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Naval Operations in the Dardanelles Campaign
Part of Gallipoli Campaign in WWI
French battleship Bouvet sinking
The last moments of the French battleship Bouvet, 18 March 1915
Date 19 February 1915 – 9 January 1916
Location Dardanelles, Turkey
Result Decisive Central Powers victory
Belligerents
United Kingdom British Empire
France France
 Australia
 Russia
 Ottoman Empire
 Germany
Commanders
United Kingdom Sackville Carden
United Kingdom John de Robeck
France Émile Guépratte
Ottoman Empire Fuad Paşa
Ottoman Empire Cevat Bey
German Empire Otto Liman von Sanders
Strength
31 battleships
3 battlecruisers
24 cruisers
25 destroyers
8 monitors
14 submarines
50+ transports
Various mines and forts; otherwise Unknown
Casualties and losses
6 battleships sunk
3 battleships damaged
1 battlecruiser damaged
1 destroyer sunk
8 submarines lost
2 battleships
1 minelayer

The naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign of the First World War were mainly carried out by the Royal Navy with substantial support from the French and minor contributions from Russia and Australia. The Dardanelles Campaign began as a purely naval operation. When that failed to overcome Turkish defences, an invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was launched in which naval forces were heavily involved. Throughout the campaign, attempts were made by submarines to pass through the Dardanelles and disrupt Ottoman Empire shipping in the Sea of Marmara.

Contents

Prelude

At the outbreak of World War I, the Ottoman Empire was an unaligned power. While Britain had a long history of interest in the region, Germany had been most active in cultivating a relationship with the Ottomans. At the outbreak of war, the British seized two battleships constructed for the Ottoman Empire which were still in British shipyards.[1] In response, Germany made a gift of two ships, the battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau, as replacements. While still operated by their German crews, these ships, renamed Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli respectively, became the backbone of the Ottoman navy. Through possession of the Yavuz Sultan Selim, the Ottoman Empire controlled the most powerful ship in the Black Sea in 1914.[2]

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Closure of the Dardanelles

In October 1914, the Ottomans closed the Dardanelles to Allied shipping. This followed an incident on September 27 when the British Dardanelles squadron had seized a Turkish torpedo boat. The actual decision to close the strait seems to have been taken by German military advisors stationed in the Dardanelles without reference to the Turkish government.[3] On October 28, the Turkish fleet, led by the Goeben, began raiding Russian assets in the Black Sea. Odessa and Sevastopol were bombarded, a minelayer and gunboat were sunk. The real aim of the attack—putting the Russian Black Sea fleet out of commission—was not accomplished. Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on November 2, and the British followed suit on November 6. An unsuccessful Ottoman attack on Russia through the Caucasus Mountains was launched in December (Battle of Sarikamish), leading the Russians to call for aid from Britain in January 1915.[4]

Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had entertained plans of capturing the Dardanelles as early as September 1914. In a new year review submitted to the prime minister, Herbert Asquith, he had outlined two possible new fronts against the Germans, intended to break the stalemate and accompanying enormous loss of life which had rapidly set in on the western front. The first possibility, which was then his favoured option, was an invasion of Schleswig-Holstein by sea, allowing Denmark to join the allies and give Russia a supply route via the Baltic sea. The other was an attack on the Dardanelles, which again would give Russia a supply route and might encourage Bulgaria and Romania to join the allied side. The Russian plea for assistance, coupled with a perception of the Ottoman Empire as a weak enemy ("the sick man of Europe"), made the prospect of a campaign in the Dardanelles seem appealing.[5]

Divided responsibilities

First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill and First Sea Lord Fisher, 1914

Matters were complicated for Churchill by the choice of First Sea Lord, who was the most senior admiral in charge of running the navy. Churchill had appointed Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1912. He was obliged to replace Battenberg because of public feeling against Germans — Battenberg had become a British citizen when he joined the navy at the age of 14, but he spoke with a German accent.[6] His choice was to recall the 73-year-old admiral John Fisher, who had retired as First Sea Lord in 1910. Fisher was regarded as brilliant, but somewhat in decline from advancing age. More immediately a problem for Churchill, he was a forceful personality accustomed to directing the Admiralty himself, and being supported in his decisions by the political First Lord rather than taking orders from him.[7]

Fisher was appointed at the end of October 1914 and favoured a new campaign in northern Europe, which perhaps reflected the navy's traditional concern of controlling Channel waters.[8] He reluctantly agreed to advance the plan for a naval action in the Dardanelles, but afterwards maintained that he had never supported it,[9] and had always believed a naval action would have to be accompanied by a land force. Churchill and Fisher continually quarreled throughout the campaign, and Fisher finally resigned on 15 May 1915 after repeated threats to do so. Fisher wrote about Churchill that: He is always convincing me.[10] Fisher's relationship with Churchill had always been complex and his abrupt resignation was no exception. Fisher's resignation, on top of poor progress in the campaign, precipitated the fall of the government and Churchill's replacement as First Lord, so neither man gained control of the Admiralty. Ironically, although they could not agree, both respected the other and would not have wished that outcome.[citation needed]

On January 11, at Churchill's request, the commander of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Squadron, Vice Admiral S.H. Carden proposed a plan for forcing the Dardanelles using battleships, submarines and minesweepers. On January 13, the British War Council approved the plan, and Carden was supplied with additional pre-Dreadnought battleships, the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth and the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible. France supplied a squadron which included four pre-Dreadnought battleships, while Russia provided a single light cruiser, the Askold.

The operation was originally intended to be purely naval due to a lack of available troops and the independence of Lord of the admiralty Winston Churchill but, by early February, it was decided that more regular infantry was needed. Contingents of Royal Marines were to be supplemented by the last unallocated regular division, the British 29th Division. It was dispatched to Egypt, to join Australian and New Zealand troops which were already undergoing training. At the outset of the operation, the expected role of the infantry was to be the occupation of Istanbul; the taking of the straits was to be accomplished by the Entente naval forces.

Forcing the straits

On November 3, 1914, Churchill ordered the first British attack on the Dardanelles following the opening of hostilities between Turkey and Russia. The British attack was carried out by battlecruisers of Carden's Mediterranean Squadron, Indomitable and Indefatigable, as well as the obsolete French battleships Suffren and Vérité. This attack actually took place before a formal declaration of war had been made by Britain against the Ottoman Empire.

The intention of the attack was to test the fortifications and measure the Turkish response. The results were deceptively encouraging. In a twenty minute bombardment, a single shell struck the magazine of the fort at Sedd el Bahr at the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, displacing (but not destroying) 10 guns and killing 86 Turkish soldiers. Total casualties during the attack were 150, of which 40 were German. The most significant consequence was that the attention of the Turks was drawn to strengthening their defences, and they set about expanding the mine field.[11]

The Dardanelles defences in February/March 1915, showing minefields, anti-submarine nets and major gun batteries.

The Dardanelles were defended by a system of fortified and mobile artillery arranged as the "Outer", "Intermediate" and "Inner" defences. While the outer defences lay at the entrance to the straits and would prove vulnerable to bombardment and raiding, the inner defences covered the Narrows, the narrowest point of the straits near Çanakkale. Beyond the inner defences, the straits were virtually undefended. However, the foundation of the straits defences were a series of 10 minefields, laid across the straits near the Narrows and containing a total of 370 mines.

What was to become the Battle of Gallipoli, a 10-month battle of attrition, began at 7.30am on February 19, 1915. Two destroyers were sent in to probe the straits. The first shot was fired from Kumkale by the Orhaniye Tepe battery's 24 cm Krupp guns at 7.58am. The battleships Cornwallis and Vengeance moved in to engage the forts and the first British shot of the campaign proper was fired at 9.51am by Cornwallis. The day's bombardment lacked the spectacular results of the November 3 test.

HMS Canopus fires a salvo from her 12-inch (30.5 cm) guns against Turkish forts in the Dardanelles.

Another attempt was made on February 25. This time the Turks evacuated the outer defences and the fleet entered the straits to engage the intermediate defences. Demolition parties of Royal Marines raided the Sedd el Bahr and Kum Kale forts, meeting little opposition. On March 1, four battleships bombarded the intermediate defences.

Little progress was made clearing the minefields. The minesweepers, commanded by Carden's chief of staff, Roger Keyes, were merely un-armoured trawlers manned by their civilian crews who were unwilling to work while under fire. The strong current in the straits further hampered the sweeping process. This lack of progress by the fleet strengthened the Turkish resolve which had wavered at the start of the offensive. On March 4, raids on the outer defences were resisted, leaving 23 British marines dead.

The Queen Elizabeth was called on to engage the inner defences, at first from the Aegean coast near Gaba Tepe, firing across the peninsula, and later from within the straits. On the night of March 13, the cruiser HMS Amethyst led six minesweepers in an attempt to clear the mines. Four of the trawlers were hit and the Amethyst was badly damaged with 19 stokers killed from a single hit.

On March 15, the admiralty informed Carden that they agreed to his plan for a further all out attack by daylight, with the minesweepers operating under the direct protection of the entire fleet. Carden was taken ill the same day, and had to be replaced by Rear Admiral John de Robeck. A gunnery officer noted in his diary that de Robeck had already expressed misgivings with the likelihood of being able to silence the Turkish guns by bombardment, and that this view was widely held on board the ship.[12]

The Battle of March 18

The event that decided the battle took place on the night of March 8 when the Turkish minelayer Nusret laid a line of mines in Eren Köy Bay, a wide bay along the Asian shore just inside the entrance to the straits. The Turks had noticed the British ships turned to starboard into the bay when withdrawing. The new line of between 20 and 26 mines ran parallel to the shore, were moored at 2.5 fathoms (4.5 m) and spaced about 100 yards (91 m) apart. The clear water meant that the mines could have been seen through the water by spotter planes.[13]

The British plan for March 18 was to silence the defences guarding the first five minefields, they would be cleared overnight by the minesweepers. The next day the remaining defences around the Narrows would be defeated and the last five minefields would be cleared. The operation went ahead without the British or French becoming aware of the recent additions to the Turkish minefields.

The battleships were arranged in three lines, two British and one French, with supporting ships on the flanks and two ships in reserve.

Battle lines of March 18
Grey background: Severe damage, Red background: Sunk
Line A HMS Queen Elizabeth HMS Agamemnon HMS Lord Nelson HMS Inflexible
French Line B Gaulois Charlemagne Bouvet Suffren
British Line B HMS Vengeance HMS Irresistible HMS Albion HMS Ocean
Supporting ships HMS Majestic HMS Prince George HMS Swiftsure HMS Triumph
Reserve HMS Canopus HMS Cornwallis    

The first British line opened fire from Eren Köy Bay around 11am. Shortly after noon, de Robeck ordered the French line to pass through and close on the Narrows forts. The Turkish fire began to take its toll with Gaulois, Suffren, Agamemnon and Inflexible all suffering hits. While the naval fire had not destroyed the Turkish batteries, it had succeeded in temporarily reducing their fire. By 1.25pm the Turkish defences were mostly silent so de Robeck decided to withdraw the French line and bring forward the second British line as well as Swiftsure and Majestic.

At 1.54pm Bouvet, having made a turn to starboard into Eren Köy Bay, struck a mine, capsized and sank within a couple of minutes, killing 600 men. The initial British reaction was that a shell had struck her magazine or she had been torpedoed. Most reports state that they remained unaware of the minefield; however, mines in the string had been spotted earlier that morning, and their sighting relayed to Admiral de Robeck.[citation needed] Civilian trawlers acting as minesweepers in front of line 'A' discovered and destroyed three mines in an area thought to be clear, before the civilian crews withdrew under fire. This information was not passed on to de Robeck.[14]

Irresistible abandoned and sinking.

The British pressed on with the attack. Around 4pm Inflexible began to withdraw and struck a mine near where Bouvet went down, killing 30 men. The battlecruiser remained afloat and eventually beached on the island of Bozcaada (Tenedos).

Irresistible was the next to be mined. As she began to drift helplessly, the crew were taken off. De Robeck told Ocean to take Irresistible under tow but the water was deemed too shallow to make an approach. Finally at 6.05pm Ocean struck a mine which jammed the steering gear leaving her likewise helpless. The abandoned battleships were still floating when the British withdrew. A destroyer commanded by Commodore Roger Keyes returned later to attempt either to tow away or sink the stricken vessels but despite searching for four hours, there was no sign of them. Keyes reported:

The fear of their fire was actually the deciding factor of the fortunes of the day. For five hours the [destroyer] Wear and picket boats had experienced, quite unperturbed and without any loss, a far more intense fire from them than the sweepers encountered... the latter could not be induced to face it, and sweep ahead of the ships in 'B' line.[14] ...I had the almost indelible impression that we were in the presence of a beaten foe. I thought he was beaten at 2 pm. I knew he was beaten at 4 PM — and at midnight I knew with still greater clarity that he was absolutely beaten; and it only remained for us to organise a proper sweeping force and devise some means of dealing with drifting mines to reap the fruits of our efforts.[15]

By contrast, Commander Isham Worsley Gibson wrote:

This is just what one might expect, & what we really did more or less. Every book on war ever written always states the fact that politicians interfering with Commanders in the field always lead to disaster but still they think they are born strategists & know alls & do it again & again.[16]

Aftermath

March 18 was a significant victory for Turkey. Nevertheless, there were calls amongst the British, particularly from Churchill, to press on with the naval attack. De Robeck advised on 20 March that he was reorganising his minesweepers, suggesting he intended to resume the attack, and Churchill responded that he was sending four replacement ships. With the exception of the Inflexible, the ships that were lost or damaged were old, ill-equipped for modern naval combat and had been chosen for the expedition precisely because they were expendable. The Turkish forts had nearly exhausted their ammunition so that if the naval attack had resumed, the Allies would have met little opposition from the guns. Moreover the crews of the sunken battleships had replaced the civilians on the trawler minesweepers, making them much more willing to keep sweeping under fire, and the fleet had several modern destroyers fitted with 1 1/2" minesweeping hawsers that could have handled the task with ease. The American ambassador to Turkey, Henry Morgenthau, reported that Istanbul expected to be attacked and that the Turks felt they could only hold out for a few hours if the attack had resumed on the 19th.[17] Further, he thought that Turkey itself might well disintegrate as a state once the capital fell.[18]

It must be noted that the main mine fields at the narrows, over ten layers deep, were still fully intact. Furthermore, they were very well protected by the smaller shore guns that had not seen any action on March 18. These and other defenses further in the strait had not exhausted their ammunition and resources yet. It was not a given that one more push by the fleet would have resulted in passage to Marmara Sea.

Sir Roger Keyes, Vice-Admiral De Robeck, Sir Ian Hamilton, General Braithwaite

Churchill had anticipated losses and considered them a necessary tactical price. In June 1915, he discussed the campaign with the war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who had returned to London to deliver uncensored reports. Ashmead-Bartlett was incensed at the loss of ships and lives but Churchill responded: That is not the point! They ought to have gone on. What did it matter if more ships were lost? The ships were old and useless.[19] To place the losses into perspective, the Navy ordered 600 new ships during the period Admiral Fisher was First Sea Lord, approximately corresponding with the length of the Dardanelles campaign.[10]

De Robeck was reported to be distraught from the losses[20]. He wrote on 18 March: After losing so many ships I shall obviously find myself superseded tomorrow morning.[17] He had been in charge of a fleet that had suffered the most serious loss to the Royal Navy since Trafalgar and felt that losing further ships was the worst thing a sailor could do. On 23 March he telegraphed the admiralty that it would be necessary to have the support of land forces before proceeding. He later told the Dardanelles Commission investigating the campaign that his main reason for changing his mind was concern for what might happen in the event of success: that the fleet might find itself at İstanbul or on the Marmara sea fighting an enemy which did not simply surrender as the plan presupposed, without any troops available to secure captured territory.[21]

With the failure of the naval assault, the idea that land forces could advance around the backs of the Dardanelles forts and capture Istanbul gained support as an alternative. On 25 April, the Gallipoli Campaign was launched. Significant naval forces were devoted to support of that operation.

Further Attempts

Following the unsuccessful results of the land campaign up to May, De Robeck suggested that it might be desirable to again attempt a naval attack. Churchill supported this idea, at least as far as restarting attempts to clear mines, but this was opposed by Fisher and other members of the Admiralty Board. Aside from difficulties in the Dardanelles, they were concerned at the prospect that more ships might have to be diverted away from the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. This disagreement contributed to the final resignation of Fisher, followed by the need for Asquith to seek coalition partners to shore up his government and the consequential dismissal of Churchill also. Further naval attacks were shelved.[22]

Keyes remained a firm supporter of naval action and on 23 September submitted a further proposal to pass through the Dardanelles to de Robeck. De Robeck disliked the plan, but nonetheless passed it to the Admiralty. Risk to ships had increased since March due to the presence of German submarines in the Mediterranean and the Sea of Marmara, where the British ships would be inviting targets if the plan succeeded. On the other hand, minesweeping was now better equipped and some of the ships had nets or mine bumpers which it was hoped would improve their chances against mines. Turkey now had better supply routes from Germany whereas demands on the navy for more ships to support the attempt had to be added to continuing commitments of ships for the land action, and the ongoing campaign at Salonica attempting to support Serbia. Kitchener made a proposal to take the Isthmus of Bulair using 40,000 men, thereby allowing British ships in the Marmara Sea to be resupplied across land from the Gulf of Xeros. Admiralty opinion was that another naval attack could not be mounted without support of land forces attacking the Dardanelles forts, which was deemed impractical for lack of troops. Kitchener visited the area to inspect the positions and talk to the commanders concerned, before reporting back advising a withdrawal. The War Committee, faced with a choice either of an uncertain new campaign to break the existing stalemate, or complete withdrawal, recommended on 23 November that all troops should be withdrawn.[23]

The British cabinet as a whole was less keen to abandon the campaign, because of political repercussions of a failure and damaging consequences for Russia. De Robeck had been temporarily replaced by Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss in November 1915 for reasons of ill health. In contrast to De Robeck, Wemyss was a supporter of further action and considerably more optimistic of chances of success. Whereas de Robeck estimated losses at 12 battleships, Wemyss considered it likely to lose no more than three. It was suggested that abandoning the action at Salonica, where the troops involved never managed to aid Serbia and did little fighting, could provide the reinforcements, but this was vetoed by the French. Wemyss continued a campaign promoting the chances of success. He had been present when de Robeck assumed command from Carden and was more senior, but had been commanding the base at Mudros whereas de Robeck was with the fleet. Churchill had preferentially chosen de Robeck.[24] On 7 December it was decided by Cabinet to abandon the campaign.[25]

Submarine operations

The Ottoman battleship Mesudiye
Australian submarine AE2

The British submarine attacks had commenced in 1914, before the campaign proper had started. On December 13, the British submarine HMS B11 had entered the straits, avoiding five lines of mines, and torpedoed the antiquated Ottoman battleship Mesudiye, built in 1874, which was anchored as a floating fort in Sari Sighlar Bay, south of Çanakkale. The Mesudiye capsized in 10 minutes, trapping many of the 673-man crew. However, lying in shoal water, the hull remained above the surface so most men were rescued by cutting holes in the hull. Thirty-seven men were killed.

The sinking was a triumph for the Royal Navy. The captain of the B11, Lieutenant-Commander Norman Holbrook, was awarded the Victoria Cross — the first Royal Navy VC of the war — and all 12 other crew members received awards. Coupled with the naval bombardment of the outer defences on November 3, this success encouraged the British to pursue the campaign.

The first French submarine operation preceded the start of the campaign as well. On January 15, 1915, the French submarine Saphir negotiated the Narrows, passing all ten lines of mines, before running aground at Nagara Point. Various accounts claim she was either mined, sunk by shellfire or scuttled, leaving 14 crew dead and 13 prisoners of war.

On April 17, the British submarine E15 attempted to pass through the straits but, having dived too deep, was caught in a current and ran aground near Kepez Point, the southern tip of Sarı Sıĝlar Bay, directly under the guns of the Dardanos battery. Seven of the crew were killed and the remainder were captured. The beached E15 was a valuable prize for the Turks and the British went to great lengths to deny it from them, finally managing to sink it after numerous attempts.

The first submarine to succeed in passing through the straits was HMAS AE2, which got through on the night of 24/25 April. The army began landing soldiers at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove on the peninsula at dawn on the 25th. Although the AE2 sank one Turkish cruiser, the submarine under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stoker, was thwarted by defective torpedoes in several other attempts to sink promising targets. On April 29, in Artaki Bay near Panderma, the AE2 was sighted and hit by the Turkish torpedo boat Sultanhisar. Abandoning ship, the crew became POWs. There is an effort currently, by the Turkish and Australian governments, to locate and raise AE2.

The second submarine through the straits had more luck than the AE2. On April 27, the HMS E14, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Edward Boyle, entered the Sea of Marmara and went on a three week rampage that was one of the most successful actions achieved by the Allies in the entire campaign. While the quantity and value of the shipping sunk was relatively minor, the effect on Turkish communications and morale was significant. On his return, Boyle was immediately awarded the Victoria Cross. Boyle and the E14 made a number of tours of the Marmara. His third tour began on July 21, when he passed through the straits despite the Turks having installed an anti-submarine net near the Narrows.

The crew of HMS Grampas cheering E11 after a successful operation.

Another British submarine to have a successful cruise of the Marmara was the E11, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith, who was awarded the VC and promoted to Commander for his achievements. He sank or disabled 11 ships including three on May 24 at the port of Rodosto on the Thracian shore. On 8 August, during a subsequent tour of the Marmara, the E11 torpedoed the Turkish battleship Hayreddin Barbarossa.

A number of demolition missions were performed by men or parties landed from submarines. On September 8, First Lieutenant H.V. Lyon from the British submarine E2, swam ashore near Küçükçekmece (Thrace) to blow up a railway bridge. The bridge was destroyed but Lyon failed to return. Attempts were also made to disrupt the railways running close to the water along the Gulf of İzmit, on the Asian shore of the sea. On the night of August 20, Lieutenant D'Oyly Hughes from the E11 swam ashore and blew up a section of the railway line, earning the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts. On July 17, the British submarine E7 bombarded the railway line and then damaged two trains that were forced to halt.

French attempts to enter the Sea of Marmara continued. Following the success of the AE2 and E14, the French submarine Joule attempted the passage on May 1 but struck a mine and was lost with all hands. The next attempt was made by the Mariotte on July 27. However, the Mariotte failed to negotiate the anti-submarine net that the E14 had eluded and was forced to the surface. After being shelled from the shore batteries, the Mariotte was scuttled. On September 4, the same net caught the E7 as it attempted to commence another tour.

The first French submarine to enter the Sea of Marmara was the Turquoise. However, it was forced to turn back and, on October 30, when attempting to pass back through the straits, ran aground beneath a fort and was captured intact. The crew of 25 were taken prisoner and documents detailing planned Allied operations were discovered. This included a scheduled rendezvous with the British submarine E20 on November 6. The rendezvous was kept by the German U-boat, U-14 which torpedoed and sank the E20 killing all but nine of the crew. The Turquoise was salvaged and incorporated (but not commissioned) into the Turkish Navy as the Onbasi Müstecip, named after the gunner who had forced the French commander to surrender.

The Allied submarine campaign in the Sea of Marmara was the one significant offensive success of the Battle of Gallipoli. Between April 1915 and January 1916, nine British submarines sank two battleships (albeit obsolete) and one destroyer, five gunboats, nine troop transports, seven supply ships, 35 steamers and 188 assorted smaller vessels at a cost of total of 8 Allied submarines which were sunk in the strait or in the Sea of Marmara. The Turks were forced to abandon the Marmara as a transport route.

In 1993, a coal mining operation revealed the wreck of a German submarine UB-46 near the Kemerburgaz coast. After carrying out missions in Black Sea, on its way back, UB-46 hit a mine near Karaburun and sank with all hands. It is now on display at Besiktas Naval Museum in Istanbul.[26]

Supporting the army

The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force had been established on March 12 under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton and comprised some 70,000 soldiers. At a conference on March 22, four days after the failed attempt by the navy, it was decided to use the infantry to seize the Gallipoli peninsula and capture the forts, clearing the way for the navy to pass through into the Sea of Marmara. Preparations for the landing took a month, giving the Turkish defenders ample time to reinforce.

The British planners still underestimated the ability of the Turks and, at the outset, it was expected that the invasion would be over swiftly. A British force, landing at Cape Helles, would advance six miles (11 km) on the first day and, on the second, would seize the Kilitbahir plateau, overlooking the Narrows. As it happened, in eight months of fighting, the British would never advance much more than five miles (9 km) and their first day objectives of Krithia and the hill Achi Baba would remain out of reach.

The Gallipoli landings were the largest amphibious operation of the war. The initial landings were made at Cape Helles by the British 29th Division and at Gaba Tepe by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In the latter case, the landing miscarried and the troops went ashore too far north at a place now known as Anzac Cove. In both landings, the covering force went ashore from warships with the exception of V Beach at Helles where the SS River Clyde was used as an improvised landing craft for 2,000 men.

Map of the landing of the covering force from battleships (red) and destroyers (orange) at Anzac Cove, 25 April 1915.

In the landing at Anzac Cove, the first wave went ashore from the boats of three Formidable-class battleships; HMS London, Prince of Wales and Queen. The second wave went ashore from seven destroyers. In support were Triumph, Majestic and the cruiser Bacchante as well as the seaplane carrier Ark Royal and the kite-balloon ship, Manica from which a tethered balloon was trailed to provide artillery spotting.

The landing at Cape Helles was spread over five beaches with the main ones being V & W Beaches at the tip of the peninsula. While the landing at Anzac was planned as a surprise without a preliminary bombardment, the Helles landing was made after the beaches and forts were bombarded by the warships. The landing at S Beach inside the straits was made from the battleship Cornwallis and was virtually unopposed. The W Beach force came from the cruiser HMS Euryalus and the battleship Implacable which also carried the troops bound for X Beach. The cruiser HMS Dublin and battleship Goliath supported the X Beach landing as well as a small landing to the north on the Aegean coast at Y Beach, later abandoned.

The role of the navy was to support the landing, using naval guns instead of field artillery, of which there was a severe shortage in 1915. However, with a few spectacular exceptions, the performance of naval guns on land targets was inadequate, particularly against entrenched positions. The guns lacked elevation and so fired on a flat trajectory which, coupled with the inherently unstable gun platform, resulted in reduced accuracy.

The battleship's guns did prove effective against exposed lines of troops. On April 27, during the first Turkish counter-attack at Anzac, the Turkish 57th Regiment attacked down the seaward slope of Battleship Hill within view of the Queen Elizabeth which fired a salvo of six 15-in shells, halting the attack completely. On April 28, near the old Y Beach landing, the Queen Elizabeth sighted a party of about 100 Turks. One 15-in shrapnel shell containing 24,000 pellets was fired at short range and wiped out the entire party. For the rest of the campaign the Turks were very wary of moving within view of battleships.

The last moments of Majestic, torpedoed by U-21 on 27 May.

Also on April 27, a kite-balloon ship had spotted a Turkish transport ship moving near the Narrows. The Queen Elizabeth, stationed off Gaba Tepe, had fired across the peninsula, at a range of over 10 miles (about 20 km), and sank the transport with her third shot. For much of the campaign the Turks transported troops via rail though other supplies continued to be transported by ship on the Sea of Marmara and Dardanelles.

It quickly became evident that the battle for Gallipoli would not be a swift or easy operation. At Helles, which was initially the main battlefield, a series of costly battles only managed to edge the front line closer to Krithia. Through the early battles the navy continued to provide support via bombardments. However, in May three battleships were torpedoed; Goliath in Morto Bay on May 12, Triumph off Anzac on May 25 and Majestic off W Beach on May 27. Goliath was sunk by the Turkish torpedo boat Muavenet while the other two were sunk by the German U-boat U-21. Following these losses, the permanent battleship support was withdrawn with the valuable Queen Elizabeth recalled by the Admiralty as soon as the news of the loss of Goliath arrived. In place of the battleships, naval artillery support was provided by cruisers, destroyers and purpose-built monitors which were designed for coastal bombardment.

Once the navy became wary of the submarine threat, losses ceased. With the exception of the continued activity of Allied submarines in the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara, the only significant naval loss after May was the Laforey-class destroyer HMS Louis which on October 31 ran aground off Suvla during a gale and was wrecked. The destruction of the stranded ship was accelerated by Turkish gunfire.

See also

References

  • Carlyon, Les, Gallipoli, 2001, ISBN 0385 604750, Transworld publishers
  • Jenkins, Roy, Churchill, 2001 ISBN 0333 782909, Macmillan
  • Arthur Marder (1961-1970). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Vol II: The War years to the eve of Jutland. London: Oxford University Press. 
  • IWM Account of the battle from the Imperial War Museum website (accessed Nov 2006)
  • Morgenthau events as described by the American ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, expressing his opinion the British could have taken İstanbul by 20 March
  • Nykiel (1) Minesweeping operations in the Dardanelles Feb 25-March 17 1915, Piotr Nykiel (First published in 'The Turkish Yearbook of Gallipoli Studies', Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart Üniversitesi Atatürk ve Çanakkale Savaslari Arastirma Merkezi, Issue: 2, March 2004, p. 81-115 (including summary in Turkish)).
  • Turgut Ōzakman, Diriliş, Çanakkale 1915, 2008, ISBN 978-975-22-0247-4, Bilgi Yayınevi
  • Nykiel (2) Was it possible to renew the naval attack on the Dardanelles successfully the day after the 18th March?, Piotr Nykiel (First published in: The Gallipoli Campaign International Perspectives 85 Years On, Conference Papers 24-25 April 2000, Çanakkale 2001)

Notes

  1. ^ Carlyon pp. 41–42.
  2. ^ Carlyon p.42-44
  3. ^ Carlyon p.45
  4. ^ Carlyon p.48
  5. ^ Jenkins p.254-255
  6. ^ Jenkins p.216
  7. ^ Jenkins p.258
  8. ^ Jenkins p. 256
  9. ^ Jenkins p.270
  10. ^ a b Jenkins p.260
  11. ^ Cerlyon p.47
  12. ^ Carlyon p.61-62
  13. ^ Carlyon p. 66.
  14. ^ a b IWM p. 12.
  15. ^ Carlyon p. 70.
  16. ^ IWM p. 15.
  17. ^ a b Carlyon p. 72.
  18. ^ Morgenthau, Henry (October 1918). "XVIII: The Allied Armada Sails Away, Though on the Brink of Victory". Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. Garden City, NY, USA: Doubleday, Page & Company. http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/morgenthau/Morgen18.htm. Retrieved 2009-02-25. 
  19. ^ Carlyon p. 320.
  20. ^ Who's Who: Sir John de Robeck, Firstworldwar.com 31 March, 2002.
  21. ^ Marder p. 252 quoting Dardanelles commission report
  22. ^ Marder p. 275.
  23. ^ Marder pp. 314–20.
  24. ^ Jenkins p. 265.
  25. ^ Marder pp. 320–24.
  26. ^ http://www.dzkk.tsk.mil.tr/muze/Turkish/Fsergi_alanlari.htm

External links


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