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
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many seasoned Officers and experienced sailors from the ranks, crews of conscripts led by political appointees in outdated ships was not a recipe for success.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 Many others were lost to air attack, which is not surprising given their outdated armament and lack of fire control.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.