Battleship “Lefort”

It belongs to battleships of 84 guns rank, “Empress Alexandra” type. There were built all in all 8 battleships of this type on St. Petersburg New Admiralty from 1826 till 1844.

The battleship was laid 18.11.1833 Constructor Ya.A. Kolodkin. Launched 28.07.1835, entered into the Baltic Fleet.

Dimensions: 59,8 x 15,3 x 7,2 meters.
Displacement: 3500 tons.

In 1836-1838, 1840, 1841, 1843 and in 1846 in squadrons it was in practical navigation in the Baltic sea and in the Gulf of Finland. On 03.07.1836 it took part in the meeting ceremony of Peter the Great’s Boat on the Kronstadt roadstead. In 1844 and in 1847 in squadrons was in practical navigation in the North Sea. In 1848-1850 it took part in the expedition of the Baltic Fleet to Danish waters.

In 1851-1852 it was repaired and renewed in dock of Peter the Great in Kronshtadt.

It took part in the Crimean war of 1853-1856. In May-June 1854 it stood in fighting trim on small Kronstadt roadstead facing outer wall of Kronstadskaya harbor in case of breakthrough of hostile fleet. In 1855 it stationed in Kronstadt. In 1856 and in 1857 it transported troops and stores between Kronstadt and Revel (Tallinn).

One can get details of the last voyage of “Lefort” from the report of rear-admiral Nordman. On 09.09.1857 (22.09.1857 new style) a detachment of one-type battleships “Lefort”, “Vladimir” and “Emperess Alexandra” taking advantage of favorable south-vester left Revel for to Kronstadt to winter quarters in connection with the end of summer company.

By the evening of September 9th when the ships were on the way to Gogland island the wind strengthened to gale force. Detachment commander made a decision to maneuver and stay in this district till dawn and thereafter proceed the movement.

In the morning of September 10th the wind changed to northerly with squall and snow. The squadron was making tacks and tried to hold out between Gogland island and Bolshoy Tuters island. About 7.30 a.m. in the course of next turn to tack a wind gust laid “Lefort” down to its portside. It stayed for some time in this position, then capsized and disappeared under the water.

Nobody escaped. A commander – captain Kishkin, 12 officers, 743 seamen, 53 seamen’s wives and 17 children were drowned together with the ship, altogether 826 persons.

Committee of inquiry, which interrogated all the witnesses of this event, could not come to final conclusion about the cause of the disaster. In its report it is pointed out: “Wreck of “Lefort” ship represents one of the events, which happen fortunately rather seldom and causes of which despite all the energy of investigators remain undiscovered…”This catastrophe has echoed not only in the marine, lots of broken-hearted orphans and families mourned the loss of their kinsfolk in various parts of Russia, and for a long time in future in spite of any new disasters “Lefort” will be a hard and sad recollection. And in that distant future, when recollection about “Lefort” will become completely effected, a fantastic painting by professor Aivazovsky in Kronshtadt Marine Library will remind about it ".

Wreck of “Lefort” was the biggest sea tragedy in the Baltic Sea in peacetime till wreck of “Estonia” passenger ferry in 1994.

Battleship “Lefort” was discovered by «Regards to ships of Great Victory» expedition on May 4th 2013 when exploring ground by sonar north to Bolshoi Tuters Island. The aim of this exploration was to find submarine Sh-320, lost in 1942. The hull of “Lefort” lies about 5 miles north from Bolshoi Tuters Island at a depth of about 70 meters. Due to big depth of burial and water characteristics in the Gulf of Finland the ship is in excellent condition. Visual damages are just masts and bowsprit, broken apparently during the wreck, and decorative bordering of the hull, partially disrupted by fishing nets.

1. Chernyshov A.A. Sailing fleet of Russia V.1, 1997.
2. Konkevich L. A chronicle of wrecks and other disastrous incidents of Russian warships, 1874.

Michail Ivanov
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