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EML Lembit

Stern quarter view of EML Lembit, underway while in service.
Name: Lembit
Namesake: Lembitu
Operator: Estonian Navy
Ordered: 12 December 1934
Builder: Vickers and Armstrongs Ltd., United Kingdom
Laid down: 19 June 1935
Launched: 7 July 1936 13:07
Commissioned: 14 May 1937
In service: 1937 - 1940
Homeport: Tallinn
Motto: "Vääri oma nime" ("Be worthy of your name")
Captured: By the USSR in 1940
Soviet Union
Name: Lembit
Operator: Soviet Navy
In service: 1940 - 1979
Out of service: 1979
Homeport: Tallinn, Leningrad
Nickname(s): "Immortal submarine"
Captured: From Estonia in 1940
Fate: Museum ship since 1979 - Estonian Maritime Museum, but still guarded by the Soviet Navy
Name: Lembit
Operator: Estonian Maritime Museum
Acquired: From the Soviet Navy, on 27 Apr 1992
Recommissioned: (Honorary) "Estonian Navy vessel nr.1" as of 2 Aug 1994
Decommissioned: 19 May 2011
Homeport: Tallinn
Fate: Pulled out of water on 21 May 2011, restored and now in a museum building.
General characteristics
Class & type: Kalev class submarine
Tonnage: 570 (in its current condition)
  • 665 tons surfaced
  • 853 tons submerged
Beam: 7.5 m (25 ft) 7.5 m (24 ft 7 in)
Draught: 3.6 m (12 ft) 3.6 m (11 ft 10 in)
  • surfaced - 13.5 kn (15.5 mph; 25.0 km/h)
  • submerged - 8.5 kn (9.8 mph; 15.7 km/h)
Test depth: 120 m (390 ft)
  • 4 officers + 28 sailors (Estonian Navy)
  • 7 officers + 31 sailors (Soviet Navy)
Honours & awards:
  • Order of Red Banner (1945),
  • Estonian Navy vessel nr.1 (1994)

EML Lembit is one of two Kalev class mine-laying submarines built for the Republic of Estonia before World War II and now a museum ship in Tallinn. She was launched in 1936 at Vickers and Armstrongs Ltd., Barrow-in-Furness in England and served in the Estonian Navy and the Soviet Navy. Until she was hauled out 21 May 2011, Lembit was the oldest submarine still afloat in the world. Her sister ship, Kalev, was sunk in October 1941.


  • History 1
    • World War II 1.1
    • Patrols 1.2
      • 1941 1.2.1
      • 1942 1.2.2
      • 1944 1.2.3
      • 1945 1.2.4
    • After World War II 1.3
    • After regaining independence 1.4
  • Preservation and future 2
    • Fire 2.1
    • Design drawings 2.2
    • Pulling the EML Lembit out of water 2.3
    • External restoration in June 2011 2.4
    • In the Lennusadam 2.5
  • References 3
  • External links 4


The Lembit is the only surviving warship of the pre-war Submarine Fleet Foundation in May 1933, developed into one of the most successful undertakings among similar events demonstrating a nationwide determination to defend the country.
In the course of building and testing the two submarines, the Estonian crews received training in Great Britain in 1935-1937. From 1937 to 1940 the Lembit and her sister ship, the Kalev were the most imposing vessels in the Estonian Navy. Their inactivity in the annexation of Estonia by the USSR was a political decision.[1]

World War II

The Lembit joined the Estonian Navy in the spring of 1937 where she operated until the Soviet take-over in 1940. The submarine carried out one training torpedo attack in her 3 years of service in the Estonian Navy but was never used in the minelaying role.[2] On 24 February 1940, The Third Reich expressed an interest in obtaining the submarine. This request was turned down. The submarine was formally taken over by the Soviet Navy on 18 September 1940 by which time only five men of the submarine's Estonian crew remained on board. They were needed to assist the Soviet crew in learning unfamiliar machinery. After the German attack on the USSR in June 1941, Lembit was commissioned into the Soviet Baltic Fleet. The original name Lembit was initially retained. At least 3 of her original Estonian crew helped to operate the submarine during the war.[3] Lembit participated with the Soviet Baltic Fleet in military operations.[4] She carried out a total of seven patrols during the German-Soviet war.[5]



  • War patrol 10–21 August. She laid 20 mines near Cape Arcona. Some ships which were damaged in November 1941, due to British and German mines, they were described in Soviet literature as Lembit 'successes'.
  • War patrol 19–26 October.
  • 4–5 November. In battle conditions and through a broken icefield, transferred from Kronstadt to Leningrad.


  • War patrol 17 August - 22 September. On 13 September, Lembit was ordered to return to base. Her commander decided to stay in position for one more day to charge batteries. On 14 September, she attacked a convoy and badly damaged the transport ship Finnland (5,281 GRT), which sank on 15 September, at 59°36'8 N/21°14'5 E (the ship was subsequently raised and re-commissioned on 1 July 1943). During a counterattack which involved the dropping of some 50 depth charges, the submarine sustained serious damage, including a fire in the 2nd group of batteries; 6 men were wounded. After some repairs Lembit returned to base. This episode earned her the nickname "Immortal submarine".


  • Awarded the Order of The Red Banner, 6 March.
  • War patrol 2–18 October. Laid 20 mines. Destroyed the Dutch merchant ship Hilma Lou (2,414 GRT) on 13 October.
  • War patrol 24 November - 15 December.


  • War patrol 23 March - 14 April.
Ships sunk by Lembit[6]
Date Ship Flag Tonnage Notes
14 September 1942 Finnland 5281 GRT freighter (torpedo)(later recovered)
13 October 1944 Hilma Lau 2414 GRT freighter (torpedo)
15 October 1944 M-3619/Crabeels 150 GRT auxiliary minesweeper(mine)
23 October 1944 Pionier-5 ? GRT tug(mine - likely)
24 November 1944 Spreeufer 216 GRT fishing vessel(mine)
13 February 1945 M-421 542 GRT minesweeper(mine)
25 April 1945 Vs-343 ? GRT patrol ship(mine)
Total: 8,603 GRT

Also on Lembit's mines was damaged on 24 November 1944 the patrol ship V-305/Halbertstadt

After World War II

On 18 June 1946, Lembit was renamed U-1; on 9 June 1949 S-85; on 30 January 1956; STZh-24 on 27 December 1956 UTS-29. Some time between 1949 and 1956 she possibly carried the designation PZM-1 (PTsM-1?) for some time. The original name was probably restored when she was decommissioned and returned to Tallinn as a museum ship in 1979.

Lembit was presented with the Order of The Red Banner on 6 March 1945 for her victories earlier in the German-Soviet war. She was withdrawn from active duty on 17 January 1946 and become a training boat. On 12 January 1949 Lembit was included among medium submarines. She was stricken (disarmed) on 10 June 1955. She was transferred to the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard on 3 August 1957 and subsequently towed to Gorky (now Nizhni Novgorod). Here Lembit was preserved as an experimental boat and an example of British submarine design. Her hatch for the pressure-tight anti-aircraft gun storage shaft was of particular interest. It was copied into designs for the missile hatches of new Soviet submarines.

On 28 August 1979 exactly 38 years after she had left Tallinn, Lembit returned – under tow. After a lengthy overhaul, the submarine was opened to the public as a war memorial, (more precisely, as a branch of the Museum of the Soviet Baltic Fleet), on 5 May 1985. She, along with other artifacts, was used to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany. Lembit was one of three submarine war memorials in the USSR in 1987, along with S-56 in the Far East, and K-21 in the Far North. There had been plans for displaying all three vessels out of the water, but a floating crane which was to have been used, (which had been moved from Kronstadt), lost its boom during the tow.

After regaining independence

Lembit in Tallinn as part of a museum display

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the subsequent dissolution of its navy, the submarine was taken over by Estonian officials on 27 April 1992 – a few Defence League men hoisted an Estonian flag on the vessel, meeting no resistance.

Lembit is one of two surviving pre-war Estonian warships, the other is a small former-gunboat on Lake Peipsi, the Uku - existing as a wreck. Lembit received the honorary nomination of 'vessel No. 1' in the new Estonian Navy on 2 August 1994. After a long and expensive restoration, the submarine was opened to the public, as a department of the Estonian Maritime Museum, with a collection of other naval weapons. Lembit is one of the few surviving pre–World War II submarines (among others are the Finnish Vesikko, built in 1933, and Soviet K-21, built in 1937). She could be the oldest submarine in the world still afloat.

Preservation and future

Unlike most other submarine museums, no new means of entry has been cut into the hull of Lembit. Visitors enter and leave the ship through one of the normal points – the torpedo loading hatch. (It was also used in this way when the submarine was in port).


In late 2002 the Lembit caught fire. One person was killed in the blaze, but nothing of historic value was lost. The inside was filled with flammable wood and rubber. Nobody knew how or why it caught fire but through 2003 it was not viewable by the public.[7]

Design drawings

The original design drawings were discovered in the Cumbria archive in 2010. They were scanned and sent to Estonia.[8]

A total of over 200 drawings were sent to Estonia. The Lembit will now be restored as much as possible.

Pulling the EML Lembit out of water

Estonian Maritime Museum developed plans to place the vessel into the museum building (Lennusadam) in 2008.[9]

The Lembit was pulled out of water on 21 May 2011. It was pulled out, using another exhibit at the same museum - BTS-4 (an armoured recovery vehicle, based on the T-54 tank). The winching was done on a 100m ramp.[10]

External restoration in June 2011

The submarine was missing its external torpedo tube covers. They used one original, that was stored somewhere else and the drawings (obtained from England), to construct 3 replicas. Most of the external paint was also removed, for minor derusting and the removal of some small dents. It was anticipated that the total restoration, cost over 360000 Euros.[11]

In the Lennusadam

The submarine was "parked" next to the Lennusadam building, until the night of 6/7 July 2011, when they began to tow it into the Lennusadam. The towing was done the same way as when it was pulled out of water and it took until 10 July.[12] The Lennusadam opened to visitors in May 2012, with the Lembit now undercover for visitors to explore, both inside and out. [13]

As Displayed in the Estonian Maritime Museum - 2015


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ The news, on Eesti Televisioon, on 28 June 2011.
  12. ^
  13. ^ The news show "Reporter", on Kanal 2, on 6 May 2011.

External links

  • Estonian Navy
  • (in Estonian)
  • EML Lembit on Estonian stamp and first day cover (1996)
  • A link to one of the scanned drawings
  • Pictures and video of the operation
  • Pictures of Lembit, in the Lennusadam; link to an Estonian news site, with a gallery.

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