The destinies of Saint-Petersburg and the Admiralty Shipyards, born practically at the same time, have always been inseparable. For all its 315 years of existence, the plant has been sharing with the city its victories and tragedies, ups and downs. The plant worked for the sake of the city and, not sparing itself, used to come to the aid to its senior brother.
Since the first days of the Great Patriotic War, the Admiralty workers raised to defend Leningrad, trying to avert the mortal threat from it. The plant workers formed two separate machine-gun and artillery battalions, which under the onslaught of dozens of tanks and powerful aviation attacks were defending the city at the turn of Old Peterhof, the Russko-Vysotskoye village and on the Babigon heights. Only 5% of the personnel survived in those battles. In total, more than 5,000 plant workers were killed on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War.
In parallel, the shipyards transformed just in several days for the repairs of materiel coming from the battlefields and for the installation of extra armaments on mobilized civil ships. The plant produced military products, i.e. mines, bombs, field charges, entrenching shovels, spare parts for tanks. New models of ships were developed.
And all that unfolded on the background of an acute shortage of qualified cadres (a lot of experienced specialists went to the front), deficit of food stuff, permanent bombings. As many as 653 artillery shells had been dropped on the plant in the period from 22 June 1941 till 1 January 1944. A power substation, several buildings and workshops were disabled.
In late December 1941, the supply of electricity was almost completely cut off. The premises of the plant were heated by braziers, and illuminated by improvised plates with wicks, where transformer oil was burned. Some workshops were temporarily stopped, part of the production equipment was evacuated to the rear.
But the enterprise kept on working in order to save the city in its rear and fronts. During the years of war, the Admiralty Shipyards built and handed to the Navy seven submarines, twenty armored boats, sixty-six submarine hunters, one hundred and sixteen self-propelled flat-bottom boats, repaired three hundred ships and submarines, including the Kirov and Maxim Gorky cruisers and the Leningrad – the flagship of fleet destroyers.
In order to understand what it was for the shipyards, what an act of heroism and the strength of mind were behind these figures, one must plunge into that ambiance by reading documents, letters, issues of the plant newspaper “Patriot”, which was uninterruptedly issued even in the most difficult years of the siege.
December 1942: “Our plant was in extremely difficult conditions. At the same time, all the pieces of materiel in the workshops required emergency repairs. It was necessary to find the way out. And the way was found. Somewhere they found a half-broken old engine, repaired and gave life to workshop No. 17. It began to repair the systems, which were badly needed in the front. They found a compressor, put it on an electric motor, and the compressor gave air for pneumatic works. They launched an oil-electric engine of one of the systems and got electricity for welding. There was nothing at hand to cut metal. Then the “Marshall” of the welding area Comrade Stoma started to cut thick metal sheets of plating and main scantlings with electrodes. There was a lack of qualified workers, and the most experienced masters Kremer, Vladimirov, Klubov and many others became fitters, drillers and cutters themselves.
For one of the systems constructor Toptygin had to bend 28-mm sheets, and he was supposed to do it urgently. The reheating furnace of workshop No. 8 broke down. But even if it had been operational, it would have been useless as there was no oil. Constructor Toptygin came up to the old merited workers of the workshop and said: – Well, fathers, help out. It is urgent to bend the sheets of the plating and main scantlings. The furnaces are not operational. Invent a way on how to bend.
And they invented! Craftsmen Komarov and Rogalev with a group of sailors were quite quick to lay down a small coke-burner furnace, then they connected the air supply from an electric fan, and the work accelerated. The bending was completed in time…”
April 1943: “Turner of workshop No. 16 Petrov had been working for two days without leaving the workshop, and fulfilled the task, which required no less than six days. Comrade Karasev from the 5th workshop, a member of the Komsomol organization, every day brings up the score of revenge to the enemy by fulfilling no less than 2.5-3 norms a shift.”
The name of the plant is also connected with another world-known siege document, i.e. the diary of Tanya Savicheva, a symbol of courage of the Leningraders. We read the third page of this children’s notebook: “Leka died on 17 March 1942, at 5 o’clock in the morning”. Leka – that’s how Leonid Savichev, a planer from the Admiralty Shipyards, was called in the family. He was recalled as a very modest and hard-working young man: “He was never late for the shift though as everyone else in the workshop, he was extremely exhausted from hunger. Leka was 24 years of age.
Thousands of the Admiralty workers shared the terrible fate of the young man: around 3,000 plant workers died in the blockade. The administration did it best to save the lives of the team members. Yeast or lentil soup was prepared in a wooden one-story canteen. Each workshop received additional rations of bread, which were distributed in turn. A hospital was organized on the first floor of the main building, where weak and exhausted patients were nursed back to health.
70% percent of the shipyard’s employees at that period were women and teenagers. Working at the plant, they felt more secure than in cold and empty city flats. A dormitory was organized in the building of the plant management. A separate bedroom was allocated to the teenagers, some extra food stuff, apart from the food stamps, was provided for them. Many people stayed in those dormitories, especially because in many cases the whole families came to work at the shipyards.
The plant needed labour force, and people needed the plant so that not to lose confidence in victory. When the workshops were operational, producing ships and vessels, there was hope and strength to wait. “The plant supported us, and we supported the plant. And we survived together. And celebrated the victory,” the veterans recall.
This belief in victory helped the plant workers to stay overstretched, and not just work, but literally create. In 1943 alone, the shipyard experts submitted over 300 rationalization proposals, the introduction of which saved almost three and a half million rubles.
The Sudomech plant designed armoured sea hunters to fight enemy submarines. This project was implemented under the supervision of Chief Engineer Yuri Derevyanko. Due to the flow-positioning method of production, the plant managed to provide to the Navy three of such hunters a month. The design bureau of the same Sudomech plant designed a naval armoured cutter of project 61 (BK-503) in August 1943. These ships had reinforced artillery weapons, improved seaworthiness and habitability.
When the workshops were operational, producing ships and vessels, there was hope and strength to wait
The November days of 1941 witnessed an event, which pre-determined the destiny of the besieged city, i.e. a route connecting Leningrad and the Big Land was laid on the ice of the Ladoga Lake. This route was called the Road of Life. So that this vital connection was not interrupted even in the warm season, means of crossing were badly needed. And the Admiralty Shipyards was one of the first to deal with the construction of those means.
The plant arranged production of self-propelled flat-bottom barges with a displacement of 20 tons, and having overcome all the difficulties, commissioned the first batch already by the beginning of the summer navigation. The barges were built under artillery firing just on the banks of the Ladoga Lake, irrespective of hunger, severe frosts and overload. The Admiralty workers had to display incredible courage and firmness, as after the first and the most dreadful winter of the blockade, they definitely had a lack of energy. But by the end of summer the order for 30 barges was completed ahead of schedule.
Simultaneously they were producing flat-bottom cutters for carrying 35-55 passengers. They were equipped with automobile engines ZIS-5 and reached the speed of up to 5 knots. In 1942 alone these small vessels evacuated more than 250,000 Leningrad natives. The whole Ladoga was saying that those small boats were invulnerable. Those Leningraders, who came to Osinovets to be evacuated, asked to go on board of the cutter only.
The simplicity of the design – this is what surprised all the specialists engaged in the commissioning of the vessel. Its strict contours seem to reflect the courage of Leningrad shipbuilders. Famous flat-bottom cutters were built by other plants too, but it’s certain that the Admiralty people contributed to the Road of Life a lot by creating a ship that became the main transportation asset on the route.
Nowadays the famous cutter is taking a place of honour in the Museum of the Road of Life on the Ladoga Lake.
The memory of the courage and firmness of the Admiralty people is carefully preserved and transmitted to the new generations of shipbuilders. A memorial plate dedicated to the shipyard workers, who died during the war, was installed at the Piskaryov Memorial Cemetery. Every year on May 9 and January 27, on the Leningrad Victory Day, ceremonial gatherings are held on the plant square near the Glory Memorials. For the enterprise, this is not just a tribute to the tradition, it is an honorable right to feel involved in the heroic acts of those who glorified the name of the Admiralty Shipyards.