, to the Stockholm region. The task is to sink the transports of the fascists, thus interrupting the supply of Swedish iron ore to Germany.
The boat was commanded by Captain 3rd Rank Ivan Grachev, an experienced submariner, a veteran of the war in Spain. As a participant in the tragic Tallinn passage, Grachev miraculously escaped, losing his previous submarine Shch-301 and finding himself twice more in similar alterations, for which the sailors jokingly called him Unsinkable.
Having reached the Shepelevsky lighthouse, "Shchuka" lay down on the ground and in the evening of June 12 was supposed to continue moving to the forward base of the Baltic fleet - the island of Lavensaari.
The order ordered the commander to move along the route under water. However, for some unknown reason, he did not, and at 0:16 the next day, the Soviet observation posts of Seskar Island reported to the headquarters that they had "spotted" the Shch-405 submarine, which was sailing on the surface towards Lavensaari Island. Half an hour later, the "Shchuka" disappeared from sight and no one ever saw her again...
Two days later, four miles west of Seskar, boats from the "small hunters" found the bodies of the assistant commander Lieutenant-Commander Mikhail Bakutin and the senior steering sailor Vladimir Zhulepnikov. On the afternoon of June 16, the body of Captain 3rd Rank Grachev was washed up on the shore of Seskar.
By the way, all the victims were dressed in kapok pea jackets. This circumstance clearly indicated that the death of the boat occurred when it was on the surface. A search carried out in 1942 by reconnaissance aircraft showed the presence of a large oil slick north-west of the Nagaev Bank - where, as it turned out later, there was a German minefield "Tiger"...
Archival materials of a researcher at the Institute of History of the Ministry of Defense of Russia, candidate of historical sciences, reserve colonel Miroslav Morozov have already allowed search engines to determine the area of work - north of the island of Seskar. And then on the sonar screen appeared an object torn into two parts, similar to a submarine. Russian divers sank to a depth of 48 meters. Inspection of the boat's cabin unambiguously confirmed that the Soviet Sch-405 had been found.
A terrifying picture was revealed to the specialists: the explosion of a German submarine mine tore the Soviet submarine in half, the torn off bow part lies behind the stern of the "Shchuka". The hull froze at the bottom with a trim to the bow, sinking into the silt up to the bow gun.
The divers said that the conning tower was closed, but not battened down - most likely, it slammed shut when the boat hit the ground. On the bridge, both engine telegraphs froze in the "small forward" position.
It also turned out that the aft horizontal rudders remained in the "zero" position, the vertical rudder was turned slightly to the left.
The aft escape hatch is ajar, but, apparently, it was simply knocked out by the strongest blast wave that passed through the entire boat.
What happened to the submarine on that fateful day of the war?
According to the diver and military historian Mikhail Ivanov, on the bridge at the moment of movement on the surface, as expected, there were 4-5 people, led by the boat commander. Judging by the data on the instruments, the boat on the surface was sailing at low speed. Perhaps Commander Grachev was about to make a turn, and therefore the boat dropped its speed - in any case, the telegraph repeater reads “small ahead”. That's about 5-6 knots per hour. The boat was turning, because in this place is the fairway to which it strictly followed. "Shchuka" made a left turn and by tragic coincidence, it was at this point - the German boats the day before, set a minefield. And they did it, interestingly, with a navigation error, that is, they had to place mines elsewhere. But since the Germans put them at night and with rather weak navigation devices, they made a mistake and put it exactly at the turning point. Such tragic coincidences led to the fact that Shch-405, moving absolutely exactly along the fairway and observing, as it were, all the modes prescribed for it, practically fell into a trap.
- At that moment in the Baltic Sea the weather was pre-storm - waves up to a meter with lambs, a strong wind was blowing. In the conditions of even white nights it is impossible to see anything. Moreover, the Germans painted their mines in a dark green-black color. They are, in principle, indistinguishable even in cloudy weather. With a hull width of 6 meters, the boat had to go through this minefield just like a knife through butter, without touching it. But, alas, with the left side of the bow end, it hit an EMC mine, which stood at a depth of 1.5-2 meters, the expert concluded.
According to experts, at the time of the explosion, people on board died, not understanding what had happened. It was instant death for those inside the boat.
“Those who remained on the bridge”, - says Mikhail Ivanov, “were also out of luck: they were thrown into the water by a shock wave. They received a severe concussion and, falling overboard, drowned. The sailors were buried there, on the island of Seskar.
Captain Ivan Grachev is one of the few submariners who died in the campaign, whose grave is on land. The remains of 34 crew members found eternal rest in the Gulf of Finland at a depth of 48 meters.
In an interview with the Novye Izvestia correspondent, Doctor of Technical Sciences, Professor, Vice Admiral of the Reserve Tengiz Borisov said that "Shchuka" was one of the most successful submarine designs during the Second World War. Submarines of this series became the first type of medium submarine that were built in the Soviet Union. The construction of submarines of six different series was carried out from 1930 to 1945. In total, 86 submarines of the "Sh" type "got life" during this period.
The distinctive features of these submarines were the relatively low cost of production, increased survivability and maneuverability.
- There are many stories connected with these submarines. In particular, it is known that the engineers who were involved in the project "Sh" were sent by the leadership of the USSR to Germany, where they had to undergo training at military factories focused on the construction of submarines. Moreover, on the eve of the war, we signed an agreement with Germany on the exchange of specialists. Under the contract, the Germans were obliged to answer all the questions of our shipbuilders. And there were a lot of questions. Naturally, before the trip, the guys received strict instructions to find out everything they could. They literally spent the day and night at the enterprise, where they trained. When the Soviet specialists returned to Moscow, most of them were taken to the Lubyanka as German spies. They were sent to work on projects in the so-called "sharashki" ("shady business establishments" - editor's note). Sergey Alekseyevich Yegorov, the chief designer of the "Shchuka", did not escape this fate. They say that when, under the escort of the NKVD officers, he “handed over” the first submarine of his design, he was denied entry to the sea. Then the officers who were present at the same time found how to help out the designer. “Do you think we will not work with this enemy of the people on board the submarine? - said one of them to the NKVDs. - Let him come with us and this will be a guarantee of our safety!" The employees of Beria's department themselves refused to take part in the tests of the "Shchuka", but Yegorov was released, - Vice Admiral Tengiz Borisov told Novye Izvestia.
The discovery of sunken submarines is not an accident and not a momentary action. As Nikolay Kudryashov, a member of the expedition “Bow to the ships of the Great Victory”, told Novye Izvestia, this is preceded by a long and painstaking work.
“First comes the work in the archives. The search is being conducted by Colonel Miroslav Morozov, a researcher at the Institute of History of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. It is he who calculates the course of the submarines, works with the reports of the formations of the Gulf of Finland, observation posts during the Great Patriotic War. Only after that our boat comes out with a side-scan sonar. It was developed specifically for us at the A. Tikhomirov. First, we use it to search for objects, then we identify boats”, - Nikolay Kudryashov said.
* The name of the submarine Shchuka in English means "luce" or "common pike".