Estonian Navy

Article

May 28, 2022

Eesti merejõud (Estonian Maritime Force) - Estonian Navy, part of the Estonian Armed Forces, operating in the years 1918–1940.

Estonia's struggle for independence

The nucleus of the Estonian navy was the Naval Battalion formed on March 4, 1918. Its commander was Lieutenant August Schönberg. The battalion, as part of the army, was disbanded on May 15 on the order of the Germans occupying Estonia at that time. Eesti merejõud was created on November 21, 1918, 10 days after the surrender of the German Empire. The quick formation of the navy was favored by the fact that the Ententa decided to hand over to Estonia some of the ships belonging to the Kaiserliche Marine, mainly those that the Germans captured in the Navy of the Russian Empire. The first warship to be incorporated into the Eesti merejõud was the gunboat "Lembit", in the Russian fleet it was called "Bobr" and in the German "Biber". Immediately after that, minehunter destroyers, a pair of armed steamboats, and 19 smaller vessels primarily intended for trawling entered service. The Navy began military operations immediately after the ships were put into service. Estonian ships cooperated with the Royal Navy, whose ships appeared in Tallinn on December 12, in the fight against the Bolsheviks and the Landeswehr. When on December 26, two Bolshevik destroyers shelled the port of Tallinn, they were captured by the British and handed over to Estonia after a few days. They entered service as "Lemuk" and "Wambola".

Interwar period

Cooperation with Finland

After independence and the end of the war with the Bolsheviks, Estonia was not sure of its security. Friendly relations tied her with Latvia in the south and Finland in the north, but relations with the Soviet Union were still tense, as indicated by the attempted communist coup carried out under the watchful eye of Moscow on December 1, 1924 in Tallinn. The Baltic Fleet, which was defeated during World War I and British intervention, began to rebuild its forces in the 1920s. At the turn of the 1930s, it increased by 4 battleships, 2 cruisers, 2 destroyer divisions and numerous submarines of various types. Finland, threatened to a similar degree by the expansion of the naval forces of the Soviet Navy, offered to cooperate with the Estonians in the early 1930s in blocking the Gulf of Finland. The plan was developed by the commander of the Estonian fleet - Admiral Herman von Salza and approved by Finland. It assumed the coordination of coastal batteries and the construction of a mine pen at the narrowest point of the bay. Should enemy ships break through this security system, they were to be attacked by allied submarines supported by Finnish coastal defense battleships. For this purpose, 5 Finnish submarines and 2 belonging to Estonia were to be used. As Estonia did not have any submarines at that time, it was decided to order them.

Reconstruction of the fleet

In 1923, on the order of Admiral von Salzy, a commission was established to establish technical and operational guidelines for the future ships of the Estonian Navy. Estonia received the first proposal to acquire underwater units on April 14, 1924 from the German company Ingenieurskaantor voor Scheepsbouw operating under the Dutch name. The offer was for the Pu project. 22 - a submarine with a displacement of 245 tons, but was rejected for financial reasons. Despite the constant lack of own submarines, Minister of War Jaan Soots arranged a course for their future commanders - Lieutenant Alfred Pontak and Lieutenant Ferdinand Schmiedehelm. The training took place in Great Britain between August 14, 1926 and June 8, 1927. It included practice on Royal ships