Czechoslovakian Naval Forces

The Czechoslovakian Naval Forces (Československé válečné loďstvo) were the naval arm of the former Czechoslovakian state. Czechoslovakia being landlocked and with no large rivers flowing through it (the Danube formed a small part of its border), its naval forces were small and consisted only of riverine craft operating on the Danube and the upper Elbe.

Czechoslovakian Naval Forces
Československé válečné loďstvo
Active1918–1959
Country Czechoslovakia
TypeBrown-water navy
RoleNaval warfare
Part ofCzechoslovak Army
Czechoslovak People's Army
HeadquartersLitoměřice and Bratislava (1919–21)
EngagementsPolish–Czechoslovak War
Hungarian–Czechoslovak War
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Zdenko Hudeček [cs] (1919–21)
Insignia
Naval ensign (1935–1939 and 1945–1955)Naval Ensign of Czechoslovakia 1935-1939 1945-1955.svg
Naval ensign (1955–1960)Naval Ensign of Czechoslovakia 1955-1960.svg

Czechoslovak LegionEdit

The Czechoslovak Legion in the Russian Far East possessed in 1918 a maritime section of two steamers and an icebreaker, based at Vladivostok, which were used for transport. Later that same year the Legion seized two steamers on Lake Baikal, which were armed with howitzers. Engaging with the Red Army based on the port of Mysovaya, Legion naval forces sank the icebreaker Baikal.[1] By 1920, though, the Legion was finished as a military force in Russia.

First RepublicEdit

 
Czechoslovak marines in Štúrovo with the Esztergom Basilica in the behind, 1919

At first, the First Czechoslovak Republic operated river craft inherited from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From 1919 until 1921 the Czechoslovakian naval forces consisted of an Elbe Section (based at Litoměřice) and a Danube Section (based at Bratislava). These sections were separated, the Elbe and Danube not being connected. The larger ships were deployed on the Danube, the Elbe section being more suited to transport, reconnaissance, and engineering support roles rather than combat.[1]

In 1921 these sections were consolidated by eliminating the Elbe section. The remaining (Danube) section was placed under the 4th Engineer Regiment. This Danube flotilla consisted of a headquarters section, bridging engineer section, transport section, mine warfare section, replacement section, and arsenal.

 
President Masaryk, the largest and most powerful warship ever fielded by Czechoslovakia

The old Austrian craft being considered obsolescent by the late 1920s, plans were made to build two new large river monitors. One of these, President Masaryk, was built,[2] being commissioned in 1932. With four 66-millimetre (2.6 in) guns, President Masaryk was the flagship and most powerful ship of the Danube flotilla. President Masaryk was the only Czechoslovakian ship able, to some degree, to match the best ships of the more powerful fleets of the other Danubian powers (Yugoslavia, Romania, and Hungary) in the 1930s.

 
Czechoslovakian OMH class motor launch with a bone in her teeth

The flotilla also included various other craft. The gunboats MD-1 and MD-2, originally ordered for Austria-Hungary as torpedo retrievers, were equipped with 2 single mount Škoda 75-millimetre (3.0 in) cannon, two machine guns, and mines.[3] The OMH class launches were also ordered by Austria but not completed until 1924; their only armament was two machine guns.[4] Two small minelayers were the last warships to be commissioned by the flotilla, the first entering service in 1938.

The flotilla expired along with the Republic in 1939, and President Masaryk was pressed into service by the Germans in World War II.

Postwar (Third Republic and Socialist Republic)Edit

In 1946, the 14th Naval Engineer Battalion was created at Bratislava, with some minelayers and other vessels in its equipment. The largest boat in the naval forces was the former Sicherungsboot 43 (English: Security Boat 43), inherited from the Germans. This vessel was armed with a 75-millimetre (3.0 in) gun in a Panzer IV medium tank turret, and four 20mm anti-aircraft guns.[1]

In 1950 the 52nd Maritime Regiment was formed at Bratislava, and the 14th Naval Engineer Battalion was subsumed into this unit. Further reorganization occurred in 1957. By this time it was clear that the main issue facing naval forces on the Czechoslovakian Danube was not defense against external aggression, but preventing citizens from fleeing to Austria. Also by the late 1950s it was becoming evident that riverine forces, while suited to patrol duties on large backcountry rivers (such as in Africa or South America), would probably fare poorly in the crucible of a full-scale mechanized war, being particularly vulnerable to air forces.[1]

Accordingly, in 1958 the members of the Warsaw Pact signed a resolution whereby defense of the Danube was given over to the Soviet Navy's Danube Flotilla. In 1959 the Czechoslovakian naval forces were disbanded, and the inland waters security forces were transferred to the Ministry of the Interior, forming a naval contingent of the Border Guard Service.[1]

In literatureEdit

Ottokar Prohaska, fictional protagonist of John Biggins's Ottokar Prohaska novels, was for a time Commander in Chief of the Czechoslovak Danube Flotilla.[5]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b c d e Ivo Pejčoch. "Československému lodnímu vojsku dominoval padesátimetrový Masaryk" [Czechoslovak Naval Forces Dominated by the 50-Meter Masaryk]. Prague Institute of Military History. Retrieved February 25, 2016. (in Czech)
  2. ^ Felix Bustelo. "President Masaryk Czechoslovakian River Monitor". SteelNavy.com. Retrieved February 22, 2016.
  3. ^ Ivan Gogin. "Czecholovakian River Flotilla (Czecholovakia) – River Boats – MD-1 River Motor gunboats (1920)". Navypedia. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  4. ^ Ivan Gogin. "Czecholovakian River Flotilla (Czecholovakia) – River Boats – OMH3 River Motor Launches (1924)". Navypedia. Retrieved February 26, 2016.
  5. ^ Biggins, John. A Sailor of Austria. McBooks Press. p. 17. ISBN 978-1590131077. Retrieved February 24, 2016.

Further readingEdit

  • Hubert, Miroslav; Pavala, Karel (1999). Vojenské lodě Československa 1918-1959 [Warships of Czechoslovakia, 1918–1959]. Prague and Děčín: ARES and the Association of Sailing Aficionados. ISBN 80-86158-11-X. (in Czech)