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Battle of the Baltic exits ( 21st March 1987),

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By March 1987, it was clear that their campaign against the United Kingdom was not going too well. Despite round the clock bombing raids, they had failed to destroy the RAF or put a serious dent in British industrial production; and to cap it all, the RAF Lancer bomber fleet were regularly hitting Soviet targets. The naval blockade was also not going too well - the combined ASW forces of the Royal Navy, US Navy and RCN were keeping the sea lanes to the UK open.

The fighting in North America was taking up the majority of the Soviet's resources and it looked like a previously neutral Western Europe might enter the war on the side of the Allies, so they decided that they had to do something to force Britain to the negotiating table and fast, before it became too late.

Who exactly came up with the Soviet plan is unknown; evidently they were not allowed to plan anything ever again. Put simply the plan was that the Soviet Baltic Fleet would be sent out into the North Sea, clear a way through the Royal Navy, and cover an amphibious landing by the Baltic Fleet Naval Infantry Regiment. Two Motor Rifle Regiments would follow this invasion. The thinking behind the plan was that as soon as Soviet regular troops were ashore in Britain that there would be a spontaneous uprising by the 'oppressed British people' and that they would be able to march on London at the head of a British mob (as the French had believed in the 18th Century).

Good intelligence meant that the Royal Navy knew well in advance that the Soviets were coming and assembled a fleet that included six aircraft carriers (Bulwark, the three Invincible class, Furious and Glorious) and as many escorts as they could spare from the GIUK Gap and convoy escort duty. The RN also concentrated as many SSN and SSK that could be deployed in time.

Although officially neutral the West German and Danish navies helped out by tracking the Soviet Baltic Fleet as it advanced and routinely broadcast their position. Unsurprisingly the Soviets took a dim view of this and the resulting skirmishes were one of the catalysts for Western European entry into the War. The Danes and Norwegians also activated their defensive minefields, which forced the Soviets to sail in more restrictive waters than they would have liked. As the Soviets sailed through the Baltic Narrows the Scandinavian navies came out to play 'tag' when they allegedly infringed Norwegian and Danish territorial waters. During this confusion the Soviet carrier Yuri Andropov was torpedoed and sunk by a submarine now believed to be a Norwegian SSK.

The involvement of the Danish and Norwegian navies reflected that both nations had chosen neutrality as a matter of national survival rather than conviction. They both knew better than many other European nations just what the effects of not standing up to an aggressor were. However without the support of their former NATO allies, and with the unwillingness of the WEU to get involved in the war they would not be able to stand-up to the Soviets on their own. However both nations did send volunteer contingents to North America and once again Norwegian troops trained in Scotland and Canada.

Once in the Baltic Narrows the battle began in earnest as the Soviets effectively entered a shooting gallery. They were hit by multiple air attacks from RAF Buccaneers, RN Sea Harriers, RAF Harrier GR.3s and multiple submarine attacks, their Yak-38 'Forgers' proved to be ineffective in defence and were slaughtered by the Sea Harriers armed as escorts, and RAF Phantoms and Tornado F.3s. However the British did not have it all their own way as the RN battle group came under attack by a regiment of Tu-22M 'Backfires' and several regiments of Su-24 'Fencers' flying from East Germany.

During this exchange the Soviets lost two Kiev class carriers, a Kirov class cruiser and about twenty other ships, plus many more damaged to various degrees of severity. The Royal Navy lost two carriers (Invincible and Glorious) and two damaged (Bulwark and Furious), and ten escorts sunk, or crippled.

The surviving Soviet warships were forced to retreat, harried all the way into the Baltic by RN submarines. During the pursuit the Type 12 frigate HMS Yarmouth (the Crazy Y) distinguished herself by boarding and capturing a crippled Soviet Krivak class frigate, towing it into Rosyth two days later as part of the group escorting the badly damaged HMS Bulwark.

The Soviet amphibious group and other troop transports had only just begun to enter the Baltic Narrows when news arrived of the catastrophe in the Exits. Wisely they chose to reverse course before they came into range of the RN and RAF, to the regret of many on the British side.

Over the next two days crippled ships from both sides trickled into whatever ports they could. However the battle was effectively over and both sides began to count the costs. What was immediately clear was that the British had won a famous victory and this was broadcast to the world.

Although defeated in this attempt to force the United Kingdom out of the war the Soviets would make one final attempt to defeat Britain. This time they would use an airborne invasion, but that, dear reader, is another story.

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