Estonia Submarine EML Lembit

Estonia Submarine EML Lembit Career (Estonia)

    Name: EML Lembit
    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

Career (USSR)

    Name: Lembit
    Operator: Soviet Navy
    In service: 1940 - 1979
    Out of service: 1979
    Homeport: Tallinn, Leningrad
    Nickname: 'Immortal submarine'
    Captured: From Estonia in 1940
    Fate: Museum ship since 1979 - Estonian Maritime Museum, but still guarded by the Soviet Navy

Career (Estonia)

    Name: EML 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)
    Displacement: 665 tons surfaced 853 tons submerged
    Length: 59.5 m
    Beam: 7.5 m
    Draught: 3.6 m
    Propulsion: Twin diesel/electric
    2 diesel engines: Vickers and Armstrongs Ltd. – 1200 hp
    2 Electric engines: Metropolitan-Vickers – 790 hp
    Speed: Surface - 13.5 knots submerged 8.5 knots surfaced Range: 3700 nmi
    Endurance: 28 days
    Test depth: 90 m operational, 120 m tested
    Complement: 4 officers + 28 sailors (Estonian Navy), 7 officers + 31 sailor (Soviet Navy)
    Armament: 4 × bow torpedo tubes (8 21' torpedoes) 1 × 40 mm AA gun 'Bofors' 1 × 7.7 mm 'Lewis' gun 24 mines
    Armor: Thickness of hull steel 12 mm
    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 and served in Estonian and Soviet Navy. She was launched in 1936 at Vickers and Armstrongs Ltd. in Great Britain, and now she is a museum ship in Tallinn. Her twin sister, the Kalev was sunk in October 1941.


The Lembit is the only surviving warship of the pre-war Estonian Navy and in the Baltic countries. Estonia is a maritime nation and as with every country with a long coastline to defend, it has to safeguard its territorial waters. With regard to the experiences of World War I, submarines found their proper application in the pre–World War II Estonian Navy. The collection organised by the Submarine Fleet Foundation in May 1933, developed into one of the most successful undertakings among similar events demonstrating a nation-wide 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 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.

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 known as 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

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. 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. One person was killed in the blaze, but nothing of historic value was lost.[6]

Design drawings

The original design drawings were discovered in the Cumbria archive in 2010. They were scanned and sent to Estonia.[7]

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.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

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 the 10'th of July.[11]

The Lennusadam is getting finishing touches and will be open to visitors from the 19'th of May, 2012.[12]

Photographs of Submarine EML Lembit

Lennusadam Seaplane Harbour 17 Kuti Street Tallinn Estonia Submarine Lembit

Photo's: Wikipedia Estonian submarine Lembit in Tallinn Seaplane Harbor 8th January 2008


  1. Estonian Maritime Museum
  2. Под советским флагом (Russian)
  3. Судьбы лембитовцев (Russian)
  4. Lembit
  5. (Russian)
  6. 'Allveelaeva Lembit tulekahjus hukkus inimene [Person killed in 'Lembit' fire]' (in Estonian). Ärileht (Tallinn: Ekspress Grupp). 8 December 2002.
  7. 'Inglismaalt leiti allveelaeva 'Kalev' kadunud joonised [The lost drawings of the submarine 'Kalev' were found in England]' (in Estonian).
  9. 'Allveelaev Lembit jõudis lõpuks kaldale [The submarine Lembit finally made it to the shore]' (in Estonian).
  10. The news, on Eesti Televisioon, on 28 June 2011.
  11. 'Allveelaeva Lembit angaaridesse toimetamine on graafikus [Transporting the Lembit into the hangars is on schedule]' (in Estonian).
  12. The news show 'Reporter', on Kanal 2, on 6 May 2011.

Web References:


asisbiz website qrcode x100

If you love photography as much as we do please help!
A small donation can go a long way allowing us to make this site even better !!
If you have any additional historical information about any of the photo's featured on our website please email me so we can add more information.
This webpage was updated July 13, 2014

 Editor for Asisbiz: Matthew Laird Acred
Please help us to improve these articles with any additional information or photo's, if you should encounter any broken links or display errors :-(