Moonsund Operation of 1917

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Moonsund Operation of 1917


Operation Albion, an offensive operation of the German Navy to seize the islands of the Moonsund Archipelago, from September 29 (October 12) to October 6 (19) in World War I (1914–18).

The mission of the Moonsund operation was to capture the islands, to destroy the Russian naval forces in the Gulf of Riga, and to secure positions for the attack on revolutionary Petro-grad. The German Special Naval Detachment (Vice Admiral E. Schmidt) included ten battleships, one battle cruiser, eight light cruisers, 47 destroyers, 11 torpedo boats, six submarines, and 90 minesweepers. The landing forces (General von Kathen) totaled 24,600 men, 40 artillery guns, 225 machine guns, and 85 mortars. Air cover was provided by nine dirigibles and 94 air-planes. Overall direction of the operation was in the hands of General O. von Jutje, commander of the German Eighth Army.

The garrison on the islands of the Moonsund Archipelago had about 12,000 men, 64 field guns, and 118 machine guns; the basis of the antilanding defense consisted of 16 coast batteries (54 guns with a caliber of 75–305 mm) and mine obstacles. The naval forces of the Gulf of Riga included the two old battleships Slava and Grazhdanin, three cruisers, 36 destroyers and torpedo boats, three gunboats, five minelayers, and three submarines. The counterrevolutionary command failed to take proper measures to strengthen the defense of the islands, and some admirals fled at the beginning of the operation. The defense was headed by the Bolshevik organizations of the Baltic Fleet and a committee elected by sailors and soldiers.

After having neutralized the coast batteries, the German Navy disembarked a landing force in Tagalaht Bay on Oesel (Saaremaa) Island on September 29 (October 12), and the island was occupied on October 3 (16). The same day the German Navy entered the Gulf of Riga. The Germans captured Muhu (Moon) Island on October 5 (18) and the island of Hiiumaa (Dago) on October 6 (19). The Russian revolutionary sailors fought heroically against the superior enemy forces and knocked out ten destroyers and six minesweepers and damaged three battleships and 13 destroyers and torpedo boats. As a result the German command was forced to abandon the navy’s breakthrough into the Gulf of Finland and withdrew its naval forces from the Gulf of Riga on October 7 (20). The Russian Navy lost the battleship Slava, which was damaged in combat and scuttled by its crew, and one destroyer; the battleship Grazhdanin, one cruiser, three destroyers, and two gunboats were damaged.


Flot v pervoi mirovoi voine, vol. 1. Moscow, 1964.
Istoriia voenno-morskogo iskusstva. Moscow, 1969.
Boevaia letopis’ russkogo flota. Moscow, 1948.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.