- Jeffrey, Vic
- History - WW1, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- March 2000 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
The “made” harbour at Lancashire landing. This harbour is constructed of partly sunken ships and the device has proved very successful.
A British Destroyer can be seen inside the harbour. Very heavy seas are experienced round this district (sic).
An observant committee member has identified the destroyer as HMS Scorpion (Commander Andrew B. Cunningham RN!) – (Eds)
The naval bombardment commenced at long range, and although Garden sent in the pre-Dreadnoughts, Cornwallis, Vengeance and Suffren closer, little opposing fire was drawn from the batteries.
Days of bad weather caused a delay in the operation. On February 25, after it had become plainly obvious that to silence the forts the fleet would have to close the range and engage with observed fire. Admiral de Robeck led a close-quarter attack. The defences were overpowered with the Turkish and German garrisons withdrawing, and the Allied landing parties occupying Kum Kale and Sedd-el-Bahr destroying the gun emplacements. Admiral Garden made the optimistic report that he hoped to be through to Constantinople in two weeks.
This quickly foundered when the Turks returned to oppose the landings, their mobile howitzers causing the landing parties to withdraw, and proving too elusive for naval gunfire. Although little threat to the capital ships, they were formidable when bombarding the minesweepers, who were tasked with clearing the channel to enable the next stage of the Allied plan to proceed.
The effects of flat-trajectory naval guns on land targets were overestimated and Allied seaplanes were constantly frustrated by the weather. Without their spotting for the fleet’s guns, the minesweepers – all civilian manned trawlers – refused to go in. Admiral Garden’s chief-of-staff, Commodore Roger Keyes, called for the naval volunteers to crew the vessels. An attempt on March 13 by six minesweepers and the cruiser HMS Amethyst saw four of the trawlers knocked out by the shore batteries.
The pressure from Churchill to speed up proceedings took its toll on Garden and on March 15, a doctor confirming the deterioration in his mental state, his deputy de Robeck took command of the fleet and hastily decided to make his main attack three days later.
In the bright sunlight Turkish and German artillery spotters on high points on the shore watched de Robeck in HMS Queen Elizabeth lead his most powerful units up the channel towards the Kephez minefield and commencing bombardment of the forts of Chanak Kale and Kilid Bahr at a range of less than 13 kilometres. Whilst the forts were hard pressed to reply, the coastal and mobile batteries kept up an incessant rate of fire, hitting some of the ships.
At noon after 90 minutes action, de Robeck directed his second wave, the French Squadron accompanied by two predreadnoughts, Majestic and Swiftsure, to go in closer. Admiral Guepratte closed the range and subjected the Turkish shore defences to a fiercer bombardment.
With Gaulois holed below the waterline, and for the third wave to advance, the squadron was ordered to retire just before 2 pm, turning towards the Asiatic shore to effect their withdrawal. To save Gaulois, she was beached on Rabbit Island. Unknown to the Allies, the Turks had laid a field of 20 mines parallel to the Asiatic shore and the second ship of the line, Bouvet, hit a mine and sank within two minutes, with heavy loss of life.
The third wave continued the onslaught and by 4 pm the main Turkish batteries were silent. Six minesweepers came forward and swept a few mines before being driven off. Soon afterwards the battle cruiser Inflexible hit a mine in the area where the Bouvet went down earlier, and limped out of the area.
Soon afterwards the obsolete Irresistible hit yet another mine and drifted out of control near the Asiatic shore, quickly attracting the attention of the Turkish gunners, her crew being taken off by a destroyer.
De Robeck abandoned the attack, thinking that the Turks might possibly be floating mines down the channel and ordered an attempt to tow Irresistible out of the danger area by the old battleships Ocean and Swiftsure. Havoc reigned as Ocean struck another mine and then sustained a hit from ashore which destroyed her steering gear. Attempts to mount rescue operations failed as both stricken battleships had sunk before a salvage operation could be mounted under the cover of darkness.