These four ships, the Sebastopol, Petropavlovsk, Poltava and Gangut, had the same four triple-turret layout as the Italian Dante Alighieri. Dreadnoughts of 23,000 tons displacement, 23 knots speed, the class was rather fast for their day, but the long completion times made the class obsolete even as they entered service. Carrying each twelve 12-inch guns and sixteen 4.7-inch guns, the twelve 12-in. guns were mounted in four turrets, one forward, one abaft, and the two others so as to give a broadside fire of 12 guns. This disposition of the main armament was unique, and facilitated identification from the air. Of original Italian design, "October Revolution" and "Sevastopol" were modified to include Russian ideas concerning armoring, ice breaking bows, and other features.
The design of the first Russian all big gun battleship was a competition. At the final stage the leaders were the Italian company "Ansaldo" and the German company "Blohm und Voss." The first place was taken by the German firm. But then the French press screamed Russia had transferred money from the French loans to Russia for war with Germany. The Italian design, with its theoretician Cuniberti, was a project being built in Italy.
In common with many other innovations in naval design, the system of triple mounting for heavy guns was first introduced by the Italians in the Dante Alighieri, laid down in 1909. By taking the bold step of disposing the main armament in triple turrets, Colonel Cuniberti was able to mount a battery of twelve 12-inch guns, associated with a powerful quick-firing armament, in a ship of only 19,500 tons, well protected over the vitals, with an adequate coal capacity, and possessing the remarkable speed of 23 knots. Had the conventional twin mounting been retained, it would not, he estimated, have been possible to arm the ship with more than ten 12-inch guns, and even then less weight and space would have been left over for protection, machinery, &c. So substantial a gain went far to offset the objections - real or imaginary - which had previously militated against the grouping of more than two heavy guns in one position. In the same year the triple turret was adopted by Russia for the four battleships of the "Gangut" class, in the designing of which Colonel Cuniberti had a large share.
The battleship "Dante Alighieri", incidentally, the only ship of similar design, did not satisfy the Marine Technical Committee. The Baltic Shipyard provided a revised project with the same linear arrangement of the turrets at the same level. The project was the only one left, and was adopted for the development of documentation. In the final stage of designing, the Baltic Shipyard assisted the British company "John Brown." Under the plan, construction of four battleships was supposed to begin. The British offered to lead the construction at the English shipyards. The term of commissioning was determined to be 20 months for each ship. But Russia decided to build battleships at home. Still, none of the industry gained experience or prestige, in the end. The term was determined in 38 months on each ship.
Designing ships in Russia had not gone unnoticed abroad. Noting the advantages of future ships, foreign press called into question their reservation, the vitality of three-gun turrets and seaworthiness, as well as the possibility of building on time. As the four turrets of the main fire was placed on the center line along the hull of the ship, the armor was "smeared" across the length of the hull, and thickness of the side armor was relatively small. The freeboard was low, the forecastle was absent, and because of this the seaworthiness decreased sharply.
In the design of these ships there was a rigid relationship: the was always something at the expense of something. The Germans, for example, chose the a reduction in the caliber of the main guns and increased speed of the ship, thus ensuring its increased survivability. In Russia, the odds were in the direction of increasing the number of guns of the main caliber at the expense of everything else. In addition, the pernicious ideas of Cuniberti lived long in Russia in the design of both battleships and battle cruisers and the linear arrangement of the turrets of the main fire all along the center-line of the hull. But the design of specific ships was clearly defined by the potential adversary of Russia - Germany - and, therefore, the future center of military action - the Baltic Sea. To act in this area is very peculiar and adapted in the process of designing new battleships. It turned out, the were almost floating batteries.
The difficulties that attend the creation of the new Navy of Russia had not been overcome by 1911. On the naval question the Duma was split into fractions, but generally its attitude towards the Admiralty was unfriendly, and it was supported by a large section of the press. It was contended that the sums allotted in 1908 and 1909 to the building of the four battleships of the Gangut class had not been rightly expended, and the official explanations were not regarded as satisfactory. The total sum was £2,050,000, of which £306,000 had gone to the Obuchoff Works for ordnance - the remainder of the vote for that purpose being unexpended; £996,000 to the Admiralty yard; £320,000 to the Ishora yard; £202,500 to the Obuchoff Works (for shipbuilding), and £20,000 to Messrs. Blohm and Voss, of Hamburg, for the plans for a battleship.
The Duma considered that the money had not been devoted to the objects intended, and that a large proportion of it had been employed for other purposes and on capital account. The attitude of the press may be understood from the fact that the Kotlin, which was a paper subventioned by the Russian Admiralty, in commenting on the circumstances, remarked that the irregularities rendered exceedingly difficult the voting of money for shipbuilding by the Duma. The situation became the more strained owing to statements circulated as to the supposed inferiority of the design of the new ships, of which it was said that they would be out of date before they were completed, while it was freely alleged that for the sum to be expended in Russia on four battleships, six of the same type could be built in England and five in countries of the Continent.
The construction of the battleships of the "Sevastopol" class began simultaneously at two plants - the Baltic and the Admiralty. On 03 July 1909 the "Sevastopol" and "Petropavlovsk" were laid down at the Baltic Shipyard, and at the Admiralty, "Gangut" and "Poltava". They had a displacement of 23,000 tons, a power power plant 42,000 hp, producing a speed 23 knots. The armament was 4 x 3 305-mm and 16 120-mm guns. The ships were 181 meters [588 feet] long, 26 meters beam, and 3 meters freeboard, which was confirmed by almost all foreign experts, who expressed doubt about the project.
The deadline for the battleships was constantly postponed due to poor funding and organizational turmoil. In the end, the deadline was set for the first half of 1914, but the construction period lasted more than two years and the deadline moved again. As a result, when the war came, the battleships were not ready. Accelerated tests were conducted before the end of December 1914, and finally the ships were put into operation after numerous failures and improvements at the end of 1915.
Possibly some of the adverse criticisms passed upon the design were based upon misapprehension and imperfect information concerning the Gangut class. An important fact affecting the naval situation in the Baltic, of which little public mention had been made, was that the Russian fleet in those waters was augmented by the addition of these new dreadnoughts of great size and power, which were nearing completion and began to go into commission during 1915. They were launched between June and October, 1911, and work upon them having been accelerated, they entered commission before many months passed.
Gangut was laid down 3.06.1909, at the dock of the New Admiralty in St. Petersburg. The battle of Gangut (also known as Hangö or Bengstörfjärd) was the significant Russian naval victory during the Great Northern War, won by the Russian galley fleet. 26 July 1714 the vanguard of the Russian galley fleet passed by Wattrang's ships still lying off the coast and blocked Ehrenskold's unit in the skerries west of Gangut. The victory at the Battle of Gangut, fought June 27, 1714, allowed the Russian galley fleet to support the Russian army in Finland. On 16 May 1911 Gangut was enrolled in the lists of vessels BF. Launched 24.09.1911, Gangut came into operation 21.10.1914.
Petropavlovsk (later Marat) was laid down 3.06.1909, at the Baltic Shipyard in St. Petersburg, and on 16.05.1911 enrolled in the lists of vessels of the BF. Launched 27.08.1911, he came into operation 20.12.1914.
The combat effectiveness of new ships was extremely low. The drives of the artillery turrets, the iron sights were constantly out of order. In addition, the ships, as it turned out, had the trim down on the nose, and therefore poorly managed at low speeds. At higher speeds the ships "dug in his nose", that is, they had a "wet fore deck" - a consequence of the absence of forecastle.
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