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Canadian sailors with a mine aboard the minelayer HMCS Sankaty off Halifax, Nova Scotia in World War II HMCS Sankaty.jpg
Canadian sailors with a mine aboard the minelayer HMCS Sankaty off Halifax, Nova Scotia in World War II

Minelaying is the act of deploying explosive mines. Historically this has been carried out by ships, submarines and aircraft. Additionally, since World War I the term minelayer refers specifically to a naval ship used for deploying naval mines. [1] "Mine planting" was the term for installing controlled mines at predetermined positions in connection with coastal fortifications or harbor approaches that would be detonated by shore control when a ship was fixed as being within the mine's effective range. [2] [3]

Naval ship water-borne vessel that is operated by a legal or insurrectionary armed service

A naval ship is a military ship used by a navy. Naval ships are differentiated from civilian ships by construction and purpose. Generally, naval ships are damage resilient and armed with weapon systems, though armament on troop transports is light or non-existent.

Naval mine explosive weapon for use in seas and waterways, triggered by the targets approach

A naval mine is a self-contained explosive device placed in water to damage or destroy surface ships or submarines. Unlike depth charges, mines are deposited and left to wait until they are triggered by the approach of, or contact with, any vessel. Naval mines can be used offensively, to hamper enemy shipping movements or lock vessels into a harbour; or defensively, to protect friendly vessels and create "safe" zones.

A Controlled Mine was a circuit fired weapon used in coastal defenses with ancestry going back to 1805 when Robert Fulton termed his underwater explosive device a torpedo:

Robert Fulton invented the word torpedo to describe his underwater explosive device and successfully destroyed a ship in 1805. In the 1840s Samuel Colt began experimenting with underwater mines fired by electric current and in 1842, he blew up an old schooner in the Potomac River from a shore station five miles away.


Before World War I, mine ships were termed mine planters generally. For example, in an address to the United States Navy ships of Mine Squadron One at Portland, England Admiral Sims used the term “mine layer” while the introduction speaks of the men assembled from the “mine planters”. [4] During and after that war the term "mine planter" became particularly associated with defensive coastal fortifications. The term "minelayer" was applied to vessels deploying both defensive- and offensive mine barrages and large scale sea mining. "Minelayer" lasted well past the last common use of "mine planter" in the late 1940s.

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. with the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 319,421 personnel on active duty and 99,616 in the Ready Reserve, the Navy is the third largest of the service branches. It has 282 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of March 2018, making it the second-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force.

An army's special-purpose combat engineering vehicles used to lay landmines are sometimes called "minelayers".

Combat engineer military occupation

A combat engineer is a soldier who performs a variety of construction and demolition tasks under combat conditions.

Amiral Murgescu of the Romanian Navy, a successful World War II minelayer that was also employed as a destroyer escort Amiral Murgescu (side).jpg
Amiral Murgescu of the Romanian Navy, a successful World War II minelayer that was also employed as a destroyer escort
Swedish minelayer Alvsborg (1974) HMS Alvsborg (M02).jpg
Swedish minelayer Älvsborg (1974)
Finnish Navy Hameenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa FNS Uusimaa Helsinki 1.jpg
Finnish Navy Hämeenmaa-class minelayer FNS Uusimaa

The most common use of the term "minelayer" is a naval ship used for deploying sea mines. In the Gallipoli Campaign of World War I, mines laid by the Ottoman Empire's Navy's Nusret sank HMS Irresistible, HMS Ocean, and the French battleship Bouvet [5] in the Dardanelles on 18 March 1915. [6] Russian minelayers were also efficient; sinking the Japanese battleships Hatsuse and Yashima in 1904 in the Russo-Japanese War. [7]

Gallipoli Campaign military campaign during World War I

The Gallipoli Campaign, also known as the Dardanelles Campaign, the Battle of Gallipoli or the Battle of Çanakkale, was a campaign of the First World War that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Entente powers, Britain and France, sought to weaken the Ottoman Empire by taking control of the straits that provided a supply route to Russia, the third member of the Entente. The invaders launched a naval attack followed by an amphibious landing on the peninsula, to capture the Ottoman capital of Istanbul. The naval attack was repelled and after eight months' fighting, with many casualties on both sides, the land campaign was abandoned and the invasion force was withdrawn. It was a costly and humiliating defeat for the Allies and for the sponsors, especially Winston Churchill.

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

HMS <i>Irresistible</i> (1898) ship

HMS Irresistible—the fourth British Royal Navy ship of the name—was a Formidable-class pre-dreadnought battleship. The Formidable-class ships were developments of earlier British battleships, featuring the same battery of four 12-inch (305 mm) guns—albeit more powerful 40-calibre versions—and top speed of 19 knots of the preceding Canopus class, while adopting heavier armour protection. The ship was laid down in April 1898, was launched in December that year, and was completed in October 1901. Commissioned in 1902, she initially served with the Mediterranean Fleet until April 1908, when she was transferred to the Channel Fleet. Now outclassed with the emergence of the dreadnought class of ships, she entered service with the Home Fleet in 1911 following a refit. In 1912, she was assigned to the 5th Battle Squadron.

In World War II, the British employed the Abdiel minelayers both as minelayers and as transports to isolated garrisons, such as Malta and Tobruk. Their combination of high speed (up to 40 knots) and carrying capacity was highly valued. The French used the same concept for the cruiser Pluton.

<i>Abdiel</i>-class minelayer

The Abdiel class were a class of six fast minelayers commissioned into the Royal Navy and active during the Second World War. They were also known as the Manxman class and as "mine-laying cruisers".

Malta island republic in Europe

Malta, officially known as the Republic of Malta, is a Southern European island country consisting of an archipelago in the Mediterranean Sea. It lies 80 km (50 mi) south of Italy, 284 km (176 mi) east of Tunisia, and 333 km (207 mi) north of Libya. With a population of about 475,000 over an area of 316 km2 (122 sq mi), Malta is the world's tenth smallest and fifth most densely populated country. Its capital is Valletta, which is the smallest national capital in the European Union by area at 0.8 km². The official languages are Maltese and English, with Maltese officially recognised as the national language and the only Semitic language in the European Union.

Tobruk Place in Cyrenaica, Libya

Tobruk or Tobruck is a port city on Libya's eastern Mediterranean coast, near the border of Egypt. It is the capital of the Butnan District and has a population of 120,000.

A naval minelayer can vary considerably in size, from coastal boats of several hundred tonnes in displacement to destroyer-like ships of several thousand tonnes displacement. Apart from their loads of sea mines, most would also carry other weapons for self-defense, with some armed well enough to carry out other combat operations besides minelaying, such as the World War II Romanian minelayer Amiral Murgescu , which was successfully employed as a convoy escort due to her armament (2 x 105 mm, 2 x 37 mm, 4 x 20 mm, 2 machine guns, 2 depth charge throwers).

Destroyer Type of warship

In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast, maneuverable long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller powerful short-range attackers. They were originally developed in the late 19th century by Fernando Villaamil for the Spanish Navy as a defense against torpedo boats, and by the time of the Russo-Japanese War in 1904, these "torpedo boat destroyers" (TBDs) were "large, swift, and powerfully armed torpedo boats designed to destroy other torpedo boats". Although the term "destroyer" had been used interchangeably with "TBD" and "torpedo boat destroyer" by navies since 1892, the term "torpedo boat destroyer" had been generally shortened to simply "destroyer" by nearly all navies by the First World War.

NMS <i>Amiral Murgescu</i> A minelayer of the Romanian Navy

NMS Amiral Murgescu was a minelayer and convoy escort of the Romanian Navy, the first sea-going warship built in Romania and the largest Romanian-built warship of World War II. She laid numerous minefields, from the Bulgarian port of Burgas to the Crimean port of Sevastopol, which inflicted significant losses to the Soviet Black Sea Fleet. She also carried out numerous convoy escort missions and took part in the Axis evacuation of the Crimea in May 1944. Due to her success in combat, she was decorated twice by May 1944. She was captured by the Soviet Union in September 1944 and served until 1988, when she was scrapped.

Submarines can also be minelayers. The first submarine to be designed as such was the Russian submarine Krab. USS Argonaut (SM-1) was another such minelaying submarine. Although there are no modern submarine minelayers, mines sized to be deployed from a submarine's torpedo tubes, such as the Stonefish, allow any submarine to be a minelayer.

In modern times, few navies worldwide still possess minelaying vessels. The United States Navy, for example, uses aircraft to lay sea mines instead. Mines themselves have evolved from purely passive to active; for example the US CAPTOR (enCAPsulated TORpedo) that sits as a mine until detecting a target, then launches a torpedo.

A few navies still have dedicated minelayers in commission, including those of South Korea, Poland, Sweden and Finland; countries with long, shallow coastlines where sea mines are most effective. Other navies have plans to create improvised minelayers in times of war, for example by rolling sea-mines into the sea from the vehicle deck through the open aft doors of a Roll-on/roll-off ferry. In 1984, the Libyan Navy was suspected of having mined the Red Sea a few nautical miles south of the Suez Canal using the Ro-Ro ferry Ghat, other nations suspected of having similar wartime plans include Iran and North Korea.

Aerial minelaying

Beginning in World War II, military aircraft were used to deliver naval mines by dropping them, attached to a parachute. Germany, Britain and the United States made significant use of aerial minelaying.

A new type of magnetic mine dropped by a German aircraft in a campaign of mining the Thames Estuary in 1939 landed in a mudflat, where disposal experts determined how it worked, which allowed Britain to fashion appropriate mine countermeasures.

The British Royal Air Force minelaying operations were codenamed "Gardening". As well as mining the North Sea and approaches to German ports, mines were laid in the Danube River near Belgrade, Yugoslavia, starting on 8 April 1944, to block the shipments of petroleum products from the refineries at Ploieşti, Romania. [8]

In the Pacific, the US dropped thousands of mines in Japanese home waters, contributing to that country's defeat.

Aerial mining was also used in the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In Vietnam, rivers and coastal waters were extensively mined with a modified bomb called a destructor that proved very successful.

Landmine laying

Skorpion Minelayer Minenwerfer Skorpion 04.JPG
Skorpion Minelayer
JGSDF Type 94 Minelayer JGSDF Type94 Beach Minelayer Vehicle 01.jpg
JGSDF Type 94 Minelayer

Some examples of minelaying vehicles:

See also


  1. "minelayer". Definitions from Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com . Retrieved 6 October 2007.
  2. Chappel, Gordon. "Submarine Mine Defense of San Francisco Bay". Historic California Posts — Forts Under the Sea. California State Military Museum . Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  3. "Principle Armament – Mine Field". FortMiles.org. Retrieved 23 May 2013.
  4. All Hands, ed. (1919). "Speech of Admiral W. S. Sims, U. S. Navy". The Northern Barrage, Mine Force, United States Atlantic Fleet, The North Sea, 1918. Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press. p. 108.
  5. Smith, Gordon. "Naval War in Outline". World War 1 at Sea: French Navy.
  6. "Irresistible, Ocean and Bouvet Go Down, Hitting Mines in Strait". The New York Times . 20 March 1915.
  7. Fitzsimons, B (ed.). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of 20th Century Weapons and Warfare. p. 104.
  8. Adkins, Paul (1997). Codeword Dictionary. Osceola, WI: Motorbooks International. p. 79.

Related Research Articles

The United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, and United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use a hull classification symbol to identify their ships by type and by individual ship within a type. The system is analogous to the pennant number system that the Royal Navy and other European and Commonwealth navies use.

Warship ship that is built and primarily intended for combat

A warship or combatant ship is a naval ship that is built and primarily intended for naval warfare. Usually they belong to the armed forces of a state. As well as being armed, warships are designed to withstand damage and are usually faster and more manoeuvrable than merchant ships. Unlike a merchant ship, which carries cargo, a warship typically carries only weapons, ammunition and supplies for its crew. Warships usually belong to a navy, though they have also been operated by individuals, cooperatives and corporations.

Finnish Navy maritime warfare branch of Finlands military

The Finnish Navy is one of the branches of the Finnish Defence Forces. The navy employs 2,300 people and about 4,300 conscripts are trained each year. Finnish Navy vessels are given the ship prefix "FNS", short for "Finnish Navy ship", but this is not used in Finnish language contexts. The Finnish Navy also includes coastal forces and coastal artillery.

Romanian Naval Forces navy branch of the Romanian Armed Forces

The Romanian Navy is the navy branch of the Romanian Armed Forces; it operates in the Black Sea and on the Danube. It traces its history back to 1860.

Baltic Sea campaigns (1939–45) part of the Eastern Front during WWII

The Baltic Sea Campaigns were conducted by Axis and Allied naval forces in the Baltic Sea, its coastal regions, and the Gulf of Finland during World War II. After early fighting between Polish and German forces, the main combatants were Germany and Finland, opposed by the Soviet Union. Sweden's navy and merchant fleet played important roles, and the British Royal Navy planned Operation Catherine for the control of the Baltic Sea and its exit choke point into the North Sea.

Anti-submarine warfare Branch of naval warfare

Anti-submarine warfare is a branch of underwater warfare that uses surface warships, aircraft, or other submarines to find, track, and deter, damage, or destroy enemy submarines.

North Sea Mine Barrage

The North Sea Mine Barrage, also known as the Northern Barrage, was a large minefield laid easterly from the Orkney Islands to Norway by the United States Navy during World War I. The objective was to inhibit the movement of U-boats from bases in Germany to the Atlantic shipping lanes bringing supplies to the British Isles. Rear Admiral Lewis Clinton-Baker, commanding the Royal Navy minelaying force at the time, described the barrage as the "biggest mine planting stunt in the world's history;" but larger fields containing more mines were laid during World War II.

USS <i>Aroostook</i> (CM-3)

USS Aroostook (ID-1256/CM-3/AK-44) was the Eastern Steamship Company's Bunker Hill converted for planting the World War I North Sea Mine Barrage. Bunker Hill was built in 1907 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for passenger service between Boston and New York City. Bunker Hill and her sister ship Massachusetts were among the eight ships acquired by the U.S. Navy in November 1917. The two coastal passenger steamers were converted to minelayers at the Boston Navy Yard.

USS <i>Wassuc</i> (CMc-3)

USS Wassuc (CMc-3), originally a steel-hulled, coastal passenger vessel built in 1924 at Elizabethport, New Jersey, by the New Jersey Drydock and Transportation Corp. of New York City as SS Yale, was acquired by the U.S. Navy on 20 December 1940. SS Yale then began conversion to a coastal minelayer at the New York Navy Yard. Classified CMc-3 on 30 December 1940 and renamed USS Wassuc on 10 January 1941, the ship was commissioned at the New York Navy Yard on 15 May 1941.

The Black Sea Campaigns were the operations of the Axis and Soviet naval forces in the Black Sea and its coastal regions during World War II between 1941 and 1944, including in support of the land forces.

Royal Yugoslav Navy navy

The Royal Yugoslav Navy was the navy of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, and existed between 1921 and 1945. It was brought into existence as the navy of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and initially consisted of a few former Austro-Hungarian Navy vessels surrendered at the conclusion of World War I and transferred to the new nation state in 1921 under the terms of the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye. The only modern sea-going warships transferred to the new state were twelve steam-powered torpedo boats, although it did receive four capable river monitors for use on the Danube and other large rivers. Significant new acquisitions began in 1926 with a former German light cruiser, followed by the commissioning of two motor torpedo boats (MTBs) and a small submarine flotilla over the next few years. When the name of the state was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, the name of its navy was changed to reflect this. In the late 1920s, several of the original vessels were discarded.

HMS <i>Welshman</i> (M84) minelayer

HMS Welshman was an Abdiel-class minelayer of the Royal Navy. During World War II she served with the Home Fleet carrying out minelaying operations, before being transferred to the Mediterranean Fleet in mid-1942 for the Malta Convoys. She also saw service during Operation Torch. The ship was torpedoed and sunk off Tobruk by the German submarine U-617 with the loss of 157 lives.

Mine planter (vessel)

Mine planter and the earlier "torpedo planter" was a term used for mine warfare ships into the early days of World War I. In later terminology, particularly in the United States, a mine planter was a ship specifically designed to install controlled mines or contact mines in coastal fortifications. This type of ship diverged in both function and design from a ship operating as a naval minelayer. Though the vessel may be seagoing it is not designed to lay large numbers of mines in open sea. A mine planter was designed to place controlled minefields in exact locations so that they might be fired individually or as a group from shore when observers noted a target to be at or near a designated mine's position. The terms and types of specialized ship existed from the 1860s where "torpedoes" were made famous in the American Civil War until the demise of large, fixed coastal fortifications brought on by the changes of World War II.

HMS <i>Tarpon</i> (1917) Royal Navy R-class destroyer

HMS Tarpon was a Royal Navy R-class destroyer constructed and operational in the First World War. She is named after the large fish Tarpon; one species of which is native to the Atlantic, and the other to the Indo-Pacific Oceans. Tarpon was built by the shipbuilders John Brown & Company at their Clydebank shipyard and was launched in March 1917 and entered service in April that year.

The Romanian Navy during World War II was the main Axis naval force in the Black Sea and fought against the Soviet Union's Black Sea Fleet from 1941 to 1944. Operations consisted mainly in mine warfare, but also escort missions and localized naval engagements. The largest naval action fought by the Romanian Navy was the 26 June 1941 Raid on Constanța, and its most extensive operation was the 1944 evacuation of the Crimea.

Romanian Black Sea Fleet during World War I

During World War I, the Black Sea Fleet of the Romanian Navy fought against the Central Powers forces of the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire and Austria-Hungary. The Romanian warships succeeded in defending the coast of the Danube Delta, corresponding to an area around the port of Sulina, while also aiding in the Delta's defense from inland Central Powers forces.

NMS <i>Regele Carol I</i> Ship of the Romanian Maritime Service and the Romanian Navy

NMS Regele Carol I was a passenger ship of the Romanian Maritime Service and later a warship of the Romanian Navy, serving as both minelayer and seaplane tender. She was completed and commissioned in 1898 and sunk in 1941, during World War II.