The presence of German battlecruiser "Goeben" and light cruiser "Breslau" in the Mediterranean even before war is declared, leads to a series of encounters and actions. Their escape from the Royal Navy is an embarrassment, but far more significant are the strategic results. Of direct consequence, Turkey is brought into the war on the side of the Central Powers, which in turn leads 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.
After reaching Turkish waters, the two German ships are 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 spend much of the war operating in the Black Sea manned by their German crews and under the command of Adm Souchon, who is appointed Chief of the Turkish Fleet.
Rear-Adm S H Carden, Superintendent of Malta Dockyard takes 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 concentrates his energies on helping to bring Turkey into the war on the side of Germany. As the Turkish Naval commander he prepares to attack the Russian Fleet in the Black Sea.
Turkey Enters the War - Under German influence, Turkey enters the war on the 29th on the side of the Central Powers. Not until early November do the Allies formally respond. Britain prepares to defend the Suez Canal and oil supplies in the Persian Gulf from Turkish attack.
Allied Bombardment of the Dardanelles - With Turkey's entry into the war, but before Britain's own declaration, the Admiralty decides 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" shell 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 persuades the British that warships can defeat the shore batteries, but also provides the Turks with ample warning of the need to strengthen the defences further.
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), makes the first penetration of the Dardanelles reaching almost as far as Chanak, 15 miles in. The ancient "Mesudiye" moored as a stationery guard ship, is sighted and sunk with one 18in torpedo. Under fire, "B-11" returns and safely reaches the open sea. * The VICTORIA CROSS is awarded to Lt Norman Holbrook RN
Turkey - With the Russian armies under pressure in the Caucasus, an appeal is 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 prefers the Baltic), Adm Carden in the Eastern Mediterranean is 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 prepare to attack the Dardanelles - The Dardanelles, through to the Sea of Marmara is 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 is Kephez Bay, a further five finds 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 are heavily defended by a 100 guns up to 14in calibre although many of these and the fortifications themselves are obsolescent. Leading up to the Narrows are minefields protected by covering guns and searchlights, torpedo tubes and anti-submarine nets. The Turks under Gen von Sanders have been strengthening the defences since the first Allied bombardment in November.
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 fails when "Saphir" is sunk off Nagara in the Narrows. Some sources report she ran aground, others that she was mined. She is the first of four French boats lost in the Dardanelles in 1915
Start of Naval Attack on the Dardanelles - Adm Carden's fleet now includes 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 is occupied by the Royal Marines. The opening bombardment starts 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 prevents operations until the 25th, when shell hits are made on the forts around Cape Helles and Orkanieh. By the end of the month, the outer defences have been virtually destroyed with the aid of demolition parties landed from the ships.
Amongst these is a party of marines and sailors led by Lt-Cdr Eric Robinson, ship's officer, HMS "Vengeance", which goes ashore at Kum Kale in the afternoon of the 26th under the cover of "Irresistible" and "Vengeance" and supporting cruisers. Under heavy fire, Robinson holds back his own men, and goes 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 torpedoes the stranded submarine "E-15" in April, he is gazetted for the Victoria Cross in August 1915.
2nd-18th - Main Naval Attacks on the Dardanelles - Bombardments on the 2nd and 3rd are indecisive with the battleships being hindered by mobile gun batteries. Another start is made on knocking out the Narrow's defences on the 5th. But even the big-gunned "Queen Elizabeth" is not up to this task, hampered as she is by ineffective spotting aircraft. Even more importantly, the minesweeping trawlers with their untrained fisherman crews are unable to clear the minefields, even at night because of the enemy searchlights.
By the 10th, Adm Carden is reporting failure, but is ordered by Churchill and Fisher to press ahead with the attacks on the Narrows. He does so, but the minesweeping fails to make any progress and he resigns, to be succeeded on the 15th by Rear-Adm John de Robeck, his second-in-command. The 18th is now set for the major attack and by 11.30 on that date, "Queen Elizabeth", "Inflexible", "Agamemnon" and "Lord Nelson" are 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 appear to have been silenced, although "Inflexible" and "Agamemnon" are lightly damaged in the process. Now the four French battleships close 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 is now the turn of six British battleships to move further in, when the first major disaster occurs. Around 14.00, as she retires, the French battleship "BOUVET" (1898, 12,200t, 2-30.5cm) is either mined or hit by a heavy shell in a magazine and sinks with most of her crew. The British trawlers are ordered to clear the minefields, but even worse is 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) hits a mine, is badly flooded with 29 men killed, but reaches Tenedos before going on to Malta for repairs. Four minutes later, the battleship "IRRESISTIBLE" (1902, 14,500t, 4-12in) commanded by Capt Dent has to be abandoned for the same reason and sinks three hours later. Adm de Robeck now orders the ships to withdraw, but too late to save the already shellfire-damaged battleship "OCEAN" (1900, 13,150t, 4-12in). She strikes another mine around 18.00 and founders during the night.
In a matter of hours, of the 16 Allied capital ships taking part, three have been sunk and three heavily damaged (including the French battleship "Suffren") in exchange for a few Turkish guns, although the minefields still remain the main obstacle to progress. Now de Robeck organizes a more effective minesweeping force using destroyers. But since the 15th, the War Council has been considering using troops. Lord Kitchener agrees to release the Australian and New Zealand (ANZAC) Corps, and the Naval and 29th Divisions, which together with French troops, provides a force of 80,000 men which assembles on Lemnos under Gen Sir Ian Hamilton.
17th-19th April - Destruction of British submarine "E-15" - A second Allied submarine attempts 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) runs aground some ten miles in, under Kephaz Point. Fired on and disabled, Cdr Brodie and members of the crew are killed. Various attempts are now made to destroy "E-15". Submarine "B-6", with Cdr Brodie's brother on board, tries to sink her by torpedo, but misses. Later, during the night, destroyers "Grampus" and "Scorpion" (commanded by the future Adm A B Cunningham of World War 2 Mediterranean Fleet fame), attempt to find her, but fail.
25th April - Allied Landings at Gallipoli - By now, an Allied Fleet including 18 battleships and 12 cruisers is ready to land the first 30,000 troops. They go 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 are in prepared positions, ready with a new Fifth Army of 80,000 under German Gen von Sanders. The landings are partly successful, but none of the main objectives are 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 are stopped by a Turkish division commanded by Mustapha Kemal (later Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey).
The campaign drags on for 8 months, with the Allies never gaining more than a foothold. The beachheads are swept by fire from the surrounding heights, Allies and Turks attack frequently, but in every case with heavy casualties for few gains. Then in the summer, disease strikes to add to those killed in the fighting. Thus the main outflanking operation of the war bogs down into trench warfare little different from that on the Western Front. And in supporting the Allies, the Royal Navy loses three battleships in May.
On V Beach, still on the 25th, as the battleship "Albion" bombards, the ex-collier "River Clyde" attempts to land 2,000 men of the 29th Division across three lighters and a grounded dredging hopper. The pontoon bridge is put in place, when the Turks open heavy fire. After three hours, only 200 men have reached the shore, with many more left dead and wounded. The main body only succeeds with the coming of nightfall, but what little success there was in daylight was mainly due to the "River Clyde's" men. They position the lighters and hopper, securing and holding them as the troops land. Cdr Unwin, the commanding officer of the "River Clyde", who also commissioned her, even stands in the water holding lines, and although himself wounded, later rescues other wounded from shore by boat. Midshipman Drewry, who commands the hopper is also wounded, but carries on, later to be taken over by Midshipman Malleson. Other heroes of the hour include AB Williams who remains 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 distinguish themselves. Sub-Lt Tisdall, Platoon Commander, Anson Btn, waiting to land from the "River Clyde" and serve with the army, goes ashore to help Cdr Unwin bring back the wounded. He lands next day, to be killed himself at Achi Baba on the 6th May. Also ashore at Anzac Cove on the 28th is L/Cpl Parker RMLI, Portsmuth Btn to relieve Australian troops near Gaba Tepe, and close to Turkish positions. On the night of the 30th, he volunteers to take ammunition and supplies to isolated trenches. Several are killed or wounded in the attempt, and Parker alone succeeds, to then give first aid. Later he is seriously wounded.
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" is 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 loses trim and surfaces wildly near a torpedo boat. Unable to stay down, she is holed in the pressure hull by three shells from the enemy warship - the "Sultan Hissar" and has to be scuttled. By now, Lt-Cdr Boyle's "E-14" has also got through.
Gallipoli - Heavy and intermittent fighting continues in Gallipoli through to July and then August, when further landings are made.
British Submarine Successes - Royal Navy submarines win two more VC's for their commanders in the Dardanelles campaign, in a month which also sees the loss of one French submarine and three British battleships. Starting out on the 27th April, Lt-Cdr Boyle in "E-14" reaches the Sea of Marmara for a successful three weeks patrol that hinders the reinforcement of Turkish forces in Gallipoli. Accounts somewhat vary on his successes which include a claimed torpedo gunboat sunk on the way in. What is certain is that in the Sea of Marmara, Boyle sinks an escorted transport, small gunboat "Nur ul Bahir", and an ex-White Star liner carrying troops for Gallipoli, before he rejoins 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 reaches the Sea of Marmara. Leaving on the 19th May, his orders are "to run amuck", which he does, sinking some eight ships including a transport laying alongside the capital of Constantinople. He safely returns in early June, and makes two more equally successful patrols beyond the Dardanelles later in 1915. + The VICTORIA CROSS is 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) tries to break through the Dardanelles defenses, but hits a mine in the Narrows, and is 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) is 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") torpedoes and sends her to the bottom with over 500 seamen.
The first German U-boat to sail into the Mediterranean is 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 torpedoes British pre-dreadnought "TRIUMPH" (1904, 12,000t, 4-10in) while she is firing her guns in support off Gabe Tepe, midway between Suvla Bay and Cape Helles. She capsizes in a short time with the loss of some 70 men.
27th July - French submarine "MARIOTTE" (1913, 530t, 4-45cm tt, 2 drop collars). Yet another Allied submarine is sunk trying to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara. The "Mariotte" is trapped in the Turkish net defences off Chanak in the Narrows, forced to surface and scuttled after being shelled by shore batteries.
Landings at Suvla Bay, Gallipoli - Gen Hamilton with three more Allied Divisions, tries to outflank the Turks on Gallipoli with further landings on the 6th. These take 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 fails.
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) accounts for numerous vessels including a gunboat during the month. Then on the 8th, off Bulair on the Gallipoli Peninsula, he torpedoes and sinks 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, hits 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 is the first use of torpedoes dropped from aircraft.
5th September - British submarine "E-7" (1914, 655t, 4tt, 1-12pdr). Another Allied submarine is lost to the Dardanelles defences. Heading from Mudros on the 4th for another patrol in the Sea of Marmara, "E-7" (Lt Cdr Cochrane) is trapped in A/S nets at Nagara and shaken by exploding mines. Next day on the 5th and still enmeshed, the boat is reportedly 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 reaches the surface to be scuttled by Cdr Cochrane.
30th October - French submarine "TURQUOISE" (c1910, 390t, 6-45cm tt, 1-37mm). The first French submarine to pass through the Dardanelles and reach the Sea of Marmara runs aground on the 30th. She may have been hit by Turkish shore batteries (accounts differ). "Turquoise" is captured intact and incorporated into the Turkish Navy as "Mustadieh Ombashi", but never re-commissioned. Papers found on board allow 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, is wrecked off Gallipoli in Suvla Bay and destroyed by Turkish gunfire.
Gallipoli Campaign - Lord Kitchener visits Gallipoli. Allied casualties now total at least 250,000 including 50,000 killed, and the French are also pressing for a campaign on the Macedonian front from Salonika. The decision is 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) waits for and hits "E-20" with a single torpedo in the Sea of Marmara. Only nine men including the C.O. are picked up after the British boat explodes. (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.)
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" adds to his already considerable score of Turkish vessels sunk and disabled. On the 3rd, he torpedoes and sinks the "Yarhisar" 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 include 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 have been lost, plus four French.
Evacuation of Gallipoli - The Royal Navy completes 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 is the turn of the men on the Cape Helles beaches at the tip of Gallipoli.
During the Campaign, major Allied losses in warships include:
Final Evacuation of Gallipoli - By the 9th, the last Allied troops have been withdrawn from the Cape Helles beaches. Again, as three weeks earlier, without loss.
TWO YEARS LATER
20th January - Last Sortie of the "Goeben" and "Breslau" - Adm Souchon, Turkish-German Navy C-in-C returns to Germany, and his successor, Vice Adm Rebeur-Paschwitz aims to draw Allied ships away from the Palestine coast with a sortie in the Dardanelles area by "Goeben" and "Breslau", sailing from Constantinople on the 19th. By now the British Aegean Squadron under Rear Adm Hayes-Sadler is down to the two battleships "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon", one old French battleship, some light cruisers and destroyers, and a few monitors. He also expects the Germans to give warning of any sortie by first clearing some of the extensive minefields off Sedd-el-Bahr. Instead, apart from advanced aircraft reconnaissance, the German ships largely ignore the minefields, and sails out past Cape Helles early on the 20th. "Goeben" is slightly damaged by a mine on the way, but the two ships head for the island of Imbros. There, just before 0800 hours in Kusu Bay, they surprise and sink British monitors "LORD RAGLAN" (1915, 6,150t, 2-14in), Cdr Viscount Broome, with the loss of 127 men, & "M-28" (1915, 540t, 1-9.2in) with gunfire. Warnings are wirelessed to the Allied ships at Mudros on the island of Lemnos, but Adm Hayes-Sadler is in Salonika on board "Lord Nelson", and the old French battleship is in dock. That only leaves battleship "Agamemnon" and light cruisers "Foresight", "Lowestoft" and "Skirmisher" at Mudros, which immediately raise steam. Adm Hayes-Sadler also sails from Salonika.
The Germans clear Imbros for Mudros, shadowed by British destroyers "Tigress" and "Lizard, but as they round Cape Kephalo at 0830, "Breslau" hits a mine. "Goeben" takes her in tow, but is herself mined. A few minutes later, disaster strikes - cruiser "BRESLAU" (1912, 4,570t, 12-10.5cm) detonates another four mines in rapid succession, and settles fast at around 0900 hours with most of her crew (40°05N, 26°02E). Leaving her, the larger German ship heads back for the Dardanelles, hitting a third mine, and then half way in, the listing "Goeben" runs hard aground at Nagara Point just before midday, still on the 20th.
She is soon attacked by British aircraft, including Sopwith Baby seaplanes from the "Ark Royal". A claimed 270 sorties are made, but the bombs that hit are too small to cause serious damage. The only British submarine "E-2" is unserviceable with a cracked propellor shaft and back in Malta. The "E-14" (Lt Cdr White), normally on patrol in the Otranto Straits, is therefore despatched from Corfu. On arrival, Cdr White is flown on his own air reconnaissance. Then,in spite of the greatly-increased defences including guns, searchlights, nets, minefields and patrols, he takes "E-14" through to Nagara Point on the 27th, unaware that "Goeben" had been towed off the day before by old Turkish battleship "Turgut Reis". Finding "Goeben" gone, White attacks a Turkish ship in the morning, but is damaged either by a premature torpedo explosion or depth charges dropped by a Turkish patrol boat. Brought to the surface, British submarine "E-14" (1914, 670/800t, 5-18in tt, 1-12pdr) is hit by shore batteries and sunk. Cdr White is hit and killed. With the "Goeben" largely out of action for the rest of the war, the German Mediterranean Division ceases to exist. She did however survive as the Turkish "Yawuz" through until 1960.
Four Months later
Threatened German naval breakout into the Aegean - On the 1st May, the Germans reach Sevastopol. Although by mid month, the more modern ships of the old Russian Black Sea Fleet have sailed, the Germans still manage to seize a large number of older and smaller ships. Fearing a breakout through the Dardanelles by the Germans and Turks, with or without the captured Russian ships, the Allied ships based at Mudros on the island of Lemnos are reinforced.
and a Final Six Months on .....
Occupation of Turkey - On the 10th, as a large Allied Fleet prepares to sail into the Dardanelles, and pass Constantinople into the Black Sea, they are preceeded by the British destroyer "Shark" and French "Mangini". These are the first Allied ships to reach Constantinople. On the 12th, the main fleet, after extensive minesweeping, passes through the Dardanelles, and anchors off the Turkish capital on the 13th.
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