The Rurik II
Russia's Most Powerful Armored Cruiser - 1905/1908
The Rurik leaving port at Reval in 1913. Enlarge
The Rurik was built in Britain as part of a complicated arms deal. The contract was brokered by the infamous arms merchant and double agent, Basil Zaharoff, to be built by Vickers. The general design of the ship was sketched out by Tennyson d'Eyncourt, Vickers' lead designer and salesman (also responsible for the design of HMS Agincourt ). The detail work was a collaboration between d'Eyncourt and Russian naval architect A.P. Titov. Construction was accomplished at Vickers' great works at Barrow-on-Furness, Westmorland, England. Rurik was equipped with plenty of heavy artillery turned out by the maker. The completed ship had harmonious proportions in the British manner at the time of Sir Philip Watts.
She was designed with a heavy armament all mounted in twin turrets, in a hex disposition the manner of the Pisa class and, like them, with a higher forecastle and stepped-down quarterdeck. This gave freeboard of 29 feet forward and 19'3" at the aft main turret. The turrets were of a new elliptical design which allowed 35° elevation of the guns. The many turrets and big-ship superstructure gave her a hint of the semi-dreadnought battleship, with bluff lines, a square bridgeworks, and three plump funnels. Like other late armored cruisers, she had a low, horizontal, menacing profile quite distinct from the tall-funneled four-stackers of the 1890s: a transitional type to later dreadnought ships.
The ship was armored with Krupp plate rolled right at the Vickers works: six inches thick amidships, tapering to four at the bow and three at the stern. Among the ship's advanced features was was a sprinkler system in the magazines, meant to extinguish any fires before the explosives could ignite. The ship was boilered with Bellevilles and intended to make at least 20 knots; the contract called for ability to maintain 21 kts "easy steaming," and her four-cylinder triple expansion engines delivered an additional knot-and-a-half with ease, giving her a speed of 22.4 kts. However, there were teething problems with the gun turrets and sprinklers, leading to a prolonged workup before the ship was accepted by the customer.
This was a most satisfactory design for 1905, when she was laid down; it was originally expected that, following Russian practice, another two ships would be built to the same design in Russian yards, making a class of three. However, by the time the ship completed in September 1908, Britain had introduced its first dreadnought battlecruisers, the Invincible class of three. These advanced ships carried eight 12" guns at a turbine-driven speed of 25½ knots. Capabilities like these made pre-dreadnought armored cruisers like the Rurik obsolete. Her two sister-ships were canceled forthwith and Russia's shipyards instead set to work on a super-powerful quartet of Baltic dreadnoughts: the Gangut class, closely modeled on the Italian Dante Alighieri of 1911.
Like her predecessor, the Rurik of 1895, the ship was named for a legendary Viking freebooter whose successors founded the Kievan state -- precursor to the Russian Empire -- in the 8th century.
Specifications for the 1908 Rurik:
Dimensions: 490 x 75' x 26' Displacement: 15,170 tons. Armament: (4) 10"/50 cal (2x2), (8) 8"/50 (4x2), (20) 4.7" and (4) 47 mm guns; and (2) 18" torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp Cemented throughout. Belt: 6"/4"/3"; CT: 8"; main turrets: 8"; secondary turrets: 7"; barbettes: 8"/6"; casemates: 3"; deck: 1½". Propulsion: 28 coal-fired Belleville boilers; (2) 4-cyl. vertical triple expansion engines developing 20,675 hp, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 22.4 kts. Fuel capacity: 1,200 tons of coal normal; 2,000 tons maximum. Operating radius: 19,700 nm @ 21 kts. Crew: 899.
Dimensions: 149m x 22.9m x 7.9m Displacement: 15,170 tons. Armament: (4) 254 mm/50 cal (2x2), (8) 203 mm/50 (4x2), (20) 120 mm and (4) 47 mm guns; (2) 450 mm torpedo tubes. Armor: Krupp Cemented throughout. Belt: 152/101/76 mm; CT: 203 mm; main turrets: 254 mm; secondary turrets: 178 mm; barbettes: 254/152 mm; casemates: 76 mm; deck: 38 mm. Propulsion: 28 coal-fired Belleville boilers; (2) 4-cyl. vertical triple expansion engines, developing 15,417 kW, shafted to twin screw. Maximum speed: 41.5 km/hr. Fuel capacity: 1,200 tons of coal normal; 2,000 tons maximum. Operating radius: 36,484 km @ 39 km/hr. Crew: 899.
The Rurik has been described as one of the best-protected armored cruisers ever built. However, her armor plan was typical for the last generation of armored cruisers: the Pisa and San Mateo classes; the French Edgar Quinets and the British Duke of Edinburghs and Minotaurs. Early battlecruisers of the same vintage had 7" or 8" belt and 10" turret protection -- considerably more than that carried by the Rurik. As to the Russian ship's speed, she was no faster than most of her contemporaries, and no faster than the dreadnought battleships of her time. However, in the Baltic, even the obsolete German ships were competitive in speed, although their biggest guns were old model 8". The older German armored cruisers such as as SMS Prince Adalbert (in service 1901 to 1915), SMS Roon (in service 1906 - 1919), and also the pre-dreadnought battleship SMS Wittelsbach (in service 1900 - 1919) had an average speed of 18 to 21 kts, whereas Germany's dreadnought battlecruisers all had a top speed of 25 to 28 kts. Rurik's speed did make her compatible with her contemporaries in the Russian fleet, however.
Rurik's first mission was in a delegation representing Russia at the coronation of King Nicholas of Montenegro, together with the battleships Tsesarevich and Slava. During the First World War, the Rurik was the flagship of the Baltic Fleet and took part in a number of its operations, including anti-mining operations. From August 27, 1914, the commander of the Baltic Fleet, Adm. Nikolai Essen, carried out a sweep of enemy commerce in the Baltic, using Rurik and Pallada. This mission failed, undermining Russian morale. Rurik sustained mine damage. On February 13, 1915 the ship was out of the yard and ready to resume duty at sea.
On the Russian Navy's initiative battle was joined off the island of Gotland on July 2, 1915 at 0639 hours. The Russian commander was Adm. Mikhail K. Bakhirev. His squadron included the armored cruisers Admiral Makarov and Bayan II, the protected cruisers Oleg and Bogatyr, and the super-destroyer Novik, with the Rurik acting as flagship. Steaming along the coast of West Prussia in dense fog, the Rurik unwittingly diverged from fleet course and continued alone to the southwestward. The German light cruiser Lübeck emerged from the mist and misidentified Rurik as the destroyer Novik (built 1911-14). There followed a fast and furous firefight, in which the Rurik was hit ten times by the Lübeck's 4.1" guns firing with commendable rapidity. Damage caused by these hits was negligible, however.
Lübeck wirelessed for backup. The armored cruiser Roon appeared and exchanged long-distance gunfire with the Rurik for about 20 minutes. In this duel Roon landed one 8" hit on the Rurik's upper superstructure, again without inflicting critical damage. Contact was broken after the Russian cruiser received a submarine warning around 1030.
In other fallout from the Gotland action, the German cruiser-minelayer Albatross was badly damaged. The ship ran aground on the Swedish coast at Östergarn. Sweden, a neutral nation during World War I, interned the German crew and confiscated the vessel. With warships concentrating their fire on the Albatross, the cruiser Augsburg managed to escape. Novik was at sea at the time of the action but had lost touch with other Russian units and was returning to base. Likewise the two German armored cruisers Prinz Adalbert and Prinz Heinrich were at sea at the time of the action, but were retiring to base after losing touch with their squadron. The Adalbert was later torpedoed off Danzig by the British submarine E-8, arriving in hopes of picking off stragglers.
On November 19, 1916, the Rurik triggered a contact mine but only suffered minor damage. It was soon repaired and the flagship came back into service fitted out for revenge: as a minelayer. The long, elegant ship had a capacity of 400 mines. In the fall of 1917 - winter of 1918, taking advantage of Russia's revolutionary turmoil, German offensives stormed up the Eastern front from the Baltic to the Black Sea. To save themselves from capture, 90 ships of the Baltic Fleet left their forward base at Reval for Helsinki in February, working their way gingerly through the thick ice closing the Gulf of Finland from one side to the other. As flagship, Rurik took a leading part in the Ice Cruise of the Baltic Fleet. Virtually the entire flotilla escaped to Helsinki, steaming in a path cut by its two icebreakers. On March 5, 1918, the fleet departed Helsinki for Kronstadt, where it was safe from German and Allied attack for the moment. At the fleet base, revolutionary spirit had reigned since the sailors' revolt of 1917. The ship survived the British raids on Kronstadt in June and July 1919.
However, the Bolsheviks had little use for naval power amid the many distractions of their Civil War and struggle against foreign interventionists. After 1922, the Rurik was designated as a storage hulk. The once-prestigious gunship was sold for scrap in 1930. The proceeds boosted Stalin's crash program of industrialization.
A Rucksack of Remembrances of Rurik
Rurik on maneuvers in the Baltic in 1913.
Rurik on maneuvers with the two Andrei Pervozvanny class battleships.
Rurik's after 10-inch turret trained over the port beam.
Tsar Nicholas II inspecting Rurik, c. 1910.
Rurik at the Montenegrin port of Antivari, 1910.
The German light cruiser Lübeck encountered Rurik and engaged her in the Baltic, July 2, 1915.
The German armored cruiser Roon engaged the Rurik II at long range during the Battle of Gotland, July 2, 1915.
The German minelaying cruiser Albatross aground at Östergarn on the Swedish island of Gotland after the July 1915 action with the Russians. Ship and crew were interned for the duration by neutral Sweden.
Rurik's foredeck showing capstans, forward 8- and 10-inch turrets, and bridge; from Jane's Fighting Ships 1914.
Prepare to weigh anchor! Foredeck view in port during operations -- summer 1916.
Rurik looms large behind the French-built Russian submarine Akula. Enlarge
Rurik follows the icebreaker Yermak through the Baltic ice -- winter 1915.
Rurik on inspection at Reval - 1917.