WORLD WAR 1 at SEA
MEDITERRANEAN, including Turkish Waters & Black Sea, 1914-18
edited by Gordon
German light cruiser SMS Breslau,
later Turkish Midilli, but still German-manned
(Maritime Quest, click photographs for enlargements)
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:
Gallipoli, European Turkey
THE NAVIES AT WAR
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:
six old battleships,
dreadnoughts "Jean Bart" and
"Courbet" ( with "France" and
"Paris" completing, and three more to
11 out of 18 armoured cruisers,
four out of 14 protected cruisers,
half the fleet of around 86 destroyers and 34
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.
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:
three completed dreadnoughts (with three more
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
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:
three dreadnoughts (with a fourth completing),
three armoured cruisers,
three out of five light/protected 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
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:
"Inflexible", "Indefatigable" and
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.
NAVY - To
counter the British, the German Admiralty had sent:
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
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
4th-10th August 1914 - Escape of the
German "Goeben" and "Breslau"
Sir Berkeley Milne
Rear-Adm Wilhelm Souchon
"Inflexible" (flag), "Indomitable",
(1908-11, c18,000t, 8-12in, 25k)
(1912, 23,000t, 10-28cm, 25k)
CS - "Defence" (flag Rear-Adm E
Troubridge ) "Black Prince"
"Duke of Edinburgh" "Warrior"
(1906-08, c14,000t, 4 or 6-9.2in)
(1910-12, c5,000t, mainly 8-6in, 25k)
(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
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
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.
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.
- 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.
Serbia - In the Second Invasion of
September), the Austrians again cross the Sava and Drina
Rivers, but only managed to hold on to a few small
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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".
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
Syrian Coast -
Acting independently, British protected cruiser "Doris" (Capt Frank Larken)
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
continued through to early January 1915.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
* 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".
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
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
* 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
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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
Gallipoli - Heavy and
intermittent fighting, continued in Gallipoli
through to July and then August, when further landings were
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
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.
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.
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
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).
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.
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".
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
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.
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.
Nasiriya on the Euphrates was captured by British
forces in the move on Baghdad.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Italy - The Third Battle
of the Isonzo, really a continuation of the earlier one,
started in mid-month with the struggle carrying on into
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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,
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"
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
3 plus 1 Australian
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.
Serbia - The
Serbian retreat across Albania continued. Further north,
the Austrians overran Montenegro, which surrendered on the
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
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.
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
(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.
Caucasus - The
Russian offensive from Armenia continued. On the 16th,
and following a 50 mile advance, Gen Yudenich captured Erzurum.
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
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
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 -
"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.
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.
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
Mediterranean War at Sea
27th April - British battleship
"RUSSELL" (1903, 13,300t,
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
15th July - British submarine
(1915, 360t, 4tt). Further south on patrol off the
Cattaro naval base, the smaller, but equally new
"H-3" was believed lost on mines.
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
Italy - The
Italians attacked the Austrians in the Seventh Battle of
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
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
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.
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"
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.
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).
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).
Mediterranean War at Sea
3rd December -
"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
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 -
"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.
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.
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,
Two Allied warships were lost to the
mines and torpedoes of German U-boats; a third was sunk by the
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
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.
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
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
Mesopotamia - As
the British advanced on Baghdad, Kut-al-Amara was captured
on the 24th. Royal Navy gunboats continued in support.
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
19th March -
"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.
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.
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.
(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.
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