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Stolen Fleets:
Soviet Cruisers

Our Plan Z: Stolen Fleets is an expansion of an expansion, adding captured French, Soviet and Dutch ships to the German order of battle in Second World War at Sea: Plan Z, along with a few more German-built vessels.

In previous installments we’ve looked at the Soviet capital ships and cruisers in the set; this time let’s talk about the formerly Dutch cruisers and Soviet destroyers.

Pass the Dutchies

The Germans actually captured the Dutch cruisers Eendracht and De Zeven Provenciën when they overran the Netherlands in May 1940. Both were still on the slipways at Rotterdam Drydock and Wilton Fijenoord, and the Germans drafted plans to complete them for their own use. The two Dutch cruisers (they changed names several times while under construction) were laid down in May and September 1939. When the Germans seized them, the Fijenoord ship was 25 percent complete and the RDM ship stood at 10 percent finished.

In our alternative history, the Netherlands falls to German invaders in September 1942. By that point, thanks to the efficient Dutch yards, both cruisers would have been launched and fitting out in their respective shipyards before being dispatched to their intended station in the Netherlands East Indies. That fits our story’s needs quite well, leaving them to be captured intact when Rotterdam falls to the Germans.

The Dutch planned to outfit their cruisers with ten 152mm (six-inch) guns in two triple and two twin turrets, along with a middling anti-aircraft armament - somewhat surprising given world-leading Dutch advances in anti-aircraft fire control - and four torpedo tubes. They were large ships for their armament, displacing just over 12,000 tons, but required substantial endurance for the long-range patrols they would be expected to undertake in the East Indies.

The German plan actually reduced their armament, to eight 150mm guns in four of the same twin gunhouses intended for the Z Plan’s M class light cruisers. The anti-aircraft array would be doubled from six 40mm guns to a dozen 37mm weapons (still inadequate for a ship of this size) and the two twin torpedo tubes would be replaced by two triple mounts. She would retain her amidships catapult and hangar for two seaplanes. She would keep her Dutch machinery, producing 78,000 horsepower good for 32 knots.

That’s the cruiser included in Stolen Fleets. The Germans gave them the prosaic labels of KH1 and KH2; they might have received something better once completed. We’ve named them Stuttgart and Stettin after two sister ships of the High Seas Fleet.

Red Destroyer Leader

The first large warship built by the Soviet Union, the destroyer leader Leningrad, carried Project Number 1 and was the centerpiece of the naval segment of the First Five Year Plan. Her designers took their inspiration from the French contre-torpilleurs, large boats intended as “destroyers of destroyers.

She was a large boat, displacing 2,300 tons and carrying five 130mm (5.1-inch) guns and eight torpedo tubes; she could also drop either mines or depth charges. Leningrad was extremely fast, clocking 43 knots on trials in 1936. Those were her good qualities.

In service Leningrad proved top-heavy and unbalanced, wallowing in heavy seas. Because of her weak hull structure her guns could not all be fired at once, and she was difficult to steer at high speeds. The guns wore out so quickly that they could not even fire their standard load before needing replacement. The Soviets had built five more boats to her design before realizing their errors and turning to the Italians for a better design.

Of the two boats built for the Baltic, Leningrad survived the war while Minsk was sunk in a German air attack in September 1941. In our alternative history, Leningrad is captured when her namesake city falls, scuttled in the Neva River but otherwise mostly undamaged. She’s brought to a German yard where her upper works are substantially cut down, her quadruple torpedo tubes replaced with German-made triple mounts, and new German 128mm guns fitted in place of her poor-quality Soviet armament. Her hull receives substantial reinforcement and still more ballast, lowering her speed but making her a better gunnery platform.

Red Fleet Destroyers

In 1936 the Soviet Navy laid down 13 Type 7U destroyers for the Baltic Fleet, all at Leningrad shipyards. Six of them had been commissioned before the German attack, two more on that very day, and the remaining five in the weeks that followed. The new boats were to be an improvement on the disappointing Type 7, thus the U designation for Uluchshennyy (“improved”), but Soviet sailors insisted it stood for Ukhudshennyi (“made worse”).

Like most Soviet warships they were large for their type, displacing 1,700 tons, and carried four 130mm guns, six torpedo tubes and an array of anti-aircraft weapons. They could, like Leningrad, also drop mines or depth charges. They were very fast, at least as designed, with the lead ship clocking 40 knots but none of her sisters came close to this figure.

Eight of the class survived the actual Great Patriotic War; just one of them is captured in our alternative history to serve the Germans. Slavny spent a great deal of time repairing battle damage, and that makes her a fine candidate for seizure. Like Leningrad she’s had her Soviet 130mm guns replaced by German 128mm weapons, with German torpedo tubes and anti-aircraft weapons replacing her original fit.

The Soviet Project 30 finally provided a well-designed, well-balanced destroyer with a much roomier hull. Five boats were laid down for the Baltic Fleet in late 1939 and early 1940, but none had even been launched by the time the Germans assaulted the Soviet Union in June 1941

The Project 30 destroyer design built on the unsuccessful experimental destroyer Opytny. The Soviets planned to use high-pressure steam boilers to yield a top speed of 42 knots; these were designed by Soviet engineer L.K. Ramzin and used many German-made components from the Wagner system. The Soviets could never make the hybrid system work properly, and did not achieve the expected weight savings, forcing them to fit a reduced armament to the boat.

Stolen Fleets includes four examples of Project 30, captured while still on the slipways and completed with German high-pressure steam boilers and turbines, giving them high speed at the cost of reduced reliability, much like German boats. They carry three 128mm guns in place of the Soviet 130mm turrets, two triple torpedo mounts rather then the quadruple banks of the Soviet design, and a German anti-aircraft suite.

And those are the formerly Dutch cruisers and Soviet destroyers of Stolen Fleets. Next time, we’ll look at some battleships.

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Mike Bennighof is president of Avalanche Press and holds a doctorate in history from Emory University. A Fulbright Scholar and award-winning journalist, he has published over 100 books, games and articles on historical subjects. He lives in Birmingham, Alabama with his wife, three children and his dog, Leopold.