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http://www.ataturktoday.com/1915GallipoliCanakkale.htm 

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 andAustralia. The Dardanelles Campaign began as a purely navaloperation. When that failed to overcome Ottoman defences, aninvasion 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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_operations_in_the_Dardanelles_Campaign

 

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 twobattleships constructed for the Ottoman Empire which were still in British shipyards.[1] In response, Germany made a gift of two ships, thebattlecruiser 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 theBlack Sea in 1914

 

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.[3] 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.[4]

 
Brownsville Herald (Saturday, 20 February 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.[6] 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.[7]

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.[8] He reluctantly agreed to advance the plan for a naval action in the Dardanelles, but afterwards maintained that he had never supported it,[9] 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".[10] 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.[citation needed]

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 battleshipssubmarines and minesweepers. On 13 February, the British War Council approved the plan, and Carden was supplied with additional pre-dreadnought battleships, the battleshipHMS 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[edit]

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.[11]

 
The Dardanelles defences in February/March 1915, showingminefieldsanti-submarine nets and major gun batteries.

The Dardanelles were defended by a system of fortified and mobile artilleryarranged 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.

 
HMS Canopus fires a salvo from her 12 in (300 mm) guns against Ottoman forts in the Dardanelles. Photo byErnest Brooks.

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 staffRoger 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.[12]

The Battle of March 18[edit]

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.[13]

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.

Battle lines of 18 March
Grey background: Severely damaged, Red background: Sunk
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
Reserve HMS Canopus Cornwallis    

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 GauloisSuffrenAgamemnon andInflexible 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.[14] 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[15] 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.

 
HMS Irresistible abandoned and sinking.

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.[15] ...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.[16]

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.[17]

Aftermath[edit]

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.[18] 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.[citation needed] 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.[19] Further, he thought that Turkey itself might well disintegrate as a state once the capital fell.[20]

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.

 
Sir Roger Keyes, Vice-Admiral De Robeck, Sir Ian Hamilton, General Braithwaite.

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.[21] 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.[10]

De Robeck was reported to be distraught from the losses.[22] He wrote on 18 March: "After losing so many ships I shall obviously find myself superseded tomorrow morning".[19] 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.[23]

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.

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