Here are perhaps two of the most unusual warships of 1930s - 1940s
I would like to feature two very unique ships of pre WW2 -WW2 that served under Finnish navy throughout the second world war. What makes these ships unique is their design and difficulty to put them into any class of warships. More likely they are very much the class of their own - although you are free tell what these two look for you. Finnish navy defined these ships "coastal defence ships" but some put them into category of heavy cruiser or monitor. These ships were small - only 93 meters in lenght, but they sure did not lack firepower or armour.
The ships were called Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen - after heroes ancient Finnish mythology. These two armoured ships were designed specifically for shallow Finnish waters, where larger vessels would have trouble navigating between then hundreds of thousands of tiny islands - in contrast these vessels operated poorly in open seas and their operating distance was not so great. However, as these vessels were never meant to leave far from their home waters, this was acceptable.
How much weaponry such tiny vessels could pack then? Answer would be much. Basically Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen were fitted with largest guns you could just punch into vessels of these size and number of secondary weaponry was not so bad either. These two coastal defence ships were fitted with as much armour and firepower as possible with expence of speed and operating distance, making them lethal opponent to ships many times their size in their home waters. Finnish navy had ordered these ships keeping in mind the Russian baltic fleet - to what they were supposed to be response. Ilmarinen and Väinämöinen would have been serious opponents to cruisers like Kirov or even battleship Marat. Unfortunately Russian baltic fleet never left the port near Leningrad during WW2, meaning that the ships could never engage their adversaries in actual combat.
4×254mm/45cal. Bofors (2×2)
8×105mm/50cal. Bofors DP (4×2)
4×40mm/40cal. Vickers AA (4×1)
2×20mm/60cal. Madsen AA (2×1)
4×254mm/45cal. Bofors (2×2)
8×105mm/50cal. Bofors DP (4×2)
4×40mm/56cal. Bofors AA M/36S (1×2, 2×1)
4×20mm/60cal. Madsen AA (4×1)
The four 254mm Bofors guns were massive for vessels of this size, and they could hurl a 225 kg shell up to 31 km. The secondary artillery consisted of eight 105mm dual-purpose Bofors guns in four turrets. These were the primary defense against fast torpedo boats and aircraft. Additionally, the ships were equipped with four 40mm anti-aircraft guns (initially British-made "pom-pom" guns, which, after mediocre performance in the Winter War, were replaced with Bofors guns) and two 20mm Madsen auto-cannons (later increased to eight).
Displacement: 3,900 t
Length: 93.0 m
Beam: 16.864 m
Draught: 4.5 m
four Krupp engines 875 kW, two shafts.
3,500 kW (4,800 hp)
Speed: 14.5 kt <-- Like an turtle.
Range: 700 nm
The vessels were obvious the very backbone of Finnish navy and enormous effort for nation with less than 3 million people on that time. While Finland was never afraid to use these vessels during WW2 instead of just hiding them, they never met in any actual naval engagement due to absense of their enemies. However, these vessels did support ground troops with their massive artielly and during winter time were parked near strategically important harbours to boos their anti air power. Russians tried to sink these vessels several times with bomber and torbedo planes, but damage remained minimal. The flagsip of Finnish navy, Ilmarinen however sunk in 1941 after hitting sea mine in operation Nordwind.
The two Finnish coastal defence ship participated in Operation Nordwind on September 13, 1941, in which German forces were to take the Estonian islands of Saaremaa and Hiiumaa. A group of Finnish and German ships were to be used in a diversionary operation to lure the Soviet fleet into battle – away from the real invasion force coming up from the south. Another German fleet, including the cruisers Emden, Köln, and Leipzig, waited further away to join the battle if the Soviets turned up; however, the northern fleet remained unnoticed and an order was given to turn around when they had reached a point some 25 nautical miles south of Utö. The formation was led by minesweepers, but some mines had escaped being swept. The crew of Ilmarinen failed to take proper notice of the dragging paravane cable. It is likely that the ship had caught one or two sea mines in the paravane, and when the ship turned, the mines struck the bottom of the hull and exploded. The explosion blew a large hole in the ship, which soon developed a strong list and keeled over. It sank in just seven minutes.
The loss of flagship Ilmarinen was the largest single loss of Finnish navy to this date and huge blow to navy so small. The remaining period the war, Finnish coastal battleship Väinämöinen - now flagship of Finnish navy mostly operated near home waters, protecting trade routes or working as an mobile anti aircraft platform to protect strategic locations. Especially near the end of war, Russians hunted down this vessel fanatically, but failed to sink it.
Besides the design of these ships as unusual was the camo used. Finnish navy took great care and effort with keeping these ships hidden from the enemy and during the winter these ships got nice completely white camo, while during summer they had woodland camo - slightly unusual for warships that normally had standard navy blue or gray. Even today all finnish warships have woodland camo instead of navy blue. This is due to number of Islands Finland has and naval doctrine that utilizes the use of islands as cover and means to hide and lay ambush from.
Seriously. Have you ever seen better camo than this?
My suggestion for the game:
While I am fairly certain Finnish navy will not be included in WOW, it could exist on Russian tech tree, as Väinämöinen was sold to Russia after WW2 due to enormous compensations Russia demanded from Finland after winning the war.
While Finland remained unconquered unlike its German ally, it eventually had to surrender or face the same fate. Russians were eager to make peace due to heavy losses the Finnish forces were inflicting and their race to reach Berlin before Allied forces did. Finland, despite so small, tied dozens of soviet divisions to northern front and would have required far more than what they could afford to after their mass offensive was halted in summer 1944. Finland saw that ultimate defeat would eventually come, even if they could last longer than Germany, and therefore peace was made. Finland - as loosing side - had to give away conciderable amount of its territory and resources and restrictions were placed on its army. Väinämöinen was sold to Russia where it joined the baltic fleet and served under name Vyborg.
Perhaps this vessel could be some low - mid tier "mini battleship" for those who cannot just yet afford / research true battleships but want the firepower already.
This vessel obviously would be powerful and heavily armoured for its tier, but in contrast lack speed and manouverability. Any opinions?