the Black Sea
By Mike Bennighof, PhD
Tucked into Europe's lower right corner, it's easy to overlook
the Black Sea. But in both world wars it's been the scene
of intense naval combat, made even fiercer by the sea's isolation.
Sea Fleets supplement for the Second
World War at Sea series covers war on this inland
sea. There are three dozen scenarios, plus background
articles, all about the conflict between German and Romanian
forces on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, plus
potential conflicts involving Turkey. But what gamers really
want to know is: What about the toys?
We have toys. Two hundred and ten of them: 70 "long"
ship counters and 140 "small" ones for small ships
and for aircraft. Actually almost all of those are for aircraft,
as the megalomania of all the region's leaders created unbalanced
navies with relatively few small warships. There are few escorts,
minesweepers or auxiliaries on the Black Sea.
The Soviet Black Sea Fleet began the war built around a core
of refurbished veterans of the tsar's fleet. One battleship
and a cruiser had been transferred from the Baltic in early
1930, and two cruisers begun of the Tsarist Black Sea Fleet
were completed a decade late. An ancient protected cruiser
was also rebuilt as a training ship, and would be pressed
into action in 1941.
During the Great War, the Imperial Russian Navy's Novik type
destroyers had easily been the world's biggest, fastest and
most heavily armed destroyers. They were very effective warships
in 1915, much less so in 1941, but they remained the backbone
of the Red Navy's destroyer force and much like the contemporary
American "flush deck" destroyers gave good service
25 years after they had been laid down.
Great Stalin ordered a massive fleet buildup in the mid-1930s,
and by the time war broke out a handful of these ships were
in service. The Kirov class cruisers reflected the fact that
the Soviet Union had not been asked to sign any of the naval
limitations treaties of the 1920s and 1930s, and so they
carried a main battery of an "intermediate caliber,"
nine 7.1-inch (180mm) guns. Two of them were in service on
the Black Sea when the Nazis launched their sneak attack on
22 June 1941, with Molotov having joined the fleet only a
Seeking outside expertise, the Soviets bought the flotilla
leader Tashkent from Italy's OTO yard in 1937. The "Blue
Beauty," as she was known, was exceedingly fast and well-armed.
The Type 7 destroyers she was expected to command were also
based on Italian practice, and were very similar to the Regia
Marina's Freccia class destroyers. And like Italian destroyers,
they were not particularly seaworthy to start with and suffered
when the Soviets gave them even heavier armament. An improved
version, enlarged to carry the added weapons, had just begun
to enter service when the war began.
Soviet industry had been ordered to turn out a much grander
array of warships, capable of challenging the imperialist
powers. When war came to the black sea, a huge battleship
was under construction along with a battle cruiser, a large
class of light cruisers and improved flotilla leaders and
destroyers. Only some of the cruisers and destroyers would
ever be completed, with most of the remainder damaged beyond
repair during the course of the war.
The Soviet Union's part in defeating Fascist Italy — the
Italian Army suffered more casualties on the Eastern Front
than in North Africa — entitled the Red Navy to a share of
the surrendered Italian fleet. One battleship, one cruiser
and two destroyers arrived in the Black Sea after the war
and served into the late 1950s — though the battleship was
destroyed in an explosion purportedly caused by die-hard Fascist
And no study of the Red Navy would be complete without its
efforts to build an aircraft carrier. None went to sea during
this time frame, but we've provided three examples of the
most likely designs along with the aircraft that would have
flown from them.
As the vanguard of international revolution, the Soviet Union's
leaders felt they had to justify their actions to the world.
Much of the justification for the naval buildup was the "threat"
presented by Turkey. The Turks refitted their battle cruiser,
and so the former German Goeben appears in Turkish colors
as modernized for the Second World War. Turkey also gets the
pair of cruisers she tried unsuccessfully to buy in Britain,
and the battleship she was offered in their place. And of
course the backbone of their actual Turkish fleet is present,
the modern destroyers ordered in Italian and British shipyards.
Romania rarely was mentioned as a threat, though the Romanians
attempted to spend their oil revenues on a modest fleet construction
program in the 1930s. Italian shipyards presented them with
a number of very interesting proposals, and we have these
present. The Ansaldo combine's U90 project was a variation
on the German "pocket battleship" concept, with
six 10-inch (254mm) guns in a pair of triple turrets on the
hull of a Duca degli Abruzzi class light cruiser. As the design
developed, the hull had to be enlarged to carry such a powerful
main armament and the ship would have displaced about 10,000
tons had she been built. OTO offered a much smaller ship with
their U102 project, a light cruiser with six six-inch guns
mounted forward in the same turrets used in the Littorio class
battleships with the aft deck kept clear to handle seaplanes
— a concept very similar to the Japanese Oyodo drafted about
a year later. Neither of these cruiser programs, nor the attempt
to add a second division of four destroyers to the fleet,
would come to fruition.
The Red Navy also maintained a very large air force, and
this is represented by a huge swath of counters. The early
war force is not very good, with weak fighters and bombers,
but improves as the war progresses.
Turkey fielded a large air force for the size of its armed
forces, with types from many countries. Both sides offered
Turkey their most modern aircraft in efforts to entice the
republic to join them in the war or at least maintain a benevolent
neutrality toward their cause. By actually joining the war,
Romania cut herself off from Western aircraft types and —
since she no longer had to be bribed — received the castoffs
of the German Air Force.
Sea Fleets includes articles
that cover all the ships and aircraft described above, and the
scenarios make use of them on the Black Sea and also in the
eastern Mediterranean. There are even early Cold War scenarios
pitting Stalin's blue water fleet against the U.S. Navy.
here to order Black Sea Fleets TODAY!