This year, 2015, marks the 90th anniversary of the “birth” of pre-war Lithuania’s only warship. It was on August 1, 1925 that a decree of the Chief of the Armed Forces, Gen. Stasys Raštikis, formally established Lithuania’s Navy, its only warship at the time being the newly named “Prezidentas Smetona”. Originally, the ship was a 600-ton coal-powered trawler minesweeper M-59 built in Germany in 1917. It was purchased in 1927 at the cost of 289,000 Litai. For armaments it was fitted out with two 105-mm guns, mine-laying equipment, etc.
Its intended service was not lengthy. On the incorporation of Lithuania into the Soviet Union in 1940 it was first renamed “Pirmūnas” and then fully taken over and once more renamed “Koral” by the Soviet Navy. During the Second World War the ship operated in the Baltic Sea and was sunk, on January 11, 1945 by German submarine U-745 on its way from Helsinki to Tallinn.
The warship’s memory was resurrected, unexpectedly, in 2009 when a joint team of sea researchers from both Klaipėda and Tallinn discovered the remains of what appeared to be the pre-war “Prezidentas Smetona”. The derelict structure lays on the seabed some 20 sea miles (ca. 37 km) north of Tallinn, at the depth of 83 metres.
Pre-war photographs of the warship and its crew.
The warship’s home port was Klaipėda. As the Lithuanian Navy’s size was very modest, in contrast to some powerful Navies no specific postal classification was assigned to it. Any incoming or outgoing mail from e.g. the crew was handled by the Klaipėda Post Office, though it may be assumed that on board ship someone was placed in charge of mail’s collection and distribution.
Mail addressed to a member of the warship’s crew in 1927, 1928, 1929.