BAV Maracaibo (BB-1940)


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The White Russians fought the Bolsheviks and were backed by France and the British in trying to restore the Monarchy/Parliament system in Russia. The White Russians in the south were pushed back into the Crimean peninsula.

The White Russians trapped in the Crimea knew what awaited them when the Soviets arrived. Death followed the Soviets like a black cloud. So they had a great incentive to decamp and emigrate to another country. The White Russians also required as much finance as they could raise to evacuate the citizenry, then clothe and feed them till they could relocate to a final destination. They stripped the Crimea of everything that could be loaded onto the convoy of ships at Sevastopol.

What was available to the White Fleet in 1918-1920 were 2 battleships of the Imperatritsa Mariya class, one near completed battleship, 3-4 pre-dreadnoughts, Armoured cruisers, light cruisers, destroyers, submarines, gunboats and merchantmen from liners to coasters. Merchantmen with the fleet had loaded on them all things naval that could be gathered from the various Black Sea naval bases and from the Black Sea Fleet ships under construction. This included bits from the incomplete battlecruiser Navarin. The Fleet sailed with the Soviet cavalry riding through the streets of Sevastopol. Just too late. Wrangels Fleet was on the move.

The first move of the Fleet was to Turkish waters where the last minute rush was then able to be sorted into more comfortable arrangements. Feelers were then sent out by the White Russians to their countries of choice with requests for asylum for the 50 odd ships and over 100,000 men, women and children aboard them. Rejection after rejection arrived by telegraph and the list dwindled down to those countries which were of a marginal choice. In December 1920 an emissary from the Venezuelans arrived requesting an audience with the White Russian leadership. The Venezuelans spent the next week interviewing and inspecting the ships, their crews and the general population as to their skills.

The Venezuelans arranged with the White Russian leaders that Venezuela would offer everyone on the fleet that wished to come to Venezuela asylum and citizenship on their arrival in Venezuela. The Venezuelans would also purchase any ships from the "White Russian Government" that arrived in Venezuelan waters, the monies from these purchases would be disbursed amongst all of the immigrants at a rate to be worked out with the White Russian Government. Everyone that arrived in Venezuela would have a stake to start off their new life with. 98% of the people decided to accept this offer.

In one stroke the Venezuelans went from a 3rd-4th division country to equal with the Brazils and Chiles of South America. What set Venezuela apart was all the artisans from the ports were available to Venezuela to start up its own ship building industries. Engineering, Armourers, all the people needed to produce guns and turrets were there. But.... all the infrastructure would need to be built before major units could be built. Minor units and merchantmen were built to keep the artisans using their skills while drydocks and berths were built. Venezuela had its own oil, so a lot of the merchantmen built were oilers that could operate for the Government distributing oil to the USA and European nations. The revenue can be used to enlarge Venezuela by absorbing some of the closer nations.

1935 and the Venezuelan Navy finally feels it has enough skilled people and infrastructure to build its first capital ship. Among the bits and pieces brought from the Black sea are three turrets and guns of 14" size that were to be fitted to a battlecruiser. These armaments would be used as the basis for a new battleship.

Completed in May 1940, the ship was sent north to the USA for fitting of the gunnery directors and basic radar fittings of the time. The 40mm came from licensing the Bofors weapon system and copying the first British and American mountings. The 20mm were the basic Oerlikon cannons. The single 5" were a domestic product. The original plan was to use eight twin turrets of the same gun system but it was found that the single mounting fired much faster than the twin. Less interference between guns.

Venezuela joined WW2 when it was called on through treaty obligations to the United States. The Venezuelan Naval vessels were split over the various theatres. The Maracaibo spent most of its time with Force H interdicting the Central Atlantic area. If anything German broke through the outer cordons it was Force H that was tasked with cleanup duties. Its major duty was to keep the Italians and Spanish blockaded in the Mediterranean. If the Axis ships tried to base their capital ships in Spanish ports, Force H would attack the ports with aircraft from its four aircraft carriers to try to cripple the Axis ships in port. These tactics forced the Axis fleet units back inside the Mediterranean, out of harms way. Seapower at its finest.

Displacement 36,000 tons std 41,800 tons full load
Length 750 ft
Breadth 98 ft
Draught 30 ft
Machinery 4 shaft steam turbines, 125,000shp
Speed 30 knots
Range 7000 miles at 15 knots (2,250 nm at 27 knots)
Armour 12" side, 6" deck, 11/8/6" turrets
Armament 9 x 14" (3x3)

12 x 5.1" (12x1)

44 x 40mm (11x4)

14 x 20mm (14x1)

Aircraft 2
Torpedoes nil
Complement 1700
Notes BAV Maracaibo

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