Naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign
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|Naval Operations in the Dardanelles Campaign|
|Part of the Gallipoli Campaign|
The last moments of the French battleship Bouvet, 18 March 1915
| British Empire
| Ottoman Empire
|Commanders and leaders|
| Sackville Carden
John de Robeck
1 Seaplane Carrier
|Various mines and forts; otherwise unknown|
|Casualties and losses|
|1 battlecruiser damaged
3 pre-dreadnoughts sunk
3 pre-dreadnoughts damaged
1 cruiser damaged
700 killed (ship crews on March 18)
78 wounded (land crews on March 18)
The naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign of the First World War were mainly carried out by the Royal Navy with substantial support from the French and minor contributions from Russia and Australia. The Dardanelles Campaign began as a purely naval operation. When that failed to overcome Ottoman defences, an invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula was launched in which naval forces were heavily involved. Throughout the campaign, attempts were made by submarines to pass through the Dardanelles and disrupt Ottoman Empire shipping in the Sea of Marmara.
At the outbreak of the First World War, the Ottoman Empire was an unaligned power. While Britain had a long history of interest in the region, Germany had been most active in cultivating a relationship with the Ottomans. At the outbreak of war, the British confiscated two battleships constructed for the Ottoman Empire which were still in British shipyards. In response, Germany made a gift of two ships, the battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau, as replacements. While still operated by their German crews, these ships, renamed Yavûz Sultân Selîm and Midilli, respectively, became the backbone of the Ottoman navy. Through possession of Yavûz Sultân Selîm, the Ottoman Empire controlled the most powerful ship in the Black Sea in 1914.
Closure of the Dardanelles
In October 1914, the Ottomans closed the Dardanelles to Allied shipping. This followed an incident on 27 September, when the British Dardanelles squadron had seized an Ottoman torpedo boat. The actual decision to close the strait seems to have been taken by German military advisors stationed in the Dardanelles without reference to the Ottoman government. On 28 October, the Ottoman fleet, led by Yavûz Sultân Selîm, began raiding Russian assets in the Black Sea. Odessa and Sevastopol were bombarded, a minelayer and gunboat were sunk. The real aim of the attack—putting the Russian Black Sea fleet out of commission—was not accomplished. Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire on 2 November, and the British followed suit on 6 November. An unsuccessful Ottoman attack on Russia through the Caucasus Mountains was launched in December (Battle of Sarikamish), leading the Russians to call for aid from Britain in January 1915.
Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty, had entertained plans of capturing the Dardanelles as early as September 1914. In a new year review submitted to the prime minister, H. H. Asquith, he had outlined two possible new fronts against the Germans, intended to break the stalemate and accompanying enormous loss of life which had rapidly set in on the western front. The first possibility, which was then his favoured option, was an invasion of Schleswig-Holstein by sea, allowing Denmark to join the allies and give Russia a supply route via the Baltic sea. The other was an attack on the Dardanelles, which again would give Russia a supply route and might encourage Bulgaria and Romania to join the allied side. The Russian plea for assistance, coupled with a perception of the Ottoman Empire as a weak enemy ("the sick man of Europe"), made the prospect of a campaign in the Dardanelles seem appealing.
Matters were complicated for Churchill by the choice of First Sea Lord, who was the most senior admiral in charge of running the navy. Churchill had appointed Prince Louis of Battenberg in 1912. He was obliged to replace Battenberg because of public feeling against Germans— Battenberg had become a British citizen when he joined the navy at the age of fourteen, but he spoke with a German accent. His choice was to recall the seventy-three-year-old admiral John Fisher, who had retired as First Sea Lord in 1910. Fisher was regarded as brilliant, but somewhat in decline from advancing age. More immediately a problem for Churchill, he was a forceful personality accustomed to directing the Admiralty himself, and being supported in his decisions by the political First Lord rather than taking orders from him.
Fisher was appointed at the end of October 1914 and favoured a new campaign in northern Europe, which perhaps reflected the navy's traditional concern of controlling Channel waters. He reluctantly agreed to advance the plan for a naval action in the Dardanelles, but afterwards maintained that he had never supported it, and had always believed a naval action would have to be accompanied by a land force. Churchill and Fisher continually quarreled throughout the campaign, and Fisher finally resigned on 15 May 1915 after repeated threats to do so. Fisher wrote about Churchill: "He is always convincing me". Fisher's relationship with Churchill had always been complex and his abrupt resignation was no exception. Fisher's resignation, on top of poor progress in the campaign, precipitated the fall of the government and Churchill's replacement as First Lord, so neither man gained control of the Admiralty. Ironically, although they could not agree, both respected the other and would not have wished that outcome.
On 11 January, at Churchill's request, the commander of the Royal Navy's Mediterranean Squadron, Vice Admiral S.H. Carden proposed a plan for forcing the Dardanelles using battleships, submarines and minesweepers. On 13 February, the British War Council approved the plan, and Carden was supplied with additional pre-dreadnought battleships, the battleship HMS Queen Elizabeth and the battlecruiser HMS Inflexible. France supplied a squadron which included four pre-dreadnought battleships, while Russia provided the light cruiser Askold.
The operation was originally intended to be purely naval due to a lack of available troops and the independence of Lord of the admiralty Winston Churchill but, by early February, it was decided that more regular infantry was needed. Contingents of Royal Marines were to be supplemented by the last unallocated regular division, the British 29th Division. It was dispatched to Egypt, to join Australian and New Zealand troops which were already undergoing training. At the outset of the operation, the expected role of the infantry was to be the occupation of Constantinople; the taking of the straits was to be accomplished by the Entente naval forces.
Forcing the straits
On 3 November 1914, Churchill ordered the first British attack on the Dardanelles following the opening of hostilities between Ottoman and Russian empires. The British attack was carried out by battlecruisers of Carden's Mediterranean Squadron, HMS Indomitable and Indefatigable, as well as the obsolete French battleships Suffren and Vérité. This attack actually took place before a formal declaration of war had been made by Britain against the Ottoman Empire.
The intention of the attack was to test the fortifications and measure the Ottoman response. The results were deceptively encouraging. In a twenty minute bombardment, a single shell struck the magazine of the fort at Sedd el Bahr at the tip of the Gallipoli peninsula, displacing (but not destroying) ten guns and killing eighty-six Turkish soldiers. Total casualties during the attack were 150, of which forty were German. The most significant consequence was that the attention of the Ottomans was drawn to strengthening their defences, and they set about expanding the mine field.
The Dardanelles were defended by a system of fortified and mobile artillery arranged as the "Outer", "Intermediate" and "Inner" defences. While the outer defences lay at the entrance to the straits and would prove vulnerable to bombardment and raiding, the inner defences covered the Narrows, the narrowest point of the straits near Çanakkale. Beyond the inner defences, the straits were virtually undefended. However, the foundation of the straits defences were a series of ten minefields, laid across the straits near the Narrows and containing a total of 370 mines.
What was to become the Battle of Gallipoli, a 10-month battle of attrition, began at 07:30 on 19 February 1915. Two destroyers were sent in to probe the straits. The first shot was fired from Kumkale by the Orhaniye Tepe battery's 240 mm (9.4 in) Krupp guns at 07:58. The battleships HMS Cornwallis and Vengeance moved in to engage the forts and the first British shot of the campaign proper was fired at 09:51 by Cornwallis. The day's bombardment lacked the spectacular results of the 3 November test.
Another attempt was made on 25 February. This time the Ottomans evacuated the outer defences and the fleet entered the straits to engage the intermediate defences. Demolition parties of Royal Marines raided the Sedd el Bahr and Kum Kale forts, meeting little opposition. On 1 March, four battleships bombarded the intermediate defences.
Little progress was made clearing the minefields. The minesweepers, commanded by Carden's chief of staff, Roger Keyes, were merely un-armoured trawlers manned by their civilian crews who were unwilling to work while under fire. The strong current in the straits further hampered the sweeping process. This lack of progress by the fleet strengthened the Ottoman resolve which had wavered at the start of the offensive. On 4 March, raids on the outer defences were resisted, leaving twenty-three marines dead.
Queen Elizabeth was called on to engage the inner defences, at first from the Aegean coast near Gaba Tepe, firing across the peninsula, and later from within the straits. On the night of 13 March, the cruiser HMS Amethyst led six minesweepers in an attempt to clear the mines. Four of the trawlers were hit and Amethyst was badly damaged with nineteen stokers killed from a single hit.
On 15 March, the admiralty informed Carden that they agreed to his plan for a further all out attack by daylight, with the minesweepers operating under the direct protection of the entire fleet. Carden was taken ill the same day, and had to be replaced by Rear Admiral John de Robeck. A gunnery officer noted in his diary that de Robeck had already expressed misgivings with the likelihood of being able to silence the Ottoman guns by bombardment, and that this view was widely held on board the ship.
Battle of March 18
The event that decided the battle took place on the night of 8 March when the Ottoman minelayer Nusret laid a line of mines in Eren Köy Bay, a wide bay along the Asian shore just inside the entrance to the straits. The Ottomans had noticed the British ships turned to starboard into the bay when withdrawing. The new line of between 20 and 26 mines ran parallel to the shore, were moored at fifteen m (49.2 ft) and spaced about 100 yd (91 m) apart. The clear water meant that the mines could have been seen through the water by spotter planes.
The British plan for 18 March was to silence the defences guarding the first five minefields, they would be cleared overnight by the minesweepers. The next day the remaining defences around the Narrows would be defeated and the last five minefields would be cleared. The operation went ahead without the British or French becoming aware of the recent additions to the Ottoman minefields.
The battleships were arranged in three lines, two British and one French, with supporting ships on the flanks and two ships in reserve.
|Line A||HMS Queen Elizabeth||Agamemnon||Lord Nelson||Inflexible|
|French Line B||Gaulois||Charlemagne||Bouvet||Suffren|
|British Line B||HMS Vengeance||Irresistible||Albion||Ocean|
|Supporting ships||HMS Majestic||Prince George||Swiftsure||Triumph|
The first British line opened fire from Eren Köy Bay around 11:00. Shortly after noon, de Robeck ordered the French line to pass through and close on the Narrows forts. The Ottoman fire began to take its toll with Gaulois, Suffren, Agamemnon and Inflexible all suffering hits. While the naval fire had not destroyed the Ottoman batteries, it had succeeded in temporarily reducing their fire. By 13:25, the Ottoman defences were mostly silent so de Robeck decided to withdraw the French line and bring forward the second British line as well as Swiftsure and Majestic.
But the Allied forces had failed to properly reconnoiter the area and sweep it for mines. Aerial reconnaissance by aircraft from the seaplane carrier HMS Ark Royal had discovered a number of mines on the 16 and 17 March but failed to spot the line of mines laid by the Nusret in Eren Köy Bay. On the day of the attack civilian trawlers sweeping for mines in front of line "A" discovered and destroyed three mines in an area thought to be clear, before the civilian crews withdrew under fire. This information was not passed on to de Robeck and thus, the catastrophe began to unfold. At 13:54, Bouvet—having made a turn to starboard into Eren Köy Bay—struck a mine, capsized and sank within a couple of minutes, killing 639 crewmen. The initial British reaction was that a shell had struck her magazine or she had been torpedoed.
The British pressed on with the attack. Around 16:00, Inflexible began to withdraw and struck a mine near where Bouvet went down, killing thirty crewmen. The battlecruiser remained afloat and eventually beached on the island of Bozcaada (Tenedos).
Irresistible was the next to be mined. As she began to drift helplessly, the crew were taken off. De Robeck told Ocean to take Irresistible under tow but the water was deemed too shallow to make an approach. Finally at 18:05, Ocean struck a mine which jammed the steering gear leaving her likewise helpless. The abandoned battleships were still floating when the British withdrew. A destroyer commanded by Commodore Roger Keyes returned later to attempt either to tow away or sink the stricken vessels but despite searching for four hours, there was no sign of them. Keyes reported:
The fear of their fire was actually the deciding factor of the fortunes of the day. For five hours the [destroyer] Wear and picket boats had experienced, quite unperturbed and without any loss, a far more intense fire from them than the sweepers encountered... the latter could not be induced to face it, and sweep ahead of the ships in 'B' line. ...I had the almost indelible impression that we were in the presence of a beaten foe. I thought he was beaten at 2 pm. I knew he was beaten at 4 PM — and at midnight I knew with still greater clarity that he was absolutely beaten; and it only remained for us to organise a proper sweeping force and devise some means of dealing with drifting mines to reap the fruits of our efforts.
By contrast, Commander Isham Worsley Gibson wrote:
This is just what one might expect, & what we really did more or less. Every book on war ever written always states the fact that politicians interfering with Commanders in the field always lead to disaster but still they think they are born strategists & know alls & do it again & again.
On 18 March there was a significant victory for the Ottoman Empire. For just 118 casualties, they sank three battleships and damaged another with mines and inflicted seven hundred casualties on the British-French fleet. Nevertheless, there were calls amongst the British, particularly from Churchill, to press on with the naval attack. De Robeck advised on 20 March that he was reorganising his minesweepers, suggesting he intended to resume the attack, and Churchill responded that he was sending four replacement ships. With the exception of Inflexible, the ships that were lost or damaged were old, ill-equipped for modern naval combat and had been chosen for the expedition precisely because they were expendable. It is not correct that the ammunition of the guns was low: they could have repulsed two more attacks. However, the crews of the sunken battleships had replaced the civilians on the trawler minesweepers, making them much more willing to keep sweeping under fire, and the fleet had several modern destroyers fitted with one point five in (3.8 cm) minesweeping hawsers that could have handled the task with ease. The U.S. Ambassador to Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, reported that Constantinople expected to be attacked and that the Ottomans felt they could only hold out for a few hours if the attack had resumed on the 19th. Further, he thought that Turkey itself might well disintegrate as a state once the capital fell.
The main minefields at the narrows, over ten layers deep, were still fully intact. Furthermore, they were very well protected by the smaller shore guns that had not seen any action on 18 March. These and other defenses further in the strait had not exhausted their ammunition and resources yet. It was not a given that one more push by the fleet would have resulted in passage to Marmara Sea.
Churchill had anticipated losses and considered them a necessary tactical price. In June 1915, he discussed the campaign with the war correspondent Ellis Ashmead-Bartlett, who had returned to London to deliver uncensored reports. Ashmead-Bartlett was incensed at the loss of ships and lives but Churchill responded: That is not the point! They ought to have gone on. What did it matter if more ships were lost? The ships were old and useless. To place the losses into perspective, the Navy ordered six hundred new ships during the period Admiral Fisher was First Sea Lord, approximately corresponding with the length of the Dardanelles campaign.
De Robeck was reported to be distraught from the losses. He wrote on 18 March: "After losing so many ships I shall obviously find myself superseded tomorrow morning". He had been in charge of a fleet that had suffered the most serious loss to the Royal Navy since Trafalgar and felt that losing further ships was the worst thing a sailor could do. On 23 March, he telegraphed the admiralty that it would be necessary to have the support of land forces before proceeding. He later told the Dardanelles Commission investigating the campaign that his main reason for changing his mind was concern for what might happen in the event of success: that the fleet might find itself at Constantinople or on the Marmara sea fighting an enemy which did not simply surrender as the plan presupposed, without any troops available to secure captured territory.
With the failure of the naval assault, the idea that land forces could advance around the backs of the Dardanelles forts and capture Constantinople gained support as an alternative. On 25 April, the army launched the Gallipoli Campaign. Significant naval forces were devoted to support of that operation.
Following the unsuccessful results of the land campaign up to May, De Robeck suggested that it might be desirable to again attempt a naval attack. Churchill supported this idea, at least as far as restarting attempts to clear mines, but this was opposed by Fisher and other members of the Admiralty Board. Aside from difficulties in the Dardanelles, they were concerned at the prospect that more ships might have to be diverted away from the Grand Fleet in the North Sea. This disagreement contributed to the final resignation of Fisher, followed by the need for Asquith to seek coalition partners to shore up his government and the consequential dismissal of Churchill also. Further naval attacks were shelved.
Keyes remained a firm supporter of naval action, and on 23 September submitted a further proposal to pass through the Dardanelles to de Robeck. De Robeck disliked the plan, but nonetheless passed it to the Admiralty. Risk to ships had increased since March, due to the presence of German submarines in the Mediterranean and the Sea of Marmara, where the British ships would be inviting targets if the plan succeeded. On the other hand, minesweeping was now better equipped and some of the ships had nets or mine bumpers which it was hoped would improve their chances against mines. The Ottoman Empire now had better supply routes from Germany whereas demands on the navy for more ships to support the attempt had to be added to continuing commitments of ships for the land action, and the ongoing campaign at Salonica attempting to support Serbia. Kitchener made a proposal to take the Isthmus of Bulair using forty thousand men, thereby allowing British ships in the Marmara Sea to be resupplied across land from the Gulf of Xeros. Admiralty opinion was that another naval attack could not be mounted without support of land forces attacking the Dardanelles forts, which was deemed impractical for lack of troops. Kitchener visited the area to inspect the positions and talk to the commanders concerned, before reporting back advising a withdrawal. The War Committee, faced with a choice either of an uncertain new campaign to break the existing stalemate, or complete withdrawal, recommended on 23 November that all troops should be withdrawn.
The British cabinet as a whole was less keen to abandon the campaign, because of political repercussions of a failure and damaging consequences for Russia. De Robeck had been temporarily replaced by Admiral Rosslyn Wemyss in November 1915 for reasons of ill health. In contrast to De Robeck, Wemyss was a supporter of further action and considerably more optimistic of chances of success. Whereas de Robeck estimated losses at 12 battleships, Wemyss considered it likely to lose no more than three. It was suggested that abandoning the action at Salonica, where the troops involved never managed to aid Serbia and did little fighting, could provide the reinforcements, but this was vetoed by the French. Wemyss continued a campaign promoting the chances of success. He had been present when de Robeck assumed command from Carden and was more senior, but had been commanding the base at Mudros whereas de Robeck was with the fleet. Churchill had preferentially chosen de Robeck. On 7 December, it was decided by Cabinet to abandon the campaign.
The British submarine attacks had commenced in 1914, before the campaign proper had started. On 13 December, the British submarine HMS B11 had entered the straits, avoiding five lines of mines, and torpedoed the Ottoman battleship Mesûdiye, built in 1874, which was anchored as a floating fort in Sari Sighlar Bay, south of Çanakkale. Mesûdiye capsized in ten minutes, trapping many of the 673-man crew. However, lying in shoal water, the hull remained above the surface so most men were rescued by cutting holes in the hull. Thirty-seven men were killed. The sinking was a triumph for the Royal Navy. The captain of B11, Lieutenant-Commander Norman Holbrook, was awarded the Victoria Cross—the first Royal Navy VC of the war—and all twelve other crew members received awards. Coupled with the naval bombardment of the outer defences on 3 November, this success encouraged the British to pursue the campaign.
The first French submarine operation preceded the start of the campaign as well. On 15 January 1915, the French submarine Saphir negotiated the Narrows, passing all 10 lines of mines, before running aground at Nagara Point. Various accounts claim she was either mined, sunk by shellfire or scuttled, leaving fourteen crew dead and thirteen prisoners of war.
On 17 April, the British submarine HMS E15 attempted to pass through the straits but, having dived too deep, was caught in a current and ran aground near Kepez Point, the southern tip of Sarı Sıĝlar Bay, directly under the guns of the Dardanos battery. Seven of the crew were killed, and the remainder were captured. The beached E15 was a valuable prize for the Ottomans and the British went to great lengths to deny it to them, finally managing to sink it after numerous attempts.
The first submarine to succeed in passing through the straits was the Australian HMAS AE2, which got through on the night of 24/25 April. The army began landing soldiers at Cape Helles and Anzac Cove on the peninsula at dawn on the 25 April. Although AE2 sank one Ottoman cruiser, the submarine, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stoker, was thwarted by defective torpedoes in several other attempts to sink promising targets. On 29 April, in Artaki Bay near Panderma, the AE2 was sighted and hit by the Ottoman torpedo boat Sultanhisar. Abandoning ship, the crew became POWs. The wreck was found in 1997, and in 2007, the Turkish and Australian governments began studies to determine the feasibility of raising and preserving the submarine.
The second submarine through the straits had more luck than AE2. On 27 April, HMS E14, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Edward Boyle, entered the Sea of Marmara and went on a three-week rampage that was one of the most successful actions achieved by the Allies in the entire campaign. While the quantity and value of the shipping sunk was relatively minor, the effect on Ottoman communications and morale was significant. On his return, Boyle was immediately awarded the Victoria Cross. Boyle and E14 made a number of tours of the Sea of Marmara. His third tour began on 21 July, when he passed through the straits, despite the Ottomans having installed an anti-submarine net near the Narrows.
Another British submarine to have a successful cruise of the Marmara was HMS E11, commanded by Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith, who was awarded the VC and promoted to Commander for his achievements. He sank or disabled eleven ships, including three on 24 May at the port of Rodosto on the Thracian shore. On 8 August, during a subsequent tour of the Marmara, E11 torpedoed the Barbaros Hayreddin.
A number of demolition missions were performed by men or parties landed from submarines. On 8 September, First Lieutenant H.V. Lyon from HMS E2 swam ashore near Küçükçekmece (Thrace) to blow up a railway bridge. The bridge was destroyed but Lyon failed to return. Attempts were also made to disrupt the railways running close to the water along the Gulf of İzmit, on the Asian shore of the sea. On the night of 20 August, Lieutenant D'Oyly Hughes from E11 swam ashore and blew up a section of the railway line, earning the Distinguished Service Order for his efforts. On 17 July, HMS E7 bombarded the railway line and then damaged two trains that were forced to halt.
French attempts to enter the Sea of Marmara continued. Following the success of HMAS AE2 and HMS E14, the French submarine Joule attempted the passage on 1 May, but she struck a mine and was lost with all hands. The next attempt was made by Mariotte on 27 July. However, Mariotte failed to negotiate the anti-submarine net that E14 had eluded and was forced to the surface. After being shelled from the shore batteries, Mariotte was scuttled. On 4 September, the same net caught E7 as it attempted to commence another tour.
The first French submarine to enter the Sea of Marmara was Turquoise. However, it was forced to turn back and, on 30 October, when attempting to pass back through the straits, ran aground beneath a fort and was captured intact. The crew of twenty-five were taken prisoner and documents detailing planned Allied operations were discovered. This included a scheduled rendezvous with HMS E20 on 6 November. The rendezvous was kept by the German U-boat U-14 which torpedoed and sank E20 killing all but nine of the crew. Turquoise was salvaged and incorporated (but not commissioned) into the Ottoman Navy as the Onbasi Müstecip, named after the gunner who had forced the French commander to surrender.
The Allied submarine campaign in the Sea of Marmara was the one significant success of the Gallipoli Campaign, forcing the Ottomans to abandon it as a transport route. Between April and December 1915, a total of nine British and four French submarines sank one battleship, one destroyer, five gunboats, eleven troop transports, forty-four supply ships, and 148 sailing vessels at a cost of eight Allied submarines which were sunk in the strait or in the Sea of Marmara.
In 1993, a coal mining operation revealed the wreck of the German submarine UB-46 near the Kemerburgaz coast. After carrying out missions in Black Sea, on its way back, UB-46 hit a mine near Karaburun and sank with all hands. It is now on display at Besiktas Naval Museum in Istanbul.
Supporting the army
The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force had been established on 12 March under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton and comprised some seventy thousand soldiers. At a conference on 22 March, four days after the failed attempt by the navy, it was decided to use the infantry to seize the Gallipoli peninsula and capture the forts, clearing the way for the navy to pass through into the Sea of Marmara. Preparations for the landing took a month, giving the Ottoman defenders ample time to reinforce.
The British planners still underestimated the ability of the Ottomans and, at the outset, it was expected that the invasion would be over swiftly. A British force—landing at Cape Helles—would advance six mi (9.7 km) on the first day, and on the second would seize the Kilitbahir plateau, overlooking the Narrows. As it happened, in eight months of fighting, the British never advanced much more than five mi (8.0 km), and their first day objectives of Krithia and the hill Achi Baba remained out of reach.
The Gallipoli landings were the largest amphibious operation of the war. The initial landings were made at Cape Helles by the British 29th Division and at Gaba Tepe by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. In the latter case, the landing miscarried and the troops went ashore too far north at a place now known as Anzac Cove. In both landings, the covering force went ashore from warships with the exception of V Beach at Helles where the SS River Clyde was used as an improvised landing craft for two thousand men.
In the landing at Anzac Cove, the first wave went ashore from the boats of three Formidable-class battleships; HMS London, Prince of Wales and Queen. The second wave went ashore from seven destroyers. In support were HMS Triumph, Majestic and the cruiser HMS Bacchante as well as the seaplane carrier HMS Ark Royal and the kite-balloon ship, HMS Manica from which a tethered balloon was trailed to provide artillery spotting.
The landing at Cape Helles was spread over five beaches with the main ones being V and W Beaches at the tip of the peninsula. While the landing at Anzac was planned as a surprise without a preliminary bombardment, the Helles landing was made after the beaches and forts were bombarded by the warships. The landing at S Beach inside the straits was made from the battleship Cornwallis and was virtually unopposed. The W Beach force came from the cruiser HMS Euryalus and the battleship HMS Implacable which also carried the troops bound for X Beach. The cruiser HMS Dublin and battleship Goliath supported the X Beach landing as well as a small landing to the north on the Aegean coast at Y Beach, later abandoned.
The role of the navy was to support the landing, using naval guns instead of field artillery, of which there was a severe shortage in 1915. However, with a few spectacular exceptions, the performance of naval guns on land targets was inadequate, particularly against entrenched positions. The guns lacked elevation and so fired on a flat trajectory which, coupled with the inherently unstable gun platform, resulted in reduced accuracy.
The battleship's guns did prove effective against exposed lines of troops. On 27 April, during the first Ottoman counter-attack at Anzac, the Ottoman 57th Regiment attacked down the seaward slope of Battleship Hill within view of Queen Elizabeth which fired a salvo of six fifteen in (380 mm) shells, halting the attack completely. On 28 April, near the old Y Beach landing, Queen Elizabeth sighted a party of about one hundred Turks. One fifteen in (380 mm) shrapnel shell containing twenty-four thousand pellets was fired at short range and killed the entire party. For the rest of the campaign, the Turks were very wary of moving within view of battleships.
Also on 27 April, a kite-balloon ship had spotted an Ottoman transport ship moving near the Narrows. Queen Elizabeth, stationed off Gaba Tepe, had fired across the peninsula, at a range of over ten mi (8.7 nmi; 16 km), and sank the transport with her third shot. For much of the campaign, the Ottomans transported troops via rail, though other supplies continued to be transported by ship on the Sea of Marmara and Dardanelles.
It quickly became evident that the battle for Gallipoli would not be a swift or easy operation. At Helles, which was initially the main battlefield, a series of costly battles only managed to edge the front line closer to Krithia. Through the early battles, the Royal Navy continued to provide support via bombardments. However, in May three battleships were torpedoed: Goliath in Morto Bay on 12 May; Triumph off Anzac on 25 May; and Majestic off W Beach on 27 May. Goliath was sunk by the Ottoman torpedo boat Muâvenet-i Millîye while the other two were sunk by U-21. Following these losses, the permanent battleship support was withdrawn with the valuable Queen Elizabeth recalled by the Admiralty as soon as the news of the loss of Goliath arrived. In place of the battleships, naval artillery support was provided by cruisers, destroyers and purpose-built monitors which were designed for coastal bombardment.
Once the navy became wary of the submarine threat, losses ceased. With the exception of the continued activity of Allied submarines in the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara, the only significant naval loss after May was the Laforey-class destroyer HMS Louis which ran aground off Suvla during a gale on 31 October and was wrecked. The destruction of the stranded ship was accelerated by Ottoman gunfire.
Allied troops transports
An other important aspect of the allied naval operations was transporting safely the many thousands of soldiers to and from the Dardanelles over the Mediterranean Sea. The major threats were attacks by German and Austrian-Hungarian submarines and mines. The only major loss during the Dardanelles Campaign was the sinking of the HMT Royal Edward on 13 August 1915. The ship sailed from Alexandria, Egypt to Gallipoli with 1,367 officers and men onboard and was torpedoed by SM UB-14 near the Dodecanese. 935 lives were lost.
Notes and references
- Carlyon pp. 41–42.
- Carlyon pp.42–44
- Carlyon p.45
- Carlyon p.48
- Jenkins pp.254–255
- Jenkins p.216
- Jenkins p.258
- Jenkins p. 256
- Jenkins p.270
- Jenkins p.260
- Carlyon p.47
- Carlyon pp.61–62
- Carlyon p. 66.
- Layman p.151
- IWM p. 12.
- Carlyon p. 70.
- IWM p. 15.
- Özakman, Turgut (2008). Diriliş. Ankara: Bilgi Yayınları. p. 686.
- Carlyon p. 72.
- Morgenthau, Henry (October 1918). "XVIII: The Allied Armada Sails Away, Though on the Brink of Victory". Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. Garden City, NY, USA: Doubleday, Page & Company. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
- Carlyon p. 320.
- Who's Who: Sir John de Robeck, Firstworldwar.com 31 March 2002.
- Marder p. 252 quoting Dardanelles commission report
- Marder p. 275.
- Marder pp. 314–20.
- Jenkins p. 265.
- Marder pp. 320–24.
- O'Connell 2010, pp. 76–78.
- http://www.dzkk.tsk.mil.tr/muze/Turkish/Fsergi_alanlari.htm[dead link]
- Carlyon, Les, Gallipoli, 2001, ISBN 0-385-60475-0, Transworld publishers
- Jenkins, Roy, Churchill, 2001 ISBN 0-333-78290-9, Macmillan
- Arthur Marder (1961–1970). From the Dreadnought to Scapa Flow. Vol II: The War years to the eve of Jutland. London: Oxford University Press.
- IWM Account of the battle from the Imperial War Museum website (accessed Nov 2006)
- Morgenthau events as described by the American ambassador, Henry Morgenthau, expressing his opinion the British could have taken İstanbul by 20 March
- Nykiel (1) Minesweeping operations in the Dardanelles Feb 25 – March 17, 1915, Piotr Nykiel (First published in 'The Turkish Yearbook of Gallipoli Studies', Çanakkale Onsekiz Mart Üniversitesi Atatürk ve Çanakkale Savaslari Arastirma Merkezi, Issue: 2, March 2004, p. 81–115 (including summary in Turkish).
- Turgut Ōzakman, Diriliş, Çanakkale 1915, 2008, ISBN 978-975-22-0247-4, Bilgi Yayınevi
- Was it possible to renew the naval attack on the Dardanelles successfully the day after the 18th March?, Piotr Nykiel (First published in: The Gallipoli Campaign International Perspectives 85 Years On, Conference Papers 24–25 April 2000, Çanakkale 2001)
- Layman, Richard D, HMS Ark Royal 1914–1922, Cross and Cockade, Volume 18, No. 4, 1987.
- O'Connell, John (2010). Submarine Operational Effectiveness in the 20th Century: Part One (1900–1939). New York: Universe. ISBN 1450236898.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign.|
- War in the Mediterranean – 1915 includes naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign
- Feature-length drama about the mystery of Sandringham Company, which disappeared in action at Gallipoli in 1915 (accessed Aug 2007)
- Ottoman Naval History, extensive source of Ottoman Naval History