Soviet Destroyers of World War II Book Review

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Soviet Destroyers of World War II

By Alexander Hill, illustrated by Filipe Rodríguez

Series: Osprey New Vanguard Book 256

Paperback, 48 pages, heavily illustrated

Published by Osprey Publishing March 2018

Language: English

ISBN-10: 1472822560

ISBN-13: 978-1472822567

Dimensions: 7.3 x 0.1 x 9.7 inches

There are not many books on the subject of the Soviet Navy during the Great Patriotic War, the subject just receives an occasional mention as part of another narrative.  Osprey’s New Vanguard series is an excellent format to introduce the topic of Soviet Destroyers and provides a comprehensive overview of the different classes and their histories.  Technical specifications and the service record of each ship are included, along with many photographs and illustrations.

Destroyers were, and still are, a fundamental warship type which forms the backbone of any navy.  In the years preceding the war Soviet naval development lagged behind that of other nations, and this was readily apparent in their destroyer force.  The problems began with design and construction. Soviet destroyers were not good “sea boats”, and suffered reliability issues due to poor construction and materials.  Building or repairing the ship took far longer than it would have for other nations (particularly the U.S.) and the crew was generally tasked with helping the shipyard make repairs or alterations.  Armament was inferior, main guns were often old and lacked anti-aircraft capability, guns dedicated to the anti-aircraft role were of mixed calibers and many had low rates of fire.  The Soviet Navy lacked both radar and sonar at the beginning of the war, even after the Allies provided these sensors the sailors were not proficient in their operations.

Adding to these issues was the inexperience of the crews.  Stalin’s purges of the 1930s eliminated many seasoned Officers and experienced sailors from the ranks, crews of conscripts led by political appointees in outdated ships was not a recipe for success.  The Soviet Navy suffered greatly during the first few months of the war.  A great number of ships were lost to mines.  Many others were lost to air attack, which is not surprising given their outdated armament and lack of fire control.  Several vessels were engaged in friendly fire incidents or damaged due to a lack of basic seamanship, a reflection of the training of the crews.

This book is enlightening when one realizes that many of the problems encountered by the Soviet Navy then are still facing the Russian Federation Navy today.  The Russians still have great difficulty building, repairing, and maintaining their ships.  Reliability of their engineering plants and mechanical deficiencies of their hulls limit or even prohibit deployment of many of their warships.

This book is a quick read, but an informative overview of the development of destroyers in the Soviet Navy.  Hopefully we will see more books on the Soviet Navy from Osprey in the future.

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2 thoughts on “Soviet Destroyers of World War II Book Review

  1. Thanks for the review, Jeff! 🙂 I have this book, and overall I’m happy with it, but I felt that it could have benefited from a slightly different choice of some of the colour plates. There are two plates of Uragan class guardships and three plates of Type 7 destroyers, whereas I’d have thought that it would have been more useful to have included one of the Kiev/Leningrad/Baku flotilla leaders and another of Tashkent. Some more notes on colour schemes would have been helpful as well – certain ships seem to have lighter upperworks and darker hulls and others have gun mounts and torpedo tubes in very pale grey (almost white) but there is no mention of this. Still, a very useful book to have though!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I agree, John. I do give Osprey a pass on some omissions as they are heavily constrained by format – it would be very difficult to address everything in just 48 pages. I would like to see Soviet naval camouflage addressed in a more comprehensive work assuming the primary source material exists.

      Liked by 1 person

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