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 WORLD WAR 1 at SEA

 

MEDITERRANEAN, including Turkish Waters & Black Sea, 1914-18

 

edited by Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

German light cruiser SMS Breslau, later Turkish Midilli, but still German-manned
(Maritime Quest, click photographs for enlargements)

 

 

STARTING EVENTS

 

Strategic Picture - Starting with the conflict between Serbia and Austria (2), the land war around the Mediterranean and in the Near East eventually developed into a total of nine major campaigns, some of which lasted throughout the war. With the entry of Turkey into the war later in 1914, fronts were opened up in Gallipoli in European Turkey (4), in Egypt and later Palestine (5), in Arabia (6) with the 1916 Arab revolt, at the head of the Persian Gulf in Mesopotamia (7), and between the Russians and Turks in the mountains south of the Caucasus (9) and then in Persia (8). From 1915, the Italians battled the Austrians in the Alps (1), and the Allies became embroiled in Salonika and Greece (3). To follow the various campaigns, in the months that follow, these areas are listed from west and to east, and circling south around the Ottoman Empire, thus:

 

1.
Italy 

AUSTRO-

HUNGARY

     

9.
Caucasus

 

2.
Serbia

3.
Salonika, Greece

4.
Gallipoli, European Turkey 

OTTOMAN

EMPIRE

8.
Persia

       

5.
Egypt and Palestine

 

7.
Mesopotamia (Iraq) 

         

6.
Arabia  

 

 

 

THE NAVIES AT WAR

 

FRENCH NAVY (link) - War in the Mediterranean was expected to involve France lining up against the combined fleets of Italy and Austria-Hungary. Building on the "Entente Cordiale" with Britain, France had mostly handed over the defence of her northern waters to the Royal Navy and concentrated her forces in the Mediterranean as the "1st Armeé Navale". By August 1914, under the command of Adm de Lapeyrère, this fleet included most of the major warships operational in the somewhat ageing French Navy:

all six old battleships,
eleven pre-dreadnoughts,
dreadnoughts "Jean Bart" and "Courbet" ( with "France" and "Paris" completing, and three more to follow),
11 out of 18 armoured cruisers,
four out of 14 protected cruisers,
half the fleet of around 86 destroyers and 34 submarines.

The first duty of the "Armeé Navale" was to escort French African troops to France and then blockade the Austrian Fleet in the Adriatic. It then went on to participate in the Dardanelles and Suez campaigns, in operations off Palestine and Syria, the landings at Salonika and later operations against the Greek Navy, the evacuation of the Serbian Army, and anti-submarine warfare against the Austrian and German U-boats.

 

ITALIAN NAVY - In the case of Italy, instead of siding with Austria, the country remained neutral until 1915. The main Italian Fleet, based at Taranto under Vice Adm HRH Luigi di Savoia, Duke of Abbruzzi, included most of the major warships:

 

all three completed dreadnoughts (with three more to follow),
eight pre-dreadnoughts,
eight out of ten armoured cruisers,
light and scout cruisers,
destroyers, torpedo boats and submarines.

Other vessels were based in Albanian, Aegean and Libyan waters. When war was declared in May 1915, the Navy's first task was to join with the French in the blockade of the Austrians. Not content with this passive role, together with defending the flat Italian Adriatic coastline and supporting the land campaign in the northern reaches of the Adriatic, the Italians come to specialise in unconventional warfare with M.A.S.-type motor torpedo boats, caterpillar-tracked climbing boats, and frogmen. In doing so, they sank two out of the four Austrian dreadnoughts and one coast defence battleship.

 

AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN NAVY (link) - Across the Adriatic from Italy was the rocky, indented coastline of Austria-Hungary. The main Battle Fleet, based at Pola under Adm Anton Haus consistsed of:

all three dreadnoughts (with a fourth completing),
nine pre-dreadnoughts,
three armoured cruisers,
three out of five light/protected cruisers,
scout cruisers,
destroyers and torpedo boats.

In addition, there were a few submarines, three coastal defence battleships and various local defence forces in the Adriatic, and one protected cruiser out in Chinese waters at Tsingtao with the Germans. Throughout the war, the Navy guarded the coastline and protected supply lines to the Army in the Albanian theatre, and used light forces, submarines and a large seaplane fleet to attack Allied bases and shipping routes. The battle fleet, outnumbered as it was by the combined French, British and later the Italian fleets, spent most of the war in harbour as a "fleet-in-being".

 

BRITISH ROYAL NAVY - As France had been slow to build dreadnoughts, and with both Austria-Hungary and Italy having three each in commission, the Royal Navy was forced to base at Malta:

battlecruisers "Inflexible", "Indefatigable" and "Indomitable"
four armoured cruisers of the 1st Cruiser Squadron,
four "Town" class light cruisers,
flotilla of destroyers,

all under the command of Adm Sir Berkeley Milne.

 

GERMAN NAVY - To counter the British, the German Admiralty had sent:


battlecruiser "Goeben"
light cruiser "Breslau"

into the Mediterranean under Rear-Adm Wilhelm Souchon. Late June found the "Goeben" undergoing a refit at Pola. To avoid the possibility of being trapped in the Adriatic, Souchon sailed south before war started, and was soon the focus of Royal and French Navy activity in the Mediterranean.

 

 


 

 

1914

 

 

AUGUST 1914

 

Serbia - In the First Invasion of Serbia, the Austrians deployed three armies (including most of the Second) against Serbia. With an army of some 250,000 men, plus militia from Montenegro, Serbia had slight numerical superiority. Between the 12th and 24th August, the Austrians crossed the Sava and Drina Rivers, were halted in the Serbian mountains, and pushed back across the frontier at a cost of 50,000 men.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

It was the presence of the two German ships in the Mediterranean that even before war was declared, led to a series of encounters and actions. Their escape from the Royal Navy was an embarrassment, but far more significant were the strategic results. Of direct consequence, Turkey was brought into the war on the side of the Central Powers, which in turn led to the Allied Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaigns with their aim of capturing Constantinople and knocking Turkey out of the war in one fell swoop. Some historians suggest that the failure to do so and thus supply Russia through the Black Sea, was a contributory cause of the Russian Revolution and the following 70 years of Communist domination of Russia and then Eastern Europe. On these terms, Gallipoli can not be considered an irresponsible sideshow! Rather a brilliant concept which failed with disastrous and unforeseen consequences.

 

4th-10th August 1914 - Escape of the German "Goeben" and "Breslau"

 

Forces

British

German

Commanders

Adm Sir Berkeley Milne

Rear-Adm Wilhelm Souchon

Battlecruisers

"Inflexible" (flag), "Indomitable", "Indefatigable"
(1908-11, c18,000t, 8-12in, 25k)

"Goeben" (flag)
(1912, 23,000t, 10-28cm, 25k)

Armoured cruisers

1st CS - "Defence" (flag Rear-Adm E Troubridge ) "Black Prince" "Duke of Edinburgh" "Warrior"
(1906-08, c14,000t, 4 or 6-9.2in)

-

Light cruisers

"Chatham", "Dublin", "Gloucester", "Weymouth"
(1910-12, c5,000t, mainly 8-6in, 25k) 

"Breslau"
(1912, 4,500t, 12-10.5cm, 27k ) 

 

On the 3rd, and with Germany now at war with France, the German ships were reported coaling at Messina on the northeast coast of Sicily. British Adm Milne sent light cruiser "Chatham" to watch the Straits of Messina, but too late to sight them, while "Indomitable" and "Indefatigable", the 1st CS, light cruiser "Gloucester" and destroyers patrolled off the Strait of Otranto in case they returned north into the Adriatic. Instead "Goeben" and "Breslau" headed west to disrupt the transport of French African troops to France. The Admiralty decided they were making for the Atlantic and ordered Milne to send two of his battlecruisers to Gibraltar.

 

At dawn on the 4th, off the Algerian coast, "Goeben" carried out a short, ineffective bombardment of Philippeville while "Breslau" fired on Bône. Rejoining, they headed back towards the north coast of Sicily and Messina. From there, Adm Souchon planned to head for Constantinople in the belief that Germany and Turkey were in alliance. Shortly after retiring, they encountered "Indomitable" and "Indefatigable" sailing for Gibraltar. After passing close alongside, the British ships reversed course to the east. Unable to open fire as Britain's ultimatum to Germany did not expire until midnight, they contented themselves with shadowing at high speed, but by late afternoon the two battlecruisers had lost contact. Even the faster light cruiser "Dublin", after joining from Bizerta, lost the Germans by 21.00.

 

Adm Souchon entered Messina again early on the 5th to replenish from a German collier, and the Royal Navy made one of the first uses of ESM (electronic signal measures) when "Gloucester" detected "Goeben" by wireless interception. At this time, the two battlecruisers joined "Inflexible", "Chatham" and "Weymouth" to the west of Sicily to prevent any further attacks on French transports or a possible break-out into the Atlantic. Light cruiser "Gloucester" watched the southern approaches to Messina, and Troubridge's 1st CS remained in the Ionian Sea, near Corfu, to watch the Adriatic. "Dublin" sailed to join him.

 

Managing to remain in Messina for 36 hours, "Goeben" and "Breslau" did not sail until late on the 6th, and Souchon headed for the Eastern Mediterranean, shadowed by "Gloucester". By now, two of Milne's battlecruisers were 100 miles to the west, north of Sicily, and "Indomitable" was even further away, coaling at Bizerta. Only the 1st Cruiser Squadron was in a position to intercept. The Germans feinted northeast towards the Adriatic, drawing Troubridge north from his Corfu station, before heading southeast across the Ionian Sea.

 

Not until the early hours of the 7th did Troubridge realise his mistake and reverse course to the south. Three hours later off Zante, and after weighing up the chances of successfully fighting "Goeben", he abandoned the chase. Souchon was almost free to head on for Cape Matapan, and only the shadowing light cruiser "Gloucester" remained. Her CO, Capt Howard Kelly, decided to engage "Breslau" in an attempt to delay "Goeben", and opened fire early that afternoon. The German battlecruiser did turn back, but at around 16.00, "Gloucester" had to break off the action because of low fuel and watch the enemy ships enter the Aegean, still on the 7th.

 

The three British battlecruisers had been coaling at Malta and were not ready to sail east until early on the 8th. Half way to Cape Matapan, they were diverted north towards the Adriatic by false news that war has been declared on Austria. Around this time and still on the 8th, "Goeben" and "Breslau" reached the southeast Aegean island of Denusa to refuel through until the 10th.  

 

Only at noon on the 9th did the heavy British ships continue the chase, but still with the expectation that the Germans would break back to the west.  

 

However early on the 10th, "Goeben" and "Breslau" with full bunkers, headed for Turkish waters, and Milne, by now in the Aegean himself, shortly heard that Souchon has entered the Dardanelles later that same day.  

 

Six days later the two German ships were nominally transferred to the Turks as the battlecruiser "Yawuz Sultan Selim" and light cruiser "Midilli". Adding considerably to the strength of the poorly-equipped Turkish Navy, they spent much of the war operating in the Black Sea manned by their German crews and under the command of Adm Souchon, who was appointed Chief of the Turkish Fleet.  

 

Adm Troubridge was sent home and faced court martial six weeks later on the 5th November. Convicted of negligence, he was honourably acquitted, but never employed by the Admiralty again.

The French Navy was soon in action against the Austrians.

16th August - Austrian Cruiser "ZENTA" (1899, 2,300t, 8-12cm). As units of the French Navy continued to escort troop transports from North Africa across to the south of France, the main battlefleet transferred its base to Malta from where the Austrian Fleet could be more easily blockaded in the Adriatic. The French, under Adm Lapeyrère, and accompanied by Adm Troubridge's cruisers, shortly made a sweep into the Adriatic on the lookout for Austrian ships themselves blockading the Montenegran coast. On the 16th, off Antivari, the old protected cruiser "Zenta" was surprised and sunk in a one hour action with the French battleships. Escorting destroyer "Ulan" escaped.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Turkey - Since late 1913, German Gen Liman von Sanders had been training and reorganizing the Turkish army, and early in August 1914, with the threat of war, Turkey had signed a secret agreement with Germany. However, it was some weeks before Turkey was brought into the war.

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1914

 

Serbia - In the Second Invasion of Serbia (7th-15th September), the Austrians again cross the Sava and Drina Rivers, but only managed to hold on to a few small bridgeheads. 

 

Turkish Waters - Rear-Adm S H Carden, Superintendent of Malta Dockyard took command of the squadron off the Dardanelles with the duty of sinking "Goeben" and "Breslau" should they break out into the Aegean. Instead, with Gen von Sanders, German Adm Souchon concentrated his energies on helping to bring Turkey into the war on the side of Germany. As the Turkish Naval commander he prepared to attack the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea.

 

 

OCTOBER 1914

 

Turkey Enters the War - Under German influence, Turkey entered the war on the 29th on the side of the Central Powers. Not until early November did the Allies formally respond. Britain prepared to defend the Suez Canal and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf from Turkish attack.

 

Black Sea

 

29th - Turkish/German Attack on the Russian Fleet - Sailing on the 27th, the few seaworthy ships of the mixed Turkish/German fleet under the command of Adm Souchon, sailed across the Black Sea to attack Russian bases without any declaration of war. Early on the 29th, Turkish destroyers attacked Odessa sinking the Russian gunboat "DONETZ" (or "Donec", 1890, 1,200t, 2-15.2cm, later raised) and other shipping. "Goeben" shelled Sevastopol in the Crimea, and according to Russian sources was damaged by the return fire of the shore batteries. Shortly she encountered the laden Russian minelayer "PRUT" (or "Pruth", 1879, 5,400t, c800 mines), which apparently scuttled herself under fire. Turkish cruiser "Hamidiye" shelled Feodosia, also in the Crimea, while the "Breslau" and a Turkish cruiser bombarded Novorossisk further east. Various minelaying operations, typical of both the Baltic and Black Sea theatres, accompanied the attacks.

 

 

NOVEMBER 1914

 

Serbia - On the 8th, the Austrians started the Third Invasion of Serbia. With a superiority in men and better equipped, the Austrians made a determined attempt to win in hard fighting in the wintry mountains through into December.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Turkey at War with the Allies - On the 2nd, Russia declared war on Turkey, followed by Britain on the 5th with the immediate annexation of Cyprus. With the declaration of war, the decaying Ottoman Empire was vulnerable to attack. The Turkish fronts were separated by great distances with poor communications, and ranged from the extreme cold of the Caucasus Mountains to the hot Sinai and Arabian deserts. Initially with about 40 divisions, totalling over half a million men, the Turkish land forces were eventually organized into four armies - the First in European Turkey, Second in Asia Minor, Third in the Caucasus opposing the Russians, Fourth along the Levant coast from Palestine to Sinai, and two corps in Mesopotamia, the area of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.

 

TURKISH NAVY (link) - To build-up the small, old Turkish fleet, ships on order in August 1914 included two British built battleships now taken over by the Royal Navy as "Erin" and "Agincourt"; also various scout cruisers, destroyers and submarines which were never completed. The recently-arrived German "Goeben" and "Breslau", together with the remaining Turkish warships (two old ex-German battleships, two light cruisers, and a few destroyers and torpedo boats) came under the command of Rear-Adm Wilhelm Souchon, who was to lead them in action against the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Both German ships were in battle several times but without any decisive results. Elsewhere, on the Dardanelles front, coastal guns, mines and U-boats proved successful against the Anglo-French fleets, and small ship flotillas were organised on the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers and on the Palestinian lakes for operations against British forces.

 

Turkish Waters

 

Allied Bombardment of the Dardanelles - With Turkey's entry into the war, but before Britain's own declaration, the Admiralty decided to match naval guns against the outer forts of the Dardanelles on the 3rd. Under Adm Carden's command, battlecruisers "Indefatigable" and "Indomitable" and French pre-dreadnoughts "Suffren" and "Verité" shelled the forts of Sedd-el-Bahr and Kum Kale at the northern and southern tips, respectively of the entrance to the Straits. The limited success persuaded the British that warships could defeat the shore batteries, but also provided the Turks with ample warning of the need to strengthen the defences further. 

 

NEAR EAST - continued

 

Arabia - British forces, preceded by a bombardment and landed from the sea, destroyed Turkish fortifications overlooking the strait of Bab el Mandeb at the southern tip of the Red Sea. Warships taking part included armoured cruiser "Duke of Edinburgh".

 

Mesopotamia (Iraq) - British/Indian forces, controlled from New Delhi, landed at the head of the Persian Gulf on the 7th and advanced on Basra which was taken by the 22nd. Royal Navy and Indian Marine warships played an important part in the landings, the capture of Basra and subsequent river operations which started in mid-1915, and included old sloop/gunboats "Clio", "Espiegle" and "Odin", a variety of other vessels and later, gunboats of the new "Fly" and "Insect" classes. * Royal Navy BATTLE HONOUR was awarded to all warships taking part in Mesopotamia operations over the next three years - Mesopotamia 1914-1917.

 

Caucasus - The Russian-Turkish campaign in Armenia began. Through November, December and into January the two armies struggled on the Caucasus front at altitudes of up to 8,000ft. The Turkish Third Army, commanded by Minister of War Enver Pasha, prepared to attack the Russians.

 

Black Sea

 

RUSSIAN FLEET - The Black Sea Fleet was under the command of Vice-Adm Eberhardt with:

 

five pre-dreadnought battleships
(two dreadnoughts completed in 1915)
two light cruisers
destroyers, torpedo boats and submarines,

It was soon on the offensive - attacking Turkish supply lines along the southern Black Sea to their forces fighting in the Caucasus, cutting the vital coal-trade between Zonguldak and Constantinople, and blockading the Bosphorus, both with surface forces and offensive minelaying. Submarines later joined in. Seaplane carriers commissioned in 1916 also took part in raids on enemy bases.

 

18th November - Russian battleship "Evstafi". "Goeben" and "Breslau" encountered the Russians off Cape Sarych, Crimea. Although outnumbered, they were soon in action. "Goeben" was hit once, but in return badly damaged the Russian flagship, the four-year old "Evstafi".

 

 

DECEMBER 1914

 

Serbia - The Austrian's Third Invasion of Serbia continued, and on the 2nd, their forces managed to occupy the Serbian capital of Belgrade, situated as it was on the frontier. Next day the Serbian C-in-C, Gen Radomir Putnik launched a counter-offensive, and a week later the invaders were in full retreat and Belgrade was re-occupied on the 15th. Serbia was free for another nine months. Casualties were 100,000 on each side.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

20th December - French submarine "CURIE" (1913, 400t, 1-45cm tt, 6 torpedo collars/cradles). The French Navy suffered its first casualties in the Adriatic. In the northern part, "Curie" attempted to penetrate the main Austrian naval base of Pola, and was caught in the protecting nets on the 20th. Forced to surface and sunk, she was later raised and commissioned into the Austrian Navy as "U-14".

 

21st December - French dreadnought "Jean Bart". Further south, on yet another sweep into the southern Adriatic by the French battlefleet, the recently completed dreadnought was torpedoed by Austrian submarine "U-12". Hit forward, she got back safely to Malta. A number of sources still describe her as being sunk at this time.

 

Turkish Waters

 

13th December - Turkish armoured ship "MESUDIYE" (1876, 9,200t, 12-15.2cm secondary only). In the face of strong currents, minefields, coastal batteries, and patrols, the small, old British submarine "B-11" (Lt Holbrook), made the first penetration of the Dardanelles reaching almost as far as Chanak, 15 miles inside. The ancient "Mesudiye" moored as a stationery guard ship, was sighted and sunk with one 18in torpedo. Under fire, "B-11" returned and safely reached the open sea. The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lt Norman Holbrook RN. 

 

NEAR EAST

 

Syrian Coast - Acting independently, British protected cruiser "Doris" (Capt Frank Larken) spent the second half of the month harassing Turkish forces along the Syrian coast near Alexandretta. Russian cruiser "Askold" enjoyed similar success against shipping further south earlier in the month.

 

Egypt - Britain formally took over Egypt from Turkey and proclaimed a protectorate.

 

Caucasus - The Russians stopped the Turkish advance at the Battle of Sarikamish, which continued through to early January 1915. 

 

Black Sea 

 

26th December - German battlecruiser "Goeben". Late on the 21st, Russian minelayers, with long range cover provided by the Russian Battle Squadron, laid a field just off the Bosphorus. Two days later, the Russians attempted a blockship operation against Zonguldak. As German light cruiser "Breslau" sailed to meet the "Goeben" returning from escorting troop transports to Trebizond, she encountered the blockships, sinking two. "Goeben" returned on her own to Constantinople, and as she did, hit two of the earlier-laid, Russian mines only a mile off the Bosphorus entrance on the 26th. Badly damaged, she was largely out of action until May 1915, a severe blow to the Turkish Navy.

 

 


 

1915

 

JANUARY 1915

 

Turkey - With the Russian armies under pressure in the Caucasus, an appeal was made to the Allies to attack the Turks and take them off balance. With both Winston Churchill and Adm Fisher at the Admiralty favouring an "eccentric strategy" to defeat the Central Powers (although Fisher prefered the Baltic), Adm Carden in the Eastern Mediterranean was asked to assess the possibility of forcing the Dardanelles with ships alone, before going on to Constantinople and hopefully forcing Turkey out of the war.

 

 

Turkish Waters

 

Allies prepared to attack the Dardanelles - The Dardanelles, through to the Sea of Marmara was a narrow, winding passage flanked on the north by the Gallipoli peninsula. Cape Helles and Sedd-el-Bahr lay at the northern entrance in European Turkey and Orkanieh and Kum Kale to the south on the Asiatic side. Ten miles in was Kephez Bay, a further five found Chanak where the Narrows, just one mile wide at this point start. Five more miles leads to Nagara - all these named places being on the Asiatic side. The straits were heavily defended by 100 guns up to 14in calibre although many of these and the fortifications themselves were obsolescent. Leading up to the Narrows were minefields protected by covering guns and searchlights, torpedo tubes and anti-submarine nets. The Turks under Gen von Sanders had been strengthening the defences since the first Allied bombardment in November.

Adm Carden's view was that given enough battleships, a month would probably suffice to knock out the entrance and then the inner forts up to Kephez Point, destroy the guns around the Narrows and then clear the minefields through to the Narrows. Late in the month, the British War Council agreed to an attack going ahead in February with the aim of taking the Gallipoli peninsula and capturing Constantinople. Adm Fisher allocated the brand-new, 15in-gunned "Queen Elizabeth" to the enterprise, but his support wavered. Churchill's views prevailed because success would have such a major impact on the course of the war, but an operation that needed careful planning, just grew.

15th January - French submarine "SAPHIR" (1910, 390/425t, 6-45cm tt). The first Allied, and French attempt to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara failed when "Saphir" was sunk off Nagara in the Narrows. Some sources report she ran aground, others that she was mined. She was the first of four French boats lost in the Dardanelles in 1915.

 

NEAR EAST - continued

 

Caucasus - The Russians badly defeated the Turks, who lost most of their Third Army, including an entire corps. Operations continued in the area for the rest of the year.   

 

 

FEBRUARY 1915

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

24th February - French destroyer "DAGUE" (1912, 800t, 2-10cm, 4-45cm tt). Allied supplies for Montenegro passed through the port of Antivari in the southern Adriatic. "Dague" was sunk by a drifting mine in the Antivari Roads, the first French warship lost in the Adriatic.

 

Turkish Waters

 

Start of Naval Attack on the Dardanelles - Adm Carden's fleet now included super-dreadnought "Queen Elizabeth", battlecruiser "Inflexible", 12 pre-dreadnoughts (including "Irresistible" and "Vengeance") and four French pre-dreadnoughts (Vice-Adm Guéprette), together with other ships based at Mudros on the island of Lemnos which was occupied by the Royal Marines. The opening bombardment started around 10.00 on the 19th with "Inflexible", "Albion", "Cornwallis", "Triumph" and the French "Bouvet" and "Suffren" firing on the entrance forts, but to little effect. Bad weather prevented operations until the 25th, when shell hits were made on the forts around Cape Helles and Orkanieh. By the end of the month, the outer defences had been virtually destroyed with the aid of demolition parties landed from the ships.

 

Amongst these was a party of marines and sailors led by Lt-Cdr Eric Robinson, ship's officer, HMS "Vengeance", which went ashore at Kum Kale in the afternoon of the 26th under the cover of "Irresistible" and "Vengeance" and supporting cruisers. Under heavy fire, Robinson held back his own men, and went on to destroy two guns in the vicinity and another one at Orkanieh. With this exploit and later sorties into the Dardanelles, including the one which successfully torpedoed stranded submarine "E-15" in April, he was gazetted for the Victoria Cross in August 1915.

Following the loss of the first British seaplane carrier, the converted old cruiser "Hermes" in the North Sea, HMS "Ark Royal" built on a mercantile hull, was commissioned and now arrived off the Dardanelles with six seaplanes to spot for the bombarding battleships. Being slow and vulnerable to the U-boats that later arrived off the Dardanelles, she was withdrawn to Mudros in May.

NEAR EAST - continued

 

Egypt - In the First Turkish Attack on the Suez Canal, 15,000 Turks under Djemal Pasha, the Turkish commander in Syria, crossed the 120 miles of the waterless Sinai Desert and reached the east bank of the Suez Canal with artillery. Attacking on the 3rd, some managed to cross into Egypt, but were repulsed and retreated. For the rest of 1915, thousands of Allied troops arrived in Egypt to protect this vital waterway, and the British made preparations to advance across the Sinai Peninsular.

 

* Royal Navy BATTLE HONOUR was awarded to the British warships present at the defence of the Canal, including pre-dreadnoughts "Swiftsure" (flagship, Adm Peirse) and "Ocean", and protected cruisers "Minerva" and "Proserpine" - Suez Canal, 2nd-4th February 1915. French warships also in action included old battleship "Requin" and protected cruiser "D'Entrecasteaux".

 

 

MARCH 1915

 

Turkish Waters

 

2nd-18th - Main Naval Attacks on the Dardanelles - Bombardments on the 2nd and 3rd were indecisive with the battleships being hindered by mobile gun batteries. Another start was made on knocking out the Narrow's defences on the 5th. But even the big-gunned "Queen Elizabeth" was not up to this task, hampered as she was by ineffective spotting aircraft. Even more importantly, the minesweeping trawlers with their untrained fisherman crews were unable to clear the minefields, even at night because of the enemy searchlights.

 

By the 10th, Adm Carden was reporting failure, but was ordered by Churchill and Fisher to press ahead with the attacks on the Narrows. He did so, but the minesweeping failed to make any progress and he resigned, to be succeeded on the 15th by Rear-Adm John de Robeck, his second-in-command. The 18th was now set for the major attack and by 11.30 on that date, "Queen Elizabeth", "Inflexible", "Agamemnon" and "Lord Nelson" were six miles inside the Dardanelles bombarding the forts at the Narrows, with "Majestic" and "Prince George" to the north and "Swiftsure" and "Triumph" to the south taking on the mobile guns. By noon the latter appeared to have been silenced, although "Inflexible" and "Agamemnon" were lightly damaged in the process. Now the four French battleships closed the Narrows to nearly do the same for the guns there, but at a cost of damage to battleship "Gaulois", beached on Rabbit Island. 

 

It was now the turn of six British battleships to move further in, when the first major disaster occurs. Around 14.00, as she retired, the French battleship "BOUVET" (1898, 12,200t, 2-30.5cm) was either mined or hit by a heavy shell in a magazine and sank with most of her crew. The British trawlers were ordered to clear the minefields, but even worse was to come in the area around Eren Keui Bay on the Asiatic side, where "Bouvet" sunk. Here, some 20 mines were laid by the 365t minelayer "Nusret" in a position believed by the Allies to have been cleared. Just after 16.00, battlecruiser "Inflexible" (Capt Phillimore) hit a mine, was badly flooded with 29 men killed, but reached Tenedos before going on to Malta for repairs. Four minutes later, the battleship "IRRESISTIBLE" (1902, 14,500t, 4-12in) commanded by Capt Dent had to be abandoned for the same reason and sank three hours later. Adm de Robeck now ordered the ships to withdraw, but too late to save the already shellfire-damaged battleship "OCEAN" (1900, 13,150t, 4-12in). She struck another mine around 18.00 and foundered during the night.

 

In a matter of hours, of the 16 Allied capital ships taking part, three had been sunk and three heavily damaged (including the French battleship "Suffren") in exchange for a few Turkish guns, although the minefields still remained the main obstacle to progress. Now de Robeck organized a more effective minesweeping force using destroyers. But since the 15th, the War Council had been considering using troops. Lord Kitchener agreed to release the Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) Corps, and the Naval and 29th Divisions, which together with French troops, provided a force of 80,000 men which assembled on Lemnos under Gen Sir Ian Hamilton.

 

Adm de Robeck accepted that ships alone could not break through and the Navy ended its attempts in an endeavour that might have succeeded. By the 18th the Turkish defenders were badly demoralized and nearly out of ammunition. But now the Allies were committed to the Gallipoli landings, although the troops would not be ready until the 25th April. This gave the Turks time to recover and prepare.

 * Royal Navy BATTLE HONOUR was awarded to all the warships taking part in the Dardanelles campaign - Dardanelles 1915-1916.

5th-15th - Attack on Smyrna, Turkey - Other parts of the Turkish Mediterranean coast were targets for Allied attacks, including the major port of Smyrna, which was to be blockaded because of its potential as a U-boat base. On the 5th, Vice-Adm Peirse, C-in-C Egypt and West Indies station, arrived off Smyrna with armoured cruiser "Euryalus", pre-dreadnoughts "Triumph" and "Swiftsure", a seaplane carrier, and minesweepers. His first tasks were to bombard and destroy the protecting forts and clear the approach minefields, neither of which were accomplished. On the 11th, seaplane carrier "Anne Rickmers", a captured German merchantman, was torpedoed and damaged by German-commanded, Turkish torpedo boat "Demir Hissar". Negotiations for surrender also took place with the Turkish Governor, but without success, and on the 15th, the force withdrew. 

 

 

APRIL 1915

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

27th April - French armoured cruiser "LEON GAMBETTA" (1905, 12,000t, 4-19.4cm & 16-16.47cm). Units of the French fleet continued to blockade the Austrians in the Adriatic, but now under threat from Austrian and reported German U-boats. On the night of the 26th/27th while on patrol off the Straits of Otranto, unescorted "Leon Gambetta" was hit by two 18in torpedoes fired by Austrian "U-5" (Lt Ritter von Trapp of "Sound of Music" fame). She sank rapidly, taking over 600 men with her. 

 

Turkish Waters

 

17th April - Turkish torpedo boat "DEMIR HISSAR" (1906, 97t, 3tt). The German-commanded vessel, after her exploits off Smyrna, headed into the Aegean. On the 17th, after failing to sink a British transport, she was intercepted south of the Greek island of Chios by British destroyers "Jed", "Kennet" and "Wear" and ran herself aground. Some sources claim protected cruiser "Minerva" forced "Demir Hissar" ashore.

 

17th-19th April - Destruction of British submarine "E-15" - A second Allied submarine attempted to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara. Early in the morning of the 17th, after leaving Mudros, "E-15" (1914, 670/810t, 5-18in tt, 1-12pdr, Lt Cdr T S Brodie) ran aground some ten miles in, under Kephaz Point. Fired on and disabled, Cdr Brodie and members of the crew were killed. Various attempts were now made to destroy "E-15". Submarine "B-6", with Cdr Brodie's brother on board, tried to sink her by torpedo, but missed. Later, during the night, destroyers "Grampus" and "Scorpion" (commanded by the future Adm A B Cunningham of World War 2 Mediterranean Fleet fame), attempted to find her, but failed.  

Next morning, on the 18th, it was the turn of Lt-Cdr Holbrook VC in "B-11", but he too was unable to locate "E-15". Now battleships "Triumph" and "Majestic" tried to ensure the submarine's destruction with heavy guns. Sailing into the Straits in the afternoon, they came under intense fire, and failed to secure any hits. In the meantime, seaplanes had carried out their own attempts. Finally, on the night of the 18th/19th, one picket boat each from "Triumph" and "Majestic", both armed with two 14in torpedoes went in. Lt Cdr Robinson in "Triumph's" boat was in command of the expedition; Lt Godwin commandsed"Majestic's". Approaching "E-15", "Majestic's" boat was sunk by gunfire, but still managed to hit and destroy the stricken submarine before going down. Lt Cdr Robinson rescued the crew and headed for safety in the surviving picket boat. * The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lt-Cdr Eric Robinson RN for this and other exploits in the Dardanelles.

25th April - Allied Landings at Gallipoli - By now, an Allied Fleet including 18 battleships and 12 cruisers was ready to land the first 30,000 troops. They went ashore at V, W, X and Y beaches around Cape Helles at the southwest tip of Gallipoli and further north near Gaba Tepe (later known as Anzac Cove) on the 25th, mainly using ships boats. But the Turks were in prepared positions, ready with a new Fifth Army of 80,000 under German Gen von Sanders. The landings were partly successful, but none of the main objectives were reached - neither the town of Krithia and heights of Achi Baba from the Cape Helles area, nor across the narrow neck of Gallipoli to reach the Dardanelles from Anzac Cove. Here the ANZAC's were stopped by a Turkish division commanded by Mustapha Kemal (later Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey).

 

The campaign dragged on for 8 months, with the Allies never gaining more than a foothold. The beachheads were swept by fire from the surrounding heights, Allies and Turks attacked frequently, but in every case with heavy casualties for few gains. Then in the summer, disease struck to add to those killed in the fighting. Thus the main outflanking operation of the war bogged down into trench warfare little different from that on the Western Front. And in supporting the Allies, the Royal Navy lost three battleships in May.

 

On V Beach, still on the 25th, as the battleship "Albion" bombards, the ex-collier "River Clyde" attempted to land 2,000 men of the 29th Division across three lighters and a grounded dredging hopper. The pontoon bridge was put in place, when the Turks opened heavy fire. After three hours, only 200 men had reached the shore, with many more left dead and wounded. The main body only succeeded with the coming of nightfall, but what little success there was in daylight was mainly due to the "River Clyde's" men. They positioned the lighters and hopper, securing and holding them as the troops landed. Cdr Unwin, the commanding officer of the "River Clyde", who also commissioned her, even stood in the water holding lines, and although himself wounded, later rescued other wounded from shore by boat. Midshipman Drewry, who commanded the hopper was also wounded, but carried on, later to be taken over by Midshipman Malleson. Other heroes of the hour included AB Williams who remained in the water, holding the pontoon fast until killed, and Seaman Samson, working on the lighters all day before being badly wounded.

 

Members of the Royal Naval Division also distinguished themselves. Sub-Lt Tisdall, Platoon Commander, Anson Btn, waiting to land from the "River Clyde" and serve with the army, went ashore to help Cdr Unwin bring back the wounded. He landed next day, to be killed himself at Achi Baba on the 6th May. Also ashore at Anzac Cove on the 28th was L/Cpl Parker RMLI, Portsmouth Btn to relieve Australian troops near Gaba Tepe, and close to Turkish positions. On the night of the 30th, he volunteered to take ammunition and supplies to isolated trenches. Several men were killed or wounded in the attempt, and Parker alone succeeded, to then give first aid. Later he was seriously wounded.

 The Victoria Cross was awarded to Cdr Edward Unwin RN, Midshipman George Drewry RNR, Midshipman Wilfred Malleson RN, AB William Williams, Seaman George Samson RNR, Sub-Lt Arthur Tisdall RNVR, and L/Cpl Walter Parker RMLI.

30th April - Australian submarine "AE-2" (1914, 655/800t, 4-18in tt, 1-12pdr), Lt Cdr Stoker. Heading into the Dardanelles early on the 25th, the "E" class "AE-2" was the first boat to break through into the Sea of Marmora, torpedoing a Turkish gunboat in the Narrows on the way. Then on the 30th, near Marmora Island, and dived, she lost trim and surfaced wildly near a torpedo boat. Unable to stay down, she was holed in the pressure hull by three shells from the enemy warship - the "Sultan Hissar", and had to be scuttled. By now, Lt-Cdr Boyle's "E-14" hasd also got through.

 

 Black Sea

 

3rd April - Turkish cruiser "MEDJIDIYE" (1904, 3300t, 2-15cm). The Turks lost one of their few major warships when light (or protected) cruiser "Medjidiye" in company with the "Hamidieh" and four torpedo boats sailed to bombard Odessa. She hit a mine and sank in shallow water just 15 miles short of the target. "Medjidiye" was soon raised by the Russians, and back in service by year's end as the "Prut", named after the minelayer lost to "Goeben" in October 1914.

 

 

MAY 1915

 

Italy Declared War on Austria-Hungary - On the 23rd, Italy turned against her former allies, but at this time only declared war on Austria-Hungary, partly to gain territory. (War was not declared on Germany until August 1916). The Italian Army of nearly 900,000 men organised into 36 divisions and under the command of Gen Luigi Cadorna, Chief of the Italian General Staff, was poorly equipped but outnumbered the Austrians on this front. The frontier between Austria and Italy stretched nearly 300 miles from Switzerland to the Adriatic in the shape of a large "S" on its side, and consisted of almost impassable mountains, well fortified by the Austrians. Starting at the Swiss border was the Austrian enclave of Trentino which pushed right down into northern Italy with the Austrians on the heights, and the Italians down below in the Po Valley where their main railway lines were situated. To the east of the Trentino were the high Carnic Alps, and then the Isonzo River running north to south through Gorizia to the Carso Plateau and the sea at the Gulf of Trieste. Beyond the Isonzo was the Ljubljana Gap, the only gateway into Austria-Hungary, and the Italians main objective. Even this meant battling uphill, with the ever-present threat of the Austrians in the Trentino behind them, breaking out and cutting the Italian supply lines. 

 

ITALIAN NAVY - As Italy entered the war, so the first of the two "Doria" class battleships (13-30.5cm or 12in), "Duilio", was completed, with "Andrea Doria" following in 1916. With the recently commisioned "Conte di Cavour", Italy now had a total of five dreadnoughts compared to the three in August 1914.

The situation in the Adriatic led to raids by both sides, the Austrians mounting theirs from heavily-defended, deep water bases such as Pola and Cattaro, and shelling the long Italian coastline. The Italians struck back, and were reinforced by the French "Armée Navale", based at Brindisi and the Greek island of Corfu, together with British units. Neither side managed to control the Adriatic in 1915, but the Allied blockade kept the Austrians from playing any part in the Mediterranean, and in turn, allowed them to evacuate the Serbians.

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

May/June - German coastal submarine "UB-3" (commissioned as the Austrian U-9, 1915, 130/140t, 2-45cm tt). After arriving by rail at Pola for assembly, coastal submarine "UB-3" sailed for the Aegean and Dardanelles area and went missing. She apparently left Pola on the 23rd May, towed by the Austrians as far as the Straits of Otranto, and was never seen again.

 

24th May - Main Sortie of the Austrian Fleet - With war declared, the bulk of the Austrian fleet sailed to bombard the Italian Adriatic coast, mainly in the northern part. Further south the Italian destroyer "TURBINE" (1902, 330t, 4-7.6cm, 2-45cm tt) was encountered off the island of Pelagosa and sunk by Austrian scout cruiser "Helgoland" and destroyers "Csepel", "Tatra" and "Lika". The Austrian ships, including the three pre-dreadnought "Radetzky's" and the three completed "Tegetthoff" dreadnoughts, were back in Pola that same day. There they spent the rest of the war, with one exception in 1918, inactive as a "fleet in being" ready for any large fleet action.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Gallipoli - Heavy and intermittent fighting, continued in Gallipoli through to July and then August, when further landings were made.

 

Turkish Waters

 

British submarine successes - Royal Navy submarines won two more VC's for their commanders in the Dardanelles campaign, in a month which also saw the loss of one French submarine and three British battleships. Starting out on the 27th April, Lt-Cdr Boyle in "E-14" reached the Sea of Marmara for a successful three weeks patrol that hindered the reinforcement of Turkish forces in Gallipoli. Accounts somewhat vary on his successes which included a claimed torpedo gunboat sunk on the way in. What was certain was that in the Sea of Marmara, Boyle sank an escorted transport, small gunboat "Nur ul Bahir", and an ex-White Star liner carrying troops for Gallipoli, before he rejoined the fleet on the 18th May. Then after his failure to break through to the Baltic in 1914, Lt-Cdr Naismith in "E-11" now reached the Sea of Marmara. Leaving on the 19th May, his orders were "to run amuck", which he did, sinking some eight ships including a transport laying alongside the capital of Constantinople. He safely returned in early June, and made two more equally successful patrols beyond the Dardanelles later in 1915.  The Victoria Cross was awarded to Lt-Cdr Edward Boyle RN and Lt-Cdr Martin Naismith RN.

 

1st May - French submarine "JOULE" (1913, 400/550t, 1-45cm tt, 6 torpedo collars/cradles) tried to break through the Dardanelles defences, but hitsa mine in the Narrows, and was lost with all her crew.

 

13th-27th May - Three British Battleships Lost - On the night of the 12th/13th, the old British battleship "GOLIATH" (1900, 13,200t, 4-12in) was at anchor off Cape Helles, providing close gunfire support for the Allied troops deadlocked on Gallipoli. The German-manned, Turkish torpedo boat "Muavenet" (or "Muavenet-I-Miliet") torpedoed and sent her to the bottom with over 500 seamen.

 

The first German U-boat to sail into the Mediterranean was now in the Aegean. Lt-Cdr Hersing in "U-21" left Germany in late April, reaching Cattaro in mid-May. A week later, he headed on for the Dardanelles and the Allied ships laying off Gallipoli, the larger ones protected by net defences against expected submarine attack. On the 25th, he torpedoed British pre-dreadnought "TRIUMPH" (1904, 12,000t, 4-10in) while she was firing her guns in support off Gabe Tepe, midway between Suvla Bay and Cape Helles. She capsized in a short time with the loss of some 70 men.

Two days later, on the 27th, Hersing caught the old British battleship "MAJESTIC" (1895, 14,800t, 4-12in) in the same area and role as "Triumph", and torpedoed her twice. She turned over and sank within seven minutes, but casualties were not heavy. "U-21" later passed through the Dardanelles and reached Constantinople in early June. She was joined in the Mediterranean by smaller "UB" and "UC" boats which travelled overland to Pola for erection, while larger U-boats later sailed directly to the Mediterranean to add to the few Austrian submarines.

Black Sea

 

10th May - German battlecruiser "Goeben" met heavy units of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, including pre-dreadnought "Evstafi", on a raid off the Turkish coast. She was damaged by two 30.5cm (12in) shells to the east of the Bosphorus.

 

 

JUNE 1915

 

Italy - By the time the Italians were ready for the first of some eleven Battles of the Isonzo River, the Austrians had 20 divisions ready on the front under the command of Archduke Eugen. In the First Battle of the Isonzo which lasted from approximately 23 June to 7 July, the Italians attacked towards Gorizia, but made only limited progress. Meanwhile in the Trentino and the Alps, they launched a number of minor assaults to improve their positions.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

9th June - British light cruiser "Dublin". Taking part in a sweep off the Albanian coast, and escorted by French and Italian destroyers, "Dublin" was hit and damaged by a torpedo from Austrian submarine "U-4". Soon working up to 17 knots, "Dublin" got back to Brindisi but was out of action for several months.

 

10th June - Italian submarine "MEDUSA" (1912, 250/305t, 2-45cm tt). As German submarines were transferred to the Austrian Navy, and also prepared to operate in the Mediterranean under the Austrian flag, they scored their first successes in the Adriatic. After completion at Pola and shortly before being handed over to the Austrians as "U-11", the German-crewed "UB-15" commanded by Lt Heimburg, sank "Medusa" in the northern Adriatic off Venice. (Other dates including the 1st and 9th June may be found in some sources).

 

Turkish Waters

 

3rd June - French minelayer "CASABIANCA" (1895, 970t, 100 mines). The Allies now attempted to close the Gulf of Smyrna with minefields. During the operations, the old torpedo cruiser "Casabianca", converted to a minelayer, blew up and sank on one of her own mines.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Mesopotamia - From the Basra area, a British Army corps (Gen John Nixon) including the 6th Indian Division (Gen Charles Townshend) moved northwards up the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers aiming for Baghdad. Amara on the Tigris (not to be confused with the more distant Kut-el-Amara) was captured on the 3rd assisted by a variety of small Royal Navy vessels including "Comet", "Shaitan", "Shushan" and "Sumana". 

 

 

JULY 1915

 

Italy - Ten days after the end of the First Battle, the Second Battle of the Isonzo started and ran on into August or September, depending on accounts. Little progress was made by the Italians.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

7th July - Italian cruiser "AMALFI" (1909, 9,800t, 4-25.4cm, 8-19cm). The Italian Navy suffered its first major losses when two armoured cruisers were sunk in the Adriatic by enemy submarines. First to go on the 7th was the Venice-based "Amalfi" supporting a sweep by Italian destroyers down the Istrian coast. She was torpedoed and sunk in the upper Adriatic by the recently assembled German "UB-14" (but designated Austrian "U-26"), commanded by Lt Heimburg, who a month before in "UB-15", had accounted for Italian submarine "Medusa".

 

18th July - Italian cruiser "GIUSEPPE GARIBALDI" (1901, 8,100t, 1-25.4cm & 2-20.3cm). Further south, the "Garibaldi" and her cruiser division were off the southern Dalmatian coast, bombarding the railway line between Ragusa and Cattaro. She was hit by one or two torpedoes and sank off Gravosa, victim of the Austrian "U-4", which damaged "Dublin" in June.

 

Turkish Waters

 

27th July - French submarine "MARIOTTE" (1913, 530t, 4-45cm tt, 2 drop collars). Yet another Allied submarine was sunk trying to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara. The "Mariotte" was trapped in the Turkish net defences off Chanak in the Narrows, forced to surface and scuttled after being shelled by shore batteries.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Mesopotamia - Nasiriya on the Euphrates was captured by British forces in the move on Baghdad.

 

Black Sea

 

Russian Black Sea Fleet - At Nikolayev in the Ukraine, the first two "Imperatritsa Mariya" class Dreadnoughts with their 12-30.5cm (12in) guns were completing for the Russian Black Sea Fleet. When commissioned later in the year, the "Imperatritsa Mariya" and "Imperatritsa Ekaterina Velikaya" gave the Russians superiority over the German-Turkish fleet with its single dreadnought battlecruiser, the "Goeben". Russian sister-ship "Imperator Alexander III" (later "Volya") was not ready until 1917.

 

 

AUGUST 1915

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

5th August - Italian submarine "NEREIDE" (1913, 220t, 2-45cm tt). The Italians occupied the Austrian island of Pelagosa in the central Adriatic in July, and later the same month, the Austrians made an unsuccessful attempt to recapture it. Now in August, the Italian "Nereide" was laying offshore in support of the garrison. Surfaced, she was torpedoed and sunk by the Austrian Lt von Trapp's "U-5". Following another Austrian attack later in the month, the island was evacuated.

 

12th August - Austrian submarine "U-12" (1911, 240t, 2-45cm tt). Austrian submarines suffered their first loss. On or around the 12th, "U-12" was mined and sunk in the upper Adriatic, off Venice.

 

13th August - Austrian submarine "U-3" (1909, 240t, 2-45cm tt). Far to the south, but still on the 12th, "U-3" attacked and missed the Italian armed merchant cruiser "Città di Catania" on patrol in the Straits of Otranto. The AMC attempted to ram, but apparently unsuccessfully, and Allied destroyers were sent out. Next morning on the 13th, "U-3" was sighted and sunk by the gunfire of the French "Bisson" NE of Brindisi.

 

17th August - Italian submarine "JALEA" (1913, 250t, 2-45cm tt). Less than two weeks after the loss of "Nereide", "Jalea" was lost on an Austrian mine in the upper Adriatic, in the Gulf of Trieste.

 

Turkish Waters

 

Landings at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli - Gen Hamilton with three more Allied Divisions, tried to outflank the Turks on Gallipoli with further landings on the 6th. These took place just to the north of Anzac Cove and the ANZAC forces, at Suvla Bay, with the aim of reaching Sair Bair. In the face of the Turkish Fifth Army, now 13 divisions strong, the attempt failed.

 

8th August - Turkish pre-dreadnought "HAYREDDIN BARBAROSSA" (1893, 10,000t, 6-28cm). Returning to the Sea of Marmara for the second time, British submarine "E-11" (Lt-Cdr Naismith VC) accounted for numerous vessels including a gunboat during the month. Then on the 8th, off Bulair on the Gallipoli Peninsula, he torpedoed and sank the ex-German pre-dreadnought "Hayreddin Barbarossa" on its way to support the Turkish land defences.

 

RNAS aircraft torpedo attacks - A new form of warfare appeared on the 12th, when a Short 184 seaplane piloted by Flt Cdr Edmonds and flying from the converted fast packet "Ben-my-Chree" off the Gallipoli coast, hit a beached Turkish merchantman (recently torpedoed by Boyle's "E-14") in the Sea of Marmara with a 14in torpedo. In a similar attack five days later, a transport may have been sunk. This was the first use of torpedoes dropped from aircraft.

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1915

 

Bulgaria & Serbia - With undefeated Serbia sitting across the supply routes between the main Central Powers and Turkey, with Rumania looking to go to war, and the Turks in need of support, the German C-in-C, Gen Falkenhayn decided to finish off Serbia and bring Bulgaria into the struggle. Persuaded by the success of the German-Austrian breakthrough against Russia, the inability of the Italians to make any progress across the Isonzo, and the British failure to take Gallipoli, Bulgaria secretly joined the Central Powers on the 6th. Two weeks later they started to mobilise their army ready for an attack on Serbia in October, a force which before the war was over totalled some 1.2 million men.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

27th September - Italian pre-dreadnought "BENEDETTO BRIN" (1905, 14,700t, 4-30.5cm). The Italian Navy suffered another major loss, but in mysterious circumstances. The "Benedetto Brin" exploded in Brindisi harbour and sank with heavy loss of life, including the commander of the 3rd Battle Division. Austrian sabotage was later claimed to be the cause.

 

Turkish Waters

 

5th September - British submarine "E-7" (1914, 655t, 4tt, 1-12pdr). Another Allied submarine was lost to the Dardanelles defences. Heading from Mudros on the 4th for another patrol in the Sea of Marmara, "E-7" (Lt Cdr Cochrane) was trapped in A/S nets at Nagara and shaken by exploding mines. Next day on the 5th and still enmeshed, the boat was damaged by charges lowered from a rowing boat by Lt Cdr Heimburg, commander of the recently-arrived German "UB-14" and his cook! The British boat reached the surface to be scuttled by Cdr Cochrane.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Mesopotamia - Kut-al-Amara on the Tigris, well on the way to Bahgdad, was taken when Gen Townshend defeated a well entrenched Turkish force. He pushed on for Baghdad.

 

Capture of Kut-al-Amara - Just before the taking of Kut-al-Amara, ships of the RN Flotilla attempted to force a passage. They were stopped short of the town by a boom across the River Tigris, consisting of heavy hawsers and a dhow sunk in mid-stream, the whole covered by Turkish fire. At dusk on the 28th, armed paddle-steamer "Comet" (Lt-Cdr Cookson) and two armed launches failed to destroy the dhow by gunfire or break through the barrier by ramming. Cdr Cookson lay "Comet" alongside the dhow, and tried to cut through the connecting cables with an axe. He was hit and killed, and the ships withdrew. When Kut was taken the next day, the barrier was dismantled.  The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously to Lt-Cdr Edgar Cookson DSO RN.

 

 

OCTOBER 1915

 

Italy - The Third Battle of the Isonzo, really a continuation of the earlier one, started in mid-month with the struggle carrying on into November.

 

Defeat of Serbia - After an interval of nine months, the Fourth Invasion of Serbia was about to take place. For the attack, German FM Mackensen commanded three of the four armies taking part - the Austrian Third, German Eleventh, and Bulgarian First. The Germans and Austrians were to strike from Austria-Hungary in the north, aiming for the Serbian capital of Belgrade, while the Bulgarian First would approach from the east. A fourth army, the Bulgarian Second, commanded from Sofia, was to attack into southeast Serbia and cut the railway to the Greek port of Salonika on the Aegean. The Serbs were outnumbered, outclassed, and lacked artillery. The Austro-German armies began their invasion from the north on the 6th/7th, and Belgrade fell two days later.

 

Allies open the Macedonian Front - The Allies expected the attack on Serbia, and on the 3rd, started to land a British and a French division at Salonika. Nominal command of the Allied Expeditionary Force was vested in French Gen Maurice Sarrail. Greece remained neutral, but the landings were supported by the pro-Allied Greek Prime Minister Eleutherios Venizelos, who soon fell from power. Another front - Macedonia - was thus opened, but soon faced political problems, and a lack of aims and clear command structure.

 

Bulgaria at War - On the 11th, Bulgaria declared war, and two more armies advanced into eastern and southeastern Serbia. A week later and the Bulgarians started to sever communications with Greece. Five more days and the railway line to Salonika was cut, and the Allies were unable to supply the Serbs or join up with them. As Serbia struggled to survive, the Allies retreated into Salonika and fortified the port against both Bulgarians and Greeks.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

Allied attempt to close the Otranto Straits - With the Austrian fleet bottled up in harbour, the Allies made their first attempt to close the Straits of Otranto to German U-boats. Some 60 civilian fishing drifters arrived from Britain in September, and were now on A/S patrol with their nets out at the start of a long and ultimately unsuccessful effort to close the 50 mile wide Straits. By the end of the war, the Otranto Barrage as it was called, included minefields, destroyer, trawler and submarine-chaser patrol lines, motor launches, seaplanes and balloons.

 

Attacks on Bulgaria - With war declared, Allied ships started to blockade Bulgaria's short Aegean coastline. On the 21st, British warships including cruiser "Theseus" and monitors "M-15" and "M-28" bombarded Dedeagatch.  

 

Turkish Waters

 

30th October - French submarine "TURQUOISE" (c1910, 390t, 6-45cm tt, 1-37mm). The first French submarine to reach the Sea of Marmara ran aground on the 30th and may have been hit by Turkish shore batteries (accounts differ). "Turquoise" was captured intact and incorporated into the Turkish Navy as "Mustadieh Ombashi", but never re-commissioned. Papers found on board allowed the Germans to ambush "E-20" which broke through at the same time.

 

31st October - British destroyer "LOUIS" (1913, c1000t, 3-4in, 4tt) in a support role, was wrecked off Gallipoli in Suvla Bay and destroyed by Turkish gunfire.

 

 

NOVEMBER 1915

 

Italy - The Third Battle of Isonzo ended in early November. The Fourth Battle soon started and continued through to December.

 

Serbia - The Fourth and final Invasion of Serbia came to an end. The surviving Serbian armies, fighting on in the west and south, were forced to retreat into Montenegro and Albania. By the 28th, the campaign was nearly over, Serbia overrun by the Austro-German and Bulgarian armies, and the Serbs cut in half.

 

Allied aircraft attack Bulgaria - Sqdn Cdr Davies, No.3 Sqdn, RNAS flying a Nieuport, and Flt Sub-Lt Smylie in a Henri Farman, attacked the railway junction at Ferrijik near the Gulf of Enos in the Bulgarian province of Thrace on the 19th. As Smylie bombed, his 'plane was hit and he force-landed nearby. Cdr Davies landed and rescues him. * The Victoria Cross was awarded to Squadron Cdr Richard Davies DSO, RNAS.

 

Libya - The Senussi tribe was in revolt against their Italian masters, and also threatening the British in Egypt. The Germans attempted to support and supply the uprising.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

5th & 6th November - British armed boarding steamer "TARA" (1,860grt) and Egyptian coastguard vessel "ABBAS" - German submarine "U-35" (Lt-Cdr Kophamel) carried men and munitions across the Mediterranean, some towed in sailing schooners, and landed them at Bardia to support the Senussi. On the 5th, off Sollum, "U-35" sank the "Tara" and towed the survivors in boats to Bardia, where they become prisoners of the Senussi. Next day the Egyptian "Abbas" was sunk and "Nur El Bahr" damaged off Sollum by the U-boat's gunfire. In March 1916, the "Tara's" men were rescued from their desert prison in a daring raid by a British armoured car force.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Gallipoli Campaign - Lord Kitchener visited Gallipoli. Allied casualties now totalled at least 250,000 including 50,000 killed, and the French were also pressing for a campaign on the Macedonian front from Salonika. The decision was taken to evacuate.

 

Turkish Waters

 

5th November - British submarine "E-20" (1915, 670t, 5tt, 1-12pdr), Lt Cdr Warren. With information gleaned from the captured French submarine "Turquoise", the German "UB-14" (Lt-Cdr Heimburg) waited for and hit "E-20" with a single torpedo in the Sea of Marmara. Only nine men including the C.O. were picked up after the British boat exploded. (Some sources credit the sinking to "UB-15", which after assembly at Pola, had been temporarily commanded by Heimburg before transfer to the Austrian Navy. "UB-15" stayed in the Adriatic.)

 

NEAR EAST - continued

 

Mesopotamia - Just short of Baghdad, during the first advance on the city, the four day Battle of Ctesiphon started on the 22nd. The attacking British and Indian forces failed to break through, and retreated back along the Tigris to Kut-al-Amara.

 

Black Sea

 

29th November - German "UC-13" (1915, 170t, 12 mines). A few small German submarines had now reached the Black Sea, via Constantinople, and based mainly at Varna on the Bulgarian coast. After being assembled at Pola earlier in the year, "UC-13" now patrolled off the Caucasian coastline, and on returning, ran aground in a heavy storm to the east of the Bosphorus, near the mouth of the Sakaria River (41°09N, 30°30E). She either sank after the incident, or was later destroyed by gunfire.

 

 

DECEMBER 1915

 

Serbia & Macedonia - Through December, January, and into February, remnants of the Serbian army made a fighting retreat across the snow-covered mountains to the coast of Albania, taking their prisoners with them. From there, the Italian and French Navies evacuated the survivors first to Corfu, and some eventually on to Salonika to be reformed into a new Serbian army. More than 100,000 men made this journey without loss. Early in December, the Italians landed two divisions at Valona, Albania to hold the south of that country. Meanwhile, Franco-British troops continued operations on the Macedonian Front, with Salonika held in a state of defence.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

4th December - Italian destroyer "INTREPIDO" (1913, 680t, 1-12cm, 2-45cm tt). Austrian and German submarines attacked Allied supply routes in the Adriatic, and German "UC-14" laid mines of Valona, Albania across the Straits of Otranto from the heel of Italy. On the 4th, "Intrepido" and a transport sank in "UC-14's" field.

 

5th December - French submarine "FRESNEL" (c1909, 400t, 6 torpedo collars/cradles). Austrian light forces including cruiser "Novara" and destroyers raided the coast of northern Albania and caught the "Fresnel" aground off the mouth of the Bojana River, close to where she has been on station. Destroyer "Warasdiner" completed her destruction by gunfire and captured the crew.

 

28th/29th December - Austrian Cruiser Raid in the Adriatic - The Austrian Navy made another raid, this time to interfer with the Serbian evacuation. The new scout cruiser "Helgoland" accompanied by five "Tatra" class destroyers (all 1913/14, 850t, 2-10cm, 4-45cm tt) left the advance base of Cattaro and headed for Durazzo late on the 28th, and while on passage, sighted French submarine "MONGE" (1910, 400t, 1-45cm tt & 6 torpedo collars/cradles) herself on patrol to the south of Cattaro. Destroyer "Balaton" opened fire before ramming and sent her to the bottom. Early next day the Austrian squadron arrived off Durazzo and opened fire, but destroyer "LIKA" was mined and sunk, and "Triglav" badly damaged in the same field. "Czepel" attempted to take her in tow, but fouled a propeller, and the job was taken over by "Tatra". The crippled Austrian force then returned slowly north.

 

Allied forces in Brindisi were alerted and British light cruiser "Dartmouth" and the Italian "Quarto" sailed to intercept, followed by French destroyers, and later British light cruiser "Weymouth", the Italian "Nino Bixio" and Italian destroyers. The Austrians also responded and sent out from Cattaro, armoured cruiser "Kaiser Karl VI", and later still, other ships including the "Novara", to support the returning survivors of the raid, but they did not see action.

Early in the afternoon of the 29th, the advanced Allied ships were in action with the Austrian squadron which was still only half-way home. The French destroyers headed for the Austrian destroyer "TRIGLAV", still under tow, which was abandoned and sent to the bottom off Cape Rondini, helped on the way by the French "Casque". Meanwhile, the cruisers attempted to cut-off and deal with the "Helgoland" and three remaining destroyers. In a long-range gunnery duel fought throughout the afternoon, "Helgoland" skillfully avoided the Allied cruisers and reached Cattaro safely but with the loss of the valuable "Lika" and "Triglav".

Turkish Waters

 

3rd December - Turkish destroyer "YARHISAR" (c1907, 280t, 1-65mm, 2tt). On his third and last patrol in the Sea of Marmara, Lt-Cdr Naismith in "E-11" added to his already considerable score of Turkish vessels sunk and disabled. On the 3rd, he torpedoed and sank the "Yar Hissar" in the Gulf of Ismit.

 

British submarine operations - Coming to the end of their operations in the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmara, claims for Turkish ships sunk by British submarines to the end of 1915 included one old battleship and an armoured ship, six small warships, 16 transports and around 200 small steamers and sailing vessels, although some of these were beached and salved. In exchange, three British and one Australian "E" class boats were lost, plus four French.

 

Evacuation of Gallipoli - The Royal Navy completed the evacuation of the British and ANZAC forces from the northern beachheads around Anzac Cove and Suvla on the 19th, all without loss. Three weeks later, it was the turn of the men on the Cape Helles beaches at the tip of Gallipoli. Major Allied losses in warships throughout the failed campaign to take Constantinople included:

 

Type

British Sunk

Damaged

French Sunk

 Damaged

Capital ships

5

1

1

2

Destroyers

1

Not known

-

-

Submarines

3 plus 1 Australian

Not known

4

Not known

Totals

10

1 +

5

2 +

 

NEAR EAST - continued

 

Mesopotamia - Gen Townsend and 10,000 men, with few supplies, were surrounded at Kut-al-Amara by a Turkish-Arab army. Relief forces from the south prepared to fight through to them.

 


 

 

1916

 

 

JANUARY 1916

 

Serbia - The Serbian retreat across Albania continued. Further north, the Austrians overran Montenegro, which surrendered on the 17th.  

 

NEAR EAST

 

Final Evacuation of Gallipoli - By the 9th, the last Allied troops had been withdrawn from the Cape Helles beaches, again, as three weeks earlier, without loss. The evacuations were the most successful part of a campaign which proved a great defeat for Britain. Of the half a million Allied troops involved, half  became casualties of battle and disease; the same figures applying to the Turks. The attempt to force the Dardanelles and take Constantinople was abandoned.

 

Mesopotamia - The first attempt, under Gen Fenton Aylmer, to relieve Gen Townsend at Kut-al-Amara, failed at the Battle of Shaikh Sa'ad. River gunboats and steamers of the Royal Navy continued to play their part.

 

Persia - A small Russian force, commanded by Gen N N Baratov, and supplied from the Caspian Sea, attacked into Persia, aiming for Baghdad. He captured Hamadan in northwest Persia in January.  

 

Caucasus - The main Russian offensive into Turkey was launched from Armenia. Here the target was the fortress of Erzurum. The attack started in mid-month under Gen Nikolai Yudenich.

 

 

FEBRUARY 1916

 

Serbia - The last survivors of the Serbian Army, still holding their Austrian POW's, reached the Albanian ports of Durazzo and Valona on the Adriatic. From there they were evacuated, mainly by the French and Italian Navies, to the Greek island of Corfu. The evacuation was over by the 26th, by which time most of Albania had been occupied. The Italians maintained their foothold in the south around Valona.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

8th February - French cruiser "AMIRAL CHARNER" (1894, 4,700t, 2-19.4cm & 6-13.86cm). On patrol off the Syrian coast, the French armoured cruiser was torpedoed by Hersing in German "U-21", who also sank British pre-dreadnoughts "Majestic" and "Triumph" off Gallipoli. The old ship went down rapidly to the west of Beirut and just one survivor was picked up.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Caucasus - The Russian offensive from Armenia continued. On the 16th, and following a 50 mile advance, Gen Yudenich captured Erzurum.

 

 

MARCH 1916

 

Italy - As part of the Allied strategy to hold down Austrian forces, Gen Cadorna launched the Fifth Battle of the Isonzo early in the month. By month's end it has petered out with few gains.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

1st February - British sloop "PRIMULA" (1916, 1,250t, 2-4.7in). As German submarines hunted for Allied merchant shipping in the Eastern Mediterranean, "U-35" commanded by the top scorer, Cdr von Arnauld de la Perière, torpedoed and sank "Flower" class fleet sweeping sloop "Primula" south of Cape Matapan, southern Greece.

 

16th February - German coastal minelayer "UC-12" (1915, 170t, 12 mines). Sailing on another minelaying operation in the guise of Austrian "U-24", "UC-12" was sunk off the southern Italian base of Taranto by the explosion of one of her own mines (40°27N, 17°11E). She was the first of only two German submarines lost in 1916 in the Mediterranean. The next one was not until August. The Italians salvaged "UC-12", and in 1917 commissioned her into the Italian Navy as "X-1".

 

18th February - French destroyer "RENAUDIN" (1913, 760t, 2-10cm, 4-45cm tt). On a sweep from Brindisi across the Adriatic with other Allied ships, "Renaudin" was hit by a torpedo from "U-6", one of the few Austrian submarines available for operations, and even than mainly in the Adriatic. Cut in two, the destroyer went down off Durazzo.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Egypt - Gen Murray took command in Egypt and built-up his forces throughout most of 1916. He constructed a fortified area to protect the Suez Canal and started to clear the Sinai Peninsula, building the necessary logistics support - water pipeline, railway, and road - into the desert.

 

Persia - The Russians under Gen Baratov continued to advance on Baghdad and captured Karind, not far from the border of Mesopotamia and Persia. The Turks were forced to withdraw a corps of their Sixth Army from Kut-al-Amara.

 

Black Sea

 

9th February - Russian torpedo boat "LEITENANT PUSHCHIN" (1905, 350t, 2 or 3-45.7cm tt). The Russian Black Sea Fleet continued to maintain its superiority over the Turkish-German forces, and a seaplane attack, covered by dreadnought "Imperatritsa Ekaterina" and battleships, was attempted on Varna. Escorting destroyer "Zadorni", now torpedo boat "Lt Pushchin" was lost on an enemy mine off the Bulgarian port.

 

 

APRIL 1916

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

27th April - British battleship "RUSSELL" (1903, 13,300t, 4-12in) & sloop "NASTURTIUM" (1916, 1,250t, 2-4.7in). Sailing from Germany and now heading for Cattaro, the large, 750 ton minelayer "U-73" laid mines off Malta's Grand Harbour. On the 27th, approaching Malta after service in the Aegean, the old battleship "Russell" was sunk with the loss of over 120 men. Later that day, fleet sweeping sloop "Nasturtium", sister-ship to the recently lost "Primula", went down in the same small field. A naval armed yacht followed them to the bottom next day.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Mesopotamia - Early in the month, the third and final attempt to relieve Kut-al-Amara failed. Gen Townsend had been besieged since December, and surrendered to the Turks on the 29th. Ten thousand mostly Indian troops were taken prisoner. Thus ended the first British campaign to take Baghdad. And also the last of the attempts to reach Kut-al-Amara, which cost many casualties. For the rest of 1916, Mesopotamia was quiet as the British built-up strength and supplies.

 

The last attempt to supply Kut-al-Amara - Lt Firman RN in command of the river steamer SS "Julnar" with Lt-Cdr Cowley as his second in command, made the last attempt to carry 270 tons of supplies through to the troops at Kut-al-Amara. Sailing from Fallahiya late on the 24th, they were shortly discovered, came under fire, and although hit, kept going. At midnight, a few miles short of Kut, "Julnar" was caught in a boom and Firmin killed. She ran aground and the crew captured, including Lt-Cdr Cowley. The Turks later claimed he was killed trying to escape, but having lived in Mesopotamia for much of his life, may have been executed as a claimed subject of the Ottoman Empire.  The Victoria Cross was awarded posthumously to Lt Humphrey Firman RN and Lt-Cdr Charles Cowley RNVR.

 

Black Sea

 

Caucasus - The Russians captured Trebizond (Trabzon) on the Black Sea on the 18th. Support by the Black Sea Fleet included the new dreadnoughts "Imperatritsa Mariya" and "Imperatritsa Ekaterina". The Fleet's C-in-C, Adm Eberhardt was replaced in July by Vice Adm Kolchak.

 

25th April - Russian torpedo boat "ZHIVUCHI" (1906, 350t, 1-11pdr, 2-45.7cm tt). The only threat to Russian dominance in the Black Sea came from the few German U-boats. After being assembled at Pola in mid-1915 and later making the voyage to Turkey, small minelayer "UC-15" mined the approaches to Sevastopol. The old Russian destroyer, now torpedo boat "Zhivuchi", sank on one of them.

 

 

MAY 1916

 

Italy - On the 15th, the Austrians, against German advice, launched an offensive into northern Italy from the Trentino bulge. In the Battle of Asiago, Austrian Gen Conrad was successful at first, having transferred some of his best divisions and 2,000 guns from the Russian front. However, aware of these preparations, Italian Gen Cadorna had moved troops into the area following the end of the Fifth Battle of Isonzo. Austrian Archduke Eugen's Eleventh and Third Armies attacked south near Asiago in the mountains, and drove a five miles wedge into the Italians, taking thousands of prisoners. As the Italians withdrew, the Austrians were worn down and brought to a halt.

 

Macedonia - The Bulgarians crossed the Greek border, north of Salonika, advanced along the Struma River, and occupied Fort Rupel.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

13th May - Austrian "U-6" (1910, 240t, 2-45cm tt). Until 1917, only one enemy U-boat was definitely caught by the Otranto barrage - Austrian "U-6" on the night of the 13th May 1916. Trapped in the nets of patrolling British fishing drifter "Calistoga", she surfaced to be shelled by the "Dulcie Doris" and "Evening Star II", and was then scuttled by her crew some 12m ENE of Cape Otranto.

 

Turkish Waters

 

13th/14th May - British monitor "M-30" (1915, 350t, 2-6in). British forces still blockaded the Turkish Gulf of Smyrna, partly with a small naval force occupying Long Island at the entrance to the gulf. The Turks reacted with shore-based gunfire, and on the night of the 13th or the 14th (sources vary), the small monitor "M-30" was hit and set on fire before sinking. With the airfield also out of action, Long Island was shortly abandoned.

 

 

JUNE 1916

 

Italy - By the 10th in the Battle of Asiago, the Austrians had gained 12 miles in one sector, but the attack was brought to an end as the Brusilov Offensive started on the Russian front. Italian Gen Cadorna began his counter-offensive, and by months-end, the Austrians had lost nearly all their earlier gains. At a minimum, Italian casualties were 150,000, and Austrian, a further 100,000.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

5th June - French destroyer "FANTASSIN" (1911, 450t, 6-65mm, 3-45cm tt) on a submarine hunt was rammed at night by the similar "Mameluk", and the wrecked ship was finished off by gunfire from the older destroyer "Fauconneau". One source places this incident off the island of Fano, south of the Straits of Otranto.

 

23rd June - Italian armed merchant cruiser "CITTÀ DI MESSINA" and French destroyer "FOURCHE" (1912, 800t, 2-10cm, 4-45cm tt). Later in the month, in the Straits of Otranto, Austrian submarine "U-15" hit and sank the Italian AMC "Città di Messina". Accompanying destroyer "Fourche" went into attack with depth-charges, and believing the submarine destroyed, started to pick up survivors from the Italian ship. Hit herself by another torpedo from "U-15", the Brindisi-based destroyer was cut in half, and went down to the east of Otranto.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Arabia - The Emir of Nejd, in the interior of Arabia, was already at war with Turkey. Now he encouraged the Arabs of Hedjaz and Asir on the Red Sea coast to claim their independence. In June, the Sherif of Mecca started the revolt and claimed Mecca, with his sons leading the Arab armies. British help included political encouragement, medical aid, naval support in the Red Sea, air attacks on Turkish supply routes, and the secondment of British military personnel, of whom Lawrence of Arabia became far and away the most famous. Over the next year, much of Hedjaz and Asir came under Arab control, and frequent attacks disrupted Turkish troop movements along the Damascus-Medina railway.

 

Persia - The Turks repulsed the Russian advance through Persia into Mesopotamia, northwest of Baghdad. This brought Russian operations in Persia to a virtual end.

 

 

JULY 1916

 

Macedonia - The Allies spent the first few months of 1916 building facilities and reinforcing the defences of Salonika. All this time, Greece remained neutral, and the five British divisions that had arrived, had been given no clear role and and remained essentially static. By the end of the month, the total Allied force had grown to a quarter of a million men. Apart from the British, these included four French, one large Italian, and six reformed Serbian divisions, and a Russian brigade. French Gen Maurice Sarrail was C-in-C, and had now established a continuous front across northern Greece from the Albanian border to the Aegean, east of Salonika.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

10th July - Italian destroyer "IMPETUOSO" (1914, 680t, 1-12cm, 4-45cm tt). Protecting the Otranto barrage drifters, the "Impetuoso" was torpedoed and sunk by Austrian submarine "U-17" in the Straits.

 

14th July - Italian submarine "BALILLA" (1915, 730t, 4-45cm tt, 2-7.6cm). On the night of the 14th, the new "Balilla" was in action with guns and torpedoes with Austrian torpedo boats "Tb65-F" and "Tb66-F". She went down off the Austrian island of Lissa half-way up the Adriatic.

 

15th July - British submarine "H-3" (1915, 360t, 4tt). Further south on patrol off the Cattaro naval base, the smaller, but equally new "H-3" was believed lost on mines.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Caucasus - On the 25th, and after numerous halts to re-supply and re-group, the Russians attacking from Armenia, captured Erzingian beyond Erzerum on the edge of the hill country. For the rest of the year they engaged in minor battles with the Turkish Second and Third Armies.

 

 

AUGUST 1916

 

Italy - Italy declared war on Germany on the 27th. With Italian forces now back to the Isonzo sector, the Sixth Battle of Isonzo or the Battle of Gorizia started on the 6th/7th. With a three to one superiority, Gen Cadorna advanced and captured the city of Gorizia on the 9th, the first real success of the numerous Isonzo battles. He also made limited gains on the Carso Plateau.

 

Macedonia - To coincide with Rumania's entry into the war, Gen Sarrail was ordered to advance north from Salonika. The Bulgarian Second Army in the eastern Struma River area attacked first from Fort Rupel, and shortly occupied the Greek coastal strip of Kavalla.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

2nd August - Italian dreadnought "LEONARDO DA VINCI" (1914, 23,000t, 13-30.5cm). Nearly a year after the old battleship "Benedetto Brin" blew up at Brindisi, "Leonardo da Vinci" caught fire, also blew up and capsized in Taranto harbour with heavy loss of life. Faulty ammunition was suspected, but the cause was put down to Austrian sabotage. As one of the few Italian dreadnoughts, she joined the ranks other Allied dreadnoughts lost by explosion in harbour - the Russian "Imperatritsa Mariya" in 1916, the British "Vanguard" in 1917 and the Japanese "Kawachi" in 1918.

 

4th August - German coastal submarine "UB-44" (1916, served as Austrian "U-44", 260t, 2-50cmtt, 1-8.8cm). After completing at Pola, "UB-44" was lost. Sailing from Cattaro on the 4th bound for the Dardanelles, she was believed depth-charged and sunk by British drifters "Quarry Knowe" and "Carragill" patrolling the Otranto Barrage (40°12N, 18°46E). The U-boat, only the second and the last one to be sunk in the Med in 1916, may have first been caught in mined nets. In some sources, she was shown as missing, fate unknown. The drifter "Quarry Knowe", sometimes listed as two vessels - "Quarry" and "Knowe", was sunk in the May 1917 Austrian raid on the Otranto Barrage.

 

9th August - British submarine "B-10" (1906, 290t, 2tt), Lt Michell, was one of six "B"-class boats allocated to the British Adriatic Squadron. After a number of unsuccessful patrols in the northern Adriatic, she was lying alongside her depot ship, the Italian armoured cruiser "Marco Polo" in Venice harbour with sister boat "B-8". An attack by Austrian aircraft flying from Trieste and Pola resulted in damage to both boats, sufficient in the case of "B-10" for her to founder. She was the first submarine sunk by air attack  

 

14th August - British Q-ship "REMEMBRANCE" (or "Lammeroo", collier, 1910, 3,660grt, 2-4in). "Q-ships" also attempted to play their part in the war against the Mediterranean-based German U-boats, but "Remembrance" was sunk in the Aegean by "U-38".

 

30th August - Italian destroyer "AUDACE" (1914, 800t, 1-12cm, 2-45cm tt), escorting a convoy in the Ionian Sea, was sunk at night in collision with merchantman SS "Brasile".

 

NEAR EAST

 

Egypt - As the British advance continued slowly across the Sinai Peninsula, 15,000 Turks and Germans commanded by Gen Kress von Kressenstein attacked at Romani near the coast. Gen Murray fought a skilful defence, and the Turks were forced to retreat.

 

 

SEPTEMBER 1916

 

Italy - The Italians attacked the Austrians in the Seventh Battle of the Isonzo, concentrating on the Carso Plateau region.

 

Macedonia - French and Serbian troops started a limited offensive from the Salonika area. In hard, mountain fighting, they forced their way through the Monastir Gap towards Monastir (Bitola) through into October and November.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

1st September - British seaplane carrier "Raven II". This German prize, converted in 1915 to carry one to six seaplanes, was damaged at Port Said in a German bombing raid.

 

15th September - French submarine "FOUCAULT" (c1914, 400t, 1-45cm tt and 6 torpedo collars/cradles) was caught ten miles off Cattaro in the Adriatic by Austrian flying boats L132 and L135 and sunk in the resulting attack. She was the first submarine lost to aircraft at sea

 

 

OCTOBER 1916

 

Italy - Still concentrating on the Carso Plateau region, the Italians fought the Eighth Battle of the Isonzo.

 

Macedonia & Greece - As Allied troops continued to fight their way through the Monastir Gap, problems came to a head between the Allies and neutral Greece with its pro-German King Constantine 1.

 

 Mediterranean War at Sea

 

17th October - Italian destroyer "NEMBO" (1902, 400t, 4-7.6cm, 2-45cm tt) & Austrian coastal submarine "U-16" (1915, 125t, 2-45cm tt). During a convoy attack, "U-16" torpedoes and sinks destroyer "Nembo" off Valona in Albania, but was herself lost. She may have been rammed and damaged by one of the convoyed ships, Italian steamer "Borminda" (or "Bermida"), and then scuttled, or sunk by the depth charges of the sinking "Nembo".

 

GREEK NAVY (link) - The fleet was taken over by the Allies, and the larger ships demilitarised. Smaller vessels were requisitioned by the French Navy.

 

 

Black Sea

 

1st October - German coastal submarine "UB-7" (1915, 130t, 2-45cm tt). After assembly at Pola and sailing for the Dardanelles, "UB-7" was now operating in the Black Sea out of Varna. Along with the other German boats she had little success. Leaving for the Crimea in late September, she was believed to have been bombed and sunk by Russian aircraft off Sevastopol on or around the 1st October (44°30N, 33°15E). Some sources show her mined or lost, cause unknown.

 

20th October - Russian dreadnought "IMPERATRITSA MARIYA" (1915, 23,000t, 12-30.5cm). Barely challenged by the few German submarines available, the Russian Navy continued to dominate the Black Sea, supporting the Russian army on the Caucasus front and blockading the Bosphorus and the coal-mining areas around Zonguldak. Now it suffered its worst loss of the war and in the process, the Allies lost another dreadnought in harbour. On the 20th, the 30.5cm (12in) magazines of the "Imperatritsa Mariya" exploded and she sank to the bottom at Sevastopol. Russian supremacy at sea, however, carried on well into 1917.

 

28th or 30th October - Turkish destroyer "GAIRET-I-WATANIJE" (or "Gaireti Vatanye", 1910, 665t, 2-8.8cm, 3-45cmtt) ran aground off Varna and was abandoned. Sources vary on the date of "Gairet-i-Watanije's" loss.

 

 

NOVEMBER 1916

 

Italy - Now the Ninth Battle of the Isonzo took place, with the main effort still in the Carso Plateau region. As usual, the Italians made small gains in exchange for heavy casualties on both sides.  

 

Macedonia - The attacking French and Serbian troops broke through the Bulgarian First Army, and on the 19th, captured Monastir after a 25 mile advance across difficult, mountainous country. The Bulgarians were nearly destroyed by the Serbs, but saved by blizzards and the arrival of two German divisions. The Allied offensive in Macedonia came to a halt at Monastir, too late to save Rumania. Meanwhile, to the west, the Italian corps based in southern Albania successfully struck north against the Austrians, and joined up with the French and Serbians.

 

Black Sea

 

6th November - German coastal submarine "UB-45" (1916, 260t, 2-50cm tt, 1-8.8cm). Two more of the few Black Sea U-boats were lost. On the 6th, "UB-45" was sunk on Russian mines laid off the Bulgarian base of Varna (43°12N, 28°09E).

 

14th/15th November - German coastal minelayer "UC-15" (1915, 170t, 12 mines). A week later, coastal minelayer "UC-15" sailed from Constantinople for operations off Sulina, Rumania, at the mouth of the Danube, and disappeared without trace. She may have been lost on the 14th or 15th in the area on previously-laid German mines or by the explosion of one of her own (45°05N, 29°50E).

 

 

DECEMBER 1916

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

3rd December - British Q-ship "PERUGIA" ("Q-1", cargo ship, 1901, 4,350grt,1-4in) was torpedoed and sunk by German "U-63" in the Gulf of Genoa, northwest coast of Italy.

 

11th December - Italian pre-dreadnought "REGINA MARGHERITA" (1904, 14,100t, 4-30.5cm). A year after her mines sank the Italian destroyer "Intrepido" in the Adriatic off Valona, German "UC-14" was credited with an even greater success. Leaving Valona for docking in Taranto, the pre-dreadnought "Regina Margherita" hit two of the U-boat's mines and sank with heavy loss of life, a major disaster for the Italian Navy.

 

27th December - French battleship "GAULOIS" (1899, 11,100t, 4-30.5cm), under escort and on passage around Greece from Corfu to Salonika, was also lost. Torpedoed and sunk by German "UB-47", she went down between the islands of Cerigo (or Cythera) and Milo in the southern Aegean.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Egypt/Palestine - By year's end, the British had crossed the Sinai, and after its evacuation by the Turks, entered El Arish on the coastal route to Gaza on the 21st. Maghhaba and its garrison was captured on the 23rd. The British defence of the Suez Canal had now been pushed forward to the eastern edge of the Sinai Peninsula. In the New Year, the battle for Palestine started.

 

Mesopotamia - With a two to one superiority, British Gen Maude started to attack north towards Baghdad.  

 

Black Sea

 

7th December - German coastal submarine "UB-46" (1916, 260t, 2-50cm tt, 1-8.8cm). The fourth German U-boat in less than three months was sunk in the Black Sea when "UB-46" was lost on Russian ship-laid mines, 30 miles off the Bosphorus (41°26N, 28°35E).

 

 


 

 

1917

 

JANUARY 1917

 

Two Allied warships were lost to the mines and torpedoes of German U-boats; a third was sunk by the Turks.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

4th January - Russian cruiser "PERESVIET" (1901, 12,700t, 4-25.4cm).  Russian battleship "Peresviet" was sunk in the 1905 Russo-Japanese war, raised and re-commissioned into the Japanese Navy. Returned to the Russians in 1916 and re-rated a cruiser, she was on passage through the Mediterranean to serve with the Russian Arctic Flotilla. Off Port Said, "Peresviet" sank on mines laid by German "UC-73".

 

9th January - British battleship "CORNWALLIS" (1904, 13,700t, 4-12in). Sailing from the Aegean back to Britain, the old battleship was torpedoed a number of times by "U-32" about 60 miles to the southeast of Malta. Some 15 men were lost, but the rest were taken off by the escorting destroyer.

 

Turkish Waters

 

11th January - British seaplane carrier "BEN-MY-CHREE" (1908, converted 1915, 3,900t, 2-4in, 4 seaplanes) arrived in the Mediterranean in 1915 for the Dardanelles campaign. She was sunk by shore batteries off the south coast of Turkey, near the island of Castellorizo.

 

 

FEBRUARY 1917

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

28th February - French minelayer "CASSINI" (1895, 970t, 100 mines). German U-boats also operated in the Western Mediterranean, and included amongst their successes the sinking of the old French torpedo cruiser "Cassini" now converted to a minelayer. First thought to have been sunk by torpedo, she was more likely lost on mines laid by "UC-35" in the Straits of Bonificio between Corsica and Sardinia. Some sources give the date as the 20th.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Mesopotamia - As the British advanced on Baghdad, Kut-al-Amara was captured on the 24th. Royal Navy gunboats continued in support.

 

 

MARCH 1917

 

Macedonia - As the Spring campaign opened, fighting continued around Monastir.

 

Mediterranean War at Sea - The Allies had few successes against German and Austrian U-boats in 1917, and in turn, lost one of their own submarines in tragic circumstances in the month, and yet another Allied battleship.

 

10th March - Italian submarine "GUGLIELMOTTI" (1917, 710t, 5-45cm tt, 2-7.6cm). An Italian submarine was mistaken at night for a U-boat, and rammed and sunk. The submarine was the newly completed "Guglielmotti" on her maiden voyage. She crossed an Allied convoy route to the east of Corsica and was sunk northwest of Capraia Island by the British sloop "Cyclamen" on escort duty.

 

19th March - French pre-dreadnought "DANTON" (1911, 18,300t, 4-30.5cm & 12-24cm). The French suffered their worst loss of the war at sea. The comparatively new "Danton" was returning to Corfu with destroyer escort from a refit at Toulon, when she was torpedoed and sunk with heavy loss of life by "U-64" off southwest Sardinia.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Palestine - The retreating Turks were located in the Gaza-Beersheba area. On the 26th, in the First Battle of Gaza, five British divisions under Gen Sir Archibald Murray attacked three Turkish divisions, but failed to break through and were forced to withdraw.

 

Mesopotomia - After clearing the Turks from Kut al Imara, Gen Maude, with 50,000 men advanced up the Tigris on Baghdad. The weak Turkish Sixth Army, commanded by Khalil Pasha, attempted to stop the British outside the city, but failed, and the long sought prize of Baghdad fell on the 11th. Khalil Pasha retreated to the north, and both sides spent the summer building up their forces.   

 

 

APRIL 1917

 

Mediterranean War at Sea

 

1st April - Austrian coastal submarine "U-30" (1917, 260t, 2-45cm tt, 1-7.5cm). Submarines of the Central Powers suffered one of their few losses of 1917 when coastal boat "U-30" disappeared around this date. Sailing from Cattaro on the 31st March, she may have been mined in the Straits of Otranto.

 

JAPANESE NAVY (link) - Following earlier British requests for assistance in the Mediterranean, two modern Japanese destroyer flotillas totalling eight ships, together with protected cruiser "Akashi" reached Malta in mid-month. Working with the Royal Navy, they played an important role in the Mediterranean, especially on escort duty.

 

NEAR EAST

 

Palestine - The Second Battle of Gaza was fought on the 17th. Gen Murray faced even stronger Turkish defences, and was repulsed with heavy casualties. He was replaced by Gen Sir Edmund Allenby, who spent the summer preparing his campaign.

 

to be continued

 

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added 13/12/08