HMS E15

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Wreck of the E15 inspected by Turkish and German personnel.
Wreck of the E15 inspected by Turkish and German personnel.
Career
RN Ensign
Launched: 23 April 1914
Commissioned: 1914
Fate: run aground on 16 April, destroyed 18 April 1915
General characteristics
Displacement: 662 tons (surfaced)
807 tons (submerged)
Length: 54.86 m
Beam: 6.86 m
Draught: 3.81 m
Propulsion: Twin-shaft, 2 x 1,600 bhp Vickers diesel, 2 x 840 shp electric motors
Speed: 15.25 knots (surfaced)
9.75 knots (submerged)
Range: 325 nm surfaced
Endurance: 24 days
Complement: 3 officers, 28 ratings
Armament: 2 x 18" bow tube
2 x 18" beam tubes
1 x 18" stern tube
(10 torpedoes)
1 x 12 pdr deck gun

HMS E15 was an E-class submarine of the Royal Navy, commissioned in 1914.

Service history[edit]

During World War I, E15 served in the Mediterranean, participating in the Gallipoli Campaign against the Ottoman Empire. On 16 April 1915, under the command of Lieutenant Commander T.S. Brodie, E15 sailed from her base at Mudros and attempted to break through the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmara. Early in the morning of 17 April, the submarine, having dived too deep and become caught in the vicious current, ran aground some ten miles (16 km) in near Kepez Point directly under the guns of Fort Dardanus. E15 was soon hit and disabled; Brodie was killed in the conning tower by shrapnel and six of the crew were killed by chlorine gas released when the submarine's batteries were exposed to seawater after a second shell strike.[1] Forced to evacuate the vessel, the remaining crew surrendered, to be incarcerated in a prisoner of war camp near Istanbul where six later died.[2]

The stranding was soon noticed by aeroplanes of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), and reported to the Hindu Kush, the Allied submarines' HQ and depot ship. It was considered imperative that the E15 be destroyed to prevent the Turks from salvaging her. Several attempts were made; first, the British submarine B6, with Brodie's brother on board, tried to sink her by torpedo but missed. Later, during the night, the destroyers HMS Grampus and Scorpion (commanded by the future Admiral A.B. Cunningham of World War II British Mediterranean Fleet fame), attempted to find her, but failed. The following morning, British submarine B11 also failed to locate the beached E15 owing to dense fog. Then the battleships Triumph and Majestic were ordered in but, prevented by intense fire from the Turkish shore batteries from getting within 11,000 metres of the submarine, were obliged to withdraw. Meanwhile, seaplanes attempted to bomb the stricken E15 but also failed.[1]

HMS Triumph's picket boat returning to the battleship after the E15 expedition.

Finally, on the night of 18 April, two 17 metre picket boats,[3] one from Triumph, the other from Majestic, both armed with two 14-inch (356 mm) diameter torpedoes mounted in dropping gear, went in. Lieutenant Commander Eric Robinson commanded the expedition from Triumph's boat; Lieutenant Goodwin skippered the boat from the Majestic. Departing at 2200 hrs, the two vessels managed to navigate the narrow channel for seven miles before being detected and illuminated by searchlights, attracting a hail of fire from both shores. Miraculously both boats remained unscathed, and when one carelessly directed searchlight briefly illuminated the stricken submarine, Goodwin seized his chance. Blinded by the lights, his first shot missed, and seconds afterwards the Turkish gunners scored their only hit, blowing away part of the stern and mortally wounding one seaman. Undeterred, Goodwin went in again and fired his second torpedo, which struck E15 just forward of the conning tower, but well below the waterline. Robinson, observing his comrades' plight, unhesitatingly brought his boat alongside and rescued them. Now doubly laden, Triumph's boat fled downstream unobserved, the Turkish gunners concentrating their fire on the drifting and abandoned wreck of her sister ship. [1]

The E15 action would no doubt have earned Robinson the Victoria Cross had he not already been recommended for the award following earlier exploits on the Gallipoli peninsula. Instead, he was promoted to Commander by special decree. Lieutenant Goodwin was awarded the DSO, Lt. Brooke-Webb and Midshipman Woolley received the DSC, while the rest of the crews, all volunteers, received the DSM.

E15 remains off Kepez Point in 8 m of water. The bodies of Lieut. Commander Brodie and several crew, initially buried on a beach nearby, were reinterred at the Chanak Consular Cemetery.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Evans, A. S. (1986). Beneath the Waves - A history of British submarine losses. Kimber, London. ISBN 0-7183-0601-5
  2. ^ Stoker, H. D. G. (1925). Straws in the Wind. Herbert Jenkins Ltd., London. [Submarine actions in the Dardanelles; includes the story of Lt. G. Fitzgerald RNR, E15 navigator, whilst a POW in Turkey]
  3. ^ Stapleton, N. B. J. (1980). Steam Picket Boats and Other Small Steam Craft of the Royal Navy. Dalton, UK. ISBN 0-900963-63-8