|Type||Submarine, Schuka class, X type|
|Displacement||584-686t surfaced, 700-708t submerged|
|Maximum operating depth||90m|
|Weapons||6 torpedo tubes 533mm (4 bow, 2 stern), 10 torpedoes, 2x45mm guns, 2×7.62mm AA guns|
|Propulsion||2x diesel 1600hp, 2x electric 800hp|
|Speed surfaced||14.1 knots|
|Speed submerged||8.5 knots|
|Builder||Shipyard no. 200 (Sudostroytelnyi zavod imeny 61 kommunara, Mykolaiv(Nikolaev), Ukrainian SSR)|
|Sink date||between September 28th and October 14th, 1942|
|Sink reason||mine explosion|
|Coordinates||N44 17.340 E028 53.992|
The wreck was first observed on a sonar image in November 2008 by a Dutch company that was working in the area. The location was disclosed to Harry Bakker, who explored the wreck for the first time on November 15th 2008. Over time, a pretty large team was built around Harry Bakker, which dived the submarine many times, cleaning the nets and barnacles, and performing various research activities. The team members were:
The initial sonar survey showed an object of approximately 55m in length. This was a good fit for a Shchuka class submarine (57m), while the Malyutka (37.5m) and Leninec (77.9m) class could be ruled out. The known list of Shchuka class submarines lost in the Romanian waters during WWII contains the following vessels:
The wreck has a 45mm front deck gun, while the aft gun is missing due to an explosion.
The information was analyzed by Mr. Miroslav Morozov, a Russian historian and author of several books on the topic of Russian submarines in WWII. Based on his expertise, the wreck was identified as a Shchuka Class X, because the periscopes are connected by two horizontal bars (this means that the wreck has the higher 9-meter periscopes; on the Class V-bis-2, the periscopes are only 7.5 meters long and they are connected by a single horizontal bar). This ruled out Shch-206, which was a V-bis-2 type.
If the divers could prove that the wreck had a 45mm aft gun, this would identify the wreck as Shch-213, while a DShKMG gun would point to Shch-208. Unfortunately the wreck is missing the aft gun and no parts from it have been located until now.
In the wreck's area, Romanian Navy installed a powerful mine field (S-7) in October 1942, using EMC mines (explosive weight 285kg). Based on the patrol reports, Shch-208 was active in the wreck area between August 26th and September 8th, so it shouldn't have encountered any mine in the area. Shch-213 has reached the same area (grid 45 on the map) somewhere between September 28th and October 1st 1942, and should have stayed there until October 14th, so it could have passed through the mine field. As the submarines had to report when leaving the area, we can presume that Shch-208 was lost before September 8th and Shch-213 before October 14th 1942.
From the wreck, Harry Bakker has recovered an external compass. The historical pictures are showing the Shch-208 without this device, while Shch-213 had the compass installed on the conning tower. The compass has been given to the Navy Museum in Constanta, but unfortunately, until now it was not put on display.
Based on the fact that Shch-213 was the only submarine active in the area after the minefield has been installed, and also the only submarine patrolling this area which had an external compass on the conning tower, and also a plain bow, the wreck has been identified as Shch-213.
The Shchuka (Pike) were a medium-sized class of Soviet submarines, built in large numbers and used during World War II. In total 86 units have been engaged in combat missions, out of which 31 never returned to their base.
The Shch-213 was laid down as number 1037 at Shipyard no. 200 (Sudostroytelnyi zavod imeny 61 kommunara in Mykolaiv(Nikolaev), Ukrainian SSR) on December 4th, 1934. It was launched on April 13th, 1937, and then commissioned on December 15th, 1938, under the command of Larichev Dmitry Titovich, belonging to the 15th Battalion of the 1st Brigade of Submarines. The submarine was painted dark grey - the standard camouflage colour of the Black Sea fleet. Later, in April 1939, it was transferred to the 33rd Battalion of the 1st Brigade of Submarines.
In is autobiography, Larichev Dmitry Titovich remembers proudly that during the commissioning tests, the submarine was rated excellent for underwater navigation and torpedo firing tests, despite the very young crew.
In July 1939, the command of this submarine was given to the 27 years old lieutenant Dmitriĭ Mitrofanovich Denezhko, as part of the 4th Battalion of the 1st Brigade of Submarines, in Sevastopol. Denezhko was one of the youngest submarine commanders in the Soviet fleet, graduating the Frunze Naval Academy in 1937. Few surviving documents describe him as a good sailor, a brave and ambitious officer willing to take risks.
On October 9th, 1940, Shch-213 suffered an accident while docked in the Karkinit Bay. The nearby Shch-215 was maneuvering, when a fuse controlling the vertical rudder blew, forcing the steering to turn, and collide with Shch-213. The impact caused a dent in Shch-213's hull.
Between June 6th-13th 1941, the submarine carried out a patrol mission in the area south of Cape Sarych. On June 22nd, the submarine was disarmed and sent to Nikolaev for repairs. It passed through Odessa on July 1st-2nd, reaching Nikolaev on July 3rd, where it underwent repairs until August 10th.
At the beginning of the war, Shch-213 saw its first adventure: while undergoing repairs at the Nikolaev yard, it came under attack from the advancing Romanian and German troops, and it had to run from the harbour under enemy fire, a few days before the city fell. Escaping unharmed, the submarine rejoined the 4th division of the Black Sea Flotilla, arriving in Sevastopol on August 11th then in Feodosia on August 14th.
On September 7th, 1941, Shch-213 left Feodosia for its first war patrol, in the area of Cape Emine, Bulgaria, at position 13. Due to a navigation error, it ended up in the Varna region and made a reconnaissance of the harbour. On September 19th, Shch-213 has spotted a target, but it was too far to engage. On September 21st, the submarine was attacked by 3 Romanian sea planes (2 Savoia-Marketti S.55M and 1 Cant Z.501), who thrown about a dozen of depth charges, but without causing any harm. The submarine has left the patrol area on September 22nd, arriving in Feodosia on September 24th. On October 3rd it was moved to Novorossiysk, and later, on October 17th to Tuapse.
Between October 31st and November 20th the submarine carried out its second patrol, in the Varna region, at position 21. On November 10th, it has spotted two enemy ships, but it didn't engage them. The submarine left the area on November 16th, reaching Tuapse on November 20th.
The submarine's third patrol took place between December 19th 1941 and January 7th 1942, at Cape Olinka, position 26. During this mission, the submarine entered a mine field in the eastern part of its assigned patrol position. On December 31st, at 10:52 and later at 11:00, two mines exploded astern, without causing any damage. The submarine left the patrol area on January 4th, reaching Tuapse on January 7th.
Until the beginning of 1942, the submarine carried out three patrols in total, being in combat for 56 days, but without any opportunity to engage a target.
The 4th patrol of the submarine took place inside the position number 38, stretching from Cape Kara-Burnu at the Bulgarian-Turkish border, down to the Bosphorus, between February 20th and March 11th 1942. On February 23rd, at 22:59, the submarine made a torpedo attack against the Turkish schooner Cankaya, which was returning from Burgas to Istanbul with a cargo of construction materials. When the torpedo deviated 15 degrees from the course, Shch-213 engaged the target with its 45mm guns, firing 55 rounds in 29 minutes and scoring its first hit.
At dawn on February 24th, 1942, the Shch-213 submerged to periscope depth, continuing to search for contacts in the area. According to Denezhko's report, at 10:30, 9 miles north of the Bosphorus entrance (approximate coordinates N41° 18', E29° 19'), the Shch-213 encountered a big ship with a displacement of about 7000 tons, coming unescorted from the Straits at a speed of 3 knots, sailing 'probably under the Bulgarian flag'. At 10:45, Shch-213 fired a single torpedo from the bow, from a distance of 6 cables, and one minute later a powerful explosion was recorded. Looking through the periscope, Denezhko observed the ship sinking very fast, bow first. Place of sinking was recorded as being N41° 26'N / E29° 10'. In the 1960's the German historian Jurgen Rohwer linked all the available information, discovering that the victim of the attack was a defenceless Bulgarian schooner carrying 769 Romanian Jewish refugees on board. The ship's tonnage, as recorded in the submarine's log, remains a mystery, considering that Struma's displacement was only approximately 250 tons.
At the time of the attack, the Struma was indeed between 4.6 to 9 miles north of the entrance in the Bosphorus Straits, drifting with inoperable engines. At dawn on February 24th, when most of the refugees were sleeping in their quarters, and the captain and most of the crew were in the engine room, trying to fix the machines, the fragile hull was shaken by a powerful explosion. The schooner sank rapidly and only few people managed to jump in the sea and avoid being dragged to the bottom. Despite the proximity of the coast, help did not come. Temperature during that day did not exceed 6 degrees Celsius and the water was even colder. Weakened by malnutrition and foul living conditions on board, the refugees could not hold for long. David Stoliar, one of the passengers, managed to climb on a floating part of the deck, and then helped Lazar Dikof, Struma's first officer, to get up on the improvised raft. “We talked, sang and shouted until the evening” - David Stoliar recalled - “we were afraid that if we fall asleep, we will freeze to death”. Dikof, who was on the bridge at the moment of the attack, told Stoliar that he saw the torpedo's wake in the water, before the explosion. In the evening they both fell asleep, and the next morning David Stoliar woke up alone on the raft. On the morning of February 25th, the improvised raft drifted in front of a lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper saw the exhausted survivor, and together with his son and four coast guard members, jumped into a boat to save him. David Stoliar was the sole survivor of Struma's sinking. Later, he spent six weeks in a Turkish prison, charged with “illegal entry into the Turkish Republic”, then managed to reach into Palestine, where he joined the British Army, in which served in the 8th Army in North Africa.
Continuing its fourth patrol, the submarine attacked the Turkish steamer Adana on March 2nd. The torpedo hit its target without exploding, causing a half-meter mark on the hull.
When the Shch-213 returned to its home base on March 11st, 1942, the submariners received generous awards, Orders of the Red Banner, and Orders of the Red Star for the officers, and duty medals “For Military Merit” for the rest of the crew. The Soviet authorities of the time blamed the Nazis for the sinking of Struma.
On March 23th, 1942, Ju-87 dive bombers of the Luftwaffe carried a raid on the Tuapse naval base. At the moment of the attack, Denezhko was aboard Neva, the floating base of the 1st Brigade of submarines (a former Spanish liner, the Essequibo, who arrived in USSR in 1937), which received heavy damage from a 250-pound bomb. Piercing through the bridge and upper deck, the bomb exploded in the officers' mess, killing Denezhko and 27 other (including also the commander of Shch-209, the most successful and active submarine in the Black Sea).
The Shch-213 was transfered to the 2nd division of the Black Sea fleet and on May 16th it received a new commander - Lieutenant-Commander Isaev Nikolai Vasilievich, also a graduate from the Frunze Academy (1936), and the former commander of Shch-120, in the Pacific Fleet.
Between June 7th and 15th, the submarine patrolled the area of the Bosphorus (position 38). No enemy ships were encountered during the patrol, but Shch-213 was often under attack from enemy aircraft. Arriving at the base, the submarine was sent with supplies to Sevastopol which was under siege by the German and Romanian armies. Having taken on board in Novorossiysk 26 tons of ammunition, 4 tons of food and 27 tons of gasoline, the submarine attempted on June 29th to enter into the besieged city. The enemy blockade proved to be too dense, and Shch-213 was not able to break through. On July 3rd the submarine abandoned the cargo into the sea and retreated to Batumi where it arrived on July 7th. By the end of September, the submarine conducted repairs in a dry dock, then it was put back into operation.
In its final campaign, the submarine was assigned grid area 45 in front of Constanta. Shch-213 left its base on September 28th. According to the plan, the submarine was supposed to get in touch when leaving the patrol area, on October 14th, but it never did.
For a long time, it was believed that it was sunk by UJ-116 Xanten, after an unsuccessful torpedo attack on it. The crew of UJ-116 observed a torpedo wake and counterattacked with depth charges, 5.5 miles east of the grid position 45.
Just before the Shch-213's last patrol, the Romanian vessels “Regele Carol I” and “Amiral Murgescu”had deployed the S-7 minefield in the area of the Russian grid position 45. A mine from this field is the most probable cause of the destruction observed on the wreck.
The wreck is lying on a sand bottom, at a depth of 31 meters, inclined 30 degrees towards starboard. The submarine is intact, except for the blast that destroyed the aft part of the coning tower, obliterating the aft gun.
There are no penetration options on this wreck.
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