Operation Albion: The Attack On The Baltic Islands

© Gary Staff, 2000

Part II

back to Part I

Early on the morning of October 13th, at 0731hrs, an aircraft reported the approach of eight Russian destroyers in the Kassar Wiek, steering towards Soelo Sound. The previous night the Russians had planned a two fold blockade of Soelo Sound, using the blockship Lavwija and minelayer Pripyat. The blockship was to be scuttled across the eastern exit of the navigable channel and Pripyat was to lay mines east of there. However, both intentions misfired ; Lavwija ran aground and became stranded on a reef, and the crew of Pripyat refused to carry out the work on orders from the sailors council, who demanded more support for her. Nevertheless the Russian destroyers were now again nearing the Sound so that towards 0745hrs Emden weighed anchor and moved northwards into shallower water, bringing herself closer to the S-Flottille vessels which were working in Soelo Sound improving the navigable channel. At 0750hrs three of the Russian destroyers, which had approached nearer than the rest, opened fire on the S-Flottille. At 0757hrs Emden returned their fire at a range of 138hm and quickly obtained straddling salvos and a hit on one of the Russians. With that the destroyers retreated out of the cruiser's range. Further to the east a larger Russian vessel could be discerned.

Further soundings were taken and Emden shifted her anchorage to the shallows south of Serro, a further 2000 metres closer to the Russians, just in time to open fire on two of the destroyers which had renewed their advance at 0925hrs. The Russians again retreated behind Pamerort to rejoin their comrades. Visibility into the area behind Pamerort was poor but a signal station established on Pamerort the previous day assisted with observation and directing fire.

As at 1000hrs the B98 and 4th Half-Flottille arrived to reinforce the I F.d.T. and a conference was held between Kommodore Heinrich, Fregkpt. von Rosenberg, Korvkpt. Faulborn and Kptlt. Zander. They were in agreement that a thrust into the Kassar Wiek by their forces was still premature without heavy support to help force the Russian boats back. Therefore the presence of a battleship was requested for the following morning. The intervening period would allow further soundings to be taken in the treacherous channel and the 13th Half-Flottille to replenish their depleted munition stocks, much of which had been used in the preliminary bombardment at Papensholm.

In the meantime further Russian forces arrived in the area. Towards 1300hrs the gunboat Chivinetz joined the destroyers and then approached Soelo Sound. When the gunboat came within range Emden opened fire and between 1349 and 1355hrs bracketed her with several salvos. The Chivinetz fired single, deliberate shots in return that fell some 80 to 300 metres short of the cruiser and then turned away and moved off at high speed. Emden now lost contact with the observation station that had been directing her fire so that the fire had to be ceased. The observers thought that they had seen a hit on the Russian gunboat. The afternoon then passed quietly in Soelo Sound and the Kassar Wiek and later the I F.d.T. directed Emden and the torpedoboats to take up new anchorage's close under land near Poka. In assuming these dispositions the Leader Boat of the 13th Half-Flottille, V82, ran onto a shoal and damaged her starboard propeller so badly that she had to be dispatched to Libau for repairs. Kapitanleutnant Zander shifted his pennant to S61 and the 13th H.F. now had only four combat ready boats.

In Tagga Bay the work of unloading the Transfer Fleet continued despite the poorer weather conditions. The wind was from the S.S.W. at strength 6 to 7, which greatly increased the difficulty of the work. Ashore the German troops pressed on with their advance without waiting for artillery or support columns. In some areas resistance was weaker, in some areas stronger. The continual rain and lack of roads impeded the progress of all units, especially the Cyclist Sections. Infanterie Regt. 131 was marching on Sworbe and by evening had reached the area of Murzel, the so called 'narrow neck' of the peninsula. The Infanterie Regt. 255R. was before Irasse, Regt. 138 near Putla and Regt 17 near Mustla. The 1st Cyclist Bat. was advancing southwards and near Kolljall reached the line of retreat of the Russians from Arensburg to Orissar. Here, however, they met strong opposition and were forced to retreat 2 kilometres northwards during the afternoon. The IV and V Cyclist Bat. pushed eastwards across the northern part of the Island without coming into contact with the enemy.

The situation near Orissar was difficult. The 18th Sturm Kompanie had joined Section Winterfeld but the German line was extended in a large curve from Masik to Saikla-Thomel-Neuenhof to the base of the stone dam to Moon. All the German units were engaged in heavy fighting . For several hours during the evening they had held the base of the stone dam and were involved in a viscous night battle as Russian reinforcements came over the dam from Moon Island. However, when ammunition began to run low, Haupt. Winterfeld was forced to retreat to Orissar and limit himself to holding Orissar-Masik-Saikla-Thomel.

This situation was reported to General von Estorff by flyers, and it became clear to him that it was becoming critical. Later that evening patrols arrived in Arensburg and on interrogation of prisoners it was learned that between 10-20,000 Russian troops from Arensburg were marching towards Orrisar to escape to Moon Island. Others had made for Sworbe to escape by sea. It was apparent that the small Section near Orissar was in extreme danger. Therefore General-leutnant von Estorff ordered his Division to continue their advance towards Orissar during the night, even though it put his troops, who were in need of rest, under greater strain.

Despite the poor weather on October 13th the advance had been rapid and several huge fires were reported near Zerel and Arensburg as the Russians withdrew from these areas. The B.d.A.d.O. had reported good progress with minesweeping in the Irben Straits so that on the evening of October 13th he was ordered to breakthrough with his forces to Arensburg as soon as possible. The II M.S.F. and Sperrbrecher Groups would begin work immediately whilst Konig and Kronprinz, with the 15th Half-Flottille would arrive with them on October 15th, after fuel replenishment. The minesweepers work also continued north off Tagga Bay and towards Soelo Sound, and there were losses there too. On October 14th the S-Boats Altair and Delphin struck mines and were lost, Altair with the loss of ten men on the barrier which had claimed Grosser Kurfurst as a victim.

The German plan to occupy the Kassar Wiek on October 14th called for the battleship Kaiser and cruiser Emden to take up positions at the entrance to Soelo Sound to provide fire support for the Torpedoboat Flotillas, which were to breakthrough the Soelo Sound and then divide into four groups to comb the Kassar Wiek as far as the western entrance to Moon Sound. The T144 and six A-Boats would follow the larger T-Boats into the Kassar Wiek and break off for the Kleinen Sound, where they would support the embattled Section Winterfeld near Orissar. Accordingly, at 0600hrs, Emden weighed anchor and moved to her new position, and soon after Kaiser, escorted by V46 and S50, arrived and dropped anchor near Cape Pank. Soon after, at around 0700hrs, the large Russian destroyers Pobeditel, Zabijaka, Grom and Konstantin came in sight in the Kassar Wiek and anchored in broad line abreast of the eastern exit of Soelo Sound. They were careful to remain outside the range of Emden however.

After Kaiser's foreseen anchorage had been swept for mines and sounded for shoals the battleship finally took up her station southwest of Soelo Sound at 1145hrs. She immediately opened fire on the four Russian destroyers with her heavy artillery at a range of 192hm. The shooting was immediately effective and the second salvo landed squarely amongst the Russians, who quickly weighed anchor and fled to the east at high speed. One shell struck Grom and passed through her starboard engine room without exploding, but it remains unclear what damage was effected by this hit. The Russians soon passed out of range so that at 1208hrs Kaiser ceased fire.

Under the cover of Kaiser's fire the German torpedoboats entered the Soelo channel. The minesweepers T55 and T62 travelled at the head with sweeper gear set, but under these conditions the unit speed was comparatively slow. This exaggerated the effects of the strong cross current and at 1250hrs the G101, the second boat in line, went aground. An A-Boat and V46 towed her off but she had to be dispatched to the rear, so that the I F.d.T. now had thirteen boats remaining, as S50 had previously fallen out with engine damage. With the abeam wind and fast current the danger remained that further boats would run aground, and therefore the I F.d.T. decided to forgo further sweeping and issued the order, "Durchhalten-Grossefahrt."---hold course regardless, maximum speed. The torpedoboats now quickly left the minesweepers behind and by 1320hrs had cleared the channel.

Once inside the Kassar Wiek the Germans divided into four groups and set course E.N.E. at 17 knots speed. The shallow water depth precluded a higher speed. However, at 1321hrs the four Russian destroyers opened fire on the Germans at the great range of 100 to 110hm, so that the German boats quickly formed into battle formation. The Russians had turned away and were steering towards Moon Sound so that a running battle now developed at a range of 95hm. The fire of both sides was effective and G103 was damaged by a near miss astern, whilst Zabijaka was badly damaged and Pobeditel and Konstantin were slightly damaged. The Grom was hit several times by V100 and a fire broke aboard her amidships. Towards 1345hrs reinforcements arrived to support the embattled Russian destroyers. The armoured gunboat Chrabry approached from the Moon Sound and Chivinetz approached from the northern Moon Sound. The destroyers held a north-south course off the Moon Sound to cover the damaged Grom, that had fallen behind and the German boats made a turn to bring their complete broadsides to bear at a range of 70hm. Now the 13th Half-Flottille that had meanwhile reconnoitred to the northeast, pressed forward on the Russian north wing and despite the fact that a further seven Russian destroyers had arrived on the scene the Russians withdrew into Moon Sound. Towards 1415hrs Chrabry succeeded in getting Grom under tow, however the line soon parted and a subsequent attempt failed, so that the gunboat took off Grom's crew and retired quickly to the east, with her 13cm guns all firing rapidly. The Grom now lay stopped with a heavy list and burning and the German torpedoboats quickly approached. Whilst G103 and G104 laid a smokescreen to the east the boat B98 went alongside Grom and put a party aboard her. Five Russians were taken prisoner and a mine chart and log book were secured. The Russian destroyer was then taken under tow. It was a curious sight, two vessels, almost identical, one Russian the other German. The situation aboard Grom was deteriorating however, and about 1510hrs she capsized and sank whilst still under tow. The wreck lay conspicuously out of the water. Meanwhile, at 1440hrs, the I F.d.T. assembled his remaining boats and pushed eastwards through the smokescreen towards Moon Sound. The Russian destroyers could be seen to the southeast but they remained outside German gun range. Towards 1535hrs Kommdre. Heinrich's boats again came under an accurate fire. This time heavy calibre shells could be counted among those landing around and between the German torpedoboats. The battleship Graschdanin and armoured cruiser Admiral Makarov had joined the other Russian destroyers and gunboats and the Germans could only faintly make them out. At 1545hrs the Russians ceased fire and with the approach of darkness were not seen again.

Whilst the torpedoboats were in battle the Chief of the S-Flottille aboard T144 had entered the Kleinen Sound with his six A-boats. A liaison officer was dispatched ashore to make contact with Section Winterfeld but this proved difficult and it was not until 1630hrs that communication was established. Hauptmann Winterfeld requested a bombardment of the stone dam and both ends of it, and in addition requested munition replenishment and supplies. Fregettankapitan von Rosenberg could arrange for the munitions and provisions but it was already too dark for the bombardment.

The day battle over, the I F.d.T. determined to spend the night in the western Kassar Wiek and therefore shortly before darkness fell the II T.B.F. and 13th H.F. anchored off Cape Fekkerort. The T144 and A-Boats lay to the west of there. During the day the G101 had rejoined the Flotilla but one of her propeller shafts was damaged and causing excessive vibration. It was decided to detach her to Libau and to send G103, which had suffered considerable leakage due to a near miss, with her. After the two boats transferred their remaining ammunition to the others, who had expended about half their outfit during the day, they departed for Libau dockyard.

The Russian Fleet Chief, Admiral Naswosoff, had ordered the Kassar Wiek to be held at all costs but now it remained a disputed area with the Germans having the upper hand. Accordingly Admiral Bachirev arranged a renewed attempt at the minelaying sortie aborted the previous night. Reliable men from the Flotilla's were temporarily transferred aboard the minelayer Pripyat and together with three minelaying boats of the M.T. type they laid 135 mines north of Pawasterort during the night without being disrupted.

October 14th was a day of great progress with the minesweeping work in the Irben Straits. At about 0315hrs the III and IV M.S.Divisions and three S-Flottille's departed Windau, followed by the tender's Primula and Indianola. The wind was a fresh southwesterly and there was a light mist. During the day the wind dropped and visibility improved slightly, but these conditions were favourable for minesweeping and great progress was made so that by early afternoon the Chief of the III M.S.Div. was able to report that the gaps through barriers 1 and 2 were complete. In the meantime, at about 0600hrs, the B.d.A.d.O. had led his cruisers out of Libau. They were preceded by boats of the 16th H.F. acting as minesweepers and anti-submarine protection. They proceeded northwards at about 14 knots however just after 0800hrs the battery at Zerel opened fire. The rounds fell between the cruisers and torpedoboats and K.Adm. Hopman turned 8 points, or 90o, away to starboard and reduced speed to 7 knots. Ten minutes later he turned back to port and continued the advance. At 0845hrs the cruisers anchored near Michailowsk Bank.

The minesweeping and clearing work continued into the afternoon and about 1400hrs, three miles past barrier 2, the 3rd S-Hf.Fl. pushed onto a third barrier, consisting of pendulum mines. The III and IV M.S.Div. set about clearing a gap in this barrier whilst the 3rd S-Hf.Fl. continued the search. Soon after they discovered a forth barrier, which they began to clear themselves. At about 1700hrs K.Adm. Hopman decided to call it a day and ordered the searching and clearing work to cease. The minesweepers anchored close under land.

In the meantime, the German heavy units were moving against Sworbe from the west. At around 0910hrs the battleships Friedrich der Grosse, Konig Albert and Kaiserin weighed anchor and set course towards their allotted bombardment positions. They were screened against submarines by six boats of the IV and VI Torpedoboate Flottille. After quitting Tagga Bay they increased speed too and by 1500hrs were in position to begin the bombardment. The Friedrich der Grosse's task was to fire against Russian ground forces as directed by the Commander of the 131 Regiment, to support the German advance. The task that fell to Konig Albert and Kaiserin was to bombard the Russian heavy battery on Zerel, when requested to do so by the Infantry. With their long range and 360o traverse the battery could make matters uncomfortable for the German infantry.

Before the battleships took up their positions, the areas would have to be swept for mines. This task was allocated to T170 and T169, but due to frequently slipping their gear because of grounding, they were unable to fulfill their task so that by 1420hrs they had to returned to the Flagship and took station ahead of her, once again with their sweeper gear set. By 1500hrs the battleships were in position, awaiting fire directions from ashore and the bombardment areas had been swept for mines. Shortly after 1600hrs the Zerel battery opened fire on T170 and T169, which were still sweeping for mines, and the boats turned away to the north. The Konig Albert and Kaiserin immediately replied, whilst Friedrich der Grosse weighed anchor and closed in, as she was not yet required for her primary task, support of Inf. Regt. 131. For the following hour the three battleships joined battle with the Zerel battery at ranges of 170 to 200 hectometres and in all fired 120 rounds of heavy calibre ammunition. The Russians fired salvos of two shots, and to good effect. They quickly zeroed in on Kaiserin and the forth Russian 30.5cm salvo straddled the battleship amidships, so that Kaiserin was obliged to steer a zigzag course to avoid being hit. The Konig Albert also made speed and course alterations to avoid being hit. The German fire was not so well directed and usually lay 1000 metres away from the Russian battery, in the area of the reserve munition room and aircraft hangers. One salvo fell close by the battery, just 60 metres away, but although splinters struck a gun it remained capable of action. The gun crew, understandably, temporarily quit their battle station and took cover. As visibility and light conditions diminished the battle concluded. The Friedrich der Grosse remained under weigh during the night, whilst the other two ships anchored.

During the morning of October 14th the Army High Command 8 ( A.O.K.8. ) decided, in consultation with the Naval Command, to include the island of Dago within the scope of the Osel operation. Once sea mastery had been established in the Kassar Wiek the further occupation of Dago would give complete domination of the Moon Sound and entrance to the Finnish Gulf. With Dago in German hands the defence of Osel would be considerably eased. Therefore, on October 16th the Army, with the support of the S-Flottille, would stage a landing. General von Kathen decided to use Infanterie Regiment 17, the II Cyclist Battalion and a field battery under the Command of Oblt. von Kaweczynski. As soon as these troops became dispensable on Osel they would move to Poka Bay for transport to Serro. The I F.d.T. was to make the necessary arrangements, and during his absence the task was entrusted to Fregattenkapitan Freiherr von Gagern, Commander of Emden.

On the evening of October 14th the military situation ashore was as follows : Section Winterfeld had remained in danger of being crushed all day, despite reinforcement by the V Cyclist Battalion in the morning and the IV Cyclist Bat. later. It was only towards evening, when Oblt. v. Kaweczynski and his troops arrived that the danger was alleviated and the Germans could advance from Thomel to the base of the stone dam on the Osel side, forcing the Russian armoured cars and Naval Infantry to retreat back across the dam to Moon. The crisis near Orissar was then over, the dam base was in German hands and the escape of further Russian forces over the stone dam to Moon was put out of consideration. The front held by the Cyclist Battalion was now supported by the 138 and 17 Infanterie Regiments and the possible retreat of the Russians to Arensburg via Kapra was cut off by the advance of Infanterie Regiment 255R. The bulk of the Russian garrison had now been squeezed together and isolated in the German cauldron. To the north and south the Russian were engaged by the German forces, to the west lay marsh land and to the east lay the Kleinen Sound. Escape was impossible.

In the south Infanterie Regiment 131 had marched on Sworbe and had halted early in the morning near south Tecomardi. At around 0800hrs Oberstlt. Fischer dispatched a negotiator, Oblt.d.R. von Oppen, to parley with the Russians to try and prevent further bloodshed. However, as he had not returned by 1500hrs the Regiment advanced to the area near Ansekull and prepared for the night.

Dawn on October 15th brought with it favourable weather conditions for minesweeping in the Irben Straits. The wind was a light northeast to northwesterly, the sea was quiet and there was showers and drizzle. Visibility conditions were not good, although they improved as the day progressed. Both sides dispatched some of their stronger units for the days struggle in the frequently contested Irben Straits. Towards 0700hrs the German minesweepers renewed their minesweeping work, supported by K.Adm. Hopman's VI A.G.; the battleships Konig and Kronprinz would arrive later. Meanwhile the Russian Commander of Regiment 425, Colonel Borsakowski, who was cut off on the Sworbe peninsula, had sent a request for assistance to Vice-Admiral Bachirev on the night of October 14th-15th. In the early hours of October 15th V.Adm. Bachirev dispatched the battleship Graschdanin and three destroyers to Zerel. The battleship departed Kuiwast Roadstead behind a minesweeper unit and took a route east of the Russian minefield along the Estonian coast.

At the same time the German minesweepers were slowly progressing forwards. The 3rd S-Half-Flottille swept a gap through barrier 3 and then proceeded with work on barrier 4, when at 1125hrs they observed a smoke cloud to the north. It emanated from two Russian destroyers that had been dispatched forward, but despite the fact that they stood just 7 nautical miles north of the 3rd S-HfFl. the vessels not discern one another because of the poor atmospheric conditions.

After the battleships Konig and Kronprinz had completed coaling in Putzig Wiek they returned to the north and early on the morning of October 15th were off Windau. From there the V180 piloted them through the large vessel channel, beginning at about 0730hrs. Three Minesweeper boats of the 8th M.S.H.F. and two Sperrbrecher preceded the battleships with a unit speed of about 10 knots. Two hours later the battleship unit was brought to anchor at point F, to the north of Pissen. The Russian barriers were proving extremely difficult to penetrate, the mines were laid close together and cunningly deployed, so that some types of mines either slipped through the sweeper gear or were towed along. The gaps in barriers 3 and 4 were not unquestionably clear of mines and it also remained unclear whether the Zerel battery was still operational. Therefore V.Adm. Behncke, in consultation with K.Adm. Hopman, determined to forgo the northern route and breakthrough more to the east.

In the meantime the German battleships of Squadron IV had again made for their bombardment positions to the west of the Sworbe Peninsula. Vizeadmiral Schmidt had ordered them not to open fire unless they or the advancing troops were taken under fire. Therefore V.Adm. Souchon held his fire but towards 1250hrs smoke clouds were observed in the vicinity of the Zerel battery. Apparently the Russians were beginning to evacuate the garrison and had begun destroying their facilities and emplacements. Further to the south the battleships of Squadron III and the minesweepers could be seen pressing into the Irben Straits. Vizeadmiral Souchon decided to hurry proceedings along and from 1340hrs to 1420hrs his battleships undertook the Zerel battery and other emplacements and buildings, together with two steamers lying to the east, under fire

Somewhat ironically the Russians had similar intentions to the Germans. The Commander on Sworbe had wirelessed "Situation very serious, send ships," and V.Adm. Bachirev had dispatched Graschdanin and destroyers to Sworbe. South of Abro the two destroyers were dispatched to Mento whilst the battleship and other three destroyers anchored off Arensburg Reef. There they received information from V.Adm. Bachirev that the Sworbe defences had been defeated and that they were ordered to destroy the Zerel battery. With that Graschdanin went to Cape Kawi and from there took the heavy battery under fire. The two destroyers off Mento took part of the garrison aboard and then opened fire on Mento. The other vessels took on others of the garrison. Shortly before dusk the Russian ships assembled and began the journey to Moon Sound. Early on the morning of October 16th the Russians neared Kuiwast Roads.

The movements of Graschdanin and her escort destroyers were observed and reported by UC78 and German reconnaissance aircraft. The UC78 first sighted the battleship south of Abro at about 1330hrs but the U-Boats was unable to gain a firing position so followed the Russian towards Arensburg Bay. Any possibility of an attack vanished when three German aircraft suddenly appeared and dropped bombs on the U-Boat, forcing her to crash dive. Nevertheless, UC57 remained off the southern exit to Moon Sound and K.Adm. Hopman sent here an F.T.(3) order later that evening : "A ship of the 'Slava' class is travelling from Sworbe to Moon Sound tonight. Attack!" Towards 0145hrs on a clear night UC57 sighted two destroyers on an easterly course. Obviously the anti-submarine screen of the Russian unit. As Kptlt. Wissmann carried out his attack and the range reduced to 2000 metres one of the Russian destroyers suddenly turned towards the U-Boat at high speed, forcing UC57 to crash dive. Graschdanin quickly passed out of range for a successful torpedo attack.

Despite the German success against the Zerel battery advantage was not taken in the Irben Straits. The search and sweeper units began work on clearing a route east towards 1340hrs, however, when it became obvious that Zerel was being evacuated the V.Adm. Behncke ordered the units to cease work and await events ; perhaps a more northerly route direct to Arensburg could yet be achieved. The 3rd M.S.H.F., the II and IV M.S.Divisions were recalled and by the time orders were given to breakthrough to the north just one hour of useful daylight remained. It was pointless to begin work so therefore the sweeper units concentrated on enlarging the route already swept, before withdrawing for the night. During the evening the Konig Albert and Kaiserin were detached to Putzig to coal whilst Friedrich der Grosse remained to the west of Sworbe.

The German plans for the Kassar Wiek on October 15th included securing the eastern exit to the Moon Sound and providing the Army near Orissar with uninterrupted support by the A-Class small torpedoboats. Therefore, at around 0455hrs on October 15th the eight boats of Flottille II and the four boats of 13th Half-Flottille weighed anchor and began advancing. Four boats of the 4th H.F. advanced as a vanguard in broad line abreast, followed by the other boats in line ahead. Just before 0800hrs V46 and S50 joined Kommodore Heinrich, who had remained aboard V100 so that now he had fourteen boats available.

During the course of the morning, reconnaissance by Friedrichshafen FF33L aircraft 1590, which was passed to Emden by wireless, indicated that there were twelve Russian destroyers in the eastern exit of the Kassar Wiek. They were supported by a whole number of ships in the Moon Sound which were of types not readily recognizable in the conditions of poor visibility.

At around 0530hrs Fregkpt. von Rosenberg assembled his S-Flottille and ran into Kleinen Sound. His Leader boat, T144, drew too much water to allow her to proceed further so therefore the Flotilla Chief boarded A29. In the Kleinen Sound an Army liaison officer was put ashore to establish contact with Section Winterfeld. After about an hour the officer reported the situation ashore by wireless and requested an immediate bombardment of the stone dam head on Moon and the dam itself and at the same time requested munitions and provisions. The A-Boats immediately began the bombardment. Suddenly heavy artillery shell began falling in the vicinity of the A-Boats. The I F.d.T. thereon ordered the A-Boats to fall back. The shellfire was emanating from three gunboats and several destroyers that had appeared in the Moon Sound and undertaken the German boats under fire at great range. From time to time they were supported by the cruiser Admiral Makarov in the northeast and also by heavy artillery fire from Kuiwast Roads being fired indirectly over Moon Island. The events of the previous day were being repeated. Nevertheless, after about an hour the A-Boats could resume their bombardment in the Kleinen Sound. Before long A29 had expended all of her ammunition outfit and was detailed to Tagga Bay to replenish and fetch munition for the other A-Boat. By lunchtime A31 had also depleted her stock and likewise was ordered to Tagga Bay. She returned the same evening and anchored overnight in Soelo Sound, before arriving in the Kleinen Sound early on the following morning and landing the requested Army munitions at Orissar.

The larger torpedoboats supporting the A-Boats were likewise subjected to indirect heavy artillery fire and to give them a break Kommodore Heinrich ordered them at 1130hrs to stand away to the west. At 1205hrs, as the unit passed just south of the wreck of Grom, the V100 sighted a lead capped mine some 200 metres away on the surface. Just as the next boat in line, S50, was ordered to investigate a heavy detonation occurred on B98. The forecastle was rent off and sank to the bottom, however B98 remained afloat. As the men had been below deck for lunch there was a heavy loss of life with fourteen killed and seven wounded. The B-boats were of sturdy construction and B98's remaining forward bulkhead held, so that she was able to steam under her own power to Tagga Bay, escorted by V74. The following day she was towed to Libau by the steamer Caurus. The B98 had fallen victim to one of the mines laid by the Russians the previous night and now the Germans regretted not mounting a guard near the entrance to Moon Sound, as Fregkpt. v. Rosenberg had suggested. The I F.d.T. now took his group to the north but the water there was shallow and the Germans accordingly suffered further attrition when at 1610hrs B110 and B112 grounded. The B110 damaged two propeller blades but her reduced speed remained sufficient for operations in the Kassar Wiek. The B112 likewise damaged her propellers but also suffered considerable damage to an oil bunker, which leaked, and therefore she was detached for repairs. The II Torpedoboate Flotilla now consisted of six battle-worthy boats. That night the eleven boats of Kommodore Heinrich's Group anchored in a guard position off the western exit of the Moon Sound, however, towards 2015hrs the main body of the torpedoboats retired a little further to the west, leaving three boats to cruise up and down in their hitherto position, a measure adopted to prevent a confused melee should the Russians try to break through to the west.

Earlier in the day the planned landing on Dago had been carried out. At about 0900hrs Landing Corps Ahlefeld had landed two sections near Toffri and established a bridgehead. According to local inhabitants there were three Russian field guns near Emmast and therefore Emden moved closer to Toffri and T141 anchored near Serro, to lend support if required. Towards 1100hrs Fregkpt. von Rosenberg returned from the Kleinen Sound to personally supervise the remainder of his S-Flotilla, leaving Oblt.z.S. Dietze aboard A32 in charge of things in the Kleinen Sound. Towards 1230hrs an intense battle developed ashore as the Landing Corps met unexpectedly strong opposition, to the point where Kptlt. von Ahlefeld doubted whether the bridgehead could be held overnight. Therefore, towards evening, the S-Flotilla embarked the Landing Corps and withdrew, but nevertheless the attack was to be repeated the following day, after a more vigorous bombardment had been conducted.

An interesting overview of the situation on October 15th is provided by Oberst von Tschischwitz, Chief of the General Staff of the Landing Corps, in his description of a reconnaissance flight undertaken by one of his fellow officers :

"At midday of October 15th an officer of the General Staff arrived at Papensholm. He had disembarked that morning and found himself on the way to Arensburg. He inquired whether there was an opportunity for himself to procure a flight along the coast to survey the situation - most importantly over the Kleinen Sound and the Sworbe Peninsula.

"Yes indeed, Herr Major," replied the Station Leader, Kptlt. A. "I have a machine ready to take off and will gladly fly you myself." As they passed he quickly showed the Major the beautiful hanger, that remained undamaged, just as were five flying boats, some motors, cars and motorboats.

The propeller was swung and the two officers climbed aboard the seaplane. It was then launched into the water, whereon the propeller revolutions were brought up. With gathering speed the aircraft was showered and slowly it climbed away from the waters surface.

Soon the flyer took course northeast over the southern tip of Tagga Bay. There, there was still a mixed bag. The entire transport fleet still lay at anchor, although six empty transports were to return to Libau that evening. Easily recognizable were Moltke and the F.M.S. Santa Elena. Further north lay two battleships, to the right of them a cruiser. On the landing position swarmed horses and vehicles. The Bay formed a fascinating picture which quickly disappeared. During subsequent flight the coast remained in sight on the left, whilst below they passed over scattered woods, empty fields, small villages and numerous farms. The juniper hedges showed as a dark line which gave way to peaceful meadows and pastures. The rise of terrain was imperceptible and totalled only 50 metres --- Osel is a flat island that rises to the north and falls away steeply at the coast.

Before long the southern tip of Dago was visible. Before the Soelo Sound lay Emden, resembling a sheep dog on watch. The Pamerort Peninsula pointed north like a finger. There were no roads to see. Still, one did go south, to Arensburg. Over the last few months roads had been built from Arensburg to the N.E., North, N.W. and S.W. Now the aircraft arrived on the southern shore of the Kassar Wiek. Small vessels were going in two directions, to the west and the east. "They belong to Flotilla Rosenberg." Further out they could see a large number of torpedoboats running on a westerly course from the Moon Sound. "There appears to be something out of order," remarked the pilot. Later we learned that B98 had at that time run onto a mine.

The increasing haze forced the aircraft to go lower in order to obtain a clear picture of the situation in the Kleinen Sound. "The village ahead of us is Orrisar. There lay Rosenberg with his A-Boats. He seemingly shoots on Moon. However, on the stone dam there is no traffic."

"There, I can see the battle line," called the Major, " they stretch right to the Kleinen Sound. Could we fly along it ?" Overall, movement in a southern direction was recognizable. "I see only two batteries firing, one near Thomel on the road. The western wing rests immediately on a marsh. Please, could you now fly along the road to Arensberg ?"-----" There appears to be a considerable part of the Russians cut off from Moon. The road is indeed completely clogged with vehicles. And there, German troops attack both sides of the northward travelling Russians ---- that must be the 255 ! No, the pocket is finished. It's a pity we cannot see the finale. We must away.

And now the aircraft flew along the old postal road to Arensberg. Single groups of horses and carts came trotting along. "That must be the baggage train of the 255er !" To the left stood the blue, shimmering Riga Gulf, to the right another road that went from Arensburg to Pamerort was visible. Now the 65 Brigade came in sight. "What does that smoke ribbon to the left of Arensburg come from ?" questioned the Major. "That is the Russian Fleet." "Yes, then they can fairly shoot on Arensburg ?" furthered the Major. "We cannot prevent them from doing so, Herr Major, so long as Admiral Behncke cannot break through the Irben Straits. Would that I had a couple of bombs with me !" The aircraft cut a curved course over water towards Sworbe and steered towards Tehomardi. Clearly visible was a Russian battleship to the west of Abro Island, with a destroyer nearby. Other destroyers cruised a little further west near the coast. The aircraft flew along the west coast of Sworbe to the south.

" I am curious," said the Major, "as to whether today the Russians are also finished here, as it would appear. It is so important for the Navy to breakthrough and cut off Moon. This morning we still had no report from Regiment 131."

" There is movement on the road. Is that the village of Ansekull ? See our troops, they lay still. There appears to be no battle --- Curious !" Generally the area was wooded with a few small villages on the road, which our troops filled. A peaceful picture.

In the distance, to the right were several dark smoke ribbons and several times gun flashes could be seen. "That is the IV Squadron firing on Zerel," said the pilot. "I must go higher now as near Lebbara there are Flak batteries. We have recently bombed the air station there." On the landing ground near Cape Mento a small crowd was gathered. The air station were conducting a funeral.

The southern tip of the island came in sight. The IV Squadron had ceased fire. In the woods fires burned in several positions. Now the Zerel battery could be discerned --- the giant, long 30.5cm barrels climbed towards the heavens. The flak battery did not shoot. In the area surrounding the battery the craters of the heavy shells fired by Souchon's Squadron could be seen --- they left quite a mess. Had the Russians themselves blown up the battery ?

Flames came from several positions, and the lighthouse burned --- proof of the good shooting by Squadron Souchon. "No, it appears the finale is near here, also," imparted the Major, "But I do not understand why Regiment 131 do not advance."

The aircraft turned in a great curve to the left. "The wreck there, right ahead of us is that of a Russian destroyer, that one of my flyers from Windau hit with a 60kg bomb. And on Zerel a bomb caused a munition depot to explode."

And now it was time to return. The weather had cleared and the sun shone. The aircraft was already quite low, below was the deep blue water of the Riga Gulf and to the west the green scattered woods of the peninsula and the dull, flat open sea. "ell, well ! --- there comes the Russians towards us in their boats. Will they indeed rescue their brothers in arms before they are taken prisoners ?"

The aircraft went lower, towards Ansekull. The 131 still stood there, however not in battle. They waved to the aircraft above.

"Could you take me to Arensburg and land ?" inquired the Major, "there is still an air station and I wish to report as soon as possible." In the course of two hours the entire island had been overflown."

The situation on the narrow neck of Sworbe peninsula that had confused the German flyers was as follows. By the morning of October 15th the negotiator, Oblt. von Oppen, had not returned. In fact he had been detained by the Russians and held in a field hospital guarded by no less than six sentries. Therefore Oberstlt. Fischer ordered the bombardment of the Russian fortifications near Ansekull, which were thereon cleared. Resistance on the west coast was also suppressed. At 1330hrs, after twenty eight hours, the negotiator returned and said that the Russians were willing to surrender but desired an armistice to allow time to discuss terms and conditions. The Regimental Commander, through his Regimental Adjutant, Oblt. Dormagen, and Oblt. von Oppen, refused the armistice but said, nevertheless, that he could offer honourable conditions. Towards 1800hrs the two dispatched officers returned with the news that the Russians were ready to capitulate. In hindsight, it can be seen that the shrewd Russian Commander, Colonel Borsakowski, had already gained for himself twenty four valuable hours in a bloodless standoff.

In the meantime, events around Orrisar and Thomel were reaching a climax. At 1100hrs on October 15th Generalleutnant von Estorff ordered a general attack. Near Thomel the Infanterie Regt. 138 and the II and IV Cyclist Battalions attacked the Russian line and were supported by the fire of the 4th Batterie. A lively fire fight ensued. At about 1500hrs Lewwal was taken by the Germans and the right flank then turned southeast and arrived at Artle without further fighting. Further to the east the V Cyclist Bat. and the Infanterie Regt. 17 arrived before Ulla without coming across enemy resistance. To the north Sturmkompanie 18, under Haupt. Winterfeld, blockaded the base of the stone dam, preventing any Russian reinforcements arriving from Moon. To the south at about 1100hrs Infanterie Regt. 255R also mounted an advance but had to halt near Hoppi because their shortage of ammunition would not allow a lively engagement. However, towards midday, artillery fire from the north allowed Oberst Berring, Commander of the 255R, to order an attack on both sides of the road towards Peude. Soon after the Russian fire was observed to weaken and the Germans could hear shouts and see the Russian troops in confusion. At about 1430hrs Infanterie Regt. 255R launched an all out attack and as the Russians could see the 65th Infanterie Brig., of Inf. Division 42, advancing from the north, they showed the white flag. All breakout attempts by the surrounded Russians --- first to the north to the stone dam and then to the south in the direction of Arensburg --- had failed. Towards 1500hrs the Russian Commander of the 107th Division, General Ivanov, with two Brigade Commanders, Infantry Regiments 426 and 472 and several field batteries capitulated. Over 5000 men, 14 field guns and many machine-guns and mortars were surrendered. Only a few hundred Russians escaped in boats across the southern part of the Kleinen Sound to Moon during the morning of October 15th. By evening that day the greater part of Osel was in German hands and the majority of the Russians had been made prisoner.

Early on the morning of the following day, October 16th, the attack on Dago began again. At about 0800hrs Kaiser began an hour long bombardment of the bridgehead area, so that towards 0900hrs the Landing Corps Ahlefeld could begin disembarking, according to plan. The steamer Coburg moved close inshore near Toffri to act as a breakwater to facilitate an easier landing. The German patrols pushed forwards and between 1300 and 1400hrs skirmished with the Russians. Shortly before 1500hrs the Landing Corps re-embarked and thereon Emden moved inshore to undertake her planned bombardment.

The Command of the Special Unit advised that a Cyclist Battalion would be embarked to support Landing Corps Ahlefeld on October 17th, whilst the remaining troops would be ready for an assault on Dago on October 18th. A jetty being constructed at Murrika would be completed by the 18th and would assist in embarking the troops. Fregattenkapitan von Schlick completed the necessary arrangements for the transport of troops and stores.

The coming of morning on October 16th also saw a resumption of activity in the Kleinen Sound. At dawn the A-Boats again pressed forward into the Sound and just as the previous day the stone dam, it's base on Moon and other positions on the island were taken under fire. The supply of munition, provisions and material to Orrisar was maintained over the entire day. In addition, preparations were undertaken to transport 2000 men to Moon, although the invasion of this island had been postponed by V.Adm. Schmidt until October 17th.

Meanwhile, the larger torpedoboats were again busy defending the Kassar Wiek against the Russian sea forces. At dawn on October 16th the 4th Half-Flotilla replaced the 13th H.F. as guard forces at the eastern exit to Moon Sound. The continual cruising, groundings due to navigational difficulties, the now apparent mine danger and the over exertion of personnel and materiel had all taken their toll on the German torpedoboats. Therefore the I F.d.T. decided to leave just a Squad cruising off Moon Sound whilst the reminder of the boats anchored a little northwest of Keinast Peninsula with short chains. Here they were outside the range of Russian gunboats off Kumora Reef, but were close enough to intervene should the Russians move west. They were soon tested as at 0830hrs two Russian gunboats and three destroyers approached the eastern end of the Kassar Wiek, however when the torpedoboats weighed anchor and neared the patrolling Squad the Russians withdrew into the Moon Sound. An hour later the I F.d.T. returned to anchor. Towards noon five minesweepers of M.S.Div.II arrived and Kommodore Heinrich detailed them to clear the mined area in the middle of the Kassar Wiek. The bow of B98 and wreck of Grom were conspicuous above the water and served as good navigational marks and before long the minesweepers found a Vee shaped mine barrier beginning near Grom and stretching to the northwest and southwest. Most of the mines were of the spherical, lead capped variety with an estimated charge of 150kg, however some were of a new type.

Whilst these events were occurring the small hospital ship Viola appeared in the Kassar Wiek, en-route to the Kleinen Sound to embark wounded from Section Winterfeld. The Russians on Moon sighted Viola and reported her to V.Adm Bachirev as a troop transport. The Russian Admiral allowed Viola to approach the Kleinen Sound before opening fire on her when she was off the northwest coast of Moon. Slava opened an indirect fire, as did the heavy guns at Woi, and they were joined by lighter pieces on the stone dam and at Orrisar. The Russian Commander also dispatched a gunboat and destroyer to breakthrough the 'Strumpf' channel into the Kassar Wiek. Before long the shells from Slava began falling in the vicinity of the torpedoboats near Keinast. The I F.d.T. therefore weighed anchor and was moving off to the west when the patrolling Squad reported the approach of Russian forces. Kommodore Heinrich immediately closed with the guard squad, that was already under fire, with his eleven boats and as the range reduced to 100 hectometres the Germans opened fire in reply. After a short firefight the Russian vessels turned away and anchored east of Kumora Reef. Towards 1300hrs the I F.d.T. and his boats returned to their old anchorage, while the A-Boats in the Kleinen Sound continued about their business, despite the heavy fire from Slava, some of which was landing quite close to the small boats. With the Russian fire being so accurate the Germans decided that their observation post must be close by, therefore T144, T160 and the A-Boats undertook a half hour bombardment of the houses and other positions on the western end of Moon and near Keggowa.

The battle on Osel was drawing to a conclusion, with the last Russian resistance slowly being broken, therefore once the III Squadron had broken through the minefields in the Irben Straits an invasion of Moon would be able to be undertaken, probably on October 17th. Vizeadmiral Schmidt still had time to further weaken the Russian sea forces in the Moon Sound so he therefore sent the I F.d.T. an order by wireless to "during darkness attack the Russian forces in the Moon Sound and Riga Gulf with all means ; the A-Boats are firstly to finish their task in the Kleinen Sound." The previous day torpedoes from other T-Boats had been taken aboard Emden and serviced before being delivered to the A-boats by T160, so the small torpedoboats were now fully armed, however once again Kommodore Heinrich baulked at the prospect of a night attack. He justified himself in his war diary thus : "I must refrain from a night attack by torpedoboats in the Moon Sound on this day. The A-Boats have not yet completed their task in the Kleinen Sound ; of the torpedo flotillas the large boats of Flottille II do not come into the question due to the difficult navigational conditions in Moon Sound, therefore only the 13th Half-Flottille remain. I hold it as premature to attack now--- I must reckon on losses through mines or else stranding, without necessarily finding the enemy--- I must for the moment employ myself with the security of the Kassar Wiek for Army operations." It is odd that the I F.d.T. discounted the B and G boats of the II Flottille as the majority of the Russian destroyers were of almost identical dimensions and displacement. Towards 1845hrs Kommodore Heinrich and his torpedoboats anchored near Pawasterort, whilst a squad of boats from the 13th H.F. patrolled near the channel to Moon Sound.

During October 16th the German Naval Air Arm was also active. Earlier Arensburg had been established as a base for seaplanes and during the morning two torpedo-bomber aircraft took off on a mission against land targets, escorted by two single seat seaplanes. Each bomber aircraft carried eight 60kg bombs and at about 1000hrs they attacked the base of the stone dam on Moon. The bombs fell between the Russian guns and their ammunition lockers and an ammunition fire started and was visible for a considerable time afterwards. Two Russian single seaters took off but did not press home their attack.

Previously, during the early hours of October 16th, the airships had carried out an attack on Pernau, in the Riga Gulf. The first to attack was L30, who's Commander Oblt.z.S Vermehren reported that his bombs had fallen in the town centre. The LZ113 and LZ120, Kptlt. Zaeschmar and Kptlt. von Lossnitzer, followed and dropped their bomb load of 6000kg amongst the roads and harbour buildings. During the late evening the L37, Kptlt. Paul Gartner repeated the attack on Pernau with a bombload of 2000kg but this airship returned to Seerappen with the port midships engine gondola burnt out by a serious fire in the air. The SL8, Oblt.z.S. Ratz, did not reach the target, but was forced to return to Seddin after having trouble with three of her five engines.

The weather on October 16th, apart from being suitable for airship operations, was also particularly favourable for the continuance of minesweeping in the Irben Straits. Although late autumn usually produced bad weather, for the third consecutive day the weather was fine. There was a slight S.S.W. wind, a light sea running and good visibility. Early in the morning, at around 0700hrs, the III M.S.Div., followed by the 3rd S-Half-Flottille and the IV M.S.Div., proceeded forwards, sweeping a 400 metre broad mine free channel. Just north of barrier gap 4 more mines were found so that K.Adm. Hopman and his cruisers and V.Adm. Behncke and his battleships, who were travelling in the minesweepers wake, had to stop about 1100hrs. During this pause A62 sighted a barge to the north, which immediately showed a white flag. The barge, which carried 300 men of the Sworbe garrison, was taken in tow by Kptlt. Doflein's minesweeper. During the previous day, as they were being evacuated from Sworbe, the barge had broken free from it's tug and during the night had drifted into the Russian mined area. The men were now fortunately rescued and the II M.S.F. Chief received orders to tow them to Arensburg.

When the advance from barrier gap 4 towards Arensburg resumed the German units found themselves in the following order : ahead was the III M.S.Div., then the 3rd M.S.H.F., both with sweeper gear set, then the 8th M.S.H.F., without gear, followed by the B.d.A.d.O.'s flagship S.M.S. Kolberg, then came the 3rd S-H.F. and IV M.S.Div., both with sweeper gear set and then two Sperrbrecher, followed by Konig and Kronprinz Augsburg and finally the support vessel group or Train. The buoy layers Wilhelms and Mellum marked the swept channel with buoys and the entire unit traversed the Russian mined area without incident, surely a credit to the tenacious minesweeper units.

During the journey across the Irben Straits, at around 1130hrs Konig received a new order from V.Adm. Schmidt's Staff by wireless: "Attack the Russian forces in the Moon Sound and Riga Gulf with all possible means." It was an important expansion of V.Adm. Behncke's brief. Hitherto the primary task for the second phase of the operation had been to advance to Arensburg, make it a secure anchorage for the II Staffel of the transport fleet and to direct their unloading. Now the principal task was the accelerated attack on Moon Sound and the securing of Arensburg assumed a secondary importance. Vizeadmiral Behncke determined to push forward to the southern entrance to Moon Sound with his strongest forces that same day. He intended to anchor during the night and then to break into the southern Moon Sound on the following morning to attack any Russian forces he might find there. He therefore determined to use his two battleships, the small cruisers Kolberg and Strassburg, the VIII T.B.F., the 20th H.F. and four trawlers of coastal Protection Half-Flottille East. The cruiser Augsburg would supervise the occupation and unloading at Arensburg. The minesweepers would be split, the IV M.S.Div. and 3rd S-H.F., whose motorboats were without a tender, would work off Arensburg, whilst the 3rd and 8th M.S.H.F. and the III M.S.Div. and their tender Indianola would accompany V.Adm. Behncke.

At about 1430hrs the German unit, Gruppe Behncke, renewed it's advance in the following order of march : To the head were the two M.S.H.F., one with broken out sweeper gear, then Konig and Kronprinz, Kolberg, Strassburg, Indianola and the four trawlers of Coastal Defence Hf. Fl. East, the latter for use as marker boats for important turning points. The torpedoboats formed an anti-submarine screen. Because Indianola had to recover the motorboats of her III M.S.Div. she remained considerably removed from the lead ship of the Group.

Meanwhile Augsburg was detached to Arensburg with the Train, preceded by the IV M.S.Div. and the 3rd S-Half-Flottille with their minesweeper gear broken out. The minesweeper boat M77 presented the captured Russian barge to a Coastal Defence trawler to be conveyed away with the Train.


3. F.T.-Funkentelegraf or wireless.

Part III
Last Updated: 22 March, 2000.

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