Bow to the "Baltic Varyag": the crew of Shch-408 preferred death to captivity

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Bow to the "Baltic Varyag": the crew of Shch-408 preferred death to captivity
Bow to the "Baltic Varyag": the crew of Shch-408 preferred death to captivity
4 November 2021, 16:59SocietyPhoto: lv.sputniknews.ru
In May 1943, the submarine Shch-408, nicknamed the "Baltic Varyag", perished.

As in the case of the cruiser Varyag, the submarine's crew fought to the last with superior enemy forces on the surface, and when the situation became critical, then, having battened down the hatches, the Shchuka fell forever to the bottom of the Baltic Sea.

Gennady Charodeyev

In the summer of 1942, the Nazis already knew well that the crews of Soviet submarines had been ordered to disrupt the supply of copper, timber and ore from Finland and Sweden to Germany at all costs. Our submariners, often risking their lives, broke into the open Baltic Sea and drowned German transports. By the fall, they sent 32 ships to the bottom or damaged, and thus forced the Germans to reduce the number of ships sailing in the direction of the Reich.

But the Nazis did not sit idly by. As a matter of urgency, they began to lay "smart" anchor mines, which allowed them to virtually lock the Soviet submariners in the Gulf of Finland. This part of the sea was nicknamed "dumpling soup" by the sailors.

Фашисты выставили двойную противолодочную сеть
Photo: orkneymuseum.wordpress.com

“From the end of March to mid-May, from the Porkkala-Kallboda lighthouse to the Tallinn Bay of Naissaar, the Nazis deployed a double anti-submarine network. And the Germans reinforced the Nashorn minefields located to the east with anti-submarine mines”, - said historian Miroslav Morozov.

By the way, experts from the United States have calculated: during the war in the Baltic Sea, the Germans and Finns placed about 130 thousand anchor and bottom mines.

Be that as it may, in the spring of 1943, the Soviet submarine fleet again persistently sought ways to enter the Baltic Sea through the enemy's obstacle system. On May 18, the submarine Sch-408 under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Pavel Kuzmin departed from the pier on the island of Lavensari to carry out a combat mission.

Pavel Kuzmin and Shch-408

Diesel-electric torpedo submarine Sch-408, which entered service on September 10, 1941, was fatally unlucky. Already on September 26, during the transition from Kronstadt to Leningrad, she received serious damage - the hull was pierced, the periscope column was bent. On June 22, 1942, the Pike withstood the hit of two artillery shells. The result - holes below the waterline, because of which the submarine had to be overhauled. It was quickly repaired, and by October 1943 the ship was ready to go to sea. But then again a heavy shell exploded next to the Sch-408 and the fragments pierced the solid hull. The boat got up for repairs again.

What was the quality of this renovation? It took place at the docks of besieged Leningrad. The exhausted workers, exhausted from hunger, could well have made some mistake, and the post-repair tests, if any, were clearly carried out in haste and hardly in full. So, it is likely that during a long underwater passage on board the Shch-408 something went out of order, and an oil leak appeared, which became the reason for the discovery of the Shch-408 by the Germans in May 1943. But more on that later.

In October 1941, a new commander came to Shch-408 - Lieutenant Commander Pavel Semenovich Kuzmin. Only recently did the search engines become aware of the details of his biography.

He was born in January 1914 in Grozny, and later moved with his parents to Vladikavkaz. After the end of the ten-year period, Pavel worked at a city power plant as a boiler operator. In 1933 the young man entered the Leningrad Higher Naval School named after M.V. Frunze.

After graduating with honors from the school, Pavel Kuzmin served as a navigator on submarines. In October 1940, he graduated from the Higher Special Courses for Command Personnel at the D. Kirov and was appointed assistant commander of the S-9 submarine. In October 1941, Kuzmin was awarded the rank of lieutenant commander, with the appointment of commander of the submarine Shch-408. He was immediately accepted by the crew - for modesty, humor and at the same time for exactingness to the personnel. The commander did not like to talk about himself and only proudly said: "I come from Grozny!"

We decided to die but not surrender

After leaving the base on the island of Lavensari, Shch-408 successfully overcame the Seeigel minefield. Three days later, Kuzmin realized that it was time to recharge the batteries that had run down, and for this he had to surface in a place determined by the command - in the area of Vindlo Island.

According to the historian Morozov, our intelligence, alas, did not warn that Vaindlo was an area where German and Finnish anti-submarine ships were on patrol.

Passing the minefield, Sch-408, apparently, damaged the fuel tanks and, moving under water, left an oil plume on the surface, which was soon spotted from the air by a German seaplane pilot. He dropped two depth charges on Shch-408.

German BDB - high-speed landing barges - also came out to attack the Pike. They also dropped several depth charges into the alleged location of the boat and began to wait for the Russian submarine to surface, and the crew with raised hands would ask for mercy.

In addition, the commander hoped for salvation - he ordered to send a radiogram to Kronstadt with a request for help. For this, the boat surfaced, but literally under the nose of the German BDB...

"Щукари" и не думали сдаваться
Photo:waralbum.ru

The Red Navy men did not even think to surrender! They turned their two 45-mm cannons towards the enemy boats and began to shoot back. They were answered by 28 German and Finnish guns.

Meanwhile, an encrypted radio message was sent to Kronstadt: “Attacked by PLO forces, I have damage. The enemy does not allow charging. Please send aviation. My location is Vayndlo".

Within 10 minutes, while the radio operators were encrypting and transmitting the report, the crew knocked out at least two German boats, damaged another, and also dealt a serious blow to the Finnish ship.

The Germans shot our boat point-blank - they fired from 75- and 20-mm cannons, and hit the Pike's bow at least seven times. Soviet submariners died, but others got up in their place, continuing to beat the enemy.

In parallel with the battle, the submariners tried to recharge the batteries of the submarine at an accelerated pace. But all is in vain.

Having transmitted the encryption, the submarine, wounded in the battle, began to slowly sink . Soon, help arrived at the scene - a Finnish minelayer and a patrol boat, after which they dropped depth charges on Shch-408. The submarine was seriously damaged.

And what about the help requested by Pavel Kuzmin on the radio? According to the historian Morozov, everything turned out extremely unsuccessfully. Eight Soviet I-16 and I-153 fighters flew to Vayndlo from Lavensari, but they were intercepted by the enemy and, having lost two aircraft, returned back without completing their combat missions.

The next attempt was made only 8 hours later - this time several La-5s took off to help the dying Pike, but they, having lost two cars, failed to get through to the scene of the tragedy.

But the place where the Pike was dived was bombed by German ships for another three days. The hydroacoustics reported to the authorities that they had heard from under the water the "sounds of the struggle for the life" of the crew of a Soviet submarine. On May 26, silence fell, the Germans considered the boat destroyed.

How did you find the Varyag?

The search engines did not know the exact place of the death of our submarine. The coordinates, once indicated in Finnish and German sources, did not correspond to reality. She was found a few miles east of Vindloe Island. According to experts, this may indicate that the submarine did not die immediately after its last dive, but was able to go some other way.

Almost eight decades later, the legendary cruiser was discovered during the expedition of the underwater search project "Bow to the ships of the Great Victory". In addition to the Russians, Finnish divers from the SubZone search team also took part in it .

This is what Mikhail Ivanov, a military historian and diver, a member of the search team "Bow to the ships of the Great Victory", said. He was the first to see the legendary submarine submerged in silt along the waterline:

Такой дайверы увидели Щ-408
Photo:zen.yandex.

- In the report of the commander of the Finnish ship "finishing off" our "four hundred and eighth", after the battle, the coordinates were fixed, which allowed us to narrow the search to 200-300 meters. And so near Vayndlo Island the sonar gave us a profile similar to the silhouette of the Pike. It was Sch-408!

According to the search engines, there were only three "Schuk" in that campaign in May 1943 - 303rd, 406th and 408th. These were medium-sized submarines. Large weapons were not installed on them, only two small 45-mm cannons. Plus 10 torpedoes, which would allow, if necessary, to fight. Shch-406 and Shch-408 were identical in design. But only one 408th led an open artillery battle - this fact was documented back in the 1960s.

The boat was found at a depth of 72 meters, and it was simply impossible for divers to dive in scuba diving - special diving equipment was required.

"Traces of the last battle of Sch-408 were clearly visible on the hull. Outside the combat position, the muzzles of the two deck guns are usually closed with plugs, and we saw that both the 45-mm deck gun and the cannon on the wheelhouse were in a firing position, the bolts and optical sights were open. And both guns were turned to the port side, on which, judging by the holes, the enemy was firing. The shells in the boxes, which lay on the bottom next to the boat's body, are partly used, partly ready for loading. It was clear that the commander of Shch-408 Pavel Kuzmin assigned the crew the task of holding out on the surface in order to have time to radio to the headquarters of the Baltic Fleet. And for all this there were no more than ten minutes, during which the boat was fighting", - suggested Mikhail Ivanov.

German reports of that time describe that the Soviet boat was seriously damaged, the wounded sailors were firing back and even inflicted damage on the enemy. And only when the radiograms were transmitted, "four hundred and eighth" forever dived into the depths of the sea.

The specialists came to another sad conclusion: a significant part of the crew died in the battle - including, apparently, the commander.

Since there is no trace of the crew trying to leave the boat, the members of the expedition believe that the sailors deliberately made the decision to fulfill their military duty to the end.

Lieutenant-Commander Kuzmin and the members of his crew did not receive any Soviet awards for their feat. But quite unexpectedly, the British King George VI, back in 1945, awarded Pavel Semenovich Kuzmin the title of honorary officer of the British Empire of the V degree and a distinction to him.

Commemorative plaque with the names of the heroes

The team "Bow to the ships of the Great Victory" has a good tradition - to mark sunken submarines with memorial plaques made of material that can withstand seawater for a long time. The inscriptions on the plate are usually made in two languages - in Russian and, say, Finnish or Estonian. Depending on where the boat is resting.

Дайверы установили мемориальную табличку
Photo: tsushima.su

Here are the names of the killed crew members of Shch-408 - "Baltic Varyag":

Kuzmin Pavel Semyonovich, Lieutenant Commander, Submarine Commander. Born in Grozny;

Kruglov Alexander Fyodorovich, lieutenant-commander, deputy commander for political affairs. Born in the Moscow region;

Orlov Igor Mikhailovich, senior lieutenant, commander of warheads-1-4. Born in Kazan;

Dolgolenko Petr Kondratiyevich, senior lieutenant, assistant commander of the submarine. Born in Novorossiysk;

Belokopytov Gennady Ivanovich, senior lieutenant, commander of warhead-2-3. Born in the city of Nerchinsk, Chita region;

Kurbatov Petr Pavlovich, engineer-captain of the 3rd rank, commander of the warhead-5. Born in Novorossiysk;

Borzenko Nikolai Ivanovich, lieutenant of the medical service, senior paramedic. Born in Krasnodar;

Muranov Methodius Ivanovich, Lieutenant-Commander, Divisional Signal Officer. Born in Starobelsk, Voroshilovgrad region;

Kolpakov Nikolai Andreyevich, midshipman, boatswain. Was born in the village. Myachevo, Yaroslavl region;

Britvin Vasily Nikolayevich, foreman of the 2nd class, commander of the helmsman squad. Was born in the village. Verkhny Bystrov, Vologda region;

Bragin Nikolai Dmitriyevich, senior sailor, senior helmsman. Was born in the village. Malaya Bragina, Novosibirsk region;

Pokrovsky Nikita Ivanovich, Red Navy sailor, helmsman. Was born in the village. Stucco molding of the Kursk region;

Nikolai Puteshev, Red Navy sailor, helmsman. Was born in the village. Andreev-Navolok of the Karelo-Finnish SSR;

Volkodamov Pavel Stepanovich, sergeant major of the 2nd class, commander of the department of navigational electricians. Born in the city of Cherkessk, Karachay-Cherkess Autonomous Okrug;

Rakitsky Alexey Karpovich, foreman of the 2nd class, commander of the gunnery squad. Born in the village. Yatseno, Kursk region;

Dryakhlov Nikolai Grigoriyevich, chief petty officer, senior torpedo group. Born in Tambov;

Evstigneev Vasily Petrovich, foreman of the 2nd class, commander of the torpedo squad. Was born in the village. Nesterovo, Kalinin region;

Pilipenko Grigory Zakharovich, senior sailor, senior torpedo operator. Born in the village. Manotintsy, Poltava region;

Smirnov Mikhail Nikolayevich, Red Navy, torpedo operator. Was born in the village. Sandyrevka, Ivanovo region;

Nikolay Ivanovich Finogenov, chief foreman, foreman of the group, commander of the radio operator's squad. Was born in the village. Babino, Kalinin region;

Moskalevsky Vladimir Grigoriyevich, Red Navy sailor, radio operator. Born in the village. Maryinka, Donetsk region;

Nikolai Grigoriyevich Sapunov, Red Navy sailor, sonar student. Born in Penza;

Starostin Mikhail Afanasyevich, midshipman, foreman of a group of electricians. Born in Moscow;

Glazachev Pavel Vasiliyevich, foreman of the 2nd class, commander of the electricians' department. Was born in Shenkursk, Arkhangelsk region.

Voevodin Boris Mikhailovich, senior Red Navy sailor, senior electrician. Born in the village. Boltino Ladsky Mordovian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic;

Alexandrov Anatoly Dmitrievich, Red Navy sailor, electrician. Was born in the village. Sakharovka, Tula region;

Ivanov Ivan Petrovich, Red Navy sailor, electrician. Was born in the village. Parshino, Leningrad Region;

Romanin Georgy Andreyevich, Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer of Minders. Born in Leningrad;

Zorin Mikhail Petrovich, foreman of the 2nd class, the commander of the department of mechanics. Was born in the village. Lychna, Vologda region;

Rodionov Petr Artemovich, sergeant major of the 1st class, commander of the mechanic department. Born in Ufa;

Shkatulov Vasily Gerasimovich, senior Red Navy sailor, senior mechanic. Born in Moscow;

Gumenyuk Vasily Afanasyevich, senior Red Navy sailor, minder. Born in Kiev;

Kirillov Nikolai Vasilievich, Red Navy sailor, minder. Born in the city of Novy Oskol, Kursk region;

Artamonov Anatoly Mikhailovich, Chief Petty Officer, Petty Officer of the Group of Hold. Was born in the village. Maryino, Vologda region;

Linkov Nikolai Romanovich, foreman of the 2nd class, the commander of the hold section. Was born in the village. Volokovo, Pskov region;

Alexey Dmitrievich Onishchenko, sailor, hold. Born at mine 2/7 "Lidievka", Donbass;

Ryabov Nikolai Alekseyevich, Red Navy, hold. Was born in the village. Staraya Russa, Novgorod region;

Ostashev Vasily Vasiliyevich, Red Navy sailor, cook. Born in the village. Osievshchina, Leningrad Region;

Fomin Pyotr Yefimovich, Red Navy, combatant. Born in the village. Stone Podolnoe, Oryol Region;

Samoilenko Konstantin Maksimovich, foreman of the 1st class, commander of the SKS squad. Born at the Dolzhanka station of the Krasnodar Territory;

Krolichenko Ivan Korneevich, senior Red Navy sailor, commander of the hydroacoustics department. Born in the village. Berezovka, Voroshilovgrad region

Eternal memory to the heroes!

1943 г. Экипаж Ш-408 перед боевым походом
Photo: forpost-sz.ru

Работа над проектом «Бессмертный дивизион. Последний поход» берёт начало в 2013 году: именно тогда Разведывательно-водолазная команда нашла первую из 10 подводных лодок, о которых пойдет речь в видеороликах данного цикла на нашем канале. Всего на сегодняшний день командой было обнаружено 16 лодок КБФ.

На основании изучения повреждений корпусов субмарин, а также положения горизонтальных и вертикальных рулей, машинного телеграфа, репитера и множества других деталей, РВК сумела исторически точно воссоздать момент подрыва лодок и то, как экипажи боролись за живучесть. Это реалистичная 3d реконструкция того, что 70 лет назад произошло в толще Финского залива.

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