Shch-324 is a veteran submarine that fought in the winter war against Finland (though it did not have any significant military success then). The most interesting story involving Shch-324 from that period was when it returned to Kronstadt under the ice. Returning from a combat mission in January 1940, the commander discovered that he was cut off from base by a solid ice field that could not be crossed on the surface without significantly damaging the submarine. He decided to cross under the ice, even though the submarine had no navigational references for traveling under ice. Shch-324 sailed 31 miles submerged under the ice, surfacing just once along the way.
For this feat, the sub was awarded the Order of the Red Banner and its commander, A.M. Konyaev, was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union.
The submarine’s last combat mission, in November 1941, was to take up position in the Memel-Vindava area. On 5 November 1941, the commander reported that he was crossing the Gulf of Finland and was never heard from again.
Seafloor conditions: the submarine’s bow is stuck in the clay with the stern raised about 1-2 meters above the seafloor. The submarine’s first two compartments are completely destroyed, reduced to a pile of metal. The bridge and emergency hatches are closed, the commander’s periscope is raised, the telegraphs are in the stop position, both guns are stowed, and the steering rudder is straight. Apparently, the submarine was sailing at periscope depth (navigation) when the bow was blown up by a mine at the Apolda barrier. The explosion detonated the ammunition stores, completely destroying the first two compartments in the bow, and the sub took a nosedive. The crew were apparently killed immediately; we saw no signs that they attempted to evacuate.
We identified the submarine as a Shchuka-class X-bis series by its design features.
The Soviet Union mass-produced the Malyutka-class submarines during WWII. M-class subs were small (just 45 meters), which made it possible for them to be manufactured deep inside the country and transported by rail to their port of departure. The submarines were designed for short-range combat patrols and had relatively modest armament: two torpedo tubes and two torpedoes (they didn’t carry extras), as well as one 45mm gun.
M-95 conducted three combat campaigns in WWII but did not achieve victory. During its final combat patrol, it launched two torpedoes at the freighter Shaulyai, which had been abandoned on Gogland Island during the evacuation of Tallinn, having mistaken it for a German ship. The submarine’s last combat mission was reconnaissance near the southern tip of Gogland Island, but it did not make radio contact and was believed to have sunk.
On the morning of 15 June 1942, Finnish and Soviet observation posts reported a powerful explosion in the area of the Rukayarvi minefield, and an oil slick was spotted. On 16 June, the Finnish air force bombed the area, and then for several more days Finnish ASW ships dropped depth charges near the location where the submarine likely sank.
Our exploration of the wreck revealed:
Apparently, after the submarine hit the mine, at least part of the crew in the aft compartments survived and tried to save the sinking submarine for 1-2 days. After exhausting the sub’s damage control resources, the submariners tried to abandon ship but could not fully open the aft hatch, which was blocked by the bent rails. As the bridge hatch is closed, the central post and battle bridge were likely already flooded by the time of the evacuation attempt.
The submarine was commanded by Lieutenant-Captain L.P. Fedorov.