Author Topic: The Tsar's Air defense  (Read 32746 times)

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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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The Tsar's Air defense
« on: December 23, 2014, 07:00:33 PM »
I have been doing some research on air defense and air attacks on Nicholas. I think you will find this interesting:

Pre WWI some SR terrorists considered flying a dynamite packed airplane into the Winter palace. The Okhrana in 1909 hearing of this ordered the monitoring of all flights as well as monitoring people learning how to fly and members of flying clubs. The SRs tried to recruit a airplane designer to build them a airplane for an air attack but the designer fled the country. I have read, but can't remember the book's title, but I believe at the start of WW I the one and only anti-aircraft battery in the Russian Imperial army was stationed in the Tsarskoe  Selo area to in case of a terrorist air attack.
  In April 1915 an AA (anti-aircraft) battery of 12- 76mm AA guns on stationary mounts, an automotive half battery and a machine gun section of 6 Machine guns were stationed in the Tsarskoe Selo area. The automotive half battery was sent in 1916 to support the Guards or Special army in the Lutsk area in the July-October period. They were the only anti-aircraft guns in this army. In June 1915 the Tsarskoe Selo aviation section was formed for air defense of this area it had 8 aircraft and 5 pilots. In November 1915 a second aviation section the defense of the Tsar's Mogilev headquarters. On 14 August 1916 the two sections were combined into the Imperial Resdence Defense detachment. They contained 14 pilots and 13 observers. There were no attacks on either places during the war.
 The Germans did try on two occasions to bomb Petrograd during the war the first was on 26 December 1916 by two naval airships the LZ35 and the LZ38 both ran into severe winter weather the LZ 35 barely made it home while the LZ38 had to put down in a field where it was wrecked. The other occasion was on 30 January 1917 by the Army airship LZ98 which also had to turn back do to severe winter weather. Note the winter of 1916/17 was unusally harse and helped lead to the breakdown in transportation that led to the Februray 1917 revolution.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #1 on: December 24, 2014, 04:03:16 PM »
Correction there were one or more attempts to bomb Petrograd right after the February/march 1917 revolution the German army airship LZ120 was ordered to bomb Petrograd, couldn't because of the incredibly bad weather. One should point out that weather forcasting was still fairly new back then and the Germans airships were big, and had a top speed of 65 mph. Getting into a winter storm in one was no fun at all for the crew.

After the Februray/march 1917 revolution the aviation units were renamed: The Tsarskoe Selo  section was renamed the Petrograd AO aviation detachment and in August 1917 it was renamed the 35th KAO Corps Aviation detachment. During the April-may 1917 period the Stavka section was disbanded and reformed as the 15th FAO (Fighter Aviation Detachment).

On 11 November 1915 (NS) when Nicholas and Alexei visited Riga the 20th KAO and other KAOs provided air cover for them but no enemy aircraft were spotted do to inclement weather.

On 13 September 1915 the railroad at the town of lida was bombed by the German army airship ZXII shortly afterwards Nicholas traveled through their by train and recorded 20 people were killed in his diary.

On 31 March/ 12 April 1916 Nicholas was inspecting the 3rd Trans-Amur Infantry Division when according to his letter to Alexandra "During the review we heard our guns firing at Austrian aeroplanes which were dropping bombs on both our bridges over the Dniester." This was near Chotin Russia.
In the book "A Soldier's Notebook" by General A. A. Brusilov ( or whoever wrote it) states: "The review was held with the usual ceremonial, but was marked by no special incident save the appearance of enemy aircraft, which had no success because, in anticipation  of their visit, which might have caused a great many casualties had the bombs been dropped on the complete Army Corps there assembled, several anti-aircraft batteries and our squadrons of aeroplanes had been brought up in the vicinity. When the enemy machines showed themselves our batteries greeted them with a lively fire and drove them off. " This book has the attack during a review of the IX corps held after the review of the 3rd Trans-Amur Infantry division.
 The Austrian account has the review at Chotin being bombed by 7 of their aircraft and 2 Russian aircraft being shot down by Albatros BI 22.23 flown by Captain Otto Jindra and 1Lt Godwin Brumowski. Brumowski was the observer gunner who later took pilot training and became the top scoring Austrian ace of WW I with 34 victories. Jindra also became an ace with 9 victories during the war. According to the Austrians a spys report confirmed these victories. The Russians reported the 16th KAO had two aircrew killed in two different plane crashes on 13 April 1916 (NS) in this area.

Offline TimM

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #2 on: December 25, 2014, 11:50:03 AM »
Quote
Pre WWI some SR terrorists considered flying a dynamite packed airplane into the Winter palace. The Okhrana in 1909 hearing of this ordered the monitoring of all flights as well as monitoring people learning how to fly and members of flying clubs.

An eerie shadowing of what happened to the U.S., 92 years later. 
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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #3 on: December 30, 2014, 03:23:04 PM »
The part about crashing a plane into the Winter Palace was from the book "Young Stalin". Which points out the Okhrana was able to predict some like this happening where the US intelligence agencies weren't pre -9/11. This does speak highly of the ability of the Okhrana. Which was not that big. I think it had a little over 1000 agents, was not that well funded, and operated under legal restraints like the FBI or MI5.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #4 on: February 18, 2015, 03:48:38 PM »
I have a correction the source I used for L35 and L 38 (not LZ) raid The Zeppelin Fighters by Arch Whitehouse was in error. After getting the much more accurate "The Zeppelin in Combat' Douglas Robinson the raid was on 28 December 1916 not the 26th. The weather was not judged good enough for a raid on Petrograd but it was considered good enough to "attack Reval, if weather permits, also Helingfors and targets on Oesel, Dago and western Esthonia." These raids came about because Admiral prince Henry the Kaiser's brother and Naval commander in the Baltic consistently requested Petrograd be bombed. Beginning in August 1916 the Kaiser also began urging Petrograd be bombed in hopes of hastening the Russian collapse. Peter Strasser commander of the German Naval Airship Division was able to delay the command until winter when the long nights would help conceal the airships from the Russian defenses. So began what was code named Operation Iron Cross. Because of the weather no more raids were flown and on 23 January 1917 the L 35 was flown back to its regular base near the North Sea. This pleased everyone except the Kaiser who was upset that Petrograd wasn't bombed.

Offline TimM

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #5 on: February 25, 2015, 06:36:36 AM »
Of course, by World War II, bombing enemy cities became the norm.
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Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #6 on: March 02, 2015, 09:07:20 AM »
 The Germans had some other problems in trying to bomb Petrograd besides the unusually bad weather of the winter of 1916/17. The nearest base with airship sheds was at Wainoden (now Vainode) Latvia which were built in 1916 and could only hold two airships.  Insturments on a Zeppelin were few: an altimeter, a thermometer, a speedometer and a liquid filled compass that sometimes froze up in extreme cold. Dead reconing navigation often proved to be extremely inaccurate. They did have a radio navigational aid which also often proved to be inaccurate. Trying to identify landmarks from the air in the dark was often impossible. Sometimes officers on Zeppelins tried to use celestial navigation to find there location. Result: on raids on England Zeppelins frequently had no idea where they were or were a long ways from were they thought they were. The English on the ground seeing or hearing the Zeppelins as they flew over and by using radio direction finding usually had a good idea where the Zeppelins were over England and the North Sea.
 Also in bombing Petrograd the Zeppelins had an addition problem not faced in raids on England. The Zeppelins were to vurnable to fly over enemy territory in daylight. Not a problem in raids on England because they are flying over the North Sea to get there. This is a big problem in Russia. In flying to Petrograd the Zeppelins had to cross the enemy held coast of the gulf of Riga only after dark then they had to fly NNE to the coast of the Gulf of Finland turn east and fly the coast until they got to Petrograd. Then they had to turn for home and hope they got across enemy lines before daylight. An alternate but longer route would be to fly the Baltic coast north till they reached the gulf of Finland turn east and fly the coast until they reached Petrograd. The advantage was the Zeppelin could do a good part of this flight in daylight over the sea.


Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #7 on: March 02, 2015, 01:53:46 PM »
The closest a airship got to Petrograd was the either the SL4 which bombed the city of Baltic port now Paldiski on 10 September 1915 or possibly the L35 which claimed to have sighted this city but couldn't bomb it do to high winds and approaching daylight. On the IF visit to the Crimea in May 1916 the Imperial train was blacked out at night.  A wise move on 27 July 1916 the German army airship SL10 flew a reconnaissance mission to the Sevastopol area but was lost with the entire crew in a thunderstorm on the way back that night.

Zeppelin info:
L Luftship (airship) Naval airship designation
Z Zeppelin of LZ Luftship Zeppelin German army airships were at first designated Z with a Roman number in January 1915 they were designated LZ with the Arabic numbers usually the Zeppelin factory number at first then they added 30 to the factory number ZXII and LZ120
SL Schutte-Lanz another company that made airships in Germany during WW I  used by both the Navy and army. The SL4 was navy and SL 10 army. These airships were reguarded as inferior in performance to the Zeppelin made airships.

I would also like to point out Wilhem II who was usually portrayed as a mustache twirling villain by the allies during WW I in reality was a voice for moderation on most matters on the German side. He was opposed to the Zeppelins bombing England until German cities were bombed by Allied aircraft after that he gave his permission to do but gave orders not to bomb historic buildings Palaces and recidences where his royal cousins lived. When he heard that there was a plan in the works to use germ warfare by having Zeppelins drop plague bacilli on England he categorically forbid it.
  The British and the French did try a number of times to kill Wilhelm II in a bombing raids. They bombed some towns and cities where they thought he was staying and on one or more occations they tried to bomb his private train. The Germans did discuss a plan to kill Grand Duke Nicholas N when he was commander of the Russian armies. I understand the Russians heard rumors about it and increased the security around him. This is part of the reason why the air defenses around the IF came into exhistance.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #8 on: March 02, 2015, 03:24:10 PM »
The operation of the L35 and L38 took place the night before Rasputin was murdered.

If a German airship had somehow managed to get to Petrograd and bombed the city they only carried a 3 ton bomb load so they wouldn't have caused much damage. It is possible with the city in such a place of political tension it might have caused some unrest. I can see Alexandra with OTMA in tow visiting the wounded and the parts of the city that were bombed. I don't know the state of the air defenses of Petrograd, but since the city had not been under air attack before I don't think the anti-aircraft gun crews would have had much of a chance of downing a Zeppelin. Flying around TS would not have been a good idea for the Zeppelin looking at the number of anti-aircraft guns around the place. As for Russian aircraft if they had managed to get with range of a Zeppelin unless they have incindery ammunition they were going to have problems shooting one down based on accounts of where Zeppelins and observation balloons were shot up badly with regular ammunition but didn't catch fire. I think Nichols hearing about the bombing would have also visited the wounded and the places that were bombed. He probably would have decorated a few people who did good. It might have even caused a slight increase in his and Alexandra popularity for awhile if the damage control and relief measures were done in a half way competent manner.

Offline Kalafrana

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #9 on: March 03, 2015, 01:52:49 AM »
I would add to James's information that Zeppelins were difficult to shoot down. The gas-filled envelope was divided into hundreds of small cells (made of gold beater's skin). Conventional ammunition normally went straight through the envelope, causing a few cells to deflate but nothing worse. It was only when aircraft began using incendiary ammunition, which ignited the hydrogen, that anti-airship defences began to be effective.

Ann

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #10 on: April 20, 2015, 05:22:46 PM »
Well put Ann. There were a number of occations during WW I where Zeppelins were badly shot up but managed to survive or at least the hydrogen didn't explode. While the Zeppelin raids on England are well documented in a number of books and the site Iancastle.zeppelin.co.uk the Zeppelin raids in the east are not so well documented. This is in part because the German naval Airship divisions records survived both world wars intact and I am not sure about the fate of the german Army's airship records. You also have complete English records of German air raids on England ect and a lot of the Russian records got lost or destroyed in the fall of the Russian empire and later wars.

 The book "Zeppelin the Story of Lighter than Air Flight" by Ernst Lehmann which is not the most accurate book on Airships in combat but the author did command airships that did operate in the East.  he claims that he was so upset with the Russian scorched earth policy during their 1915 retreat he decided to hunt down and bomb the Russian army commander Grand Duke Nicholas train. He claims to have bombed a de luxe train at Syedets which he thought was the grand Dukes. In reality the airship he commanded the ZXII did bomb this place on the night of 6 August 1915, but the Grand Duke wasn't there. We really don't know what train he bombed if he actually bombed one.

Later in the war while in command of the Zeppelin LZ98 he writes of taking off three times to bombed Petrograd in December 1916, but had to turn around all three time do to either reports of bad weather or bad weather. In early 1917 he was given command of the new LZ120 and writes of getting ready to bomb Petrograd when the Russian revolution broke out cancelling this plan.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2015, 08:46:48 AM »
I have some errata on the 1/13 September 1915 bombing of Lida by the ZXII it seems Grand Duke George Mikhalovich's train was bombed and about 20 people were killed he reported this to Nicholas who writes about it in his 4/17 September to Alexandra. This could be the Grand Duke's train Lehmann mentions in his not very reliable book.

In his 3 April 1915 letter to Alexandra Nicholas writes about not being able to visit Lomja because of German aircraft. This is where the Guards Corps was. In the book "The Grinding Mill" by prince A Lobanov-Rostovsky writes of Lomja being bombed almost daily by 6 to 8 German aircraft. Which didn't do much damage but this was a good reason for Nicholas to stay away from this place.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #12 on: June 18, 2015, 09:27:20 AM »
More from Nicholas letter to Alexandra:

5 April 1915 turn off from Vilna because of german aeroplane raids on the railways. Note Zeppelins bombed the railways in this area as well

6 january 1916 Stavka Nicholas mentions 2 aeroplanes hovering over our heads. most like aircraft from the air defense section in the area.

1 february 1916 Nicholas writes of Dvinsk where bad birds (German aircraft) fly. This city was right behind the front.

25 September 1914 Nicholas visited the fortress of Osovets after the first German failed attack on the place and decorated a number of soldiers and airmen.

Aviation actions involving other Romanovs;

11/24 may 1915 the Guards Sapper regiments unit day Grand Dukes Cyril and Boris review the troops. The book "The Grinding Mill" has German airplanes tried to disturb the parade by bombing but failed. The book "Diary of the Commander of the Russian Imperial guard" has no mention of any air attack.

27 December 1916 (NS) Grand Duke George Mikhalovich was inspecting the troops of the Russian 9th army on the Roumanian Front When the place he was staying was attacked by 3 Austrian aircraft. One HansaBrandenberg C.I nr63.79 was shot down and the 2 crew captured by either A Voisin aircraft of the 26th KAO or Russian Ace Lt I.A. Loiko of the 9th FAO.

27 january 1917 Grand Duke Dmitriy Pavlovich on his way to Persia witnessed a plane crash in the Caspian sea it was M-5 flying boat nr.15 of the Baku Flying School which overturned at 40 meter due to heavy winds and crashed into the sea killing both the crew.

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #13 on: October 16, 2015, 05:39:51 PM »
In her 11 September 1916 letter to Nicholas  Alexandra writes about Olga's Sanitary train being bombarded some damage to the train but no casualties Is this Olga A?

Maria P the younger was in Insterberg Germany during the battle of the Masurian lakes in September 1914 when she was bombed by most likely the Zeppelin ZIV. She writes of bombs landing near the railroad yard and  between the hospital and HQ buildings. Outside of town it seems an park of artillery and picket line were hit bad As see writes "The sight that met my eyes was horrible beyond my wildest dreams" from her book "Education of a Princess"

Offline JamesAPrattIII

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Re: The Tsar's Air defense
« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2016, 04:40:35 PM »
In the last post it was Olga A's sanitary train that was bombed mentioned in Alexandra's 11 Sept 1916 letter.

As for the Tsarskoe Selo section renamed the Petrograd AO in a earlier reply of mine it was according to a later page in the book The Russian Military Air Fleet in WW I and in the book Soviet Aircraft and Aviation 1917-1941 renamed in November 1917 the 4th Socialist AO of the RKKVF or Workers and Peasants Red Military Air Fleet and on 16 may 1918 it was stationed at Nizhni-Novgorod. At Moscow at this same date was the 15th FAO. I don't know if it was the 15 th FAO that used to be a part of the Imperial residence defense detachment.

Note: while Tsarskoe Selo had 12 AA guns to protect it in April 1915. 16 if the automotive half battery was there London in September 1915 only had 26 AA guns to defend it.