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Estonian Navy`s maritime defense concepts and ideas for the modernization of the warfleet

Arto Oll

The Estonian Navy was rapidly formed in wartime circumstances at the beginning of the Estonian War of Independence. During the wartime period of 1918-1920 all of the national maritime institutions were submitted under the navy`s command. As a result the navy expanded into some 250 ships, concisting some 7600 personnel. Although this type of organisation served the countries needs in wartime, but was inadequate during peacetimes. Also the fleet itself was not compact enough, consisting of numerous shiptypes from which only a handful were actual warships.

The 1920`s proved to be an ardous time in Estonian Navy`s peacetime development history. The government wanted to dissolve the fleet and mainly concentrate on coastal artillery batteries to defend the countries lenghtly coastline. The naval high command argued against this, proposing numerous maritime defence concepts which would be the most appropriate to serve the preliminary needs of a small country. These concepts along with shipbuilding programmes were unique in their nature, but were overlooked throughout the first decade of independence.  Consequently the navy had to resort to converting numerous civil vessels into navy ships. This of course was not an ideal solution. Although these ships did provide the rudimentary defence for the coastal waters along with sea lines of communication, a balanced fleet was justifiably needed.

In the 1930`s the government finally recognised the shortcomings in maritime defence. The navy`s plan for the modernization of the warfleet was revised and put into effect in a limited manner. The deadline for the navy`s shipbuilding programme had to be completed by 1942 at the latest. When World War II broke out in Europe in 1939, most of the fleet`s modernization plans were halted. At the dawn of the soviet occupation, only the first stage of the modernization plans were completed.

Latvian Navy 1919-1940 and its international cooperation with the Polish Navy

Ēriks Jēkabsons

The aim of the report is to show the main trends and stages of development of the Latvian Navy, it’s composition and the level of combat readiness. Special attention is paid to the international cooperation of the Latvian Navy, which was important for the security of the region, and which existed as far as possible with the friendly neighboring countries. Cooperation with the Polish Navy will be used as the main example. This cooperation included reciprocal ship visits, consultations and the exchange of armaments, as well as, in the 1930s, the internship of officers on both sides in the other party’s units. Of special importance in the research of this topic are the reports of the officers of the Polish Navy on the experience within the Latvian Navy, which allow for a fuller understanding of its condition, combat capabilities, etc. as well as to understand the security situation in the region as a whole. International cooperation was generally insufficient and was determined by the overall international situation in the region as a whole.

Development of the navy  in Latvia (1920-1928)

Helēna Šimkuva

Keywords: maritime transport, navy, admiral of the Latvian Navy, shipbuilding, parliament (Saeima).

The study evaluates the construction of the Latvian Navy fleet from 1920 to 1928. The history of the Navy of Latvia in the interwar period has not been sufficiently studied. Transcripts of Latvian parliamentary sittings have been used in the study. The construction program of the Latvian navy provoked discussions in the parliament in 1924. Admiral Count Archibald Keyserling played a key role in the formation of the navy. The study evaluates the position of the League of Nations in the establishment of the Latvian navy. The development of the Latvian Naval Forces was related to the overall development of the Latvian Armed Forces during the interwar period. This aspect is also being assessed in the study.  The report will look at the organizational, legal and financial aspects of the development of the Latvian navy in the interwar period. The research is based on archive materials, methodological document analysis method, statistical method, biographical method have been used.

British Armed Forces in Finland 1919

Juha Joutsi

After the Great War Armistice in November 1918 Britain sent a Naval Detachment to the Baltic. Initially the Royal Navy supported the newly independent Baltic states both against Bolsheviks and German troops in the area.

From summer 1919 onwards the main theatre of operations for the British forces was the eastern Gulf of Finland. The Koivisto anchorage in Finland was used as the main Naval Base for operations against the Bolshevik Navy. An airfield was also established for the Royal Air Force near the anchorage. Navy and RAF operations proceeded until December 1919. More than 100 warships and auxiliaries and 55 airplanes operated from Koivisto during summer of 1919.

A British Army platoon was also located Finland for a special duty during 1919-1920.

Polish – France Relations 1920 – 1939. Marianna’s unwanted ally

Krzysztof Kubiak

After regaining independence, Poland began organizing naval forces. In the first period, they had a propaganda and psychological dimension rather than a military one. It was hoped in Warsaw that France’s help was possible in maritime matters. This showed a profound misunderstanding of French intentions in international politics. Paris’ intention was to create a coalition of states that would counterbalance Germany. However, it was the Polish land forces that counted in this game, not the navy. The expansion of the fleet was even against the interests of France. Allocating limited resources to the fleet was, from the point of view of Paris, a waste of French subsidies – after all, each Polish destroyer was worth a few battalions on the German front. This was overlapped by the fact that the French navy – after a short presence in the Baltic Sea during the Russian Civil War – was not going to return there. The author discusses Polish-French maritime relations starting from the strategic conditions and ending with its practical dimension.

The navies of the Baltic Sea Region during the Interwar Period: development of fleets, organizations
and naval strategies 1918-1939

Maciej Franz

The aim of the paper will be to present the process of the emergence and development of the Polish Navy in the years 1918-1939. Regaining independence by Poland after more than 120 years of partitions, allowed for the emergence of a navy. The first military flotilla was established on the Vistula River, and the first “naval” victory took place on the Pripyat River near Chernobyl.

The first ship of the Polish Navy, “Pomorzanin”, was purchased with the private money of Commander Józef Unrug, and the first torpedo squadron was acquired as a result of the decisions of the Versailles Conference.

In 1939, the Polish navy had 4 destroyers, 1 minelayer, 5 submarines, 5 minesweepers, 4 river monitors and many smaller units. Was its development the result of the realization of dreams about Poland at the seaside, a maritime power, or just the result of necessity and limited financial resources?

An attempt will be made to answer the question of who was responsible for the plans for the development of the Polish navy. Was it the command of the navy or the ministry of military affairs. Whether the development of the navy was decided by sailors or politicians. How the development of the navy was influenced by the enemy concept in the Soviet Union and then in the Third Reich.

John Thornycroft’s Coastal Motor Boats – From Britain to the Baltic

Martin Kelly

On 18th June 1919, the 6,975 ton Russian cruiser Oleg was sunk in the Gulf of Finland, by a single torpedo discharged from a lightweight, 40ft (12.1m), wooden boat with a Royal Navy crew of three.  Whilst the details of this specific action are well recorded in the naval history of the period, not least in the personal account by the commander of the boat, Lieutenant Augustus Agar, less research has been carried out on the process by which John Thornycroft developed these high speed Coastal Motor Boats (CMB) for the  Royal Navy during the Great War, using sports motor boats as a prototype.  Also less researched is the CMBs’ employment after 1920 by various navies.  This paper will start by introducing recent work, in the John Thornycroft archives, into the process for the design of Coastal Motor Boats, especially the contribution by a remarkable amateur pioneer female naval architect. It will show how a greater understanding of these boats is currently emerging from the construction of a fully operational replica of CMB 4 (the boat that sunk the Oleg); this work is taking place in Portsmouth, England, alongside the preserved hull of the original boat.  It will then review how, from the design of the 40ft CMB, a more seaworthy 55ft (16.7m) version emerged and, finally, examine the reason why four of this latter type of vessel were acquired by the embryo Finnish Navy, as well as a number of other navies, whilst simultaneously the Royal Navy decided to minimise significantly its operational use of these craft. 

Staying Afloat – managing mission creep during the Royal Navy intervention in the Baltic

Matthew Heaslip

The concept of mission creep is not a new one but has featured heavily in recent literature on the application of military force in support of foreign policy during the post-2001 era. Looking back to the Royal Navy’s intervention in the Baltic, this paper will explore how the force avoided being drawn into additional commitments beyond the force’s original objectives. As this was something that occurred to varying degrees in many similar contemporary deployments, including other elements of the wider Allied intervention in the Russian Civil War, what was it that helped avoid that risk in the Baltic? This paper will explore the strength of concern in Britain about its force being drawn into a deeper commitment in the Baltic and identifies key factors, not all of which were within the Royal Navy’s control, that helped ensure a successful outcome.

The German Navy in the Inter-war Years: The problems of developing a new strategy against the background of a lost war and the restrictions of Germany’s geographic position in Europe

Michael Epkenhans

In November 1918 Germany eventually had to surrender. For the former Imperial Germany Navy this defeat was a traumatic experience. On the one hand the mutiny which had overthrown the old imperial political order had had its origins in the navy. On the other hand, the navy which had promised to pave the way to world and seapower had utterly failed during the war.

The stipulations of the Treaty of Versailles which Germany had to sign in June 1919 thwarted any ambitions of playing a major role in world politics in the future by reducing the navy to a small coastal navy only able to protect Germany’s coast lines in the North and Baltic Seas.

It is the aim of this paper to describe

  • how the German naval leadership dealt with this deep shock
  • against which enemies it tried to prepare the navy
  • and which strategy it developed in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The Tired Danish Navy in the 1920s and Thereafter

Michael Hesselholt Clemmesen

At the implementation of the new Navy Law in 1923, the ships and boats of the service were either worn out from constant use 1914-18 or unsuitable as too small or under-armed thanks to hostile political dictate. The service had four old coastal artillery ships and a new, under-armed command ship, to mine layers, a dozen torpedo boats of various quality, half that number of coastal submarines as well as an air service. The units were based in Copenhagen and supported there by the naval base and its Royal Naval Shipyard. The new law had also weakened the service by reducing the cadre.

However, the drastic weakening of the Russian and German Navies, the presence of Western Navies in the Baltic Sea from late 1918, the warm cooperation between the Danish and Swedish Navies from 1917 and the establishment of the League of Nations had created a potentially benevolent operational framework for the tired service. During the remaining years of the 1920s the service gamed various situations where Western League naval forces intervened in the Baltic Sea against Russian or German aggression. Normally the deployed Danish naval units were put under command of the larger Swedish force. The mission of the combined fleet was to delay and weakening the enemy until the arrival of the far stronger League Western naval force.

From the end of the decade the start of the rebuilding of the German Navy, the weakening of the Royal Navy and later the diminishing credibility of the League, and the failure og the Danish Navy to secure funds for the construction of new units, meant that from 1932 onwards, the service reduced its ambitions to again guarding neutrality in the shade of German power.

Building the Finnish naval defence in 1920s and 1930s. Imperial Russian legacy and commercial interests

Mikko Meronen

The planning and building of the Finnish naval defence started after the Civil War in the spring of 1918. 

Most of the ships and equipment had been acquired as a legacy of the Russian Imperial Navy. Also the main part of the officer corps had served in the Russian armed forces. 

The planning and building of the naval defence or in the Finnish case coastal defence started rapidly. The Finnish doctrine was developed around coastal artillery and mine barrages. Coastal artillery was rearranged and guns were modified. The main armament of the Finnish coastal defence was the Russian 6-inch Obukhov gun that eventually served until 1980s. 

The Finnish navy operated with former Russian torpedo boats and gunboats. 

Planning of the new defence and new navy was discussed in 1920’s. The theme has been studied in Finland but in most cases the influence of the personnel and their  background has been overlooked. The influence of the commercial interests in the development requires further research. 

Before 1917 Finnish shipyards and workshops were mainly catering to the demand of the Russian market. With the Russian revolution and Finnish independence they lost the largest share of their markets. The Finnish industry saw the building of the Finnish Navy as a possibility to survive and as stepping stone into the international market. 

In this paper I will look the personnel of the Finnish Navy and coastal artillery and their impact to the discussion and how the commercial interests influenced the planning of the Finnish coastal defence. 

Lithuanian Navy in 1930`s: Structure and Role in Defense Strategy

Romualdas Adomavičius

Looking from historical perspective we should admit that “contacts” between Lithuania and the sea were rather scarce and fragile. At least until the beginning of 20th century. Especially when we consider political and economic trends. Just after establishing independent Republic of Lithuania (1918) and acquiring the port of Klaipėda (1923) we can trace first steps towards the formation of Lithuanian Navy.

During 1920`s coast guard fleet equipped with light guns was formed in Klaipėda port. The main function of these motor vessels was to chase and catch smugglers of spirit production. In 1927 bigger ship (originally minesweeper “M-59”) was bought by Lithuanian government for the same actions. It was called “Prezidentas Smetona” after the autocratic leader of the state. The ship wasn`t very useful for dealing with sea smugglers and after several years of service went through general refit.

At the beginning of 1930`s geopolitical situation changed dramatically in the region of southeastern Baltic. Because of this the government of Lithuanian had to react and strengthen political and economic ties with sea port and all Klaipeda region – seacoast of the country. Alongside all the measures taken Lithuanian Navy was officially established in 1935. “Prezidentas Smetona” became the one and only warship that flew Lithuanian Navy flag during the interwar. So, the main goal of my presentation / article is to evaluate what was the role of this warship and the Navy in general in the context of Lithuanian defense strategy at that time. Was it only a symbolic representative existence or something more?        

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