Heavy artillery at Leningrad
By Skorzeny at 1.JMA
One of the most ferocious and large-scale battles employing the
large number of heavy artillery units in the World War II took place
in the vicinity of Leningrad, where the German advance was stopped
on the outskirts of the city in autumn 1941, with the assistance
of numerous coastal artillery of the Soviet navy. In the prolonged
period of positional warfare that followed the siege of Leningrad
in 1941-1944 artillery palyed prominent role as well. The first
explosions of German artillery shells within the city were registered
on September 4, 1941, and in autumn the German command deployed
three artillery regiments with the guns of 105-150 mm, reinforced
by the two heavy artillery units of the High Command Reserve and
several railway artillery platforms. Their positions were situated
in the areas of Uritsk and Volodarsky, 8-12 kms from the frontline.
The artillery raids took place in the daytime, usually from 10.00
am to 19.00 pm; an intense artillery barrage was followed by metodical
shelling for some 2-4 hours a day until the end of 1941. In September
1941 the Germans have fired 5,364 artillery shells, in October--7,950,
in November--11,230, and in December-15,610. There were some days
when the city was under fire for more than 18 hours: on 15th of
the fire lasted 18 hours 32 minutes, and on 17th of September--18
hours 33 minutes. By the end of 1941 the Germans have deployed their
artillery positions in the wooded areas western, south-western and
southern of Leningrad in the areas of Uritsk, Finskoe Kojrovo and
Pushkin--Slutsk. The road network in these locations was develped
so that it enabled rapid maneuvers of artillery hardware, and from
the rroftops of the tall building in Uritsk and the nearby ridge
the German artillery observers received superb view of the southern
and southwestern sectors of Leningrad.
The evaluation of the effectiveness of German artillery in the siege
is a rather complicated undertaking since: 1)the reports of the
damage caused were kept secret in Soviet era; even today the official
Russian point of view is that the royal palaces at Peterhof and
Pavlovsk were demolished by the Germans, while in fact they were
wiped off by the Soviet 152 mm guns. 2) it is increasingly difficult
to distinguish between damages caused by the german air-raids and
artillery strikes. The official Soviet data claims that there were
some 5000 bombs dropped and 150,000 artillery shells fired at the
city, damaging 840 industrial objects, destroying 3,200 stone or
concrete houses and further 7,100 damaged heavily.
It is rather easier, however, to judge about the effects of the
German artillery barrages on the naval forces of the Red-banner
Baltic Fleet. For instance, on the 18th of September, 1941, between
11.47 and 13.37 the Soviet heavy cruiser "Petropavlovsk"(previously
known in Kriegsmarine as "Lutzow" before being sold to
Soviet Union in 1939) came under fire of the German 210 mm guns
of the 768-th Motorized Artillerie Abteilung, receiving up to 12
hits. The cruiser received heavy damage under the water-line, its
artillery systems were not functioning, and a fire had erupted;
10 crewmembers were KIA and 20 MIA, while "Petropavlovsk"
slowly sank for the depth of some 1-2 metres in the Coal haven of
the Leningrad Commercial port. On September 27th, 1941, the German
artillery has sunk the cannon boat "Pioner"; on the 7th
of October--old coastal defence battleship "Smerch", decommissioned
several decades ago, which was repaired and sunk again in 1942;
on the 4th of October the notorious trainina cruiser "Aurora"
was sunk in Oranienbaum after seveal artillery shells hit its deck;
on the 24th of April 1942 the hull of the cruiser "Butakov",
still under construction, was sunk too. All in all, the German artillery
alone is responsible for sinking 44 naval units, including, except
of those covered above, submarines L-1, M-72 and M-96, torpedo boats
N 103 and N 123, trawler N172 and many other.
Many Soviet naval vessels were heavily damaged by the German artillery
fire in 1941-1942. The battleship "Marat", which was ostensibly
"sunk" by Hans-Ulrich Rudel on September 23, 1941, but
soon repaired so that turrets N3 and N4 became active again, was
hit by 5 shells on 15.09.1941, piercing the decks and blowing up
the engine, on 12.12.1941 it suffered 3 more hits of the 203 mm
shells and on 28.12.1941 3 direct hits and several German shells
exploding near the battleship. The deck was reinforced by the granite
plates of the Neva embankment, and yet the ship was targeted again
successfully on 25.10.1942 with 3 305 mm shells, one 203 mm shell
on 06.11.1942 and one 203 mm shell on 08.10.1943. The repeatedly
battered vessel was decommissioned in 1953.
On the other hand, the Soviet battleship "October Revolution"
was hit by German artillery fire on several occasions(6 direct hits
on 8-10.10.1941, one hit on 14.12.1941, two hits on 23.03.1942,
several hits on 16 and 18 April 1942), and as a result of these
episodes the vessel was siginficantly damaged, as probably any other
Soviet ship based in Leningrad or Kronschtadt. The reason they eventually
survived was the germans usually employed 105-210 mm artillery systems
not capable of sinking a heavily armoured cruiser or battleship,
but causing enough damage to make the vessels inactive for long
periods of time. Moreover, the crews often performed remarkably
in salvaging their vessels after direct hits and resulting fires.
The other target of German artillery attacks was the Scientific
Research Artillery Range near the railway station of Rzhevka, where
Soviet artillery systems were tested and large stocks of ammunition
were stored. On the 29th of March, 1942, a Luftwaffe reconnaissance
plane detected a large number of railway freight-cars, and between
17.00 and 19.00 the German artillery pounded the spotted targets
ferociously, mounting the barrage on the following morning. Eventually
a load of ammonal explosive was detonated, causing chain reaction
of the Soviet ammunition echelone, killing several hundreds of people.
The Soviet command attempted to decrease the immense pressure on
civilian morale by conducting precise artillery attacks on the enemy
positions, in order to suppress relentless and accurate German fire.
Already in 1941 the Baltic Fleet donated 360 heavy artillery pieces,
130 mm and above, while the Red Army deployed 137 guns(37*122 mm,
90 152 mm howitzers, 9*152 mm and 220 mm mortar). However, in general
the German artillery positions were quite well disguised and in
case of heavy Soviet fire the guns were quickly moved to reserve
positions. For instance, on 30-31.07.1943 the Soviet 130 mm guns
fired 886 shells at the spotted German 180 mm artilery piece, which
renewed fire exactly 5 hours after the assault. All in all, the
Soviets have succeeded in destroying three German 105 mm guns and
two 170 mm systems in the third quarter of 1943 with coastal artillery,
whereas the other targets appearing destroyed displayed activity
some 7 days after the carefully prepared Soviet artillery strike.
Apparently the Soviet artillery assaults also caused casualties
among German artillery personnel, even when the guns remained intact
or insignificantly damaged.
Order of the Commander-in-Chief of the Northwestern Strategic
Direction Concerning the Employment of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet
and Coastal Artillery for the Defence of Leningrad
30 August 1941
To Shaposhnikov, Kuznetsov
Since the current naval assets, employed at the defence of Leningrad
and Kronschtadt, are not sufficently co-ordinated, and in order
to employ all available resources of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet
directly for the defence of the city, I hereby order:
1. Concerning the naval vessels.
It should be henceforth considered that the main goal of the
Red-banner Baltic Fleet is the active defence of the approaches
to the city from the seaside and the prevention of enemy naval breakthroughs
of the Red Army flanks on the southern and nothern shores of the
Gulf of Finland. These goals should be achieved by the deployemnt
of the light naval forces, torpedo boats, submarines, airforce and
the minelaying activities.
All heavily armoured vessels and a proportion of destroyers should
be used in order to reinforce the artillery positions defending
the leningrad Fortified Area(UR); therefore, the following must
battleships: "Marat" and "October Revolution"
cruisers: "Kirov", "Maxim Gorky" and "Petropavlovsk"
destroyers: "Opytnyj", "Strogij" and "Strojnyj"
Moreover, should the necessity appear, the artillery defence
of Leningrad will be reinforced by the additional number of destroyers
and cannon boats.
2. Regarding the employment of naval artillery.
In order to support the garrisons of the Fortified Areas(URs) with
the fire of heavy naval artillery, apart from deployed warships,
the following should be used for the defence of Leningrad:
4-gun 180-mm railway battery N.19
4-gun 180-mm stationary battery nearby Ivanov rapids (operative
readiness by 15.9.1941)
Naval testing range assets: 1 406-mm, 1 356-mm,
2 305-mm, 5 180-mm, 1 152-mm, 4 130-mm
è 4 100-mm artillery pieces.
Moreover, the following units should be transferred directly
to the Fortified Areas:
stationary batteries: 2*130-mm 19 systems
railway artillery platforms: 10*130-mm 20 systems
stationary batteries: 2*152-mm 4 systems
railway batteries: 2*152-mm 4 systems
For similar purposes at the flanking positions of the Leningrad
Fortified Area (Kovashin sector) the following stationary pieces
should be used against ground targets:
2 batteries of 8*305-mm "Krasnaya Gorka" Fort
1 battery of 3*152-mm "Krasnaya Gorka" Fort
1 battery of 4*203-mm "Pulkovo" Fort
1 battery of 3*152-mm "Grey Horse" Fort
L. 138 battery of 4*120-mm "Grey Horse" Fort
1 battery of 3*100-mm near village Ustye
1 battery of 3*356-mm (¹ 11);
1 battery of 4*180-mm (¹ 18).
For similar purposes on the northern approaches to the city
the following should be used:
1 railway battery of 4*180-mm (Seywisto) and artillery of the
For similar purposes in the eastern sector of the Karelian direction
in the area of Schlisselburg:
2 batteries of 3*100-mm stationary guns on cape Koshkin, cape
1 battery of 2*130-mm stationary guns on cape Koshkin
1 battery of 2*76-mm stationary guns at village Sheremetjevka
On this direction, moreover, all artillery pieces of the Naval
Testing Ground and the destroyers currently deployed in the Neva
river (Stojkij and Strogij) should be used.
3. Organization of the naval artillery command.
All artillery based on the sea, railway artillery and stationary
artillery (excpet of those transferred to the Red Army), should
be brought together under the leadership of the chief artillery
officer of Leningrad naval defence, who will be responsible for
the formation, training and supply of the artillery batteries and
for the organization of communication networks between batteries
and naval vessels on the one hand, and the system of Fortified Areas
(URs) and Red Army units. The artillery commanders of the Fortified
Areas shall have the right to call artillery support and plot the
targets. All artillery, involved in the defence of the Kovashin
position, should be brought together under the leadership of the
Izhorsky Fortified Area commander.
4. Concerning the naval formations designated for ground combat
Apart from 4 naval infantry brigades already raised for frontline
service since the beginning of the war, the follwong contingencies
should be drafted:
a) evacuated coastal defence personnel from the Tallinn base
(up to 3000 men), evacuated anti-aircraft defence personnel from
the Tallinn base (up to 3500 men), evacuated airforce and supply
personnel from the Tallinn base (up to 1500 men).
b) the crews of the decommissioned unfinished vessels (up to
c) partially employ the crews of combat vessels, which have
limited tasks to fulfill (up to 2000 men)
The naval personnel thus drafted should be employed for:
1) reinforcement of the 10th Rifle Corps16th and 22nd
Rifle Divisionsup to 10,000 men
2) reinforcement of the 1st naval infantry Brigadeup to 1500
The reinforcement and rearmament of the 10th Rifle Corps should
be carried out by the commanders of the Leningrad Front, who will
take charge of the 10,000 men donated by the Red-banner Baltic Fleet
The reinforcement of the 1st Naval infantry Brigade should be carried
out by the Military Council of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet
Henceforth all future excess manpower resources of the Fleet
should be employed for:
a) reinforcement of the 5 naval infantry brigades
b) formation of the special striking marine battalions for the rifle
5. Organizational issues.
In order to achieve the unity of all resources and assets employed
for the naval defence of Leningrad, the commander of the naval defence
should be subordinated to the Military Council of the Red-banner
VoroshilovMember of the Northwestern Strategic Direction Military
ZhdanovSecretary of the Central Committee of the All-Soviet
Order of the Stavka of High Command concerning the counter-battery
tactics against the enemy artillery deployed near Leningrad.
N. 0419 16 September 1943
The enemy forces conduct routine attacks of the city of Leningrad
employing long-range heavy artillery, inflicting heavy damage to
the population of the city, industrial complexes and cultural establishments.
The measures, taken by the Military Council of the Leningrad
front, proved insufficient due to the following reasons:
1. Artillery and airforce of the Leningrad front and Red-banner
Baltic Fleet are not employed effectively and are not co-ordinated
by a single commanding officer responsible for counter-battery actions.
2. The existing cooperation between the front artillery and
coastal artillery of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet is apalling and
does not fulfill the needs of supporting the efforts for enemy artillery
3. The fire against enemy batteries is not directed acording
to the most accurate modern techniques of aiming, and it is especially
characterisitic of the 101st brigade of the coastal defence of the
Red-banner Baltic Fleet.
4. The deployemnt of fighter escort aircraft for the reconnaissance
plane is followed by considerable frictions, therefore the reconnaissance
planes are not employed at the possible scale.
In order to improve the effectiveness of the counter-battery
operations against enemy artillery shelling Leningrad the Stavka
of High Command hereby orders:
1. For the most effective employment of the artillery assets
of the leningrad front and the Red-banner Baltic Fleet against German
artillery positions shelling Leningrad, the Leningrad Counter-battery
Artillery Corps should be deployed, consisting of the follwing units:
51st Artillery Brigade--36*152mm guns (1937 model)
12th Guards Artillery Regiment--24*152mm guns (1937 model)
14th Guards Artillery Regiment--18*152 mm guns (1937 model)
73rd Artillery Reegiment--16*122 mm guns (1931 model)
126th Artillery Regiment--12*152 mm guns (1937 model)
129th Artillery Regiment--16*122 mm (1931 model)
409th Separate Heavy Artillery Unit--6*152 mm guns on the BR-2
101st--Coastal Artillery Bridage of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet--58
guns of 130-356 mm
12th and 52nd separate air aquadrons of the Red-banner Baltic
3rd and 4th Guards Separate Reconnaissance Artillery units and
battery of the accoustic reconnaissance of the Red-banner Baltic
1st balloon unit of aerial reconnaissance
Total--168 artillery pieces
2. Colonel com. Zhdanov is appointed the Commander of the Corps.
3. The Corps Headquarters should be formed according to the
TO&E table N 08/516, the Signal Battalion according to the TO&E
table N 08/517 of the Artillery Corps of High Command Reserve employing
the existing manpower reserves of the Leningrad Front.
4. The Leningrad Counter-battery Artillery Corps shall be subordinated
directly to the Front Military Council as the separate formation.
5. The Military Council of the Leningrad Front should^
à) Revise the existing deployemnt of the Corps batteries
in order to employ the widest possible range of the guns
b)Arrange training sessions for the Corps personnel in order
to master the effective techniques of artillery fire with aerial
correction and reconnaissance and all assets of instrumental artillery
c) In order to provide the environment for the uninterrupted
activity of the reconnaissance aerial units of the Leningrad Counter-battery
Artillery Corps the Red Army Airfoce Commander, Marshal Novikov
should raise two fighter squadrons of 12 aircraft each and transfer
them to the frontline before September 30, 1943 at the disposal
of the Leningrad Counter-battery Artillery Corps commander.
d) The Military Council of the Leningrad front should direct
main efforts of bomber and ground-assault aerial formations at the
assistance and cooperation with the Artillery Corps in order to
accomplish the supression of German artillery.
6. The 101st Coastal Artillery Brigade of the Red-banner Baltic
Fleet is operatively subordinated to the commander of the Leningrad
Counter-battery Artillery Corps, while regarding the special naval
training activities, supply and maintenance, it is supervised by
the Militaru Council of the Red-banner Baltic Fleet.
7. The formation of the Corps should be completed by the 20th
of September, 1943.
8. The execution procedure of this order should be reported
by 20th of September, 1943.
Stavka of High Command
Eventually the endless artillery duels came to an abrupt end in
January 1944, when the German siege was lifted, while "the
troops of 2nd Striking and 42th Armies between 14 and 20 January
1944 have captured 265 German guns, of which 85 represented heavy
calibers--152--406 mm systems", the biggest Soviet trophy becoming
the French 520 mm railway howitzer.