Operation Albion: The Attack On The Baltic Islands

© Gary Staff, 2000

Part III

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At the beginning of operation Albion there had been two English submarines stationed in the Riga Gulf, based at Rogokull, the C27, Lt. Sealy and C32, Lt. Satow. When the German undertaking began Capt. Cromie immediately dispatched another, C26, Lt. Downie, from Hango to the Moon Sound. The evening of October 16th found Lt. Sealy to the south- west of the Moon Sound and it was here that he sighted Gruppe Behncke. The C27 was able to get into an attacking position to port ahead of the German battleships but however, when Lt. Sealy raised his periscope to take final aim he found that he had misjudged the speed of the German unit and that Konig was less than 300 metres distant. Nevertheless, at 1630hrs the C27 fired two torpedoes but both shots missed and to make matters worse, the submarine broke surface between the two German ships. The German ships did not open fire though, believing that the boat was one of their own. Fregattenkapitan Frank, Commander of Kolberg, that was travelling 500 metres astern of Kronprinz, explained the reason for not opening fire thus: "It is one of our own, that by chance is surfacing close to our line. Don't shoot. It has been run over. There indeed is misfortune !" Likewise the torpedoboats did not drop any depth charges. However a curt signal from Konig removed all doubt as to the identity of the attacker, " Two missed torpedo shots." The range had been so low that the battleship's cannon had been unable to depress low enough to take aim on the English submarine. Lieutenant Sealy quickly took his submarine to a safe depth and began reloading his torpedo tubes ; he reasoned correctly that more German ships would follow. When he came to periscope depth again he was greeted by the sight of a large steamer and quickly he fired one of his two remaining torpedoes at a range of just over 700 metres. The target was Indianola, which was following the Group after recovering two damaged motorboats of her M.S.Div., and at around 1645hrs she was struck amidships, beneath the funnel. The engine room and stokehold filled with water and the ship became unmanoeuvrable, however she maintained a positive buoyancy and was in no immediate danger of sinking. Four torpedoboats were immediately dispatched to hunt the submarine but none of the depth-charges they dropped was able to damage C27. The torpedoed tender was towed in to Arensburg.

Meanwhile, Lt. Sealy decided the time was right to quit the Riga Gulf, despite the fact that he had one torpedo remaining. After it became dark the C27 surfaced but was immediately forced to dive again by German light forces. After a further unsuccessful depth-charging he was able to exit the Gulf and return to Hango.

The submarine C32 had been stationed one nautical mile north of Domesnas and during the same afternoon Lt. Satow likewise sighted the German unit to the N.W. at a range of some five nautical miles. The C32 dived and endeavoured to get into a firing position. However, as the submarine manoeuvred in the clear water she was sighted and bombed by a German seaplane so that Lt. Satow lost contact with the German unit. He correctly deduced that Gruppe Behncke was headed for the Moon Sound and accordingly steered for the southern exit of the Sound during the night. Luckily for the Germans he did not find them in the dark.

During the afternoon of October 16th Gruppe Behncke pushed forward to the southern exit of the Moon Sound and at about 2026hrs dropped anchor. The German ships were anchored in one long line with torpedoboats at each end. To provide himself with some security V.Adm. Behncke ordered the torpedoboats to extinguish the lanterns of the mine free channel marker buoys and then he convened a meeting of the B.d.A.d.O., the ship's and Flotilla Commanders onboard his flagship Konig. The conference was later related by three of the participants as follows. Kontreadmiral Hopman imparts: Towards 9pm the unit anchored south of Moon Sound. In an immediately convened meeting Admiral Behncke made known his attack plans. The battleships would break through the blockaded area to the west and they would then defeat the Russian ships lying near Kuiwast and the shore batteries, whilst I with the small cruisers should penetrate the Kleinen Sound. The location of the Russian mine barriers was known to us from the map found on the captured Russian destroyer Grom, that two days before had been taken by our torpedoboats in the Kassar Wiek." Kapitanleutnant Doflein related the meeting as follows: "In the Admiral's cabin on the flagship all the leaders were gathered in the dim light around the sea chart of Moon Sound. Briefly our leader, Vizeadmiral Behncke, outlined his program: 'With the days dawn I will attack the Russian Fleet and shore batteries in the Moon Sound. I suppose then, that they will give a hot battle and offer stubborn resistance from behind the mine barriers. Therefore the II Minesweeper Flottille should go forward first to pave a mine free route to the enemy. If the boats come under fire they should continue the advance, however I will immediately push forward with the ships and attempt to surprise and destroy the enemy.' "

There was obviously some consternation about the English submarines after the attacks on Konig and Indianola, as reflected in Fregattenkapitan Frank's account ; "In the evening at about 9pm we all anchored in the middle of the sea, south of Moon Sound on a starless night. If a submarine travelled along the lights of the channel it would find us at their end. We were collected by a torpedoboat and taken to a sitting of Admirals, Commanders and Admiralstab Officers on Konig. Despite the moonless night the dark ships hull with it's black smoke cloud was visible from far off. Admiral Behncke gave us sherry and cigarettes. He imparted our roles for the next day for an attack on the southern exit of Moon Sound. The battleships would push forwards towards Moon Sound and it's fortifications, the cruisers against the Kleinen Sound and the battery at Woi. Indeed ; and the submarines?" I have dispatched torpedoboats to extinguish the buoy lights, Gentlemen, but apart from that we must allow them to approach."

We returned aboard and slept well, the submarines did not disturb our night !"

The situation ashore on the evening of October 16th was quite pleasing for the Germans. Their troops had occupied most of Osel and were engaged in rounding up prisoners and preparing for the assault on Moon. On Sworbe the Infanterie Regiment 131 had pressed forwards towards Zerel without meeting resistance and had taken 120 officers and 4000 men prisoner and captured 49 guns. The battery at Zerel was found to be unserviceable as although the guns were intact many irreplaceable parts had been removed. With this, the battleship Friedrich der Grosse was no longer required and was detached to coal at Putzig.

For the most part the unloading of equipment in Tagga Bay was complete and Arensburg would soon be available as a port. Only the vessels necessary for the operation against Dago need remain whilst the other empty ships of the transport fleet were detached. The II Transport Staffel was to be directed to Arensburg, where it was expected that mine clearance work would shortly be completed. The battleship Markgraf was ordered to quit Tagga Bay and reinforce Gruppe Behncke.

The evening of October 16th saw the Germans ready to complete their conquest of the Baltic Islands, with troops poised to attack the Islands of Dago and Moon, and sea forces ready to attack in the Kassar Wiek and the Moon Sound. The final phase of the operation was about to begin.

The night passed quietly for Gruppe Behncke. The Russian mine fields off the southern exit of the Moon Sound were the main concern for the German Admiral, the northern most being rectangular in shape measuring about four miles wide and one mile deep, whilst the southern most was trapezoidal in shape and measured about five miles by one mile. The German U-Boat mine barriers lay to the west of these fields. From the captured Russian pilotage book and the charts of Grom the location of the Russian minefields had become known, however, in relaying their position to V.Adm. Behncke by wireless several mistakes had been made. The original German plan called for the unit to push forward to the west of the trapezoidal field then manoeuvre east between the two fields and give battle to the Russians. This route went uncomfortably close to the U-Boat mine barriers, but the route to the east would take them very close to the 10 metre line and allow little sea room for manoeuvring. The cruisers of the B.d.A.d.O. would follow and then strike northwest into the Kleinen Sound.

However, just before 0430hrs, an erroneous wireless message arrived, giving details of a narrow mine barrier running north-south between the two larger fields. Although the message was in error, as far as V.Adm. Behncke was concerned the situation had changed and now the Minesweeper Chiefs, Kptlt. Doflein and Kptlt. Weidgen, were called aboard Konig and given new instructions. The 3rd M.S.H.F. would now sweep to the south of the trapezoidal field and then take course to the north from Larina Bank, followed by the battleships, whilst the 8th M.S.H.F. and III M.S.Div. would sweep west of the mine fields to clear a path for the cruisers. Valuable time was lost revising these arrangements and it was not until 0600hrs that the advance began in a freshening S.S.W. wind.

About 0700hrs the 3rd M.S.H.F. took course east, sweeping a broad channel south of the trapezoidal minefield, whilst the 8th Hf.Fl. continued to the north. Shortly after, both groups slipped their gear but whilst the 3rd Hf.Fl. was able to continue eastwards without interruption, the 8th Hf.Fl. had found mines and in fact had pushed onto the S.W. corner of the trapezoidal field. At about the same time Konig sighted two Russian destroyers to the northeast, close under the Estonian coast. It was the Del'nyj and Dejatel'nyj of the XI Torpedo Boat Division, which had previously reported the advance of the German force to Admiral Bachirev. The Russian Commander had immediately dispatched the battleships Slava, Commander Vladimir Antonov, and Graschdanin forward, and followed himself a little later in his flagship Bayan. S.M.S. Konig opened fire on the two destroyers with her heavy artillery and they quickly made off to the north. Soon after the battleships Slava and Graschdanin, the armoured cruiser Bayan, a steamer and some destroyers were sighted by the Germans on Kuiwast Roads. At about 0722hrs the Russian battleships opened fire on the 8th M.S.H.F., the III M.S.Div. and the Sperrbrecher. From time to time the five 25.4cm guns of the Woi battery also joined in. The Sperrbrecher were immediately ordered to the rear of the German line, as despite their relative immunity to mine damage they were quite vulnerable to artillery fire. The 8th M.S.H.F. were thereon ordered to leave the mine clearing work to the 3rd M.S.Div. and to push into the Kleinen Sound.

As the 8th Hf.Fl., under the Command of Kptlt. Koellner, advanced they were taken under continuous fire by the Russian battleships and the heavy battery at Woi. The shells landed all around the sweeper formation with the fire of the Woi battery being particularly well aimed. The boats were bound by their sweeper gear and had to maintain a steady course without being able to return the fire. Nevertheless, none of the boats was hit nor suffered splinter damage. When from time to time their gear slipped the Half-Flotilla covered itself in a smoke screen and in this they were supported by two torpedoboats which V.Adm. Behncke had dispatched to them.

Meanwhile the III M.S.Div. worked labouriously at clearing the mines that had been located. Because of the error in relaying the position of the trapezoidal minefield to the III Squadron Chief, the Germans remained unaware that they had entered it's southwest corner. During this time, from 0732hrs to 0800hrs, the Division also lay under the continuous fire of the Russians. During this period, whilst firing on the minesweepers, Slava suffered mechanical damage to the guns in her forward turret.

At 0800hrs Admiral Behncke ordered his cruisers to hold their advance so as they would not needlessly lay in the fire of the Russian batteries. At the same time Konig and Kronprinz turned onto an easterly course in the channel swept to the south of the trapezoidal field by the 3rd M.S.H.F., under Kptlt. von der Marwitz. In the meantime Slava had slowly advanced to the south so that she lay between Paternoster and Werder and at 0812hrs she shifted her fire from the minesweepers to the eastward steering German battleships. The German heavy artillery replied at a range of 204 hectometres but much to their chagrin their shells fell short. On the other hand the Russian fire was good, with some shells landing just 50 metres distant from Konig. The Germans now found themselves at a severe tactical disadvantage ---the 30.5cm pieces on Slava were ranged to 240hm. whilst their own guns had a maximum range of 224hm. and moreover the German ships were restricted to the narrow swept channel and were unable to manoeuvre. Vizeadmiral Behncke was therefore forced to reverse his course to a westerly heading and withdraw from Slava's accurate fire.

During this time the 3rd M.S.H.F. continued to advance and at 0840hrs the minesweepers reached Larina Bank and turned north. With that Konig and Kronprinz resumed an easterly course and followed at a slow speed. The Slava meanwhile repositioned herself a little more to the north, whilst to the west K.Adm. Hopman, on observing the Squadron Chief's movements, resumed his advance towards the Kleinen Sound. At 0910hrs the two Russian battleships, which had returned southwards, reopened fire on the 3rd M.S.H.F. and from this time onwards held them under a continuous heavy fire. Shortly afterwards the batteries at Woi and Werder joined in the practice and it became obvious that the Russians realized that if they could stop the minesweepers, then they could halt the entire German attack. The minesweepers continued on obstinately and M77 and M67 were slightly damaged by shell splinters. Kapitanleutnant Doflein described the experience thus ; " .... the enemy fire began from the right and from far ahead. We were covered by a crossfire from Slava and Cesarevitch ( Graschdanin ), Bayan and the shore batteries at Werder. House high water spouts climbed amongst the Half-Flotilla so that shrapnel and water rained on the boats. It was a wonder that with this hail of shot the Half-Flotilla remained without heavy damage. My brave 3rd Half-Flotilla was indeed courageous."

At about 0940hrs the III M.S.Div. was brought over to the eastern side of the Russian minefields to assist the 3rd Hf.Fl., whilst the battleships waited between Larina and Awanasewa Banks. It was V.Adm. Behncke's intention to allow the 3rd Hf.Fl. to push north past the large rectangular field and then he would suddenly advance with his battleships and attempt to come to grips with the Russians.

By 1000hrs the minesweepers were abeam the northern edge of the rectangular minefield and V.Adm. Behncke gave the signal "utmost power" so that Konig and Kronprinz now dashed forward, slightly en-echelon, so that the latter could also bring her artillery to bare. At 1013hrs Konig opened fire on Slava, to the right, and at 1017hrs Kronprinz opened fire on Graschdanin to the left. Further to the left the armoured cruiser Bayan remained unfired upon and it was only towards the end of the battle that Konig took her under fire. The Konig's fire, under the direction if I Artillery Officer, Kptlt. E. Meusel, was rapid and well aimed and three shells from the third salvo struck Slava, all underwater. The wing passage, engine room and forward magazine all filled with water and the electric lights in the forward ship failed. Around 1130 tonnes of water penetrated the forward ship and Slava immediately took on a list that quickly increased to 8o, although this was reduced by half by counter-flooding. The draught forward quickly increased to 10.5 metres whilst aft it increased to 9.9 metres. At 1024hrs two more shells struck Slava, this time in almost the same location on the battery deck. These hits caused various fires, which, however were extinguished within a quarter of an hour. At about 1039hrs Slava received two more hits, again under water, one of which caused much destruction in the crew area, the other penetrated the armoured belt and lodged in a coal bunker bulkhead.

The battleship Graschdanin received only two hits, one of which caused a fire that was quickly extinguished, the other of which penetrated the armour and splinters damaged two dynamo engines and several steam pipes. Meanwhile Konig had also taken Bayan under fire and at 1036hrs hit her with a shell which penetrated the upper deck, the battery deck and exploded deep inside the ship where it caused a dangerous fire that was only extinguished after 24 hours. At 1040hrs the German battleships ceased fire, the shortest battle range having being 165 hectometres.

For their part the Russians initially continued to fire on the 3rd M.S.H.F., before exchanging fire with the German battleships. The Bayan only opened fire towards the end of the engagement but the German ships remained unhit. At 1030hrs Vice Admiral Bachirev signalled for all sea forces to withdraw to the northern Moon Sound. As the Russian unit withdrew they were attacked by six German seaplanes, which dropped at least 40 bombs, mostly on the smaller vessels, however no hits were observed.

The hapless Slava, so long a thorn in the German's side, was now fatally wounded. Unluckily most of the 30.5cm hits had been below the water line and her 2½ metre increase in draught made a passage through the dredged channel impossible. Therefore orders were given that after Bayan and Graschdanin had passed, the Slava was to be scuttled across the entrance to the dredged channel. Nevertheless, before Slava could be manoeuvred into position she ran aground and it was decided to scuttle her where she lay. At 1155hrs the aft magazine was detonated, the explosion cloud of which was visible to the I F.d.T. and Lt.z.S. Ruge in the Kassar Wiek some 25 kilometres distant. To complete the destruction Slava was torpedoed by the destroyer Turkmerec Stravropolski.

The Russians now determined to make the Moon Sound channels impassable to the German ships. During the battle the minelayers Pripyat and Bureja mined the waters off the 'Strumpf' channel. Then the 60 metre wide Moon Sound channel was blockaded by sinking the steamers Glagol, Pokoj, the damaged General Zimmerman and the pilot vessel Arteljeschtschik in it, which rendered it impassable to the German small cruisers. The channel depth of 9 metres at it's shallowest precluded it's use by the German battleships. Then the destroyers Voiskovoi and Zabaikaletz laid further mines in the vicinity of the block ships.

While the Russian sea forces were covering their retreat the Germans continued their advance and at 1046hrs the Werder Battery opened fire on the German battleships. The Konig returned the fire and after a short time the shore battery fire ceased. Soon after flames were seen coming from the signal station and other buildings and further detonations showed that the Russians were abandoning the area. At 1109hrs the two German battleships anchored with short chains abeam Selglaid, whilst 300 metres ahead the 3rd M.S.H.F. investigated the Fass bank. The battleships were now taken under fire by the 15cm battery at Woi, but in contrast to the Russian battleships and the 25.4cm battery at Woi, the 15cm gunfire was poor and soon ceased. From 1115hrs to 1135hrs Konig fired deliberate shots with her heavy artillery at this battery.

Towards 1128hrs a false submarine alarm was given on the German battleships when a boat hook was mistaken for a periscope. After the submarine attack by C27 the previous day the Germans were acutely aware of the danger from submarines and therefore at noon Gruppe Behncke weighed anchor and proceeded up and down the eastern swept channel at slow speed under the protection of an anti-submarine screen. At around 1208hrs another submarine alarm was given, to port ahead, bearing 350o. This time the alarm was real, for it was C26, Lt. Downie, which was manoeuvring to attack the German battle group. At the start of Operation Albion C26 had been at Hango, but in the meantime had proceeded south and now found herself south of the Moon Sound in a favourable position to carry out a torpedo attack. However, Lt. Downie was hampered by the shallow water depth and before arriving in a firing position found himself hard aground. The C26 was unable to come free by going astern and therefore had to blow her ballast tanks to release herself. In doing so the boat broke surface with her conning tower and was seen by the Germans, so that the torpedoboats immediately took up the hunt for her. The torpedoboats opened fire with their guns and depth charges and continued the hunt for over two hours, at one stage forcing C26 into a net where she damaged a propeller. After darkness fell Lt. Downie was able to surface and found that his hydroplanes had been damaged and jammed and that his boat was unseaworthy, so he therefore took his crippled submarine to Pernau, hoping to be able to effect repairs there.

In the meantime, the Gruppe Behncke had continued to press forward, although the way was not easy. The S.S.E. wind and rising sea made the work of the advancing minesweepers difficult, and they frequently slipped their gear in the shallow water on the rocky bottom. The motorboats of the III M.S.Div. were forced to cease their activity with the deteriorating weather. The 3rd M.S.H.F., led by A62, continued towards Kuiwast Roads, however they soon ran onto a heavy net barrier, supported by iron barrels, running in a semicircular arc between the islands of Wirelaid and Werder, directly across the southern entrance to the Moon Sound. The minesweepers were unable to penetrate this barrier before towards 1540hrs V.Adm. Behncke ordered the work to be broken off and at about 1700hrs the battleships, screened by torpedoboats, anchored S.W. of the trapezoidal minefield. At 1730hrs A62 and the 3rd M.S.H.F. anchored with them.

When V.Adm. Behncke had resumed his advance towards the southern Moon Sound towards 0900hrs, likewise K.Adm. Hopman had again began to press forward with his small cruisers in the Kleinen Sound. The minesweepers of the 8th M.S.H.F. were nevertheless encountering difficulties ---because of the error in communicating the locations of the Russian minefields, learned from the captured charts of Grom--- the minesweepers had clipped the S.W. corner of the trapezoidal minefield. Therefore progress was slow and it was not until towards noon that the cruisers, minesweepers and Sperrbrecher arrived in the N.W. of the Kleinen Sound at the 10 metre line. The minesweepers then went ahead to take soundings but T53 and A35 briefly went aground. The Kolberg briefly took the Woi battery under fire for ten minutes from 1335hrs, but the Russians did not reply , so that K.Adm. Hopman had to inquire of the I F.d.T. what the situation was.

Towards 1425hrs Kolberg and Strassburg anchored in the southern entrance of the Kleinen Sound. Then K.Adm. Hopman's Flagleutnant, Oblt.z.S. Kelm, suggested that the two batteries on Woi could be captured by a landing party and he offered to lead the group. A Landing Corps of forty men and two machine-guns was quickly assembled and made ready and at 1545hrs they were landed under the cover of two M-Boats, that had moved close inshore. At 1730hrs a white star shell was observed, the signal from the Landing Corps that the battery had successfully been taken, however, the guns had been rendered unserviceable. The small landing party were the first Germans to arrive on Moon.

The Landing Corps on Dago had a much more difficult time of it. At 0925hrs S.M.S. Kaiser carried out a preparatory bombardment of the bridgehead area at Serro, which continued for 35 minutes. Section Ahlefeld was landed immediately afterwards and during the day patrols penetrated far inland, but nevertheless suffered some losses. At midday the transports Oswald, Sangara and Borderland, together with horse boats, barges, etcetera arrived off Cape Toffri, but the anchorage was not yet ready to accommodate them. Similarly a Cyclist Battalion was delayed and only arrived at Pamerort around midday, so that all intended support for Section Ahlefeld was delayed and the Landing Corps was again forced to retreat to the bridgehead towards evening. Because of the difficulty in transporting the wounded it was decided to occupy the bridgehead overnight, although trawlers stood by, ready to evacuate the German troops should the Russians press home an attack. Although the fighting had been lively during the day, the night passed quietly for the Germans.

For the German forces in the Kasser Wiek October 17th was a relatively quiet day. During the morning the torpedoboats of Flottille II and the 13th Half-Flottille were re-supplied with 10.5cm ammunition whist at the same time a continuous watch was kept on the entrance to the Moon Sound. Five minesweeper boats of the Minesweeper Division searched for mines in the Wiek but a shortage of fuel forced them to return to their tender in the Tagga Bay at around noon.

When the sound of cannon thunder was heard during the morning, the I F.d.T., Kommodore Heinrich, pushed forwards towards the Moon Sound to investigate. At about 1145hrs the Russian forces in the Moon Sound were observed to begin lively movements, mostly in a northerly direction. At 1155hrs a huge explosion smoke cloud was observed on a battleship east of Kumora, which in fact was the detonation of Slava's aft magazine. Towards 1500hrs Kommodore Heinrich took V100 forward into the channel that led to the Moon Sound but he immediately came under the well directed fire of the gunboats and Admiral Makarov. A further two Russian destroyers could be seen steering northwards in the 'Strumpf' but they did not open fire on the interloping Germans. The reason was that the destroyers, Steregushtshi and Donskoi-Kasak, were busy laying a deadly minefield. On his return to his Flotilla Kommodore Heinrich held a conference with Kptlt. Zander to discuss the possibility of making a night torpedoboat thrust into the southern Moon Sound with the 13th H.F. later that night. Kapitanleutnant Zander agreed that a torpedoboat attack was possible through the narrow channels into the Moon Sound and also suggested that he push north to hinder traffic between Moon and the mainland. However, he only had four boat available for the task as S63 was in Tagga Bay, but one of these, S50, would have to remain in the entrance to the Sound as a navigational mark, leaving just S61, S64 and V74 to conduct the raid. Kommodore Heinrich justified himself in his war diary as follows : "Firstly the attack of the torpedoboat group would hinder the escape of Slava. I supposed that owing to her draught she could not pass into the northern Moon Sound., and was being repaired to reduce her draught......If the Russian escaped I feared eternal reproach for not ensuring her destruction. Therefore my orders to Kptlt. Zander. A torpedoboat thrust into the northern Moon Sound during the clear night against the gunboats in the narrow channel east of Krukholm, observed during the day, was considered by me as hopeless."

At about 2200hrs Kptlt. Zander began his thrust into the Moon Sound. Earlier he had questioned V.Adm. Behncke as to whether any of his forces were in the southern Moon Sound and had received an answer in the negative, therefore any forces he might encounter would be Russian and he could attack without hesitation. The marker boat S50 took up her position. The sea was quiet, the wind from the southwest and the visibility good as the torpedoboats advanced in line ahead in the order S61, S64 and V74, at low speed and taking continuous soundings. Towards 2230hrs they sighted a light to starboard ahead, seemingly one of the navigational marks on Schildau Island. Then, just after midnight, the second boat, S64, was shaken by a heavy mine detonation, between the second and third boilers. The boat was immediately rendered unmanoeuverable but was still capable of remaining afloat. The Half-Flotilla Chief immediately turned S61 back towards the damaged boat, with the intention of towing her from the minefield stern first. Now several floating mines were sighted from the crows nest where previously none had been seen, and it seemed likely that the detonation had rent them free. Despite this a tow line was successfully passed and S61 began towing the crippled S64 towards the west, where the other boat, V74, had anchored as a marker boat clear of the dangerous area. However, after making just 100 metres S64 ran aground and it was decided to abandon her. Now, despite the danger from floating mines in the vicinity S61 went alongside and took off the crew. Considerable skill was required to complete this manoeuvre. As S64 was not completely sunken two explosive charges were detonated towards 0100hrs so that the boat finally sank. The crew of the first boiler room, a total of six men, lost their lives and a further five were wounded. To Kptlt. Zander it appeared that the western part of the channel was totally blocked with mines and therefore he abandoned the undertaking and returned to V100.

When she went alongside S64 the S61 had suffered a slight leak on the waterline, whilst V74 had damaged a propeller blade, so that both boats were no longer capable of unlimited action, especially not in the open sea.

The Chief of the Special Unit, V.Adm. Schmidt, remained in full support of the torpedoboat operation and later wrote in his war diary, " The sortie was, and remains, necessary, as only with the full command of the Kassar Wiek can the Army's assault on Moon be given the required support. The sortie also had a reward. Without the support of the A-Boats of Flottille Rosenberg, section Winterfeld could not have held the bridgehead at Orissar. The Russians were pushed southeast to Moon and the fleeing Russians were then encircled. The appearance of the A-Boats in the Kleinen was, however, only possible as long as the torpedoboat forces of the I F.d.T. held the eastern side of the Kassar Wiek.

Finally it was of greater significance to hold the Kassar Wiek and Kleinen Sound whilst the III Squadron pushed into the southern Moon Sound so as to fully encircle Moon and hinder the escape of the Russians across the sea........only by battle and similar operations is the advantage of sea mastery obtained............."

The 17th October also saw events in the northern Kleinen Sound progress well for the Germans, and realize their secondary objective of landing on Moon Island. During the morning Freg.Kpt. von Rosenberg, aboard T144, escorted the hospital ship Viola into the Kleinen Sound where she immediately began the embarkation and evacuation of the wounded. The S-Flottille Chief then transferred to A28 and began preparations for a further bombardment of the stone dam that ran between Osel and Moon. By about 0800hrs the boats A32, A27 and A29 had completed replenishment of their ammunition stocks and were in position in the Kleinen Sound so that at 0850hrs they were able to comply with a request from Infanterie Regiment 138 for an immediate bombardment of the base of the stone dam on Moon.

During the course of the morning aircraft reconnaissance reported that there were only small concentrations of Russian troops remaining on Moon. It appeared that many troops had been evacuated aboard a steamer now making off to the north in the Moon Sound. Therefore preparations to land on the Island were accelerated so that at 1645hrs the 6th Kompanie of Inf. Regt. 138 landed at Keggowa, supported by the A-Boats. After a short skirmish the German troops dug in on the coast to the west of the stone dam. As the evening progressed further units of the II Bataillon of the Inf. Regt. 138 landed in the same location so that a sustainable bridgehead was formed. In the meantime, at dusk, a section of German troops began to push across the stone dam from Osel. They progressed only 500 metres when they came under heavy Russian fire from the rifles and machine guns. The Germans were supported by artillery fire, which destroyed a house and a Russian armoured car near the base of the dam on Moon, however, the burning house only served to illuminate the dam and expose the German infantry. Only after midnight did the Russians give up their end of the dam, under pressure from 6th Kompanie to the north and the Sturm Kompanie on the dam, when they retreated and occupied positions between Nauze and Linnust

The evening of October 17th saw the German sea forces in command of the southern Moon Sound, the north and south Kleinen Sound and the Kassar Wiek. Unloading work in the Tagga Bay was complete and all subsequent transport would be via Arensburg. A bridgehead had been established on Moon and preparations were complete for a further landing on Dago. In addition there now seemed a possibility for German sea forces to push north to the entrance to the Finnish Gulf and completely cut off Admiral Bachirev's forces in the Moon Sound. Therefore at 1900hrs on October 17th V.Adm. Schmidt gave the following order to the Special Unit : " The IV Squadron, II A.G., VI T.B.F., 13th H.F., 4th M.S.H.F. and II M.S.Div. should cut off the line of retreat of Russian forces in the northern Moon Sound exit. The IV Squadron and 19th H.F. are to hasten reprovisioning and march to point Gamma. Report when there. Leader of II A.G. plan a course north from Gamma. Kaiser remain in Soelo Sound. Withdrawal of 13th H.F. and VI T.B.F. boats from Kassar Wiek ordered. Refer to Leader II A.G. for positions for sweeper Flotilla marker boats." At the same time as the Staff's began detailed preparations and the plan was referred to the Admiralstab, the Kaiser's approval had to be obtained for this further extension to the terms of the operation.

At dawn the following morning, October 18th, the German torpedoboats again took up their patrol stations in the Kassar Wiek and the M.S.Div. resumed their minesweeping work. Once again the cruiser Admiral Makarov could be seen in it's guard position, closely attended by two armoured gunboats and several destroyers. Shortly after 1200hrs Kommodore Heinrich took V100 to Tagga Bay to personally report to V.Adm. Schmidt and receive further orders. Whilst he was absent the boat B111 ran onto a Russian mine. The foreship was rent off, but the boat remained afloat with the loss of two dead, three missing and sixteen wounded. Although the German boats had frequently passed over this area previously without loss it is likely that B111 struck a mine belonging to the northwest wing of the Russian minefield. The crippled boat was brought to anchor near Pawasterort and the following day was towed to Libau by a tug. In the meantime V.Adm. Schmidt granted the I F.d.T. full freedom of action to undertake such offensive operations as he thought appropriate.

On this day the landing operations on Dago gained momentum. Before dawn Emden weighed anchor and took up a bombardment position so that from 0715 to 0800hrs she was able to take the area around Emmast under fire with 170 shells. Later during the morning the T144, A-Boats, trawlers and drifters landed the II Cyclist Bataillon near Serro so that the toehold on Dago was secure enough to begin landing field batteries and other heavy equipment. The advance progressed rapidly so that by 1700hrs the Chief of the S-Flottille could report to the Special Unit that after a successful battle Dago was all but taken and the Russians had retreated to Heltermaa, the only harbour on Dago, where they were awaiting evacuation.

If the operations ashore on Moon and Dago were progressing comfortably for the Germans then the advance into the southern Moon Sound was only progressing with difficulty. The morning had brought a freshening wind from the S.S.E. at strength 4 to 6 so that the motorboats of the III M.S.Div. were unable to continue their minesweeping work. Therefore the 8th M.S.H.F. began advancing into the southern Kleinen Sound whilst K.Adm. Hopmans cruisers and torpedoboats remained anchored.

By 0830hrs the minesweepers had worked forward to a point about one nautical mile south of Paternoster lighthouse, sounding and laying buoys as they went, when the lead boat sighted the buoys of the Russian net barrier to the north. As the leader boat, A62, manoeuvred to investigate the barrier, the other boats, owing to a misunderstanding of orders, turned to the south at low speed. Kapitanleutnant Doflein therefore dispatched the boat that had been laying the marker buoys, T66, to fetch them back. Soon afterwards a heavy detonation occurred as T66 ran onto the western wing of one of the U-Boat mine barriers. The T66 immediately sank by the stern with the loss of seventeen men, only the Commander and six men being saved. Astoundingly the positions of the known mine barriers were marked on the charts of the leader boats, but not, however, on the charts of the other boats ! Towards 0940hrs K.Adm. Hopman's cruisers anchored to the south of the buoyed channel.

The Gruppe Behncke had quit their anchorage southwest of the trapezoidal minefield at about 0800hrs and proceeded to steer for the eastern swept channel behind the 3rd M.S.H.F., however because of the heavy swell the motorboats of the Minesweeper Division could not be utilized. The heavy ships retraced their course of the previous day, travelling south of the minefield and then northwards between Awanasewa and Larina banks, following Kptlt. von der Marwitz's minesweepers which had their sweeper gear set and took continuous soundings. Shortly after 1000hrs V.Adm. Behncke decided to concentrate his push forward on the eastern flank and therefore ordered K.Adm. Hopman to dispatch Strassburg and the 8th M.S.H.F. to the III Squadron, whilst Kolberg, the torpedoboats and Sperrbrecher would remain to the west to cover the troops ashore.

At about 1240hrs a report arrived from the advancing Markgraf that she had run aground near Kalkgrund, but had since worked free and was still battleworthy. Apparently some of the buoys marking the mine free channel had drifted owing to the strong wind and swell. This constituted an insidious danger.

Meanwhile the 3rd M.S.H.F. and two boats of the VIII Half-Flottille had pushed past the eastern wing of the Paternoster trapezoidal shaped mine barrier and were advancing to Kuiwast Roads. They confirmed that Slava was sunken to the west of Pappilaid Island and was still burning. Nearby were two sunken freight steamers. to the north of there two Russian destroyers could be seen laying mines. The Russian boats had not yet detected the Germans so that V180 and V184 were able to rush ahead at full speed and open fire on them before the Russians could make off to the north. A further Russian destroyer and six small vessels now came in sight north of the 'Strumpf' channel, whilst further north a large smoke cloud was conspicuous. These were the shallow draught vessels Admiral Bachirev had dispatched to evacuate the troops on Moon and the gunboat to the north was supporting them. This unit was already retiring to the north as the German torpedoboats opened fire at a range of 95 hectometres. As the Germans continued northwards two Russian gunboats and several destroyers appeared and took them under fire at around 1415hrs, so that with medium calibre shellfire falling accurately about them the Germans made off south at high speed and under the cover of a smoke screen.

When V.Adm. Behncke received the battle report from the two torpedoboats he immediately dispatched Kronprinz and Strassburg forward to their support, but the Russian net barrier still barred the passage into Kuiwast Roads for the larger ships. The channel east of the barrier was but 4 metres deep, whilst the channel west of the barrier, which V180, V184 and the 3rd M.S.H.F. had utilized to enter the roadstead, was seven metres deep. Nevertheless, the ships advanced in the swept channel but before long both had grazed the bottom Kronprinz in nine metres of water. Luckily neither ship was damaged.

Towards 1415hrs Kptlt. Doflein, aboard A62, found a 200 metre broad 'gate' in the Russian net barrier, obviously to allow large ships through, and after some skilful manoeuvring the gate, supported by iron barrels, was jerked open by the A62. The water depth here was 14 metres. The other minesweepers had meanwhile continued their work but to their great surprise and joy had found no mines in the Kuiwast Roads as far as Schildau Island. The minesweeping work continued until nightfall and then V.Adm. Behncke brought his unit to anchor off the southern entrance to Moon Sound.

As the evening of October 18th approached the situation was as follows: Arensburg had been established as a supply base with the II Transport Staffel already proceeding there ; the southern part of Dago was in the hands of the II Cyclist Bataillon and the S-Flottille Landing Section. The Admiralstab had approved the operation to the north, but the Kaiser's approval was still wanting. Preparations for this operation were still not well advanced and a commencement the following day seemed unlikely. The capture of Moon Island was almost complete and it was only to the northeast, where the Russians expected to be evacuated from, that resistance had been encountered. When V180 and V184 had prevented the shallow draught vessels form approaching the coast and the chances of escape disappeared, so did further resistance on the island. Osel and Moon were now firmly in German hands.

After the battle of October 17th it became apparent to the Russians that eventually they would be forced to quit the Moon Sound. Vice-Admiral Bachirev therefore issued orders to blockade the Sound with block ships and mines, including Kuiwast Roads. However, the vessels detailed to supply mines for the Kuiwast Roads were already under weigh to the north so that this task remained undone. The remaining mine barriers, in the Kasser Wiek channel, 'Strumpf' channel and elsewhere were laid under the direction of Admiral Stark.

On the evening of October 17th the Russian Fleet Chiefs ordered that the sea forces in the Moon Sound should retire to the Finnish Gulf and that the respective bases should be cleared and destroyed. The remaining troops on the Baltic Islands were to be evacuated with those on Dago to hold out until last. Admiral Bachirev later received an intelligence report about the intended German operation to the north to cut him off, obviously the result of an intercepted and deciphered wireless message from V.Adm. Schmidt. With this the Fleet Chief, Admiral Naswosoff telegraphed Viceadmiral Bachirev : "I will support the Battleship Brigade with all my strength," and he began making preparations to put to sea. Nevertheless the General Headquarters vetoed his proposed sortie to support the Riga Gulf forces. Viceadmiral Bachirev planned to quit the Moon Sound at 1600hrs on October 18th, but delays in minesweeping to the north, where the U-Boat mine barriers had been discovered, meant that the retreat had to be postponed until the following day. So it was that on October 19th, at about 1600hrs the forces of the Riga Gulf , together with numerous transport steamers and auxiliaries, departed the northern Moon Sound, under the protection of minesweepers and destroyers. The weather was quiet, with visibility 3 to 4 nautical miles. As the Russians retired they laid further mine barriers behind themselves. Viceadmiral Bachirev correctly supposed that the channel from Moon Sound to Hango would be closely guarded by U-Boats and he therefore chose the eastern route from Moon Sound, by Odensholm to the north. The U-Boats had no attack opportunities although UC78 did sight the Russian unit, and all the Russian vessels, with the exception of a transport that went aground near Spithamn, arrived undamaged at their destinations.

Meanwhile the German minesweeping work continued during October 19th and 20th. The German forces slowly penetrated into the Moon Sound so that by the afternoon of the 19th Kolberg and Strassburg were lying off Schildau, followed by Konig the following day. The Kronprinz and Markgraf remained north of Paternoster and west of Werder respectively.

Operations ashore continued unimpeded. A landing section from Konig occupied Schildau whilst the transfer of troops to Dago continued so that before long the island was in German hands and all the Russian troops, apart from those evacuated, were taken captive.

The work of utilizing and improving the defences of Arensburg harbour also continued. On October 18th the net layer Eskimo and minelayer Nautilus with 120 mines, arrived there. During the following day Eskimo laid a series of net barriers off Arensburg Bay to secure it against submarines. A Russian net was also found and was redeployed to the east of Abro. The laying of a second net was entrusted to the newly arrived Rossal so that on the morning of October 20th Eskimo could depart for the Moon Sound. When south of Abro she was attacked by the English submarine C32, under the command of Lieutenant Satow. The C32 had been maintaining a guard in the German buoyed channel and in a flat calm sea launched two torpedoes at Eskimo from the starboard side. Both torpedoes passed astern of Eskimo but her two escorting torpedoboats, S176 and V186 immediately took up the hunt for C32, which had the misfortune to break surface after launching her torpedoes, a trimming problem which seemingly dogged the English boats. Immediately Lt. Satow took his boat down to 20 metres depth, followed by a hail of depth-charges. Now the C32 began to suffer damage, the compass failed, the electric lights in the aft boat failed and the conning tower made water. The C32 crept off at 20 metres depth towards Runo and at 2000hrs surfaced near there. Investigations showed extensive damage which convinced her Commander that she was incapable of further employment. He assumed that the Moon Sound, the Riga Gulf and Pernau were in German hands and therefore he decided to scuttle his boat and strike out across country with his crew for Reval. On the morning of October 21st he put C32 aground in Waist Bay but to his great consternation found that Pernau was still in Russian hands. It was academic however, as both exits from the Riga Gulf were occupied by the Germans and the crippled boat had no chance of escape. It is unsurprising then, that when German torpedoboats were sighted off Waist Bay Lt. Satow completed the destruction of C32 with explosives before he and his crew escaped ashore. This latest attack did however, cause V.Adm. Behncke further concern and he dispatched three torpedoboats to the area south of the net barrier in the southern Moon Sound.

At midday on October 19th the transports Buenos Aires and Coralie Horlock, the hospital ship Titania and the tug Wilhelm Cords entered Arensburg Roads under the escort of the cruiser Karlsruhe, with further steamers to follow, so that the harbour became fully operational as the main base on Osel. With the fall of Dago it only remained to make arrangements on the islands concerning the occupation, the provision of supplies, the connection of communications and the minesweeping of coastal waters, as well as the withdrawal of all unnecessary troops. These arrangements would have to be concluded before the approaching ice period. The 'Special Unit' had successfully completed and in some cases overstepped, it's operational tasks. On the morning of October 20th the Admiralstab proposed a request to dismantle the 'Special Unit' and V.Adm. Ehrhard Schmidt fully concurred and immediately answered ;" Dissolve the ',Special Unit' on October 25th . Hand over the remaining lines of communication and escort duty to B.d.A.d.O., whose forces shall include the S-Flottille, the Net Barrier Unit of the Baltic, Nautilus, the 7th T.B.H.F. and one Sperrbrecher, which are considered adequate forces. Kaiserin and Konig Albert can immediately be detached from Putzig to the North Sea. The Fleet Train can assist the transports of the II Staffel to transport troops away from Arensburg to Libau. Traffic to Dago available shortly when mine free channel in Kassar Wiek and Soelo Sound effected." Vizeadmiral Schmidt had not desired to prolong the operation any longer than necessary, and he fully appreciated the importance of having the most powerful fleet units fully action ready in the North Sea.

Nevertheless, during the course of the night of October 21st the Army High Command requested the Admiralstab to temporarily occupy the island of Kyno and make frequent demonstrations against the Lithuanian coast with it's ships. The Admiralstab consented and the task was given to the 2nd Admiral of the III Squadron, Kontreadmiral Seiferling, and he was allocated Markgraf, Strassburg, five torpedoboats, the Sperrbrecher Lothar and the 8th M.S.H.F. The demonstration was scheduled for October 25th and 26th, whilst a proposed operation to occupy the island of Worms was rejected. At about 1000hrs on October 25th the unit passed through the vessels anchored in Kuiwast Roads and took course south. Off Larina Bank the 3rd M.S.H.F. took station ahead of the group with their minesweeper gear deployed. Frequent slipping of the gear in shallow water caused continual delays so that it was only at 1600hrs that Markgraf arrived in the proposed bombardment position, 3 nautical miles off Kyno lighthouse. Shortly afterwards Markgraf opened fire with her starboard medium calibre battery at ranges of 48 to 52 hectometres. After the bombardment Markgraf continued southwards and shortly after 1900hrs anchored 12 nautical miles southwest of Salis. At around the same time Strassburg, Lothar and four torpedoboats, which had been delayed by the Sperrbrecher's low speed, anchored 15 nautical miles west of Hainasch.

The following morning Markgraf continued the operation so that at around 0740hrs she was able to bombard Hainasch with 17 shells from her starboard medium calibre artillery at a range of around 110 hectometres. Then suddenly, just as Markgraf ordered the preceding 3rd M.S.H.F. to turn onto a westerly course, the sweeper gear of T65 fouled a mine and exploded it . The stern of the minesweeper was rent open but the boat remained afloat for 20 minutes before capsizing, so that the entire crew could be saved. The minesweeper unit had pushed onto a Russian minebarrier that had been laid after the fall of Riga to protect the seaward flank of their XII Army. The bombardments concluded when Strassburg shelled Salismunde at 0800hrs with some 55 rounds. After this the German ships retired, again in the wake of the 3rd M.S.H.F. and took course on Arensburg, at the direction of V.Adm. Schmidt. On the morning of October 27th the unit anchored safely inside the net barrier on Arensburg Roads.

The further demonstrations desired by the O.H.L. were to be conducted by Markgraf alone, until she could be replaced by the ships of Squadron I. Therefore the Chief of the 'Special Unit' detached Konig and Kronprinz to the North Sea. They quit Kuiwast Roads on the morning of October 26th but their journey home was not without incident. The sea was rough and there was a strong southwest wind so that when they were between Windau and Backofen at around 1744hrs, both ships scrapped the bottom. In the rising seas it was reckoned that the pitching ships draught approached 12 metres and the area was known to have many uncharted rocks. Both ships later required docking for repairs to their double bottoms.

On October 28th the 1st Division of Squadron I arrived in Putzig Wiek. On October 30th the IV A.G., consisting of Regensburg, Stralsund and Pillau arrived in Pillau. After replenishing their coal stocks in the Putzig Wiek Ostfriesland and Thuringen were expected in Arensburg on October 30th. Therefore Markgraf was no longer required and V.Adm. Schmidt detached her to the North Sea. At midday on October 29th, Markgraf quit Arensburg Roadstead, escorted by G89. At 1430hrs Markgraf was about 8 nautical miles N.N.W. of Michael's light, travelling in the buoyed channel when suddenly she was rocked by two mine detonations in rapid succession. Three wing passage cells on the starboard side filled with water, for a total of 260 tonnes. There were no personnel losses and the ship was able to hold her course and speed. It appeared that a marker buoy had been displaced by the currents and stormy weather, although perhaps some of the mines of barrier two had been missed. The B.d.A.d.O. ordered the 8th M.S.H.F. to examine the mine free channel that same day, however, no further mines were found.

Vizeadmiral Schmidt now took a strong stance against further demonstrations inside the Riga Gulf. The recent storm meant that mines and buoys were continually drifting and there were only a few narrow swept channels for the large ships. The autumn also brought periods of poor visibility which meant it was often impossible to obtain a position fix. The Chief of the 'Special Unit' telegraphed his concerns to the Admiralstab, pointing out that the gains of further operations were minimal, whilst the risks were great, and recommended that all forces of the High Sea Fleet, including the I Squadron and IV A.G., should return to the North Sea. The O.H.L. agreed and corresponding orders were raised on October 31st. After a very successful operation it seemed pointless to risk major losses in mopping up.

Vizeadmiral Schmidt handed over command to K.Adm. Hopman and early on the morning of 2nd November he departed Arensburg Roads with Moltke, Ostfriesland and Thuringen for Putzig Wiek. The unit arrived there on the morning of November 3rd whereon V.Adm. Schmidt transferred to his old flagship Ostfriesland, and detached Moltke to the North Sea. A telegram from the Admiralstab later that day dissolved the 'Special Unit.

In the meantime a "Government of the Baltic Islands" was formed, with it's seat in Arensburg. Many of the local inhabitants were descended from Germanic people and were not troubled by the appearance of the German Army and Navy. The first Governor was Generalleutnant Freiherr von Seckendorff, who was conveyed from Libau to Arensburg aboard S.M.S. Strassburg on October 31st.General von Kathen and his Staff departed Arensburg aboard Strassburg the following day. On November 3rd Generalleutnant von Estorff and the Staff of the Infantry Division 42 and Infanterie Regt. 131followed on two transport steamers, whilst the remainder of the Division, Infanterie Regiment 17, departed on the following day. On November 7th the last part of the II Transport Staffel, the steamers Batavia and Chemnitz, went to Arensburg where they finished unloading and departed for Libau on November 10th. At the same time the minesweeping work continued incessantly.

The conquest of the Baltic Islands, Operation Albion, was therewith concluded. The operation, unlike the allied amphibious landing in the Dardanelles, had been an unqualified success. Every objective had been achieved and in some cases overstepped. The German losses had been seven minesweepers, nine trawlers and smaller boats, and one torpedoboat. The Imperial Navy had loss a total of 156 dead and 60 wounded whilst the Army lost 54 dead and 141 wounded. Compared to this they had captured 20,130 Russian prisoners, 141 Russian guns including 47 heavy pieces, and 130 machine-guns. The success was not only tactical, but also strategic, for by early December the Russians had indeed concluded a truce with Germany. Once an Armistice was negotiated vast quantities of German troops would be free to continue the war on the western front. There can be no doubt that the Imperial Navy contributed in a very positive way in bringing about the final collapse of Russia and it was an operation in which they could take extreme pride.

After the conclusion of Operation Albion the chance of a clash with the Russian fleet appeared more remote than ever. Although the Riga Operations Group had fought determinedly and resolutely, there still remained the reluctance of the higher Russian Command to commit their heavier forces to a confrontation, especially as after the November 7th Bolshevik revolution peace negotiations with the Central Powers were progressing, whilst at the same time some of the fleet remained disaffected after the mutinies of the revolution. On the other hand, the Germans were faced with the pressing demands of the North Sea theatre and the Flanders coast, so that the Sea War Directors determined to greatly reduce the Baltic forces.

On November 11th the U-Flottille Kurland was disbanded and the U-Boats detached to the North Sea and Flanders, with the exception of UC57, which remained in the east for special operations in Finnish waters. On November 14th the F.M.S. Santa Elena went to the west and the first group of the 2nd S-Half-Flottille went to Swinemunde. At the same time orders were given for the transfer of the 3rd and 8th M.S.H.F. to the North Sea. On November 26th V77, V78 and G89 were detached to the west and on November 30th the 20th Half-Flottille followed, so that the remainder of the X Flottille was disbanded.

On December 7th a ten day truce was arranged between the Russians and the Central Powers. Shortly after, on December 15th, a twenty one day Armistice was agreed to with a view to concluding peace. Further reductions in the German Baltic Forces accompanied these events. On December 15th Strassburg and the 15th T.B.H.F. went to Kiel, followed a week later by the 8th T.B.H.F. and then Kolberg on the 29th

On December 7th Vizeadmiral Hopman was replaced by Kontreadmiral von Usslar as B.d.A.d.O. Vizeadmiral Hopman joined the German delegation conducting negotiations for the Treaty of Breast-Litovsk. The new B.d.A.d.O. only had the boats of the 19th Half-Flottille available for escort work and so it was that only the large and important convoys could be escorted by torpedoboats. This resulted in an unescorted steamer City of Munich, making a navigational error and being lost off the south mole of Windau. In January the coastal armoured ship Beowulf was sent to Libau to perform ice breaker service.

In January 1918 the German Command structure in the east was again changed. On January 24th the Commission of O.b.H.d.O. or O.d.Ost., a position held by Prinz Heinrich since the beginning of the war, was discharged. The responsibilities of the hitherto O.d.Ost. were taken over by the Commander of the Naval Station of the Baltic. It must be said that Prinz Heinrich had commanded the Baltic War well, even though his freedom of action was at times severely limited. His experience as Commander in Chief of the High Sea Fleet had served him well and he brought maturity, patience and quality leadership to the Baltic, without, nevertheless, being over restrictive of his younger officers' aggressiveness and attack spirit, which he nurtured and encouraged. Given his limited resources he had conducted appropriate campaigns year after year and his early adoption of the convoy system in 1916 had meant the continued delivery of vital war materials to Germany almost without interruption. He had seen the Baltic War through from an uncertain beginning to a highly successful conclusion.

Concurrently the positions of B.d.S.d.W.O. in Kiel, and B.d.S.d.M.O. in Swinemunde were combined into a new Command under the B.S.O., or Commander in Chief of Security in the Baltic. The first B.S.O. was the hitherto B.d.S.d.W.O., Kontreadmiral Hermann Nordmann, and his task was the security of the western Baltic from a line from the southern tip of Oland to Rixhoft, including the Belt and the Sound. The B.S.O.'s forces included Kolberg, Hannover, the IV Torpedoboate Flottille, and other trawler units. At the same time the Merchant Protection Flotilla was put out of service as it appeared the submarine threat had disappeared.

On January 24th the position of B.d.A.d.O. was also abolished. The responsibilities of the B.d.A.d.O. and B.M.A. Libau were combined and handed over to the B.M.A. in Kurland. In February K.Adm. Usslar took up this appointment. In the meantime Strassburg and the remaining torpedoboats of the B.d.A.d.O. with the exception of the 19th Half-Flottille, consisting of five old boats, were transferred to the North Sea. The brave old Augsburg was transferred to the U-Boat School and Kolberg would return to the Baltic only after a lengthy overhaul. This left the forces available to K.Adm. Usslar as the 19th Half-Flottille, the III M.S. Div., which was reformed into the III Minesweeper Flottille with the tenders Indianola and Inkula, and the S-Flottille East. A separate Command, the B.M.A. on Osel (4) had it's seat in Arensburg.


4. Commander of the Naval Theatre on Osel.

Last Updated: 22 March, 2000.

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