The Royal Navy and Soviet seapower, 1930-1950 : intelligence, naval cooperation and antagonism

Ryan, Joseph Francis

History; Military manoeuvres
January 1996

Thesis or dissertation

© 1996 Joseph Francis Ryan. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

British estimates of Soviet seapower from 1930 to 1950 covered three main phases. These were primarily characterised by pre-war suspicion of Communism and the Soviet Union, enforced wartime naval cooperation from June 1941 until the end of the Second World War and, finally, a shift towards Cold War antagonism.It is argued that the Admiralty's Naval Intelligence Division was able to collect sufficient data to maintain a credible intelligence picture of the Soviet Navy's order of battle and war-fighting capabilities, thereby allowing informed decision-making in London. In general, the United Kingdom considered that the Red Navy was poorly equipped and trained, and that it posed little threat to British interests. This was borne out by the Soviet Union's poor employment of seapower during the war.Knowledge of the Soviet Navy was always difficult to obtain. However, a major finding of this thesis is that the wartime Anglo-Soviet alliance allowed British naval representativesin the USSR unprecedented access to Russian warships, facilities and commanders. Though the basing of a naval mission in Russia was principally intended to assist in the common fight against Nazi Germany and to promote liaison between the Royal and Soviet Navies, especially with regard to the Arctic convoys, the British also took the opportunity to examine the maritime forces of their long-standing Communist rival at close quarters. It is contended, therefore, that improved intelligence on the Soviet Navy was made possible by wartime naval collaboration. To examine this assertion, relevant naval aspects of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945 are covered in detail in the thesis.After 1945, the Red fleets required some time for consolidation before expansion was possible. The Soviet Navy remained an intelligence target, but British wartime assessments largely held good to the end of the decade.

Department of History, The University of Hull
Dilks, David; Porter, Bernard; Major, John, 1936-2009
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