Soviet Naval Infantry Brigades

Soviet Naval Infantry

Soviet Naval Infantry Brigades
Morskoi Pekhoty Brigada

By Phil Yates

When Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the navy formed a number of Brigada morskoi pekhoty, naval infantry brigades, to protect its bases from the rapidly advancing German Panzers. Initially the naval infantry brigades fought in defence of Leningrad, Tallinin, Odessa and other Baltic and Black Sea ports.

Later they undertook amphibious operations in the Sea of Azov and across major rivers during the offensive into Germany.

Despite their occasional foray into amphibious warfare, Soviet naval infantry brigades were not marines in the western sense. Instead, they were ships crews gathered together for shore combat duty more like the naval landing parties of the Nineteenth Century. Like the landing parties, they initially wore naval uniforms and displayed considerable élan, even if not a lot of tactical skill at times. Their black pea coats and ferocity earned them the nickname ‘Black Death’. 

Above and right: Naval Infantry still in their Navy uniforms. 

While large numbers of naval infantry brigades sprung up in 1941, by the spring of 1942, only a handful remained. Over time, they adopted army uniforms and their skill level increased, becoming in effect additional rifle brigades.

As well as the Brigada morskoi pekhoty (naval infantry brigades), the navy also formed Brigada morskoi strelkovy (naval rifle brigades). The naval rifle brigades were army formations formed from naval personnel. They had the normal army organisation, uniforms, and equipment and operated under army command. The only unusual thing about them was the source of their personnel.

Soviet Naval Infantry
Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty Organisation

These brigades were organised as collections of separate battalions with different brigades having between three and seven battalions apiece with little or no brigade troops. In theory, each battalion had three rifle companies, a machine-gun company, a mortar company, an artillery battery, a scout platoon, and a very small flame-thrower platoon. In practice most were formed rather hastily and may have had quite different equipment.
Naval infantry in standard army uniforms

Brigade Histories

3. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
3. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed from the S M Kirov Naval Academy in Leningrad in July 1941 with four battalions. They were rushed to the front and defended the area between Lakes Ladoga and Onega. They remained there until June 1944 when they took part in the attack on Finland. I January 1945 the brigade became a mountain rifle brigade more suited to its new role.

Left: Naval infantry in standard army uniforms, but still retaining their navy caps and striped under shirts. 

4. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
4. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was also formed from the S M Kirov Naval Academy. They went to the front in September with three battalions (304, 306, 314 Naval Infantry Battalions) to defend along the Neva River. Later they were assigned the task of guarding the ice bridge across Lake Ladoga that was Leningrad’s lifeline during the siege. Interestingly, because they were not on land, they remained under naval control and never appeared in the army’s order of battle.

At the end of 1942 the brigade was renumbered as 260. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty. The brigade had the unusual distinction of launching the last amphibious assault of the war on the Eastern Front when they landed in East Prussia in late April 1945! 

6. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
6. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed with three battalions from sailors of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet stationed at Kronstadt. Unusually, as many as 50% of the brigade may have been Komsomol (Young Communist) members. The brigade defended Leningrad moving from sector to sector as required. It was disbanded in May 1943.

One of the interesting features of the Leningrad naval infantry brigades is the preponderance of KV heavy tank support they received as the main pre-war KV factory was in Leningrad.

Right: These naval infantry are wearing standard Red Army uniforms. 

These naval infantry are wearing standard Red Army uniforms

7. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
7. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed in Sevastopol in Crimea on the Black Sea in August 1941. Its four battalions fought to defend the naval base in Sevastopol until the city fell in July 1942.

8. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
8. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed in Novorossiisk on the Caucasus coast of the Black Sea in August 1941. In October four battalions were ferried to Sevastopol on the cruiser Krasnyi Kavkaz (Red Caucasus). It was five battalions strong when destroyed in heavy fighting in December, but rebuilt the next month while still in Sevastopol. It was finally destroyed when the city fell in July 1942.

Soviet Navy Cap

9. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
9. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed in Taganrog on the Sea of Azov near Rostov in December 1941. At the time it was six battalions strong. In late May it was ferried to Sevastopol, and destroyed less than two months later when the city fell.

12. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
12. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed in Archanglesk north of the Arctic Circle. It spent the war protecting the port of Murmansk (where much of the Lend-lease aid arrived) and raiding German and Finnish positions around the Barents Sea.

83. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
83. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed in Novorossiisk on the Kuban peninsula in August 1942 after the German capture of Rostov. Initially it had three battalions (16, 144, and 305 Naval Infantry Battalions). They fought in defence of their base, before being pushed south with the rest of the army. In February 1943 they launched an amphibious operation to recapture Novorossiisk supported by M3L Stuart light tanks. They secured a bridgehead (Malaya Zemlya—the Little Land), but were unable to breakout until the Kuban bridgehead was reduced with the help of another amphibious operation seven months later. They had atleast four battalions at this time and may have had more as they incorporated several independent naval infantry battalions.

In November the Brigade took part in the landings on the Kerch peninsular in the Crimea, then in 1944, they operated up the Danube into Romania and Hungary, then made one of the amphibious operation farthest from the sea when they crossed the Danube into Budapest in March 1945. They ended the war riding the tanks of the 5th Guards Tank Corps advancing on Prague!

Their final title was 83rd Novorossiisko-Dunaiskaya (Novorossiisk-Danube) twice Order of the Red Banner, Order of Suvorov Brigade of Naval Infantry!

92. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
92. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was formed from the Volga Flotilla in September 1942. Its two battalions were rushed to the defence of Stalingrad holding the Grain Elevator south of the Mamayev Kurgan in the face of heavy attacks. The Brigade appears to have been disbanded once the city was recaptured.

254. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
254. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was unique in being formed from an army unit, the 135th Rifle Regiment! They spent the war protecting Murmansk.

260. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty
4. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty was renamed 260. Brigada Morskoi Pekhoty in late 1942.

Soviet Naval Infantry
Enemy at the Gates

Naval Infantry In Flames Of War

Aside from having a great background and relatively light supporting weapons, there is very little difference between naval infantry brigades and normal army rifle brigades in Flames Of War. You might want to paint some still wearing items of naval uniform such as black shirts and trousers, but that’s about all you’d need to do.

For mid war just use the Rifle Battalion or Hero Rifle Battalion Intelligence Briefings on pages 33 and 41 of Enemy at the Gates combined with the Naval Battalion or Hero Naval Battalion command cards.

In late war you can field them the same way using the Hero Shock Rilfe Battalion or Rifle Battalion on pages 33 and 36 of Bagration: Soviet combined with the Hero Naval Infantry Battalion or Naval Infantry Battalion command cards.

Product Spotlight of the Naval Infantry Miniatures...


Last Updated On Tuesday, January 11, 2022 by Wayne at Battlefront