Estonian Naval Officers Training 1919-1940
Though many Estonians received naval officers training in Russian Empire, was the state of training of officers of Estonian Navy during Estonian War of Independence barely satisfactory. Only few officers had proper regular officers’ training. Most of them were civilian mariners with only short wartime officers training. Major blow for Estonian Navy was leaving of officers of German and Russian nationality to Russian white guard in 1919. That’s why naval officers training were started already during the War of Independence. First try under the name of Fleet Specialists School in the winter of 1919 failed. Naval officers training was started in naval class of the Military School of the Republic of Estonia end of 1919.
After the end of the War of Independence whole Military Academy went over to peace time program. In September of 1920 Navy Cadet School as independent institution under commander of Estonian Navy was established. In this school both line and technical officers were trained. In 1921 graduated first line officers course, in 1923 the only naval engineers’ course. Second naval line officers’ course started in Navy Cadet School in 1921 but graduated in 1924 already navy cadets’ class of Officers School of the Joint Military Educational Facilities. During 1925-1928 third course of naval line officers studied in Joint Military Educational Facilities.
From 1929 to 1937 naval officers’ training in Joint Military Educational Facilities were stopped. Navy tried to compensate the shortage of officers with different ad hoc solutions. Two officers were trained in Navy, other two in Finnish Naval Academy. Some mechanics with higher education passed officers exams as externs. Such solutions could only temporarily solve officers’ shortage in the Navy. In 1938 new naval officers’ course Joint Military Educational Facilities started. Last naval officers in Estonia before World War Two graduated in 1940.
During this time naval officers’ training went through long evolution. It started with short war time courses with no proper curriculum, but before first course graduated peace time program was started. During following year’s stable evolution and adaption with peace time conditions in small state occurred. Establishing of Navy Cadets School and its merging into Joint Military Educational Facilities are part of this process. Stable evolution was interrupted in end of 1928 when systematic naval officers training stopped for almost ten years. In the same time major reforms in officers’ training were carried out. The new and last naval officers’ course in 1938 started on new base. New training system managed not to establish itself totally. Already in 1940 changes in line officers’ training were planned. Restart of naval engineers’ training was not achieved.
Though naval officers’ training system was never completed, Estonians own officers corps emerged during this period. Change of generation occurred in Estonian Navy during 1939-1940. Young officers educated in Estonian Republic took over from older officers educated in Russian Empire. Sons of Pitka – graduates of first officers’ course, all participated in War of Independence and most of them chosen by legendary admiral Johan Pitka – build top of naval officers’ corps.
During my research I found some similarities between observed period and today. Small organisations always suffer under same constrains. First the bigger organisations do not understand special needs of smaller ones and force their rules. Second is that narrow brunch specialists are always available in overflow or in shortage. And one situation can change to other in very short time. Naval officers corps was in 1918 as variegated as in 1994. There are also some important differences. In young Estonian Republic naval officers’ training was started already during the War of Independence, but in re-established Estonian Republic it took 19 years. Why, is question for one other research.