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World War 1 at Sea - Contemporary Royal Navy Accounts

 

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR - NAVAL OPERATIONS, Volume 3, Spring 1915 to June 1916 (Part 1 of 2) by Sir Julian S Corbett

 

Published by Longmans, Green, London 1921

The Commanders-in-Chief, Battle of Jutland: left - Adm Jellicoe, British Grand Fleet; right - Adm Scheer, German High Seas Fleet (Library of Congress, click to enlarge)

on to Naval Operations, Vol 3, Part 2 of 2

 

To enjoy reading the text and following  the maps at the same time, try opening the same page in two separate browser windows

 
 

 

 

A Modern Introduction

 

Up-to-date, well-researched naval histories have an important part to play in understanding past events, but I would like to suggest they are equalled by contemporary accounts written not long after the stories they describe, and often by those who took part.

 

Such near-contemporary accounts include the five volumes of NAVAL OPERATIONS, the first three by Sir Julian S Corbett and the last two by Henry Newbolt. They remain in print, but are still not widely known, and being out-of-copyright, can be found on the internet.

 

They are indispensable to any researcher or scholar of World War 1 who wants to start to understand the vastness of the war at sea and the role of the Royal Navy and its Allies.

 

The naval war, 1914-18 is almost considered peripheral to the war as a whole, especially compared with the Western Front, yet in my opinion, World War 1 was just as much a maritime struggle as that of World War 2. If it had been lost to either the German High Seas Fleet or the later U-boat campaign, Allied victory would have been very much in doubt. Hence the value of these volumes.

 

Later editions of these volumes were updated and corrected. These changes have not been taken into account: hence the need to move onto later histories. Also any transcription and proofing errors are mine, including the lack of accents on mainly French and German names, for which my apologies.

 

Gordon Smith, Naval-History.Net

   

HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR

 

BASED ON OFFICIAL DOCUMENTS

 

BY DIRECTION OF THE HISTORICAL SECTION OF THE COMMITTEE OF IMPERIAL DEFENCE

 

 

 

NAVAL OPERATIONS

 

Vol. III

 

BY

SIR JULIAN S CORBETT

 

 

 

LONGMANS GREEN AND CO.

39 PATERNOSTER ROW, LONDON

1923

 

 

 

(Second edition published in 1940)

 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

Prefaces

I. General Situation When the Coalition Government Took Office May 1915 - Progress in the Minor Theatres - Mesopotamia

II. The Dardanelles, May 5‑June 7 ‑ Exploits of E14 And E11 in the Marmara ‑ Loss of the Triumph and Majestic ‑ The Third Battle of Krithia.

III The Western Front and the Dardanelles - Affairs in Home Waters, White Sea And Baltic, June‑July ‑ The End of the Koenigsberg

IV. The Dardanelles, June 20‑July 31 - The New Plan ‑ Submarine Activity in the Sea of Marmara ‑ Arrival of Reinforcements

V. Suvla

VI. General Situation after Suvla - The Collapse of the Russian Front - Change in the French Attitude - Peril of Serbia - British Submarines in the Marmara

VII. Home Waters and the Baltic, August and September, 1915 - The Arabic and the Baralong, and American Protest against the Submarine Campaign

VIII. The German Change of Front - Attitude of Bulgaria - Naval Operations in Support of the Autumn Offensive in France

IX. Salonica

X. The Mesopotamia Campaign ‑ July‑October

XI. The Doom of Gallipoli and the Battle of Ctesiphon

XII. Evacuation of Gallipoli

XIII. Home Waters September 1915‑March 1916, and the Cruise of the German Raider Moewe

XIV. Call of the German Army for Naval Assistance and the Catastrophe of the Sussex .

XV. The Air‑Raid on the Schleswig Air Base and the Bombardment of Lowestoft

 

(Part 2 of 2)

XVI. The Eve of Jutland

XVII. Jutland ‑ The First Phase ‑ Battle Cruiser Action

XVIII. Jutland ‑ The Second Phase ‑ First contact of the Battle Fleets

XIX. Jutland ‑ The Third Phase - 6.30 to Nightfall

XX. Jutland ‑ The Fourth Phase ‑ The Night

XXI. Jutland ‑ The Last Phase ‑ The First of June

 

APPENDICES - Battle Of Jutland

 

A. Distribution of the Ships of the Grand Fleet Before Sailing on Tuesday May 30, 1916, with the Names of Flag and Commanding Officers

B. Organisation of the Grand Fleet as it Sailed on May 30, 1916

C. Ships of the High Seas Fleet, with the Names of Flag and Commanding Officers, May 31, 1916

D. Organisation of the High Seas Fleet as it Sailed on May 31, 1916

E. List of Ships (British and German) Sunk

F. British Casualties

G. German Casualties

H. Hits Received by British Ships

I. Hits Received by German Ships

J. Signals Deciphered in the Admiralty Between 11.15 P.M. May 31 and 1.25 A.M. June 1

 

Index (not included – you can use Search)

 

 

PLANS AND DIAGRAMS IN VOLUME

 

Jutland, The Deployment ... Frontispiece

Operations in the Baltic ... 61

S.M.S. Koenigsberg in the Rufiji Delta ... 63

THE DARDANELLES

Operations Against Suvla, the Landing of the XIth Division ... 93

Suvla Beach, At the Date of the Evacuation ... 237

Tekke Beach, At the Date of the Evacuation ... 246

Helles Beach, At the Date of the Evacuation ... 247

 

MAPS AND DIAGRAMS IN SEPARATE CASE

Map No.

1. Lower Mesopotamia

2. Operations against Kurnah

3. The Sea of Marmara

4. The Torpedoing of H.M.S. Triumph

5. Operations in the Aegean

6. Operations against Suvla

7. Destruction of S.M.S. Meteor

8. Operations against the Belgian Coast

9. Operations in the Akaika Channel

10. Operations near Nasiriya

11. Operations against Kut

12. Operations of S.M.S. Moewe

13. The Raid on the Schleswig Coast

14. Strategical Plan of the Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft

15. Tactical Plan of the Bombardment of Yarmouth and Lowestoft

 

(Part 2 of 2)

 

THE BATTLE OF JUTLAND

16. Opening Movements

The Battle Cruiser Action

17. From 2.15 P.M. to 2.30 P.M.

18. From 2.30 to 2.45

19. From 2.45 to 3.0

20. From 3.0 to 3.15

21. From 3.15 to 3.30

22. From 3.30 to 3.40

23. From 3.40 to 4.0

24. From 4.0 to 4.20

25. From 4.20 to 4.40

26. From 4.40 to 5.0

27. From 5.0 to 5.20

28. From 5.20 to 5.40

29. From 5.40 to 6.0

30. From 6.0 to 6.15

The Deployment

31. From 6.15 P.M. to 6.26 P.M.

The Main Action

32. From 6.26 P.M. to 6.35 P.M.

33. From 6.35 to 6.45

34. From 6.45 to 6.56

35. From 6.56 to 7.12

36. From 7.12 to 7.18

37. From 7.18 to 7.26

38. From 7.26 to 7.35

39. From 7.35 to 7.45

40. From 7.45 to 8.15

41. From 8.15 to 8.35

42. From 8.35 to 9.0

43. From 9.0 to 10.0

The Night Movements

44. From 10 P.M. to 3.0 A.M.

The Night Actions

45. 8 Phases, A-H (in 8 parts)

The First of June

46. From 3 A.M. to Noon

 

 

 

 

Jutland, The Deployment (from the Frontispiece)

 

 

 

 

PREFACE TO REVISED EDITION

 

The most important section of this volume is that which relates the story of the Battle of Jutland, and for its revision a great many authorities have been consulted, including the German Official History of the battle. The German account is based largely on Sir Julian Corbett's original narrative, and even many of the German charts have evidently been com­piled from our own ‑ sometimes at the expense of contradict­ing the text they are supposed to illustrate. Some hitherto unknown details, however, notably with regard to the initial activities of their submarines, and the opening movements of their forces are now available. These have been incorporated in the present edition, together with such additions and corrections as have come to light from this and many other authoritative sources, and the diagrams have been amended where necessary.

 

Among the more important additions are: the explanation of the absence of the seaplane‑carrier Campania (Note A, p. 326a); the reason for the slow approach of the Grand Fleet to the battle area (Note B, p. 326b); and, in Appendix J (p. 442), a list of seven German signals received in the Admiralty but not passed to the Commander‑in‑Chief. It will be seen that the second signal in this list contained some words that were not included in the decipher. Had the officer responsible for the deciphering of this message realised the vital importance of the information it conveyed, it is hardly to be credited that it would have been withheld from Admiral Jellicoe.

 

In writing his narrative of the battle, Sir Julian Corbett had before him the official Admiralty study, but did not live to make due acknowledgment of its assistance. It is, there­fore, here recorded.

 

For the revision of the first part of the volume a further large number of authorities has been consulted, including eight volumes of the German Official History, and recourse has again been made to the Naval Staff Monographs. From these and the other authorities many amendments have now been made.

 

Throughout the task of revision every endeavour has been made to preserve the work of the original author; indeed, no disturbance has been admitted except where it is essential for historical accuracy.

 

Assistance on points of detail, mostly technical, has been rendered by Captain A. C. Dewar, R.N. (Head of the Historical Section, Training and Staff Duties Division, Admiralty), and by his assistant, Lieutenant‑Commander J. H. Lloyd‑Owen, RN, to whom my thanks are due.

I take this opportunity, too, of expressing my sense of gratitude, in particular, to Mr. C. V. Owen, Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence, for his help and advice, which have been invaluable.

 

E. Y. DANIEL,

Lieut.‑Colonel, R.M.

Secretary, Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence. October, 1939.

 

 

PREFACE

 

THE present volume deals with the events in Home Waters from the spring of 1915 to the Battle of Jutland. It is also concerned with the Dardanelles Campaign up to the final evacuation and the opening of the Salonica Expedition; with the campaign in Mesopotamia as far as the Battle of Ctesiphon, and with operations in minor theatres.

 

It was only a few hours before his death that Sir Julian Corbett completed the last chapter. He had thus no oppor­tunity of revising his proofs, nor of checking the accuracy of his narrative, as he had done in the preceding volumes, and this task devolved on me as having been closely associated with him in his work for many years and being fully acquainted with his methods. I had, therefore, to compare the text very closely with the materials upon which it was based, and, where any errors of fact were discovered, to correct it in such a way that the original form was preserved. Particular care has been taken to ensure that every passage in which the author has given expression to his own opinions or made deductions from established facts has remained unaltered.

 

In addition to the books referred to in the prefaces to his earlier volumes, the author drew largely from the follow­ing works for matters affecting German war policy and strategy:‑

My Three Years in America, Count Bernstorff.

General Headquarters 1914‑1916 and its Critical Decisions, General Erich von Falkenhayn.

My War Memories 1914‑1918, General Ludendorff.

Die deutschen U‑Boote in ihrer Kriegfuhrung, 1914­-1918, Vols. 11 and III, Korvettenkapitan A. Gayer.

 

In describing the beginning of the Salonica Expedition he consulted:‑

 

Mon commandement en Orient (1914‑1918), General Sarrail.

Joffre. La Premiere Crise du Commandement, Mermeix.

 

The German Official Navaf History at present only covers a period of the war which has already been dealt with by the author.

 

The diagrams of the Battle of Jutland have been drawn from material prepared by Lieutenant‑Commander J. F. H. Pollen, R.N. (retired), who was also responsible for the battle plans in the first and second volumes.

 

It was Sir Julian Corbett's intention to express his sense of gratitude to the members of the Staff of the Historical Section who prepared and digested the immense amount of material upon which the three volumes of his history are based. I, too, am indebted to them for the assistance they have given me in my task of revising the proofs and verifying the narrative.

 

E. Y. DANIEL.

Lieut Col, RM.

Secretary, Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence.

 

Aug 1928.

 

 


 

 

 

CHAPTER I

 

GENERAL SITUATION WHEN THE COALITION GOVERNMENT TOOK OFFICE ‑ PROGRESS IN THE MINOR THEATRES ‑ MESOPOTAMIA

 

By the end of May, 1915, the new Government was formed. Mr. Asquith, Sir Edward Grey and Lord Kitchener retained their former offices. The chief changes which directly con­cerned the conduct of the war were that Mr. Balfour became First Lord of the Admiralty and Mr. Lloyd George, from being Chancellor of the Exchequer, took up the Ministry of Muni­tions ‑ a department now constituted for the first time as the best means of dealing with a need which, with ever­-increasing insistence, had been clogging and weakening our operations both in France and the Dardanelles. At the Admiralty Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, whose masterly work in the direction of oversea operations designated him as Lord Fisher's natural successor, was appointed First Sea Lord.

 

The general outlook which the new Government had to face was one of much anxiety ‑ filled as it was with unsolved problems and unsolved situations all over the world. Our war plan had broken down, nor was there any hopeful pros­pect of regaining the initiative. On May 25, the day the new Ministry was formed, Sir John French had broken off the battle of Festubert for lack of ammunition, with no positive gain to set against his losses. Further south the French had gained ground, but the battle of Artois was still raging and showed little promise of giving a substantial improvement of the Allied position. As for the Eastern Front, neither the great French effort nor the imminent intervention of Italy had availed to relieve the pressure on the Russians in Galicia. In that theatre the Central Powers had made a sweeping advance, and were in the act of isolating the all‑important fortress of Przemysl. The effect of their far‑reaching success was to extinguish the hopes which had once been entertained of a decisive offensive movement from that quarter, and coupled with our own check at the Dardanelles, it also promised to be fatal to the Entente hopes of re‑establishing a Balkan combination. Yet a united effort of the Balkan States was the only measure which could counter Germany's success in drawing Turkey into the war.

 

One of the first acts of the new Government was an effort to induce Bulgaria to enter the struggle against her hereditary enemy. But the minimum territorial consideration that was likely to prove an inducement to Bulgaria was far beyond what either Serbia or Greece was willing to consider. The attempt had no success, and only made it clearer than ever that if Germany were to be prevented from opening a road to Constantinople, and thus establishing an impassable gulf between Russia and the Western Powers, it was mainly upon our own strength we should have to rely. Had we strength enough? That was the crucial question, and it was one that was extremely difficult to determine. It really depended on whether our function in France was to be in the main defensive, or whether we were to par­ticipate directly with our French Allies in attempting to reach a decision there by offensive action. No clear, and certainly no unanimous answer to this question seems ever to have been given, nor, in view of the political frictions that are inseparable from acting with an Ally whose country has been invaded, was it easy for a clear answer to be made.

 

Apart from such friction it seems almost beyond doubt that, so long at least as there was any hope of a decision coming from the Russian side, the correct course and the one most in accordance with our traditions was to assume an alert but general defensive in France and throw everything that was not required for that defensive into an alternative theatre where decisive success was attainable, and where consequently we could hope to influence definitely the course of the war. Such a theatre the Dardanelles provided when the enterprise was set on foot. Now the problem was not so clear. The collapse of Russia, while affording additional reason for striking with all possible strength in the Near East, also pushed opinion to to the inevitability of the main Allied offensive being developed in France. The result was that it appears to have become a cardinal axiom of our war policy that, important as was the Dardanelles theatre, our enterprise there was no more than a secondary offensive, and that nothing must be devoted to it which would imperil the hope of a primary offensive in the main or central theatre at an early date. Our superfluous force, therefore, was all that could he used; but the measure of that force was no longer what was not required for a defensive attitude on the Western

 

Feb‑May, 1915

GERMAN SOUTH‑WEST AFRICA

 

Front, but how much of our disengaged strength the French could bear to see diverted to another theatre.

 

The superfluous force we had ‑ that is, the force not already earmarked for the main theatre ‑ was considerable, but it was far from free. Much of it was still engaged in the oversea attacks with which we had begun our vast effort to establish a permanent control of the seven seas. Every­where, except in the Pacific and Togoland, the liabilities thus incurred were unliquidated. In two places ‑ East Africa and Mesopotamia ‑ the liabilities threatened to increase, and only at one point - German South‑West Africa - was the situation really promising. There alone was there ample force for the work in hand, but the provision of that force was absorbing the whole strength of one of the three great self‑governing dominions.

 

It was on February 6, as we have seen, that General Botha left Cape Town for Walfisch Bay to open his well‑designed campaign. (Vol II, p.235). The success he met with fully justified the completeness and strength of his preparations. From the first his progress was uninterrupted. After a month's work it was found that before the various Union forces that had been so skilfully co‑ordinated the Germans were abandoning all the southern part of the colony and concentrating about the capital at Windhuk. Early in April, therefore, the plan was simplified, and the Central, Southern and Eastern forces were reorganised as a new Southern force, under the command of General Smuts. By April 20 he had occupied Keetmans­hoop, the railhead of the Luederitz Bay line, and then General Botha pushed forward to cut off the enemy, who were retiring northwards. So rapid was the movement that by May 5 his advance troops had cut the railway north of Windhuk, and a week later (12th) he seized Windhuk itself, with 8,000 Europeans all told, 12,000 natives, a large amount of rolling stock and the high‑power wireless station still standing. The navy's influence on these operations had been exercised at the Falkland Islands and in the wide wastes of the Atlantic; its activities relieved General Botha from all anxiety with regard to probable interference from the sea, and thus he was able to operate on widely separated lines the masterly com­bination which completely baffled the Germans and gave to the Union forces their rapid and well‑deserved success.

 


Duala and the Cameroons Estuary (link to first use of Map)

 

In the Cameroons the situation was much less satisfactory. Successful as had been the opening operations for the seizure of the coast, it had become clear, now that it was a question

 

April, 1915

THE CAMEROONS

 

of reducing the vast expanses of the hinterland where naval co‑operation was no longer possible, the troops on the spot were far too few for the task.

(In March the French troops numbered about 6,000, the British 4,000 and the Belgians 600. The Germans were believed to have less than 3,000 formed troops with an unknown number of native irregulars. We and the French each had a cruiser and a gunboat, but we had also armed and manned eighteen sea-going and river craft.)

General Dobell had asked for 4,000 Indian troops, and when he was told that it was impossible to provide them, he was for standing fast on the line he then held, from Edea to the northern railhead, till reinforcements could be found. When, however, the French civil and military mission arrived at Duala to concert opera­tions, they pressed for an advance on Yaunde at the great river junction where the Germans had established their headquarters. Their idea was that he should move on the place in two columns from Edea, with the British and French troops that were under his command, while General Aymerich advanced with two columns from the south and east by way of Lomie and Dume. Such a scheme General Dobell could not approve. In his opinion the troops available were too few and the distances too great for it to constitute a co­ordinated converging plan of operations. Yaunde was 100 miles from Edea and 150 from Lomie and Dume, which General Aymerich had yet to reach. Still, so eager were the French, that he gave way, and agreed to make the attempt in April.

 

Accordingly, on April 10 the movement began. It was made in two columns, the French troops working along the Midland railway for Eseka, and the British on their left along the direct road to Yaunde for the half‑way post, Wum Biagas. (On Apri 3 the control of the operations bad been taken over by the War Office.) From the first the resistance was very strong and progress slow. To relieve the pressure and prevent the enemy concentrating it had been arranged with Captain Fuller that he should make diversions at various points on the coast with his marines and native levies, and to this work he devoted the squadron, so far as was consistent with stopping the flow of contraband from Fernando Po.

 

So difficult was this task, owing to the attitude of the Spanish local authorities, that it had been decided, on Captain Fuller's suggestion, to establish a blockade of the whole coast on the same lines as that for German East Africa. Measures for reinforcing the squadron for the purpose had been taken at home in the middle of March, and

 

May, 1915

THE CAMEROONS

 

on the 21st the Sirius and Rinaldo had been ordered to be prepared for foreign service. (Sirius, light cruiser, 1889, 3,600 tons, 2-6", 6‑4‑7"; 8‑6 pdrs. Rinaldo, sloop, 1898‑9, 980 tons, 4‑4in. Both had been hitherto devoted to coastal attack and defence in home waters. See Vol. II., p. 234.) Another ship was being taken up and armed locally, and the French, who had been asked to co‑operate, were providing an armed trawler. The blockade, however, was declared without waiting for the arrival of the reinforcements, and put in force on April 24. It extended along the whole coast north of the Spanish enclave, a distance of about 200 miles. South of the enclave no blockade was necessary, for the coast was in the hands of the French. From the northern section the Cameroons River was excepted and Duala was declared an open port.

 

There the Senior Naval Officer's ship was stationed, but she was no longer the Challenger. Owing to the call for cruisers to watch the Koenigsberg on the east coast, the need of reinforcing the Cape station with a good ship had become so urgent that the long‑contemplated exchange had to be carried out, and the Astraea had arrived. But, as General Dobell was as unwilling as ever to lose the services of Captain Fuller, the two captains exchanged ships before the Challenger left for Walfisch Bay (May 1).

 

During this time the advance of the troops had been held up. By the middle of April each of the Edea columns, after much hard fighting, had reached their first objectives, Ngwe on the road and the Kele river on the railway, which meant in each case an advance of about thirty miles. Then it was found the enemy was moving troops down from the north, threatening the British line of advance, and General Dobell had to detach a force to his left to hold Sakbajeme, on the Sanaga river, where it was crossed by the road from the north which joined the main road between Ngwe and Wum Biagas, his next objective. (See Vol. I, Map 16 (in case). - not yet available GGG) At the same time General Aymerich sent word that he could not reach Lomie till the end of the month. The advance therefore was postponed. On May 1 it was resumed, and by the 4th the British were in Wum Biagas and the French in Sende again, on the 6th, after heavy fighting. On the 11th they had driven the Germans from Eseka and captured seven engines and two hundred wagons. The whole railway system was now in the Allies' hands, but General Aymerich had been unable to reach either Dume or Lomie. To General Dobell it was clear that, as he expected, the ambitious concentric attack was no longer possible, and that the only chance of reaching Yaunde

 

April, 1915

GERMAN EAST AFRICA

 

before the rains was a vigorous push along the shortest line with his whole force. His French column was therefore moved north to Wum Biagas, and the final effort began on May 25. But it was quickly found that the Germans had been able to bring about a concentration that made progress more difficult than ever. In ten days our men had only advanced a dozen miles, and in front of them the Germans held positions that swamps rendered almost impregnable. Dysentery was playing havoc with the troops, of General Aymerich there was no news, the rains were coming on, and by the middle of June General Dobell decided to abandon the attempt to reach Yaunde and fall back on the line of his first objectives. All there was to set against the failure was that in the north Garua had at last fallen (June 10), and on the coast the arrival of the naval reinforcements made it possible to render the blockade thoroughly effective. (The Sirius and Rinaldo arrived on June 6.)

 

On the opposite side of the Continent affairs were in much the same position. There ashore the attitude of passive defence was maintained and military operations were con­fined to German raids on the Uganda railway. The Koenigsberg still remained unapproachable, but at sea she led to much activity. The Germans evidently had no idea of leaving her to her fate, and early in April we began to get wind of attempts to relieve her and at the same time to run in arms and ammunition for the defence of the colony. The first attempt was planned for the spring tides in the second week of the month ‑ a time which seemed to indicate that the Koenigsberg would try to break out and meet the relief ship off the Rufiji. The Chatham was ordered to return temporarily to the east coast as soon as her refit at Bombay was complete, instead of going at once to the Mediter­ranean, but her defects proved too serious, and Vice‑Admiral H. G. King‑Hall had to do his best with the ships he had.

 

To some extent the blockade had to be relaxed. Keeping the Weymouth, Kinfauns Castle and Pioneer off the Rufiji to prevent a break out, he himself in the Hyacinth made a cast for the relief ship. As was afterwards discovered, she was the British steamship Rubens, of 3,587 tons, with 1,600 tons of coal, 1,500 rifles and a quantity of ammunition and provisions. (She was one of the vessels detained by the Germans at Hamburg on the outbreak of war, and was disguised as the Danish steamer Kronbeg.) As the time of spring tides drew near German wireless was heard by a British ship, and by the French in Madagascar, at the north end of the Mozambique channel. The expected ship was evidently coming up that way, but the Hyacinth failed to find

 

Feb.‑Apr, 1915

GERMAN SUPPLY SHIP ARRIVES

 

her on the anticipated course. Later on it was known that she was actually at Aldabra island, about 100 miles east by south of the Rufiji, from April 8 to 10. Then at the height of the springs she sailed and further wireless signals indicated she was moving northward. As the Koenigsberg had not stirred, it looked as though Tanga were her destination, and for that point Admiral King‑Hall made, and at daybreak on the 14th sighted her in the Kilulu channel. At that moment, as ill luck would have it, the Hyacinth's starboard engine broke down. With only one engine it was impossible to overhaul the chase, and she was able to run into Mansa Bay and beach herself out of sight. But her steam blowing off betrayed her position, and the Hyacinth as she ran on shelled her over the land. When Admiral King‑Hall got into the bay she was seen to be aground and burning forward. Boats were promptly sent in to try to salve her valuable cargo, but the heat was too great. Nothing of any value was recovered except her charts. From these it appeared she had left the Skaw on February 18, and making the Sumburgh head light after dark on the 21st, was able in the long hours of darkness to run the gauntlet of the Grand Fleet and pass out between the Shetlands and Orkneys and so by the west of Ireland southward. (The only cruiser squadron that happened to be out was the 10th i.e. the Northern Patrol of AMC's. During the week they had stopped 51 vessels.)

 

In the first week of March she was passing through the Canaries. Here, as in the North American area, we were still maintaining a considerable cruiser force to keep watch on the approaches to the Straits of Gibraltar, and on the German and Austrian vessels which, to the number of 120, had taken refuge in Spanish and Portuguese ports. It was now known as the squadron for the protection of trade from Cape Finisterre to Cape Verde islands, and although at this time it comprised eight British and three French ships, the Rubens passed through it undetected.

 

(The squadron at this time was composed as follows:

 

Finisterrer-Canaries Division: Three cruisers Europa, Amphitrite, Argonaut, and two armed merchant cruisers, Calgarian, Carmania.

 

French Morocco Division: Three light cruisers - Cosmao, Friant, Cassard

 

Cape Verde Islands Division: One light cruiser Highflyer and armed merchant cruisers Marmara and Empress of Britain.

 The first two divisions were based at Gibraltar and the last at Sierra Leone.)

Thence she carried on south, following the ordinary track, till at the end of March she rounded the Cape and, keeping well out to sea, made

 

May, 1915

GERMAN EAST AFRICA

 

Aldabra island on April 8. It was at this time, as she passed up the Mozambique Channel, that her attempts to com­municate with the Koenigsberg put our cruisers on the alert, with the result that her bold attempt ended as we have seen. As it was impossible to salve the cargo, the Admiral decided to destroy her by gun‑fire at close range. She was soon on fire fore and aft, and after three explosions indicated that her ammunition had gone, the Hyacinth left her. (The destruction was not complete, and later on the Germane succeeded in salving part of the cargo of arms and ammunition.)

 

But this was not the end of the German enterprise, and the strain on our cruisers increased rather than diminished. By the time the springs were over we had wind of another relief ship coming up. As she did not appear it was con­cluded she had received word to keep off till the next spring tides at the end of the month, when the Koenigsberg would have water again to break out. As the squadron was it could not count on stopping her. The Hyacinth could not steam much more than half speed and was sorely in need of an overhaul. The Cornwall, which had reached the Cape from home a week before, was therefore ordered up at high speed (she arrived on April 27), and the Chatham was also directed to the Rufiji, joining the squadron there on May 1. Meanwhile the islands north of the Mozambique Channel were searched, but no trace of the intruder could be found.

 

Under these conditions the need of making an end of the Koenigsberg was more urgent than ever. The two new seaplanes for which the Admiral had applied had proved unequal to the task. Though good enough for distant reconnaissance, they could not in that climate rise high enough for bombing in face of the enemy's anti‑aircraft fire. On May 5 one of them crashed in the sea and was wrecked. Bombing having failed, the Admiral was for attempting a torpedo attack, but this the Admiralty would not sanction. Their solution of the problem was to send down two of the original monitors which then were at Malta, and he was directed to husband his seaplanes till they arrived. His work, therefore, was chiefly maintaining the watch on the Rufiji. It was kept up in full strength till the springs were again past, and then both the Cornwall and Chatham left for the Mediterranean (May 11 and 16). Till the monitors and more seaplanes arrived nothing further could be done.

 

Ashore the lack of force kept things equally quiet. From India little could be expected, the needs of Mesopotamia were too great, and on April 16 Major‑General R. Wapshare sailed to take up a command there, leaving Major‑General

 

Jan., 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

M. J. Tighe as his successor in East Africa. The drain of Mesopotamia was indeed increasing ominously, and it was promising to be by no means the least of the liabilities which the new Government had to meet. Since the capture of Kurnah on December 9 no advance had been attempted. The Expeditionary Force had all it could do to secure itself. Till the end of the year it was engaged in entrenching a position on the Tigris about two miles above Kurnah, as well as at Muzairaa, on the opposite bank, while in the river a ship always kept guard at night with its searchlights.

 

Since December 18, on which day Captain A. Hayes‑Sadler sailed with the Ocean for Suez, the squadron attached to the expedition was in charge of Captain Wilfrid Nunn of the sloop Espiegle. He had besides her sister ship, the Odin (Commander C. R. Wason), the Indian Marine ship Lawrence and four armed launches. With this force he was able, so far as his guns would carry, to do a little to check the lawless tribes who inhabited the swamps and indulged them­selves with perpetual sniping; but to control them entirely was impossible, for as they constantly moved their mat villages from place to place punitive raids were not easy to carry out. Most troublesome of these tribesmen were those living in the marshes of the Euphrates west of Kurnah. One of their Sheikhs, who lived at Kubaish, thirty miles up the river, secure in his swampy fastness, was found to be intriguing with the enemy, and Sir Percy Cox, the Chief Political Officer, consulted Captain Nunn as to the possibility of removing him. (see Map 1.)

 

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

The river was uncharted, but on January 6 they made the attempt together in the Espiegle, with three armed launches and two of Messrs. Lynch's river steamers, carrying troops. The navigation of the sluggish stream proved unexpectedly easy. The Espiegle got nearly up to the village, the launches penetrated into Hammar lake above it, and the offending Sheikh was brought down to Kurnah and deposed.

 

In their hostile attitude the Arabs were sustained by the southward movement of Turkish troops. After the capture of Kurnah a division of the Mosul Army Corps had concen­trated at Bagdad, and by the end of the year an advanced force was established on the Tigris at Ruta, about eight miles above Kurnah. A combined reconnaissance, carried out on New Year's Day, found them entrenched on both banks of the river just above the Ruta creek, and below it they had blocked the river by sinking two iron lighters. Further reconnaissances, during one of which the Espiegle

 

Jan., 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

sank a Turkish steamer above Ruta, showed the enemy's strength constantly increasing. Their outposts had been advanced to within six miles north of our entrenched camp at Muzaira'a. The General (Lieutenant‑General Sir A. A. Barrett) therefore on January 20 moved out with a strong force, supported by the Espiegle, the launch Miner and the stern‑wheeler Mejidieh in the reach above Abu Aran. The operation was entirely successful. The enemy were driven back in confusion, losing their original position and some two to three hundred killed. The infantry then advanced, but as the object was reconnaissance only, no attack was made. Having ascertained that the enemy num­bered 5,000 men, mostly gendarmerie, the troops were with­drawn under cover of the ship's fire. Our losses were seven killed and fifty‑one wounded.

 

But the situation was still full of anxiety. For some time past the Muntafik Arabs had been concentrating at Nasiriya, on the Euphrates, thirty miles above Hammar lake ‑ a site once famous as "Ur of the Chaldees." It now became known that they had been joined by a number of Turks, and having crossed the river, were moving south of the marshes towards Basra. (see Map 1 - repeated.)

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

Simultaneously another Turkish force moving from Amara on the Tigris had crossed the Persian frontier, and in conjunction with the local Arabs seemed to be making for Ahwaz, on the Karun river, and the pipe line which connected the oil‑fields with the refinery at Abadan. On the night of January 29/30 a minor attack on our camp at Muzaira'a gave further evidence of the enemy's restlessness. There seemed to be little doubt that he meant to take the offensive and attack Basra, Kurnah and Ahwaz simultaneously; and no offensive movement on our part was possible. This was regrettable, for though our operations had been originally undertaken to confirm our command of the Indian Seas and, secure our interests in the Persian Gulf, it was becoming evident that something of much greater moment was at stake. Thanks to the industry of the Germans, the whole Arab world was in ferment, and whether they or ourselves would profit by it depended mainly upon what we could do in Mesopotamia. It was making itself strongly felt in Central Arabia, where the Pan‑Islamic movement had produced a deep impression. But here we scored the first point. The centre of the movement was at Hail, under the powerful Sheikh Ibn Rashid, and there on January 24 he was attacked by our partisan Ibn Saud, accompanied by Major W. H. Shakespear, our invaluable political agent at Kuwait. On

 

Feb-Mar., 1915

MENACE TO THE PIPE LINE

 

both sides the losses were severe, including unhappily Major Shakespear himself. Neither side could claim the victory, but the action put it out of Ibn Rashid's power to move on Mesopotamia. Unfortunately the last chance of effective co‑operation by Ibn Saud also passed away.

 

There the immediate danger was to the oil‑fields and pipe line. The Admiralty were specially anxious about its safety, and two of the armed launches, Shaitan and Comet, were ordered up the river. They reached Ahwaz on February 1. Troops followed, and the Sheikh of Mohmmerah mustered his men to assist, but for all they could do some of the oil stores were damaged and the pipe line was cut in several places during February. As for Kurnah, after the middle of the month it was made unassailable by the inundations that followed the rise of the river, and troops could be sent down to Basra in time to meet the attack which was developing from Nasiriya. The Turks and their Arab friends were slowly concentrating at Nukhaila, only thirty miles west of Basra, where supplies could reach them by water by way of the new channel of the Euphrates, which led out of the Hammar lake and joined the Tigris just above Basra. We were facing them at Shaiba, eight miles west of Basra, at the edge of the inundations caused by the new channel. From this point on March 3 an attempt was made with troops in bellums, or rude canoes of the district, propelled by punt­poles or paddles, to get at the enemy's line of communication. They were drawing their supplies from Nukhaila, on the Euphrates, and to this point, which was the objective of the operations, everything was brought down the river in mahailas. (The mahaila was a local kind of shallow‑draft dhow usually of from 30 to 40 tons burden, and occasionally a good deal larger.) The attempt failed, and a reconnaissance which had been pushed out to divert the enemy's attention was forced to retire before superior numbers. So formidable indeed was the concentration becoming that something clearly had to be done to arrest its further development.

 

The only way seemed to be to renew the attempt on the mahailas at Nukhaila with a regular combined operation, but whether or not it was possible for the flotilla to act was uncertain. At Kurmat Ali, seven miles above Basra, we had a post at the point where the new channel of the Euphrates joined the Tigris, but its navigation was quite unknown. So far as had been ascertained neither the sloops nor the Miner could operate in what was really a vast swamp with no more than three feet of water over the greater part of it. Consequently, as the Shaitan and Comet could not be spared

 

Mar., 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

from the Karun, a special flotilla had to be organised. The stern‑wheeler Shushan was commissioned, with Lieutenant­ Commander A. G. Seymour and six men from the Espiegle, and armed with two 3‑pounders. Another, the Muzaffri, carried fifty men of the Norfolks, and a barge was armed with two 4‑inch guns of the 104th (Heavy) Battery, and carried a crew of forty men under Major W. C. R. Farmar, R.G.A. A tug and a motor boat completed the little amphibious force, and on March 11 they started. By the second day they found their way through the shoals to within range of the enemy's camp at Nukhaila, and proceeded to shell it and the mahailas by which it was being supplied. The immediate effect was that the mahailas ceased coming down to Nukhaila and seemed to be stopping higher up. Next day, therefore, the flotilla moved on ten miles to Allawi, where there was a fort, with a depot near by at Ratawi. It was destroyed with more mahailas. So the work went on day after day in the wide waste of uncharted waters, with constant groundings as they tried to chase the elusive dhows which always made off and hid themselves in the jungle of high reeds that grew out of the floods. Above Ratawi the waters became more confined, and here it was found that a complete blockade could be established. Having ascertained this important fact they returned to Nukhaila and subjected it on March 20 to a full day's bombardment, setting the camp on fire, forcing numbers of Arabs out into the desert and destroying some of the mahailas that were there.

 

They were not many, for now it was found that the effect of the operations was that they came no further than a place called Ghabishiya, twenty miles above Ratawi, where they were unloaded and their cargoes transported by camels to Nukhaila. To Ghabishiya the flotilla therefore pro­ceeded and found there a crowd of mahailas and camels. Here they stayed, doing what damage they could, and com­pletely blocking the flow of supplies by water till they were forced to go down for more ammunition. Thus was set on foot what was known as the "Euphrates Blockade." Not only did it prove to afford invaluable protection to the west flank of the Basra position, but its moral effects were scarcely less important. The Arabs were peculiarly susceptible to ship fire, and the delay which the blockade caused in the attack so far disheartened them that, in spite of the Jehad, they began to fall away in large numbers.

 

On our right wing up the Karun river things were not so satisfactory. In attempting to anticipate the arrival of Turkish and Arab reinforcements our people had attacked

 

Mar‑April 1915

ARRIVAL OF GENERAL NIXON

 

the enemy west of Ahwaz on March 3, but we were too late, and met with a reverse from superior numbers, losing sixty­-two killed and 127 wounded. The enemy lost over 200 killed and about 600 wounded. The Karun column had therefore to be increased to the strength of a brigade, but here, too, the Jehad was losing its force. The depressed Arabs began to desert, and by the end of the month, though the pipe line was still broken, the position at the oil‑fields was better.

 

The whole situation, however, was still very serious, particularly in view of the failure of the naval attack on the Dardanelles. Ever since it had been realised how formidable was the effort the Turks were preparing to dislodge us from the Shatt‑al‑Arab, the question of reinforcements had been acute. Immediately the danger to the oil supply was known, the Admiralty, who were pressing for energetic military action to safeguard it, had ordered out the sloop Clio (six 4‑inch and four a‑pounder guns. Commander C. MacKenzie) from Egypt, and they had also shipped two converted stern‑wheelers armed with 4.7 inch guns. Troops were harder to find. The Government of India, owing to in­ternal anxieties, could not see their way to providing more from their reduced garrison, but eventually General Melliss's Indian brigade was spared from Egypt, so that the Expedi­tionary Force was brought up to the strength of an army corps of two infantry divisions and a cavalry brigade, but without its full complement of artillery. On April 9 General Sir John Nixon arrived to command it. His instructions were to retain complete control of Lower Mesopotamia, including the vilayet of Basra and all outlets to the sea, and of all such portions of the neighbouring territories as affected his operations. So far as was feasible without prejudice to his main operations he was also to endeavour to secure the safety of the oil‑fields, pipe lines and refineries, and further, in anticipation of possible eventualities, to study a plan for advancing on Bagdad.

 

So effectually had the Euphrates blockade checked the enemy that the long‑expected offensive did not develop till after his arrival. It was heralded on April 11 by a bombard­ment of Kurnah from the Turkish position just above. Next day there was a demonstration against Ahwaz, and simul­taneously the attack on our position at Shaiba developed in full force. We were holding the place with one cavalry and two infantry brigades, and after heavy fighting, which lasted till nightfall, the attack was repulsed with severe loss to the enemy. Next day Major‑General C. J. Melliss, who was in command, counter‑attacked and drove the enemy back on a

 

Apr. 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

position they had prepared at Barjisiya, three or four miles to the south‑west. This position he attacked on April 14, and by skilful tactics and indomitable persistence the valiant tenacity of the Turks was at last broken. A precipitate retirement began and quickly became a rout. The Turkish losses are estimated at one thousand. Four hundred prisoners and two guns fell into our hands. Pursuit was impossible for our exhausted troops, but the Euphrates flotilla was waiting its opportunity. It had been able to take no part in the battle, though the Shushan had had a little action of her own with two Thomycroft patrol boats, which she put to flight. In the evening. however, she was joined by a further force, so that the flotilla, which was now commanded by Lieutenant‑Colonel R. P. Molesworth, R.G.A., could show two naval 4.7‑inch guns, a 12‑pounder and three 8‑pounders, besides a military 5‑inch and an 18‑pounder.

 

With this force he went up to Nukhaila. As they approached at dawn a number of mahailas could be seen making sail. As yet our people had no news of how the battle had gone; but what they saw could only mean that the enemy had been defeated the previous day and a vigoorous pursuit was begun. Twelve of the largest dhows were destroyed or captured, but then came a gale which prevented anything being done for the whole of next day. When it abated they pushed on to Ghabishiya, but only to find it deserted. The enemy in scattered groups were flying in disorder. The truth was that our success had stifled the last breath of the Jehad. The Arab tribesmen had turned on the Turks, and were harassing and plundering them as they fled. It was a wholly broken and demoralised force that at last got back to Nasiriya. Their commander, Sulaiman Askari, had committed suicide before his assembled officers when the Arabs turned against him. Their total losses were about 6,000 men and a great quantity of arms and munitions which were found on the battlefield and at the river posts. Our casualties numbered 1,862 including 101 killed.

 

The work of the blockade flotilla was now done, and it could be withdrawn. The attempt to turn our Mesopotamian flank had failed, and failed so disastrously that its effects spread far and wide. Not only was General Nixon now free to operate in force up the Karun river in order to clear the enemy out of Persian Arabistan, but through all that district the Arabs began to renounce the Jehad. The result was that when Major‑General G. F. Gorringe, towards the end of April, was sent up the river with his division the Turks fell back before him. The advance was one of the greatest

 

May 1915

PIPE LINE SECURED

 

difficulty. In a bold effort to cut off the enemy's retreat he left the river twenty miles short of Ahwaz and struck north­ward across the swampy desert to the hills. But their retreat had been too rapid for him; they had just passed ahead of his column, and all he could do was to press on their heels and drive them back the way they came. On May 14 he entered Bisaitin, and Persian Arabistan was again clear of the enemy, and the oil‑fields and pipe line secured.

 

In this wholly successful operation the flotilla could take no part. Their turn was to come. For the present they were busy with work preparatory to further and larger operations by which General Nixon intended to follow up his victory at Shaiba. To consolidate the position in Lower Mesopotamia it seemed to him necessary to occupy Nasiriya and Amara, the two points from which the attacks on his flanks had originated. This forward movement had been sanctioned from home, and the minor units of the flotilla were investi­gating the channels about Hammar lake with a view to the advance up the Euphrates. About this phase, however, there was no immediate hurry. Far more important and more pressing was the capture of Amara. Since it was from that point the columns which attacked Ahwaz had started, it was probably there the baffled troops would retire, and if their retreat could be cut off it would mean a real and telling success.

 

The first operation would have to be the forcing of the Turkish position above Kurnah, where the enemy's advanced posts faced our own at a distance of 2,000 to 8,000 yards on both sides of the river. It was no easy matter. (See Map 2.)

 

 

Map 2. Operations against Kurnah

The inundation was now at its highest; Kurnah itself was an island, and as far as the eye could see there was nothing but a reedy waste of water, broken by a few low detached sandhills on which the Turks were entrenched. The nearest, known to us as "Norfolk hill," was on the west or Kurnah bank. In rear of it was " One Tree hill," on the east bank, and "One Tower hill " on the west. Further back again was a stronger post, "Gun hill." Two miles in rear of this was the main position at Abu Aran village, and on the extreme horizon could just be seen the enemy's camps at Muzaibila and Ruta, below which was the obstruction they had formed by sinking iron barges.

 

To attack such a position involved work of an almost unprecedented character. Though the water was but two feet deep, it was intersected by so many deeper ditches and canals that wading was impossible. The only way to enable the infantry to move freely was to adopt the methods of the natives and embark them in the bellums. Three hundred

 

May 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

and seventy‑two of these were collected, and ninety‑six were lightly armoured to give protection against rifle and machine‑gun fire. (Each carried ten men and a reserve of ammunition and other supplies.) As soon as the men had learned to use them brigade training had to proceed with every movement translated into terms of canoes. As for the cavalry, it could not be used at all. Its place had to be supplied by the flotilla, and on the flotilla, too, the force would have to rely for its artillery as soon as it had advanced beyond the range of the heavy batteries at Kurnah. Here the mobility of the water‑borne guns gave us a valuable advantage, for though the main attack must be frontal up the course of the Tigris, it seemed possible at least to menace the flanks of the position.

 

On either side of the river were two creeks which led northward, the one, Al Huwair creek, from the Euphrates, the other, Shwaiyib river, which joined the Shatt­al‑Arab below Kurnah. These Captain Nunn was investi­gating while the elaborate details of the strange operation were worked out by the staff. He had now, besides the Espiegle and Odin, his third sloop, the Clio. She had been long on her way from Suez, for apart from its duties with the Expeditionary Force the squadron had to be continually showing the flag at any gulf port where there were signs of unrest or hostility. She had got as far as Muscat when it was found that German propaganda at Bushire, the head­quarters of our political and naval activity in the gulf, had set up such a threatening state of affairs that she had to be diverted to that port, and there from March 12 to April 16 she had to remain till things were quieter. The Indian Marine ship Dalhousie was similarly engaged, but he had the Lawrence. The Al Huwair creek was found to have been mined, and some time had to be spent in clearing the neighbouring swamp villages and making all secure. It was not till the end of May that all the complex arrangements were complete, and the whole force concentrated at Kurnah under Major‑General C. V. F. Townshend, who had arrived from India on April 22 to command the VIth Indian Division.

 

(The units of the division which took part in the operation were:

16th Infantry Brigade (Brigadier‑General W. S. Delantain) - 2nd Bn. Dorsetshire Regiment, 104th Wellesley's Rifles, 117th Mahrattas.

17th Infantry Brigade (Lieut.-Colonel S. H. Climo) - 1st Bn. Oxfordshire and Bucking­hamshire Light Infantry, 22nd Punjabis, 103rd Mahratta Light Infantry, 119th Infantry.

Divisional Troops - one battery, R.F.A., 1/5th Hants (Howitzer) Battery, R.F.A., two heavy batteries, R.G.A., one mountain battery, 2nd Bn. Norfolk Regiment, 48th Pioneers, two companies and Bridging Train, Sappers and Miners, one Divisional Signal Company.

Besides the three sloops, the Lawrence, the armed launches, stern‑wheelers and gun‑lighters, a very large flotilla of small craft had been organised. All supply and field ambulance was floating, and bellums had been provided for one whole brigade (about sixty to a battalion), besides those carrying rafts for the machine‑guns.)

 

May 31, 1915

ADVANCE FROM KURNAH

 

To him General Nixon committed the conduct and organi­sation of the fantastic adventure. Though the idea he had worked out was a combined frontal and flank attack, the frontal attack up the main channel was to be the decisive one, and was to be supported by the bulk of the artillery ashore and afloat. The Espiegle, preceded by two launches to sweep - for the river above Kurnah was known to be mined ‑ was to accompany this attack with the General on board, and with her were to go the Odin, two naval horse­boats with 4.7inch guns, and two gun barges with 5‑inch and 4‑inch guns. The Clio, Lawrence and Miner were at first to assist the fortress guns in covering the advance. The Comet, which had come down from Ahwaz, was to move in company with an armed transport up the Shwaiyib river abreast of the Turkish position to cover the turning attack which was to be made by the 22nd Punjabis against One Tree hill, the only post the enemy had on the eastern bank. Up the other creek the two stern‑wheelers, Shushan and Muzaffri, were to make a demonstration against the opposite flank with the assistance of a swarm of Arabs under the friendly Sheikh of Medina in their own bellums. (Medina, is a village on the south bank of the Euphrates fifteen miles above Kurnah.)

 

At 5.0 a.m. on May 31 the preparatory bombardment began. By that time the Punjabis in their bellums had already stolen up to a point within a mile east‑south‑east of their objective and had deployed in the water. As soon as the guns began they crept slowly on, and by 6.30 had rushed One Tree hill and captured its slender garrison. Easy as the surprise had been, it was of no small importance, for the Punjabis could now enfilade Norfolk hill on the opposite bank with their machine‑guns. Against this point the rest of the 17th Brigade were now moving over the floods in their armoured bellums, making their way like rats through the jungle of reeds. No eye could see them nor could the enemy attend to anything but the squadron in the river. Preceded by the launches, Shaitan and Sumana, working a sweep, the Espiegle and Odin were pushing up stream, followed by the gun barges, with the Clio and Lawrence in support and the

 

June 1, 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

16th Brigade in steamers. Upon the leading ships the guns in the enemy's positions at One Tower hill and Gun hill were concentrated, but the sloops and the fortress guns and howitzers soon silenced them, and by 7.30 the Oxford and Bucks L.I. had Norfolk hill. In another two hours One Tower Hill had sur­rendered. Only Gun hill remained. Upon this the naval guns concentrated, and at 11.40 it also surrendered to the 103rd Mahratta L.I. So by noon it was all over. Thanks to the admirable staff work, and the skill the troops had developed in managing the bellums, all had gone like the ticking of a clock, and the long‑prepared position fell in a morning's work. Our own losses were negligible. The enemy's casualties in killed and wounded were over 100, and we had in our hands 250 prisoners and three guns.

 

This, however, was only a beginning. It was no more than an outpost line that had been taken. The enemy's main force, as we have seen, was higher up. Two miles above they had a position at Abu Aran, and two miles beyond that another on both banks at Mtizaibila and Ruta, below which was the obstruction they had made on their first retreat from Kurnah. These were not to be attempted till next day. It was necessary to consolidate the ground that had been won and to rest the men after their exhausting spell of work in the intense heat that prevailed.

 

The coming day's work was to begin at dawn with a frontal attack on Abu Aran by the flotilla, while the 17th Brigade made a wide sweep to take in flank from the west­ward. The 16th Brigade would be landed at Abu Aran, and together they would deal with Muzaibila. But when the bombardment began there was no reply, and as soon as the aircraft got back from Basra, where alone there was enough dry ground for landing, they reported the enemy in full retreat. Instantly General Townshend decided to pursue and keep them on the run, and now the flotilla had to take up its cavalry function. The infantry were ordered to con­centrate at Abu Aran, while the General pursued with the flotilla. The 16th Brigade was to hold Abu Aran, the 17th was to embark in their empty transports and follow him, and the Norfolks were also to come on. Then the General, with no more of his division than his staff and a guard of a dozen men, hurried on in the Espiegle, with the Clio and Odin in company and the Shaitan and Sumana sweeping head.

 

It was an exciting chase. (See Map 1 - repeated).

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

Several mines had been dis­covered, more were known to be ahead, but fortunately the engineer officer who laid them had been taken prisoner, and

 

June 2, 1915

TURKS IN RETREAT

 

being placed for custody in one of the sweeping launches, made no difficulty in pointing out where they lay. Still there were the sunken lighters below Ruta. As they approached the place they could see above it the gunboat Marmariss, with another steamer and other river craft flying up the river. A hasty reconnaissance seemed to show that the current had scooped a channel on one side of the obstruc­tion. Captain Nunn decided to try, and in a short time all three sloops successfully scraped through the difficult passage. Then the chase began in earnest, and surely it was unique. Here was a General pursuing with his Staff far ahead of his army, knowing little of what was ahead except that the enemy was flying before him. It was all an improvisation. His idea as expressed in general orders was, if he got the Turks on the run, to hurry after the flotilla with the 16th Brigade. He had no intention to pursue in person, but still he permitted Captain Nunn to carry him onward mile after mile, bend after bend, and as they steamed against the surging current the river became ever narrower and more tortuous. So sharp were the turns and so swift the current that the sloops could barely get round them and never without bumping heavily against one bank or the other. For them, too, it was an adventure beyond sober imagination. Built for police work where the oceans spread widest, they were driving irresponsibly up an uncharted waterway in chase of flying infantry, where such ships had never sailed before, into the heart of an ancient continental empire a hundred and fifty miles from the open sea.

 

The Shaitan was leading alone, for the Sumana had been left behind to seize a quantity of arms which the enemy in the flight had abandoned near Muzaibila. The chase was long and arduous in the intense heat, but foot by foot the flying enemy was overhauled. Towards sunset they could be clearly seen ‑ first the familiar white sails of the mahailas struggling against the current; then the steamer Mosul, full of troops and towing two barges equally crowded; and ahead of all the gunboat Marmariss similarly employed. Just as the sun dipped the Shaitan was able to open fire on the rearmost boats. The Espiegle followed quickly upon the Mosul, and then the reward began to be reaped. Both steamers hurriedly cast off their tows, and when before the brief twilight was done the blue dome of Ezra's tomb could be made out in its clump of palm trees, the mahailas could be seen lowering their sails and the small boats mooring under the banks. The Odin, as last in the line, was ordered to stop and take possession, while the rest went on in the dusk after

 

June 2-3, 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

the Mosul and Marmariss, firing till the targets could no longer be seen. At 8.0 navigation was no longer possible. They had to stop, and by aid of their searchlights they took possession of two large lighters and several more mahailas laden with troops, guns, mines and munitions, which the Turkish gunboats had abandoned. Here, too, they found the steamer Bulbul, which a shell from the Shaitan had sunk.

 

Two hours after midnight the moon rose and it was possible to move on. Leaving the Odin to guard the prisoners and booty, the Espiegle and Clio went on again with the Miner and Comet, who by this time had got up as well as the Shaitan and Sumana. As they proceeded the navigation became more and more intricate, until at 4.15, some six miles above Ezra's tomb, and just as the Marmariss was in sight the Espiegle had to stop with nothing but mud under her keel. Fire was opened at once on the Turkish gunboat. There was no reply, and an armed party sent to investigate found her cut to pieces, abandoned and on fire. The Mosul could also be seen round the next bend, and on her the Clio fired. The immediate response was a white flag, and the Shaitan went on and took possession. (The captures up to this time, besides the Marmariss and Mosul, were two steel lighters, seven mahailas, two field guns, large quantities of rifles and ammunition, 140 prisoners and treasure to the amount of over £1,000.)

 

The evidence of the enemy's demoralisation was now complete. It was a sore temptation, with all the day before them, to carry on and see how things were up at Amara. But it was still fifty miles on, the sloops could go no farther and the army was fifty miles astern. But on the heels of a routed enemy much may be dared, and, after a short con­sultation the General and Captain Nunn decided to carry on in the Comet with the other launches. The Miner soon had to be left for lack of water, but the Lewis Pelly had come up, and she, with the Shaitan and Sumana, each towing a horse‑boat with a 4.7-inch naval gun, continued the pursuit. No sign of opposition was encountered. At Qala Salih, half­way to Amara, which they reached in the early afternoon, some cavalry and an infantry company were dispersed with a few shells, and then the notables came off to make sub­mission. Six miles further on they stopped for the night.

 

At daylight next morning, June 3, they moved again up the intermingble succession of bends, less able than ever to tell what was round the next corner, but everywhere the villagers still greeted them with white flags and signs of obeisance. No troops were seen, but when they reached Abu Sidra, twelve miles short of their destination, it became

 

June 3, 1915

CAPTURE OF AMARA

 

necessary to go more warily. The flotilla was concentrated. and Lieutenant M. Singleton in the Shaitan, the fastest launch, was sent three miles ahead with Captain B. G. Peel of the General's Staff and a small launch as despatch boat, to ascertain and report whether Amara was being held or evacuated. Then the Comet, leading the rest of the launches and the gun barges, followed.

 

By 2.0 the Shaitan was within three miles of the town without having found any sign of the enemy, but just as she turned into the Amara reach, troops in large numbers were seen leaving the place by a bridge of boats and getting into a barge on the other bank which was secured to a steamer. The bridge was immediately opened, but before the steamer could get through, a shot from the Shaitan's 12‑pounder brought her to, and the troops took to the shore and made off up the river. The Shaitan followed through the bridge. As she passed it about half a battalion of infantry were just debouching on to the by‑ways. At sight of her they hurried back up the narrow streets. Lieutenant Singleton went on. On rounding the westerly bend of the river above the town a number of troops were seen retreating on either hand, some 1,500 on the one bank and 1,000 on the other, both abreast and ahead of him, so that with those still in the town he was practically surrounded by the enemy. Still, though the river here was less than 200 yards broad, no shot was fired on either side, and he held on for 1,000 yards further, when 100 Turks came down to the bank and surrendered. After quietly taking their rifles on board and ordering them to march down stream parallel with the Shaitan, he turned back, and had not gone far when another 150 also surrendered. They were dealt with in the same way, and these also he continued to escort towards the Comet, which was just coming up the Amara reach.

 

(Of this incident Captain Peel in his report to the General wrote: " Thus Shaitan caused 2,000 Turks to evacuate Amara and captured some 250 with eleven officers by firing three shells and a display of cool audacity which even the Royal Navy would find hard to equal. I am convinced had I been in command I should never have dared to proceed in the way she did, ignoring a strong force in my rear and with the knowledge that a few resolute Turks on either bank might easily have accounted for the crew at almost point blank." This was also Captain Nunn's opinion. Lieutenant Singleton was awarded the D.S.O., and the D.S.M. was given to his Coxswain A. J. Roberts and Gunlayer W. H. Rowe.)

 

As she approached with the rest of the flotilla all was quiet under the burning afternoon sun; the steam craft and lighters at the quays were deserted, and abreast of them she anchored. Still no sign of movement or preparation for

 

June 3-4, 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

defence, but it was difficult to know what to do next. Amara was quite an important port and trading centre, it was the headquarters of a sanjak, and its population was estimated at 20,000, besides its garrison. Our own troops were a day and a half's steaming down the river, and in the whole flotilla, counting the General's Staff and guard, there were no more than 100 white men besides the Lascar stokers. Bold­ness had served them well, and with a culminating stroke of it they acted on the spot. A boat, manned by a couple of seamen and one marine, was sent off from the Comet with a corporal and twelve men of the West Kent and 1/5th Hants Territorial Battery, and the final scene of the fairy tale was played.

 

The boat was met by an offer to surrender. In the barracks was found a whole battalion of the Constantinople fire brigade. Corps d'elite as they were, they gave themselves up to a few of the boat's crew - one officer, one seaman, one marine and an interpreter. The Turkish General, the Civil Governor, and a number of officers surrendered at the Custom House, where General Townshend, Captain Nunn and other officers landed on the arrival of the Comet. During the after­noon the British flag was hoisted over the Governor's house, up to a few of the boat's crew. The Turkish General, the Civil Governor, and between thirty and forty officers handed in their swords on board the Comet, and during the afternoon the British flag was hoisted over the Governor's house.

 

Still the position was highly delicate. With the Shaitan's captures there were now about 700 prisoners, and more, including the officers and crew of the Marmariss, were con­tinually coming in for fear of the Arabs. As many as possible were put on board a lighter and moored in mid‑stream, but it was little more than a tenth of the total, and it could not be long before such fine troops recovered their spirit and found out how slender was the force opposed to them. Messages were despatched down the river for the troops to press on. Hour after hour the southern horizon was eagerly scanned for a sign of them till darkness fell. What the morrow would bring none could tell, but towards morning the distant glow of a searchlight could be seen, and by dawn the smoke of the leading transport. So the position was saved. By 10.0 a.m. (June 4) the 2nd Norfolk came up in the P.3. But it was not a moment too soon. In the town the Arabs had discovered the real state of affairs, and had already started to fire and loot when they arrived. Then all was quiet, and Amara was securely ours with an abundant booty. In the four days' operations a gunboat and two steamers had been sunk, and the

 

June 4, 1915

THE FRUITS OF VICTORY

 

prizes were three steamers, a couple of motor boats, ten iron barges and other craft, on board one of which was £1,000 in gold coin. The prisoners numbered 139 officers and 1,634 men, and amongst the captured material were 17 guns, 2,700 rifles and over a million rounds of small‑arm ammunition. Nor was this the whole tale of success. For they had been in time to cut off the retreat of the troops retiring from Ahwaz. Part of the advanced guard, ignorant of what had happened at Amara, was actually captured, the rest only escaped by dispersing with the loss of two guns, and these it seems were the fugitives whose retreat the Shaitan hurried on the east bank. The main body had to find its way northward to Kut, and there, too, the broken remnants of the Amara garrison eventually found refuge. The success was thus complete, and it was due not only to the audacity and alert resource in which the operation culminated, but in an equal degree to the skilful and patient staff work by which each Service from first to last had made good the inabilities of the other, and to the close co‑operation between them which, as General Nixon wrote in his despatch, stands out as a marked feature of the operations.

 

(The British casualties in the four days, 31st May‑3rd June, totalled only four killed and twenty‑one wounded. The enemy lost 120 killed and wounded. (For a full account of the military operations outlined in this volume see Official History of the War, Military Operations, Togoland and the Cameroons, 1914‑1916, and The Campaign in Mesopotamia, 1914‑1918, Vol. I.)

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER II

 

THE DARDANELLES, MAY 5 TO JUNE 7 ‑ EXPLOITS OF E 14 AND E 11 IN THE MARMARA ‑ LOSS OF THE TRIUMPH AND MAJESTIC ‑ THE 3rd BATTLE OF KRITHIA

(See also The Official History of the War, Military Operations: Gallipoli.)

 

The success in Mesopotamia was the more welcome since in the main attack on the Ottoman Empire things had been going from bad to worse. The inability of the army had now extended to the squadron. It was not only that it was re­duced in strength, but the long‑expected hour had come when it could no longer claim a full working command of the Aegean. The Queen Elizabeth had gone (May 14), and under the Italian Convention Rear‑Admiral C. F. Thursby had left with the Queen (flag), Prince of Wales, Implacable and London on the 18th. He joined the Italian fleet at Taranto on May 27. The four light cruisers which had been promised (Dartmouth, Dublin, Amethyst and Sapphire) were already at Brindisi; and Vice‑Admiral J. M. de Robeck thus lost many of the ships which experience had made the most efficient at the work to be done. At the same time the Exmouth and Venerable joined from home, with the experience they had gained on the Belgian coast. The French had made up their contingent of six battleships by sending the Suffren, Charlemagne and Patrie, under Vice‑Admiral E. E. Nicol, who was now in command of the French Dardanelles Squadron. The agreed number of cruisers was reached by the Kleber from Brest and the Dupleix and Bruix from patrol duty in the Mediterranean. All were comparatively old cruisers, which, though good enough for supporting troops ashore, could not make up for the light cruisers Admiral de Robeck had lost. They had to be replaced, and accordingly the Chatham and Cornwall were ordered to the Dardanelles from East Africa.

 

The squadron thus reconstituted might have served well enough but for the new danger that was menacing it. The supporting ships were now under Rear‑Admiral Stuart Nicholson, Rear‑Admiral R. E. Wemyss having resumed his duties as Senior Naval Officer at Mudros, and they were doing their best to assist the continual trench warfare that was going on and to keep down the fire of the new heavy batteries which had been established on the Asiatic shore, and which were beginning to hamper seriously the work of supply upon the southern beaches. The efforts of the ships in this direction

 

May 19, 1915

ATTACK ON ANZAC

 

were, however, soon to be checked. It had long been realised that the appearance of German submarines in the Aegean would naturally alter the situation for the worse. Sooner or later their arrival was inevitable, but so heavy was the strain in Home waters that little provision had been possible to meet the peril. No destroyers and few trawlers were to be had, and in default of them material had been sent out for closing the Straits with a barrier, but so strong was the current that it was found impossible to place it in position, and the idea had had to be given up. And now rumours were rife that German submarines had arrived, or were about to arrive. The Turks appear to have expected them on May 17, and the following day our Smyrna patrol reported that a large one had entered that port. The news was specially disquieting, for our intelligence agents were reporting that two new divisions had been brought to Gallipoli, and that submarine attack on the supporting ships at Gaba Tepe was to be expected. The inference was that the two new divi­sions were to be used against the Anzacs.

 

General Liman von Sanders had made up his mind to combine the first effort of the submarines with a desperate attack to drive the Anzacs into the sea, and so remove the threat to his communications with Krithia and Achi Baba. The two new divisions were accordingly committed to Essad Pasha, and with the two old divisions already there he began the attempt before dawn on the 19th. At daylight the attack developed great intensity, but in spite of the danger to the supporting ships the Admiral had kept all four of them (Canopus, Captain Heathcoat S. Grant, Senior Naval Officer, Triumph, Vengeance and Bacchante) in position, as well as four destroyers, and they were able to play their part. As assault after assault was made they kept up a continuous fire as directed from the shore. Over much of the line of conflict the opposing trenches were so close that they could do little in actual support of the infantry. But the artillery fire they could keep down. No submarine appeared to disturb the bombardment. A ship in the Narrows tried to interfere, but was quickly driven off by the Triumph, and though the Turks had never fought with greater determination, by 11 a.m. the battle was over. Their losses amounted to 10,000 and more than 3,000 dead were counted that afternoon. A suspension of arms was arranged for them to bury their dead. The Australian losses were about six hundred. The result was very satisfactory. "After May 19," the Turkish War Office has stated, "it was realised that the British defences at Anzac were too strong to enable us to

 

May 22, 1915

 

effect anything against them without heavy artillery and plenty of ammunition." The Turks also recognised the impregnable strength of their own position and withdrew two battalions. For nearly two months no major operation was attempted in this quarter.

 

But, though no submarine attack had been made on the supporting ships, the question of their exposure remained. For two days more there was no sign of the threatened danger, but on the morning of May 22 a submarine was reported by several ships between Gaba Tepe and Tekke Burnu. The transports were immediately ordered to raise steam and make for Mudros, and ships without nets to get under way. A thorough search failed to locate the enemy and no harm was done. It may even have been a false alarm ‑ possibly due to dead mules, of which there were now many floating about ‑ but that enemy submarines were in the vicinity could not be doubted, and steps had to be taken to minimise the risk. To the Admiral the problem. was one of extreme difficulty. The presence of some covering ships he regarded as indis­pensable for the army. Its supply of artillery ammunition was so short that it was powerless to deal with the enemy's batteries without naval assistance. What he did, therefore, was to reduce the ships at Gaba Tepe from four to two, with one in reserve at Imbros, and those of the Southern Division from seven to four. That even six were to remain was solely due to what he felt was his minimum duty to the army, yet to the soldiers the change looked like a stampede. There can be little doubt, however, that Admiral de Robeck was taking the utmost legitimate risk that was consistent with safeguarding their communications.

 

Nor did it mean resting on a merely defensive attitude; for as it became clear that the enemy, having failed to dis­lodge us by direct means, was bent on breaking our hold by cutting up our sea communications, so we by the same means were doing our best to cut up his. How far we had succeeded was now known. Lieutenant‑Commander E. C. Boyle had just returned from the Marmara (May 18) to tell the tale of E 14. Since his successful attack on his persecutors on May 1 the patrols had treated him with more discretion, but he had had little luck. Till May 5 no chance presented itself, but then he fell in with a large transport under convoy of one of the smartest of the enemy's German‑built destroyers. The escort was being very well handled, and as it was a flat calm an attack was a very delicate matter. Yet by timing it when the destroyer was on the far side of the transport

 

May 5‑17, 1915

E 14 IN THE MARMARA

 

he was able unseen to fire his shot at 600 yards. It was a fair right‑angled hit, but the torpedo failed to explode. Next day there was another good chance at a transport coming through the Marmara strait, but she saw the danger in time and turned back to Constantinople. (See Map 3).

 

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

Day after day steamers were chased, but the few that were overhauled were full of refugees and were allowed to proceed. May 10 was a more exciting day. It began in the eastern part of the sea by a destroyer running over the submarine near Kalolimno island, but in the evening two large transports, escorted by another German‑built destroyer, came along. The first torpedo fired at the leading transport did not run true, but then the bad luck ended. The second hit the other transport and exploded with such force that debris and men could be seen falling into the water. She was, in fact, crowded with troops proceeding from Constantinople to Gallipoli. Starting in life as the White Star liner Germania, she was now the Ottoman transport Gul Djemal, a ship of 5,000 tons, and on board of her were 6,000 men and a battery of artillery. What became of her could not be seen ‑ night had fallen and she disappeared into the darkness. Later on an eye‑witness on the island declared that she turned back on her course, but sank almost immediately with all hands. (Prize Court Reports, Lloyd's List, Jan. 30, 1917. The German official History, however, states that she was towed next day to the Golden Horn (Der Krieg zur See: Die Mittelmeer Division pp. 160‑1).

 

So at last Lieutenant‑Commander Boyle could feel he had struck a blow of high material and moral consequence, but it had cost him his last torpedo, for the one he had left proved defective. Still, innocuous as he was, with­out a gun and with a single periscope left which he dared not expose to rifle fire, he held on. He could at least keep up the impression he had made, and so hope to hamper the flow of the enemy's reinforcements and supplies. One small steamer he did manage to force ashore, but that was all. Still he continued to cruise until May 17, when he was recalled in order to give his successor the benefit of his experience.

 

Meanwhile the enemy, pending the arrival of the German submarines, was developing his other means of disturbing our supply service. More and heavier guns were being brought into action against the beaches and inner anchorages, and the need of ship fire to keep them in check became every day more indispensable. Every day the duty battleships, in hourly expectation of submarine attack, were at their firing stations. For two days after the first alarm nothing happened, but then the crisis came. On May 25 Admiral

 

May 25, 1915

 

Nicholson in the Swiftsure was off Cape Helles, expecting the Majestic to relieve him. (See Map 4).

 

 

Map 4. The Torpedoing of H.M.S. Triumph

The Agamemnon was anchored near by till the hour she was to go inside and assist the French in dealing with the Asiatic heavy batteries. Up at Anzac the Triumph was under way with her nets out off Gaba Tepe, ready to deal with any Turkish battleship that attempted to fire from the Narrows. On the Anzac north flank was Captain Heathcoat Grant in the Canopus. In the early morning he had been engaged in supporting another raid at Suvla Bay, where the observation post on Nibrunessi Point, destroyed a fortnight earlier, had been restored. About fifty troops in the destroyers Chelmer and Colne landed, and once more demolished it, and at 7.0 a.m. the Chelmer came down to protect the Triumph. The Canopus then moved off to meet the Vengeance, which was coming up from Mudros to relieve her. Special precautions were being taken, for it was clear at an early hour that a submarine was about.

 

It was a Grimsby trawler, the Minoru, that gave the first alarm - one of those maids‑of‑all‑work of the fleet that were doing everything no one else could be found to do, and doing it well. Towards 7.30 a.m. off the entrance she began giving sharp blasts on her siren. It was all she could do. For the trawlers, having been sent out as minesweepers, were unarmed, and indeed when they started there were no guns to give them. Their only method of attack was to ram, and for this they had scarcely speed enough. They could, however, give the alarm to destroyers. The Harpy, which, with another destroyer was patrolling round the Cape Helles battleships, at once rushed to the spot and passed the warning signal. She quickly saw the submarine making apparently for the St. Louis off Sedd el Bahr, and pressed after it. Possibly for this reason the French battleship was not attacked, or it may be, as we had been informed, the submarine's orders were to deal with the ships at Anzac. At all events the enemy held on, and ten minutes later her periscope was seen passing between the Swiftsure and Agamemnon going north. The Swiftsure fired on her, but she disappeared, and nothing more was seen of her till shortly after 10.0. By that time the Vengeance was zigzagging up from Mudros, and when she was due east of Cape Kephalo the track of a torpedo was seen coming for her from shorewards. A smart turn to star­board swung her clear, and after a few rounds at her assailant's periscope she held on for Gaba Tepe, while the submarine made off up the coast. The Talbot, which was off Y Beach,

 

May 25, 1915

LOSS OF THE TRIUMPH

 

and all available destroyers and trawlers spread in search. Four times was her periscope seen and fired on, and once a destroyer ran right over her without touching. When the Vengeance reached Gaba Tepe, Captain Heathcoat Grant transferred to her, and the Canopus started for Mudros, heading to take the safe course round the north of Imbros. As the hunt indicated that the submarine was coming northwards up the coast, Captain Heathcoat Grant ordered the Manica and all transports present to clear away for the protected Imbros anchorage at Kephalo Bay. Then the excitement quickened. A quarter of an hour later the Canopus, which was now half‑way to Imbros, signalled a submarine 2,000 yards to the northward of her, steering south. The Canopus was working up to full speed, zigzagging hard, with the Ribble guarding her, and she was not attacked. On receiving the report Admiral Nicholson at noon signalled to Admiral de Robeck, who was at Kephalo in the Lord Nelson, for leave for all ships to retire there. All these attacks and alarms were the work of one submarine, the U 21 under Lieutenant‑Commander Hersing, who had left Wilhelmshaven on April 24, and so far the calm sea and good visibility had frustrated his efforts. But he had not long to wait.

 

Six miles away to the south‑eastward was the Triumph at her firing station off Gaba Tepe, still under way, with her nets down, light guns manned and all watertight doors closed, and round her the Chelmer was patrolling at 15 knots. About 12.25, as the destroyer was rounding the battleship's bows, she saw a suspicious white wash 500 yards on the Triumph's starboard beam. Instantly she made a dash for it, but too late. The Triumph had started firing at the periscope, but in another minute a shock of extraordinary violence seemed to lift her, and then for a while she was smothered fore and aft in a shower of falling water and coal. The torpedo had got fairly home as though her nets had been a spider's web. When she could be seen again she had listed ten degrees. As she continued to heel over, the Chelmer rushed up under her stem walk, and by a fine display of seamanship was able to take off a number of men before, ten minutes after the battleship was struck, she capsized. For nearly half an hour she remained floating bottom upwards, and then, with a lurch that sent her stern high in the air, she slowly disappeared. As she went down the rescued men gave her a last cheer with cries of "Good‑bye, old Triumph," for her requiem. Happily there were many to swell the sound of that farewell. The moment her list had become dangerous the "Retreat" had been sounded and the men had quietly

 

May 26, 1915

 

dropped down from the nets and booms. Thus, thanks to the prompt action of the Chelmer and the other craft which hurried to the rescue, nearly all were saved. The Chelmer and her boats alone took up over 500 officers and men, and in the end only three officers and seventy men were lost.

 

Yet the loss was severe enough. For the Australians and New Zealanders it was like an old friend gone, so ready and skilful had she been to help at every turn of good or evil fortune. They were even loth to believe she was dead, and were for subscribing a month's pay all round towards salving her. Deep as was the moral impression of the brilliantly executed attack, it was small compared with the material effect on the whole plan of operations. Not only did it mean a serious new complication in the problems of supplying the various beaches, but the fact had to be faced that continuous battleship support for the army was no longer possible. Admiral Nicholson in the Majestic withdrew to Kephalo for the night, the rest of the ships were withdrawn to Mudros, and destroyers took their place. But the lesson was yet to be driven further home. On the following day (26th) nothing further happened, and all was quiet except for a submarine reported by the Jaureguiberry off the entrance. It was during the afternoon, and the French battleship was zigzagging between Kum Kale and Sedd el Bahr when a periscope suddenly appeared 100 yards from her. At the moment fortunately she was altering helm, so that instead of being torpedoed she ran over the submarine, and some on board believed they had cut her in two. Another hunt was instituted, but nothing found, and Admiral Nicholson, who had returned to Helles in the morning, remained at his post taking every possible precaution against attack.

 

The objective of the submarine was clear enough. What had most hampered the enemy's operations was the fire of the battleships. This had first to be got rid of, and till that was done the transports could wait. Amongst the transports, therefore, a battleship could hope for a certain amount of security. Accordingly in the midst of those discharging stores at the southern beaches the Majestic was anchored with her nets out as close inshore as possible, and yet in a position where she could command the enemy's principal positions. Outside the transports destroyers were patrolling, and in the entrance of the straits was a cordon of unarmed trawlers. Even against the skill and boldness of the German submarine commander the berth seemed safe enough, but the sun was barely up on May 27 when it was

 

May 27, 1915

LOSS OF THE MAJESTIC

 

shown how inadequate the precautions were. At 6.45 a periscope broke the water no more than 400 yards away on the Majestic's port beam. She opened fire immediately, but not before the track of a torpedo was seen coming through one of the few gaps in the surrounding screen of trans­ports. It was a shot the best might envy. Striking the nets the torpedo went clean through them without a check and took its target fair amidships. Another followed instantly, and in seven minutes the famous old ship, the pride of the old Channel fleet, in whose design the whole thought and experience of the Victorian era had culminated, capsized. So good, however, was the discipline that all the officers and nearly all the men were saved. Of her whole complement, only about forty who were killed by the ex­plosions or became entangled in the nets were missing. The ship did not sink, but being in only nine fathoms of water, lay resting on her foremast with the fore‑end of her keel and bottom plating awash, looking like a stranded whale.

 

Yet she was gone, and with her the last hope of clinging to what still was left of the system by which the army had been supplied and supported. Never before, perhaps, had a military operation been so deeply affected by means so small. For the brilliant way in which the enemy submarine had been handled, both services had nothing but admiration. It was indeed no more than was to be expected from the man in command. For later on he was known to be none other than Lieutenant‑Commander Hersing, the determined officer who in April, as we have seen, in spite of every difficulty, had brought his boat U 21 into the Mediterranean, and had thus demonstrated the possibility ‑ till then not credited of navigating a submarine to the Adriatic without a half­way base of supply. (See Vol. Il., p. 384 n). Reaching Cattaro on May 18, with only half a ton of oil in his tanks, he had rested a week and then continued his voyage to the Dardanelles. The grave moral effects of the exploits in which his remarkable feat had resulted could not be dismissed. Hundreds of Turkish troops, depressed by loss and failure and demoralised by the heavy shell from the sea, had seen the stampede of the ships they most dreaded; thousands of our own men had seen it and the loss of the ships as well, and they knew there was nothing now but the cruisers and destroyers to support them in their daily struggle in the trenches.

 

Fortunately there was something to set on the other side. The day the Majestic was lost a message was received from E 11, and the tale she had to tell was no less stirring than

 

May 18-24, 1915

 

that over which the enemy was exulting. (See Map 3 - repeated).

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

This was the boat which had succeeded E 14, and the same in which, after failing to get into the Baltic, Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith on Christmas day, 1914, had so brilliantly rescued four wrecked airmen in the Heligoland Bight while they were being attacked by a Zeppelin. (See Vol. I., pp. 237‑8, and Vol. II., p. 52. Lieutenant‑Commander Boyle in E 14 had safely run the gauntlet of the mines, nets and guns in the straits on May 18, and after learning all he could from him, Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith started the same night to find his way inward through the tangle of dangers himself. He was entirely successful. Though fired on by battleships and destroyers whenever his periscope showed, he reached the Marmara during the forenoon of May 19. All that day and the next nothing was seen In the western portion except torpedo-boats and armed trawlers. During the night, therefore, profiting by his predecessor's experience, he proceeded to the eastern end of the sea, where patrols were less active. There he seized a small sailing vessel, and trimming well down, lashed her alongside the conning‑tower, and then cruised on a course which made him invisible from the eastward. But the ruse failed. His appearance going up the straits had evidently stopped all traffic. Nothing came along, and at nightfall he dismissed his prize and returned to the westward.

 

Here there was still nothing but the patrols, and early on the 28rd he was back at Oxia island, eight miles south of the entrance to the Bosporus. In this position, while cap­turing a small sailing vessel, he sighted an empty transport returning to Constantinople and followed her. Now came his first stroke of luck. At anchor off the city was a Turkish torpedo‑gunboat giving a fine target, and he attacked at once. The torpedo hit her fair amidships and she began to sink. Before she went down, however, she gamely got off a few rounds with a 6‑pounder, with the first of which she had the good luck to hit the submarine's foremost periscope, and Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith retired to Kalolimno island to repair it, but in this he was unsuccessful. Then, after going west again, he started next morning (the 24th) for a cruise north‑east towards Rodosto, the chief Turkish port on the Thracian coast. On this course he soon met a small steamer coming west. She was summoned to stop, but took no notice, nor had the submarine a gun to enforce her signal. A rifle shot at the bridge, however, quickly brought her to, and when she was visited an American journalist on board explained she was taking marines to Chanak. They were already in the water, having capsized the boats in their hurry. As they

 

May 24‑25

E 11 IN THE MARMARA

 

all had lifebelts they were left alone to right the boats and escape, but the steamer was found to carry a gun and a quantity of shell. She was therefore sunk with a demolition charge. (According to the German account, which wrongly allots this sinking to the E 14, this vessel, the Nagara, had on board a 5.9‑inch gun from the Goeben. (Der Krieg zur See. Die Mittelmeer Division, p. 162.)

 

But there was more to come. As she blew up smoke was seen coming up from the eastward. E 11 dived to attack, but the chase, alarmed by the last explosion, altered course for Rodosto. When the submarine came to the sur­face the steamer was seen and chased till she was alongside the pier. With a gun she could easily have been finished, but the shallowness of the water made it very hazardous to dive within torpedo range. Still Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith was unwilling to leave her alone. Her deck was piled high with packing‑cases which told she was a storeship eavily laden. So he took the risk and dived to attack. His periscope was greeted with rifle fire, but at one successful shot she burst into flames, and then the submarine, whose periscope could not be hidden owing to the shallowness of the water, made off out of the bay. Almost immediately a third steamer, laden with barbed wire, was seen. To a summons to stop she replied by an attempt to ram, and then made away and beached herself under the cliffs. A demolition party was got ready to finish her, but a body of horsemen on the cliff opened so hot a fire that Lieutenant­-Commander Nasmith thought it best to beat a hasty retreat.

 

But appetite had grown with feeding. Nothing but small game was to be found in the open, and he now made his way eastward to see what could be found in the Bosporus. Shortly after midday (25th) ‑ at the fatal hour when the Triumph was sinking ‑ he was off the entrance, and there, to use his own words, he "dived into Constantinople." Rising close to the United States guardship, he saw a large vessel lying alongside the arsenal. By an ominous coincidence she was called the Stambul, and on her his blow fell. The first torpedo failed to run true, the second sank a lighter and also holed, but did not sink the Stambul. The result could not be seen from the submarine for she was suddenly swept aground by a cross‑tide. But two explosions were heard, the stray torpedo which narrowly missed her exploding against the quay. As for the submarine, she behaved like a thing intoxi­cated by the wild adventure. Bouncing from shoal to shoal and spinning round with the current, she was quite out of control and in acute danger of destruction. Yet she survived, and when in twenty minutes she was calm enough to come to

 

May 26-June 1, 1915

 

the surface, she found herself well clear of the entrance. "The next day," wrote Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith, was spent resting in the centre of the Sea of Marmara."

 

Surely rest was never better earned. The material result of his unprecedented exploit was not great. The Stambul was an old ship, but the moral effect was all that could be wished. For over 500 years, since the Turkish flag first flew on the city walls, no foreign enemy had ever profaned the Golden Horn. All along the shores there was panic, shops were closed, troops disembarked from the transports, and sea communication etween Constantinople and Gallipoli was practically stopped.

 

So much of what the adventurous submarine had done was known on the 27th, but it was not the end of her cruise. For another eleven days she remained in the Marinara as active as ever. Early on the 27th, as she was making her way back to the Bosporus, she encountered a large battleship, apparently the Barbarousse Haireddine, coming westward at high speed through the Marmara strait . He promptly trimmed low to attack, but just as she neared the firing position she saw in the moonlight a destroyer coming right on the top of her and was compelled to dive. Next morning she was consoled by catching a convoy of one large and four small supply ships, and in spite of the escorting destroyer, torpedoed the large one. (This vessel, the Panderma, carried some 500 Turkish soldiers, of whom about half were lost. This is claimed to be the only loss to the army caused by submarine. (Der Krieg zur See.. Die Mittelmeer Division, p. 161.)

 

For the next two days there was no luck, but on the 31st she attacked a steamer making for Panderma. The torpedo failed to explode, although on its being recovered it was found to have hit; the vessel was towed ashore. Little else was moving, so on that day Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith decided to look into Panderina. There in the roads he found a large Rickmers liner and torpedoed her, but she also was towed ashore with a heavy list. All next day (June 1) he waited for transports which were reported to be coming with troops from Ismid, but nothing appeared. After reporting to the Jed, which was the linking ship in the Gulf of Xeros, he was proceeding on June 2 north‑eastward up the northern coast when he met a vessel coming from the eastward. Diving to attack he got in a successful shot, and the explosion was so extraordinarily violent, seeming to heave her whole upper deck overboard, that there could be no doubt she was full of ammunition. She sank almost immediately, and in

 

June 2‑7, 1915

E 11 IN THE MARMARA

 

an hour or so another smaller storeship was attacked. The torpedo missed and could not be recovered owing to rifle fire from the shore, and for the same reason the storeship, which anchored and was abandoned close to shore, could not be demolished. Later on she attacked a despatch vessel escorted by two destroyers; again the torpedo missed, but this time it was recovered.

 

So the work went on, with hairbreadth escapes from the destroyers that were now hotly hunting her and no further success till June 7, when failing machinery warned her it was high time to return. She had still two torpedoes left, and these were reserved for the battleships she expected to find in the Straits on her way down. As far as Chanak she smelt for her prey, but nothing was seen except a large empty troopship lying off Moussa bank, eight miles above Nagara point. The torpedoes were reserved for better game, but when none was found Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith turned back, doubled the dangerous Nagara point once more, and torpedoed her. Then at last he started to go out, but only to meet an adventure that outdid all the rest.

 

He had passed the Narrows, diving deep to clear the mine­field beyond, when the boat began to grate as though on the bottom when no bottom was near. The only thing to do was to come up and investigate. As soon as the periscope was clear something ugly could be seen careering along twenty feet ahead of it. It could he nothing but a large mine with its moorings foul of one of the hydroplanes. There could be no worse company, but both shores bristled with guns and it was out of the question to come to the surface and clear it. There was no choice but to carry on with their evil shipmate in company. For an hour the nightmare continued till they were clear of the entrance. Then came the work of getting free. One false move must have proved fatal. What Lieutenant‑Commander Nasmith did was to trim his vessel so that, while her bows were submerged, her stern was on the surface. In this position she went hard astern, till after a breathless interval the stern way, combined with the rush of water from the screws, caused the mine to slip free and drop off ahead like a necklace. The coolness and resource displayed was a fitting end to his brilliant cruise. In the course of it he had sunk a gunboat, two ammunition ships, two troopships, two stores ships and beached and holed a third transport. He had also saved his vessel from an almost impossible situation. (For their exploits in the Marmara both he and Lieutenant‑Commander Boyle received the V.C.)

 

If, then, with equal skill and daring the enemy was dis­turbing our communications, it was not done without retalia­tion. To the enemy, whose lines of supply were almost entirely by sea for at least some part of their extent, the interference was serious. The number of ships available was very limited ‑ those sunk could not be replaced, and the repair of those damaged was practically impossible. More and more they had to rely on land transport for troops and supplies, and it was quite inadequate. No railway ran to Gallipoli; the nearest station was on the Adrianople line at Uzun Kupru, fifty miles from Bulair. (See Map 5.)

 

 

Map 5. Operations in the Aegean

The consequent delay and inconvenience were great, nor was there any relief except for the small quantities of stores that could be got through in small craft by night.

 

Our own case was not so bad, but for us the new develop­ment entailed a complete reorganisation of the system of supply. Transports could no longer anchor off the beaches and discharge into small craft. The only anchorage that as yet was safe for them was at Mudros. There a boom, which had been intended for the entrance of the Dardanelles, had just been completed across the channel leading into the inner harbour, and another was about to be laid at the entrance to the outer bay with material already on the spot. At Mudros, then, the transports would have to discharge, and this would mean for the already overworked fleet sweepers, trawlers and other small craft a trip each way of from fifty to sixty miles instead of a few thousand yards. It could only cause serious delay, and delay was specially untimely, for General Hamilton was preparing a last attempt to win Achi Baba and Krithia by a general assault. To add to the difficulty the strain on the flotilla and small craft had been increased by the necessity of keeping up a systematic search of the Aegean coasts and islands, whose multitudinous indentations offered endless facilities for submarine supply bases. In the course of this work the long‑suspected port of Budrum was visited by the Dupleix. Finding the harbour full of shipping she signified her intention to examine them. The Vali asked for time, and on its termination boats were sent in under flag of truce. They were fired on, and suffered serious loss. The Dupleix then closed in, and having extri­cated them, bombarded the town. On hearing her report Admiral de Robeck sent away the Bacchante and Kennet with orders to destroy all the shipping. This they did on May 28, and having also laid the castle and barracks in ruins, came away.

 

June 2, 1915

BLOCKADE OF TURKISH COAST

 

So important was it now to restrict the enemy's sources of supply for his submarines that desultory operations of this character were not deemed sufficient. For the islands which were not in Turkish hands no more could be done, but with the mainland it was different, and at the Admiral's suggestion it had been decided to institute a blockade of the whole coast from the Dardanelles down to Samos. It was declared on June 2, and was thenceforth carried on from the land‑locked harbour of Iero in Mityleni, where the officer in charge was stationed in a battleship or cruiser, and where with the sanction of the Greek Authorities an aerodrome was established.

 

Such, then, was the awkward situation which the new Board of Admiralty had to face, but in fact they found it had been discounted by their predecessors, for they had been making provision to meet it with all speed. Some of the monitors that were to replace the battleships were already in commission, and the work of providing four of the "Edgars" with protective bulges to render them immune from mine or torpedo was well advanced. But until they arrived on the scene of action there was need of a definite understanding as to how far the squadron could continue to give direct support to the army. The first telegram sent by the new Board to Admiral de Robeck dealt with the point. Their suggestion was that he should keep his battleships as much as possible at Mudros until netting patrols and other defensive arrangements that were in hand gave them reason­able security while bombarding, and that bombardments should be confined to occasions when important military operations were on foot. Even so their exposure should be reduced to the shortest possible time, and special precautions be taken to protect them with transports lashed alongside, and sea and air patrols. To enable him to act on these lines twenty more trawlers were ordered out, as well as thirty of the best drifters from Poole to work indicator nets.

 

In reply the Admiral explained how he had gradually reduced the number of battleships at sea as the submarine menace closed in upon him. He was now confining the sup­port of the flanks to the "Beagle" class destroyers, with three battleships at short notice as supports, two at Mudros and the Exmouth at Kephalo, where her specially heavy nets would make her reasonably safe. Until he received similar nets for other ships it was all he could do pending the arrival of the monitors.

 

They could not, however, be in time for the next important military operations. During the week which had seen the

 

June 4, 1915

 

coming of the submarines the Allied line had been advanced by local operations to within rushing distance of that of the enemy, and General Hamilton, rather than wait for his coming reinforcements, had determined to make one more attempt to carry the Achi Baba position before the enemy could strengthen it. Though submarines were still showing them­selves the Admiral agreed to support the attack with two battleships. Accordingly on June 4, Admiral Nicholson took the Exmouth and Swiftsure with the light cruiser Talbot off Helles, while the little Latouche‑Treville went inside close off Kereves ravine to support the right of the French. (The French Corps was now under the command of General Goarud, who arrived on May 14 to relieve General d'Amade.)

 

It was little enough the battleships could do. The aeroplanes were reporting submarines present, and though well covered by destroyers and indicator nets the ships had to keep circling, and indirect fire under way at unseen targets could be worth little beyond its moral effect. Still the attack opened brilliantly. It was a day of overpowering heat with a dust storm obscuring everything. At 8.0 a.m. the preparatory bombardment began afloat and ashore, and was kept up till past 11.20, when the men were ordered to fix bayonets and show them over the parapet. This was to bring the enemy into their advanced trenches to meet the attack. But the hour was not yet; the real bombardment had not begun. Not till the enemy's trenches were filled did it burst in full fury. For half an hour it was maintained in ever‑increasing intensity. On the stroke of noon it lifted, and from end to end of the line the men sprang from the trenches. Bayonets were quickly crossing, but in spite of the fine resistance of the Turks the effect was all that could be wished. On the right the French, well assisted by the Latouche‑Treville, swept into the formidable work on the Kereves ravine, which had so long held them up; on their left the "Ansons" rushed a redoubt quite in old army style, and the "Howes" and "Hoods" captured the trenches in front of them. The "Collingwoods" which were sent forward in support suffered very heavily. (The Royal Marine Brigade and the 1st Naval Brigade, less the Drake battalion, were in Corps Reserve.)

 

Even better was the work of the Manchester Brigade (with whom were the 115th and 116th Lancashire Fusiliers) on their left. In five minutes they had poured over the first line of trenches, which, the Turks state, had been rendered untenable by ship fire, and in half an hour they were masters of the second line 500 yards on. On their left again the XX1Xth Division, including the Indian Brigade, were able

 

June 4, 1915

THIRD BATTLE OF KRITHIA

 

to win the first line, but here the trenches had suffered less from the sea, and it was only gained a fierce bayonet fight. (Late on this day, Major‑General H.de B. De Lisle took over the command of the XXIXth Division from Lieut.‑General A. G. Hunter‑Weston, who had been given the command of the newly‑formed VIIIth Army Corps.) On the extreme left, which was dead ground for the ships, there was no progress at all. There the wire proved to be intact, and the most desperate work and devotion, of Sikhs and Gurkhas could produce no result.

 

Still all promised well. The Manchesters were lying out on the slopes of Achi Baba with nothing between them and the coveted summit ‑ waiting only for the word to go on. But that word never came. On the extreme right by the Kereves ravine, the work the French had so gallantly captured proved but a death‑trap. They were simply blasted out of it by high explosive, and before an overwhelming counter­attack had to fall back to where they started. The Naval division, with its right exposed by the French retirement and cruelly enfiladed, was forced also to let go its hold, and the Manchesters were in the air. Yet for hours they held on while efforts were made to recover the lost ground. But the French had suffered too severely to renew the attack, nor was it possible for the XXIXth Division to get further forward while its seaward flank was pinned down. There was nothing for it but to get the Manchesters away. By sunset it was done ‑ at the cost of further heavy loss; and the day, which had begun so well and brought us almost within grip of the forbidden height, ended with no more gain than the central sections of the enemy's first‑line trenches ‑ 250 to 500 yards on a front of about a mile. It was little enough for what it had cost in death, wounds and heroic fighting. (The two Royal Naval brigades engaged had alone 1,170 casualties. Killed, 35 officers and 185 men; wounded, 24 and 608; missing, 5 and 808. Total casualties were: British, 4,500; French, 2,000; Turkish, 9,000.)

 

Both armies were completely exhausted, and with this hard‑fought battle in the dust storm the second act of the tragedy closed down like the first, in failure and disappointment. With both army and navy half paralysed, all on which hope had been built was gone ‑ but on our part there was no thought of retreat. With the Turks it was different. So heavily had they felt the weight of our attacks that every man had to be pushed up into the trenches, and units became hopelessly mixed. The consequent demoralisation was so great that they saw it was impossible to hold against another assault, and the Chief of Staff urged a withdrawal from the position before Krithia to Achi Baba and Kilid Bahr.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER III

 

THE WESTERN FRONT AND THE DARDANELLES ‑ AFFAIRS IN HOME WATERS, WHITE SEA AND BALTIC, JUNE‑JULY ‑ THE END OF THE KOENIGSBERG

 

WITH the failure of the original Expeditionary Force to seize the keys of the Dardanelles the whole outlook darkened. The bold plan for striking Turkey out of the German com­bination by a coup de main had finally broken down, and with it went all reasonable hope of bringing the war to a speedy termination. That hope depended on the power of the Allies to deliver a concentric attack upon the Central Powers in overwhelming force ‑ and Turkey was the sole obstacle that stood in the way of its development. With Turkey gone the bulk of our troops in India and Egypt would be free, the vital communications with Russia would be open, and the attitude of the Balkan States would no longer be doubtful. Then, except for the little sustenance that could reach the enemy across the Baltic, the investment of the Central Powers would be complete, and the mass of force that could be launched against them would be as irresistible as the tide.

 

There are probably few now who do not see in that narrow area where General Hamilton's little army clung exhausted to their trenches before Krithia and Achi Baba the decisive point of the war. It was there, as at a new Thermopylee, the struggle of the Anglo‑Saxon and Latin civilisation with the German seemed to be finding the gate of destiny. Nowhere could anything like so much be achieved with so little force, nowhere could a small advance reach things so great, nowhere could the shedding of Christian blood promise so rich a prospect of an all‑embracing peace.

 

It was this venture so rightly aimed ‑ but aimed without the energy of true faith ‑ that had been at first scouted as a blind dissipation of force, as a mere eccentric operation. Its significance was clearer now. With Russia, half paralysed for lack of material and equipment to reorganise her shattered armies; with Austria, relieved from pressure on the east and

 

ALTERNATIVE POLICIES

 

free for a new attack on Serbia; with Bulgaria under German temptation too obviously waiting till she could make her mind which was the winning side, there could be little doubt where the key of the situation lay. Failure could not be admitted. When success had been so narrowly missed, when a little more would mean so much, it was impossible to drop the half‑finished task.

 

A decision, however, to carry on energetically with the enterprise on which we had embarked presented the most thorny difficulties. The problem raised in acute form the fundamental differences between the traditional British method of conducting a great war and the Napoleonic method which with all continental nations had become the strictly orthodox creed. Our own idea had long been to attack the enemy at the weakest point which could give substantial results, and to assume the defensive where he was strongest. The continental method was to strike where the enemy's military concentration was highest and where a decisive victory would end the war by destroying his armed forces. By general agreement this method, being the quicker and more drastic of the two, was the better, provided there was sufficient preponderance of force to ensure a decision, and the reason why in past great wars we had never adopted it, when the initiative lay in our hands, was that we never had military force enough to enjoy that preponderance.

 

In the opinion of Lord Kitchener and the British Ministers concerned with the conduct of the war the Allies could not have any such preponderance in the main theatre for a long time to come. The obvious and logical policy, therefore, was to postpone offence in the main theatre and devote our combined energies to the work of gathering the needful excess of strength by every means in our power. From this point of view the Dardanelles offered an ideal objective. Havana, the Peninsula and Sevastopol were the leading cases which supported our doctrine, but not one of them was so perfectly adapted to our method as was now the Dardanelles. The instinct, then, to complete the arrested enterprise was very strong. That it was well within our grasp there was no doubt if only we could devote to it every man, gun and round of ammunition that was not required for holding the line in France and Flanders, as well as every ship that was not wanted in Home waters for dealing faithfully with the High Seas Fleet should it become active.

 

To those for whom the old tradition was still a living light all this was clear as day, but in the century which had elapsed since our last great war the light had become obscured

 

June 7, 1915

THE DARDANELLES

 

by a misreading of the continental doctrine of concentration for a decisive blow at the strongest point. Insensibly that doctrine had been extended by a doubtful corollary. Given the truth of the main proposition, it was assumed that all available force should be concentrated in the main, or, as it was usually called, the decisive theatre, whether or not those forces were large enough to secure a decisive preponderance. It was, of course, a non sequitur which did not flow from the cardinal idea of the doctrine. Nevertheless, though it was widely held in military circles, civilian opinion, in this country at least, was not convinced ‑ it was indeed thoroughly seeptical ‑ but in the circumstances the military attitude was difficult to resist. The French were bent on a great offensive effort, which we had more reason than ever to regard with grave misgiving. The failure of our own spring efforts at Festubert and Ypres could no longer be disguised.

 

The battles were just dying down and our Ministers were more deeply impressed than ever with the hopelessness of the idea of a "break through." On the other hand, it was to be argued that with Italy about to take the field and with the fall of Przemysl, emphasising the menace of the German thrust on her eastern front, it was the moment for a vigorous effort in the west, if only to relieve the pressure on Russia. To the other school, however, the new orientation of Germany was evidence that a defensive attitude in the west could safely be assumed while we con­centrated our whole offensive strength on the point which was vital to a Russian recovery. On this view, however, it was impossible to insist. Premature and ill advised as our Government believed the French policy to be, they knew that no other could be accepted by a high‑spirited people whose richest provinces were being exploited and trodden down by their hereditary enemy, and they knew that the only way of minimising the evil consequences was to give the attack what additional weight we could. For the present, then, there could be no thought of a strictly defensive attitude in France, and, if there had been, the minimum force required was very difficult to determine. The men on the spot were the men to judge, and they were also the men inevitably the most prejudiced for a high margin of safety.

 

Such was broadly the position when on June 7 the War Council met for the first time since the formation of the Coalition Government. (It was now assembled as a Committee of the Cabinet known officially as the "Dardanelles committee," but the reactions of the Dardanelles opera­tions in other theatres tended continually to extend the area of its deliberations till in practice it was scarcely distinguishable from a general War Council. It was attended by the Ministers of the Departments concerned and their expert advisers as the questions under consideration required.) In the meanwhile much time had

 

June, 1915

REINFORCEMENTS

 

been lost. Of the two divisions which General Hamilton had asked for on May 10, only the LIInd Lowland Territorials had gone. Transports were ready for the other on May 30, but in the chaos of the Cabinet crisis they had been dispersed and it was still at home. He had thus only half of what he had asked for, and the two divisions for which he had stipulated were only a minimum, contingent on some neutral or allied power assisting him against Turkey. If he was to have no such help he would require two army corps. Moreover since he sent in his requirements his position had changed for the worse; for the assault of June 4 upon the Krithia position had failed with heavy loss, and the first duty of the Council was to decide how the depressing situation was to be dealt with.

 

The decision was to act on our time‑honoured system as strongly as possible without an open conflict of opinion with France. The Dardanelles enterprise was to be carried on and General Hamilton was to have the first call on the new armies. Of the first army, which was ready, one division was already in France; the remaining three were to go out in time for a new assault on the Turkish position in the second week of July. The recall of the Queen Elizabeth stood, but in her place most of the monitors which Lord Fisher had prepared for carrying the war to the German coasts were to be taken, besides six submarines and two of the old 10th Cruiser Squadron, Endymion and Theseus, which had been fitted with bulges for coastal attack, and four of the new sloops. (Fifteen of these monitors were ready or nearly so. In the first class were four, each carrying two 14" guns mounted in single turret. Six more had been armed with 9.2" guns, and another five smaller ones with 6" ­which had had to be removed from the five "Queen Elizabeths" owing to spray interference. A number of others were in hand, including two fitted with new 15" turrets prepared for our "furthest off " new battleships and eight other large ones to carry a 12" turret from four of the old "Majestics." For the sloops, see footnote, p. 50.)

 

This decision, being in effect a new departure in our war policy, was referred, in accordance with constitutional usage, to the Cabinet, and by them approved two days later. (Dardanelles Commission Report, II., pp. 23‑26.) There only remained the question of reserves. It was to the omission to provide them that General Hamilton attributed his first failure, and now it was urged that two first line territorial divisions which were still in England

 

June 1915

 

should be moved to Alexandria and Malta. With the ripening of the new armies the nervousness about invasion had begun to die away. The two divisions could well be spared from home defence, and eventually it was agreed that they should go out as soon as possible.

 

To detail the troops was one thing: to get them out another. Time was of the last importance. The new blow must be struck before the Turks could consolidate and reinforce the Gallipoli position and, above all, before further successes of the Central Powers on the eastern Front drew Bulgaria into their orbit and opened the road from Berlin to Constantinople. The transport problem was becoming very difficult. The war demands on the mercantile marine were already being severely felt. Tonnage was scarce, the voyage to the Dardanelles was long, and the transports were detained there; beyond all this there was the submarine danger, which meant that transports could only sail as and when escort could be provided from the overworked destroyers.

 

To devote them entirely to the transports was impossible, so constant was the call for commerce protection. Again and again the escort arrangements were interrupted by cries for help from merchant vessels against molesting submarines. The hope of being able to destroy an enemy submarine was naturally more in accordance with naval ideas than passive defence against their attacks, and a rush for the spot whence the call came was always made, often with the result that the sailing of transports was delayed. The frequency of such calls was evidence enough of the enemy's determination to do his utmost with the new weapon. In spite of the American protests about the Lusitania, there was no sign that the German hand was faltering. Reports of enemy submarines were coming in from all round the coast at an average of seven a day, and so far as we could see the notes from Washing­ton had produced no apparent effect; but in fact, unknown to us, the whole policy was in the melting‑pot.

 

In Germany civilian ministers had from the first opposed the use of the submarine against commerce, believing it would inevitably bring America into the ranks of their enemies. The same conviction in this country had also a good deal to do with our backwardness in preparing to meet the new form of commerce warfare. Before the war we could not fathom that peculiar faculty of German mentality, their " imperturbable capacity for self‑deception," as Admiral von Tirpitz calls it, which led them to believe they could wantonly destroy Atlantic liners and commerce and yet

 

June, 1915

GERMAN SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN

 

cajole or intimidate America into acquiescence. The original difference of opinion between the Chancellor and the General and Admiralty staffs was resuscitated by the American notes in all its intensity. Such differences must necessarily be acute where, as in Germany, soldiers and sailors had come to be regarded as the supreme experts in the conduct of war. They of course could be no more than experts in military and naval operations. Of the other two main factors in war ‑ foreign affairs and economics ‑ they had no special technical knowledge. In these matters the statesmen were the experts. Naturally, then, the Chancellor could not admit responsibility for what happened if the fighting services were allowed to persist in what he was convinced was so grave a mistake. He therefore pressed for a severe restriction in submarine operations. The navy resisted hotly, and the difference was referred to the Emperor. At the conference that ensued the military chiefs supported the Chancellor; the Emperor supported the Admiralty, and decided that unless the Chancellor was willing to be responsible for aban­doning the submarine campaign altogether the existing orders must stand. (The conference was held at Pless on May 31.)

Apparently the Chancellor was not prepared to go so far, and the result was a re‑issue of orders, pre­viously given to submarine commanders, that they were to spare neutral vessels, but to sink all British without exception. With this compromise, however, the Chancellor could not rest ‑ neutral non‑combatants in British vessels were still in jeopardy, and the danger of raising up a new enemy was not removed. He therefore urged the Admiralty to give up all idea of another Lusitania incident. Again the Admiralty refused and there was another appeal to the Emperor; he gave way to the Chancellor, and on June 5, in face of con­tinued naval protest, an order went out that all large passenger ships - even those of the enemy ‑ were to he spared. (Von Tirpitz, My Memoirs, Vol. II, p. 406.)

 

Of these dissensions we, of course, knew nothing at the time. All that was apparent was that the submarines were more active than ever in all parts of Home waters. In the area of the Grand Fleet this activity was mainly shown in attacks on our North Sea fishing fleets. During May the trouble was already so bad that new measures were taken to deal with it. As a first step special trawler units were told off for their protection ‑ one of them disguised to act as a decoy. In June the mischief was as bad as ever, but it was soon checked. On the 3rd off Peterhead the armed trawler Hawk saw a steamer blow up about ten miles away.

 

June 5-23, 1915

HOME WATERS

 

She hurried to the spot rescued the crew and took them into port. Then she returned and with another armed trawler, Oceanic II, resumed the ro1e of simple fishing vessels. The submarine appeared on the 5th, and opened fire on the latter but the Hawk came up quickly to her assistance and after damaging the enemy by gunfire, rammed and sank her. Six officers and twenty‑one men were saved, but the commanding officer refused to leave his ship. She proved to be U 14, which had destroyed two neutral steamers on her way out. This same day the armed trawler Ina Williams engaged the U 35 off Tylizen Head (South‑West Ireland), and claimed a hit, but the submarine was able to continue her operations.

 

A fortnight later there was an attempt at bigger game. On June 19 the 3rd Cruiser Squadron together with the Nottingham and Birmingham, were making one of the periodical sweeps across the North Sea from Rosyth. To screen them they had four destroyers ‑ the most that could be provided ­but all too few, and the Birmingham was attacked by U 32, but without success. Next day (the 20th) torpedo attacks were made on the Roxburgh, Argyll and Nottingham by U 17. They were all missed, but later the Roxburgh was hit by U 38, though not severely enough to prevent her getting back to Rosyth. The Nottingham was also unsuccessfully attacked by U 6.

 

At this time there were five submarines in the area, whose main object was to operate against the Grand Fleet. They were on a line running east from the Forth. The fifth was U 40, a large new boat which had begun her cruise on the 18th. Her identity was ascertained by means of a new and ingenious device which for a month past had been employed for the further protection of fishing fleets. The newscheme was to make use of the coast defence submarines, which hitherto had had little or nothing to do, in company with an armed trawler, which, while towing the submarine submerged, could act as a decoy ship to invite attack. (The idea was suggested in the Grand Fleet by Acting Paymaster F. T. Spickernell, Admiral Beatty's secretary, and it was worked out and the crews trained by Captain V. H. S. Haggard of the Vulcan, depot ship of the 7th (Coastal) Submarine Flotilla at Rosyth.)

 

In pursuance of this idea the armed trawler Taranaki (Lieutenant‑Commander H. D. Edwards) had been cruising for a month both with C 26 and C 27, and on June 8 C 27 by a piece of bad luck just missed getting the U 19. On the 23rd the Taranaki was out again, this time with C 24 (Lieutenant F. H. Taylor). Leaving Aberdeen shortly after midnight, they found them‑

 

June 23, 1915

U 40 SUNK BY C 24

 

selves at 9.30 in the morning in sight of U 40, the boat that had recently been identified. She was 2,500 yards away, trimmed low down for instant diving, and her gun ready. At sight of her Lieutenant‑Commander Edwards signalled to his submerged consort to cast off for attack, but unluckily the slipping gear failed to act. Meanwhile U 40 had called on the trawler to stop, but as it was essential to keep way on her till her submarine was clear, Lieutenant‑Commander Edwards held on, but so coolly that the Germans' suspicions were not aroused. Finally after ten minutes, finding his submarine had not let go, he had to slip his own end of the towline and telephone wire to set his consort free. But C 24 was still in trouble. With a hundred fathoms of 3 ½‑inch wire and as many of telephone wire hanging to her bows she immediately dipped to thirty‑eight feet. Only with the greatest skill and coolness could she be brought to trim. Still it was done, and in spite of having to tow the heavy line, and with the telephone wire beginning to foul her propeller, she managed to get into position for attack without breaking the surface. At the same time the trawler's crew were engaging the enemy's attention by scrambling into their boat as though panic‑stricken, so that even the shy peeps of C 24's periscope were not observed. When right abeam at five hundred yards Lieutenant Taylor took his shot. The torpedo hit fair under the conning‑tower, and the German immediately disappeared in a burst of flame, smoke and debris. Her two officers and a petty officer who were on deck were rescued ‑ the rest all perished.

 

From the prisoners valuable information was obtained. We knew the Germans were getting disturbed at the un­accountable losses of their submarines, and now it was admitted they had already lost eighteen. (Admiral von Tirpitz states that on April 2, 1915, after the loss of several submarines in our traps, an order was issued that the safety of the boats was to come before all other considerations, and that it was no longer to be deemed necessary to come to the surface and give warning before an attack. My Memoirs, Vol. II, P. 414.)

 

Naturally it was decided to extend the new system to other areas, and, the crying need of such extension was simultaneously emphasised. For on this day and the next the U 38 got into a fishing fleet fifty miles east of the Shetlands and sank no less than sixteen drifters. (According to Gayer, U 19 and U 25 were also at work about this time amongst the fishing fleets, and claimed between them to have sunk 27, when U 25 was rammed while attacking submerged, and was forced to return for repairs (Vol. II., p. 32).) Our losses in fishing craft were indeed at

 

June-July, 1915

 

this time growing serious in spite of all the precautions that were being taken. On June 15 a special trawler patrol was allotted for fishing protection to the Dogger Bank area, but the havoc continued, and during the month no less than sixty boats were destroyed on the home fishing grounds ‑ a heavy toll, seeing how great and never‑ending was the call for trawlers and drifters for military purposes.

 

The new system, however, soon brought fresh fruit. Two more trawlers had been prepared for acting with submarines, and one of them, Princess Marie Jose, for these operations temporarily named Princess Louise (Lieutenant C. Cantlie), proceeded from Scapa on July 18 to cruise in company with C 27 (Lieutenant‑Commander C. C. Dobson), the same boat which had so narrowly missed the U 19 with the Taranaki on June 8. When off the eastern entrance to the Fair Island passage on July 20 they fell in with U 23, which was four days out from Emden. The usual play was performed with perfect skill and coolness till C 27 was in position to fire. Owing to the Germans seeing the track of her torpedo and going ahead it missed, but a second got home just abaft the conning‑tower, and when the smother of spray and smoke had cleared the submarine was gone. Three officers and seven men were all that could be saved out of her crew of thirty­-four. (Lieutenant Cantlie was awtrded the D.S.C. and Lieutenant‑Commander Dobson the D.S.O. The latter afterwards won the V.C. for his fainous exploit in Kronstadt harbour on August 18, 1919.)

 

When U 23 met her fate she was making for the west coast of Scotland, where the Germans were now keeping at least one submarine at work. To us it appeared that there must be more, for in June there were six engagements between submarines and the Stornoway Auxiliary Patrol. This disturbance meant a new burden on the Commander‑in­Chief, for through these waters passed one of the main routes to Archangel, a line of communication which was rapidly growing in importance. Until the Dardanelles could be opened, Archangel was the only port through which we could supply the munitions and equipment which were vital to the Russian army. Already as early as February 5 the Tyne guardship Jupiter had had to be sent there to try to break a passage through. The regular ice‑breaker had broken down, and the old battleship established one of the many records of the war as being, so far as was known, the first vessel that had ever reached Archangel in February. There she remained till the first week in May, when the ice‑breaker returned; but the trouble only increased. Petrograd reported that the navigation would be open in about ten days; some

 

June‑July, 1915

THE WHITE SEA

 

thirty ships were waiting to get in, and the Russians feared that the enemy's mining activity would extend to the White Sea. Some form of examination service was essential if mining under neutral flags was to be prevented, and as usual they looked to us for help. Though they had plenty of suitable vessels (Bakan despatch vessel, Vera, armed yacht, three armed merchant cruisers, four armed and four unarmed small craft and trawlers) they expected the British navy to supply them with an examination service at Alexandrovsk, and a patrol to work between it and the North Cape.

 

Nothing was more probable than that the Germans would endeavour to disturb this now all‑important trade route, and in spite of the daily increasing strain elsewhere we could not but take the new theatre in hand. Destroyers, of course, were not available, but a special White Sea group of six trawlers equipped with 12‑pounders and sweeping gear were prepared at Lowestoft in June under Lieutenant­-Commander L. A. Bernays. Before they could get away the need of them was proved. On June 10 a British steamer (Arndale) was lost on a mine in the White Sea and another (Drumloist) on the 24th, two days after the trawlers had sailed. (A minefield was laid by the German minelayer Meteor in the northern approaches to the White Sea on June 7/8. On the 17th the Russian vessel Nikolai was lost. The British African Monarch and the Norwegian Lysuker were lost on July 6.)

 

Still the Russians remained helpless. They could not exert energy to form an examination service, nor could they be induced even to buoy channels for the trawlers to sweep. As July advanced and submarines seemed to have become more active in the north their cries for help increased. One or two small auxiliary cruisers, or reserve ships, they said, would he welcome as an anti‑submarine patrol, if we could not send regular ships of war. What they asked for would have been useless even if such ships had been available, and Lieu­tenant‑Commander Bernays was instructed to see if an auxiliary patrol could not be organised from local craft. As, however, there was a strong suspicion, on Russian information, that the Germans might he forming a submarine base in the far north, the Commander‑in‑Chief on July 27 detached a light force to examine Spitzbergen and also Bear Island, between it and the North Cape, which, having been bought by a German before the war, was specially suspect. The force consisted of the armed merchant cruiser Columbella from the 10th Cruiser Squadron (Northern Patrol), with two armed trawlers and the Acacia, the name ship of the new class of sloops, four of which had just been allotted to Admiral Jellicoe. Nothing was found, and although the masters of

 

June 1915

 

the local coasting craft asserted that mines were still being laid under the Norwegian flag, no evidence was obtained that German submarines had yet appeared so far north.

 

(The building of the "Acacia" sloops, which were just coming forward, was one of the remarkable feats of construction during the war. The class originated in the need which arose immediately after the outbreak of war for better and more numerous minesweepers, coupled with a continually increasing demand for general utility ships for carrying baggage and liberty men, and all the minor services of the fleet. It was to meet all these require­ments that the new class of sloops was designed. They were single screw­ships of 16 ½ to 17 knots speed and 1,210 tons displacement, armed with two 12‑pdrs. and two anti‑aircraft 3‑pdrs, and fitted with minesweeping and towing gear. Twelve were ordered on January 1, 1915, twelve in the following week and twelve more on May 4. Being designed on the mercantile system of construction, the orders could be placed with a large number of private firms not accustomed to naval work. The utmost rapidity of con­struction was thus secured, with the result that some were completed in nineteen weeks and the average was under six months. They proved so great a success that in July, 1915, thirty‑six more were ordered of improved design giving a full 17 knots speed and allowing for 4.7" or 4" guns, instead of 12‑pdrs. All were named after flowers, the first thirty‑six being the "Acacia" class and the second the "Arabis" class.)

 

No German submarine had in fact yet rounded the North Cape.

 

The middle part of the Archangel route was, of course, protected to some extent by the 10th Cruiser Squadron. It was still maintaining the Northern Patrol with undimin­ished vigilance and success. During four weeks in June, in spite of all interruptions, it intercepted no fewer than 290 vessels, and of these sixty‑one were brought in for examina­tion, and for the remaining three summer months its monthly average of visits and search were over 250. The blockade was thus well maintained, and the Germans seem to have made little effort to disturb it. Occasionally units were attacked as they proceeded to and fro to coal, but the danger was minimised by the establishment of their base under Rear­Admiral W. B. Fawckner at Swarbacks Minn, in the Shetlands.

 

There still remained however, the Shetlands through which the route passed and in which submarines were visibly active on their way north‑about. The ordinary patrols could do little to check them, and yet another device was tried. It was again a form of decoy which afterwards became so famous as the "Q" ship. Since the beginning of the year a scheme had been in hand for taking up small merchant vessels on which the enemy would not be likely to waste a torpedo and arming them with concealed guns which could be suddenly unmasked when a submarine was tempted to molest them. The idea, of course, was not a new thing ‑ time out of mind the trick of a wolf in sheep's clothing had been a commonplace of naval warfare. No one,

 

July 1915

"Q" SHIPS

 

therefore, could claim to be the inventor. The first ship of the class to get to work appears to have been the Victoria, which began operations in the Channel on November 29, 1914. In the next month the French fitted out another, a small collier called the Marguerite, but neither ship was a success nor had a long career. (Vedel, Quatre Annees de la Guerre Sous‑Marine p 178. Commandant Vedel believed that the Marguerite was the first Q ship and that we borrowed the idea from her, but the Victoria was certainly prepared in November, and the idea had been suggested from many quarters in reply to a secret Admiralty letter inviting suggestions from the Service for thwarting submarines (December 4).) Our next was the Vienna, renamed Antwerp (Lieutenant‑Commander G. Herbert), which began cruising on January 27, but she proved a failure. Others followed in the spring, and amongst them the well‑known Baralong. All of them worked in the Channel and its south­western approaches.

 

For northern waters Admiral The Hon. Sir Stanley C. J. Colville, who still held his Orkneys and Shetland command, prepared a small auxiliary fleet collier, the Prince Charles, at Scapa. Her concealed armament was two 6‑pounders and two 3‑pounders; the whole of her merchant crew volunteered for the cruise, and her guns' crews were volun­teers from the guard and repair ships at the base. An officer on Admiral Colville's staff was placed in command, with orders to cruise on a specified route east and west of the Orkneys and Shetlands on the Archangel tracks. His instructions were to act strictly as a decoy; on sighting a submarine he was to make every effort to escape, but if she closed and fired he was to stop and all the crew except one engineer and the crews of the hidden guns were to set about abandoning ship. Simultaneously a slightly differ­ent application of this method was being prepared from Rosyth. Here no special ships were taken up, but Captain James Startin (Vice‑Admiral (Retired), now serving as a Captain, R.N.R. See Vol. II, ­p. 47n), commanding the Forth Auxiliary Patrol base at Granton, had received permission to disguise an armed trawler and send her out to operate between Hoy Island and Aberdeen. Accordingly the armed trawler Quickly was disguised as a small Norwegian trader with a deck cargo, and in addition to her normal armament of one 6‑pounder was given a 12‑pounder with two gunlayers and two sight‑setters from the Zealandia. At nightfall on July 19, with Captain Startin in command, she put to sea, and the following morning fell in with a submarine (U 16) on the surface. After about

 

July 20-24, 1915

 

half an hour's scrutiny the German opened fire, which, after striking neutral colours and hoisting the white ensign, the Quickly returned, and, assisted by the trawler Gunner, which soon joined her, she claimed to have destroyed the enemy. The claim was allowed, but the U 16 had not been sunk. She returned to Heligoland for repairs arriving there on July 22.

 

On July 21 the Prince Charles sailed to try her luck. After proceeding through his assigned eastern positions Lieutenant Mark‑Wardlaw rounded the Shetlands without seeing anything, but on the evening of the 24th, when near North Rona island (about 100 miles west of Scapa), he was aware of a three‑masted steamer stopped, with a submarine standing by. Continuing his course to the westward, with guns' crews closed up behind the screens and the rest of the men standing by to get out the boats, he soon saw the sub­marine making for him at full speed on the surface. When about three miles off she fired. He then stopped and ordered the boats to be got out. As the submarine came on she fired again, and having closed to six hundred yards she altered course so as to bring her broadside on and continued to fire. Seeing there was no chance of the enemy coming nearer, Lieutenant Mark‑Wardlaw unmasked his guns and opened fire. The German gun's crew were seen immediately to leave their gun for the conning‑tower and the submarine began to dive. But it was too lat., the Prince Charles's shooting was too good. The submarine had been hit abaft the conning‑tower and had to come up again all out of trim, with her bows high above water. The Prince Charles promptly closed to three hundred yards and opened rapid fire; the submarine crew came scrambling out of the conning‑tower, and with her bows reared thirty feet out of the water she suddenly plunged down stern foremost. (The Prince Charles saved four officers and eleven men from the submarine.)

 

The large ship with which she was seen was a Dane, and, after giving a satisfactory explanation that she had been stopped and compelled to jettison her contraband, she was allowed to proceed. The submarine proved to be U 36, a new boat which in June had been cruising between the Forth and Jutland. She was now about a week out, and after passing round the north of the Orkneys had taken up a cruising station west of the islands. In this area she had already sunk nine of our fishing trawlers as well as three steamers, Russian, French and Norwegian (Rubonia, Danae, and Fimreite), and had attacked unsuccessfully the Columbella of the 10th Cruiser Squadron. On the last morning of her cruise she had also captured an American sailing

 

July 24, 1915

FIRST "Q" SHIP SUCCESS

 

vessel with a cargo of cotton for Archangel. This ship had been stopped by the Victorian of the same squadron, and as her destination was suspicious she was being taken into Lerwick by a British armed guard. Contrary to the usual practice the German commander decided to make a prize of his valuable capture, and, ignorant that she was in British hands, for the guard kept themselves concealed, sent a petty officer on board to take her into Cuxhaven. Resistance was useless; the armed guard were told that the vessel was escorted by a submarine. This was not true, and the German petty officer took the prize into Cuxhaven entirely alone. There the armed guard gave themselves up as prisoners. (This ship the Pass of Balmaha, was afterwards fitted out as a raider, the Seeadler which operated in the Atlantic in 1917.)

 

The destruction of U 36, however, did not clear the area. Another boat, U 41, was working there, for on the same day (July 24) the British steamer Grangewood and on the 25th the American Leelanaw, both Archangel ships on the return voyage, were sunk. Five trawlers also met the same fate. The success of the Prince Charles, however, was sufficient to prove the value of the decoy ships if well handled, and in a short time four more were fitted out at Scapa. (Vala, Duncombe, Penshurst and Glen Isla.)

 

It may be said, therefore, that in the northern area the enemy submarines were far from having it all their own way, but they were a constant source of worry, and the strain they caused was increased by mining. In this work the Germans were becoming very active. A certain ship called the Meteor was a matter of special interest. She was known to have been out several times equipped as a minelayer, and special sweeps were made to catch her, but without success. Other ships were believed to be escaping from Germany along the Norwegian coast, and one patrol of the 10th Cruiser Squadron had to be devoted to watching this route.

 

The work was very difficult. On June 22 the Teutonic intercepted a ship (Konsul Schulte), but on being chased she escaped into Norwegian waters. The danger from sub­marines was too great for an armed merchant cruiser to remain watching her, and Admiral Jellicoe asked for trawlers. He was told he could have no more and should use his four sloops. But these, he replied, were all he had to rely on for sweeping ahead of the fleet if he had to undertake any serious operation. The old fleet sweepers had proved too slow. Eventually, however, one armed trawler, the Tenby Castle, was sent. She succeeded in disabling one German vessel

 

June-July 1915

 

and sinking another (Pallas, June 30, and Friedrich Arp, July 8), but as both incidents occurred between the Lofoten islands and the mainland, which Norway claimed as territorial waters, the result was a disturbance of our excellent relations with that country. Later in July, however, six more trawlers were sent up to Kirkwall for the Norway patrol.

 

A further effort to curtail German activity in this region took the form of a raid into the Skagerrak from July 28 to 31. The force employed was a large one consisting of eight light cruisers and twenty destroyers supported by the 2nd Battle Cruiser Squadron and the 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron with a screen of six destroyers. It was carried out under Rear­-Admiral W. C. Pakenham, commanding the battle cruisers in the Australia, but though it had been hoped, among other objects, to catch the German fishing fleet, no enemy was found except one trawler, the Hanseat, which was sunk. On the other hand, no effort was made by the enemy to interfere. In this it only repeated an experience which Commodore Tyrwhitt had had in the first week of the month. With three of his light cruisers, sixteen destroyers and five scouts he had proceeded off the Ems in support of another seaplane operation. Little or nothing was effected, but though he remained off Borkum for twelve hours the enemy made no move.

 

In the lower part of the North Sea, however, with the guard of which he was specially charged, they had been active enough in other ways. In this area, indeed, the strain had been perhaps the greatest of all; for here not only the sea but the air was alive with menace. In the first half of June, three airship raids took place on various points from Northumberland to London, and Commodore Tyrwhitt's light cruisers, each carrying a seaplane, were constantly out watching for Zeppelins, but attack from the sea either by gunfire or seaplane proved very difficult. (Commodore Tyrwhitt had now received some more of the new light cruisers, and had as a separate squadron (5th Light Cruiser Squadron) Arethusa. Penelope, Conquest and Cleopatra, beside the Undaunted attached to the 3rd ("L" class) Flotilla and the Aurora to the 10th ("M" class) Flotilla. Each of them was to have a new type flotilla leader. Four more of the new light cruisers, Calliope, Comus, Phaeton and Royalist were with the Grand Fleet forming the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron under Commodore Le Mesurier.)

 

The only one that was caught (LZ 37) fell a victim near Ghent on June 7 to Flight Sub‑lieutenant R. A. J. Warneford of the Royal Naval Air Service working from Dunkirk. For the cruisers it was risky work, since the Commodore never had enough destroyers to provide an adequate screen. Most of them were called away for escort duty in the south‑west approaches

 

June-July 1915

GERMAN MINELAYERS

 

to the Channel, and what were left had multifarious duties of the same kind to perform, such as escorting the Portsmouth floating dock to the Tyne and the protection of "Paddler" minesweepers working south of the Dogger, and our own minelayers laying fields off the enemy's coast to check his submarines. Both in this area and off the Thames estuary and the approaches to the Dover Strait submarines were reported daily, and in searching for them we lost in the month of June two destroyers, Mohawk and Lightning, and two torpedo boats ‑ the latter a specially disturbing exper­ience, for torpedo boats were generally regarded as fairly immune from torpedoes owing to their shallow draft, yet both were sunk while hunting in company with five destroyers and four other torpedo boats. (Mohawk of the Dover Patrol was mined on June 1, but was afterwards towed into harbour. On the 10th Torpedo‑Boat No. 10 was trying pluckily to take Torpedo‑Boat No. 12 in tow after she had been torpedoed and was herself torpedoed. Both the latter belonged to the Nore Defence Flotilla.)

 

Fresh minefields, moreover, from now onward became a never‑ending source of trouble, especially round the light­vessels, and it was at this time we began to perceive that the enemy were adopting the new and insidious plan of laying mines from submarines.

 

The Germans, in fact, were now developing a new form of the guerrilla warfare to which from the first they had decided they must confine themselves at sea. The weapon they were bringing into use was a new form of submarine, classed as "UC" boats and designed for minelaying. The earliest of them were fitted with four vertical tubes each charged with three mines, but the later ones had six tubes. Being small boats of limited range of action, their special plan of opera­tions was to lay and maintain minefields round the light­vessels in the lower part of the North Sea, which, for the sake of the traffic, it had been found necessary to leave in place, and off the headlands and fairways which the trade passed between the Channel and the North Sea. The first intimation we had of this clever device was on June 2, and on the 18th minefields were discovered off Dover and near the Sunk light­vessel off Harwich. On June 30, off the mouth of the Thames, the Lightning, an old "A" class destroyer, foundered on a mine near the Kentish Knock light‑vessel. Two days later a small tramp steamer, the Cottingham, bound from Calais to Leith, accidentally ran over and sank one of the new minelayers, UC 2, near Yarmouth Roads. As July advanced the "UC " boats grew bolder. On July 13, besides the field found off Dover, another beyond the net barrage was located off Calais,

 

June 1915

 

and others were continually being reported from the South Foreland as high as Lowestoft, and from this time forward the whole strength of the minesweeper flotillas had to be employed daily in keeping open a lane from Dungeness to Yarmouth, as well as the main channels into the Thames. (From May 31 to July 31 UC boats laid mines in eleven positions.)

 

The work put a strain on the Dover, Nore and Harwich areas which with the force then available was almost beyond bearing. All up the east coast the pressure of the enemy's activity was scarcely less, but crying as were the needs of the North Sea and the Dover Strait zone, they had at this period to be subordinated to those of the south‑western approaches. Admiral Jellicoe was urging that special flotillas should be formed for hunting submarines and nothing else. The reply of the Admiralty was that his suggestion for a striking force of fast vessels was for the present impossible, owing to the paramount military necessity of protecting transports. Again, when Commodore Tyrwhitt had to repre­sent that he sometimes had not a single destroyer to work with his cruisers, the Admiralty could only reply that the employment of his destroyers to the westward was unavoid­able owing to the enemy submarine activity in the entrance to the English Channel and the approaches to the Bristol and St. George's Channels, and the ever‑increasing importance of the transport routes in those waters. Through them passed the tracks to the Mediterranean and the inward flow of food, remounts and munitions from America and troops from Canada. It was an obvious objective for the best of the German submarines, and it was clear they were trying to make the most of it. We have seen how in the later part of May the flow of reinforcements to the Mediterranean was held up owing to a political crisis, and how, of the two divisions which Sir Ian Hamilton had urgently asked for on May 10 only the LIInd Lowland Division (Territorial Force) had been sent. At this critical period sinkings or attacks were re­ported daily along the south coast of Ireland, in the approaches to the Bristol Channel and on the transport route. The sudden calls raised difficulties enough for the harassed Transport Department; the insecurity of the route increased them three­fold, and raised questions upon which naval and military requirements came into direct conflict. The Transport Department were at their wits' end to find the necessary tonnage. They complained that ships going to the Darda­nelles were detained there apparently to meet unforeseen military emergencies. They did not return to time, and at

 

June 1915

TROOP TRANSPORT

 

home it was impossible to provide shipping without dislocating the sparse trade that still existed, or unless the great liners, like the Mauretania, were used. She herself had been employed for the Lowland Division, and had made the passage to Mudros in nine days; two others followed and arrived within ten days, and each of them carried over 8,000 officers and men. At a push they could carry more. Doubts, however, now arose whether the risk of embarking so many men in one ship was justifiable. On May 27 a submarine, was definitely found to be operating between Scilly and Ushant directly on the transport track, and in the next three days six ships were sunk there, including an Admiralty collier. Moreover, since the submarines had appeared in the Aegean that terminal was equally dangerous, for the great ships could only enter the anchorages which had now been made secure against underwater attack. The risk was obvious, but it was not for the Admiralty to say if the end justified the risk. It was a question which only the Government could decide. It was referred to them, and after learning that the army was ready to face the danger they decided the large ships were to be used.

 

Still there remained the scarcely less thorny question of the port of embarkation. The army wanted Avonmouth, where the railway and wharfage facilities were excellent, but it meant a far greater strain on the destroyers than Devonport, which was the Admiralty choice. From there the destroyers had to cover no more than a hundred miles to see the transports clear of the danger area; from Avonmouth it meant a voyage of two hundred and fifty miles each way, and no anchorage where they could wait for the transports to come out. Seeing then that escort had become the real crux of the problem, the decision was given for the naval choice, and of the three divisions of the new army which were under orders for the Mediterranean only the XIIIth, for which preparations were complete, sailed from Avonmouth. All the rest embarked the troops at Devonport, except the big liners, which had to use Liverpool.

 

The strain that all this meant upon the naval, military and transport staffs, no less than on the unresting destroyers, is difficult to conceive. Had everything been normal at the ports the work would have been heavy enough. But condi­tions in the ports were far from normal. Owing to depletion of labour, due to intensive enlisting for the new armies, the were badly congested, and ships which usually took a week to prepare as transports now often took three weeks. But, bad as was the block, and sudden and great the call, the

 

July 1915

 

work was done, and done to time. By July 1 the move of the XIIIth Division was complete, by the 14th both the others (XIth and Xth) had sailed, and by the end of the month the two Territorial divisions (LIIIrd and LIVth), whose despatch had only been sanctioned on July 5, were well on their way. But, great as was the accomplishment, it by no means represents all that was being done for placing and maintaining our army where it was wanted. Both to the Mediterranean and to the northward for Scapa and the White Sea there was a steady flow of store and munition ships. Small craft to serve the needs of the increasing army at the Dardanelles had also to be prepared and sent forward; outgoing monitors and important store ships had to be provided with trawler escort, and during July the whole of the Second New Army was put across into France, besides more than the normal flow of drafts and the slowly increasing supply of ammunition. In the early days of the war the rapid transport of the old army into France had seemed an almost incredible feat of organisation. It was child's play to what was going on now.

 

Yet not a single troop transport was touched ‑ only one was molested by gunfire ‑ but it was not for want of German activity. During the first ten days of July two submarines, U 20 and U 39, were at work in the critical south‑western area, and between them they sank a round score of ships, British, allied and neutral, and at least a dozen more were attacked. Yet, in spite of every effort in the area, not a single submarine had been caught. Nor was it surprising. The immunity with which for months our Harwich submarines had maintained their watch inside the Heligoland Bight in face of the patrols and bombing aircraft with which it swarmed was proof enough of the difficulty of dealing with underwater craft in open waters. Still we could not admit failure. New methods must be tried. The remedy was sought in a better co‑ordination of our auxiliary patrol. It took the form of a radical reorganisation of the western patrol areas, by which they were all to be under one command from the Hebrides to Ushant, with headquarters at Queenstown. To fill this all­ important post, Vice‑Admiral Sir Lewis Bayly, then serving as President of the Royal Naval College at Greenwich, was chosen on July 12. The selection was indisputable. It was he who in 1907 had been appointed the first Commodore of Flotillas and, having chosen Harwich for the centre of his labours, had earned his reputation in the Service as the father of destroyer tactics and organisation ‑ a reputation he was destined to confirm and enlarge as his task increased in difficulty.

 

July 1915

COAST OF IRELAND STATION

 

The number of units in his command was very large. At the time of his appointment to Queenstown (July 22), includ­ing those under the immediate command of Admirals Dare and Boyle at Milford and Larne, they numbered four hundred and fifty yachts, trawlers, drifters and motor boats. He had also at Queenstown a few torpedo boats, and by the end of July the first complete unit of four of the new sloops was added to his command. Many of the drifters were absorbed by the North Channel net barrage, and under Admiral Boyle the system had become so effective that it could be regarded as completely barring the passage of submarines. Whether or not any had attempted to get into the Irish Sea this way is uncertain, but in any case nothing was now passing. The problem which Admiral Bayly had to solve was to this extent simplified, and the system was now being applied to the St. George's Channel. Besides the Larne, Kingstown and Milford areas, the Scilly Islands sub‑base was also transferred from the Falmouth command to Queenstown. (For the eastern half of the Irish Sea a new area (No. 22) was formed, with its base at Holyhead. The Bristol Channel also became a separate area with its base at Swansea.) This was regarded as necessary for the main purpose of the new arrangement. The idea was that, if submarines in open waters had to be dealt with, numbers were essential, so as to ensure that whenever one was reported the locality could be surrounded by vessels numerous enough to cover a wide area, and so make it very dangerous for her to come to the surface.

 

It was not till August 1 that the new organisation came into force, and it was during the critical last half of July which followed Admiral Bayly's appointment that the Ger­mans had probably one of the best chances in the war for dealing us a telling blow at sea. A determined attack on the Mediterranean route at this time could scarcely have failed to create a serious disturbance, but no exceptional effort was made.

 

During all this period our own oversea submarines were as active as ever. The Bight was never left alone, but in that quarter there was little to be done beyond the now established routine. Typical of the adventurous work are the activities of S 1 (Lieutenant‑Commander G. H. Kellett), a new class of submarine which it was desired to try for over­sea work. (She was one of those laid down in 1912 in a private yard to an Italian design, and was the first double‑hull boat built for the British navy. The type was not continued.) On her first cruise in the third week of June she began by winning her way through a combined Zeppelin,

 

July 24-26, 1915

 

seaplane, trawler and destroyer patrol, and reaching Horn Reefs, on the 21st. Then her engines broke down, and for two days she was busy repairing them under the constant annoyance of patrolling airships. As soon as one engine was repaired the other failed, but on the third day she could crawl well enough to capture a German trawler, the Ost, and employ it to tow her. Twice the trawler's engines failed, twice they were repaired by the submarine crew, until on the seventh day she met the Firedrake, who brought her in to Harwich with her useful prize.

 

Another typical cruise was that of Commander C. P. Talbot in E 16. On July 24 he left Yarmouth for the Ems. Reaching his station next morning, he was continually kept under by the air patrol, till near the Borkum Riff lightship he found himself foul of a submarine trap which dragged him down by the bows. In vain he struggled by every device that cool resource could suggest. Unable to get clear, he managed, with his bows still fast, to bring the conning‑tower above water and open the lid. It was only to find a Zeppelin hovering a few hundred feet above him and evidently watching the trap. He had to dive again and continue his efforts ‑ blowing, pumping and venting his tanks ‑ going ahead and astern every few moments, and all to the accom­paniment of exploding bombs which the watching airship dropped as his struggles disturbed the surface. Smaller charges also burst close to him. Still coolly as ever he and his crew struggled on, till after an hour of the nightmare the bows suddenly flew up and he was free. Then, after sending off a pigeon to warn the Commodore of the danger spot, he continued his patrol undisturbed. His reward came the following day (July 26). About noon, being then forty miles north of Terschelling on the outer edge of the German patrol lines, and having been kept down by a Zeppelin for three hours, he rose to find three large destroyers quartering the ground at high speed. In about an hour he got within six hundred yards of one of them, took his shot and blew off her stern. Yet he was not content. Though the other two enemy vessels at once made for him, he kept returning to the surface and interrupting their work of rescuing the crew of the sinking destroyer. Each time he appeared they broke off and made for him. Yet in spite of their persistent efforts to ram him he got in two more shots at them, which unfortunately they were easily able to avoid. That his conduct was highly commended and won him the D.S.O. will cause no surprise. (The destroyer sunk was V 188, a 32‑knot boat of 650 tons with four 19.7 tubes and two 15‑pounders.)

 

May 4‑June 4, 1915

E 1 AND E 9 IN THE BALTIC

 

 

Operations in the Baltic

 

In the Baltic our submarines found possibilities of exerting a more direct influence on the course of the war. Towards the end of April the Germans, by way of creating a diversion for the thrust which in combination with the Austrians they were making in Galicia, had begun a menacing advance on Libau; a naval force was known to be concentrated in Danzig, and a cruiser squadron was located between the north end of Gothland and the mainland as though to cover the passage of transports eastwards. On May 4 both submarines were warned to prepare for a long cruise, and next day they were away, E 1 for the Bornholm area and E 9 to Dagerort, at the south side of the entrance to the Gulf of Finland, which was to be her base for operating against the enemy's covering force. Each of them found opportunity to attack light craft, but no hit was made before, on May 10, it was known that Libau had fallen and the enemy's covering force had with­drawn. (Libau was taken by the Germans on May 7.) E 9 was then ordered to work on the lines from Memel and Danzig to Libau, and here she at once fell in with three cruisers conducting three transports on the return voyage from Libau. Both the convoy and its escort had strong destroyer protection. Nevertheless Commander M. R. Horton proceeded to attack. Diving under the van of the port destroyer screen he fired his bow torpedoes at one of the cruisers, but unfortunately both missed. He then got into position for attacking the transports from right ahead as they came on. At two hundred yards he fired his port beam tube at the leading ship and again there was a miss by passing under. Then he tried his stern tube at her next astern. He was now under heavy fire, but the torpedo hit her just before the funnel, a second shot from a reloaded bow tube finished her, and notwithstanding the destroyers and an explosive sweep fired close to him he got safely away to Revel to replenish torpedoes. Both submarines continued their respective operations without success till June 1, when E 1, having fractured a main motor, was reported unfit for service. On reaching Revel they found that Admiral von Essen, the energetic and devoted officer under whose command they had been serving, had died (May 20) after a short illness.

 

Commander Horton in E 9 had now to continue the. work alone. Strong forces were reported west of the Gulf of Riga, and on June 4 news came in that the Russian minelayer Yenisei had been sunk by a submarine off Dagerort. He at once made for the spot, and there he found the offender and dived to attack, but the German submarine (U 26), also dived and was lost. Later on in the afternoon he came in sight of

 

July 2, 1915

THE BALTIC

 

four destroyers, two coaling from a transport, two patrolling, and a light cruiser of the "Gazelle" class, standing by. Getting into position for attacking the cruiser and the coaling group simultaneously, he fired his port beam tube at the cruiser and missed. Both bow tubes, however, got home on the collier, and when, after avoiding being rammed by the patrolling destroyers, he came to the surface, the collier was gone, as well as one of the destroyers that had been alongside her, and a few survivors from each of them were rescued.

 

As June advanced the activity increased, for now the German demonstration was taking the form of an advance on Riga. The loss of Libau mattered little; it had in fact been discounted when it was evacuated early in the war. But Riga, besides being an important munition centre, was vital to the security of the capital. A new army had to be found for its protection, and in spite of Austro‑German successes in Galicia it could only be formed by drawing on that front. Its right rested on the sea between Windau and Libau, and here on July 2 E 9 was patrolling when the month­-long sparring at sea culminated in a conflict. Early in the morning the Russian cruiser patrol, Admiral Makarov, Bayan, Bogatuir and Oleg, moving through a heavy fog off the east of Gothland, came upon an inferior squadron of Germans, consist­ing of the Roon, two light cruisers, Augsberg and Luebeck, with the mining vessel Albatross. (Bayan and Admiral Makarov were cruisers of 7,700 tons armed with two 8" and eight 6", Bogatuir and Oleg were slightly smaller old cruisers, recon­structed with twelve 6" ‑ all less than twenty knots sea speed. The Roon was 9,500 tons with four 8.2" and ten 5.9". The two light cruisers had nothing heavier than 4.1").

 

Owing to the fog nothing decisive occurred, but the Albatross was cut off and forced to beach herself in a damaged condition on the neutral coast of Gothland, where she and her crew were interned. (Casualties in the Albatross numbered 27 killed and 55 wounded.)

 

The rest were lost in the fog, but as the Russian squadron made back for its own coast it was boldly attacked by the Roon, Luebeck and four destroyers. The Augsberg, which was severely damaged in the first conflict, did not appear. A desultory action seems to have ensued for half, an hour, when the Russian cruiser Ryurik came upon the seene. (Ryurik, 15,000 tons, four 10", eight 8" and twenty 4.7".) The Roon was then forced to retire, and though by her superior speed she was soon able to get clear, it was not before she had suffered a good deal from the Ryurik's heavy metal. But she was not left unsupported. In response apparently to her signals two of the older German

 

July 18, 1915

GERMANS TAKE WINDAU

 

battleships went to her rescue. To Commander Horton at least, who was lying right in their path, they seemed to have come out of Libau. As he saw them coming on he closed to attack, and at four hundred yards fired his bow torpedoes at the leading ship. Both hit: but with what result he could not tell, for only by a very smart dive did he avoid being rammed by an attending destroyer which for an hour would not leave him alone. It was certain that the ship attacked, the Prinz Adalbert was not sunk, but her consort had to escort her back to Kiel, for later on in the afternoon, when E 9 sighted the Roon and her two light cruisers coming south, but too far off to attack, neither battleship was with them. The crippled ship reached Kiel on the 20th.

 

After this exploit E 9 had to lie up at Revel for the rest of the month, but by this time E 1 had made good her defects, and on July 30 signalled her reappearance by sinking the Aachen, one of three large auxiliaries which she encountered off Gothland escorted by a light cruiser. Yet in spite of all that had been done the strategical advantage of the campaign lay with the Germans. In the middle of the month their great change of front had begun to operate. From the Baltic to the Rumanian frontier the grand offensive against Russia was opening; the army of the Niemen, as it was called, operating from Libau, became the left of a great movement. To this army fell the first‑fruits; within a week it had cap­tured Windau, and with it one side of the entrance to the Gulf of Riga was in German hands.

 

 

 

S.M.S. Koenigsberg in the Rufiji Delta

 

While the whole Eastern front was thus astir with the new movements to crush Russia out of the Entente circle, far away on the coast of East Africa the last scene of the original German plan of commerce destruction on the high seas was being played out. There, in the Rufiji river, the Koenigsberg was still lying. At the end of April, when the new seaplanes arrived, they carefully reconnoitred her position, but as they proved unable to rise more than 800 feet over the land in that burning air, and a bombing attack was therefore impossible, she had been left alone till other means were provided for her destruction. So far as could be ascertained she was still capable of breaking out, and Admiral King‑Hall of the Cape Station had been keeping up the blockade of her and the adjacent coasts with his available forces.

 

Such a position on the flank of our far eastern route could not be tolerated indefinitely, and it was now, (April 19), that the Admiralty detached two of the 6‑inch monitors, which had been sent to the Mediterranean, to see what they could

 

June 3 – July 6, 1915

GERMAN EAST AFRICA

 

do. On May 9 and 10 they recalled the Chatham and Cornwall to the Dardanelles, leaving the Admiral only one light cruiser, the Weymouth, capable of chasing and engaging the Koenigsberg if she broke out. In accordance with the new plan Captain E. J. A. Fullerton left Malta on April 28 in the Severn in company with the Mersey (Commander R. A. Wilson), the fleet messenger Trent, four tugs and a collier. The voyage before him was as arduous as any in the war. The ships of his squadron were wholly unfit for the intense heat of the Red Sea, but thanks to the devotion and spirit of all con­cerned, especially in the engine‑rooms, Aden was reached on May 15. In two days he was away again, and as the motley squadron struggled down the African coast against head seas and abnormal currents, the difficulties they encountered increased beyond measure. But they were encountered only to be overcome. There were times when scarcely any progress could be made without the Trent and the collier assisting the tugs, but in the end they were rewarded, and on June 8, after five weeks' struggle, the squadron anchored at Mafia island. (In recognition of the successful conduct of this arduous voyage Captain Fullerton and the commanders of all his auxiliaries received letters of apprecia­tion from the Admiralty.)

 

Here at Tirene Bay, where, since the occupation of the island, the blockading force had its base, an aerodrome had been established under a Major of marines, Squadron Commander R. Gordon, with two good aeroplanes, and here the moni­tors had to remain to prepare for the operation. Its interest lies in its novelty. To destroy by a combination of aircraft and heavily armed shallow draft vessels a ship of war lying concealed ten miles up a tropical river with unknown defences at its mouth was a new experience. Consequently, besides making good defects developed during the arduous voyage, the monitors had to be fitted with deck and side plates and sandbag protection, and spotting with the aircraft needed careful rehearsal. It was not until July 5 that all was ready, and on this dav, in order to prevent reinforcements being sent to the Rufiji, the Laurentic, with three transports carrying a few Indian troops from Zanzibar, made a demonstration of landing at Dar‑es‑Salaam and returned after dark. (Admiral King‑Hall now had with him four light cruisers (Hyacinth (flag), Weymouth, Pioneer and Pyramus), two armed merchant cruisers (Laconia and Laurentic), and two monitors (Severn and Mersey). The Challenger joined his flag on July 8, after the first attack on the Koenigsberg had been made.

 

At 5.20 next morning the two monitors entered the Kikunja, a northern mouth of the river, accompanied by an aeroplane to cover them by bombing the Koenigsberg while

 

July 6, 1915

ATTACK ON THE KOENIGSBERG

 

they were taking up their firing position. On entering the river they came under fire from 3‑pounders, pom‑poms and machine guns concealed in the density of the trees and the rank undergrowth, but it was easily dealt with and did no harm. As they felt their way up the river the Admiral followed in support in the Weymouth (Captain Denis B. Crampton), attended by the Pyramus (Commander Viscount Kelburn) and the whalers Echo, Fly and Childers sweeping and sounding ahead. By 6.30, when he was scraping over the bar, the two monitors had anchored head and stern at a point judged to be 11,000 yards from their objective and were opening fire, with Flight Commander J. T. Cull spotting for them in the other aeroplane, while the Admiral, as soon as he was anchored, did what he could at long range to keep down the fire which greeted him and to search the Kumbini hills on the north side of the river, where it was believed there was an observation station. As a further diversion the Pioneer (Commander T. W. Biddlecombe) engaged and silenced the defences of the Ssimba Uranga mouth by which the Koenigsberg had entered.

 

The firing position selected for the monitors was just below an island some four miles up, and no sooner were they anchored than it was apparent that the enemy expected them there and had their range to a nicety. The Koenigsberg was firing salvoes of four and sometimes five which straddled them at once. The enemy evidently had a well‑placed spotting station, but where the spotting station was it was impossible to discover. All that could be done was to fire into the jungle at any suspicious sign of movement, while the enemy's shells continued to fall within ten or fifteen yards. Yet, by a miracle, for nearly an hour neither ship suffered a direct hit, till, at 7.40, a shell struck the foremost 6‑inch gun shield of the Mersey, put the gun out of action, and inflicted eight casualties including six killed. Within a few minutes she was again struck and holed near the waterline; she, therefore, shifted her berth 1,000 yards back, but only just in time to escape a salvo which pitched exactly on the berth she had left. The Severn then carried on alone, the enemy's salvoes still straddling her, for half an hour and was scoring hits when the aeroplane had to go home. She then also shifted to open the range, and as she did so was able to wipe out what seemed to be an observation party in a tree on the bank. The action now slackened, till at 1.30 another aeroplane arrived. Both ships then moved up again to a spot near the first position and came into action. But the results were disappointing; the Koenigsberg was still firing, but with less accuracy and fewer guns, and at 3.30 the monitors proceeded

 

July 3, 1915

 

down the river with the crews worn out and dispirited at the failure to complete their task.

 

They retired to Tirene, but not to rest. All was unchecked activity to prepare for a renewal of the attempt. The frail ships had been badly shaken by so much firing at extreme elevation and needed tightening up, there was the Mersey's gun to repair, and well as observation had worked in rehearsal, it had been far short of success in action. Out of 685 shells fired only for 78 had spotting correction been received, and no more than six hits had been registered. It was therefore decided that only one ship should fire at a time, and on this plan, after four days' work on strained frames and bulkheads, they went in again on July 11. At the entrance they had the same reception as before, but though the ships were hit, no harm was done. As soon as the Mersey reached the first day's firing position she anchored to draw the enemy's fire, while the Severn steamed on. One salvo was fired at the Mersey, but after that the Koenigsberg concentrated on the Severn. For a mile she steamed on under a rain of salvoes, untouched till about 12.30 she was securely anchored and could open fire.

 

By this time Flight Commander Cull was again ready to spot for her. Seven salvoes were fired before he got her on, but the eighth was a hit. After that "H.T." (hit) came in almost continuously. In ten minutes the Koenigsberg was firing only three guns ‑ but then came a signal from the aeroplane, "We are hit, send a boat for us." In fact, hits had been numerous, but though the engine was pierced and failing, the intrepid pilot would not come down so long as he saw it was possible to plane down into the river. Even as he did so his observer, Flight Sub‑Lieutenant C. V. Arnold, continued to signal, with the result that in a couple of minutes more the Koenigsberg was firing only two guns, and as the wounded machine came down into the water between the two monitors one only was in action. The last spotting signal was "H.T. All forward." The Severn's guns were at once trained further aft to get the target amid­ships, and at 12.52 a large explosion was seen, followed by thick clouds of smoke. Amidst the cheers that greeted the success the Mersey's boat was rescuing the gallant pilot and his observer. The doomed ship was now clearly near her end, but before closing, the Severn continued to fire where she was for nearly an hour. By 1.46 seven more explosions occurred though no gun was firing at her; it is probable that these were the result of an attempt to destroy the ship which could no longer be defended. Captain Fullerton then signalled to the Mersey to move up to the second position well above the

 

July 11, 1915

END OF THE KOENIGSBERG

 

island. From this point, as the other aeroplane appeared, she fired twenty‑eight salvoes ‑ the third was a hit, and by 2.20 the target was a wreck blazing from stem to stern. The monitors were recalled by the Admiral at 2.30, and so ended the last of the German cruisers on the high seas. (The only British casualties on this day were two men of the Mersey slightly wounded.)

 

For eight months she had defied all the efforts we were able to spare for her destruction, and had fought gamely to the last. Inglorious as had been her career as a commerce destroyer, her end redeemed her honour, and the survivors of her crew with some of her guns went to swell the local defence force. So they continued the struggle, but the menace to our communications which she had so long maintained was now finally removed, and Admiral King‑Hall was free to devote himself to the general blockade of the coast and to such assistance as the military authorities should require for operations against the enemy's garrison.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IV

 

THE DARDANELLES JUNE 20 ‑ JULY 31 ‑ THE NEW PLAN - SUBMARINE ACTIVITY IN THE SEA OF MARMARA ‑ ARRIVAL OF REINFORCEMENTS

 

WHILE the question of reinforcing General Sir Ian Hamilton was under consideration, doubt had been expressed as to whether it was physically possible to develop a powerful offensive from the position he held. On the assumption that he merely had in mind a more powerful attack on the Achi Baba position, it was objected that the ground he occupied was obviously too limited to give room for another army corps to deploy. But to seek success by mere weight of numbers was foreign to his idea of generalship. Fully alive to the freedom of manoeuvre which the sea afforded, he was bent on making further use of it for strategical surprise by breaking in upon the enemy at a fresh point.

 

The idea had originated at Anzac. The costliness and even the futility of pressing the attack on the Achi Baba position, which was now only too apparent, drew attention more strongly than ever to the possibility of turning it. For some time past General Birdwood had had his eye on the Sari Bair ridge, the dominating feature of the neck of the peninsula. Rising from the sea directly in front of his left, it stretched away about north‑east to the Boghali valley, so that once established on the summit he would be able to command all the communications both by sea and land by which the Turkish forces holding Kilid Bahr and the Achi Baba position were nourished. Nor was its value only military, for in the opinion of the naval staff it would mean securing a spotting station for effective bombardment of the Narrows. So promising was the plan, even as first conceived, that as soon as General Hamilton knew that another army corps was coming, he saw the possibility of developing General Birdwood's plan into the main line of operation.

 

With the new reinforcements, all the troops necessary for giving effect to his project could now be allotted to him. More than this, the surplus forces could be used to give an important

 

June 1915

THE SUVLA PLAN

 

expansion to the scheme and so overcome its technical difficulties. Its defect had been that from the cramped and insecure Anzac beaches it was impossible to nourish the increased force which was necessary to promise success against Sari Bair. But hard by, Suvla Bay offered an ideal anchorage for the purpose. Its conformation was such that it could be quickly closed by anti‑submarine nets. True it was open to south‑westerly gales, but six miles further up the coast, at Ejelmer Bay, was an alternative anchorage completely sheltered from them, and over and above the six brigades destined for Anzac there would remain sufficient force to seize both bays. Thus the primary object of the Suvla landing was to secure an adequate base for the new development, but incidentally the force employed could, by a comparatively small advance inland to the eastward, effectively protect General Birdwood's exposed left flank and generally operate in support of the main attack.

 

With every precaution for secrecy the new ground was reconnoitred from the sea, and was found to be practically unentrenched and occupied by little more than the usual look‑out posts. Surprise, which the sea put in General Hamilton's power, seemed certain, could secrecy be preserved long enough. The confidence of the British Staff was con­firmed by an appreciation received from General Gouraud on June 14. He was proving himself an ideal colleague, and between him and General Hamilton the closest harmony existed. The French still had their eyes on the forbidden Asiatic side, but realising that the expected reinforcements would be insufficient to enable the allied force to operate astride the Straits, he was seeking an alternative method of breaking the deadlock. One was a descent at Bulair, the other a development of the Anzac zone. The Bulair idea, as he frankly admitted, depended on the assumption that the naval authorities did not regard the difficulties as insuperable, and on this they were more strongly convinced than ever. Admiral de Robeck had, in fact, just been called upon to go once more into the whole question of a landing at the head of the Gulf of Xeros. After full con­sideration he could only report that since the advent of the submarines the original risks and difficulties of a disem­barkation so far from the base at Mudros had so materially increased that nothing could justify the attempt but the respect of a quick and decisive military success, and this he understood was not to be expected. His view was endorsed by the Admiralty, and Bulair was thus definitely ruled out. The only alternative that remained was General

 

June 20-21, 1915

 

Gouraud's third one, and this was to use the new divisions for developing the Anzac line of operation with much the same general idea of seizing the Maidos neck as was in General Hamilton's mind. (General Gouraud's plan differed in detail. He proposed a landing south of Gaba Tepe, and thence, in concert with the Anzac force, to capture the heights which dominated the Maidos plain. The establishment of a new base at Suvla did not enter into his plan. The technical naval con­siderations on which the need of such a base rested had probably not been brought to his notice. He was probably also unaware of the reasons we had for thinking the Turks were prepared to meet an attack south of Gaba Tepe. They had actually a division deployed on this part of the coast and another in reserve. General Gouraud's letter, which is dated June 13, is given by General Hamilton in his Gallipoli Diary, Vol. I., p. 296.)

 

So high was the impression for capacity and knowledge of his profession which General Gouraud had created, that his independent and spontaneous approval of the general idea was all the encouragement that was required to confirm the wisdom of the plan. So vital, however, was the pre­servation of secrecy that his staff were not informed, for the part assigned to the two French divisions was to be no more than a share in a holding attack on the Krithia positions by the Helles force. Of our own staff only the few officers needed to work out the plan were let into the secret. Even the authorities at home were told no more than enough to satisfy them that the General knew how to use the three new divisions. But Lord Kitchener did independently suggest the very plan that was in course of preparation.

 

So the famous Suvla movement was set on foot, but it must be many weeks before it could be carried out, and General Gouraud at least was not content to wait inactive so long. Already, just before news of the coming reinforce­ment arrived, he was arranging with General Hamilton for a carefully prepared attack on the formidable Turkish trenches in front of his left and centre, and after the news came the elaborate preparations continued. Owing to the submarine menace the ships could give but little assistance. All depended on the massing of artillery fire and the accumula­tion of unlimited supplies of ammunition. By June 20 all was ready, and on that day the Lord Nelson, with a kite­ balloon spotting for her, bombarded the docks and shipping at Gallipoli over the land, inflicting considerable damage. For several days the front of attack had been kept under a hot fire by the French artiliery which opened the attack on the 21st with a greatly intensified bombardment. The St. Louis, screened by trawlers with nets, and protected by British destroyers and trawlers, did her best to keep down the fire

 

June 28, 1915

ACTION OF GULLY RAVINE

 

of the Asiatic guns: otherwise the fleet took no part. After a long day's desperate fighting, in which, under General Gouraud's inspiration, the French infantry displayed all their best qualities, the fierce resistance of the Turks was overcome. By nightfall the obnoxious "Haricot " redoubt in the Kereves ravine, which hitherto had baffled all his efforts to gain ground on this side, had been won.

 

Nor did the effort end here. While the question of another army corps was under debate at home General Hamilton had reported that he had enough ammunition left for one more day's assault. He was now preparing to deliver it with the idea of doing against the Turkish right what the French had done on their left. The first of his original reinforcement, the LlInd (Lowland) Division, arrived on June 19, and with the XXIXth Division and the Indian brigade he meant to make the attempt supported by a hold­ing attack at Anzac. No battleship was to be risked in its support. Naval assistance was to be confined to a light cruiser and four destroyers. On the 28th, the day fixed for the operation, the Talbot, which was now the ship of the Senior Naval Officer at Gaba Tepe, took station off the left of our Helles line, with Admiral Nicholson on board to direct operations. From 10.0 a.m. onwards, with the Manica spotting, and four destroyers (Racoon, Beagle, Bulldog and Basilisk) screening, she shelled the enemy's trenches and silenced several batteries, while the other destroyers Renard, Scorpion and Wolverine, starting at 9.0 a.m., were at work where the enemy's trenches came nearly down to the sea.

 

Again the bulk of the battery work came from our artillery ashore, assisted by French 75's, and it exceeded all that it had been able to do before. But there seems little doubt that the ship fire was a material assistance. According to the Turks it entirely destroyed the front‑line trenches of the division that was on the sea flank, with the result that when at 11.0 our infantry got the word to advance they were able to occupy them at once with little loss. And not only that, but before the second line could be properly organised they had rushed that as well, and by noon all the assigned positions were in their hands. The advance made was about 1,000 yards, and it gave us five lines of trenches and the notorious "Boomerang" redoubt, which for so long had been holding up our left. During the night the Turks counter‑attacked heavily. The chief effort was on the coast, but here a strong attempt to turn our sea flank along the beach was detected by the searchlights of the Scorpion and Wolverine, and was swept away by their guns. Nor were the attempts upon the rest of the front any more successful or less costly. All were repulsed with heavy loss and the whole of the new ground was retained.

 

Materially the gain to the general position was sub­stantial. The Allied line was not only advanced, but straightened, and in every way improved. The moral effect was even greater. Since the first advance no such success had been won, and it had been won in spite of the reinforcement the enemy had received and of the time he had had to consolidate the position. There was a feeling of elation in the air ‑ the light of victory was in all eyes, and could the blow have been followed quickly, all agreed that the victory could have been made complete. In this view we were certainly not over‑sanguine. General Weber, who was now in command of the southern zone, was deeply enough impressed by our success to advise a retirement to the line of Soghanli Dere and Kilid Bahr. It was the last ditch for saving the Narrows forts, and General von Sanders would not consent. He was for recovering at all costs what we had gained on our coast flank, and for this purpose he brought over a division from the Asiatic side and moved another down from Anzac. This was an important result of our success. After General Birdwood had delivered his holding attack he was strongly counter‑attacked, but the Turks were repulsed with heavy loss.

 

By July 4 the two Turkish divisions were in position, and from then onward the enforced delay till our new rein­forcements arrived gave our troops in the southern area little rest. At short intervals the Turks delivered counter‑attacks with a desperation and persistence that seemed regardless of cost and were testimony enough to the value of our newly‑won ground. All was in vain; they gained nothing by their courageous efforts but incurred a loss of 6,000 men. We were even able to react, for on July 12‑13 the Turks, with their attention fixed on our left, found themselves attacked by the French and the LIInd Division on the British right. About 400 yards more ground was gained and the position further improved. So far spent was the British artillery ammunition that the preparation and counter‑battery work was all done by the French, with the assistance of the Prince George, Chatham, Suffren and half a dozen destroyers which were in action against Krithia, Achi Baba and the Kereves ravine.

 

It was little, however, that the fleet could do to give direct assistance to the land operations during the period of waiting, and the opportunity was taken to send the

 

July 1915

NAVAL REINFORCEMENTS

 

ships away to Malta to refit. Above all it was necessary to husband ammunition for the next great effort. But whenever an objective of sufficient importance presented itself a battleship would come out. These special targets were points where depots of ammunition were reported to exist, and in this way, amongst other places, Gallipoli, Chanak, Eren Keui and Examil, the centre of the Tenedos front, were all bombarded in turn. For this work the Admiral now had the assistance of another kite‑balloon ship, the Hector. The monitors and the "Edgars," with their bulge protection, were also coming in and were available to take over the bombardments. The first to appear was the Humber, one of the original three monitors bought from Brazil. She had arrived on June 4, and shortly afterwards was sent to Gaba Tepe to deal with a large number of guns concealed in the Olive Groves along the Axmah ravine south of Gaba Tepe, which were enfilading the main Anzac beach and making it almost impossible for craft to approach it in daylight. Assisted by the Kephalo destroyers she was apparently successful, for after July 17 the guns were silent for the rest of the month. She was followed (on July 15) by the Roberts, one of the new 14‑inch monitors. She was told off for the Asiatic batteries. Pro­ceeding to Rabbit Island, north of Tenedos, she was securely anchored, netted in and connected up with the shore by telephone. Here she was joined by M 19, the first of the new 9.2‑inch monitors to arrive. She was established in the same way, and the two, with the Ben-My-Chree to spot for them, settled down together to the sorely needed counter­battery work. By the end of the month the other three 14‑inch monitors, Abercrombie, Raglan and Havelock, had arrived, as well as the 6‑inch monitors, M 29, 32 and 33, and the rest of the bulge ships of the old 10th Cruiser Squadron, Theseus, Endymion, Grafton and Edgar. (A "bulge ship" was a ship fitted with an outside hollow belt as a protection against torpedo attack. The belt was termed a "bulge" or "blister," and these vessels were known later as "blister ships." From the autumn of 1914 onwards bulges were included in the designs of all large ships.)

 

The new arrivals, which henceforth became the main naval support for the army, were under Admiral Stuart Nicholson, who flew his flag in the Exmouth, in the now well‑protected anchorage at Kephalo in Imbros. (It had now submerged defences in the form of a net boom, placed in position by the special net‑layers Queen Victoria and Prince Edward, which had been sent out after proving their capacities on the Belgian coast. See Vol. II, P. 387.) At Imbros, too, owing to its position midway between Anzac and the

 

July 1915

 

southern beaches, General Hamilton had established his headquarters ever since the advent of the submarines. What was most to be feared during the period of arrested activity was that the efforts of the Turks on our flanks would develop into a violent attack all along the line. The month of Ramadan had begun, when Moslem religious enthusiasm was at its highest, and we expected that on the 23rd its driving power would be used to the utmost extent. So real was the expectation that it was deemed advisable to reinforce the Allied line with some of the new army that had just arrived. Accordingly the three brigades of the XIIIth Division and one of the XIth were landed at Helles to give the old XXIXth a sorely needed rest. By the 21st they were in position, and on the same day Admiral Nicholson, in consultation with the General Staff at Anzac, assigned to all the supporting ships (Talbot, Humber, Colne and Pincher) definite stations and areas of fire should an attack take place. The expected did not happen. Nothing but another attack on our left was made ‑ it was the tenth they had launched ‑ and was easily beaten off, like the rest.

 

For the monitors, however, there was other work. In the crowded end of the peninsula, particularly at Helles and at Sedd el Bahr, where General Gouraud had his head­quarters, the Asiatic guns had become more and more galling, and it was mainly to check the disturbance that the recent bombardments had been ordered. Even so the beaches were never safe. All work in the daytime had to be done under fire, from time to time ammunition dumps were exploded, one of the beaches used by the French had to be abandoned and, worst of all, on June 30 General Gouraud himself was so severely wounded by a heavy shell from Asia that he had to relinquish the command to his second, General Bailloud, and go home. It was a catastrophe destined to have far-­reaching consequences arising out of the appointment of his successor, and even at the moment, coming, as his loss did, immediately after the successful push, the blow was severely felt. "Gouraud's loss," wrote General Hamilton, "almost wipes out our gains." General Bailloud, on whom the com­mand temporarily devolved, seeing no other way of ending the trouble, was setting his heart on landing part at least of the new army on the Asiatic side, but General Hamilton would not hear of it ‑ nothing must he done to compromise the new plan. Meanwhile another means of relieving the annoyance at Sedd el Bahr and Helles was in hand, and the navy did its best with its own means. Two 4.7‑inch naval guns, landed from the Alnwick Castle, and two French 5.5‑inch

 

June 10‑25, 1915

E 12 AND E 14 IN THE MARMARA

 

naval guns were already in position, and were to be supple­mented in a short time by another 4.7 and a 6‑inch naval gun. In this way, by getting the monitors off the coast about Yeni Shehr, it was hoped to bring an effective cross‑fire upon the obnoxious batteries. In this service they were principally employed during the rest of the period of waiting, with occasional bombardments, in combination with aircraft, of depots such as Chanak and Maidos, in the hope of crippling the enemy's supply of ammunition.

 

But the real work of breaking the flow of Turkish supplies was done by the submarines. All through June and July their activity never ceased, and during much of the period there were two operating in the Marmara. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

On June 10 Lieutenant‑Commander Boyle went up again in E 14 and remained there over three weeks, keeping the whole sea in a state of disturbance. On his first day he met a brigantine and forced her to stop. As it was too rough to go alongside, Lieutenant R. W. Lawrence, R.N.R., swam off to her, and finding she was laden with heavy stores, he set her on fire with her own matches and paraffin, while the crew looked on from their boat. Next day at Panderma, the principal port on the Asiatic side, he torpedoed a steamer in the harbour and sank four dhows alongside her. But large steamers had disappeared from the sea; nothing was left but small ones of the ferry‑boat type and sailing craft, and beyond a gunboat and destroyers that hunted him and a few grain dhows which he sank he saw nothing till, on the 20th he had to go back to meet E 12, which was coming up under Lieutenant‑Commander Bruce.

 

The career of the newcomer was beset with trouble. She arrived at the rendezvous in the evening of the 21st, and the following two days were spent in repairing her main motors, which were causing trouble. She then proceeded to cruise in the eastern part of the sea while Lieutenant‑Com­rnander Boyle remained in the western in order to report her condition by wireless to the connecting destroyer the other side of Bulair. This was on June 24, and the following day the crippled E 12 began her adventures. Entering the Gulf of Mudania, in the south‑eastern extremity of the sea, she came upon two small steamers which seemed to be passenger packets. But as they were towing between them five sailing vessels Lieutenant‑Commander K. M. Bruce chased the first one and stopped her. Seeing all her crew on deck with life‑belts and no trace of a gun, he ran his bow up alongside, With his 6‑pounder and rifles ready, and ordered his first

 

June 25-July 10, 1915

 

lieutenant to board. Then suddenly it was evident the lesson of our decoys had reached the Turks. As the board­ing party stepped over the side a bomb was thrown which hit the submarine forward. Luckily it did not explode, but it was followed by fire from rifles and a small masked gun. The fire was promptly returned, and an action began at ten yards during which the two sailing vessels which the steamer was towing also opened fire with rifles and tried to foul the submarine's propellers. They were soon silenced by her small‑arm men, and she slowly got clear. By this time E 12's gun, which, after dealing with the steamer's masked gun, had been holing her from forward aft, must have found the ammunition she was carrying, for she suddenly blew up and sank in fifteen minutes. Having also sunk her two tows, Lieutenant‑Commander Bruce gave chase to the other steamer, which had three sailing craft in tow. They promptly slipped and made off, while he engaged the steamer till he was within range of a gun on shore. Then he could do no more; his starboard main motor was again showing defects, and as the chase was in flames he left her to beach herself. Still he carried on with his cruise round to the Gulf of Ismid, the easternmost arm of the sea, and there he forced another steamer ashore. A second had disappeared towards Mudania, and in hunting back for her he met E 14, who passed to him an order to return to make good his defects. Crippled as he was, his struggle with the cross­currents going down the Straits was very severe, but, by a fine display of seamanship, all difficulties were overcome, and in the evening of June 28, in the midst of the elation at our success ashore, E 12 crawled safely into Kephalo harbour. She had sunk three steamers and three sailing vessels. Five days later Commander Boyle (promoted to rank of Commander on June 30) followed him down. On this cruise E 14 sank one large steamer and 18 sailing vessels.

 

Lieutenant‑Commander A. D. Cochrane, who commanded E 7, had difficulties no less great than E 12, but of a different character. To begin with he and his crew were suffering from the depressing form of dysentery with which both services were affected, and to add to the trouble during his first exploit, which was to destroy a steamer and some dhows at Rodosto, on the north coast, his first lieutenant and an able seaman were so badly burnt by an explosion that both were unfit for service for the rest of the cruise. In spite of everything, however, during the next ten days he destroyed four brigantines, two small steamers and sixteen dhows, ending on July 10 by torpedoing a 3,000 ton steamer at

 

July 10‑25, 1915

E 7 IN THE MARMARA

 

Mudania pier. Still not content, he made for the Bosporus, and in the afternoon of the 15th, while aground on the Leander Shoal, fired a torpedo with a T.N.T. head into the arsenal. There was a resounding explosion, but the effect could not be seen, and proceeding out of the Bosporus he, at midnight, bombarded the Zeitunlik Powder Mills, in the western suburbs of the city.

 

His next exploit against the enemy's rear communica­tions was quite a new departure. Near Kava Burnu, the cape at the entrance to the Gulf of Ismid, the railway from Constantinople passes through a cutting close to the sea. This point, early on the 17th, he bombarded till the track was blocked. He then proceeded up the Gulf for some twenty miles, where at Derinji there was a shipyard. It was found to be closed and nothing was there, but while it was being observed a heavy troop train was seen going towards Constantinople. Hoping the line ahead of it was blocked he gave chase at full speed, and sure enough about twenty minutes later the train was seen coming back. It stopped in a belt of trees, so that spotting was difficult, but, nevertheless, after twenty rounds three ammunition trucks blew up, and later on he caught and damaged a second train near the same spot. After these exploits there was a few days cruise in Mudania Gulf and along the north shore, during which more steamers and sailing vessels were destroyed and some munition sheds blown up. Then he returned to the railway, and on July 22 caught another train in motion, but did little harm. A railway viaduct was then attacked, without better result, but the vulnerability of the line at this point had been demonstrated. In the evening he met Commander Boyle, who was at the rendezvous on his third trip and had a new difficulty to report. On approaching Nagara Point, where the navigation of the Narrows was most dangerous, he found the Turks busy on a net obstruc­tion from shore to shore. A line of lighters marked its position, but seeing a gap which he believed to be the gate he dived to eighty feet and passed clear. (The Obstruction was probably incomplete at this time. The Turks state it was laid in July and that the gate was off Nagara Point, where there was only a depth of four fathoms over the shoal. It was afterwards ascertained that the net was seventy metres long, made with meshes four metres square of three to five inch steel wire rope and that the depth corresponded with the depth of water. The fairway through it was closed by torpedo netting. It was watched by five armed motor gunboats with searchlights and carrying bombs, and was commanded by ten guns in three batteries.)

 

Three days later Lieutenant‑Commander Cochrane had to face the obstruction on his way down. Fortunately when

 

July 25, 1915

 

he reached the boom he found it had apparently dragged, so as to leave plenty of room to pass between it and the Point, but lower down he twice fouled moorings. From these, however, he cleverly managed to get clear, and reached the base safely with his sickly crew to be highly complimented on the skill, judgment and fine spirit which he and his men had shown.

 

Even with nothing to contrast it with, the appreciation must have been high, but, unhappily, the luck and skill of these two boats was emphasised by a reverse. A compara­tively new French submarine; the Mariotte, slightly smaller and less powerful than our "E" class, went up on the 25th to join Commander Boyle next day. All went well till 5.30 in the morning, by which time she calculated she was clear of the Narrows minefield, when she suddenly found herself foul of something. Everything possible was done to free her, but she could move neither ahead nor astern, and in her struggle she suddenly rose till her conning tower was exposed. It could then be seen she was sorme 250 yards away from one of the Chanak batteries, which immediately opened fire. To complete her plight there was a mine foul of her forward. An attempt was made to dive, but before she was under she had received so much damage to her conning tower and after ventilation hatch (manche d'aeration arriere) that diving was no longer possible, and nothing was left but surrender. Accordingly, after wrecking all her engines and gear and making sure she would sink, the conning tower was opened and the ship abandoned. Officers and crew were all taken prisoner, to the keen regret of their British colleagues. (Report of the officer in command, communicated by the Service His­torique de l'Etat‑Major General de la Marine.)

 

Her unhappy loss was but one more testimony to the desperate nature of the service on which they had been engaged, and cannot but increase our wonder at the almost incredible endurance and resource which made it thoroughly effective. For two months or more they had held the Sea of Marmara in a panic. The sudden appearances which their restless activity enabled them to make, now here, now there, in quick succession from end to end of the Sea, multiplied their numbers in the Turkish imagination till the supply of Gallipoli by water was thoroughly crippled apd the passage of troops entirely ceased. Nothing like a transport was seen, except hospital ships, and so numerous were these that grave suspicion was aroused. But all that were examined proved to be in order, and the explanation of their number was

 

June-July, 1915

BLOCKADE OF TURKISH COAST

 

doubtless the heavy losses the Turks were suffering in their determined and incessant attempts to recover the ground they had lost at the end of June. (The Turks admitted using transports as hospital ships in breach of the Hague Conventions. It was therefore lawful to sink them, but neither the General nor the Admiral was willing to embitter the conflict by exacting the extreme penalty. The instructions, therefore, which our submarines received were, if possible, to hold transport coming from Constantinople, and if troops or munitions were on board to destroy her.)

 

The disturbance which our submarines were thus producing was supplemented by the work of the Black Sea Fleet. We had urged the Russians to continue their raids on the Turkish coal supply, and they claim that up to the end of July they had set one coal depot on fire, destroyed three shipyards and sunk over a hundred sailing vessels engaged on the supply of fuel and munitions. To cover these operations they had got a submarine mine­layer to work in the entrance of the Bosporus, and on July 18 the Breslau struck one of the mines and had to go into dock.

 

In the Aegean outside the Straits the main work of the navy, beyond the operations of the bombarding ships, was maintaining a blockade of the Turkish coast. (see Map 5 - repeated).

 

Map 5. Operations in the Aegean

To some extent, in that it stopped the inflow of supplies, it was supplementary to what the submarines were doing. Reports of the scarcity of food in Constantinople were growing in coherence, and something at least was to be hoped from efforts to increase the distress. But the chief object was naval. The menace of German submarines was the most serious feature of the situation from all points of view, and now that the anchorages had been made proof against their attacks, the main concern of the fleet was to stop supplies for them and to prevent them establishing bases in the Aegean. On June 2, as we have seen, a formal blockade of the whole coast had been declared.3 Smyrna, of course, was the best port for the enemy's purpose, and this area was allotted to the British and watched by the Smyrna patrol, from the Gulf of Adramyti to Khios. It was based at Port Iero in the south‑east of Mityleni, where the Greek Population was found to be sympathetic. The patrol normally consisted of two ships of force, two destroyers and a boarding steamer, with two trawlers to work indicator nets and the fleet sweeper Gazelle fitted for mine‑laying. Here, too, was stationed the seaplane‑carrier Ben-My-Chree. South of the patrol area all the lower Aegean, down to a line from the southern point of Greece to Marmarice on the Asiatic

 

June-July 1915

 

coast, was watched by a French patrol, which was also based at Port Iero and maintained the blockade down to Samos.(The French patrol consisted usually of two cruisers, five destroyers, eight armed sweepers and ten armed trawlers with drift nets.)

 

The system was completed by two more British patrols. Two light cruisers with armed boarding steamers formed the "Southern patrol" to watch the area between Mudros and the Smyrna patrol and to search for submarine depots, which were being continually reported from all quarters amongst the islands off the Greek coast. The "Northern patrol," which consisted of armed boarding steamers only, was charged with watching the north Aegean, and especially Salonica and Dedeagatch, to prevent contra­band going into Turkey through Greek or Bulgarian ports. Finally in the Gulf of Xeros was the destroyer which was always stationed to keep up wireless communication with the submarines in the Marmara, to watch enemy movements about Bulair and to keep an eye on the island of Samothraki.

 

On these dispositions, so far as the limits of Admiral de Robeck's command were concerned, we had to rely for the safe arrival of the reinforcements, both naval and military, that were now going through the Mediterranean. (By an arrangement made with France and Italy in June 1915 the British Dardanelles zone was bounded by Euboea and the chain of islands that stretch south‑east of it to Mykonos. Thence the line ran across to Nikaria and on through Samos to the Turkish mainland. All the rest of the Mediterranean, except British and Italian territorial waters, was under the French.)

 

For the safety of the rest of the transport route, except the vicinity of Gibraltar and Malta and the Egyptian and Syrian coast, the French Commander‑in‑Chief was responsible. We had urged him to provide destroyer escort, but this he was unable to do. His available destroyers, he said, were all absorbed in patrolling between Sicily and Malta, south of Malta, the Ionian Islands, and between Crete and Cape Matapan. Consequently the transports had to proceed unescorted, except when outgoing armed boarding steamers could be used to convoy the slower ships. For the rest all the French Commander‑in‑Chief could do was to see that no submarines passed in or out of the Adriatic from Pola, where it was reported German boats were arriving by rail in sections and being assembled, and from time to time to give routes for the transports as the conditions of the hour suggested.

 

The whole question was further complicated by the requirements of the Army Staff. For military reasons they insisted that all transports should proceed in the first instance to Alexandria. As this meant exposure to submarine danger

 

June-July 1915

TRANSPORT ROUTES

 

for another seven hundred miles, Admiral de Robeck pressed for at least a modification of the order. But on technical grounds General Hamilton felt unable to give way. As a general rule he was not prepared to take the risk, but the two largest transports, Aquitania and Mauretania, were permitted to proceed to Mudros direct. (These two ships made the voyage out in a week, against a fortnight taken by other transports via Alexandria. Their value for effecting a rapid concentration of troops at a distance is best testified by their performances. The Mauretania, which was originally destined to go via Alexandria, but was subsequently diverted, left Liverpool with 3,470 officers and men of the Xth Division on July 9, and reached Mudros on the 16th. The Aquitania with 5,800 men of the XIth Division, sailed on July 3, and arrived on the 10th. Returning immediately she sailed again on the 30th with 5,860 of the LIVth Division, and was back at Mudros by August 6. Thus, in a little over a month she carried nearly 12,000 officers and men over a distance of 3,000 miles.)

 

From Egypt the transports came on into the British Aegean zone through the protected channels to Mudros, where they could find shelter behind the now double boom, and here, except for small store ships, the voyage ended. Large ships discharged into destroyers, fleet sweepers, trawlers and other small craft, and these proceeded to the various beaches by night unescorted, but for this critical part of the voyage no more than five hundred troops were permitted to be carried in one vessel. The need for these precautions had been unhappily demonstrated on July 4. About the 1st a fine French transport, the Compaigne Transatlantique liner Carthage of 5,000 tons, had arrived with munitions and stores. No ship had been attacked in the Helles area since June 17, when two torpedoes were fired at a supply ship, which both missed. So badly was the ammunition needed at the time to resist the Turk attempts to recover their lost ground, that it was decided to risk breaking the rule, and the Carthage was sent on straight to Helles. There she had been discharging for four days, and had landed with other stores 5,000 shells for the 75's, when she was torpedoed and sank in five minutes with what was left of her cargo. Besides the ship little was lost, but the lesson was severe enough, and the new system was thenceforward adhered to strictly.

 

Owing to the deficiencies of Mudros ‑ where as yet the Engineers had been able to do little to construct piers ‑ the system was necessarily slow, and this was the main cause of the Home Transport Department's complaint that trans­ports were detained so long at their destination. It further entailed very heavy work on the beach parties, for owing to the landing places being exposed to fire, the troops and all

 

July 1915

 

personnel had to be put ashore in the dark, and as yet no deep‑water piers had been constructed.

 

As the reinforcements arrived and Mudros became more crowded the difficulties of making military requirements square with naval limitations increased. Admiral Wemyss was still in command as Senior Naval Officer, and he was also acting as governor, though a Greek governor was also on the island. Since the resignation of M. Venizelos on March 6, on King Constantine's refusal to co‑operate against the Dardanelles, relations with the governor had not been smooth. Difficulties of all kinds arose, particularly in regard to the native population and undesirable strangers, until the general election, which in the following August (22nd) returned M. Venizelos to power and ended the friction. Admiral Wemyss had now also a ship, the Europa, for his flag, in which there was room for a proper office. His staff, too, had been established on a more adequate scale. He had a Principal Transport Officer, Captain R. C. K. Lambert, whom he established afloat in the same ship with the military Inspector‑General of Communications, and in this way diffi­culties that arose through the exigencies of the two services were more easily smoothed. Kephalo and Port lero, of course, did something to relieve the pressure at Mudros, and just west of the bay was Port Kondia, where the auxiliary patrol was established, consisting of the Osiris and nearly a hundred trawlers and drifters. The air base was at Tenedos, where Commander C. R. Samson had formed an aerodrome for his squadron. Here Captain E. K. Loring, RN, was governor, with a garrison of Marines, and it was from this point the air bombardments of the Turkish depots were carried out.

 

To all the other anxieties under which the navy laboured during the period of preparation was added the question of small craft. From the first it had been difficult to maintain a sufficient supply, and now the great increase of the army, a new line of operation and the impossibility of taking the transports further than Mudros, had rendered the problem two‑fold more exacting. In view of the possible interruption of communication owing to bad weather and other causes, it was considered necessary to keep a ration supply of at least twenty‑four days on all beaches, and this it was desired to increase to thirty. Water had always been scarce. The distillery plant at Mudros barely sufficed for the navy, and for the army water had to be brought from Egypt and other places and then distributed in barges. The call for small craft was indeed endless, and from all parts our officers were

 

July 1915

CONCENTRATION COMPLETED

 

buying anything they could lay hands on. The problem, however, was to some extent simplified by better provision having been made for the actual landing of the troops. Thirteen specially designed motor lighters, each capable of carrying five hundred men or forty horses under a bullet‑proof deck, had come out from home. The idea was that they could run up to the beach by their own power ‑ thus doing away with the need of tows ‑ and each was fitted with a brow or gangway forward so that at the last moment the men could emerge from their shelter and march straight on to the beach over the bows. They were taken up to Rephalo, for from Imbros were to start the troops forming the covering force for Suvla. It was to consist of the XIth Division and the infantry of the Xth Division, less one brigade. On the last night of the month the brigade belonging to the XIth Division, which had been landed at Helles, was silently transferred to Imbros, where the rest of the division was being exercised with the motor lighters. The concentration point of the Anzac reinforcement, whose main strength was the XIIIth Division, under Major‑General F. C. Shaw, was Lemnos, and there three brigades which General Bailloud had agreed to replace were brought in the same way. To the Anzac force was also attached the 29th Indian brigade and one brigade of the Xth Division; of its two remaining brigades which were to be landed at Suvla, three battalions were at Lemnos and six at Mityleni. With these movements the long and difficult concentration was completed without mis­hap in spite of the hazards, and with every hope of success the great effort to break the deadlock was ready to be launched.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER V

 

SUVLA

(See Map 6, and Vol. II, Map 4.)

 

 

Map 6. Operations against Suvla

 


Vol. II, Map. 4 The Dardanelles
(click plan for near original-sized image - 9.5Mb)

 

In the long history of British warfare there is a special feature which distinguishes it from that of any other country. The precession of years is marked by a series of great com­bined expeditions which, over and above those which were planned as diversions or for seizing subsidiary strategical points, were aimed as definite thrusts at the decisive points of a world‑wide war. Quebec, Havana, Walcheren and the Crimea, to name only the more conspicuous, occupy a position in our annals which, at least in modern times, is not to be matched elsewhere till we come to the decisive use of the device by another Island Power in the Russo‑Japanese War.

 

Our record in the late war was true to type. It has given rich proof that the British genius for that most difficult and least appreciated form of operation, and the instinct for seeking in it the solution of baffling strategical problems, has in no way diminished in vigour and resource. Admittedly the first landing at Gallipoli outshone all precedent. So forlorn a hope did it seem at the time that even its partial success for a while struck dismay into the counsels of our enemy, and its moral effect bade fair to give a wholly new colour to the war. Apart from the high place which the actual fight for a footing won for it as a feat of arms, as a piece of subtle planning and finished organisation it was quite on a par with Quebec or Walcheren. Had it stood alone it would have served well enough to mark the vitality of the old spirit, but in these respects the Suvla operation even surpassed it. Nothing quite equal to it, either in conception, difficulty or magnitude, had ever been attempted before, and when we try to visualise the operation as it presented itself to its originators in the nakedness of its birth, we can only bow before the men who could see it clothed and nourished into a full‑grown possibility.

 

After over three months' campaigning in a strictly limited area a strategical surprise was to be attempted ‑ not at a

 

Aug. 1-3, 1915

PRELIMINARY MOVEMENTS

 

distance, but at a point within the area, half a day's march from the enemy s reserves. The surprise was to be not only strategical, it must be tactical too. In the dark the troops must start and in the dark they must be put ashore, and this must be done in great part on a beach that it had been impossible to survey or reconnoitre adequately, and by a force exceeding in number anything that had been attempted before. In the original descent at Helles the navy had been unable to guarantee the landing of a much smaller force before daylight, and therefore it had been agreed that the advantage of preparation by the guns of the fleet was greater than that of surprise. Now the conditions were different. The might of the fleet could no longer be brought up in sup­port, and at the new landing‑points the currents which the navy feared at the southern beaches did not interfere. On this occasion, therefore, surprise naturally took precedence.

 

To secure it to the full no elaboration of plan was omitted. A period of moonless nights was the first essential, and this would occur in the first week in August. The new moon was on the 10th and the attack was fixed for the night of the 6th-­7th. As a preliminary step it was necessary to get from 7,000 to 8,000 Anzac drafts ashore. This was done during the nights following July 31, and by August 3 they were all ashore, together with forty guns and extra transport, without being detected. The next step was to land the new force of five brigades which were to reinforce the Anzac Corps from Mudros, and not only to land them secretly, but to keep them hidden till the last moment. For this purpose General Birdwood had constructed an elaborate series of dug‑outs.

 

To cover these delicate operations dispositions were made to attract the enemy's attention to the Asiatic coast. At Mityleni the six battalions of the Xth Division, which had been sent to wait in their transports till they were wanted, were landed every day for route marches and inspected by General Hamilton, while in concert with some French ships every effort was made to create an impression of an attack from Adramyti Gulf on the railway from Smyrna to Panderma, a line of supply which the operations of our submarines in the Marmara had doubled in importance. Lower down the coast a more elaborate menace was staged by Admiral Nicol, the French naval commander, who was now flying his flag in the Patrie. During the afternoon of August 8 a French squadron, escorting transports and our seaplane carrier Ben-My-Chree, appeared before Sighajik, a small port some twenty milies from Smyrna, lying on the south of the neck of the Peninsula which divides the Smyrna Gulf from the Gulf of

 

Aug 3-5, 1915

 

Scala Nuova. After a line of trawlers with their nets out had been stationed across the entrance to the bay, guarded by tugs patrolling inside, the squadron proceeded to bombard the coast till 4.0 p.m.; at dusk the transports came in, the small craft gathered to meet them, boats were lowered and formed into tows, and as night fell a regularly formed flotilla headed for the shore.

 

During the next three nights (August 3‑5) the reinforce­ments for Anzac were moved to their positions in the ordinary way by destroyers and troop carriers, undetected by the enemy. Towards the first morning, it is true, the Olive Groves batteries woke up again after their long slumber and rained shells upon the beach. A steamer and two horse‑boats were sunk, but that was all. After that they went to sleep again as though it had been all a bad dream, but to make sure the next night the bulge ship Grafton was there to drop shells into the trees and remind the enemy of the unwisdom of revealing their position by gunflashes.

 

The work of reinforcement being successfully completed, all was in order for the Suvla operation to proceed. The risk attending it, as it was finally settled, was considerably greater than that of the Anzac landing. The original inten­tion, as agreed between the Admiral and the General, was to land the whole of the force on the Nibrunesi beach, which lies outside and just south of the bay. It was admirably adapted for the purpose. Not only did it afford ample elbow room, but during the naval raid that had been made upon Nibrunesi observation post on Lala Baba Hill it had been found to be so "steep‑to" that destroyers could run in with their bows almost touching the beach. Both from a naval and a military point of view nothing better could be desired, and so it stood in the operation orders which the Commander‑in‑Chief issued to Lieutenant‑General The Hon. Sir F. W. Stopford on July 29. He it was who, as commander of the new army corps (IXth), was to have charge of the Suvla part of the operation. These orders laid down as the primary object "to secure Suvla Bay as a base for all the forces operating in the northern zone." If he found this could be done without using the whole of his force, he was to assist General Birdwood's attack by an advance on the village of Biyuk Anafarta, with the object of moving up the eastern spurs of Sari Bair. On discussing these orders with the General commanding the XIth Division, which was to lead off, he came to the conclusion that the bay could not be secured without seizing the whole of the high ground between Ejelmer Bay and Sari Bair known as Ana­farta Ridge, and for this it would be necessary to land two

 

Aug. 1, 1915

THE LANDING PLACES

 

brigades inside Suvla Bay on its eastern shore. (Properly speaking, the Anafarta Ridge is a low spur taking off from this high ground. but in the narrative the expression has been used to describe the group of heights now known as Kavak Tepe Sirt.)

 

But Admiral de Robeck and, his staff saw serious objections. Having already reconnoitred the place, as thoroughly as could be done, from the sea and the left of the Anzac position, they reported that a landing by night inside the bay was inadvis­able. Though a proper survey was impossible for secrecy's sake, they could see enough to tell them the old chart they had was not to be relied on. The eastern shore had appar­ently silted up and the north shore was clearly foul with reefs. Under these conditions of uncertainty they could not undertake to land two brigades at once. One it might be possible to get ashore, but they could not promise to get up a second till four hours after the first had landed, the reason being that the motor lighters would probably take the ground and would not be able to return for the second brigade. For these reasons they were still for landing the whole force at Nibrunesi.

 

The soldiers, however, still had to insist. From the northern point of the bay there ran north‑eastward and parallel to the coast a ridge known as Karakol, and this at least it was necessary to seize at once as part of the covering position; otherwise, they urged, the bay would be untenable and could not be used as a base. Between the southern end of this ridge and the Nibrunesi beach was a salt lagoon which left only a narrow spit of sand between it and the southern half of the east shore of the bay, and it was along this spit that a force landed at Nibtunesi beach would have to make its way north. Whether the lagoon was dry or not could not be seen, but if it proved to be impassable or defended there was little likelihood of the ridge being seized at the first onset by troops advancing from Nibrunesi. The General, therefore, was anxious to land half his force within the bay north of a cut which was believed to connect the lagoon with the sea.

 

The two Commanders‑in‑Chief thus found themselves face to face with one of those delicate questions which cannot fail to arise in the conduct of combined operations. Con­tinental Powers had never seen but one way to deal with them, and that was to make the General supreme and the Admiral subordinate. Our own long experience had taught us at an early stage that in practice this plausible solution tended to raise more difficulties than it removed. The British method was to have two co‑equal Commanders‑in‑Chief, the

 

Aug 2, 1915

 

Admiral being paramount at sea and the General on land. By tradition the Admiral was to land the troops and re‑embark them as and where the General desired, so far as was, in his opinion, technically possible and consistent with the safety of the fleet. If the General's plan involved, from a naval point of view, risk to the army, it was for him to say, after the sea risk had been explained, whether he would accept it or not. Naturally such an arrangement could only work by mutual goodwill and understanding between the two officers concerned, but we had found it the only practicable method, and this case affords an excellent example of its merits.

 

The difference to be settled was one of unusual complexity, for the naval and military exigencies were tightly interwoven. To the navy the command of Suvla Bay was indispensable. Not only was it essential to their ability to give continued support to the army, but it could so easily be closed by nets that large ships would be able to lie there, and thus the difficulty of supply for the whole northern zone would be materially reduced. The nets, of course, would only prevent the entrance of submarines; they were no bar to torpedoes, and in the initial stages of the operation, when the bay was crowded, ships would have to lie so close to the net that they could easily be hit by torpedoes fired from outside. This was a risk which to the utmost extent the Admiral was ready to run, for by no other means could the army he was there to assist carry out its last hope of breaking through the deadlock ashore; but with guns on the heights com­manding the bay and always forcing the transports close up to the net, the risk would become so great as to bar entirely the working of the base. On these grounds he could but agree to what the divisional General considered absolutely necessary for securing the ridge; and finally on August 2 the operation orders were so far modified that one brigade was to be landed north of the cut and the other, with the rest of the division, on Nibrunesi beach, whence, as soon as Lala Baba was rushed, they could march northward along the shore of the bay. Having reluctantly decided to take the risk of landing a whole brigade simultaneously in the dark on an un­surveyed beach, the Admiral at once set about minimising it. In case things went wrong with the destroyers and motor lighters orders were issued for an alternative landing flotilla, consisting of ketches (trawlers and drifters) with tows of the transports' lifeboats, to be anchored off the mouth of the bay, a typical example of the spirit by which from first to last all concerned testified to the vitality and virtue of our

 

Aug. 1915

NAVAL SUPPORT

 

traditional method of command in the hands of men of goodwill and understanding.

 

The question of naval support, now that the monitors and bulge ships had nearly all arrived, was comparatively simple. It was these specially prepared craft, which, with the cruisers and destroyers, had of late been doing most of the battery work on the flanks, that were to be used. All the battleships had been kept back in reserve for action that would be needed if the new plan proved successful in throwing open the Straits. The supporting ships were organised in three squadrons.

 

The 1st under Admiral Nicholson, with his flag in the Exmouth at Kephalo, was to be devoted to the southern or Helles zone, for an integral part of the coming operation was an attack in force on the Krithia and Achi Baba position. (During the operation he flew his flag in the Scorpion on the left flank.) For the left flank in this area were detailed the Edgar, two monitors, (Raglan, Abercrombie), three destroyers (Scorpion, Wolverine, Renard), and the kite balloon ship Hector. Support of the right flank, except for two French and two British destroyers (Harpy, Savage) at Helles, was confined to counter­battery against the Asiatic guns by the Roberts and two small monitors from Rabbit Island, with a French battleship in reserve at Kephalo in case more weight was required.

 

The 2nd Squadron, under Captain The Hon. A. D. E. H. Boyle in the Bacchante, was for Anzac, with four monitors (Havelock, Humber, M 33, M 20) on the right flank and the Endymion (bulge ship), a small monitor (M 15) and two destroyers (Chelmer, Colne) on the left.

 

The 3rd Squadron, under Captain Fawcet Wray in his light cruiser the Talbot, was for Suvla, with two bulge ships (Grafton and Theseus) and three small monitors (M 29, M 30, M 31) and to this division were attached one destroyer and the balloon ship Manica for spot­ting.

 

The general conduct of the Suvla landing was assigned to Rear‑Admiral A. H. Christian, who had recently come out in place of Rear‑Admiral R. S. Phipps Hornby, and for the time flew his flag in the sloop Jonquil. Admiral Phipps Hornby had arrived in the Glory from the North American Station in June, but was invalided in July.

 

In addition to the usual artillery support the navy had also undertaken to arrange for two small diversions designed to hold certain enemy troops away from the northern beaches. The Turks, who were fully aware that large reinforcements had arrived ‑ they believed them to amount to 100,000 men­ - had collected large forces in the peninsula. In what zone the expected attack would fall they could not tell, and could do no more than dispose their troops in relation to the most

 

Aug 6, 1915

 

likely points of attack. Besides three divisions watching the Asiatic coast about Bashika Bay, five divisions facing our southern force and three in the Anzac zone, they had three more guarding the Bulair beaches and another south of Anzac, where the Chanak Plain runs out to the sea at the Olive Groves. Here a demonstration of landing was to be made by a flotilla of trawlers, while at the head of the Gulf of Xeros the Minerva and Jed were to land a force of three hundred and fifty irregulars under two French officers for a raid on the north shore.

 

The operation began with the movement in the southern zone. It was now temporarily under Major‑General W. Douglas of the XLI1nd Division, for unhappily Lieutenant­-General Hunter‑Weston's health had broken down under the long strain. (On August 8 Lieutenant‑General Sir F. J. Davies took over the com­mand of the VIIIth Corps, and Major‑General Douglas reverted to the command of the XLIInd Division.)

 

Although it was intended primarily as a holding attack, it was hoped that certain tactical progress would be made which might soon lead to the capture of Krithia. The attack, which was to be confined to our own right and centre, while the French stood fast in the trenches they had taken over, was timed for 3.50 in the afternoon on August 6, and had been prepared during the previous days by the supporting ships occasionally bombarding Achi Baba and other gun positions. In support of the actual attack the whole of the 1st Squadron was to join in the final artillery preparation, each ship with her appointed group of batteries, with special instructions to fire a proportion of shots on the weather side of both Krithia and Achi Baba so as to raise a dust screen across the enemy's observation posts, while the destroyers fired as required by the military direction officers ashore. At the prescribed moment the infantry rushed forward, and all appeared to be going well, but only for the first few seconds. Our centre and right found themselves up against heavy masses of Turks, and in spite of long and persistent fighting, involving many casualties, no impression could be made. The Turks, unable to divine where we meant to strike, had concentrated five divisions in their southern zone, so that of their own accord they had done what General Hamilton intended to force them to do by his diversionary attack. The result, however, was that only on our extreme left was a precarious hold won and maintained on a corner of the Turk­ish position. Everywhere else their lines were intact.

 

Simultaneously a similar attack was made against the Turkish left at Anzac, where a system of formidable trenches,

 

Aug. 6, 1915

ATTACK ON SARI BAIR

 

known as Lone Pine Hill, constituted the strongest section of the enemy's line. Though here again the main idea was diversionary, its capture was keenly desired. It commanded an important source of the enemy's water supply, and had further marked tactical importance which would render its seizure a clear step on the road to the ultimate object of getting astride the neck of the peninsula. To reinforce the Australian artillery the 2nd Squadron was brought up. The pre­paratory bombardment was assigned to the Bacchante (Bacchante 2‑9.2"; 12‑6"; 12‑12‑pounders) with the monitors protecting her from disturbance by the enemy's artillery: the Havelock with her 14‑inch guns kept an eye on any ships that might fire from the Narrows, while the Humber and the M 33 dealt with the guns between Gaba Tepe and the Olive Groves.

 

At 4.30 the bombardment began, and an hour later the Australians went over and rushed the wire, but not until they had tom up the massive timber covering of the trenches could they penetrate, and then the impossible was done. As a feat of arms it could hardly be surpassed, but the occupation of the redoubt was far from the end. Hour after hour as the Bacchante lifted to the ravines that formed the approaches to the captured trenches an heroic struggle raged for their retention. Mass upon mass the Turks hurled forward with splendid pertinacity, and upon these the Bacchante and Grafton took their toll as they made their way to the front. Yet neither side would give way. All night long and for the next forty‑eight hours the fight went on as fiercely as it began; since the first landing there had been nothing like it, but for all the Turks could do, the stubborn Australians were still in possession, with large numbers of prisoners.

 

By that time General Birdwood's real attack was in full swing. Its objective, it will be recalled, was the Sari Bair Ridge., which dominated both the Anzac and the Turkish positions. Where the ridge begins to fall to the sea, at a point known as "Battleship Hill" the main line of Turkish entrench­ments ended. It was, however, prolonged towards the sea at Ocean beach by a system of entrenched positions. Beyond the main line and to the right of it was a minor feature, Chunuk Bair, which was still unentrenched, and once in our hands would give us the whole Sari Bair Ridge. The enemy's flank could then be turned and his rear threatened. The plan meant that the attack must start from the Anzac extreme left in a north and north‑easterly direction, and then turn up the main ravines which led to the ridge easterly. To carry out so complicated an operation over a maze of broken ground

 

Aug 6-7, 1915

 

through thick scrub and in the dark required the nicest adjustment. The operating force was organised into two assaulting columns and two covering columns. The function of the covering columns was to clear and occupy the ground to the north, so that the assaulting columns could be free to march straight to the entrance of the ravines up which the main attack was to be thrust.

 

In the preliminary or covering stage the Turkish advanced positions must be won before the ground was made good, and here the navy could give direct assistance. The first of them was our "No. 8 Old Post," 800 yards from the beach. At the end of May it had been snatched from us by the Turks, and ever since they had been engaged in turning it into a well­-nigh impregnable redoubt. But what is difficult by force may be easy by guile. Its capture was assigned to the right covering force, composed of New Zealanders, under Brigadier-­General A..R. Russell, who, with Commander C. Seymour of the Colne, the left flank destroyer, arranged a pretty little stratagem. To ease their task, the Colne for several nights before the assault turned her searchlight on the post and then bombarded it for ten minutes. After a short interval she did it again, always at the same time, 9.20 to 9.30, till the Turks seem to have acquired the habit of retiring into cover as the hour approached. Needless to say, it was also the hour the assault was to be made.

 

At the appointed moment, with the guns of the Colne still covering the sound of their steps, the New Zealanders moved forward in the dark shadow that fringed the beam of the searchlight. Half of them crept up the bush‑covered spur on which the post stood, and then the moment the guns stopped and the searchlight was switched off they sprang up out of the scrub, to find the redoubt empty. So the first point was scored without a blow, and a good half‑hour before midnight the whole system of trenches was in their hands. Meanwhile the rest of General Russell's column passed to attack Bauchops Hill, the next post to the north­ward, and the valley between it and "Old Post." By 1.0 a.m. all this zone was won, the way for the right assaulting column was open, and General Russell could proceed against his final objective, Table Top, to which the Colne had shifted her fire and searchlight. It was a scarped hill sloping at an angle which, according to our regulations, was impracticable for infantry, but, nevertheless, when the Colne threw her beam up and ceased fire its precipitous sides were scaled, and soon after midnight, in face of a fine resistance put up by the Turks, that post too was in our hands, at the point of the bayonet and almost without a shot. As an example of perfect

 

Aug. 6‑7, 1915

LANDING OF XIth DIVISION

 

combination between land and sea, and a dashing push home of surprise, the movement could scarcely be surpassed.

 

Meanwhile the left covering column, consisting of two battalions of the XIIIth Division, under Brigadier‑General J. H. du B. Travers, had passed on, before Bauchops Hill was entirely ours, and in spite of enillading fire from the trenches still in the enemy's hands the New Army troops, unshaken, rushed the trenches in the next ravine northward and then stormed Damakjelik Bair, the hill beyond it. It was the last height towards Suvla, and so the New Army not only proved its metal, but cleared the way for the left assaulting column, and completed the security of the left rear of the main attack, which the Colne was now doing her best to cover.

 

 

 

Operations Against Suvla, the Landing of the XIth Division

 

Away to the left the landing at Nibrunesi beach of two brigades (32nd and 33rd) of the XIth Division had been going equally well. As at the first landing, the weather was perfect, with the sea like glass, and at Kephalo the leading troops were embarked without a hitch, five hundred in each motor lighter and five hundred in the destroyer that was to tow it. Seven destroyers and seven lighters carried the covering troops for this beach. The remainder, three thousand men, followed them, crowded into the supporting ships, Endymion and Theseus, the sloop Aster and six trawlers, the Aster towing a motor lighter and each of the trawlers four horse‑boats with guns and horses. With a destroyer anchored close in to the beach as a guide, the leading troops arrived accurately and to time about 10.0 p.m. and the lighters cast off and went in.

 

An hour later they had discharged their men, and two battalions were moving for the spit between the lagoon and the sea to seize Lala Baba Hill. Returning at once to the destroyers the lighters went in again, and by midnight all the covering troops were ashore and the lighters could come back to meet the cruisers, which had already arrived with the rest of the troops. The surprise was complete. Beyond a few rifle shots from amongst the sandhills there had been no opposition, and there was not a single casualty. (One naval rating was killed by a shot from the shore.) With equal success the cruisers were cleared, so that by 1.30 a.m. the whole of the two brigades were ashore with the guns and horses, and the two cruisers were able to take up their supporting stations for the coming day's work, while the rest of the troops advanced against their first objectives. These were Chocolate Hill, which lay about a mile and a half north‑east from the beach east of the lagoon and the guns on Ismail Oglu Tepe or "W" Hill a mile further to eastward. Both these Positions commanded Suvla Bay, where the most doubtful

 

Aug 6-7, 1915

 

part of the operation, the disembarkation of the remaining brigade (34th) of the XIth Division, was proceeding. Only three destroyers (Bulldog, in which was Brigadier‑General W. H. Sitwell, commanding the brigade, Beagle and Grampus) with three motor lighters were required for this landing, but here also by dawn were to come two brigades of the Xth Division from Mityleni and Mudros, and the brigade that was now being landed was, in fact, its covering force. Here, too, General Stopford took his post of command with Admiral Christian in the sloop Jonquil, while Admiral de Robeck came over from Kephalo in the Chatham. The landing was planned to take place five hundred to a thousand yards north of the cut, directly opposite a knoll known as Hill 10, but in the blackness of the night, with no mark to guide them, the destroyers deviated slightly to starboard, and at 10.20 p.m. anchored six hundred yards from the shore a little to the south of the cut. Ignorant of the error, the lighters cast off and pushed straight inshore, and almost immediately the trouble which the Naval Staff had anticipated began.

 

One after the other they went hard aground a hundred yards short of the beach, and from the sand dunes snipers opened fire. So far, however, little harm was done. There were only three feet of water, and though it deepened shorewards all the fifteen hundred men by the aid of ropes run out from the lighters got ashore without serious loss. But how to support them was the difficulty. They were soon under fire from the Turkish outposts on Ghazi Baba, on the north arm of the bay, as well as from Hill 10 and from Lala Baba, which had not yet been taken; two small‑calibre guns were searching the bay with shrapnel, and the lighters were so hard aground they could not move to go back to the destroyers. As soon as their plight was known picket boats were sent off to fetch reserve tows, but it must be long before they arrived. Meanwhile every effort was being made to get the lighters off, and by 11.30 the Grampus had hers alongside again. An hour later her men were ashore, and by 2.30 the Bulldog's contingent had also been landed. It was not till nearly five o'clock that the Beagle had sent her men ashore in the reserve tows, and the delay was already serious. General Sitwell, when he landed, seized a sand dune in front of him, and believing it to be Hill 10, seems to have waited for the 32nd Brigade from Nibrunesi to join up. The Turks thus had time to be fully on the alert, and when the advance to Hill 10 was made it was held. Eventually, how­ever, the position was turned. By 6.0 a.m. it was in our possession, and only then could the deployment begin which had been timed for 1.30.

 

Aug. 7, 1915

LANDING OF Xth DIVISION

 

Unhappily the delay did not end here. At break of day, as Hill 10 was being occupied, Brigadier‑General F. F. Hill arrived from Mityleni with five battalions of the Xth (Irish) Division, and the question at once arose where they should land. Commander E. Unwin had just come on board the Jonquil to report that he had hastily surveyed the beach and found that the whole eastern side of the bay was so shoal and beset with rocks that it was impracticable. Admiral Christian was for sending the troops round to Nibrunesi at once, but it was not till General Stopford had consulted General Hill that he assented and the troop carriers were ordered there.

 

Before, however, they were all away Cdre R Keyes, Chief of Staff to Admiral de Robeck, came on board to report that two practicable beaches had been discovered on the north side of the bay where from a distance the rocks had seemed to bar all approach to the shore. After recon­noitring the Karakol Ridge to the northward, Admiral de Robeck had returned at 8.0 a.m., and could at once see that the reefs really ran out to seaward, so as to form two conv­enient coves, afterwards known as "A East" and "A West." It was obviously by far the best point for the left­-wing troops to land, and knowing by this time of the troubles at the original beach, he sent away Commodore Keyes to urge the newly‑found coves as an alternative. As they lay right under the Turkish look‑out post on Ghazi Baba, and troops could be dimly seen on the Karakol Ridge beyond, he ordered up a monitor and two destroyers to cover the landing. Meanwhile Commodore Keyes had ascertained that the troops were our own; in fact the 11th Manchesters, who were on the left of the XIth Division, were already established there. Commodore Keyes could, therefore, with increased confidence urge the Admiral's view of what should be done to recover lost time. Lieutenant‑General Sir B. T. Mahon, with the remaining three battalions of the Xth Division, had also arrived; his idea was that the division should be landed immediately on the north shore. As orders had already been given to General Hill's five battalions to go round to Nibrunesi, General Stopford was unwilling to recall them, but General Mahon was directed to land his force where the Admiral advised, as well as one of General Hill's battalions which had arrived late and had been deflected to the northern arm of the bay. (This composite force of four battalions, landed in the northern part of the bay, together with the 11th Manchesters, came under the command of Brigadier‑General L. L. Nicol.)

 

The new landing‑place, besides saving the men a long

 

Aug 7, 1915

 

march along the beach from Nibrunesi, had another advantage. At dawn the Turks had begun shelling the other beaches, this one they could not reach. Moreover, owing to the first landed troops not having reached their initial objective, all the inner part of the bay was unsafe. At 8.30 the Com­modore had returned to the Jonquil with Admiral de Robeck, and while they were conferring with General Stopford about the new scheme of landing, the destroyer Scourge, which had been trying to get off some lighters that were still aground was hit by a shell in the engine‑room and had to retire for repairs. Shortly afterwards a definite signal was made that the new beaches were to be the main landing‑place.

 

Unhappily they had not proved all they seemed, for when the men began to land at "A East" land mines, placed there apparently to defend the Ghazi Baba post, exploded, with disaster to the leading files, but the landing proceeded without interruption. The other cove was found to be clear, and though the disembarkation was slow, owing to there being room for no more than three lighters abreast, progress was soon made. With the destroyer Foxhound operating on the left and another monitor searching the ground in front from Ejelmer Bay, General Mahon was able to push along the ridge till the new beach was practically safe. By this time, moreover, half the anti‑submarine nets were in place and the two paddle net‑layers had gone back for the remaining sections.

 

In the centre and on the right the position was less satis­factory. Here the covering troops were little more than clear of the beach. The line actually ran from the right of the Nibru­nesi beach through the lagoon, which was found to be dry, and Hill 10 to a point on the Karakol Ridge which General Mahon had reached nearly two miles in advance of his landing‑place. The main cause of the halt was said to be want of water. Ample provision had been made in the fleet for bringing it up as soon as the troops were landed, but owing to the need of shifting the point of disembarkation in Suvla Bay the first water lighters could not begin to get in till after noon; even so it was only at the narrow beach on which the troops were crowded. Later on one got in under shelter of Lala Baba, and the Foxhound was doing all she could to supply General Mahon's men, by way of the Karakol cliffs. Unhappily the arrival of the lighters did not end the trouble, for it was found that the troops were entirely unprovided with gear for the reception or distribution of the water. Baths, canvas tanks, buckets and tins were hastily requisitioned from all the craft within reach, but the supply was all too small for the demand on that burning August day, and the troops were

 

Aug. 7, 1915

FAILURE AT SARI BAIR

 

declared incapable of further effort till their thirst had been quenched.

 

With the main attack at Anzac things had gone better. By a display of leadership, hard fighting and endurance that nothing in the war surpassed, the two assaulting columns had never ceased to grope their way forward up the scrub-­filled ravines and over the tortuous ridges. No wire was too thick, no trenches too well held, no scarps too precipitous to stop them. Higher and higher they fought their way, and the stubborn Turkish resistance melted before them like shadows of the night, till when the Sari Bair Ridge was taking shape in the first light of the dawn the right column was on the Rhododendron spur, which led straight up to their goal at Chunuk Bair, and the left was just below Hill Q and Koja Temen Tepe, the two culminating points of the ridge where victory was holding out her hand. In the growing light they still pressed on, exhausted as they were, but only to find the enemy's resistance was hardening. His reserves had hitherto been held back on Battleship Hill by a desperate attack which the Anzac centre was making on the trenches at its foot. Now part of them were being hurried forward. By this means about 7.0 a.m. the great attack was held up, and a call went out to the guns. The supporting ships heard it and joined in. For two hours the Endymion with her 6‑inch guns was smothering Battleship Hill with lyddite. The Bacchante had her 9.2's on Chunuk Bair, where she claimed to have silenced two guns, while with her 6‑inch she was doing her best, like the Endymion, to stop the advance of the enemy's reserves. Then at 9.30 the guns ceased fire and the weary troops were called on for another effort. The response was all that human endurance could give, but it was not enough, and in the end they could do no more than dig themselves in on the ground they had so gallantly won just short of the summit.

 

Up to this time it does not appear that the failure of the main attack to gain the ridge was materially affected by the delay of the Suvla force, but on that side progress was slow. Owing to the exhaustion of the men, want of water and the displacement of units due to the changed landing arrange­rnents, no further advance was made till late in the afternoon. It was not till about 5.30 that an attack on Chocolate Hill was launched under cover of the guns of the Talbot, Theseus and Grafton, but soon after 7.0 the whole position was occupied, while on the left General Mahon had fought his way along the coast ridge to its highest point at Kiretch Tepe Sirt. From this point the line ran roughly southwards

 

Aug, 8, 1915

 

and well east of the lagoon as far as Chocolate Hill. The inter­val from this point to Damakjelik Bair, where the left of the Anzacs rested, was unoccupied. This meant it was but half­way to the line it had been hoped to seize on the first night. (British casualties on the 7th amounted to 1,700, rather more than the total of the opposing force.)

 

In front of them still lay the ridge that ran down from Ejelmer Bay to "W" Hill, and not only was the occupation of these heights deemed essential for the command of the bay, but about the two Anafartas was the pastoral country on which the army counted for its water. It had been the hope that both places would be in our hands by the first morning. Yet all the second day (the 8th) passed without any further advance being made. General Stopford urged the divisional Generals to push on; they could only reply that owing to the disorganisation of the line and the lack of water and exhaustion they could not move. There was also another reason for delay which weighed with the General. Hitherto, owing to the need of getting mules ashore for the distribution of water, only two batteries of mountain guns and one of field artillery had been landed, the latter without horses; and without proper artillery preparation he did not think the troops should be allowed to make frontal attacks on entrenched positions. The naval guns had done excellent work the previous day against Chocolate Hill, and this he acknowledged. But now he pointed out it was no simple question of a definite target, but of searching broken ground where it was impossible for ships to do all that was required.

 

His objection was one that goes to the root of disembarka­tion tactics, as evolved from long tradition in the British Service. It was on this tradition Sir Ian Hamilton had made his plan. "Normally," he wrote, in his despatch, "it may be correct to say that in modem warfare infantry cannot be expected to advance without artillery preparation. But in a landing on a hostile shore the order has to be inverted. The infantry must advance and seize a suitable position to cover the landing and to provide artillery positions for the main thrust. The very existence of the force, its water supply, its facilities for munitions and supplies, its power to reinforce, must absolutely depend on the infantry being able instantly to make good sufficient ground without the aid of artillery other than can be supplied for the purpose by floating batteries. This is not a condition that should take the commander of a covering force by surprise. It is one already foreseen." Whether or not the latest experience goes to show that under modern conditions this principle will no

 

Aug. 8, 1915

THE ADVANCE HELD UP

 

longer hold good, may be regarded as an open question until it is proved that the control and nature of floating fire cannot be developed so as to meet the new conditions. But that at the time the plan was made it was the traditional principle, admits of no doubt whatever.

 

At General Headquarters the state of affairs at Suvla was unsuspected up to the morning of August 8. But as the forenoon wore on with no news of any further advance, General Hamilton began to feel that all was not well and he must get to the spot himself. Hitherto, as the main attack was from Anzac, and those at Helles and Suvla were sub­ordinate, he had remained at Imbros, as the best post of command for keeping his hand on the whole of his extensive combination. The destroyer Arno had been placed at his disposal by Admiral de Robeck, so that he could move at once to an point where he was required, but when about 11.30 a.m. he asked for her, he was informed she was drawing fires owing to boiler trouble and was not available. He begged the order should be revoked and that she should go to the military water ship to fill her boilers. This was not done, and as there was nothing else ready at Kephalo except the Commander‑in‑Chief's yacht Triad, the General had to stay where he was. Fortunately an hour later Admiral de Robeck, no less uneasy than the General, telegraphed for the Triad and informed him she would sail for Suvla at 4.0 p.m. Still, owing to further difficulties it was not till 4.30 that he got away. So anxious indeed was the Admiral that he seems to have drafted a signal to General Hamilton saying it was important that they should meet either at Suvla or Imbros, but presumably when it was known that the General was coming in the Triad the message was not sent. (The only direct communication between the two Commanders‑in‑Chief was by wireless through Chatham and Exmouth. The message does not appear in the signal log of either ship nor in that of the Triad. By 1.15 a.m. on August 7 a cable had been run out from Imbros, but it was brought ashore at Nibrunesi Point.)

 

He arrived, at 6.0 p.m., to find that throughout the whole precious day no further progress had been possible. The failure to get on was the more to be regretted, for at Anzac an attack which had been launched at dawn on Chunuk Bair and Hill Q had not succeeded. In spite of another day's exemplary fighting all they had done was to get a lodg­ment on the saddle between those two heights. There the Anzacs had been able to entrench, but everywhere else the troops had been met by overwhelming numbers and had had to fall back on the position of the day before.

 

Jul-Aug, 1915

 

It was therefore of the last importance to give the main effort, which was to be resumed next day, all possible support. General Stopford had ordered an attack for dawn, but General Hamilton, feeling there was not a moment to lose if the enemy's reinforcements for the coveted positions were to be anticipated, was for attacking immediately. He therefore went ashore, and overruling all objections made by the corps and divisional commanders, himself ordered the only brigade (32nd) which seemed to be concentrated to advance at once on Tekke Tepe and the heights north of Anafarta Sagir. At the same time one battalion of the 33rd Brigade was directed to fill the gap between Chocolate Hill and Damakjelik Bair. The LIIIrd Division, under Major‑General The Hon. J. E. Lindley, which had been retained at Mudros with the LIVth in gencral reserve, arrived at Suvla and landed during the night.

 

From the other quarters of the field the news was little better. At Lone Pine the fighting had been incessant, but it was still held. In the Helles zone also fighting had been continuous. Again and again the Turks had counter‑attacked in great force, only to be driven back with heavy loss. To this extent the operation was succeeding as a holding attack, but no real progress towards Krithia and Achi Baba had been possible. Yet from the naval effort to assist the general plan there was one cheering success to record. It came from the Marmara submarines. After a further adventurous cruise during the last week in July Commander Boyle in E 14 had come down to meet his successor, Commander Nasmith in E 11, who came up on August 5, ten days after the Mariotte was lost. Without incident Commander Nasmith reached Nagara Point, but on rounding it was caught in the new net. In a few minutes, however, he broke through, and immediately afterwards (7.0 a.m.) torpedoed a three‑masted transport in Ak Bashi harbour, which was being used for troops and supplies coming from Asia. The following afternoon the two submarines met, and E 11 was able to give Commander Boyle his orders for combining with the great attack. It was now well ascertained that all troops coming from Constan­tinople had to march by the Gallipoli road, and at two places it was exposed to the sea ‑ at the Bulair lines and at the Dohan Asian Bank, five miles to the eastward. Here they were to lie and watch the road. They were about to proceed to their station when a gunboat, the Berc‑i‑Satvet came in sight. Both boats gave chase, and eventually at 4.30 E 11 torpedoed her off Silivri, an ancient port midway on the northern coast, where she managed to beach herself.

 

Aug 7-8, 1915

E 11 AND E 14 IN THE MARMARA

 

As soon as it was dark they made back to the Straits, and at daybreak were submerged watching the road, E 14 at Bulair and E 11 to the eastward. For some time nothing appeared out of the dust that arose on the road except bullocks, but by 11.30 E 11 could see troops, and rising to the surface she quickly scattered them. Half an hour later another column appeared, and this she compelled to open out and take cover. Apparently the men crept forward unseen, for presently E 14 got them, and E 11, who had followed them down, soon joined her, and for the best part of an hour they had them under shell fire. Still the troops were not stopped. In spite of the punishment they hurried on, "marching at high speed," and suffered heavily, especially from E 11, who had mounted a 12‑pounder in place of her 6‑pounder. Only when a field gun opened an accurate fire were they forced to dive. But yet they had not done. Rising again they found the Turks resting and again they took toll till the field gun once more interfered. (On the 6th E 11 was bombed by an aeroplane without effect.)

 

Still this was by no means the end. Bigger game was at hand. Before the submarines appeared in the Marmara it will be recalled that the Turks were in the habit of sending down battleships to disturb our ships bombarding over the land and to harass the anchorage at Anzac. Since May 21 none had appeared, but now that everything was at hazard they had decided to send down the Barbarousse Haireddine with sorely needed munitions to support the defence of the peninsula. (Barbarousse Haireddine, 9,900 tons, 6-11". For her orders, see Liman von Sanders' Funf Jahre Turkei, p. 117.)

 

At dawn on the 8th E 11 could see her steaming westward past the Bulair lines. She had a destroyer screening her, but Com­mander Nasmith attacked and at 5.0 a.m. torpedoed her amid­ships. The battleship at once took a heavy list, altered course for the shore and opened a rapid fire at his periscope. A second shot was impossible, but in twenty minutes a large flash as of an explosion was seen and she slowly rolled over and sank. With her were lost 253 Turkish seamen. Against the troops little more could be done, for the exposed roads were now too well protected by artillery, but though foiled in this work E 14 was able to torpedo a 5,000‑ton supply ship as she approached Dohan Asian. She was able to beach herself, and there was shelled by both boats till she was in flames. But this was not her end. A day or two later she was to suffer another attack of an entirely novel character.

 

For some time past the Ben-My-Chree had been practising dropping torpedoes from her seaplanes, and the difficulties

 

Aug, 12. 1915

 

had now been so far overcome that the first attempt was to be made. The scouting planes had reported a large trans­port lying close inshore near the Bulair lines. Proceeding up to the head of the Gulf of Xeros the Ben-My-Chree, on the 12th, successfully got off one of her planes, piloted by Flight­Commander C. H. K. Edmonds. Passing over the Bulair isthmus at a height of 1,500 feet he saw his quarry lying just west of Injeh Burnu. To ensure a successful attack it had been found that the shot must not be taken at a greater height than fifteen feet. Passing the ship at this elevation and at a distance of three hundred yards he released his torpedo. As he rose again rapidly under fire the track could be seen running true till it took the enemy amidships with a big explosion. She was too close in to sink, but she settled down, and Flight‑Commander Edmonds on his return from his brilliant and unprecedented exploit could be congratulated on having rendered useless one of the last of the enemy's large transports and in adding a new terror to naval warfare. Nevertheless, although this detracted little from the merit of his exploit, he had really killed the slain, for as the ship was reported to be of 5,000 tons and to be lying between the Dohan Aslan bank and Injeh Burnu, she was without doubt the one that Commander Boyle in E 14 had disabled at this spot, on the 8th. (Two more vessels were torpedoed on the 17th by another seaplane.)

 

As the seaplane was finishing his victim he himself, having completed his cruise, was again coming down the Straits. This time he was caught in the Nagara net, but he quickly broke through it, and so, after being missed by a torpedo as he passed the Narrows and fouling an electric contact mine whose wires his propellers carried away, he got safely back, with his crew exhausted by sickness, having completed his sixty‑eighth day in the Marmara. (On this cruise of 22 days he had sunk two steamers and 22 sailing vessels)

 

How much exactly the submarines had done to retard the ever‑increasing strength of the enemy in the peninsula cannot be told, but as units in the great amphibious combination they had certainly pulled their weight. All that we can affirm is that neither their activity nor any other of the sub­sidiary operations availed to prevent the enemy bringing up their reserves to the critical zone. So well had they been disposed by the German Staff that the time which had been lost after the first surprise had proved ample for bringing them into action at Anzac and Suvla. On August 9 another desperate attack was made on Chunuk Bair and Hill Q, the next height on the ridge. At daylight the Bacchante, supported

 

Aug. 9‑10, 1915

NEW ATTACK ON SARI BAIR

 

by the Endymion, a monitor and three destroyers, and every gun ashore that would bear were concentrating on it, till in three‑quarters of an hour the whole ridge was a mass of flames and smoke. Then in three columns the attack was launched. The saddle between the two hills was rushed, and the troops that gained it were able to look down the other side upon the Dardanelles. In spite of every effort to turn them out they held on; elsewhere the attack failed, and by night the troops were back practically in the morning's positions.

 

Next day (the 10th) the attack was renewed, but only to meet ever‑increasing forces and to collapse without result. Up on Sari Bair the accumulation of the enemy was so great that by sheer weight of numbers our men were swept off the dearly won saddle, but there the Turkish success ended. Flushed with victory and confident in their numbers, they advanced to drive our exhausted men down the way they had come, but as soon as the first line topped the ridge it was caught by the artillery and the ships and simply swept away. Undismayed, they came on again, line after line and mass after mass, in splendid style, giving a target such as our gunners seldom saw, and every time their gallant men disappeared in the storm of shell and were seen no more. On this day also the Turks made two determined attacks on the foothills where the Suvla and Anzac forces had joined hands. Both were repulsed, and so in glorious failure the great attempt came to an end.

 

From Suvla there had been little support, in spite of all General Hamilton could do to provide it. The night attack of the 32nd Brigade had failed. Both General Hamilton and Admiral de Robeck, who had been watching the attack from the bridge of the Triad, were eager to secure the Anafarta Ridge from Ejelmer Bay to the village of Anafarta Sagir, in order to make Suvla Bay safe from the enemy's guns. With this object in view the General again went ashore early on the 9th and began urging that General Mahon should be pushed on from the point on the sea ridge where, in spite of the assistance of ship fire on his flank, he was being held up by a small force of gendarmerie. General Stopford, however, saw difficulties, and General Hamilton, finding the corps too dispirited for an immediate attack on the Anafarta Ridge, went off to Anzac to confer with General Birdwood. There still remained one division in reserve, Major‑General F. S. Inglefield's as yet untried Essex Territorials (LIVth), and as General Birdwood said he could not use it against Sari Bair, owing to the difficulty of getting water forward, and agreed that Anafarta Ridge was for the moment

 

Aug. 10-14, 1915

 

more important, it was decided to land it at Suvla. Whilst they were being disembarked on the following day (10th), an unsuccessful attack on Chocolate Hill was made by the LIlIrd Division, and the 11th was spent in reorganising the line. With the fresh troops now under his command General Stopford was urged to make a dash for Kavak Tepe and Tekke Tepe, the two culminating heights on the Anafarta Ridge. Still the inertia of the IXth Corps could not be overcome. General Stopford had no faith in his troops, he was nervous about advancing before he had cleared the rough ground on his right up to the Anafarta village, and nothing came of it but a few half‑hearted attempts which still further dispirited the whole corps.

 

General Hamilton could not believe the fault lay with the men; he knew them, and knew that precisely similar new formations had just been doing all that soldiers could do under vigorous leadership at Anzac, and could not believe that a real effort to secure the peace of the bay would not succeed. At all costs the attempt must be renewed, for it had now become too evident that the capture of the dominating heights was vital to the whole plan. On the 12th, while the navy was working its hardest at completing landing‑places and getting ashore the gear and supplies most urgently needed, and at the same time was evacuating the crowds of wounded, shrapnel began to rain on the sup­porting ships, and before they could get away they had suffered fifty casualties. It was now General Hamilton decided on a change in the Suvla command, and on the 15th he called up Major‑General De Lisle from Helles to supersede General Stopford in command of the 1Xth Corps pending the arrival from France of Lieutenant‑General The Hon. J. H. G. Byng. Other changes were made at the same time and Major‑General W. E. Peyton was, moreover, expected on the 18th with his 5,000 dismounted Yeomanry from Egypt.

 

General De Lisle's instructions were to land at Suvla and reorganise his corps for the new attack which General Hamilton had in mind. (The IXth Corps would he composed as follows:‑ Xth Division (less one brigade, the 29th, at Anzac, but with the 5,000 Yeomanry attached); the XIth, LIIIrd and LIVth Divisions. Owing to casualties the corps could only concentrate 10,000 rifles for the projected attack.)

 

It was designed on a different plan from the last. The main force of the attack was to be thrown against the Anafarta Spur, with its two dominant heights Scimitar Hill and "W" Hill, the possession of which he now considered would best secure the safety of Suvla Bay and open the way for a further advance through Ana­farta Sagir to envelop the force that was defying the Anzacs

 

Aug. 4‑21, 1915

THE LAST PHASE

 

on the coveted Sari Bair Ridge. The Anzacs would be able to do no more than swing forward their left, which had remained bent back south‑west along the Damakjelik Bair spur, and endeavour to seize the important wells at Kabak Kuyu and Hill 60. This height with "W" Hill formed, as it were, the gallery of the Anafarta Valley and commanded its whole extent, so that their possession would decide whether the valley was a road for our further advance or a highway for the enemy's reinforcements. The rest of the force, that is, the XIth Division, was merely to hold the line from Scimitar Hill northwards to the sea.

 

For the present, of course, a renewal of the attempt to gain the main objective at Sari Bair was out of the question. The new troops had lost too heavily and were too much dis­organised for such an operation without a large increase of force, and General Hamilton was asking for 45,000 drafts to fill his depleted ranks and 50,000 new reinforcements.

 

For the preliminary work immediately in hand General De Lisle could only report that it would take several days to get the corps fit for the attack. But time was of the utmost importance, for with every day that passed the Turks were increasing their strength. Their efforts in this direction fortunately gave a solution of the dilemma. Word came up from Helles that in spite of all we could do there to hold down the Turks, troops were being withdrawn to the northward. On this General Hamilton decided to move up the old XXIXth Division and call on them for one more effort. They began to arrive on the 18th, and the effect of their presence amongst the new troops became rapidly apparent, so that the operation could be fixed for the 21st.

 

Much was hoped for from the preparatory bombardment, for, though the artillery, which it had been as yet possible to land, was not up to strength, a special new scheme of fire was worked out for the supporting ships, and the Venerable came into Suvla Bay to reinforce them. In order, moreover, to take all possible chances from the advantage of the light, the attack was timed for the afternoon, when the low sun always sharply defined the lines of the enemy's trenches and was full in the eyes of the defending force.

 

As things turned out, all that had been arranged to give the infantry the utmost support proved unavailing. By one of the many ill turns the weather did us, the atmospheric condition which had prevailed so long suddenly changed. The morning of the 21st revealed the whole Suvla region enveloped in a low mist. Spotting both for the shore and

 

Aug. 21-27, 1915

 

ship guns was practically impossible, and the infantry had to do the work with no effective help. Yet they did wonders. In spite of forest fires that held them up in places, in spite of some confusion caused by certain units losing their direction, the XXIXth Division with splendid dash reached the top of Scimitar Hill, the Yeomanry, coming on in support over the open like veteran troops, forced their way up "W" Hill, but neither point could be held ‑ they were simply swept away by shell fire, which the ships in the low visibility could not check, and they had to fall back to the old front line, whence the fine attack had started.

 

On the other side of the valley General Cox, who now had the Anzac left, had better fortune. (Besides his own 29th Brigade of Indian infantry he had the 4th Australian Brigade, two battalions of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles, two of the 29th Brigade from the Xth (Irish) Division, and the 4th South Wales Borderers.)

 

That evening the invaluable wells at Susak Kuyu were won and a lodgment effected on Hill 60, and, in spite of desperate efforts by the Turks, were held. Next morning (22nd) the counter‑attack continued, but in spite of it most of the ground was made good and connection established both with the rest of the Anzac line and with General Peyton's Yeomanry. The situa­tion was thus much improved. Though the whole of Hill 60 had not been gained, the line had been straightened, much elbow room had been won, which opened a freer communica­tion between Anzac and Suvla, and the burning question of water supply was materially eased.

 

Both at Suvla and Anzac the following three days passed quietly, but on the afternoon of the 27th another effort was made to capture Hill 60 by a force of 1,000 fit men. These had to be drawn from no fewer than nine battalions owing to sickness and battle casualties having greatly reduced every unit in the area. After very severe fighting against deter­mined opposition a firm hold was gained on the southern slopes of the hill and on the spur to its immediate right. The upper half of the enclosed work still defied capture, however, and reinforcements pushed into the attack that night could make little progress. On the 28th the captured position was retained and improved, and, with an additional reinforce­ment, the attack was renewed an hour after midnight. Fighting continued till after daybreak and this time persist­ence seemed at long last to be rewarded with success, but the morning revealed that the captured trenches did not encircle the hill. The actual summit was still in the hands of the enemy.

 

Aug. 1915

FAILURE

 

One more thrust might have finished the work, but the truth seems to have been that the whole corps was now completely spent.

 

In the great August offensive (6th to 29th) the British casualties totalled nearly 38,000. Still the well‑planned strategical surprise had failed. What that failure meant for the Central Powers is well put by General Liman von Sanders. "Had the campaign," he says, "been brought to the tactical decision which the landing at Anafarta had in view, the batteries in the coastal forts, which were not well supplied with ammunition, would have been destroyed. The mines would have been swept in the Narrows, and the victorious army and fleet would have had no difficulty in combining against Constantinople. A Russian landing would certainly have followed. Our intelligence reports from Athens and Bucharest were quite explicit about the transports being assembled at Odessa. The Western Powers would then have established secure communications with Russia and have torn Turkey away from the Central Powers. Under such conditions it is most improbable that Bulgaria would ever have abandoned her neutrality and plunged into so unpromis­ing a military situation." (Fuenf Jahre Turkei, p. 116.) Such were the results which the brilliant management of General Hamilton's design had seemed at first to promise. By a hair's breadth it had failed, and now nothing more was to be hoped from the Dardanelles without reinforcements so large as materially to affect the position in other theatres and demand a reconstruction of the whole Allied war plan.

 

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VI

 

GENERAL SITUATION AFTER SUVLA ‑ THE COLLAPSE OF THE RUSSIAN FRONT ‑ CHANGE IN THE FRENCH ATTITUDE ‑ PERIL OF SERBIA ‑ BRITISH SUBMARINES IN THE MARMARA

 

THE news of the failure to turn the Turkish position at Gallipoli, or even to establish a secure footing at Suvla from which there was hope of turning it in the near future, reached the Cabinet at a moment when the cup of their difficulties was already brimming over. They were face to face with one of those striking developments of the war which must always be a landmark in its course. "On account of the general situation," so Lord Kitchener had telegraphed to General Hamilton on the eve of the battle of Scimitar Hill, "it is very desirable at the present juncture that a success should be obtained either in France or the Dardanelles." So desirable indeed was it felt to be, that at the same time Admiral de Robeck was informed that if any of his old battleships could make any really decisive or important contribution to the success of the land operations, he might use them in any way he thought desirable.

 

At the moment there was nothing to be done, nor after the failure at Suvla was there any present hope of such an occasion arising for at least several months. General Hamil­ton had further been told that a serious offensive in co­operation with the French was being organised on the Western Front, and that he was not to count on any large divisional units being diverted from France. He must rely on such drafts and reinforcements as were on the way to him and on such further troops as could be spared from Egypt. These, as he pointed out in his reply, would be barely sufficient to enable him to hold on to the new ground he had seized; and the whole situation at the Dardanelles sank into a deadlock of trench warfare, with no prospect of obtaining there the success which was so sorely needed to break the gloom of the general outlook.

 

The cloud that had settled down on the prospects of the Entente was due to the successful German campaign in the East.

 

Aug.‑Sept., 1915

RUSSIAN COLLAPSE

 

The vast offensive which they had begun in the middle of July in concert with the Austrians had given startling results. On August 5, after a third tremendous battle before Warsaw, the city had been occupied by the Germans. Simul­taneously an Austro‑German army entered Ivangorod, the great railway centre to the southward, sixty miles up the Vistula. Another Austrian army, advancing northward from Galicia against the Russian left, was already in possession of the next junction at Lublin, and to the northward the Germans were pressing on through the Baltic Provinces against the enemy's right. It was clear the whole Russian Front was broken; on August 17 Kovno fell to the Germans, who thus directly threatened Riga; on the 25th/26th Brest-Litovsk, the key of the Russian centre, was in their hands, and they had definitely pushed the enemy back to a line that ran roughly southward from the Gulf of Riga.

 

At present, therefore, all hope of carrying through the original plan of the Dardanelles enterprise was gone. Even if we succeeded in breaking through to the Bosporus, Russia would not be able to join hands with us for crushing Turkey out of the hostile alliance. With the overpowering moral impression of the Austro‑German advance, Bulgaria must he looked upon rather as a probable enemy than a possible ally. From Italy no help could come, as at one time we had hoped. Her first great effort against Austria was exhausted. By August 10 the fighting on the Isonzo, which had begun at the end of June, had come to an end, and although our Allies had established themselves on the river in enemy territory, the defensive front which the Austrians had taken up remained unbroken. (What the Italians call the first battle of the Isonzo began on June 29 and ended on July 7. The second battle was from July 18 to August 10. The third did not begin till October 18.)

 

To make matters worse, the relaxa­tion of the Italian pressure was marked by an Austro‑German concentration on the Serbian frontier. We had therefore to face the prospect that at any time a third invasion of that unhappy country might begin, with Rumania in a position which made it difficult for her to move, and Bulgaria lurking in keen anticipation for the moment when she could safely play jackal to the Central Powers.

 

In France ‑ in political circles at least ‑ the deepening danger of seeing the German dream of expansion in the East come true was being realised with scarcely less appre­hension than it was by our own Government; but we had no conception that it was likely to affect their war plans until, on September 1, they applied to know if we could

 

Aug. 1915

THE NEAR EAST

 

supply transport for four divisions from Marseilles to the Aegean. At first sight the request seemed to promise a new light of hope for the Dardanelles, but, on the other hand, so sudden a change of our Ally's attitude to the ill‑starred enterprise was difficult to understand. Were they converted to our Easterners' view that the best way to weld the efforts of the Entente into unity was a decisive blow at Turkey, or did the new departure spring from some obscure political origin? We could not tell, and so further uncertainty was added to the tangled situation.

 

Possibly the French proposal was a hybrid that had the stamp of both parents. On July 22 General Joffre, without consulting the Minister for War, had deprived General Sarrail of the command of the Third Army. His action came with something of a shock to the Government. General Sarrail was the man who had held Verdun against the first rush of the Germans and saved it for France. An officer of already high professional reputation, he thus became a national hero, especially with the politicians of the "Left." There was consequently a strong desire to soften his fall. The recent news that General Gouraud would be incapacitated by his wounds for a long time offered the required opportunity, and as soon as General Sarrail reached Paris he was offered the command at the Dardanelles. He refused on the ground that he could not accept a command inferior to that of which he had been deprived. His conditions for taking up the proffered post were that a separate "Army of the East" should be formed, that he was not to be under the British Commander‑in‑Chief, and that he was not to leave France till he could sail with the reinforcing divisions.

 

The first condition was the only one on which any assur­ance could be given. It happened to be entirely in accord with the views of certain members of the Government, and in particular M. Briand, a former premier and now Keeper of the Seals. Ever since December 1914, when the Serbians had so triumphantly flung the Austrians out of their country, he, like some of our own Ministers, had seen the key of the war in a vigorous intervention in the Balkans, his idea being that an army should be specially formed for the purpose. To this project he now recurred, and on August 8 General Sarrail was gazetted to the command of " L'Armee d'Orient." It was, of course, as yet a mere phantom army which was far from satisfying General Sarrail's conditions, but as a first step he was called on to furnish a plan of campaign. The

 

Aug. 1915

L'ARMEE D'ORIENT

 

memorandum he presented was very comprehensive, embrac­ing a number of alternative plans, but as a condition of all of them he insisted on the Gallipoli theatre being left to the British, while his own army, including the two French divisions then under General Hamilton, was to be depoyed elsewhere. Various lines of operation on the Asiatic side were considered. They included a direct attack to clear that side of the Straits, a more ambitious advance from the Gulf of Adramyti, the capture of Smyrna, and lastly the old idea of a descent at Alexandretta. But preferably to all these plans he finally recommended as the best means of securing a definite effect in the East an intervention in Serbia from Salonika. The memorandum was referred to General Joffre, who was as firmly as ever opposed to any withdrawal of troops from France, and General Sarrail was told he had cast his net too wide. Operations at Anzac, Bulair, or on the Asiatic shore of the Straits were all that could be contemplated, and he was called on for a second memorandum on this restricted basis.

 

At this point a further complication set in. At the moment when General Hamilton's request for large drafts and rein­forcements came to hand he had been told that no answer could be given till Lord Kitchener returned from France, where he had gone to confer with our Ally about a radical change of plan which the gloomy outlook on the Eastern Front seemed to demand. At an earlier conference held at Calais in July it had been settled that no serious offensive should he attempted in France till our joint strength had been developed to a point at which our preponderance of force would give definite hope of a telling success. But now, in view of the alarming collapse of the Russian Front, it was felt that this decision could not be adhered to. Unless something was done to relieve the pressure on our Eastern Ally, there was a possibility of her making a separate peace, as she had done under similar conditions with Napoleon in 1807. This was the fear that was echoed in the telegrams which Lord Kitchener sent to General Hamilton as soon as he returned, telling him how the general situation called for a success in France or the Dardanelles. Nothing appears to have been settled definitely, but although objection was raised that we could not hope to acquire an adequate preponderance this year, it was taken as settled that no increase of the Dardanelles force could be drawn from France

 

Aug. 1915

 

till after the offensive had been attempted ‑ probably in September. The utmost that could be done was to supply General Hamilton with drafts to replace his casualties, and for the conveyance of these troops the whole of our available transport was earmarked for two months to come.

 

In these circumstances the French request for transport for four divisions came with all the greater surprise. While On our side we had decided to postpone a decision as to increasing the strength of our effort in the Dardanelles till a full report had been received from General Hamilton, in France the movement for providing General Sarrail with his Armee d'Orient had never ceased. Besides four divisions from France, it was to comprise, as General Sarrail had stipulated, the two already at Gallipoli, and these Lord Kitchener had hinted he would have to replace with two from Sir John French's army. In addition to this stumbling­ block the difficulty of providing transport from the French marine was proving so great that in Paris the Opposition were using it as an insuperable objection to the whole plan. Hence the application for our assistance. The Admiralty were already up to their eyes in transport difficulties, but they had never yet refused to provide what military exigencies demanded. With increased effort, they said, it might be done, but the French should be called on to provide destroyer escort. Owing to the growing menace of submarines in the Mediterranean, the protection of transports was an increasing anxiety. Nevertheless, so anxious were we to fall in with our Ally's proposal that, in spite of the fresh burden the French request would entail, a telegram was sent saying that arrangements were being made to transport the required troops and stores to Mityleni by the end of September, and no demand was made for assistance in protecting them.

 

Yet there was reason enough for such a demand. Hitherto the anti‑submarine organisation in the Aegean had seemed to be all that was required, but on August 13 the Royal Edward, a transport of 11,000 tons, carrying drafts frorn Egypt for the XXIXth Division and other details to the number of nearly 1,400 officers and men, was torpedoed just as she was approaching Kandeliusa island, off the Gulf of Kos. (Besides drafts for the XXIXth Division, she carried 300 R.A.M.C., 200 Labour Corps ‑ in all 31 officers and 1,335 men). It was a landfall on the direct route into the Aegean from Alexandria which the transports for Mudros were still taking, and was in the patrol area assigned to the

 

Sept. 2, 1915

LOSS OF THE SOUTHLAND

 

French. It would appear that the German submarine UB 14, one of the new small class that had been brought overland to the Adriatic in sections, had put into the Gulf of Kos on her way from Cattaro to the Bosporus in order to operate against the transport line. Her lurking‑place was in a lonely little cove called Orak bay, ten miles cast of Budrum, in the vicinity of which we had long suspected that a submarine base had been established, but whether or not it existed it had never been discovered. As soon as the loss was known two French destroyers were ordered to the spot; the hospital ship Soudan was also there and a trawler or two, but between them they saved less than 500 souls.

 

After this catastrophe the route was changed. Trans­ports were ordered to give the Asiatic coast a wider berth, and passing through the channel east of Crete, to proceed inside the Greek islands, and not debouch till they reached the Doro Channel south of Euboea. For a fortnight the plan was successful, but on September 2, a few hours after the reply to the French request for transport went out, news arrived that another transport from Egypt to Mudros had been torpedoed south of Strati island, within thirty miles of her destination. This was the Southland, a ship of 12,000 tons, with over 1,400 men on board, nearly all for the IInd Australian Division. It was the same submarine which was apparently now making for the Bosporus that dealt the blow, but this time it was not fatal. The ship did not sink at once, so that all but about forty men were able to take to the boats, and as another of this group of transports, the Neuralia, boldly insisted on standing by, in spite of the risk she ran, they were quickly picked up. When two hours later the nearest patrol destroyer, Racoon, arrived on the, scene, the Southland was still afloat, and, thanks to the devotion of her engineers and both naval and military volunteers, the destroyer's captain, Lieutenant‑Commander H. N. M. Hardy, was able to get her into Mudros that evening without further loss.

 

The same day that the news of this second attack was received in London the appreciation which General Hamilton had been called upon to furnish came to hand. It was to the effect that no fresh line of attack was possible. The only chance of success was to carry on from Suvla and Anzac in order to get possession of the neck between Maidos and Gabe Tepe. The difficulty was that until his exhausted troops had recovered their tone a further effort would mean mere waste of fife. There must he a period of rest, during

 

Aug. 9-14, 1915

THE DARDANELLES

 

which the Turks would be able to strengthen their position so formidably that there was no hope of mastering it until the large reinforcements he had already asked for reached him. Meanwhile he intended to do what he could to worry the enemy, but for the present, unless new strength came from fresh allied troops or from a change in the political situation in the Balkans, offensive action must be confined to the navy. Here he saw some light to relieve the darkness of his outlook. It shone from the submarines in the Marmara. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

So striking had been the success of the few which had been operating there, that he believed an increase of the number would avail to stop entirely the sea communications of the enemy. They would then have no line of supply except the Bulair road, and once confined to that precarious route they would be unable to maintain so large a force as had now been accumulated in the peninsula.

 

In the latest exploits of the submarines he certainly had ground enough for his confidence in their abilities. Day by day their activities had been growing more daring and successful. After sinking the battleship Barbarousse Haireddine near Gallipoli, on the following day (August 9) Commander Nasmith in E 11 communicated with E 14 at a secret rendezvous and replenished with torpedoes. He then went on to San Stefano. As this was the first headland west of the Bosporus on the European side, it was the most vulnerable point on the coastwise route to Gallipoli. It was defended by guns and a small destroyer, which he engaged, but without hitting her before he was forced to dive. Then after burning half a dozen sailing craft he proceeded across to Mudania. This port, it must be remembered, was the sea outlet of the Brusa area, with which it was connected by rail, and as such it was never left long in peace. Having bombarded the railway station and secured three hits before he was put under by the shore guns, he disappeared, to turn up again at San Stefano. He now found it watched by an aeroplane, which bombed him off, and as his ammunition was nearly spent he returned to the westward to communicate with the Aster sloop, which at this time was the linking ship on the other side of Bulair.

 

After a short bombardment of Artaki on the Asiatic side, on the next day (August 14) he met E 2 at the rendezvous. Lieutenant‑Commander D. de B. Stocks had just brought her up successfully, in spite of having been caught in the Nagara net with a half turn of 3 ½ ‑inch wire round his 12‑

 

Aug. 14‑21, 1915

E 11 AND E 2 IN THE MARMARA

 

pounder. Smaller wires were foul of the conning tower and wireless mast, and depth charges were exploding all round him. For a while things looked ugly, but by boldly giving his boat negative buoyancy and alternately backing and speeding up he broke through in eight minutes. The weight of the boat as she got free carried her down to 140 feet before he could regain control, but he then was able to carry on, and before joining E 11 at the rendezvous he had sunk an armed steamer off the entrance of the Gulf of Artaki.

 

He had brought up a fresh supply of ammunition for his consort, and after taking it on board, Commander Nasmith went back to the Bosporus, where with admirable skill and patience he next day (August 15) torpedoed a steamer which was lying alongside the Raidar Pasha railway pier. In the evening he was back at the rendezvous with E 2, and after doing some gunnery together they proceeded in company to San Stefano. Here they engaged a patrol steamer, and hit her three times before being forced to dive. She then retired into the Bosporus. E 11 then went over to Ismid Gulf and bombarded the railway viaduct. After securing several hits she disappeared, and by the 18th was once more scattering troops on the Bulair neck. E 2, after repairing her gun mounting, which had carried away in the action with the patrol steamer, was equally active in all quarters, and the ubiquity of the two boats, and the havoc they played almost every day with the coastwise traffic, multiplied their number in Turkish eyes to a paralysing degree.

 

Still unsatisfied, Commander Nasmith was planning a more serious attack on the railway, which the bombardment had hitherto failed to damage effectively. When all prepara­tions were ready for the highly adventurous plan he had in mind, on the night of August 20‑21 he stole into the Gulf of Ismid and worked the submarine in till her bows just touched the ground at a little cove half a mile east of Eski Hissar village. His second in command, Lieutenant G. D'Oyly‑Hughes, then slipped into the water, pushing before him a little raft which had been previously pre­pared to carry his clothes and accoutrements and 16lbs. of gun‑cotton. Finding the cliffs were unscalable at the Point where he landed, he had to relaunch the raft and swim further along the coast till he reached a less precipitous place. Armed with a revolver and a bayonet, and carrying an electric torch and a whistle for signalling purposes, he laboriously dragged his heavy charge up the cliffs, and in half an hour reached the railway. Finding it unwatched,

 

Aug. 21, 1915

 

he followed alongside the track towards the viaduct, but he had only gone about a quarter of a mile when he heard voices ahead, and soon was aware of three men sitting beside the line in loud conversation. It was impossible to proceed further undetected, and after watching them for some time, in hopes of seeing them move away, he decided to leave his heavy charge of gun‑cotton where he was and make a detour inland to examine possibilities at the viaduct. Beyond stumbling into a farmyard and waking the noisy poultry, he managed to get in sight of the viaduct without adventure, but only to find he was again beaten. A number of men with a stationary engine at work were moving actively about, apparently repairing the damage which the bombardments had caused. Clearly there was nothing to be done there, and the only course was to retrace his steps and to look for a vulnerable place up the line where he could explode his charge effectively.

 

A suitable spot where the track was carried across a small hollow was soon found ‑ too soon, in fact, for it was no more than 150 yards from where the three men were still talking. But the place was too good to leave alone, and deciding to take the risk, he laid his charge, and then, muffling the fuse pistol as well as he could, he fired it, and made off. For all his care the men heard the crack, started to their feet and gave chase. To return by the way he came was now impossible. His only chance was to run down the line as fast as he could. From time to time pistol shots were exchanged. They had no effect on either side, and after about a mile's chase he had outdistanced his pursuers and was close to the shore. Plunging into the sea, he swam out, and as he did so the blast of the explosion was heard, and debris began to fall all about him, to tell of the damage he had done.

 

Yet his adventure was far from over. The cove where the submarine was lying hidden was three‑quarters of a mile to the eastward, and, when about 500 yards out he ventured to signal with a blast on his whistle, not a sound reached him. By this time day was breaking and his peril was great. Exhausted with his long swim in his clothes, he had to get back to shore for a rest. After hiding a while amongst the rocks he started swimming again towards the cove, till at last an answer came to his whistle. Even so the end was not yet. At the same moment rifle shots rang out from the cliffs. They were directed on the submarine, which was now going astern out of the cove. In the morning mist the weary swimmer did not recognise her. Seeing only her bow, gun, and conning tower she appeared like three small boats,

 

Aug. 21‑23, 1915

E 11 and E 2 IN THE MARMARA 117

 

and he hastily made for the beach to hide again amongst the rocks. Once ashore, however, he discovered his mistake, and hailing his deliverer, he once more took to the water. So after a short swim he was picked up in the last stage of exhaustion, and his daring adventure came to a happy end. (For his service Lieutenant D'Oyly‑Hughes was awarded the D.S.O.)

 

As for E 11 her remarkable cruise was still far from finished. On her way out of the gulf she met E 2, who had been operating at the other end of the sea, and the previous day, in Artaki Bay had torpedoed a steamer of about 1,500 tons, armed with three or four guns, and cut her completely in two. After exchanging experiences they separated again, E 2 making for Mudania and E 11 for the Bosporus. Here at nightfall she fell in with a convoy of three armed tugs with eight sailing vessels in tow with a destroyer as escort. Preceding them in the moonlight through the night, Commander Nasmith attacked at dawn. Three times he nearly got into position for torpedoing the destroyer, but thrice her clever handling foiled him. By this time, however, the convoy was broken up, the tugs had slipped their tows, and eventually, after engaging them with gun fire all the morning, he sank one of the tugs and a dhow, and severely injured several others. The sunken dhow proved to have an important passenger on board, for amongst the prisoners he picked up was the manager of a German bank taking a quantity of money to the bank at Chanak ‑ an eloquent testimony of the straits the enemy was put to for keeping up communication with the Gallipoli peninsula.

 

His time was now nearly up, but he had still to crown his cruise with a telling blow. The following day (August 23), being then well to the westward, he heard from the Aster that a number of transports were in the Dardanelles. On getting the news he proceeded to the rendezvous to find E 2. She, however, was not there. The previous day she had sunk a large steamer off Mudania pier, and was still busy in that quarter. Commander Nasmith therefore carried on alone, going right down the Straits to Ak Bashi Liman. (See Vol. II., Map 4.)

 

 

Vol. II, Map. 4 The Dardanelles
(click plan for near original-sized image - 9.5Mb)

 

Here, just short of the Nagara net, the main Turkish sea base had been established when the more convenient Kilia Liman opposite Nagara Point was made untenable by our ship fire over the neck of the peninsula. The harbour was full of shipping, with a gunboat on guard, and at this vessel he fired a shot. The torpedo passed beneath her keel, but

 

Aug. 23- Sept. 5, 1915

 

exploded amongst the shipping behind her. What damage was done could not be seen, for the gunboat and a destroyer at once came for him. After diving to avoid them, he three hours later returned to the attack, and firing both tubes, succeeded in sinking two large transports. Then, moving up a little, he got another. After this exploit he carried on up the Straits to Chardak Liman, the port at which grain from the Asiatic provinces was collected and ground for the supply of the Gallipoli army, and here he completed the day's work by sinking a fourth large transport with his last torpedo. As he entered the Marmara again he fell in with his consort and arranged that she should go down to Ak Bashi Liman next day to finish what he had left undone, while he took a well‑earned rest to clean up. To E 2 fell the same bad luck. She, too, missed the gunboat, and saw her torpedo explode amongst the shipping still afloat around the wrecks of her consort's victims. After vainly trying to get in another shot, she fired at a transport near Bergaz Iskalessi on the Asiatic side. The torpedo exploded well abreast the funnel, but it was doubtful whether it had not hit a small craft alongside her.

 

On August 28 they were both together again, once more bombarding Mudania railway station. Then after another attack on the Ismid viaduct and destroying a number more of the coasting craft (between them they had up to this time accounted for some forty of these vessels) E 11 prepared to go down, while E 2 went up to Constantinople, where she found nothing to attack. On September 3, Commander Nasmith, having dismantled his gun and fitted extra jumping wires, started at 2.0 a.m., and after easily breaking through the Nagara net arrived safely at Helles after a seven hours' run. Thus ended his record cruise, during which in twenty­nine days he had sunk or destroyed a battleship, a gunboat, six transports, and an armed steamer, as well as twenty‑three sailing vessels, from whose cargoes of fresh victuals and fruit he had been able to keep his men in good health.

 

So far success had been uninterrupted, but there was now to be a reverse to the picture. On September 5, E 2 went to the rendezvous to meet E 7, which was coming up to be her consort in relief of E 11, but she was not there. Under Lieutenant‑Commander Cochrane she had reached the Nagara net in safety at 7.30 the previous morning, and at 100 feet had actually got her bows through when one of her propellers got foul of it. In vain she tried to push on with the other, but the only effect was to bring her broadside on to the net hopelessly entangled. Hour after

 

Sept. 4‑14, 1915

LOSS OF E 7

 

hour, in spite of mines bursting round him, her gallant commander with every device that coolness and resource could suggest strove to get free. For nearly twelve hours the struggle went on dauntlessly, till a depth charge was dropped close to the hull and exploded so violently that the electric light fittings and other gear were broken. Realising then that there was no more to be done, he decided to surrender. Having first burnt his confidential papers and made all arrangements to sink and blow up his ship, so that if possible the explosion would destroy the net, he came to the surface, and he and all his crew were taken as prisoners to Constan­tinople, where both officers and men were kept till the end of the war. (Lieutenant‑Commander Cochrane succeeded in making his escape shortly before the close of the war.)

 

Lieutenant‑Commander Stocks had now to carry on alone with E 2, and what he had in mind was to repeat the exploit of E 11 against the enemy's railway communication. The point he chose was Kuchuk Chekmejeh, where, three miles west of San Stefano, the Adrianople line runs close to the sea. Here, after destroying several more sailing craft, Lieutenant H. V. Lyon was landed in the early hours of the 8th with the same apparatus that Lieutenant D'Oyly­Hughes had employed. He was seen to disappear in the darkness towards a bridge which had been marked for destruction, but nothing was ever heard of him again. For two days E 2 cruised about the place in vain hope, and finally, after destroying some dhows, she went down through the Straits on September 14 without further trouble, having torpedoed a ship off Bergaz Iskalessi on her way. Her cruise had lasted thirty‑three days, during which she had covered over 2,000 miles and destroyed six steamers and thirty‑six sailing craft.

 

By dint of thus keeping two submarines always in the Marmara what General Hamilton hoped from them had already come near to attainment. The movement of troops, except those ferried across the Dardanelles, was entirely confined to the Bulair road, and supply by sea, if not actually stopped, was so restricted and precarious that the main­tenance of the Turkish army in Gallipoli was a matter of grave concern. Satisfactory as this was from our point of view, it could not be regarded as a solution of the anxious situation which Generar Hamilton's report had revealed. Clearly unless a great offensive effort could be made in the near future there would he nothing left but evacuation.

 

Sept. 10, 1915

 

But evacuation with all its horrors, the loss of life and prestige which it was assumed it must involve, was a measure of despair that no one could face while there was a ray of hope. Hope there still was from the new proposal of the French, and on September 10 Lord Kitchener went over to Calais to ascertain definitely, in conference with the French Government and High Command, what we might expect.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VII

 

HOME WATERS AND THE BALTIC, AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER, 1915 ‑ THE ARABIC AND THE BARALONG, AND AMERICAN PROTEST AGAINST THE SUBMARINE CAMPAIGN

 

By this time the outlook in Home waters, which during that dark summer had been scarcely less gloomy than on the Continent, began to show signs of brightening. Ever since the spring the guerrilla warfare of the Germans had been increasing in activity, and the means of meeting it had proved of so little effect as to shake the national faith in our old power of commanding the sea. It appeared, indeed, we were faced with a new problem in naval warfare for which our old experience would not serve. As the enemy seemed more and more obstinately committed to a policy of minor offensive ‑ in such striking contrast to what he had been doing so successfully on land ‑ the hope of a decisive fleet action was growing dimmer than ever, but never for a moment were arrangements for meeting a sortie of the High Seas Fleet relaxed.

 

Subject to this paramount preoccupation the energies of the Admiralty and the Commander‑in‑Chief were absorbed in developing all kinds of expedients for dealing with the unprecedented form of warfare on which the enemy had pinned his faith. Minelaying by submarines in the southern area of the North Sea was increasing every week, and the discovery of a minefield in the Moray Firth (laid on August 7/8 by the German minelayer Meteor), forced further precautions in the zone of the Grand Fleet. Sub­marine attack on our trade and transport routes kept pace with the mining, and in the latter half of August it reached its highest point of intensity since the war began. Moreover the guerilla warfare had now definitely spread to the air. Con­tinual Zeppelin raids were disturbing our eastern shores and much of Commodore Tyrwhitt's attention was taken up with trying to intercept the airships at sea with his cruisers. (No Zeppelin raids took place between June 15 and August 9, but during the next five weeks to the middle or September there were no fewer than eight direeted against the Eastern counties and London.)

 

Aug. 8-9, 1915

HOME WATERS

 

For Admiral Jellicoe the immediate concern was the sur­face minelaying, and in particular the Meteor, which, as we have seen, was known to be active in northern waters, but had hitherto eluded all his attempts to catch her. The last one had been made at the end of June, when she laid a mine­field in the White Sea, and a submarine was sent over to the coast of Norway to lie in wait for her. No trace of her presence was found, but early in August there was reason to believe that she was out again, and it was imperative to put an end to her career. Extensive mining in the Grand Fleet zone, such as she was capable of, might well prove a bar of the utmost consequence to its power of operating against the High Seas Fleet on the fatal day.

 

Accordingly on August 6 Admiral Jellicoe ordered Commodore C. E. Le Mesurier to take out the 4th Light Cruiser Squadron (Calliope, Carysfort, and Phaeton) to form an intercepting patrol off the coast of Norway in about the latitude of Bergen. (See Map 7.)

 

 

 

Map 7. Destruction of S.M.S. Meteor

 

After maintaining this patrol till the afternoon of the 8th he started to return to the base. No sign of the Meteor had been seen, and he was back within eighty miles of Scapa when, shortly after midnight, Admiral Jellicoe directed him to steam at twenty knots for the Horn Reefs light‑vessel. (Owing to having insufficient fuel the Phaeton could not take part in this sweep.) Another signal told him that at 6.0 p.m. on the 8th the Meteor had been located in a position off Cromarty Firth about seventy miles E.N.E. of Kinnaird Head (Lat. 58 20' N., Long 0 5' W), and that she was probably making for the Horn Reefs light‑vessel. "Go," it continued, "as fast as fuel admits. Two Rosyth squadrons and another of Commodore T. are co‑operating. Keep wireless silence."

 

The time given as 6.0 p.m. appears from what follows to have been an error in transmission for 6.0 a.m. What had happened was that at daybreak that morning the Meteor, flying the Russian flag, had met in the vicinity named, but nearer to Cromarty, with the Ramsey, an armed boarding steamer attached to the Grand Fleet. This ship, after signalling the stranger to stop, closed her to about eighty yards and was about to lower a boat to examine her when the Meteor, hauling down her false colours and hoisting the German ensign, suddenly attacked her with masked guns and torpedo tube. In three minutes the Ramsey went down and her commander and the survivors of the crew were taken on board the Meteor.

 

The news of the whereabouts of the Meteor put a new

 

Aug. 8‑9, 1915

HUNT FOR THE METEOR

 

and graver aspect on the situation. It could only be inferred that the field of her mining operations was not the White Sea but the Grand Fleet zone of concentration, and this was the reason why the Admiralty at once set on foot the elaborate hunt for her of which Commodore Le Mesurier had been informed. Seeing how grave was the danger of her activities, she had to be caught at all costs, and nothing is more eloquent of the change that had come over naval warfare than that so large a force had to be devoted to the search for a single fleet auxiliary.

 

Commodore Tyrwhitt was the first to get the word. At 8.40 p.m. the Admiralty informed him of the loss of the Ramsey north of Kinnaird Head and told him also that at 6.0 p.m. (sic) the Meteor had been located approximately in Lat. 58 20' N., Long. 0 S' W. "She will probably," the message continued, "return to Heligoland going east of Lat. 56 N., Long. 5 E., and will probably make for Horn Reefs. Take all available light cruisers and steer for Horn Reefs to intercept her. Do not make wireless, or German directional stations will get you." Commodore Tyrwhitt had come in only forty‑eight hours before from a sweep into the Bight with his cruisers, but as usual he was ready, and at 10.30 p.m. he was away with the Arethusa, Conquest, Cleopatra, Aurora and Undaunted. Two hours later (12.40 a.m. 9th) Commodore W. E. Goodenough with the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons was coming out of Rosyth with orders designed to cut off the Meteor if the Harwich Force should head her back. As soon as they were clear of May Island, they diverged slightly, the 1st Squadron, under Commodore E. S. Alexander‑Sinclair, making at full speed for a point twenty miles to the westward of Horn Reefs, and Commodore Goodenough with the 2nd for a position midway between the Forth and the Skagerrak. (The 1st Light Cruiser Squadron ‑ Galatea, Caroline, Cordelia, Inconstant. The 2nd Light Cruiser Squadron - Southampton, Birmingham, Nottingham (Lowestoft detached).)

 

All through the night the Meteor, unconscious of the net that was being spread for her, was making her way home­wards. So confident indeed was she of having run out of danger that the previous evening she had stopped midway over to burn a Danish bark laden with pit‑props for Leith. It was not long, however, before she was undeceived, for now another feature of the new naval warfare was introduced into the operations. About 8.0 a.m. on the 9th, as Commodore Tyrwhitt sped northward, a seaplane passed over the squadron from seaward. His anti‑aircraft guns failed to bring it down,

 

Aug 9, 1915

 

and it passed away towards Borkum. About the same time a Zeppelin picked up the Meteor, and warning her that British cruisers were between her and the Jade, for which she was making, led her northward for the Skagerrak on a course which was nearly the same as that upon which Commodore Tyrwhitt was coming up forty miles astern. He was going perhaps twice the Meteor's speed and rapidly gaining. The danger in which she stood cannot have long been unknown to her, for about 9.30 a Zeppelin, L 7, possibly the same that had given the original warning, approached the Harwich squadron from the westward and proceeded to keep it company at a distance of ten miles.

 

Thus the chase stood when a message was received from the Admiralty to say they had located the Meteor as having been at 4.0 a.m. about ninety miles to the westward of Horn Reefs (Lat. 55 50' N., Long. 5 03' E.). The Commodore did not know what to make of it. He could not reconcile it with the "6.0 p.m." position of the previous evening; directional wireless at that time was not too reliable, and after getting the message repeated he decided to ignore it and hold on on his way for his Horn Reefs rendezvous. Commodore Alexander‑Sinclair received the position shortly before 11.0, and then altered course for a point a little to the southward of Commodore Tyrwhitt's rendezvous, and a little later Commodore Goodenough, having reached his midsea position at 11.15, also turned for Horn Reefs.

 

The Meteor's chance of escape in any direction was thus very small. At the German headquarters they were doing all they could to save her. In addition to L 7 another air­ship, P.L. 25, was now dogging Commodore Tyrwhitt. One submarine which had gone out with the Meteor had appar­ently parted company, but another, U 32, put to sea from the Ems and a third, U 28, which was just returning from a successful cruise, was informed of her plight. The moral effect of the Heligoland action was apparently still paralysing the ardour of the German cruisers, and without ships in support such measures could avail little. By noon Commo­dore Tyrwhitt had reached his position off Horn Reefs and then, turning to the westward, he spread his five ships at ten miles intervals. On the opposite course the two Rosyth squadrons were coming on for points north and south of the Reefs, and the obnoxious minelayer was fairly caught between the three. At 12.30 Commodore Tyrwhitt had sight of her, apparently in trouble; she was turning in a small circle, and as he closed her it was seen she was sinking by the stern.

 

Aug. 9, 1915

END OF THE METEOR

 

He did not know, however, till 8.30 when the Ramsey's crew were taken on board his ships that this vessel was the Meteor. (The armed boarding steamer Ramsey was sunk by the Meteor on August 8.) Thanks to the completeness of the enveloping plan, all that the aircraft had been able to do in their first effort to intervene in a regular naval operation was no more than to spare us the trouble of sending to the bottom the ship they had come out to save. The weakness of operating with minor naval types unsupported by surface ships of force could scarcely require more cogent illustration. At the moment a sortie would have involved little risk. Since the Germans had practically blocked Cromarty (at Cromarty were the Iron Duke, the 4th Battle Squadron, the 1st Cruiser Squadron and half the 2nd Destroyer Flotilla), the Grand Fleet could not concentrate except at great hazard and without freedom of manoeuvre, and had they seized the occasion to push even their battle cruisers out to sea with judgment, one or more of our light cruiser squadrons would have been at their mercy.

 

It was just before Commodore Tyrwhitt caught sight of the Meteor that her commander, Captain von Knorr, knew that escape was hopeless and decided to scuttle his ship. He with his crew and the British prisoners boarded a Swedish lugger, which was seen as our cruisers came on, but it was impossible to stop and pick her up. A submarine had just been reported by the Undaunted four miles from the wreck, the two airships were still hovering round, and for all Commodore Tyrwhitt knew the Meteor might have sown the vicinity with mines. For this reason he signalled to a number of Danish trawlers that were present to clear away to the south­west for safety, while he made off north‑west, and the other squadrons turned back on a signal which the Commander­in‑Chief had sent to recall them as soon as he knew the Meteor's end.

 

In an hour Commodore Tyrwhitt found his manoeuvre had shaken off the airships and he turned back with two ships to pick up the survivors. The prisoners from the Ramsey he soon found in a trawler, and they were alone with a curious tale to tell. With the appearance of an over­whelming British force a nice point of naval law had arisen, and on board the Swedish lugger a hot dispute ensued as to whether Germans or British were prisoners. Lieutenant P. S. Atkins, R.N.R., the commander of the Ramsey, insisted on Captain von Knorr obeying the Commodore's signal to steer south‑west. He had seized the helm, but the Germans were armed and his men were not. Still the Germans, who all along had been treating our men with courtesy, politely refrained from taking command of the vessel, and when

 

Aug 9- Sept 4, 1915

 

Lieutenant Atkins by way of compromise proposed that he and his men should change into a Norwegian lugger near by, the arrangement was accepted. So in mutual goodwill they parted ‑ Lieutenant Atkins with £7 in English notes which the German captain insisted on lending him, and which was subsequently returned with compliments to the friendly lender through the American Embassy.

 

So with all the courtesies of war the career of the Meteor ended. One source of trouble was removed, but the trouble itself remained. The mines she had laid were found to have been scattered over a wide area and the draft on the sweep­ing flotillas was very heavy. On August 9 the destroyer Lynx struck a mine and sank in Moray Firth with a loss of all but twenty‑four of her crew. So important was it to clear away what might prove an obstacle to rapid concentration of the various sections of the Grand Fleet, that the new sloops which had been assigned to Admiral Jellicoe as fleet‑sweepers had to be used, and one of them, the Lilac, while working in Cromarty Firth, struck a mine (August 18). The accident proved the excellence of their construction. Their forepart had been specially designed in view of mine danger, and though her bows were practically blown off, she was safely brought in to dock.

 

Later on another, the Dahlia, also struck a mine while sweeping the same field, and she, too, was saved (September 2). Even with their help the local minesweepers were unequal to clearing the area quickly enough, and as the southern sweepers were more than occupied with the submarine minelayers in their own area, the Clyde sweepers had to be brought round. But prevention had to be thought of as well as cure. Since the loss of the Hawke in October 1914 the old cruiser patrol areas which Admiral Jellicoe established had ceased to be regularly occupied, but now that so many more of the new light cruisers were avail­able the Admiralty decided that a more active watch might be resumed. In place of the original discredited system of patrol areas a series of light cruiser sweeps was substituted. It was a tactical advance directly due to war experience, but it meant, of course, an increased strain on the light cruisers and the destroyers that had to screen them.

 

Against the enemy's guerilla tactics little more than this could be done offensively. We had to face the fact that if the High Seas Fleet came out ‑ and at this time it was fre­quently at sea doing tactical exercises ‑ we might find at the enemy's selected moment the movements of the Grand Fleet seriously hampered. The only way seemed to be to discount

 

Aug. 17, 1915

BRITISH MINELAYING

 

the advantage which the enemy was apparently seeking to obtain by counter‑mining. We had hitherto shrunk from this device, as likely to impede our own freedom of manoeuvre, but in view of the German attitude opinion for some time past had been crystallising in favour of closing in the Bight by a semi‑circle of minefields, as complete as was consistent with channels being left clear for the operations of our "oversea" submarines. The idea had been revived by Admiral Jellicoe early in June, and after full consideration it was now decided to carry it out in a modified form.

 

The first operation was fixed for August 14. The mines were to be placed off the Ems, but this plan was rendered needless by the discovery that the Germans themselves had just laid a new minefield in the same position. It was there­fore changed to one on more modest lines. One minelayer only, the Princess Margaret, under escort of two divisions of the 10th Destroyer Flotilla, and supported by the Harwich Light Cruiser Squadron, with four destroyers of the 4th Flotilla (10th Destroyer Flotilla: Mentor, Minos, Moorsom, Miranda, Manly. Matchless, Medusa. Harwich Light cruiser Squadron: Arethusa, Penelope, Cleopatra, Conquest, with the Undaunted and Aurora. 4th Flotilla destroyers: Laurel, Lysander, Lookout, Llewellyn) was to proceed to the coast north of the Bight and lay a minefield off Ainrum Bank, twenty‑five miles north of Heligoland.

 

At nightfall on August 17 the force made the Horn Reefs light, having passed through a number of trawlers who, though ostensibly fishing, were using wireless. One was boarded and, being German, was sunk. The force then turned southward to its assigned position and very soon ran into a division of the German 2nd Torpedo Boat Flotilla. They at once attacked with torpedo, and the Mentor, in lead­ing the escort to engage, was hit. The Princess Margaret had turned back to avoid them, and as standing orders were against wide chasing on these expeditions, the enemy was soon lost in the darkness. In an hour's time the Princess Margaret decided to carry on, but now she learnt of the Mentor's mishap, and in the confusion the rest of the escort had lost touch. They were still not to be found when a signal came from the Admiralty recalling the whole force, as directional wireless indicated that larger enemy forces were moving in the vicinity, By a fine display of seamanship the Mentor, with her bows fairly blown off, came in under her own steam, but the expedition had failed.

 

The failure had obviously been due mainly to lack of support. It was decided to repeat the attempt, this time on a much larger scale. Three minelayers were to be

 

Sept. 10-15, 1915

 

used. (Princess Margaret, 6,000 tons (Canadian Pacific Railway Co.), Orvieto 12,130 tons (Orient Steam Navigation Co.), and Angora, 4,298 tons (British India Steam Navigation Co.).

 

They started from the Humber early on September 10 with the Meteor and five other "M" class destroyers for escort. To the north was a supporting force from Rosyth, consisting of the 1st and 3rd Battle Cruiser Squadrons and the 1st and 2nd Light Cruiser Squadrons, with the Fearless and Botha (flotilla leader) and four divisions of the 1st Flotilla to the south was another, composed of Commodore Tyrwhitt's Light Cruiser Squadron, the Nimrod and five destroyers. (The destroyers Loyal, Legion, Lysander, Lucifer, Linnet; the Nimrod was the first of the new "Kempenfelt" class of "flotilla leaders" of the War Programme. They were of about 1,600 tons displacement; designed speed 34 knots; armament four 4‑inch guns, two pompoms and four torpedo tubes (21"). Six more ships of the class were in course of construction and six of a similar "Grenville" class had been ordered.)

 

This time the success was complete. After dark, as the night was very clear with bright starlight, the escorting destroyers were withdrawn to Commodore Tyrwhitt's force, to give the minelayers every chance of doing their work unobserved. The device proved entirely successful. During the night they laid their mines rapidly without mishap or hindrance to the number of 1450 ‑ the biggest night's mining work until the last year of the war. They were laid in three fields west and north‑west of Amrum Bank between Latitude 54 30' and 55, exactly as arranged, and the whole enterprise was cordially commended both by the Admiralty and the Commander‑in‑Chief.

 

For the present no more was done. The fields were probably discovered by the enemy, just as their own off Cromarty had been by us, but they must have remained a source of danger which necessarily restricted the free move­ment of the High Seas Fleet.

 

Four days later (15th) our own measures to check the enemy's activity off the Norwegian coast met with another success. At this time the Commander‑in‑Chief was using the submarines now attached to him to keep up a regular patrol in that area. On this duty Commander C. P. Talbot in E 16 left Aberdeen on September 12. An enemy submarine, U 6, was also on the station cruising against trade, and during the week she was out sank three British sailing vessels and cap­tured a Dane. This boat Commander Talbot fell in with on the 15th near Stavanger, and cleverly torpedoed her. Rapidly as she sank five of her crew were rescued; the rest, with their commander, perished, and for a long time no more was heard of "U" boats in this quarter.

 

Aug. 1915

ANTI‑SUBMARINE MEASURES

 

In other areas where the German submarine activity had been increasing, our offensive counter‑measures had con­tinned to be developed by means of the latest devices. The C class submarines were still acting in company with trawlers. In the first week of August one of them, C 33, which had been operating off the Norfolk coast with the armed trawler Malta, was lost with all hands as she was returning to the base on relief ‑ probably on a mine near Smith's Knoll. On August 29 another, C 29, working in company with the armed trawler Ariadne, was lost in the same way near the outer Dowsing light‑vessel off the Humber. The disaster was thought to be due to their having got out of their reckoning, and thenceforth these combinations of "C" boats and trawlers were forbidden within fifteen miles of any mined area. The difficulty of keeping true reckoning was only one of the troubles attending this form of operation; the fouling of the tow and telephone line, as we have seen, was another. It occurred again on August 11, when thirty miles off the Forth the trawler Ratapiko and C 23 fell in with a submarine, the U 17. The consequence was that C 23 was unable to get in a shot, and though the Ratapiko got to close range and opened fire, the enemy escaped.

 

For the protection of our sailing smacks special measures were introduced at this time. These vessels worked mainly in the Lowestoft area (Patrol Area X), in which they were specially exposed to attack from the small "UB" boats operating from Zeebrugge, and had suffered severely. Four of them, the G. and E., Pet, Glory and Inverlyon, were now taken up and armed with 3‑pounders. The device met with considerable encouragement. By the end of the month all of them except the Glory had been in action with a "UB" boat and claimed to have destroyed her by gunfire. The three claims were allowed, but only one, the destruction of UB 4 by the Inverlyon, was ever verified. Several other successes were reported by other means, but the only certain one among them was the UC 2 which on July 2 had been accidentally run over by the s.s. Cottingham. This boat was raised shortly afterwards, and from it was obtained our knowledge of the structure of the minelaying class. How­ever, notwithstanding every effort, the trouble continued. During August thirty Lowestoft smacks were destroyed, and anxiety began to be felt for our supply of fish, but the intrepid fishermen continued to ply their trade in spite of all the enemy could do.

 

It was not only in these waters that the growing intensity

 

Aug. 4-19, 1915

 

of the submarine attack was causing anxiety. Far more important was the zone of the south‑west approaches, where the enemy was making his most energetic and dangerous effort, and through which his larger submarines were passing to the Mediterranean. On August 19 the trouble in this area may be said to have culminated. Three submarines U 38, U 27 and U 24, had left Germany on August 3‑5, to operate between Ushant and St. George's Channel. The U 24, Lieutenant‑Commander Schneider, was the same boat which on New Year's morning had sunk the Formidable. Her orders were to begin by going up the Irish Sea to attack the naphtha and benzol works of the Harrington Coke Oven Co., on the Cumberland coast of the Solway Firth. The plant had been installed by two German firms, whose agents had been careful to carry away complete plans of the works, including photographs taken from the sea. The submarine therefore knew exactly what to do, and on August 16 carried out a deliberate bombardment. There were no coast defences and she was quite uninterrupted, yet in spite of this and the com­plete information she had, little harm was done. The explosion of a drum of benzol at the outset caused so dense a smoke as to screen the works, and after firing some fifty rounds she moved away to join her consorts to the southward, believing the destruction to be complete, whereas in truth only £800 worth of damage was done, and in four days the works were going again.

 

During the next few days the three boats did a good deal of damage. Two of them in the Irish Channel sank ten vessels on the 17th, and though the auxiliary patrols had been in frequent contact with the marauders they had been able to do no more than impede their operations. On the morning of August 19 U 27 (Lieutenant‑Commander Wegener) was at work in the Scilly Area; Lieutenant‑Commander Schneider in U 24 had come down to a position south of Kinsale, and U 38 was between them, off the Bristol Channel. The tale of destruction on this eventful day, when again ten vessels were sunk, began at daybreak with the loss of a Spanish steamer off Newquay. By 9.0 a.m. two British steamers had been sunk by U 38 to the northward of Scilly ‑ the Restormal, of 2,100 tons, and the Baron Erskine, of 5,500 tons, with 900 mules. Further north another ship, the Gladiator, of 3,300 tons, had fallen to U 27, and to the westward of her, about fifty miles south of Old Kinsale Head, U 24 had stopped the Dunsley of 5,000 tons. The submarine was standing by,

 

Aug. 19, 1915

LOSS OF THE ARABIC

 

endeavouring to sink her by gun‑fire as the crew got away in the boats when a much larger steamer was seen coming up from the eastward. Lieutenant‑Commander Schneider now began to feel uneasy, and not without reason. Coming down the Irish Sea he had had anxious moments. Twice he had narrowly escaped destruction while molesting ships; on each occasion he was nearly rammed ‑ first by the armed yacht Valiant II and then by the fishing trawler Majestic of Fleet­wood, who, unarmed as she was, made a dash for him as he was about to sink an Admiralty collier, and so rescued her with the help of the patrol vessel Bacchante II. Moreover, when entering St. George's Channel he had attacked the Ellerman liner City of Exeter, who at first ran for it, but on meeting the armed yacht Sabrina II, turned on him and tried some rounds at long range with her defensive armament. The experience made him wary of big ships. The one he now saw coming on was zigzagging, and according to his own account he took an alteration of her course for an attempt to attack, which entitled him to ignore the instructions not to sink passenger ships without warning. As soon therefore as she was in position he fired a torpedo at close range with violent effect. In about ten minutes the great ship went down, and he made off without knowing, so it was asserted, what she was or how far‑reaching were to he the consequences of his hasty action.

 

The ship he had sunk without notice was none other than the White Star liner Arabic of 15,800 tons from Liverpool for New York. Crew and passengers numbered 429, and of these, thanks to the skill and readiness of her commander, Captain W. Finch, and the splendid discipline of his company, 389 were saved.

 

As the news spread far and wide that another Lusitania outrage had occurred the activity of the patrol all over the area increased. Off Kinsale for a time all was quiet, but at noon the Ben Vrackie, of 4,000 tons, was sunk by U 27 fifty-­five miles to the northward of the Scilly islands, and about two hours later another large steamer, the Samara, was sunk by U 38 to the westward of that group. Half‑way between this point and that where the Arabic had gone down in the morning a "Q" ship was cruising in hope of falling in with the boat that had done the mischief. This was the Baralong, Lieutenant‑Commander Godfrey Herbert. She was an ordinary tramp steamer, 4,200 tons, armed with three con­cealed 12‑pounders, being one of the first of the type to be

 

Aug. 19, 1915

 

regularly commissioned for this special service. Ever since the beginning of April he had been cruising independently without any luck ‑ at first in the Channel; but when in June the south‑west approaches became so deeply affected he had been moved into that area.

 

At about 3.0 p.m. on August 19, when his search had brought him on an easterly course about eighty miles west­north‑west of Scilly, he was aware of a large steamer south­west of him making a wide alteration of course. Almost immediately he took in a signal that she was the Nicosian, a "Leyland" ship of 6,300 tons, and that a submarine was in chase of her. Three minutes later came another signal, "Captured by enemy submarine." Hoping, however, she might still be free to act, he signalled her to steer north‑east towards him, while he, flying neutral colours, headed to meet her. But she could only repeat that she was captured ‑ this time by two enemy submarines ‑ and that most of the crew had already left her. We can easily imagine the tense excite­ment that was throbbing through the decoy ship. The shock of the Arabic's loss that morning was still fresh, and with tingling hope that the hour of her destroyer was at hand they hurried towards the cry for help. On this course a couple of miles were covered and then a submarine was sighted about seven miles away on the port bow. They could see she was steering for her victim at slow speed while the crew got clear in the boats, till she was within 1,000 yards, and then for the first time they witnessed German gunners firing into an unarmed British ship.

 

With deepening indignation the Baralong steamed on, while the Germans continued to fire till she was about two and a half miles from them. Then the submarine's gun's crew were called in while the boat trimmed down a little and turned to meet the interrupter at high speed. Lieutenant­-Commander Herbert promptly altered course for the Nicosian's boats, which were on her starboard bow, as though to save life, and the submarine responded by manning her gun again and returning to her previous course, with the evident inten­tion of cutting him off from the boats. He then stopped his engines so that the submarine would pass him on the other side of the Nicosian, and as soon as the enemy was out of sight behind her he struck his neutral colours, hoisted the white ensign, unmasked his two 12‑pounder guns and trained them just forward of the Nicosian's bows. The moment the submarine was clear of them Sub‑Lieutenant G. C. Steele, R.N.R., who was in charge of the guns, opened fire at 600 yards, and simultaneously the ten marines she carried

 

Aug. 19, 1915

THE BARALONG INCIDENT

 

started in with their rifles. (Besides her ordinary crew, which was mainly R.N.R, the Baralong bore one corporal of Marines, three lance‑corporals and six privates.)

 

The effect of the surprise was crushing. The submarine was almost helpless to reply, and after the Baralong had got off thirty‑four rapid rounds she heeled over twenty degrees. The crew jumped overboard, and in another minute she disappeared in a boil of escaping air that told she would never rise again. (The submarine was afterwards identified as the U 27)

 

But the end was not yet. Lieutenant‑Commander Herbert now called the Nicosian's boats alongside, and was busy clearing them when about a dozen of the submarine's crew were seen to have swum to the abandoned vessel and to be swarming up the rope ends and pilot ladder, which had been left hanging down her sides. What was he to do? The Nicosian, like the Baron Erskine, was full of mules and fodder from New Orleans ‑ it would be possible for the desperate survivors of the submarine to scuttle or set her on fire and, moreover, only one of the two submarines reported had been accounted for. If the valuable cargo was to be saved it was necessary to act at once; there was no time to think, and he ordered the guns and marines to shoot.

 

Even so a number of Germans got on board. The danger of losing the ship therefore continued, and as soon as possible Lieutenant‑Commander Herbert placed his ship alongside the Nicosian and ordered a party of marines to board her and recover possession. It was not an easy piece of service. The Germans were nowhere to be seen, and it was not known how many of them had succeeded in climbing on board. They had made no sign of surrender, and in the chart‑house rifles and ammunition had been left readily accessible. He there­fore warned the men to be on their guard against surprise and to be careful to get in the first shot. Over what happened next he had no control. It would seem that after a short search the Germans were found in the engine‑room, and were shot down. The total number of the enemy thus summarily dealt with was four. The crew of the Nicosian then returned to her, and in spite of the holes which she had received in her hull from the submarine's gun she was brought safely into Bristol.

 

Such are the facts of this much‑discussed incident so far as the truth could be obtained after a searching investigation. Many other stories were circulated, some mutually contra­dictory, others obviously invention. All were traced to Americans of the rolling stone type who had signed on for

 

Aug. 1915

 

the Nicosian as muleteers or crew. These men when they returned, disgusted with the food and accommodation they had found on board, were easy tools for the German propa­gandist organisation in America, and the neutral and German press was assiduously flooded with accusations that an inhuman breach of the laws of civilised warfare had been committed. Though these stories were contradicted by others of the Nicosian's crew who enlisted in the British army, they were believed in Germany, especially as we took no steps at the time to contradict them.

 

The upshot was that, relying on the depositions obtained in America from these more than questionable witnesses, the German Government, with charges of barbarity, demanded the trial of the Captain and crew of the Baralong for murder, and threatened reprisals in default of obtaining their demand. Our reply, while calling attention to their own long list of excesses both by land and sea, expressed satisfaction at their consideration for the laws of war. We expressed ourselves quite ready to have the whole question of irregularities investigated by an impartial tribunal, and as it would take too long to go into the whole of the counter‑charges of the Allies, we were ready to confine the inquiry to events at sea which had occurred during the forty‑eight hours in which the Baralong incident had taken place. Of these there were three.

 

The first was, of course, the affair of the Arabic, a large passenger ship sunk without warning; the second was the case of the Ruel, a collier transport on her way from Gibraltar in ballast to Barry. In the afternoon of August 21 ‑ her fourth day out ‑ she fell in with a sub­marine, U 38, three miles distant, which began firing at her. She then turned to the westward to keep her assailant astern according to standing instructions, and tried to get away. But the submarine was too fast for her, and after an hour and a half's chase was able to put two shells into her which forced her to stop and get out the boats. The submarine then came close up to the ship and fired six shots into her, and then as she was sinking began to fire with shrapnel and rifles at the crowded boats; the result was fhat the Captain and six men were severely wounded and one man was killed.

 

This was bad enough, but the third case was even worse. The incident was not remarkable merely as further evidence of the lengths to which Germany was prepared to go in defying the old comities of naval warfare, but also because it had a definite place in the great strategy of the war. On the Russian front, where the strongest cards were being

 

Aug. 19, 1915

LOSS OF E 13

 

played, the campaign, in spite of all the Germans had won, was not giving the decisive results for which they had hoped. The Russians, as though pursuing their traditional tactics, were falling back upon their illimitable hinterland, slipping out of every trap that was laboriously set for them. The only prospect the Germans could see of dealing their enemy a crushing blow was to drive them from the great roads and railways which led eastward from Brest‑Litovsk. The fortress fell on August 25/26, but the Russian armies had retired in time and the blow failed. It had synchronised with a determined effort against the northern end of the line, where the Germans had endeavoured to turn the extreme right flank of the Russians on the Gulf of Riga. Success depended on their ability to carry out a combined movement of their land and sea forces, and so important was the object, that they had decided to attempt a naval operation to force an entry into the gulf and to cover the attack with their battle cruisers.

 

As soon as Petrograd suspected what was in the wind a request came to us to know whether we could not increase our force of submarines in the Baltic, or what else we could do to relieve the pressure upon Riga. It was represented by our own people on the spot that as the Russians had only one submarine fit for service, the two we had there did not make up a force adequate for effective interference with the new German plan. On this representation the Admiralty were already preparing to act, and on August 14, the day before the Russian cry for help reached us, Lieutenant-Commander F. H. H. Goodhart with E 8 and Lieutenant-Commander G. Layton with E 13 were ordered to proceed from Harwich through the Sound and make for Dagerort, the advanced base at the entrance of the Gulf of Finland from which our E 1 and E 9 were now working.

 

They were off immediately, and all went well till the night of August 18. During the afternoon of that day Lieutenant­-Commander Layton had successfully dived through the Sound and was about to debouch into open water when, shortly after 11.0 p.m., his magnetic compass failed, and before he could rectify the error of his course he ran hard on the south­east edge of Saltholm flat between Malmo and Copenhagen. While his consort was passing safely through without seeing what had happened, every effort was made to get the boat afloat again, but she would not move an inch. At 5.0 a.m. the night‑long struggle was still proceeding when a Danish torpedo boat arrived to inform them they would be allowed the usual twenty‑four hours to get off if they could, but no

 

Aug. 19. 1915

THE BALTIC

 

assistance could be given and that an armed guard would be anchored close by. The torpedo boat then left with one of the officers of the submarine to visit the Danish guardship.

 

Meanwhile a German destroyer had appeared on the scene and remained near till two Danish torpedo boats came up, when she withdrew. About 9.0 a.m., when the promised guard had been completed by another Danish torpedo boat, two German destroyers were seen approaching from the southward. The leading one, G 132, when within half a mile hoisted a commercial flag signal, but before there was time to read it she fired a torpedo. It hit the bottom close to E 13 and did no harm, but simultaneously she opened fire with all her guns at 300 yards. The submarine was in flames in a moment, and the men were warned to take to the water and swim for the shore or the Danish boats. As they did so the Germans opened fire on them with shrapnel and machine guns, and kept it up remorselessly till one of the Danish boats steamed in between the Germans and the swimmers. Both the destroyers then made off, while the Danes did all they could to rescue; but in spite of their efforts fifteen petty officers and men were lost by shrapnel or drowning. The outrage was perpetrated in cold blood, by men well under control of their officers, upon a helpless wreck on a neutral shore. For a cumulation of illegality it would surely be hard to match in the annals of modern naval warfare. It is therefore scarcely surprising that the Germans, with some irritation, refused to entertain our proposed enquiry and fell back on their threat of reprisals.

 

The real explanation of their treatment of E 13 is their extreme annoyance at the activity of our submarines in the Baltic at that particular juncture. The powerful force of battleships and cruisers with which they had decided to co­operate in the attempt to turn the Russian right was already at sea; four days earlier, on August 15, they had begun testing the strength of the defences of the Riga Gulf, and were taking every possible means to prevent more of our submarines passing in through the Sound. The actual attack to force an entrance into the Gulf of Riga had begun on the 18th; the defences were partly penetrated, and the two British submarines already on the spot were very active in trying to get a chance at the enemy's battle cruisers which were covering the operations. The weather was foggy, and the ships were so well handled and so strongly screened with destroyers that every effort to get into a position for attack was foiled by the Germans' bewildering tactics. On the morning of

 

Aug. 19‑26, 1915

NAVAL ATTACK ON RIGA FAILS

 

the 19th, however, almost in the same hour that saw the destruction of the Arabic and the E 13, Commander N. F. Lawrence in E 1 found himself within attacking distance of four battle cruisers in line abreast. In ten minutes he was in position to fire at the wing ship, and the torpedo hit forward. He saw no more, for only by a very prompt dive could he escape by a few feet one of the screening destroyers that dashed at him. Owing to the fog and the large number of destroyers that were hunting him he could not get off another shot, but the ship he had hit was the Moltke, eight men being killed. She was seriously damaged, but was able to go back to Hamburg for repairs and was out of action for about a month.

 

Whether or not this blow was the final cause, it marked the end of the attack on Riga. It was the first operation of the kind which the Germans had attempted, and it had proved a failure. After partly forcing the entrance, the Germans persevered for some days without meeting any great success. Losses were sustained on both sides. (The German naval losses in the whole undertaking were: two destroyers and three minesweepers sunk by mine; three other vessels struck mines but were brought into port; Moltke damaged by torpedo; four ships each hit once by shore batteries. Casualties numbered sixty‑five. The Russians lost two vessels and one seaplane; five other vessels were damaged and eleven merchant ships lost. Der Krieg zur See: Ostsee, Vol. II, p. 283.)

 

But the day after the Moltke was disabled the attempt to turn the Riga flank was abandoned. It is not, therefore, impossible that the presence of our submarines in the Baltic was as disconcerting to the Germans as the arrival of theirs at the Dardanelles had been to us. Be that as it may, by the morning of August 21 the German squadrons had disappeared. All that remained on the coast were light forces to see what could be done with the British submarine base. On the 25th Dagerort was bom­barded by two cruisers and a division of destroyers, but without result, and the outcome of the whole affair was that the Russian right remained secure on the line of the Dvina.

 

Simultaneously with the withdrawal of the Germans from the coasts of Livonia and Courland, in our south‑west approaches their submarines also disappeared. In the four days that followed the Arabic and Baralong incidents nine British ships were lost and a number of attacks frustrated by the auxiliary patrol, but after August 23 all was quiet. Yet, August had been a very bad month. In this area alone thirty‑eight British ships had been sunk, besides two fishing craft and four neutrals, and nine British ships had escaped

 

Aug 24-Sept 5, 1915

HOME WATERS

 

after being attacked. The new organisation of the Queenstown area had so far been undeniably disappointing. No one was more dissatisfied with the result than Admiral Bayly himself, and on August 24 he submitted a memorandum pointing out why no better results could be hoped for with the resources at his disposal. Besides the regular patrols of trawlers and drifters allotted to the areas within his coMmand, the actual offensive force based at Queenstown was eight sloops, three yachts and twenty‑four trawlers. To the sloops were assigned cruising areas between Latitudes 50 and 51 extending to about 350 miles westward from Land's End, while the yachts cruised on certain selected routes, but neither sloops nor yachts had succeeded in encountering a submarine.

 

As for the trawlers, not only were they too slow to deal with the larger submarines the enemy was now using, but they were constantly engaged in escort duty. The Admiralty reply on this point sheds a vivid light on those little‑noticed, but never‑ceasing, preoccupations which were more and more hampering the possibilities of offensive operations. The pressure on their resources, they explained, was due to the increasing number of troops abroad, of muni­tion ships coming from America, of others going to Archangel for the Russians, and of large ships detached for refitting and other purposes from the Grand Fleet. All required escort, as well as ships not under the Geneva Cross conveying wounded, and ships proceeding across the Atlantic with bullion, a traffic that was indispensable for keeping up the flow of munitions from America. With so many pressing calls they could do no more than protect the interests which were most important.

 

While submitting that there was no effective cure for the evil except by blocking and destroying the submarine bases, Admiral Bayly had asked for more sloops and disguised ships. No more sloops were yet available, but he was told at once that the Baralong would now be placed definitely under his orders, as well as two other "Q" ships to be taken up, and that his force of sloops would be brought up to eighteen during the next two months.

 

His faith in the "Q" ships was soon justified by another success. After ten days of quiet there was another short outbreak of submarine trouble, but now it was further out to sea, as though the Germans were finding the actual Queenstown area too full of danger. During September 4 and 5 five British steamers and two Norwegian sailing vessels were sunk between the Fastnet and the Bishop rock, and the patrol vessels which Admiral Bayly hurried to the spot at the first alarm failed to find anything. The fact was there was no

 

Sept. 4‑28, 1915

"U" BOATS IN BAY OF BISCAY

 

renewal of the attack on Admiral Bayly's area. The mischief had been done by boats on passage to the Mediterranean. One of them, U 39, after unsuccessfully attacking a single ship, carried on through the Straits, where she did some damage before going on to Cattaro. Another, U 33, was responsible for two British steamers and a neutral sailing vessel out of a total of seven vessels sunk on the 4th and 5th. On the following day she destroyed a British steamer off Finisterre. After passing the Straits she was attacked by torpedo boat No. 95 of the Gibraltar patrol, but escaped, and she also got safely to Cattaro. A third boat, U 20, present in Irish waters at this time, seemed to have had a special mission to harass the flow of supplies into La Rochelle. Between Scilly and Ushant on her way down she contributed to our losses on September 4 and 5. In the Bay on the 6th she caught a French ship, and next morning she appeared off the Gironde. This day she sank another British vessel and a French steamer close off the port. Then she left as suddenly as she had appeared, being presumably at the limit of her sea endurance. As she retraced her course across the Bay she got yet another British steamer, and then no more was heard of her.

 

After this there was another lull of about a fortnight, during the last half of which the cruiser Terrible and the battleships Mars, Magnificent and Hannibal, which had been deprived of their turrets to arm the new monitors, sailed as troopships for the Mediterranean. The last of them, however, was hardly away, together with the Olympic carrying 5,500 officers and men, when there were signs that the quiet which had fallen on the south‑western approaches was only a respite. On September 23 three ships averaging over 4,000 tons were sunk by gunfire to the westward of Scilly in the area of the Baralong's recent exploit. This ship, now altered in appearance, with a new Captain (Lieutenant‑Commander A. Wilmot‑Smith), was in Falmouth at the time, and in the evening, directly news of the first loss reached Admiral Bayly at Queenstown, he ordered her to put to sea on a course which would intercept the submarine if she were making for Ushant or the Bay. This course Lieutenant‑Commander Wilmot‑Smith had already taken on his own initiative, and he therefore held on as he was during the night. The move­nient could not have been better judged. At 9.45 next morning he was aware of a ship stopped and blowing off steam some eight miles right ahead. She proved to be the Wilson liner Urbino, of 6,600 tons, homeward bound, which

 

Sept. 23.1915

 

had just been stopped by U 41 sixty‑seven miles south‑west of the Scillies, and was now being sunk by gunfire.

 

Keeping on as he was, and making all ready for action, Lieutenant‑Commander Wilmot‑Smith in the fine clear weather that prevailed could soon make out the submarine on the far side of the Urbino, and he held his course directly for her, till when about five miles distant the submarine dived. He responded by altering six points to the southward, to a course which would take him outside her maximum submerged danger angle, and so force her to come to the sur­face if she meant attacking. The manoeuvre had the effect intended. She quickly reappeared and proceeded at full speed on the surface to head him off, and on his hoisting neutral colours signalled him to stop. Though he obeyed immediately he was careful to keep his engines working in such a way as to maintain a position on the bearing most favourable for attack.

 

Without any trace of misgiving the submarine continued to approach, and when about two miles and a half away signalled for his papers to be sent on board. This order he used to close her gradually while clearing away a boat, and so they both kept on upon converging courses till they were only 700 yards apart, when Lieutenant‑Commander Wilmot‑Smith swung to port as though to give the boat a lee for lowering into the water. By this means he cleverly brought his starboard quarter and stern guns to bear, and with the range down to 500 yards he gave the order to unmask them. The screen and poop rails fell and with them the neutral colours on the jack staff, the white ensign was hoisted on the main back‑stay, and fire was opened both with guns and rifles. The second shot hit the submarine at the base of the conning tower and she was doomed. As shells and bullets rained upon her she tried to dive, then she partly reappeared, but only to plunge convulsively down again, and that was her end. Of her crew of five officers and thirty‑two men only a lieutenant and a petty officer remained afloat to be rescued, the rest all perished with their boat.

 

This was the last encounter in the south‑west area for many a day. With the second exploit of the Baralong the first submarine campaign against our commerce came to an end, and to many it seemed that the defence had mastered the attack. But in fact this was not the reason for the respite. It was due to two entirely different considerations. One was, as will be seen directly, that the enemy was once more changing the direction of his primary offensive; his attention was turning to the Balkans, and for the moment the most import­ant theatre for his submarines was in the Mediterranean.

 

Aug.‑Sept., 1915

THE SUBMARINE CONTROVERSY

 

The other lay not in the great strategy of the war, but in diplomatic considerations which forced the High Command to give way to the statesmen.

 

The disturbing influence arose from the destruction of the Arabic. The reception of the news in America filled the German Ambassador with alarm. For months he had been deliberately spinning out the negotiations over the Lusitania, and American patience was showing signs of exhaustion. A note, sharper in tone than any of the numerous communica­tions that had preceded it, had been sent to Berlin. It demanded an apology and indemnification for the American lives that had been lost and an undertaking that no passenger ships should in future be sunk without warning. For nearly a month Berlin had been silent and the only reply was the sinking of another great liner without warning or provocation and with the loss of more American lives. The United States Govern­ment immediately asked for an explanation: Count Bernstorff sent an urgent warning that American opinion was now dangerously exasperated, and counsels in Berlin began driving confusedly in a storm of controversy between the Chancellor and Admiral von Tirpitz. The Chancellor, on Count Bernstorff's alarming representations, was for offering arbitration and definitely forbidding attacks on all passenger ships if America in return would press the British Government to stand by the Declaration of London.

 

Admiral von Tirpitz and his men protested that such a reply would admit the illegality of the campaign and that the submarines, their only hope, must not be sacrificed to America. The Emperor was inclined to agree, and Admiral von Tirpitz suggested that if something must be done to quiet American resentment the submarines could be temporarily withdrawn from British waters and sent to the Mediterranean. But the Ambassador's account of public feeling was too disturbing for so easy a makeshift to restore confidence in Berlin. The Emperor wavered, then changed his mind to the Chancellor's view, and Admiral von Tirpitz tendered his resignation, (August 27). It was refused and the orders which had been secretly issued after the Lusitania incident, that no liner was to he sunk without warning, were extended. Admiral von Pohl at Kiel was now told that all passenger ships were to be spared. As Commander‑in‑Chief he protested in reply that this restric­tion, which involved the examination of vessels before attack, would involve so much risk to the submarines that further effort was useless, and he too tendered his resignation, (September 1) with the same result.

 

Sept. 1915

 

Seeing how far we had developed the system of defensively armed merchantmen and decoy ships, the Admiral's attitude was fully justified by the experiences of the year. At the beginning of 1915 the Germans had no more than twenty-four "U" boats fit for commerce destruction, and in the succeeding months new construction had barely covered the losses. If therefore the losses were likely to reach a higher rate, there was little hope that they could have a decisive effect upon the war. (Scheer, Germany's High Sea Fleet in the World War, p. 258.)

 

At the same time his objections bring out clearly the inherent limitations of the submarine as a commerce destroyer. Owing to its essential vulnerability it could not operate in a true offensive spirit. Immunity from attack was the first consideration, and it therefore had to act by stealth and evasion. Consequently its only chance of avoiding destruction was too often to sink at sight with the inevitable risk of inflicting on powerful neutrals an unpardonable affront. The Germans thus found their new method of disputing the command of the sea was involving them in an insoluble dilemma. The more vigorous, extended and ruthless their submarine campaign against commerce became, the more likely it was to increase the strength opposed to them by sooner or later forcing neutrals into the ranks of their enemies.

 

Faced with this dilemma the German Government agreed on September 7 to send a Note expressing regret for the loss of American citizens but without admitting responsibility to pay an indemnity, and proposing, if agreement on this point could not be reached, reference to a Hague Tribunal. At the same time they forwarded an account of the affair, which was taken in America as an attempt to justify the action of the submarine commander on the ground of self‑defence, and although the Ambassador on his own authority had already made public the secret orders about the treatment of liners, in hopes of quieting the storm, popular opinion only became more inflamed at the grudging admission of the Germans. Eventually on October 5, seeing no help for it, Berlin disavowed the officer and agreed to negotiate an indemnity. This proposal America at once accepted, and the storm which had brought the two countries to the brink of war rapidly died down.

 

So far as we were concerned the most important outcome of the diplomatic storm was that Admiral von Tirpitz's suggestion was also adopted. On September 18 an order went out for withdrawing all submarines from our west coast and the Channel, where American traffic was most abundant.

 

Sept. 1915

AMERICA'S DIPLOMATIC SUCCESS

 

In the North Sea ten of them were still kept at work, and the mining activities of the Flanders Flotilla remained unre­stricted. But for a field where submarine operations against the commerce and communications of the Allies could be carried on effectively and with little risk of another gale from Washington, the German Admiralty had to look to the Mediterranean. In this way, moreover, the political and military exigencies of the moment were reconciled. For it was upon the operations in the Eastern Mediterranean that the issue of the war seemed at this time likely to turn.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER VIII

 

THE GERMAN CHANGE OF FRONT ‑ ATTITUDE OF BULGARIA - NAVAL OPERATIONS IN SUPPORT OF THE AUTUMN OFFENSIVE IN FRANCE

 

IN the orientation which the war was now taking there was reason enough why Germany should shrink from setting a hard face towards so powerful a neutral as America. While the nervous negotiations about the Arabic were proceeding they were in the act of giving another direction to the main current of the war. The new development which the Allies were already expecting was what gave special urgency to the question which Lord Kitchener on September 10 had gone over to Calais to settle with the French. To an influential section of British opinion it seemed that the best way of turning the tide which was flowing so strongly in favour of the Central Powers was to concentrate the whole of the Allied offensive power on bringing our well‑conceived, but ill‑provided Dardanelles enterprise to a successful issue.

 

This appeared at least the most effective means of restoring the shattered power of Russia and of eventually confining the main theatre of war to Europe. In Paris this view was not without support, but the bulk of opinion regarded the Dardanelles enterprise as an eccentric movement, and was pinning its faith on direct offensive action in France. It was only natural. Not only was the invader on French soil, but the whole French outlook was traditionally continental. It was not to be expected that they could see the struggle against Germany as the world war it was to us. Between the two Western Powers there was a difference of outlook so deeply rooted in the distinctive history and conditions of each country that it was naturally hard to reconcile, as appeared only too clearly when the discussion took place.

 

The conference met on September 11. It was attended by Lord Kitchener, Sir John French, Lieutenant‑General Sir Henry Wilson

 

Sept. 1915

ANGLO‑FRENCH CONFERENCE

 

and the Secretary, Committee of Imperial Defence, and by M. Millerand, Generals Joffre and Sarrail and two French staff officers. Nothing really definite was decided. M. Millerand had to suggest that General Sarrail should have the supreme command, but on the ground that the British troops in the theatre greatly outnumbered the French the proposal was firmly declined. It was agreed, however, that if it was eventually decided that the British forces should operate on one side of the Dardanelles and the French on the other, the European and Asiatic commands might be independent. It was also agreed that if the French sent out four divisions we would send two to relieve the two French divisions which had hitherto been operating in Gallipoli. Transport sufficient for the six divisions was to be prepared, but no definite decision was taken till the result of the coming offensive in France was known. Throughout the discussions General Joffre, feeling that at any moment the Germans might choose to change their front again and sweep back to the west, made no secret of his dislike of the whole affair, and neither he nor Sir John French would commit him­self to a date when it would be possible to extricate the six divisions from the Allied line.

 

The prospect of prompt action was therefore still remote, and prompt action was what was most important if the only other spark of hope was to be blown into flame. That spark was a glimpse of anti‑German feeling in the ranks of the Opposition parties in Bulgaria, of which, in a last forlorn effort, the Allies were now trying to take advantage. Early in August a note had been presented to Serbia advising her to make certain territorial concessions to Bulgaria if her old enemy would declare for the Allies. On September 1 she had replied accepting the proposals but with certain reserva­tions, which led to further discussions between the Allies. They ended in a resolution that the Serbian reservations must he overruled, and on the 14th a note went to Sofia offering the whole of the concessions if Bulgaria would con­clude with the Allies at a short date a convention binding her to take military action against Turkey. As soon as the proposal reached the ears of the Bulgarian opposition they took it up warmly. In a deputation to King Ferdinand they solemnly warned him of the danger of the policy he was pursuing, and demanded the formation of a coalition govern­ment and the convocation of Parliament. But the King was far too deeply committed to the Central Powers to give way, and the immediate result of the Allied overture was rumours that he was preparing to mobilise.

 

Aug-Sept, 1915

THE BALKANS

 

The fact was that the Germans, as we now know, were taking the same view of the crisis as the British Government. The Imperial aspirations which had been so actively fostered by Prussia up to the eve of the war, and which in some measure at least accounted for her precipitating it, had so far mastered her continental traditions that she too saw that the key of the future now lay in Constantinople, and to secure it the Great General Staff had decided to abandon for the present any further action to crush the Russian military power. For a while, it is true, the German Commander‑in­Chief in the East continued his attempt to turn the Russian right in spite of the failure at Riga, and this he hoped to do by an enveloping movement pushed against Vilna between Riga and Brest‑Litovsk. The movement was already beginning when the attempt on Riga failed, but within a week Brest‑Litovsk had fallen (August 25‑26).

 

For the Great General Staff that was enough. Even if after the failure at Riga and with their coastwise communication in the Baltic insecure the turning movement could have been successfully continued, they regarded the complete destruc­tion of the Russian military power as not immediately necessary. She was already crippled enough to prevent her interfering with their wider ambitions for a long time to come. They had reached the shortest attainable defensive line, and they were not so fanatically wedded to their dominant war maxim as not to see that the moment had come to relax it and seize the opportunity of using the advantage of interior lines to divert their main offensive to a more urgent direction.

 

The Dardanelles, and not the Russian army, was now their preoccupation. There lay the channel through which alone stricken Russia could be healed of her wounds ‑ there, too, lay the key to the most telling offensive against the British Empire, and the road to it ran through Serbia. Whether or not that road could be taken depended on the attitude of Bulgaria and Rumania. How far King Ferdinand was committed to the German cause at this time is difficult to say, but it is certain that the German Great General Staff con­sidered that the negotiations were going too slowly and that they required speeding up with a military gesture to encourage King Ferdinand and overawe Rumania. Accordingly, as soon as Brest‑Litovsk fell, Austria was informed that in pursuance of previous arrangements certain German troops were to be withdrawn from the Galician Front for the Danube. To this Austria objected. For her the final crushing of Russia was the paramount object, and she wished

 

Aug.‑Sept. 1915

GERMAN CHANGE OF FRONT

 

the troops to reinforce the Kovno Army Group, which was about to commence its thrust for Vilna. Germany was inexorable. The troops began at once to move and the Chief of the Great General Staff explained that they were indispensable for assisting the Bulgarian negotiations by appearing on the Rumanian flank and within easy reach of Bulgaria. "A reinforcement of the Kovno Army Group," he wrote, "is certainly desirable, but it is incomparably more important to secure the Dardanelles and to strike the iron in Bulgaria while it is hot. Consequently the forces which we are able to withdraw from the zone of Brest­-Litovsk must go to the Danube." (Von Falkenhayn, General Headquarters, 1914‑1916, p. 133.)

 

To the Danube the troops therefore went, and the Vilna envelopment had to proceed without them. The attempt very nearly succeeded, but at the last moment it proved too weak and the Russians were able to settle down on the line of their choice, from which there was no moving them. To this extent our power of influencing a European military situation by naval and combined operations in the Baltic and Mediterranean reasserted itself as of old, and to this extent the Dardanelles enterprise, inert as it seemed to have become, did avail to relieve the pressure on Russia and give her breathing time, had she been capable of using it.

 

The effect of the change in the German front of attack was soon felt. It was within three weeks of the withdrawal of the German troops from the Eastern Front that the rumours of a Bulgarian mobilisation began to be heard. At the same time Serbia reported that Bulgarian troops and munitions were being dispatched to Vidin and that two Austro‑German forces were concentrating on her northern frontier. (The German troops had gone to Orsova, which is on the Danube at the "Iron Gate," where the frontiers of Austro‑Hungary, Rumania, Serbia and Bulgaria practically meet. Vidin is in the north‑west corner of Bulgaria, just bellow the "Iron Gate.")

 

For her the evil day was obviously at hand. Invasion from the north the Serbs had twice heroically repelled, but a third invasion with a third enemy pressing in from the east rendered resistance almost hopeless. Greece by treaty was bound to come to her assistance if necessary, but Greece without support was too weak to save the situation, and Serbia threatened from the north could not provide the 150,000 men against Bulgaria which, as Greece contended, was a condition of the defensive alliance becoming operative. Rumania might turn the scale, but it was more than doubtful if she dared move, and, failing her, M. Venizelos and the

 

Sept. 1915

HOME WATERS

 

Serbian Prime Minister appealed to the Allies for the imme­diate assistance of 150,000 troops to provide the required force for dealing with the Bulgarians.

 

In London the proposal was taken into consideration on September 23, but no definite reply could be given. It was impossible to say whether or not the troops could be spared from France till the result of the coming offensive was known. The first preparatory moves were already being made not only on land but also at sea, where the navy had its definite part to play in the Franco‑British combination. The general idea was to cut off the salient of the enemy's line in Artois by the French driving northward against its southern face in Champagne, with a subsidiary British push eastwards against its western face in the region of Arras. The part of the navy was to be a demonstration on the Flemish coast to menace the German sea flank, and so prevent the salient being reinforced from that quarter. As early as September 7 Rear‑Admiral R. H. S. Bacon had been secretly informed that at any moment he might be called on to support the sea flank of the Allied army by gunfire from his ships, and to this end he was to keep in close touch through General Bridges, our liaison officer at Dunkirk, with General Foch, commanding the coast sector.

 

As in the crisis of the first race for the sea the previous year, it was to the Dover Patrol that the duty fell. It was now far better composed for the work and far better trained. Admiral Bacon had had attached to his command three of the new monitors which had been armed with the tur­rets and the 12‑inch guns of the discarded "Majestic," as well as the old Revenge, now furnished with bulges and renamed Redoubtable, and for some time past he had been training them and experimenting with fire observation on a specially prepared range in the Thames Estuary, where the natural features, conditions and leading marks of the vital part of the Belgian coast were sufficiently well reproduced. (These 12‑inch monitors were Lord Clive (Commander N. H. Carter), Prince Rupert (Commander H. O. Reinold), Sir John Moore (Commander S. R. Miller), Prince Eugene (Captain E. Wigram). and General Craufurd (Commander E. Altham).)

 

He was then absorbed with the idea, which he shared with Admiral Bavly and many others, that the only way of dealing with the enemy's submarines was to destroy the bases in his area from which they were acting, and with this object he had been rehearsing on the Thames range an attack upon Zeebrugge and Ostend and the adjacent coast batteries. To overcome the key difficulty of all coastal bombardments

 

Aug. 22‑23, 1915

BOMBARDMENT OF ZEEBRUGGE

 

he had devised a novel form of observation station, consisting of tall iron tripods which could be carried in specially fitted vessels and planted in shallow waters at convenient points. On the top were platforms to carry an observation party and their instruments, but so small that when the structure was immersed it was hoped they would not attract attention.

 

After three months' work the first attempt was to be made on August 21‑22 against Zeebrugge. (See Map 8.)

 

 

 

Map 8. Operations against the Belgian Coast

 

Owing to the proximity of the enemy's submarines and aircraft, no less than the strength and number of the coast batteries and the danger of fixed and floating mines and the intricate navigation, the difficulty of the operation was very great, and only to be overcome by a very numerous and complex force. Nearly a hundred vessels of all types took part. Besides the Lord Clive, carrying Admiral Bacon's flag, and two other monitors, Sir John Moore and Prince Rupert, there were two mine­sweeping gunboats (Seagull and Spanker), ten shallow draft paddle minesweepers, ten destroyers, and forty to fifty drifters of the Dover Patrol, four observation ships to carry the tripods, a seaplane carrier and other minor auxiliary units. It was, in fact, like the naval force operating at the Dardanelles, a fragment of the organisation on which Lord Fisher had pinned his faith for seizing the initiative from Germany, and which he had been so actively preparing up to the time of his retirement. In effect it was what a recent French authority has aptly termed a "Siege Fleet," whose operation against the enemy's naval strongholds was to be covered by the Grand Fleet. Its organisation was closely analogous to that of a siege army whose operations are covered by a field force. Such a device we had been com­pelled to employ again and again in former wars, but had never prepared in time of peace.

 

After being delayed a day by unsuitable weather, the fleet sailed in the evening of August 22, while the French destroyers Oriflamme and Branlebas were sinking a German torpedo-boat off Ostend. Thanks to their careful training under Captain F. G. Bird the drifters accurately formed there a zareba of explosive mine nets forming three sides of a rectangle open to the coast to enclose the firing position of the monitors; the two observation tripods were successfully placed, unnoticed by the enemy, and at 5.36 a.m. on the 23rd fire was opened. So far, in spite of every difficulty, all had gone well, but now the defects of the old gun fittings of the monitors, which had been a perpetual source of trouble

 

Aug. 23-Sept.7, 1915

 

during the rehearsals, again declared themselves. The Prince Rupert's director broke down at once and she could only fire very slowly. The Sir John Moore had to cease fire after the eighth round, but the Lord Clive was able to carry on for the allotted time, and in spite of the poor visibility, which made it difficult to identify the landmarks with their imita­tions on the practice range, good execution was done upon the Solvaye submarine factory and the docks and basins. In order not to risk a concentration of submarines on the return home, to punish the daring attempt it had been decided that the bombardment should last no more than two hours. Accordingly at 7.30 the "cease fire" was signalled and Admiral Bacon withdrew his motley force in the same orderly manner in which it had arrived upon the scene. No submarine or other interference, except some gunfire on the observation ships as they went in with their sweepers, was attempted, and he was able to report himself well satisfied with the first performance. (The report of the result received from Holland by our Intelligence Division was - Two submarines and two dredgers sunk, the Solvaye Factory and the first lock destroyed. This report, however, was much exaggerated, for an air reconnaissance two days later reported the lock gates intact, and the submarine factory was not destroyed.)

 

The day's work had in any case been encouraging enough for the same treatment to be applied to Ostend at the earliest opportunity. Owing to unfavourable weather it could not be arranged till a fortnight later. The force employed was much the same as before, except that the squadron was reinforced by the General Craufurd (12‑inch) and M 25 (9.2‑inch), which had just joined Admiral Bacon's flag. The 6th Flotilla light cruiser Attentive was also there, while the Redoubtable and the two gun‑vessels Excellent and Bustard were detailed to keep under the fire of the guns at Westende. After two efforts frustrated by bad weather the main force was in position off Ostend by 6.0 a.m. on September 7th, but though the morning was beautifully fine Ostend and its vicinity were concealed by haze, so that fire could not be opened for fear of damaging the town, and while waiting for the haze to clear, the force was so heavily bombed by aircraft, which hit the Attentive, killing two men and wounding seven, that Admiral Bacon had to order the ships to separate. Another serious disappointment was that two tripods which had been placed in position were discovered by the enemy and destroyed.

 

In the afternoon, however, the weather cleared, and he again took up firing positions, this time further out, at 18,000

 

Sept. 7‑19, 1915

BOMBARDMENT OF OSTEND

 

to 19,000 yards. As the range of the batteries was uncer­tain, the power of the German shore guns had to be tested, and the test brought an ugly surprise. No sooner was fire opened than heavy shell from the enemy began to fall so close that it was necessary to turn the monitors 16 points to open out the range by 1,000 yards. The enemy's shell followed as the range increased, and when the monitors turned again to engage their targets they were still under heavy fire. The shooting of the new battery was extraordinarily good; but though the flagship was hit four times little damage was done. Still, as it was clear the battery was good for at least 22,000 yards, and could not be located, it was obviously only common prudence to retire and wait till these formidable guns could be located and the 15‑inch monitors be brought up to deal with them. (The new work was known as the Tirpitz battery. Its range was actually 35,000 yards.)

 

After about half an hour's action Admiral Bacon therefore withdrew. It was disappointing, but some success had been obtained, and a reconnaissance next day reported the Ostend lighthouse wrecked, a shed in the naval arsenal (Atelier de la Marine) and the eastern pier carried away, while at Westende there were considerable signs of damage done by the Redoubtable and her two consorts.

 

It was with this fresh revelation of the difficulties of his task that Admiral Bacon received the warning to be ready to assist the army when called upon. His instructions were to keep a proportion of the monitors and other vessels required for the service in a state of immediate readiness and to arrange with the French authorities to have them berthed at Dunkirk. This was done, and on September 16 as a preparatory measure he made an attempt to destroy the military works at Ostend and the newly discovered Tirpitz battery, which had now been located in the south‑western suburbs. This time, in hopes of avoiding the arc of fire of these formidable guns, the attempt was to be made from West Deep. (The West Deep is the channel inside the Outer Dunkirk banks which leads to Nieuport and Ostend. It is reached from Dunkirk Roads by a narrow Channel through the inner banks known aa Zuidooote Pass.)

 

For two days the weather stopped the operations, and on the 18th, while waiting for it to improve, Admiral Bacon was invited to St. Omer to confer with Sir John French and arrange the best manner of co‑operating with the army in the coming offensive. There he learnt it was to take place on the 25th, and hurrying back on the 19th he found the weather suitable for his delayed operation.

 

With the Marshall Ney (Captain H. J. Tweedie), the first

 

Sept. 19-25, 1915

 

of the 15‑inch monitors, and the Lord Clive he proceeded to engage and test the coast batteries between Ostend and Nieuport, particularly the Tirpitz, and another heavy battery a little to the westward at Raversyde, as well as the guns at Middelkerke, halfway between Nieuport and Ostend.

 

While the two monitors from eastward of La Panne ‑ that is, about four miles west of Nieuport ‑ engaged the three targets, the French batteries and naval guns about Nieuport joined in to keep those at Westende quiet. The results were not encouraging. It was found that both Tirpitz and Raver­syde batteries could range the ships with accuracy, and after firing intermittently for two hours they retired through the Zuidcoote Pass with three of the Tirpitz guns following them up to an extreme range of 29,000 yards. In the afternoon they tried again, this time moving up inside the inner bank to La Panne to test the enemy's arc of fire. Here one of the Tirpitz guns could still find them, and after half an hour they withdrew to Dunkirk. No damage had been done, but the Marshall Ney had had so much trouble with her engines that she had to be towed in by a destroyer, and the day's work convinced Admiral Bacon he must return to Dover to recast his whole plan for the diversion.

 

There were only four days in which to do it, but in that time the new arrangements were completed. His guiding idea was that the diversion would be more effective if the operations were extended over several days, than if all the limited supply of ammunition was fired away at once; and further, that to get the utmost effect from the demonstration it should be made at both ends of the German sea front. In order to give the impression of an intended landing, a number of the new troop motor lighters had been brought to Dover, the troops of the garrison were exercised with them in embarkation and landing, and it was hoped the double demonstration would leave the enemy in doubt whether the descent was intended at Knocke, near the Dutch frontier, or to combine with an advance from Nieuport. Thus the new plan involved operation orders for several days and the reorganisation of the fleet into two separate squadrons.

 

By the night of September 24 all was ready, and punc­tually next morning, while our army's first intensive bombard­ment began between La Bassee and Lens, the Prince Eugene and General Craufurd were opening on the coast from Knocke to Blankenberghe, and the Lord Clive (flag), Marshall Ney and Sir John Moore, assisted by the Nieuport batteries, were attacking Westende and Middelkerke. That day the Eastern Squadron fired seventy‑eight rounds of the precious ammunition

 

Sept. 25-Oct. 2, 1915

NAVAL SUPPORT FOR THE ARMY

 

and the Western Squadron a hundred and sixteen. The damage done appeared to he considerable, and none of the monitors was hit. The casualties were confined to the drifter Great Heart, which was blown up with the loss of her com­manding officer and seven men, and the auxiliary patrol yacht Sanda, which was acting with the Eastern drifters and was sunk by gunfire from Blankenberghe with the loss of her commander and twelve officers and men. (The loss of the commander was specially deplored. He was Lieutenant-Commander H. T. Gartside‑Tipping, the oldest officer serving afloat, being one of the veterans who early in the war had volunteered to serve in any capacity desired.)

 

In the evening the Eastern Squadron rejoined the Admiral at Dunkirk, to receive the news of the capture of Loos and the promise of our first successes in other parts of the front of attack.

 

In good heart the naval demonstration was renewed next day, but only on Middelkerke and Raversyde. Ostend was considered out of the question, owing to the Tirpitz battery. Its range was so great that to attack it effectively the monitors would have to crawl in under its accurate fire for at least 8,000 yards, and with their low speed this would mean almost certain destruction before they could get even into extreme range. The only chance was to deal with it at night, and this was being arranged when the weather changed and nothing beyond some desultory firing at extreme range could be done for a week. It was not till October 2 that the weather mended. On that night the Admiral with four monitors steamed up the coast past Ostend under clouds of star shells from the enemy, which seemed to tell the anxiety ashore, and in the morning fifty rounds were spent on Zeebrugge to keep up the alarm. There the operation ended. Though the battle of Loos had not yet come to an end, the Admiral, feeling that he had exhausted the possibilities of a pretence of landing, reported that he could do no more to assist the army till an advance from Nieuport was intended, and that he proposed to devote his force to preparing for this eventuality, and to trying to destroy the heavy coast batteries. So the whole fleet was withdrawn to Dover, without the enemy having made any attempt to interfere with it by torpedo attack.

 

As a measure of what such coastal work under modern conditions was worth the operations were inconclusive. The defective gun mountings in the first four monitors, the failure of the Marshall Ney's engines, the breakdown of the observation arrangements and the shortage of ammunition

 

Oct. 1915

OFFENSIVE IN FRANCE FAILS

 

deprived the test of most of its value. Such drawbacks were in themselves enough to deprive the attempt of any chance of a real success, and the result could not be regarded as satisfactory.

 

In so far as the operations were intended to destroy the German submarine bases and coast batteries, they had failed, and what effect they had had in holding German troops to the coast could not be determined. All we know was that the Allies' long‑planned and premature military offensive had failed in its immediate object, as our own higher authorities only too rightly anticipated. True we had gained some ground, but they could only reflect with regret that, had that ground been gained on the Gallipoli front, it would have availed to settle in our favour what the German Great General Staff was regarding as "the incomparably important point" of securing the Dardanelles. Had a tithe of the men and the ammunition lavished on the abortive offensive been spent upon the exhausted and disappointed Turks, there can be little doubt that the Germans would have found their effort in the Near East too late. As it was they were well in time, and there being no present hope of direct action, we had, in order to parry the new German stroke, to agree to a counter­move that involved us in complexities beyond anything we had yet experienced.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER IX

 

SALONICA

 

While the ill‑fated offensive was proceeding on the Western Front the French idea of stretching out a hand to Serbia from Salonica had taken more definite shape. When, on September 23, the joint request of Serbia and Greece for 150,000 men had been considered, and it had been found impossible to give a categorical answer till the result of the coming battles in Artois and Champagne was known, the British Government had gone so far as to say that a small contingent might be quickly landed at Salonica as evidence of their intention to support Serbia. From this small con­cession began our entanglement in the French design, which was destined to strain the resources of the navy and mercantile marine beyond what they were fully able to bear.

 

At the moment there was reason to believe that no further committal would follow. Russia had no doubt that a con­tingent of even 5,000 men would suffice to bring Bulgaria to reason, and was for accompanying it with her favourite diplomatic card of an ultimatum. France, however, was insisting that a military demonstration must be made in sufficient force to prevent the resignation of M. Venizelos, on whose ascendancy rested the only hope of saving the situation in the Balkans, and she was urging that he should be informed that if Greece would mobilise in defence of Serbia a Franco‑British force would be sent to support her in resisting a Bulgarian invasion. There was no time to deliberate on the possible consequences of our reluctant consent, for Bulgaria had ordered a general mobilisation for September 25. Nor were we without hope that what we then contemplated would suffice. We had just learned that the King of Greece had consented, (23rd), to a general mobilisation, though " only as a measure of precaution, not committing the country to participation in the general war." In these circumstances it was decided on the 24th to fall in with the French plan, and to assure M. Venizelos that we were ready to make the necessary arrangements for the first large contingent

 

Sept. 23-25, 1915

SALONICA

 

of troops "on hearing definitely that their dispatch to Salonica would be welcomed by the Greek Government."

 

Late the same evening the reply came from Athens. Its effect was that M. Venizelos understood the whole force of 150,000 men would be sent and that he "would be pleased at the arrival at Salonica of any force of Allied troops, however small." At the same time it was explained that the King's attitude was doubtful, for when it was just too late he had tried to stop M. Venizelos from asking for the 150,000 men. This was far from satisfactory, and next day our Minister at Athens was instructed to ascertain definitely whether the Greek Government accepted officially our offer to send troops to Salonica and would welcome them on arrival.

 

Steps were already being taken to find the men. In view of the offensive in France the only apparent means was to draw upon the Dardanelles, which could be done if Suvla Bay were abandoned. Such a shortening of our line, it was calculated, would set free two divisions of General Hamilton's army, and by adding some 8,000 Yeomanry who were on their way to Egypt, about 87,400 men would be available. Telegrams had already been sent out during the afternoon of the 23rd both to General Hamilton and Admiral de Robeck asking for their opinion whether, if Suvla were given up, Anzac could be supplied from its own beaches, and assuring them that there was no idea of abandoning the Dardanelles. To the men on the spot such a suggestion was highly disconcerting, and they replied strongly deprecating any idea of abandoning Suvla unless the whole situation in the Balkans had changed. They hoped, by establishing a new harbour at Ari Burnu beach, to be able to supply the new Anzac position, but if the Suvla position were abandoned the enemy's guns could make this beach untenable, and in that case they would have to abandon everything that the Anzacs had won in the recent attack.

 

General Hamilton's apprehensions for the fate of the Dardanelles enterprise were increased by the receipt of an urgent telegram from General Bailloud (September 25) saying that he had received an order from Paris to arrange for sending away one of his divisions. There was no explana­tion of the object or destination, but General Hamilton was soon to be enlightened. Late that night he received a message from Lord Kitchener explaining the new situation that had arisen out of the Bulgarian mobilisation and the Greek invita­tion, as it was then understood, and telling him that two of his divisions were required for Salonica and that the French wanted a brigade or a division of their expeditionary force

 

Sept. 25‑26, 1915

EFFORTS TO SAVE SERBIA

 

for the same destination. No sooner, however, had the tele­gram been dispatched than the reply to our request to Athens for an official assurance of welcome came in, and it only for reflected the shifting no‑man's‑land that lay between the policy of the King and that of his Ministers. True it stated that they were now in agreement, but it was only too obvious from the rest of the message that they were not. "The King," it went on to say, "hoped that the Allied troops would not be sent to Salonica for the present, but M. Venizelos trusts that preparations to send them will be rapidly pushed on, and that they will be sent to Mudros or some other con­venient base so as to be available when wanted, which he thinks the course of events will soon prove to be the case." In a later telegram Sir Francis Elliot, our Minister at Athens, explained that M. Venizelos had suggested Mityleni as an alternative half‑way house for the troops, but that there would be no objection to stores and horses proceeding direct to Salonica and being taken up country by men in plain clothes under the pretence of being destined for Serbia.

 

To men burdened with the tremendous anxieties of the offensive in France which was then beginning, such a shifty reply was in the last degree exasperating. It added greatly to their difficulties, especially in regard to their advice to Serbia. From the first she had been eager to seize the advantage of her own complete mobilisation to take the offensive before Bulgaria was ready to move. The Allies had held her back, hoping still to induce her and Greece to make the territorial concessions on which they relied for drawing Bulgaria out of the influence of Germany. That hope, although Russia had not ceased to press Serbia to consent, was now very faint, but still she must be held back. If she struck the first blow the Greek King would seize the excuse for contending that no casus foederis had arisen under his defensive alliance with her, and the ground would be cut from under the feet of M. Venizelos. The Bulgarian mobilisa­tion had begun, news of a great concentration of Austro­-German forces on the Serbian frontier was coming in, but nothing more could be done while the Greek factor was shifting from hour to hour in nervous irresolution between the devil and the deep sea.

 

At the Dardanelles there was no less anxiety. General Hamilton was sending a long and reasoned message pointing out the serious consequences of abandoning Suvla, and the naval objections were insisted on no less forcibly by Admiral de Robeck next morning. But as soon as the General's message reached Whitehall he was informed that owing to

 

Sept. 23-25, 1915

 

the hesitating attitude of Greece no definite action could be taken, and that Paris had been intimated that the definite order to General Bailloud to withdraw his division was premature. To determine the Greek attitude was the first essential, and next day (September 27) a message went to Athens pointing out the impossibility of the situation as it stood. The idea of smuggling troops and stores through Salonica was summarily rejected, with a clear intimation that the work of collecting transports to comply with the original invitation must be suspended till we had a definite understanding about the landing of the troops, and that it was of the last importance that it should come without further delay.

 

The remonstrance had scarcely gone when we were faced with another of those bewildering shifts of front which rendered the whole Salonica question little less than a nightmare to our baffled Ministers. Their message was crossed by one from Athens, announcing that M. Venizelos had obtained the consent of the King to the dispatch of British and French troops, and requesting that they should come at once if possible, before the Greek troops, who we knew were to begin concen­trating in Macedonia on the 30th, required the use of the Salonica railway. So far the message was satisfactory enough, but it was added that the King was to know nothing officially until the troops were on the point of arriving, and then a formal protest was to be made.

 

Clearly this would never do, and our reply was that we were already making arrangements to send the troops, but the difficulty of landing them in face of even a formal protest was obvious. Such a protest was therefore inadmissible, and M. Venizelos was once more urged to make it perfectly clear that the troops would be welcome. The message con­cluded with a suggestion that the Greek navy should co‑operate in the laying of anti‑submarine defences for the port. The Greek answer, which was received in the course of the day (September 28), was staggering. While thanking the British Government cordially for the offer of troops, they thought there was no present need to avail themselves of it in view of the declaration of both the Bulgarian and the Serbian Governments." These declarations referred apparently to an assurance received from Serbia that she did not mean to take the offensive and one from Bulgaria that her attitude, like that of Greece, was one of armed neutrality. To all appearance the telegrams indicated a complete volte face; but next day (September 29), before we could adjust ourselves to the kaleidoscopic situation, word came in from Athens

 

Sept. 27‑29, 1915

ATTITUDE OF GREECE

 

that no notice was to be taken of the last telegram; the real message was that of the 27th, desiring the Allies to take action.

 

At the Dardanelles the pirouettes which Athens was forced by her difficult position to dance produced a bewilderment of cross purposes, as orders and countermands followed each other in quick succession. On September 26 General Hamilton, in pressing the objections to abandoning Suvla, had stated that he thought he could arrange to hold the position if he sent away the Xth and LIIIrd Divisions and no more than a brigade of the French; and the following day, after we had been told that the King had consented to the landing at Salonica, he was instructed to prepare to withdraw the two divisions he had specified and that the French had been told he could spare one of their brigades. But before the telegram arrived General Bailloud informed him that he had an order from Paris to proceed to Mudros with a division from Helles. General Hamilton, as Allied Commander‑in­Chief, could only reply that having received no intimation of such a decision, and as his own orders were specific, he could not permit him to move without further instructions. (Gallipoli Diary, II., p. 218.) The instructions when they came were to concentrate the Xth Division at Mudros and to stand fast with the LIIIrd till it was clear whether the French meant to move a brigade or a division. The preparations which had been ordered for a landing at Salonica now began, and a party of British and French officers left in the destroyer Scourge to make preliminary arrangements for the reception of the troops, with the Latouche‑Treville to keep up wireless connection.

 

All seemed now fairly well, but it was far from well. The staff officers found, instead of the welcome they believed to be assured, a reception cold to the verge of hostility. It was obvious that something was wrong at Athens. What it was they could not tell, but it would seem that, for reasons which it is difficult to fathom, M. Venizelos had become suspicious of the Allies' intentions. Russia had never ceased to urge that Greece and Serbia should be pressed even at this late hour to make the suggested territorial concessions to Bulgaria. The sacrifice required from Greece was Kavala and its hinterland.

 

(By the unratified Treaty of London, which closed the first Balkan war, the new boundaries of the Balkan States were to be settled by an international conference (Art. V1). No decision was given; but it was generally understood that Salonica would be ceded to Greece, Kavala to Bulgaria, and that the frontier between the two would be the River Struma, as this was roughly the territory which their armies had occupied. During the second Balkan war, the Greeks pressed up the coast as far as Kavala, and forced the Bulgarians to cede it by the Treaty of Bucharest. There was thus a Port - Kavala and a strip of territory between the Struma and the Mesta over which the Bulgarians felt that they had a right, and their claim was strengthened by the fact that the inhabitants were admittedly Bulgarians. The cession required of Serbia was that part of Macedonia which lies to the south of a line running north‑eastwards from Lake Ochrida to the Bulgarian frontier near Kustendil. In the treaties of alliance preceding the first Balkan war, it was intended that this territory should be given to Bulgaria: it was called in consequence the "uncontested zone.")

 

It was scarcely a secret that this

 

Sept. 29-Oct. 1, 1915

 

solution of the Balkan difficulty was also favoured in other Allied quarters, and a series of unforeseen chances now changed the vigilant Minister's attitude to one of alarm that the real intention of the Salonica design was to seize the zone and hold it as a means of purchasing Bulgaria's adhesion to the Allied cause. It would seem that it was with the object of countering the suspected scheme that the Greek army was about to concentrate in the Salonica area. To make matters worse, at the moment the Allied officers arrived the atmo­sphere of grave suspicion was thickened by a mangled report of a speech of Sir Edward Grey's in Parliament which seemed to leave no doubt that Greece was to be betrayed. To confirm M. Venizelos' worst fears it was discovered that the chief of the British staff officers who had arrived at Salonica was General Hamilton.

 

It was in fact Brigadier‑General A. B. Hamilton, but it was at once assumed that the Com­mander‑in‑Chief had come in person, and it looked as though the main British effort in the Near East was to be transferred to Salonica without Greek consent. The truth was quite otherwise. General Bailloud had just announced that he had definite orders from Paris to withdraw a whole division composed entirely of European troops, and that he was taking steps to execute the order, and Sir Ian Hamilton had to send home word that, in accordance with a discretion which he had by this time been allowed, he must retain the LIIIrd Division and dispatch only the Xth. It was already being quietly withdrawn by night from Suvla without molestation by the Turks, and by the evening of October 1 it had been concentrated at Mudros, ready to embark for Salonica as soon as Admiral de Robeck got the word.

 

During the afternoon Vice‑Admiral Dartige du Fournet, who had just relieved Admiral Nicol in command of the French Dardanelles Squadron (Admiral Dartige du Fournet was succeeded by Vice‑Admiral Gauchet in the command of the Syrian Coast Squadron), and was now at Mudros, informed the British Admiral that he had had a telegram from the Latouche‑Treville saying that there was a complete

 

Sept.‑Oct. 1915

ATTITUDE OF GREECE

 

entente at Salonica. He was therefore sending off the first French contingent, and wished our anti‑submarine net‑layers to get away at once. They were ordered to sail accordingly, and on receipt of instructions from home our first contingent was embarked on board the battleship Albion.

 

Once more all seemed plain sailing. The alarm into which M. Venizelos had fallen had not yet been felt, but during the night a signal came in from the Doris which put everything back to the beginning. She had been sent to Salonica to assist the Latouche‑Treville, whose wireless was not satisfactory, and what she had to say was that M. Venizelos had refused to permit a man to be landed or a net laid. Captain F. Larken had therefore, with great promptitude, intercepted the French troops and our own net‑layers as they were on the point of arriving and turned them back. Admiral de Robeck also stopped our own contingent from putting to sea, and another impasse had to be faced.

 

Nor was it only about Salonica that M. Venizelos had turned obdurate. He was protesting with equal vehemence about what was going on at Milo in the French patrol zone. (See Map 5 - repeated.)

 

Map 5. Operations in the Aegean

Since the French Admiral had established a patrol base there, Admiral de Robeck, at his request, had been taking steps to secure it with anti‑submarine nets, and access to it was forbidden by night. The island was an integral part of Greece, and the infringement of Greek sovereign rights was undeniable. Wherever the Allies went, so the Greek Premier protested, "we acted as though the place belonged to us." We could scarcely resent the complaint in view of what had been done elsewhere in the Aegean, but without Milo our line of supply through the French zone could not be made safe. At present it was far from safe. Even with Milo the Kithera channel, between Crete and the Greek mainland, which the transports were now using, would be insecure. Storeships and colliers were being lost almost every day in its approaches, and both Admiral de Robeck and Admiral Limpus at Maita were urging that another patrol base should be formed at Kithera or Antikithera ­ that is, Cerigo or Cerigotto.

 

In view of the check at Athens nothing could be done at the moment. It indeed had come at a most untimely juncture. Russia, seeing herself likely to lose her place as the dominating power in the Balkans, had suddenly over­ridden our efforts to find a formula on which all could agree for opening the eyes of Bulgaria to the risks she was running, and had sent (October 4) an ultimatum to Sofia. It bluntly

 

Oct. 2-5, 1915

 

announced that the Russian Minister had instructions to leave, if within twenty‑four hours the Bulgarian Government did not openly break with the enemies of the Slav cause and of Russia. Confronted with this demarche the Western Powers could do nothing but fall into line, and we were to find ourselves committed to war with Bulgaria with scarcely a possibility of help from Russia and with our only line of operations barred by Greece.

 

Everything now depended on disabusing M. Venizelos of the sinister impressions under which he had so unexpectedly fallen. Between Paris, London and Athens the wires were promptly alive with explanations. We were able to assure him that all offers to Bulgaria had now lapsed, and at his request to give him a categorical assurance that in passing troops through Salonica the Allies had no intention of encroaching on the sovereign rights of Greece or of interfering in the administration of the country. With this formula he was content and assented once more to the landing of the troops at Salonica with no more than a formal protest, on the understanding that they would at once proceed up country. To this last proviso we could not agree. To dispatch the troops in driblets into the interior was an inad­missible military operation. It was essential first to concen­trate in the vicinity of Salonica and prepare a base there. To this condition no exception was taken, and during the night of October 2-3 the Doris was able to signal to Mudros that she had received written permission for the troops to land. The French received orders direct from Paris to proceed, but Admiral de Robeck was told not to move till the permission was confirmed from Athens. The confirmation came next day. The net‑ships with the leading French transports started immediately, the Albion with 1,500 British troops followed in the evening with the second French contingent; next day (the 5th) the French artillery ships sailed and 2,000 more British troops, and at last our effort to face the new Austro‑German front was well under way. All was ready for the rest of the troops to follow in due course, and arrangements were being made to transport a French cavalry regiment from Egypt, as well as our Yeomanry brigade which would shortly be concentrated there.

 

We could not, of course, disguise from ourselves, in view of intelligence of the enemy's activity on the Serbian frontier, that the movement was late. Still there was hope. Hitherto, owing to the political instability at Athens and the lack of machinery for rapid co‑ordination of the counsels of the Allies, it had been beyond the wit of man to frame a coherent

 

Oct. 5, 1915

VENIZELOS RESIGNS

 

policy. Now that the outlook was clearer Lord Kitchener on the 5th went to Calais again for another conference, to ascertain definitely what force the French were likely to send and to concert a plan of operations. At the same time steps were taken to arrange for the Greek navy, which was relatively strong in destroyers, to co‑operate with ours on the new lines of communication. On the same day M. Venizelos, after explaining his foreign policy to the Chamber, carried a vote of confidence. On the whole, indeed, the prospects of the enterprise upon which we had reluctantly entered at the instance of France looked brighter, when before the day was out the delicate web that had been spun with so many set‑backs was suddenly torn to pieces. A telegram came in to say that M. Venizelos was no longer in power. On proceeding to the Palace to report the result of the debate, the King had informed him that in his speech to Parliament he had gone beyond his authority, and that in spite of the vote of confidence he could not endorse the policy of his Ministers. Under, a constitution based at least ostensibly on Ministerial responsibility there was but one course for M. Venizelos to adopt, and he had handed in his resignation.

 

To complete the confusion into which the whole situation was thrown by the collapse at Athens, the conference at Calais had decided the same day to proceed on the basis of the previous state of affairs. To provide the promised 150,000 men France, besides the division and the cavalry regiment already detailed, would at once add a Marine brigade. These troops were to be followed as soon as possible by a second brigade, two cavalry divisions and another division of infantry ‑ in all 64,000 men. As for the British contingent, besides the division and a Yeomanry regiment already under orders, three divisions were to be taken from Sir John French's force. This would give a total 20,000 short of the number promised, but it was agreed that the deficiency couid not be made up by drawing more troops from Gallipoli, since the operations there were inseparable frorn those at Salonica. In addition, the French stipulated that we were to provide transports for their two cavalry divisions as well as our own three divisions, In spite of the breaking strain it meant upon our shipping resources we agreed, but the question of command was not so easily settled. In this connection a preliminary agreement on the plan of operations was essential, and here the views of the two Governments were fundamentally opposed. The French, on the promise they had given merely to pass through Greek

 

Oct. 4-7, 1915

 

territory into Serbia, had ordered General Bailloud to proceed at once to Nish. To reach it from Salonica fifty miles of difficult mountainous country had to be traversed, and we on our part refused to commit ourselves to so hazardous a movement. Our intention from the first, as we were obliged to remind our Allies, was not to move from the port till we knew definitely that the Greeks were to take part with us in rescuing Serbia, and the resignation of M. Venizelos could leave us in no doubt that we must adhere to our resolution.

 

The actual situation at Salonica was that most of the French division had landed, the last units were leaving Mudros, the Albion with 1,500 of our Xth Division had arrived, and our anti‑submarine nets were in place across the mouth of Salonica bay. General Sarrail, in spite, as he tells us, of being urged by influential politicians in the ranks both of the Government and the Opposition to refuse to proceed now that M. Venizelos had fallen, left Paris on October 6 and embarked next day, but without any troops. At the same time General Bailloud's orders to advance were cancelled. He was to remain at Salonica till General Sarrail arrived, and General Sarrail was not to move from the port till another brigade came from France.

 

There was now nothing to do, so far as our Government could see, but to stand fast till the situation was cleared, and yet it was the moment when definite action was most urgent. The day before M. Venizelos fell Russia presented her ultimatum to Bulgaria; it was rejected; on October 6 we knew that Petrograd had broken off relations with Sofia; it would be impossible for us not to conform, and in spite of all our efforts we found ourselves being forced into a hostile attitude to Bulgaria, without having secured the co‑operation of Greece. Paris was accordingly informed that we could not send another man to Salonica till we knew where we stood, and our Minister at Athens was instructed to press for a frank declara­tion of what the policy of Greece was now to be. He was further to insist that the presence of the French and British forces at Salonica involved no breach of neutrality as the German propaganda was actively representing it: the troops had come on a definite understanding that Greece desired their presence in order to enable her to fulfil her engagements for the defence of Serbia. The answer was that the question of supporting Serbia was not yet decided.

 

On ground so uncertain it was impossible to treat further, and it began to look as though the effort to check the German advance towards Constantinople must be too late. The

 

Oct. 11, 1915

INVASION OF SERBIA

 

invasion of Serbia had begun, Russia was doing nothing to back her ultimatum with force, and it became necessary to consider alternative lines of action. The choice seemed to lie between another desperate effort to force the Dardanelles and the evacuation of Gallipoli. In the latter alternative we could use the troops to strike at Alexandretta or some other vital point in Asia, or else concentrate everything on assisting Serbia by striking in from Dedeagatch or the Gulf of Xeros, while the French pushed on, as they still wished to do, from Salonica. A joint appreciation from the Admiralty and the General Staff was accordingly called for.

 

By October 11, when the appreciation was ready, we were in possession of General Joffre's considered opinion. It proved to be more in conformity with our own than previous French utterances. General Sarrail had in fact been ordered not to advance into Serbia without further instructions. General Joffre's view was that the operations should be confined to securing Salonica as a base, to holding the railway thence to Uskub, the old Serbian capital, and to preventing the enemy from penetrating into the heart of the country by covering the Serbian right. For this he considered the force available would suffice, particularly if Italy could be persuaded to send a contingent to Salonica and open a second entry from the Adriatic at Durazzo.

 

Regarding the question from a purely strategical point of view, our joint Staff con­ference had no doubt that without the assurance of Greek co‑operation and strong Russian support the risk involved in sending 150,000 men to Serbia was too great to run on a slender hope of stopping munitions reaching Turkey, and to attempt it from any point on the Bulgarian coast would be more hazardous than from Salonica. In whatever way we acted the operations were only too likely to develop upon a scale which would put an unendurable strain upon both our land and sea forces. They therefore concluded that the best way of cutting the tangled knot was to renew the offen­sive in Gallipoli, provided sufficient force could be spared without prejudice to the fundamental war plan ‑ that is, seeking a decision in France with all possible forces ‑ and for a period of three months they believed the necessary troops could be spared from the main theatre.

 

So far the strategical problem was fairly simple, but its political deflections could not be ignored. Politically the most desirable way was to persevere at Salonica, but naval and military considerations all condemned it. It was further felt that, heavy as were the moral and political objections to abandoning Serbia to her fate, the objections to abandoning

 

Oct. 11, 1915

 

Gallipoli were heavier still. All, therefore, the conference could suggest in the prevailing uncertainty about the attitude of Rumania and Greece was that the troops which were then being assembled for action in the Balkans should be used for a renewed offensive at the Dardanelles. The objections to increasing our military commitments in Greece and Serbia were represented as being so serious that, when the War Council (Dardanelles Committee) met on October 11, they decided against proceeding further with the despatch of troops to Salonica and directed that the available forces should concentrate in Egypt ready for prompt action when the sky was clearer. It was further decided that a specially selected general officer should proceed to the Mediterranean to study the situation on the spot as it developed, so that he could advise on what line the troops could be employed with the greatest effect as conditions stood when the proposed concentration was ripe. It was hoped that General Haig or Lord Kitchener himself might undertake this all­important mission. On the following day we undertook to provide an army of 200,000 men for operations in the Balkans by January 1, if Greece and Rumania would declare war at once on the Central Powers. (Dardanelles Commission Report, II., p. 53.)

 

By this time Greece had finally declared her intention to remain neutral. Her neutrality, however, would be so far friendly that we could continue to use Salonica as a base and she would keep her army ready to oppose the Bulgarians at the first sign of an intention to invade her territory. All attempts to move her from this attitude proved unavailing. The King declared frankly he was thoroughly afraid of the German army and no less afraid of the Allied fleet, and no inducement would tempt him to side openly with either. Every effort to revive the Balkan League was equally fruit­less. Without strong support from Russia, Rumania dared not move, even to threaten a diversion against Bulgaria, and Russia, exhausted and already threatened with signs of internal unrest, could do nothing effective.

 

In this tangle of difficulties there was clearly only one way of acting that could be regarded as really effective, and that was a quick decision at Gallipoli. A successful effort there would untie all knots and solve all problems. But at Gallipoli affairs were in such a state as to give little hope. True, since the last battle the Turks seemed to have lost all spirit, and sporadic trench warfare had been going on the whole time, generally in our favour, but the enemy ‑ whose hopes we had reason to believe now rested on the arrival of

 

Sept. 16 - Oct. 4, 1915

E 12 AND H 1 IN THE MARMARA

 

Germans to their rescue ‑ made no move, except in the air. There the exchange of compliments with our own bombing planes was frequent, but little or no harm was done. The work of our airmen was supplemented by the constant activity of the monitors and bulge ships. Every few days they were bombarding the Turkish bases and depots or other points selected by the army, and fire observation had by this time so much improved that their practice seems to have been very good.

 

In the Marmara, moreover, our submarines were as busy as ever. When in the middle of September E 2 concluded her fruitful cruise, she had been succeeded by Lieutenant-Commander Bruce in E 12. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

She was the first submarine to carry into the Sea of Marmara a gun heavier than a 12‑pounder, and the result of the experiment was all that could be desired. On September 16 on her way up the Straits she torpedoed and sank a large steamer in the shallows of Burgaz Bay. Then, finding nothing at Rodosto, on the north shore, she made across for Mudania. On her way, near Kalolimno Island, she chased and fought a torpedo­boat. With her fourth shot she secured a hit, and the enemy, who was quite outranged, made off at high speed for the Golden Horn in a disabled condition. Mudania was dealt with next day, and here she made eight hits on the magazine, silenced the battery and damaged the railway. Two days later she was back at Marmara Island, where she sank a steamer of 3,000 tons laden with cattle and provisions. A spell of foul weather succeeded. When it was over she was to the eastward again, with intent to bombard the San Stefano powder factory outside the city, but she found the place too well patrolled by destroyers and aircraft for her to keep on the surface. On October 4 she was back at the rendezvous to meet H 1, which Lieutenant W. B. Pirie had just brought up successfully. The "H" class boats were little more than half the tonnage of the E's," and nothing so small had yet been tried in the Marmara, but she had already proved her endurance, for, though she had run aground in nearing Nagara and had fouled the net, she came safely through without damage.

 

( H 1 was the first of a new class, lighter than the "E's," which formed part of Lord Fisher's programme. Until he returned to the Admiralty on October 30, 1914, no fresh order for submarines had been given, but a large Programme of new ones was then quickly inaugurated. Thirty‑eight more "E's" were allotted to various private firms, and twenty others (the "H" Class) to the Bethlehem Steel Works in America. The first ten were to be built as quickly as possible in Messrs. Vickers' Works in Montreal from American material. To facilitate rapidity of construction they were to be on the lines of those supplied by the Electric Boat Company for the United States Navy. The contract was signed on November 10, the first one reached British waters in June, and the whole ten were delivered within seven months. The home firms did no less well with the much larger "E's", for whereas before the war they took from twenty to thirty months to complete, several were now turned out in from eight to ten months.)

 

Aug. 1915

EASTERN MEDITERRANEAN

 

After the meeting Lieutenant‑Commander Bruce ordered his newly arrived consort to the eastward, while he had another look at Rodosto. This time the road was full of shipping, and with gunfire he sank a small steamer and seventeen sailing craft. They met again on October 7 and H 1 reported she had sunk a steamship at Mudania the previous day. They then in company made another attempt to get at the San Stefano Powder Works, but were again driven off by the patrol. Before, however, they got back to Gallipoli to report their proceedings, E 12 had torpedoed a steamer in Lampsaki Bay.

 

So far our submarines were continuing to do all that was expected from them, but on the enemy's side there was also a tale to tell ominous of what the new burden that a further development of the Salonica policy would mean for the navy.

 

When, after our landing at Suvla, Germany was forced to turn her main offensive front to the Balkans, the move­ment of troops to the Danube was supplemented by a special naval effort to hamper our operations in the Aegean. Lieutenant‑Commander Hersing in U 21 had already demon­strated the possibility of the larger submarines reaching the Adriatic without the need of an intermediate supply base. In spite of his remarkable success in sinking the Triumph and Majestic at the end of May, the experiment had not been repeated. Already, however, the attitude of Washing­ton was bringing the Germans to the conclusion that it would be prudent to confine their submarine attack on commerce to waters where few American ships were found. When therefore they became seriously alarmed for the fate of Constantinople, the Mediterranean was obviously the field in which their submarines could most effectively meet both the military and political needs of the situation, and during August four large new submarines were despatched in Hersing's track. The first two, U 35 and U 34, got through our Gibraltar patrol unseen. It was at this time under Vice‑Admiral F. E. E. Brock, and comprised the old light cruiser Pelorus, ten torpedo-boats and a couple of armed boarding steamers

 

Sept.‑Oct. 1915

"U" BOAT SINKINGS

 

with some aircraft. As an anti‑submarine patrol it left much to be desired, but as it was impossible to provide the destroyers and trawlers he asked for, he was doing his best with what he had. With one patrol line outside the Straits and another inside from coast to coast just west of Alboran Island, he might hope to catch them before or after their submerged run through the Gut. On August 30 the Admiral was warned from home that two more "U" boats were on their way. These were U 33 and U 39. Both were sighted by the Eastern Patrol line, and though U 33 was engaged by torpedo‑boat No. 95, both got away and proceeded to do considerable damage along the Algerian coast on their way to Cattaro. Besides these five large boats, all under officers of experience, several smaller "UB" and "UC" boats, a mining class, had been sent overland in sections to Pola. Of them by the middle of September there were five "UB's" and four "UC's," or fourteen in all.

 

During the first three weeks of September five vessels were sunk off the coast of Crete by U 34 and U 35, but it was not till the end of the month that the first organised raid was made on the Entente communications in the Eastern Mediter­ranean. (See Map 5 - repeated.)

 

Map 5. Operations in the Aegean

No part of it, except the British Aegean zone, was reasonably safe. (The only recorded attack in the British zone was made on the Swiftsure, proceeding from Mudros to Suvla (September 18), but, as the incident is not mentioned in the German Official History, it is not possible to name her assailant. It may have been U 21, which left the area on the 10th and reached Cattaro on the 21st, or one of the "UB" or "UC" boats, five of which were now working from Constantinople. On September 15 the British Steamship Patagonia (6,000 tons) was sunk by UB 7 in the Black Sea, ten miles from Odessa.)

 

During the fortnight from September 28 to October 11 nineteen ships were sunk. (Seven by U 39 and twelve by U 33.) Of these, nine went down in the approaches to the Kithera and Anti­Kithera Channels, one of which was the Arabian, a large vessel full of sorely‑needed ammunition, and the same day (October 2) the Olympic, eight days out from England with 5,500 Yeomanry, was chased by a submarine west of Cape Matapan. On the route she had traversed between Malta and Cape Matapan four ships that had not her high speed were lost, including one that was bringing the much‑wanted motor lighters. Two more were sunk on the direct route from Malta to Alexandria, and three between Alexandria and Crete, where also a fleet sweeper was unsuccessfully attacked. Seeing that to the ordinary war traffic would soon be added numbers of troop transports from Marseilles,

 

Oct. 11-12, 1915

THE AEGEAN

 

the situation was serious, and steps were quickly taken to meet it. The French Commander‑in‑Chief, with many expressions of regret at what had happened in his area, withdrew a destroyer flotilla he had with the Italian fleet to guard the route from Malta to Matapan. At the same time Admiral de Robeck detached the sloop Jonquil with six trawlers and six drifters down to Milo to assist the French patrol, and also sent his last‑arrived submarine, H 2, to act with a decoy ship, the Clacton, in the way that had proved so successful in the North Sea. By the middle of October the worst of the raid was over, and for some time no further losses were reported, but as it was certain to be repeated shortly orders were given for transports moving through the area to be armed with 12‑pounder guns.

 

Thus the navy met the new call upon it as it had met all others, and it had done all the work of transporting our own and the French troops without touching the arrange­ments for supplying Gallipoli. But nothing could disguise the strain which the new line of operation would mean both to the navy and our diminished shipping resources. It was still another reason for doubting whether the operations from Salonica could possibly be in time to prevent the Germans from pouring new life into the Turkish defence of Gallipoli. In the opinion of the Admiralty this danger looked more remote than it did to the General Staff; for even if the Germans forced a way through to Constantinople the process of getting supplies into the peninsula must be slow and precarious, owing to the action of our submarines in the Marmara and to the fact that the accurate long‑range fire of our ships prevented the use of any convenient port in the Straits. Their view appears to have carried little weight with the Government. When, on October 11, it was decided to send to Egypt all troops that could be spared from France, and that an independent general officer should go out and advise how best to use them, the possibility of evacuating Gallipoli was already a factor in the problem, and as a preliminary step Lord Kitchener the same day telegraphed to Sir lan Hamilton that although no decision had been taken to evacuate, he wished to have his estimate of what loss evacuation would be likely to cost.

 

General Hamilton's reply next day (October 12) did not conceal his immediate determination that if so lamentable a decision was taken he must decline to have a hand in carrying it out. (Gallipoli Diary, II., p. 249.) What he answered was that the loss must to some extent depend on the circumstances of the moment,

 

Oct. 15, 1915

SIR IAN HAMILTON RECALLED

 

but it could scarcely be less than half the men and all the guns and stores, and that possibly with so many still raw troops at Suvla and the Senegalese at Helles it might mean a veritable disaster. This estimate so far exceeded the worst that had been calculated at home that it seems to have fixed a growing feeling that a fresh mind must be brought to bear upon the situation, and consequently that a change in the Dardanelles command was inevitable. Without such a change it was clear the crucial decision could not be taken with an open mind. The resolution to recall General Hamil­ton was reached with the greatest reluctance. Seeing how much he had done with wholly insufficient means the blame of the failure could scarcely lie heavily upon him. Yet there was no doubt the thankless step had to be taken, and on October 15 the telegram went out. "The War Council," it ran, "held last night decided that though the Government fully appreciate your work and the gallant manner in which you personally have endeavoured to make the operations a success in spite of the great difficulties you have had to contend with, they consider it advisable to make a change in the command." Until his successor could arrive, General Birdwood was to be left in charge. The officer chosen to succeed General Hamilton was General Sir Charles Monro, then commanding the Third Army in France: a military leader of wide experience and with a high reputation for dispassionate judgment. He was also the officer selected to advise the Government on the general situation in the Near East.

 

At the same time the Expeditionary Force was to lose the services of another man who had borne the heat and burden of the day. This was Vice‑Admiral Guepratte, now 2nd in Command of the Dardanelles Squadron, who on promotion had been appointed Prefet Maritime at Brest. From the first his co‑operation with his British colleagues, no less than the gallant manner in which on all occasions he had fought his squadron, had won him the affection and esteem of everyone who had to work with him. Longer acquaintance had only deepened the impression of his loyalty, spirit and ability, and he left with the sincere regret of his British comrades. This was not the only change of command which now took place in the Mediterranean. The Commander­in‑Chief, Admiral Boue de Lapeyrere, had asked on October 10 to retire for ill‑health, and Admiral Dartige du Fournet, who had been commanding the French Dardanelles Squadron, took his place. He was succeeded by Vice‑Admiral D. M. Gauchet, and Vice‑Admiral F. P. Moreau was appointed

 

Oct. 13-15, 1915

 

to the command of the 3rd Squadron on the Syrian Coast.

 

In France itself the situation was further confused by a cabinet crisis. The shock which the complete failure of the recent offensive had caused could scarcely leave things as they were. On October 13 M. Delcasse, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, resigned, on the ground, it was believed, that he disapproved of the Salonica venture. For the time the crisis stopped there, and M. Viviani, the Premier, taking the vacant portfolio as acting Minister, endeavoured to weather the storm.

 

We were still holding back from the desperate Balkan adventure, but the French now authorised General Sarrail to advance into Serbia as soon as his base was secure. It was a lead we could not follow, but, on the other hand, we were urging that the break of relations with Bulgaria which Russia had brought about should be followed at once with a declaration of war. For some time past Admiral de Robeck, in spite of all his other preoccupations, had been ready to declare a blockade and bombard Dedeagatch. A proposal had been made that in view of the doubtful attitude of the Greek army, which was continuing to move to Salonica, we should strike at Bulgaria from the port of Enos, but this had been vetoed by the Admiralty, on the ground that there was no shelter there from prevailing winds and no landing facilities, and that it would entail a further dispersion of force to which their overstrained resources were unequal.

 

In view of the crisis in France the negotiations for a joint declaration of war proceeded slowly. We, however, broke off relations on October 13. Bulgaria declared war on Serbia next day, and Admiral de Robeck was immediately instructed to declare a blockade of the Bulgarian coast with two days' grace, and to ascertain by air reconnaissance whether there were any objectives of military value that could be reached by bombardment. This step we accompanied (October 15) by a declaration of war, and France issued hers the next day. (Russia and Italy declared war on Bulgaria on October 19.)

 

So far we were in agreement, but no further. We were pressing upon Paris that our position in the Near East and India called for the release of eight divisions from France (including two for India). We were ready to send our con­tingent of the promised 150,000 men to Salonica, but it was only from France that the troops could come, and then only if General Joffre took over the line south of Arras. At the same time we made it an express condition that we did not bind ourselves to advance beyond Salonica unless Greece

 

Oct. 21, 1915

BOMBARDMENT OF DEDEAGATCH

 

joined the Entente, and as an inducement for her to do so we were offering her Cyprus. None of our conditions was acceptable to the French Government, and M. Millerand, the Minister for War, came over to London to try to arrange matters. The day after he left Paris (October 17) the situation had grown distinctly worse. News arrived that the Bulgarians had cut the railway south of Uskub and that General Sarrail was advancing in order to restore communica­tions with the Serbians. To us the movement seemed rash in the extreme. Rumania had just definitely refused to move unless the Allies sent half a million men; Italy was protesting she could give no help till her coming offensive against Austria on the Isonzo was delivered, and Greece could not be tempted from her attitude by any territorial concession. We therefore had no hesitation in informing General Mahon that he must not follow General Sarrail's lead without further instructions. (General Mahon had been appointed to the command of the British troops at Salonica.)

 

The only prospect of immediate help came from Russia, and it was little enough. She had told us that she was ready to bombard the Bulgarian Black Sea port of Varna on the 21st, and Admiral de Robeck was now given definite orders to attack Dedeagatch on the same day. From this operation there was some hope of producing a diversionary effect. Our scouting trawlers had been reporting a nervous activity along the Aegean coast. At various points entrenching and wiring was incessant, pointing to serious apprehension of a descent in force. We had also ascertained that there were points of high military value that could be reached by ship fire. At Dedeagatch the railway from Salonica ran down to the coast and thence it continued to Constanti­nople. For about ten miles the latter section was exposed to attack from the sea, but five miles inland from the port, at a place called Bodoma, a by‑pass had been constructed behind the hills so that traffic east and west could pass in comparative security without going into Dedeagatch. The junction itself, however, could easily be reached by the heavy guns of the monitors, and it was this vital point which Admiral de Robeck chose for his main objective. The bombarding force was organised in two squadrons. The main squadron, under Captain F. Larken, in the Doris, comprised the bulge cruiser Theseus, two 9.2 and one 6‑inch monitor with the Ben-My-Chree for observation and four destroyers and ten ketches. With this force he was to operate against Dedeagatch and the coastline as far as the Bulgarian frontier

 

Oct. 21, 1915

 

and the Maritza river (that is, ten miles south‑east), with orders that the destruction of Bodoma junction and the sub­sequent destruction of the rolling stock and stores was to be its principal object. The second squadron (Kleber, Askold, with four British destroyers and four trawlers), under Captain S. Ivanov of the Askold, was to operate along the coast thirty miles westward as far as Porto Lagos (Kara Agatch), where, as well as at Dedeagatch and the estuary of the Maritza, oil stores for submarines were suspected. The instructions were to watch the coast road and endeavour to locate batteries which had been reported at various points. Damage to neutral shipping was to be avoided and civil residences respected as far as possible.

 

The operations, which were watched by the Admiral in the Triad, began on the morning of the 21st by the destroyers rapidly sweeping before the town. No mines were found, but before the ships could take up their positions the airmen reported the visibility too low for observing fire on Bodoma. Attention was, therefore, devoted to Dedeagatch. The monitors, delayed by a head wind, had not yet arrived, and at 1.0 the Doris and Theseus began on the barracks, closing in from 4,800 yards. At this range every shot told. Hundreds of troops were seen flying to the hills, and the whole range of buildings was soon a heap of blazing ruins. Other military works were then taken on, and finally the railway station and the long lines of trucks on the sea front. In this work two of the destroyers shared, going close in and firing deliberately on the rolling stock with great effect and setting on fire many trucks which seemed to be full of oil. As soon as the first monitor, M 16, arrived she was given a railway bridge east of the town for a target and quickly destroyed it. The other two, M 19 and M 29, on arrival joined in the general holocaust of rolling stock, railway and harbour work, warehouses and shipping, while the destroyers set fire to a coal‑heap and an oil store. By 4.0 the work was done and the squadron ceased fire. By this time the other squadron had dealt with the storehouses at Porto Lagos and the signal stations along the coast. Nowhere had there been any opposition, and when, during the night, a feint of landing was made on each side of the port there was still no sign of resistance.

 

The attack had apparently come upon the Bulgarians as a complete surprise. They were at the moment concen­trating their efforts on Uskub, and the day after the bom­bardment it fell into their hands. For the British Govern­ment it was an additional reason for not following General

 

Oct. 21, 1915

POSITION OF SERBIA

 

Sarrail's lead. It was no longer possible for the Serbians to prevent the Bulgarians and Germans joining hands; they were threatened with an overwhelming disaster, and if this occurred it was likely that Greece would he unable any longer to resist the pressure which Germany was bringing upon her. This view was urged upon the French with an intimation that General Sarrail could not maintain the forward position he had occupied. Their reply was that for them the new situation called for the immediate despatch of more troops and a naval demonstration to counteract the influence of the German army. It was a view we could not share. Every telegram from the Near East added a deeper shadow to the alarming situation of Serbia. She was even protesting that unless 150,000 men came to her rescue in ten days she was lost. This was quite impossible. A large proportion of our available transports were carrying the French divisions. Even could transport be found the troops could not be landed quickly at Salonica, for the port would soon be thoroughly congested by the Greeks, who were on the point of increasing their force there by sending round the First Army Corps by sea from Piraeus. Yet the French continued to urge us on.

 

The only ray of light in the situation was that our bom­bardment and feint seemed to have alarmed Bulgaria. The Greek Minister at Sofia reported that the attack had been taken very seriously. As a port and a railway centre Dedeagatch was ruined, wild rumours spread that thousands of troops had been killed in the bombardment, and three regiments of territorials were hurried off to the threatened spot. At best it was far too little to restore the situation. We were more firmly convinced than ever that it was now impossible to save Serbia, but it was equally evident that perseverance in the venture had become a political necessity in France. General Joffre, who on military grounds had opposed the precarious scheme from the first, was now urging that, having once begun, it was impossible to turn back. British military opinion was practically unanimous in opposition, and the Admiralty objection to being saddled with the protection of another important line of communication had just been deepened by a very regrettable occurrence.

 

On October 19 the transport Marquette (7,000 tons) had left Egypt for Salonica with the Ammunition Column of the XXIXth Division and the New Zealand Stationary Hospital. On board were thirty‑six nurses, twenty‑two officers and 588 other ranks, besides 541 animals. Unmolested, she entered the Gulf of Salonica on October 28, and there,

 

Oct. 1915

 

only some thirty miles short of the anti‑submarine net, she was torpedoed by U 35. British and French patrol boats were quickly on the spot, and before she sank were able to rescue the greater part of those on board, but the first reports that had come in put the missing at little less than half the whole number. (By October 28 there were still unaccounted for 128 troops, ten nurses and twenty‑nine of the crew, all of whom were eventually reported as killed.)

 

Intelligence from a Greek source gave reason to believe that the submarine which had done the mischief was operating from the Euripo Channel behind Euboea, and representations were made to Athens. At the moment probably nothing could have been more unwelcome to the Greek Government than that such use should be made of their territorial waters when they were straining every nerve to preserve a precarious balance between the Entente and the Central Powers, and two destroyers were at once despatched to search the suspected channel. Her anxiety not to give cause of offence to the sea Powers was probably genuine. In France, Italy and England the Press were in clamorous chorus supporting the French idea and calling for coercion of the Greeks. The ships of the Allies were within striking distance and the Austro‑German army still far away.

 

In taking this attitude Greece was certainly well advised. So long as she maintained formal neutrality we were not to be persuaded into coercing her to take sides with the Entente. On the purely strategical question we were more firmly convinced than ever that the action on which France had set her heart was wrong. But unfortunately it was now obvious that the question could not be settled on naval and military grounds alone, and we had to recognise that for other reasons, if we blankly refused to go further than we had originally undertaken to do, the solidarity of the Entente would be in jeopardy. The only course seemed to be to suggest a Franco‑British Staff conference for a frank interchange of views. As the issue to be decided turned so much on the naval factor, to which it appeared the French were not attaching sufficient weight ‑ particularly in the matter of transport and its defence ‑ it was agreed that naval as well as military representatives should attend. Meanwhile the concentration of troops in Egypt was to pro­ceed; eleven transports were ordered home from the Aegean for the purpose, and Admiral de Robeck was called on to report on how many men could be maintained in Serbia with our existing naval resources.

 

How vital a point the extent of our capacity for maintaining the sea communications was,

 

Oct. 20‑25, 1915

E 12's ADVENTURE

 

had just been brought home to all concerned. Russia had promised to send a contingent of troops from Archangel to join the Franco-­British force, but the project had had to be abandoned for lack of transport. On the other hand, there was a new though faint ray of hope that she might still come to the rescue. A project was now being considered of a large Russian force being brought to bear by way of Rumania, if only rifles could be provided for her, and these would probably be available from Italy and our own resources. In the Black Sea also she was taking action on the Bulgarian coast in concert with our own Fleet in the Aegean. On October 26 the spell of bad weather had mended, and on that day Admiral de Robeck tried once more to get at Bodoma. The ships employed were the Theseus and the monitors M 28 and M 15, but the attempt was not very successful. At an early stage the 9.2‑inch gun of M 28 had a premature burst and had to cease firing, but the airmen reported ten hits on the railway station, and some rolling stock destroyed. It was probably enough to keep up the alarm, especially as the Black Sea Fleet next day appeared off Varna and dropped into it 178 rounds of 12‑inch and 8‑inch and a score of bombs from an aeroplane.

 

In the Marmara we were still holding our own. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

In the third week of October there were four submarines up the Straits. E 12 and H 1 were still operating. For several days the weather had been very bad and they had no luck, but on the 20th H 1 succeeded in torpedoing two steamers of about 3,000 and 1,500 tons near Injeh Burnu, and both were seen to sink. On the 22nd they were joined by the French boat Turquoise and next day by E 20 (Lieutenant‑Commander C. H. Warren), who on her way up had torpedoed two steamers in Bergaz Iskalessi above the net. It was now time for E 12 to return. Lieutenant‑Commander Kenneth Bruce had sur­passed all previous records by prolonging his cruise to forty days, during which time he had accounted for five steamers and thirty‑two sailing craft, besides damage done to patrol vessels and to magazines and railways ashore. On October 25 he started to go down, but only to meet adventure sur­passing in peril all he had yet encountered. In passing the net he seems to have carried away a part of it. The effect was to force the boat down by the bows and jam the foremost hydroplane so that she began rapidly to dive, and in spite of every effort to get the bows up she continued to sink till she reached a depth of 245 feet. The pressure of the water then

 

Oct. 25-31, 1915

THE MARMARA

 

burst in the conning‑tower glasses, the conning‑tower filled, and a number of leaks developed forward so dangerously that the fore compartment had to be closed. At last by getting three men on the hydroplane handgear a little movement was obtained and the boat began to rise. As she approached the surface whatever it was she was towing revealed her position and she was attacked by six patrol vessels. Then, being quite unmanageable, she plunged down again, and so continued to struggle on with continual sudden and uncontrollable in­clinations till when 150 yards off Kilid Bahr she was brought up by what sounded like a chain mooring. Speeding up to full power she found that in four minutes the obstruction was scraping aft and, what is more, that it apparently had cleared away the incubus which had been distracting her since she passed the net. For suddenly the boat took a steep angle upwards and rose so rapidly that she was into new peril. It was impossible to trim quickly enough to prevent her bows and conning‑tower breaking the surface, and the moment they appeared shore batteries and patrol vessels opened a hot fire at close range. Two torpedoes were also seen coming from Kilid Bahr; one missed the conning‑tower by ten yards, the other passed astern, and though she was hit several times by small shell no serious damage was done before she was able to dive again. Then all was plain sailing, and without further adventure she reached Helles in safety. Seldom can officers and men have had nerves and resources more severely tried. "The passage down the straits," wrote Admiral de Robeck in his report, "when the control of the boat is entirely vested in the commanding officer, was an experience the like of which few officers have had to undergo, and the successful accomplishment of the journey speaks volumes for Lieutenant-Commander Bruce's determination." (For this cruise he was awarded the D.S.O.)

 

Lieutenant Pirie in H 1 had not yet done. Two days after E 12 went down he sighted a gunboat escorting a steamer of about 7,000 tons which sought refuge in Panderma. He attacked the gunboat, but the torpedo missed, and before he could get into position for the steamer she ran into safety behind the harbour mole. Still he had not yet done with her. On the 28th he communicated with E 20, whose programme was arranged, and on the following day H 1, by boldly hugging the western shore and turning at the last moment, got an end‑on shot and hit the steamer on the star­board bow.

 

Her engines were now causing trouble. Small as she was she had done over 2,000 miles, and on the 31st she

 

Oct. 26‑30, 1915

FRANCE AND SERBIA

 

safely negotiated the dangers of the passage down. In her cruise of twenty‑nine days H 1 sank four steamers and eight sailing vessels. Of the Turquoise nothing had been heard since the 26th. Her endurance was not great, and she was expected back before the end of the month. The next news of her was from an intercepted German telegram received in the Patrie announcing that she had been sunk by gunfire on the 30th and that her two officers and twenty‑four men were saved. This unhappily was not the whole truth. While preparing to go down she had stranded and stuck fast on the surface under the Turkish guns. Being quite helpless her commander had surrendered. The boat was thus captured almost intact and taken to Constantinople, where it was found that her confidential papers had not been destroyed. The result was that all the rendezvous she had arranged with E 20 were disclosed. These facts were, of course, carefully concealed, and the serious consequences of the strange neglect did not appear till later.

 

At the time the check which our hitherto successful attack on the Turkish communications received was quite overshadowed by what had been taking place at the higher end of the war scale. The Franco‑British Staff conference which was to examine the technical aspects of the attempt to save Serbia by operating from Salonica had met at Chantilly, and, mainly owing to an initial difference of opinion on the capacity of the port and its communications with the interior, had proved abortive. To our military representa­tives the French seemed to be exaggerating the carrying power of the railways, while from actual experience our naval representatives knew that the port could not possibly accom­modate traffic on anything like the scale upon which the French staff were relying. To add to the seriousness of the situation, it could not be concealed that the French officers were not entirely free to base their opinion on purely technical considerations. A wave of enthusiasm for Serbia was being spread by the Press all over France, filling the bulk of the nation with what seemed to be a passionate desire to save her heroic army, until at Paris it was felt as a controlling factor in the situation. At Chantilly General Joffre, up to this time the most determined opponent of the Salonica adventure, was already bending under the pressure. The next day (October 29) M. Viviani, the Premier, and his War Minister, M. Millerand, resigned, and a new Government was formed under M. Briand, who more than any other French statesman was identified with the idea of the new line of

 

Oct. 29, 1915

SALONICA

 

operation in the Balkans. His political position now depended on that policy being carried through; General Joffre's future was no less critically involved, and on the day M. Viviani resigned he came to London to persuade the British Govern­ment to modify its attitude of opposition in deference to the disturbing political situation in France.

 

The proposal he had to make, though far from satisfying the desires of the French Government, led quickly to a healing compromise. What he asked was that we should undertake to safeguard the position from Salonica as far as Krivolak on the Serbian frontier, so as to secure the communications of the French army operating to maintain touch with the Serbians. These operations it was understood were not to extend beyond Uskub; and with a proviso that we did not hold ourselves responsible for our Ally's view of the capacity of the port and the railway we agreed to active co‑operation as the French desired.

 

In this way the tension which was straining the solidarity of the Entente was relieved, but only at the cost of our Government having to raise the precautionary demonstration, which was all that was intended when ground had first been broken in the Balkans, to the status of a new line of major operations. The seriousness of the departure was fully realised, but in loyalty to our embarrassed Ally, who had been bearing so large a share of the struggle, it was unavoidable. Alone, the commitment could only be regarded with the gravest concern, but it was not alone. In another quarter beyond the horizon of the French outlook we were simultaneously involved in another commitment, where the critical situation in the Near East was also forcing a sound defensive into an offensive, of which no man could foresee the limit or count the cost.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER X

 

THE MESOPOTAMIA CAMPAIGN ‑ JULY TO OCTOBER, 1915

 

THE brilliant capture of Amara by General Townshend and Captain Nunn in the first week of June, though under­taken solely as a measure indispensable for the security of Basra and the oil supply, had led almost inevitably to a wide extension of the Mesopotamian operations beyond what the Home Government originally considered necessary or even possible. It indeed offered temptation to enterprising military and political officers that was difficult to resist, particularly when they had been led to believe that the intentions of the Government were as ambitious as their own. When on March 18, General Nixon had been appointed to command the Expeditionary Force, which then consisted of an army corps of two divisions, his instructions from the Commander‑in‑Chief in India were, after mastering the situation on the spot, to prepare a plan for the effective occupation of the vilayet of Basra, and, secondly, a plan for a subsequent advance on Bagdad.

 

The last instruction was given in ordinary course merely as a precautionary step. As yet neither at Simla nor at Whitehall was there any intention of reaching out so far. At present the object was purely defensive ‑ to secure the head of the Persian Gulf for naval and political purposes: that is, to ensure the safety of the invaluable oil supply, and to prevent the Arabs and Persians from joining the Jehad, which, if it spread eastward, could scarcely fail to have undesirable reactions in Afghanistan. With the seizure of Amara, General Nixon not only saw his way clear to carrying out the first and legitimate clause of his instructions, but beyond the limits of the vilayet ‑ and as it seemed, in the light of recent high achievement, only a little beyond it ‑ glittered the domes and minarets of Bagdad.

 

Ninety miles to the north‑west of Amara, but twice as far by the writhing river, was Kut, the point to which the remnants of the armies broken by Generals Townshend and

 

June 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

Gorringe were retreating. It lay just beyond the boundary of the Basra vilayet, at the apex of a triangle formed by the Tigris and a channel known as the Shatt al Hai, which was shown on the maps as flowing into the Euphrates at the important town of Nasiriya, and the capture of this strategical point seemed necessary before an advance on Kut could be undertaken. (see Map 1 - repeated.)

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

The truth was, that the Shatt al Hai lost itself in marshes far short of the town, and was only navigable at the season of highest floods. Still Nasiriya had an importance of its own, for it was not only the administrative centre of the western sanjak of the Basra vilayet and the natural focus of influence over the powerful tribes of the Arabian borderland, but it was also the base from which the previous attack on Basra had been developed. Hitherto, as we have seen, in times of emergency it had been masked by the Euphrates naval blockade, but this would no longer suffice, and immediately after the capture of Amara, General Nixon applied for permission to reduce it into British possession. Apart from all ulterior objects its value for securing the western sanjak, as General Gorringe's Karun expedition had secured the eastern, was so great that the Government of India, assuming that the home authorities agreed, sanctioned the advance on June 22 as being expedient to complete the security of our hold on Basra and the pipe line.

 

It was no easy task. With the hottest and most unhealthy season of the year coming on, and the navigation of the falling rivers growing ever more precarious, it was naturally a time to rest the hard‑worked troops, but the high advantage of allowing the enemy no time to recover from the blow under which he was reeling overweighed all other considera­tions. As the approach to Nasiriya by the desert route at that season would be very hazardous it was decided that the advance should be made by water. To reach it eighty miles had to be covered by way of the old channel from the Euphrates, which joins the Tigris at Kurnah. As a water­way it presented at this time every kind of difficulty. Some forty miles to the west of Kurnah the river pours through the Hammar lake, a shallow expanse of water over ten miles broad, by a tortuous and narrow channel, which was no longer navigable for ships, and only with difficulty for the shallowest river craft. Everything therefore depended on the resources the navy could develop, and on June 8 Captain Nunn had come down with his ships from Amara to make his preparations and to confer with General Gorringe, to whom the military command of the expedition was entrusted.

 

June‑July, 1915

THE RIVER FLOTILLA

 

The work of assisting in the Nasiriya expedition was not, however, the only call upon the navy. Though the capture of Amara and General Gorringe's recent operations on the Karun had so far settled the country up to the Persian frontier that the pipe line was never again disturbed, the situation beyond the frontier was calling for active pre­cautionary measures. About this time it was ascertained that a German agent, Wassmuss, who had been German Consul at Bushire and Bagdad, was in Persia with a mission to raise the gendarmerie and Tangistanis against us in the maritime province of Fars, where, at Bushire, we had our long‑established and all‑important diplomatic outpost. As we had nothing there but a small agency guard, prompt measures had to be taken for its security. A battalion was withdrawn from General Nixon's force to garrison the place, and Captain Nunn was ordered to send away the Lawrence (Commander R. N. Suter) to reinforce the squadron which was to operate in the Gulf. It was to be under Captain D. St. A. Wake in the Juno as Senior Naval Officer, and with him were to be the Pyramus (Commander Viscount Kelburn), the Dalhousie (Commander E. M. Palmer), and some small craft for inshore work. Captain Nunn's force was further reduced by the Clio being away at Bombay for repairs, and by the necessity of sending such other ships as were not immediately required to Ceylon in turns in order to recruit the health of the crews at the naval hill station during the worst of the hot weather.

 

By June 26, when the General had his three Indian brigades concentrated at Kurnah, Captain Nunn had the remainder of his force assembled just short of the Hammar lake. Further than this point the three ships that were still with him ‑ the Espiegle, Odin and Miner ‑ could not go, and from them he proceeded to man and arm his flotilla, such as it was. Three small stern‑wheelers, the Shushan, Messoudieh and Muzaffri, all crazy with age, formed the strength of it. Besides these were two horse‑boats armed with naval 4.7‑inch guns, an armed launch, the Sumana, a convoy of mahailas with two tugs to tow them and a number of bellums, some of them in pairs, carrying the mountain guns as before. Here he was joined by General Melliss with the 80th Indian Brigade (1/4th Hampshire Regiment, 24th and 76th Punjabis and 2/7th Gurkha Rifles) in three river steamers, each mounting two 18‑pounder field guns in the bows, and at 4.0 next morning (the 27th) Captain Nunn led off into the Hammar lake in his stern‑wheeler, the Shushan. By 1.30

 

June 27-July 5, 1917

 

he had groped his way across the waste of reed and water to the end of the tortuous channel, where a creek known as the Akaika channel led into the new channel of the Euphrates, which runs down through a waste of marshes to Basra. Here he had first contact with the enemy. Two Thornycroft launches in the main river opened a smart fire with pom-poms, but they were soon driven off, and at 4.0 p.m. the whole force was anchored in the creek before a dam which, about six miles short of the river, barred further progress.

 

It was found to be very strongly constructed ‑ a solid bund of mud piled on a foundation of sunken mahailas ‑ very different from the clumsy obstacles that had been encountered on the Tigris. Only by blasting could a passage be cleared. All next day the work proceeded in the almost unbearable heat, aggravated by swarms of mosquitoes and the pom‑poms of the Turkish launches. It was not till midday on the 29th that a channel 150 feet wide was open, and then so strong was the rush of water that none of the crazy flotilla could get through under her own steam. Despite the exhausting conditions, every one of them had to be hauled up by man power, but by 5.0 in the evening the Shushan was through. Another stern‑wheeler, the Messoudieh, followed the same night, and next morning, when Captain Nunn had been joined by the two horse‑boats with their 4.7‑inch guns, he proceeded to reconnoitre the enemy's first position.

 

It was established on the west or right bank of the river, immediately opposite the point where the Akaika creek flowed out of it, and here were two guns with a clear field of fire for 2,000 yards down the channel, which it was impossible for the frail gunboats to face. (See Map 9.)

 

 

 

Map 9. Operations in the Akaika Channel

 

It was therefore only by getting the troops across the river to carry the entrenchments that protected the guns that the Turks could be turned out, and nothing could be done till they were all above the obstruction. This took four days more, and it was not till dawn on July 5 that the attack could be launched, nor could the flotilla advance further till the banks had been cleared by the troops sufficiently to enable the channel to be swept for mines which were known to exist.

 

On the north or left bank of the creek were landed the 24th and 76th Punjabis, the former with their bellums, with which they were to make their way through the inundations, cross the river above the enemy's position and cut the garrison off from Nasiriya. Supported by all the guns of the flotilla, they pushed steadily on in the face of considerable opposition,

 

July 5-6, 1915

ADVANCE ON NASIRIYA

 

till they reached a spit of dry land along the river bank over which they had to carry their bellums before they could launch them again. Meanwhile the other bank of the creek was being cleared by the Hampshire Regiment and the 7th Gurkhas, and the flotilla, drawing slowly on, was keeping up so hot a fire over the high reeds that by 9.0 a.m. the enemy's guns were silent and the garrison began to stream out of the entrenchments towards Nasiriya. But it was only to find the 24th Punjabis on their path, and then they put up the white flag. While most of the Arabs stole away we captured the guns and 91 prisoners, including seven Turkish officers, at a cost of twenty‑five of our own men killed and eighty‑four wounded.

 

By nightfall the creek had been cleared of mines under direction of a Turkish officer who had been brought in by the fickle Arabs, and Captain Nunn was, able to pass out into the open river and anchor there for the night. The Sumana had been put out of action during the day by a shell which cut her main steam pipe, but next morning, with the Shushan, Messoudieh and the two horse‑boats, he went down to deal with Suq ash Shuyukh, the chief trading centre of the district, which lay about three miles below the captured position. He arrived to find white flags flying, and after solemnly hoisting the British flag in the presence of Sir Percy Cox, the Chief Political Officer on the General's staff, he returned up the river to reconnoitre the next position above.

 

The enemy were found strongly entrenched on both sides of the Euphrates near Majinina creek, about six miles below Nasiriya. (See Map 10.)

 

 

 

Map 10. Operations near Nasiriya

 

In the river itself, 3,000 yards below the position, was another obstacle formed by two steamboats which had been sunk to block the channel, but so hastily that they were easily passable and a reconnaissance could be carried out. The enemy had evidently been reinforced; their outer flanks rested on the marshes with a Thorneycroft launch at the bend of the river and their artillery was numer­ous and well emplaced. On such a position the flotilla could make no impression. The decks of the old stern‑wheelers were already giving way under the recoil of the guns, and the 4.7 inch guns in the horse‑boats were too low down for direct firing, so that in spite of the higher calibre of our guns, we had no real superiority over the enemy. To make an attack still more hazardous the only approach to the position was along the river banks, which were no more than spits of dry land between the river and the marshes, and even they were cut at frequent intervals by dykes. General Gorringe,

 

July 7-24, 1915

 

therefore, decided to send back for the 12th Brigade (2nd Bn. Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment, 67th and 90th Punjabis and 44th Merwara infantry) and two 5‑inch howitzers. The water was falling fast; only with the greatest difficulty could they be brought up through the Hammar lake, and it was not till the night of July 13‑14 that the attack could be delivered.

 

Its success depended on an outflanking movement over the marshes on the right or western bank. The objective was a group of sandhills on which the right of the Majinina position rested. It could be reached by water, and as soon as the rest of the 30th Brigade had rushed the advanced enemy trenches at Shukhair, the 24th Punjabis began to move over the marsh in their bellums with the mountain guns. By dint of wading and paddling they managed to reach the sandhills, but found them too strongly held to be rushed, and before anything could be done swarms of Arabs could be seen coming down upon their left and rear out of the marshes, which made a retiremert imperative. Though it was skilfully conducted it cost many casualties, nor could anything more be done. So long as the Majinina position was held in force it was impossible for the flotilla to advance in support of an attack on the trenches on the other side of the river, and General Gorringe decided to break off the operations.

 

The situation was now critical. Owing to the intense heat, sickness was rife and the effective strength of the force growing less every day. Moreover, the water was falling fast, so that communication with the base was getting very difficult. Nevertheless, there was nothing for it but to send for the third brigade (this was the 18th Indian Brigade: 2nd Bn. Norfolk Regiment; 110th Mahratta Light Infantry and 120th Rajputana Infantry), as well as more guns and howitzers and two aeroplanes, doubtful as it was whether they could get through. Still it was done. By superhuman labour in the fiery air they were forced through the slime of the lake bottom, and at dawn on July 24 a new attack was begun.

 

The opposing forces were now about equal, each side having about 5,000 men, but the preponderance of heavy artillery was with the British, and we also had a flotilla, an advantage difficult to overestimate against an enemy astride a river. Our aircraft (four aeroplanes were now available), moreover, were able to give the General an accurate picture of what lay before him and his plan was quickly formed. The Majinina position was to be attacked, this time on its left, where the lines bent back against the river. But here the unfordable mouth of

 

July 24‑25, 1915

OCCUPATION OF NASIRIYA

 

the creek had to be passed, an operation of no small difficulty, but means were at hand in the Sappers and Miners' bridging barge. It was accordingly protected as well as possible, and the Sumana, just returned from repairing her steam pipe, was told off to the hazardous work of towing it into position. At dawn a concentrated fire of the naval and artillery guns was opened on the point of attack, and while it proceeded the 12th Brigade on the other bank advanced against the Maiyadiya creek. Brilliantly led by the West Kents, the attack in an hour's time (6.40), after heavy fighting, gave us the southern salient of the position, and the whole bend of the river opposite Majinina was soon in our hands.

 

As the attack was seen to be progressing the 30th Brigade was ordered to advance from its trenches between Shukhair and the river, with the Hampshire along the bank and the Gurkhas next. Simultaneously Lieutenant W. V. H. Harris in the Sumana made his way up‑stream towing the bridging gear, and in spite of the storm of fire that met him he laid the barge accurately across the mouth of the creek. It was a brilliant performance and well worth the casualties it cost. The thirty‑five Hampshire men that formed the guard and the fifty‑five Sappers of the bridging train each lost twenty of their number. Still, by 9.45 the bridge was completed, but it proved too difficult to use. So well, however, had the barge been placed on the mud.that it stopped the flow of water from the river, so that when the troops came up on the left they found the creek fordable, and by 10.0 the whole position was in our hands. At the same time the 12th Brigade, which had been stopped by gun‑fire owing to the palm trees preventing its own artillery from seeing how to support them, made another desperate rush and got across the Maiyadiya creek.

 

Now was the time to pursue the retiring enemy before they could establish themselves in the second position they had entrenched at the Sadanawiya creek, about a mile and a half higher up at a bend, where the Nasiriya reach is entered. But pursuit was difficult. The heat, the water­courses and a galling fire made it very arduous for the troops, and here was where the flotilla made itself decisively felt. By about one o'clock both brigades had advanced some 2,000 yards beyond the positions they had taken up, and the Shushan and Sumana were nearly level with them. Below, the transport steamers were bringing on the artillery and beginning to land the Norfolks for an attack on Sadanawiya. This was still going on when it was reported that the enemy were leaving the trenches. The Norfolks were immediately

 

July 24-25, 1915

 

re‑embarked and the flotilla advanced. Whether the Turks had actually decided to abandon the position is uncertain, but the doubt was quickly settled by Captain Nunn laying the old Shushan close alongside the trenches and blazing into them at point‑blank range with everything she carried. The Medjidieh with her two 18‑pounders also came into action at 1,000 yards, and even before the Norfolks could land the enemy were in full retreat.

 

In similar circumstances on the Tigris Captain Nunn had immediately pushed on to take all advantage of the enemy's demoralisation. He did so again. Labouring up the Nasiriya reach at the best speed the Shushan could paddle with the small craft in company, he was fired on by the remaining Thornyeroft launch. She was quickly reduced to a burning wreck on the bank, and as white flags were flying over the town Captain Nunn held on to find the Commandant, but as he proceeded he was met by a heavy fire from the roof of the Turkish barracks, which wounded Lieutenant‑Commander A. G. Seymour. As it was now too near dark to do anything, he could only fall back. Next morning (25th) a deputation of Arab inhabitants came down to report the Turks had all left and to invite us to occupy the place. Turkish casualties are estimated at 2,000 killed and wounded and 950 prisoners, against British losses of 104 killed and 429 wounded. Naval casualties numbered only 5 wounded.

 

With the consolidation of our hold on Nasiriya General Nixon found it possible to proceed to perfect our occupation of the Basra vilayet by an advance on Kut. Here, 120 miles up the Tigris above Amara, Nur‑ud‑Din Bey was known to be concentrating a considerable force, and before long his activity became so menacing that by July 20 it was thought advisable to withdraw all our advanced posts north of Amara, but the "River Column" that is the Comet and Shaitan with two steamers carrying infantry, and sappers continued to keep observation by patrolling up the river.

 

So far the prospect of a further advance up the Tigris was not too promising, but the fall of Nasiriya immediately reversed the situation. For some time past the Government of India had been considering an advance on Kut, and they now applied for the movement to be sanctioned. Still in India at least it was not regarded as the last step on the way to Bagdad. The application was pressed on the ground that the capture of the place would complete and secure the occupation of the Basra vilayet, and at the same time, since it was the irrigation centre of the surrounding districts, it would mean so strong a control over the powerful Beni Lam

 

July‑Aug., 1915

OPERATIONS IN THE GULF

 

tribe which had gone over to Nur‑ud‑Din that they would not be able to disturb the oilfields or pipe line. The plan, in short, was presented as a necessary defensive operation within the limits the Home Government had laid down. Yet the assent of Whitehall was not immediately forthcoming. General Nixon had said that in order to make sure he would require drafts to fill up his British battalions. His force was much reduced by sickness, besides the loss of the battalion sent to Bushire. The Government of India, in recommending the advance, was hoping for a brigade which had been sent from Egypt for the defence of Aden and was no longer required there. But seeing how urgent was the need of troops in the Near East, Lord Kitchener had to order it back to Egypt, and General Townshend (a few days after capturing Amara General Townshend went to India on sick leave and was back in Basra on August 21) could only be reinforced from Nasiriya and Ahwaz; or, in other words, by endangering the oil supply, about which the Admiralty were at the moment concerned more deeply than ever. Eventually, however, it was agreed that the oilfields and pipe line could be left to the protection of the subsidised Bakhtiari, and on August 20 the Home Government sanctioned General Nixon's plan.

 

He had already begun his preparations. On July 28, the Turks were found to be falling back on Kut, and Ali Gharbi was again occupied (31st) to cover the concentration for the operation which he proposed. (See Map 1 - repeated.)

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

He knew the concentration must be a long process. The only line of advance was by the shallow bends of the Tigris, and the brigades from the Euphrates that were to join General Townshend had to be hauled back to Amara through the mud of Hammar lake before they could begin to move northwards.

 

While the weary movement was proceeding the expected trouble in the gulf had broken out. On July 12 the activity of the German agent had made itself felt by an attack of Tangistani tribesmen on our lines at Bushire; satisfaction was demanded from Persia: none was forthcoming, and on August 8 a proclamation was issued announcing our intention of occupying the whole Bushire island, including the native town and port, until reparation was forthcoming. Action was also taken to meet the menace of the Tangistani. Their headquarters were at a fortified village called Dilwar, twenty miles down the coast from Bushire, and during August 13‑14 it was destroyed by a small combined force under Captain Wake, of the Juno, and Major C. E. H. Wintle (96th Berar Infantry). It was followed by the ships actively searching for Tangistani dhows along the coast and destroying all that

 

Aug. 14-Sept. 12, 1915

PERSIAN GULF

 

were found. On this service the Pyramus and Dalhousie were ordered down to Bahrein with the Political Resident on board, and in the course of their search they visited the port of Al Bida, where on August 20 they forced the Turkish garrison of Doha fort to evacuate it and hand over its armament and munitions to the local Sheikh of Katar. (Katar lies about 100 miles from Bahrein harbour down the west coast of the gulf. It includes the villages of Doha, and Al Bida.)

 

At Bushire the Tangistanis were again threatening trouble. The 96th Berar Infantry which formed its garrison had to be reinforced from Basra by a squadron of the 16th Cavalry and the 11th Rajputs, and now that a serious attack was clearly in the wind, counter‑measures to meet it were carefully concerted between Captain Wake and Brigadier‑General H. T. Brooking, commanding the garrison. Joint staff rides were instituted and from time to time a naval brigade was landed to train and manoeuvre with the garrison. On September 9 the threatened attack took place on the British lines south of Bushire. The Dalhousie was still away in the Bahrein area, but the Juno, Pyramus and Lawrence were on the spot, and a naval detachment of fifty men and the marines, under Captain G. Carpenter of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, was ashore. For some hours the point of the lines which they occupied was hard pressed, but they held on till the infantry came up and scattered the enemy with a bayonet charge. A cavalry charge completed the rout, and Bushire settled down again to its accustomed repose.

 

Small as the operation was, the intense heat had made it very trying to the endurance of the force. In Mesopotamia it was even worse. With a thermometer varying from 110 to 120 degrees in the shade, the laborious concentration of General Townshend's force was at last nearing completion. To make matters worse, the navigational difficulties of the shrinking river increased daily, but by September 11 the whole division was assembled at Ali Gharbi. To this point the troops had been brought in the river craft, but now most of them had to march painfully along the dusty banks, while the flotilla and transport craft struggled up beside them.

 

The naval section of the force was very weak, and no longer under Captain Nunn. After Nasiriya he had been invalided to Ceylon. His successor, Captain C. Mackenzie, was also in hospital, and Lieutenant‑Commander E. C. Cookson in the Comet was Senior Naval Officer. One other gunboat, the Shaitan (Lieutenant Singleton), was with him and the launch Sumana (Sub‑Lieutenant L. C. P. Tudway), as well as four naval 4.7's in horse‑boats. But this slender

 

Sept. 12‑25, 1915

ADVANCE ON KUT

 

force was supplemented by two heavy batteries of Royal Garrison Artillery with 4‑inch and 5‑inch guns mounted in barges. (86th Battery: four 5‑inch in barges; 104th Battery: two 4‑inch in barges. The two horse‑boats had been under Lieutenant‑Commander Cookson, and Lieutenant M. A. B. Johnston, R.G.A., had been lent to command them when Lieutenant‑Commander Cookson became Senior Naval Officer.)

 

As the column moved forward the enemy's advanced troops fell back before it, and by September 16 the village of Sannaiyat, some fifteen miles below Kut and seven miles from the Turkish position which covered it, had been reached. Here a halt of ten days had been made to allow of adequate air reconnaissance and give time for reinforcements to join. Most important of these were aircraft. One of the military machines had come down in the enemy's lines and two others were badly damaged. Fortunately on September 5, four seaplanes, which had done so much for the success of the final operations against the Koenigsberg in the Rufiji river, reached Basra, under Squadron‑Commander Gordon, and by dint of great exertions they were got off up the river in a week, and were able to give some assistance to the military airmen in providing General Townshend with the information he required.

 

The Turkish position, which was found to be elaborately organised on the latest principles, lay astride the river. (See Map 11.)

 

 

 

Map 11. Operations against Kut

 

On the right or southern bank it extended five miles into the desert along a line of mounds admirably adapted for defence and commanding a perfect field of fire. The river itself was completely blocked by a formidable boom constructed of barges and wire cables and commanded at close range from either bank by guns and fire trenches. On the left or north bank the lines ran northward for about seven miles, but their continuity was broken for over two miles by the Suwada swamp. The section between the swamp and the river was again broken for 1,000 yards by another swamp known as the "Horseshoe," so that the actual defensive front of this section was only 3,000 yards. Some three miles north of the Suwada marsh the position terminated in a well‑designed system of redoubts, about 2,000 yards short of a third swamp, known as Ataba marsh. Here General Townshend saw the weak point of the position which the enemy seems to have regarded as practically impregnable to anything he could bring against it. South of the Ataba marsh it could be turned, and if a frontal attack on the Horseshoe or central section could hold the enemy down and the boom could be

 

September 26-28, 1915

MESOPOTAMIA

 

forced so as to permit of pursuit by the flotilla, there was a good prospect of annihilating Nur‑ud‑Din's army and settling the fate of Mesopotamia at a blow.

 

On each bank the enemy.had a division with a bridge of boats five miles above the position and a reserve of four battalions close to it. On our side a similar bridge was to be thrown across the river, for the plan the General had formed involved a rapid and secret transference of one of the two columns in which he had organised his force from the south bank to the north. (General Townshend had only one division, the 6th Indian and half the 30th Brigade. In Column "A" were three and a half squadrons of cavalry, two batteries Royal Field Artillery, one howitzer battery and two brigades of infantry. In Column "B" was one infantry brigade. With the divisional troops the fighting strength was: British, 264 officers and 2,797 men; Indian, 206 officers and 7,603 men ‑ total 10,870, with twenty‑eight guns and forty machine guns.)

 

Nur‑ud‑Din had, besides his reserve at the bridge, two divisions, each consisting of three two‑battalion regiments, two regiments of cavalry, two squadrons of Anatolians and 400 Camel Corps, with three heavy guns, two howitzers, eight quick‑firing field guns and sixteen 15‑pounders, besides others more or less obsolete. He thus had twelve battalions against our fourteen, and was also slightly inferior in artillery.

 

On September 26 an advance was made to Nukhailat, between three and four miles below the Turkish position, the main column, under Brigadier‑General Delamain, marching by the south bank, and the other, under Major‑General C. I. Fry, going by river. On reaching Nukhailat they dis­embarked on the north bank and the bridging train rapidly threw their boat bridge across the river. At dawn on the 27th a preparatory attack on the Horseshoe position began under cover of the flotilla guns and artillery, while General Delamain demonstrated against the trenches on the south bank. By 2.30 the flotilla and artillery had so effectively silenced the enemy's guns that General Fry had been able to establish himself with little loss 2,000 yards from the enemy's trenches. At the same time the demonstration on the other bank was renewed and the troops began osten­tatiously to entrench. Then, as soon as it was dark, the whole column, with the exception of a bridge guard, silently crossed to the north bank, and by midnight was assembled at the south‑east corner of the Suwada marsh. From this point, at 2.0 a.m. on the 28th, the enveloping attack began. Though unfortunately delayed by the brigade on the extreme right marching round the Ataba marsh instead of between it and the enemy's redoubt, the attack succeeded in forcing

 

Sept. 28, 1915

BATTLE OF KUT

 

the extreme left about 10.30, but General Fry's column, which had been steadily working forward, had to be stopped till the flank attack developed further.

 

While they were thus waiting, at eleven o'clock it was seen that the enemy on the south bank were moving a detachment to the Chahela mounds abreast General Fry's force to enfilade this line. It was a dangerous movement, but the Turks had not counted with the flotilla. It at once moved up to close range, and quickly drove the enemy back to their entrenchments. General Fry's column was thus left free from flank disturbance, but they still had long to wait. The day was exceptionally hot, and since 9.0 a.m. a strong wind had been raising clouds of dust that stopped all possi­bility of visual signalling. For the troops fighting on in the long turning movement the conditions were in the last degree trying; progress was slow, yet, in spite of the enemy's stubborn resistance, the whole of the position north of the Suwada marsh was in our hands by 1.45 p.m.

 

While the exhausted troops rested and reassembled at the west end of the swamp, before sweeping down on the rear of the Horseshoe position, the flotilla concentrated upon it to prepare for the culmination of General Fry's frontal attack. In the frequent mirage and dust‑laden air observa­tion was scarcely possible. Yet so effective was the fire, combined with that of the artillery ashore, that the enemy's guns were silenced, and by 4.30 his right was within nine hundred yards of the trenches between the Horseshoe and the Suwada marsh. It lacked only the appearance of General Delamain's column for the final rush to be made, but as yet there was no sign of it. It had begun to move in time, but meeting with opposition had to fall back to replenish ammunition and seek for water. They failed to find any, and it was not till nearly 5.0 that, worn out with thirst and marching, they began finally to move southwards. At 5.30 General Delamain was able to send a message that he was about to turn east, when he was aware of a force advancing against him from the south. It seems to have been Turkish troops from the other side of the river whom the delay had given time to come up across the bridge, and there was nothing to do but turn against them. Springing with new life at the prospect of a bayonet fight his men dashed forward, and in one magnificent rush completely routed the new‑comers and captured four guns. It was only the rapid approach of night that permitted the remnants of the force to escape back to the river. There was now no more to be done. Utterly exhausted and parched with thirst the men

 

Sept 28-30, 1915

 

bivouacked on the ground they had won, and General Fry had to entrench five hundred yards short of his objective.

 

But the Turkish position was obviously no longer tenable. The morning must see the enemy driven out of it, and now was the time for the flotilla to make the success decisive. The boom alone seemed to stand in the way, and General Townshend requested Lieutenant‑Commander Cookson to go up and see what could be done with it. As soon as it was dark he started in the Comet with the other two gunboats, but though he proceeded without lights, he was met with a very heavy rifle and machine‑gun fire from both banks. Steaming through it, he made to ram a dhow which lay in the centre of the boom between two iron barges. The dhow withstood the shock. Not to be baffled, he tried gun‑fire, and then, as that would not sink her, he laid the Comet alongside and himself sprang upon the dhow, axe in hand, to try to cut the wire hawsers that secured her. It was a desperate attempt. The enemy were less than a hundred yards from him, and he fell almost at once, riddled with bullets. On board the Comet hardly a man was untouched, and the helpless gunboats, holding their ground long enough to sink the dhow by gunfire, retired downstream, and anchored for the night. (For his devoted action Lieutenant‑Commander Cookson was awarded a posthumous V.C.)

 

Early next morning (29th) the Horseshoe was found to have been abandoned; the airmen a little later reported the whole force in full retreat, and the pursuit could begin. While the cavalry went after them by land, General Fry's column embarked in the transport steamers, and led by the flotilla, under Lieutenant Singleton of the Shaitan, started upstream. The obstruction, being now undefended, was quickly cleared; about 10.0 the gunboats were off Kut, and proceeded to chase two Turkish steamers that could be seen making away. All seemed fair for turning the victory into a crushing decision by cutting off Nur‑ud‑Din's retreat, but here unexpected troubles began. As far as Kut, in spite of the low state of the river, there had always been water enough to make navigation comparatively easy, but once above the town they found themselves so beset by shoals that in the first twenty‑four hours the ships had covered little more than two miles. At daylight on the 30th the two steamers could still be seen, but the Shaitan had stuck fast close to Kut, the Sumana had broken both her rudders by grounding, and the Comet had to continue the chase alone. She could do no more, however, than force one of the retreating

 

Oct. 1‑5, 1915

OCCUPATION OF AZIZIYA

 

steamers to drop two ammunition barges she was towing and hurry on out of range. The barges were captured by the cavalry, who came up with the enemy on October 1. The Turks were then found to be making an orderly retreat with an organised rearguard, which the cavalry could not touch, and they were forced to wait for the river column to come up.

 

It now consisted of the Shaitan and Comet with four steamers, in which were the General and a brigade. After four days' grounding and steaming they reached Aziziya (5th), sixty‑one miles by land and 102 by river above Kut. The enemy, however, were already securely established in a long­-prepared position at Ctesiphon, twenty miles below Bagdad, and all hope of destroying Nur‑ud‑Din's army was for the time at an end. (See Map 1 - repeated.)

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

True we had captured 1,700 prisoners and fourteen guns and inflicted heavy losses in men and material, and had the prestige of having broken a position deemed impregnable. At least it could be said that the vilayet of Basra had been finally cleared of the enemy, and the defensive objects of the expedition had been completely attained. (British casualties totalled 1,233 (94 killed). Turkish losses were about 4,000.)

 

With this General Nixon could not rest content. He at once announced that although the pursuit had failed, he felt strong enough to open a road to Bagdad, and that he proposed to concentrate for the purpose at Aziziya. The place was no more than fifty miles by a good road from Bagdad, but as it was also about five hundred above the base at Basra, the proposal was received by the home authorities, both civil and military, with the gravest doubt. Assuming he could break through and occupy Bagdad, there seemed no possibility of his holding it against forces which in a month or two could be brought to bear upon him from the adjacent theatres. On the other hand, the political importance of capturing the ancient Arab capital, if only as a means of isolating Persia from the dangerous activities of the German agents, was so great that the idea could not be lightly dis­missed. The Government, therefore, immediately appointed an Inter‑departmental Committee from the Admiralty, the General Staff and the Foreign and India Offices to consider the question, and meanwhile General Nixon was ordered to stand fast.

 

But before the order reached him, new considerations of the profoundest import had arisen. The day the Committee was set up, October 5, was the day that General Nixon's

 

Oct. 1915

 

advanced troops reached Aziziya, but it had hardly got to work on the multitudinous and complicated factors of the problem, when new ones still more intricate were introduced. For it so happened that October 5 was also the day on which the sudden resignation or M. Venizelos had broken to pieces the frail barrier we had been so laboriously constructing to stem the German push for Constantinople. With the hope of stopping the enemy short of his goal thus reduced to the slenderest proportions, Bagdad began to assume an import­ance second only to that of Constantinople itself.

 

The reasons for sanctioning General Nixon's plan had thus increased in strength. He was reporting that he had overcome the navigational difficulties above Kut by lightening the ships, using them to tow barges, and leaving the troops to march with the land transport. Firmly convinced that he could quickly push through to Bagdad, he knew he could not hold it without another fresh division. India declared she could not spare one; Egypt, being the reserve for the Near East, was in like case; and it was only from France a reinforcement could come. Before any decision was taken the question was again referred to General Nixon. The high military and political importance which the Home Government now attached to the capture of Bagdad and its continued occupation was put before him, and he was asked what force was necessary to carry out the policy. The reply was still that he had enough to beat Nur‑ud‑Din and take Bagdad, and that one more division with another cavalry regiment would enable him to hold it. The Government of India, watching with deepening anxiety the German propa­ganda which, centred at Bagdad, was growing active in Afghanistan, endorsed the opinion of the General on the ground that the man on the spot was the best judge, and only added that the reinforcements must arrive not more than a month after the city was occupied.

 

In view of the extent to which General Nixon's successes had depended on the support of the flotilla and the river transport, it is noteworthy that attention seems to have been almost entirely confined to the number of troops required. In the Viceroy's despatch no special emphasis was laid on the difficulty of the flotilla giving support in the shallow and extraordinarily tortuous stretch of the river between Aziziya and Bagdad, or the vastly increased strain on the river transport that the occupation of the city would entail. It is true that General Nixon had applied for a considerable increase of river steamers. The Commander‑in‑Chief in India had endorsed his demand, but as they could not be obtained

 

Oct. 1915

PROPOSED ADVANCE ON BAGDAD

 

locally, an urgent request was sent that they should be built in England. It was some time before the Admiralty knew of this; and, when they did, their assistance was necessarily limited to hastening the construction and delivery of the steamers, as the dockyards, already occupied to their utmost capacity, could not meet the requirements. Of all this, the Inter‑departmental Committee appears to have been unaware, and in their report, which was completed on October 16, they took it for granted that the General had the necessary transport. Agreeing as to the political advantage of the venture, they concurred in the local view that it could be done with the force for which General Nixon stipulated, but advised that another Indian division should be held in readiness for eventualities.

 

This conclusion, however, was expressly stated to rest on the understanding that the existing numbers of vessels on the Tigris was sufficient to enable the advance to be made and to ensure the supply of the advanced troops. Their caveat was natural enough, since they had nothing to reassure them on the point except General Nixon's original allegation that he had overcome the navigational difficulties and knowledge that the new small "China" or "Fly" class gunboats were in course of erection at Abadan, and would before long begin to be available for protecting the river line of communication.

 

(In November 1914, when Lord Fisher returned to the Admiralty, he gave Messrs. Yarrow carte blanche to design and get built twenty‑four gun­boats‑twelve small ones known as the "Fly" class for policing the Tigris, and twelve larger ones (named after insects) for the Danube. During con­struction they were given the camouflage designation of "China" gunboats. As the smaller ones were completed they were shipped out in sections to the Persian Gulf, and were now being rapidly put together by Messrs. Yarrow's men at the Anglo‑Persian Oil Company's works at Abadan. Each carried a 4‑inch gun, one 12‑pounder, one 6‑pounder, a 2‑pounder pom‑pom and four Maxims, but being designed originally for police work against the Arabs, they had nothing but bullet‑proof protection. For stern wheels, however, was substituted a less vulnerable propeller working in a tunnel in the hull, an original device by which was solved the problem of combining a big diameter screw with shallow draught. They were fitted with good wireless installations.)

 

This service, besides the safe transport of troops from Marseilles or Egypt to Basra, was all the Admiralty could contribute. Since the expedition had penetrated so far inland, they regarded it as in effect a military, and not a combined campaign. The puny flotilla could no longer provide tactical assistance of any real value and the transport steamers were under military direction.

 

With these considerations before them the Government on October 14th endeavoured to come to a definite conclusion, but so many difficult technical points were raised on which authorities differed, both in regard to the Bagdad advance

 

Oct. 14-21, 1915

 

and subsidiary operations from Alexandretta in support of it, that a decision was postponed to give time for the General Staff, in conjunction with the Naval War Staff, to furnish a full appreciation on the existing and prospective situation in Syria and Mesopotamia, the Syrian outlook being also vital to the security of Egypt. The result of the report was to rule out Alexandretta on naval grounds. With the resources at their disposal the Admiralty declared that another line of operations in the Near East was out of the question so long as the Dardanelles operations continued. Descents at various points on the coast further south were more within their capacity, but only if the operations were limited to raids to hamper a Turkish advance on Egypt.

 

Over and above their confession of inability to maintain yet another line of communication, they specially deprecated a repetition of the difficulties they were suffering at the Dardanelles, where the supply beaches were under shell fire and open to submarine attack. In their opinion no combined expedition should be sanctioned unless it was practically certain that enough ground could be seized by the military covering force to ensure the landing‑places immunity from artillery fire. On the other hand, the occupation of Bagdad was declared by the General Staff to be feasible on the assumption that two Indian divisions could be added to General Nixon's force by the end of the year, but it should not be occupied if it was likely that for political reasons the place could not be abandoned at any moment. In any event, if no Allied army was to be landed at Alexandretta, they recommended that the military authorities should he empowered to withdraw ‑ whatever the political advantages of holding the place ‑ if on military grounds its occupation was considered to involve unwarrantable risk. Otherwise the operations should be limited to a raid with the object of rendering it useless as a base. The contribution of the Admiralty to the problem was necessarily small. They could guarantee the safe transport of the two divisions to Basra, but the date by which they could move them would depend upon what other calls were made upon the limited supply of transports. They could also guarantee the effective patrol of the Tigris with the new gunboats as they came forward, and assist to a limited degree with seaplanes, but that was all.

 

After a full discussion in the light of this appreciation and the report of the Inter‑departmental Committee, on October 21 the whole question as it was now displayed was referred to India. Special emphasis was laid on the probability

 

Oct. 23, 1915

DECISION TO ADVANCE ON BAGDAD

 

that the Germans could not now be prevented from breaking through to Constantinople and that our prospects in Gallipoli were most uncertain. The Arabs, too, were wavering and inclining to join the Turks, and a striking success in the East was urgently needed. The reply of the Viceroy was that the situation in the Near East as now explained to him proved conclusively the need for action in the Middle East. For the Government of India the pros­pect of a German break‑through into Asia had a special significance. The activity of German agents in Persia was for them an increasing pre‑occupation. Should the enemy succeed in bringing it under their domination the neutral attitude of Afghanistan might become untenable, and the inevitable reaction on Indian unrest was a picture that no one cared to contemplate.

 

From the Viceroy's point of view, therefore, the political outlook was now so disturbing that it swept away all hesitation he had felt in accepting the military view that the operation was not beyond their power. Given a reinforcement of two divisions, the balance of risk obviously dictated the occupation of Bagdad with the least possible delay. The Government reply, which went out on October 23, was to tell General Nixon that if he was satisfied the force he had immediately available was strong enough, he might march on the coveted city. (See Official History of the War: The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914‑1918 Vol. II, p. 28.) With this telegram the Government finally abandoned the defensive idea to which the Mesopotamian operations had hitherto been restricted, and, with their hands forced by the German thrust into the Balkans, committed themselves to a counter offensive from which there could be no turning back till the issue of the war in Asia was decided.

 

 


 

 

CHAPTER XI

 

THE DOOM OF GALLIPOLI AND THE BATTLE OF CTESIPHON

 

In view of the adventurous decision to attempt the occupation of Bagdad it was obviously desirable to keep the Turks occupied as fully as possible with the defence of their capital, and here it was that our Mesopotamian policy and that of the French in the Balkans came most gravely into conflict. Ever since the failure at Suvla a general conviction had been growing that only two courses were open to us in the Near East: we must either push on in increased force or abandon the attempt to open the Dardanelles. Now, committed as we were by the importunity of our ally to more than we had ever contemplated in the Balkans, the necessary increase of force for Gallipoli was not to be found, and for all but the determined men on the spot and those at home who had seen in the ancient seat of Empire the decisive theatre of the war, evacuation was becoming defined as the only possible alternative. Not for the first time had a mysterious destiny seemed at the last moment to intervene to save the Turk from what not once nor twice in the past century had threatened to end his history as a great power, and once more the grip of destiny was holding fast.

 

The time had come when a final decision could no longer be deferred. On that decision would turn the future drift of the war not only for ourselves, but for the whole alliance, and on the course taken might well depend the issue ­ victory or defeat. The question itself was beset with every kind of difficulty which can complicate the direction of a war conducted by allies against allies, and for some time past it had been growing evident that the machinery of our higher direction was not sufficiently well designed to deal with the ever‑increasing intensification and complexities of the struggle. This conviction had just come to a head.

 

On November 2 the Prime Minister announced that hence­forward the war would be directed by a new War Council to consist of from three to five members of the Cabinet. To this body, sitting from day to day and assisted by such

 

Nov. 3, 1915

THE WAR COMMITTEE

 

experts as they should call in to advise them, was to be entrusted the control of all our war activities. They would have authority to deal with the "daily exigencies of the State" without reference to the Cabinet as a whole, but when any substantial change of policy or a new departure was in question Cabinet confirmation of their decision would be necessary. This arrangement had been the constitutional practice during the great wars of the past, when the com­paratively small Cabinets of those days had been found too large for the rapid discharge of current war business. To some extent it had been used in the present war in the shape of various committees of the Cabinet, the most important of which had been the Dardanelles Committee, but it was not till this time that the old practice was fully revived and placed on a permanent footing.

 

The original members of the Council, which was known officially as the "War Committee," were the Prime Minister (Mr. Asquith), in the chair; Mr. Balfour (First Lord of the Admiralty); Lord Kitchener (Secretary of State for War); Sir Edward Grey (Foreign Secretary); and Mr. Lloyd George (Minister of Munitions), with Colonel Hankey as Secre­tary. Their first meeting was on November 8. It was attended by the Prime Minister, Lord Kitchener and Mr. Balfour, to consider the question of evacuating Gallipoli in the light of the latest information. It was on this question that General Monro was now concentrating his attention, as all our military policy in the Near East hinged upon it. On October 31, after conferring with the Corps Commanders and making a short visit to each sector, he had telegraphed a very unfavourable account of the situation. In his view the troops were too much exhausted and had lost too many officers to make a further effort with any prospect of success, and he had no hesitation in advising evacuation.

 

Next day, however, came a message from General Maxwell, who, as being responsible for the defence of Egypt, strongly urged that we should hold on if possible. General Monro was then (November 1) asked to report whether the three Corps Commanders were of the same opinion as himself. The reply had just come to hand. General Birdwood, while admitting the gravity of the situation, shrank from the loss of prestige and loss of life that evacuation would probably entail. He was, therefore, opposed to evacuation unless we could strike elsewhere immediately, and he did not see where a blow was possible. General Byng at Suvla thought that as things stood a voluntary withdrawal from his section was possible without much loss, but later on, if German

 

Oct.-Nov. 1915

THE DARDANELLES

 

reinforcements arrived, a retirement would be compulsory and very costly. General Davies at Helles expressed agreement with General Monro, who reiterated his original conclusion.

 

The divergence of military opinion was embarrassing enough, but Ministers were also confronted with an equally wide divergence from the naval side, and this was the more embarrassing, since it was most pronounced amongst the highest authorities on the spot. The War Committee had before it a carefully considered appreciation which the Eastern Mediterranean Naval Staff had been working at for months, and it contained a detailed plan by which they were confident another attempt to force the Straits would succeed. From the experience they had gained, and counting on all the increased resources that were now at their disposal, especially in ammunition, monitors and aircraft, as well as their greatly improved mine‑sweeping service, they felt no doubt that with a few more obsolete battleships and some minor reinforcements the difficulties which led to the original failure could be overcome. In this view Admiral Wemyss fully concurred, but Admiral de Robeck was less sanguine. In his eyes the plan, good as it was, was certainly attended with high risk, while he was unable to see any definite advantage to which it could lead even if it attained the highest degree of success that could be expected. In short, the certain risk seemed to him out of all proportion greater than any salutary effect the venture could have on the course of the war. The principle on which he reasoned was sound, and with reluctance he felt he must make it quite clear that he could not recommend the adoption of the Staff plan.

 

Yet with this expression of opinion he could not rest content. The moving spirit of the proposed scheme was his Chief of Staff, Commodore Roger Keyes, and it was endorsed by Admiral Wemyss. For both men he had the highest regard and with both he had always worked in the closest harmony. Simply to overrule their considered and confident opinion was more than his position seemed to warrant. In any case he felt it only right that in a matter of such capital importance, the Admiralty, in making its final decision, should be placed in full possession of the weighty opinions which were opposed to his own, and that this should be done in the fullest and most forcible manner, he took a step to which few men in his position would have risen. It was to send home his Chief of Staff that he might lay his plan before the Admiralty and freely explain the situation as he and Admiral Wemyss saw it.

 

Oct.‑Nov. 1915

THE NEW NAVAL PLAN

 

This was decided on October 19 just before the bombardment of the Bulgarian coast. Waiting only to see the operations through, Commodore Keyes started for London, and arrived there late on the 28th. No time was then lost in laying his scheme before the Naval War Staff. The general idea on which it rested was to rush the Straits by surprise at dawn with two squadrons under support of a third. The first squadron, consisting of ten of the best battleships, with eight sloops and ten destroyers for sweeping would engage the forts inside below the Kephez minefield. The second squadron would be composed of five or six old battleships, two cruisers of the "Theseus" class and eight destroyers, and would go straight for the minefield. If possible the squadron would also contain some of the special service ships ‑ that is, the old merchant steamers disguised to look like battleships which Lord Fisher had ordered for his North Sea project. The ships that survived the minefield would then rush the Narrows, accompanied by sloops and destroyers to set up a smoke screen, and proceed to sink the Nagara net barrage and destroy any minelayers that might be encountered.

 

Meanwhile the third squadron, comprising all the monitors, the Swiftsure and the heavy cruisers off the western shore of the peninsula, would be firing over the land, with all the heavy guns registered on the Narrows forts. With this assistance it was hoped that at least half of the second squadron would he able to reach security at Pasha Liman harbour, above Nagara, from which they would proceed to engage the Narrows forts in reverse, while the first squadron attacked from below. If at the same time the army could develop an attack, or at least make a demonstration in force, to which the first and third squadrons would give full support with their secondary armament, success, he felt, would be assured. The plan concluded with detailed arrangements for maintaining the successful ships in the Marmara and a scheme of operations by which all communication with Gallipoli both by sea and land could be effectually cut.

 

Daring as was the conception, it seemed at least the only way in which success could be snatched from the failure. To every one at home, except the strictest adherents of continental war doctrine, it was clear that even partial success would profoundly affect the course of the war, and the War Staff, without committing themselves to the details of the plan, thought that something of the kind might have to be done, but as combined action of the army was, in their opinion, essential, nothing could be decided till General

 

Nov. 3-7, 1915

 

Monro's report came to hand. By the time it arrived the effect of Commodore Keyes's advocacy had gone far to convince the immediately responsible Ministers that he had found a way out of the impossible situation. The result was that when on November 3 the War Committee met, they found it impossible to accept General Monro's opinion out of hand. The effect of the Commodore's presenta­tion of his own project on Lord Kitchener was to stiffen to apparent rigidity his determination not to sign an order for evacuation. If the Admiralty were ready to sanction the new plan, he was ready to back them with the army and to give General Birdwood the command. Still the funda­mental technical factors were too uncertain to warrant Ministers coming to an irrevocable decision. The problem, moreover, now presented itself as a balance of risk which could only be measured in the light of the political situation, and was far too complex to be decided on an appreciation made on military grounds alone. A much wider view was required, and to obtain it they decided to request Lord Kitchener to go out in person and report on the whole situation, including Egypt (Dardanelles Commission Report, II., p. 55.). Taking Paris on the way, where he found the French High Command as strongly opposed to evacuation as he was himself, he reached Marseilles on November 7. Here the Dartmouth was waiting to take him to Alexandria, but at the last moment a request reached him to proceed direct to Mudros.

 

It was not till this day that Commodore Keyes started to return, for at Lord Kiteliener's request he had waited till the despatch of naval reinforcements was definitely assured. Having been authorised to impart the scheme to the French, in passing through Paris he saw Admiral Lacaze, the Minister of Marine, who embraced the idea with enthusiasm, and promised to support the operation with six old battleships. With the assurance of French support he continued his way, feeling sure that the idea of evacuation was now dead.

 

Meanwhile, Admiral de Robeck, who had been ordered to detail a flag officer to command the naval forces at Salonica, was reporting that the port and its communications were quite unfit to receive or supply so large a force as was intended. All his efforts to improve matters were being obstructed by the Greeks, and until we took the place out of their hands it could not be regarded as a safe base. The possible necessity of coercing Greece by naval pressure was a burning question of the moment, and on November 4, the day after the War Committee considered Commodore Keyes' plan,

 

Nov. 4‑5, 1915

LOSS OF E 20

 

Admiral de Robeck was informed that four battleships were coming out under Rear‑Admiral S. R. Fremantle, to be used as a detached squadron as desired. He was also told that his light forces were to be strengthened by four destroyers and two submarines.

 

The following day (5th) Admiral de Robeck, whose health for some time had been giving way under the strain of his long and arduous command, was granted leave to come home for a long‑needed rest, but he was requested to wait at Mudros till Lord Kitchener arrived. At the same time the fluid condition of opinion at home on the burning question was indicated by instructions that, before sailing, he should arrange for the officer left in charge to be ready for an urgent appeal from the army to co‑operate with them, and that this might entail an attempt to force the Straits. To this extent the plan which Commodore Keyes had brought home had made its impression, but at the same time Admiral de Robeck was warned that nothing was yet decided and the secret preparations for evacuation were not to be taken in hand. It was a case, in fact, of arranging for every eventuality, and he was to be careful to keep sufficient light craft at Mudros so that any sudden and large call for tugs and lighters could be met. In reply he said that a joint naval and military committee was at work on plans for evacuation, and added his final opinion on the questions at issue. So far as he was aware the position of the army was not at present critical, but he and his staff agreed that unless it was established that a definite object was to be gained by a portion of the fleet forcing its way through to the Marmara, the sacrifice entailed would be a grave error, since it was likely to leave him too weak for safeguarding the army at Gallipoli and Salonica.

 

This was a very serious consideration. In the Mediter­ranean the security of the transport routes was becoming as haunting a preoccupation as it had lately been in Home waters. The enemy's submarines were again very active, particularly along the African coast from Algiers to Alexandria, and the need of small craft to deal with them was increasing. To make matters worse it was known on November 7 that the French submarine Turquoise had been captured in the Marmara intact and had been taken into the Turkish service. On the same day the Germans announced that our own E 20 had been sunk. At the time there seemed no connection between the two losses. As we have seen, Lieutenant‑Commander Warren had taken the E 20 up on October 17, three days before the

 

Nov. 1915

 

Turquoise had started. He was known to have begun well, but nothing had been heard of him since the 30th. Two or three days later he had met his fate. How it happened was still a mystery, but a month later it leaked out that when the two boats met they arranged a rendezvous near Rodosto and then separated. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

The Turquoise very soon afterwards ran aground under a Turkish battery and was forced to surrender. Practically intact she was taken up to Constantinople, and in her captain's cabin was found a book, which he had forgotten to destroy, giving the rendezvous with E 20. In the Bosporus was the German submarine UB 14 undergoing repair. In twenty‑four hours she was made ready for sea and proceeded to the fatal spot. There she found E 20 lying unsuspecting on the surface. Without difficulty the German was able to stalk her and get in a torpedo at 550 yards. She sank at once, and of her crew only nine men, including her commanding officer, could be saved. (U‑boote gegen U‑boote (Die Woche, 10th March, 1917), by Lieutenant zur See von Heimburg. The E 20 was sunk on the 5th.) These losses left us with only one submarine in the Marmara ‑ E 11 ‑ which Commander Nasmith had brought up on November 6 for another cruise, and for over a month he kept up the disturbance single‑handed.

 

The extent to which we could continue to control the Turkish communications with Gallipoli by sea was a question which closely affected that of our ability to maintain a hold on the peninsula. On this main point Lord Kitchener quickly convinced himself. After his first inspection he came to the conclusion that as things stood ‑ that is, so long as the enemy was not reinforced by German troops and guns­, our men had nothing to fear, but, on the other band, what he had seen convinced him that the fleet could never break through to the Marmara. As it was on its ability to do so that depended the power of preventing the Turks being reinforced from Germany, his determination never to sign an order for evacuation seems to have been shaken. His objection to confessing failure was at least so far overcome that he was now willing to assent to a withdrawal provided the evacuation was accompanied by a telling blow against the Turks elsewhere. Such an enterprise, it will be remerri­bered, had always been his preference, and now, as ever, in common with other high authorities, the dominating consideration that he had in mind was the loss of prestige which a simple confession of failure would involve all over the East and the consequent perilous situation which would

 

Nov. 1915

THE AYAS PROJECT

 

arise in Egypt. From the first he had seen in Alexandretta the best objective for our Expeditionary Force, where at the nodal point of the Turkish railway system our position both in Egypt and Mesopotamia could be most effectively supported. French opposition to the project had turned the scale against its adoption, but now he thought that he had found a way out. On the opposite shore of the Gulf of Alexandretta lay the small but well‑sheltered port of Ayas. Being beyond the extreme confines of Syria, it was well out of the French sphere of interest, and close by, at Adana, was a point where the main Turkish line of communi­cation was equally vulnerable. With two divisions and 3,000 cavalry that were available from Egypt he believed the port could be seized, and as soon as it was in our hands the evacuation of Gallipoli could safely begin. Admiral de Robeck reported that at their first conference the Generals were unanimously in favour of this solution of the difficulty, and that he believed the extra burden it would lay on the navy was not an insuperable difficulty.

 

At the Admiralty the design was received with grave misgiving. There, where the needs of every theatre met in never‑ceasing importunity, it was felt that the new idea would strain their anti‑submarine resources to breaking point. A new base like Mudros would have to be established, a new line of communication would be entailed, and by no means could they see their way to providing the small craft for their protection for two or three months, if then.

 

In the War Committee there was no less doubt. At the moment the chief anxiety was the attitude of Greece. It had recently grown so suspicious and even menacing that it was a serious question whether the Salonica troops would be extricated from the precarious position in which General Sarrail's adventurous advance had placed them without adopting the French proposals for drastic coercive action with the fleet forthwith. Such high‑handed action against a neutral our own Government could not regard as justified by the undefined situation. They could go no further than to inform the French Government that, unless Greece declared she would demobilise or agree not to molest the Allied troops in their withdrawal from Serbia and Salonica, we were ready to apply coercion and to settle the method of applying it in immediate conference between the French Naval Staff and our own.

 

The existing state of affairs at Salonica naturally added weight to the objections which were generally held at home to the Ayas project. By the General Staff it was argued

 

Nov. 1915

SECURITY OF EGYPT

 

that while Ayas and Alexandretta were nodal points of the Turkish railway system, and, as such, important objectives, they were, for the same reason, the points where it was easiest for the Turks to concentrate against a descent. Consequently, although the first landing might be easy, subsequent developments would be sure to involve a greater proportion of our land and sea forces than we could spare. It would be far better, then, if we withdrew the Dardanelles force to Egypt and defended the line of the canal at the extreme end of the enemy's difficult lines of communication, with no new line of our own to protect. Moreover, when the winter was over and the desert impassable, Egypt would be safe for eight months and the troops could be used wherever they were wanted. Finally was formulated the real objection to Lord Kitchener's plan. It was that we must retain the power of concentrating our utmost strength in the main theatre at a favourable moment. But as decisive action in France could only be hoped for if the Russian armies were making a simultaneous effort along their own front, it was not clear how a favourable moment could arise so long as Turkey was barring the only practicable line by which the Western Powers could restore the fighting force of Russia. Still, the doctrine of the main theatre had too strong a hold not to dominate the situation. It was decided, therefore, to telegraph these views to Lord Kitchener, and beyond ordering a division which was about to proceed to Salonica to stand fast in Egypt, no decision was to be taken till his reply was received.

 

It came promptly, and in unequivocal terms. Seizing at once upon the most obvious fault in the General Staff appreciation, he pointed out that to treat the canal as the defence of Egypt was bad politics as well as bad strategy. On the technical objections to his alternative plan he urged that the staff at home were obviously misinformed, both as to the number of troops the Turks could concentrate at Ayas and also as to the nature of the terrain, which would demand a much smaller force for holding it than they assumed. Moreover the political considerations were in this case far more important than the military. To retire from Gallipoli and do nothing would be to leave the Germans free to develop their plans in the East and to throw the Arabs into their arms, with fatal results, not only to our own position in Asia and Egypt, but also to the French and Italian possessions in North Africa.

 

Admiral de Robeck had also been asked for his opinion. Seeing that his mistrust of the new scheme for forcing the

 

Nov. 14‑17, 1915

AYAS PROJECT DROPPED

 

Straits and his unwillingness to admit complete impotence were as strong as ever, he as promptly replied that he was fully prepared to do all that was possible to co‑operate in Lord Kitchener's plan. The proposed base in the Gulf of Alexandretta he regarded as far easier to protect than Mudros, and far handier for giving tactical support to the army than Gallipoli. The only doubt he felt arose from the attitude of the Greeks at Salonica. There, in his opinion, lay the most serious danger, but if that were settled the rest would be comparatively easy.

 

On the day (November 14) that his telegram reached the Admiralty another went out to him to say that steps were being taken by the French and British Governments to frame a note to Greece and to back it with a naval demonstration by an Allied squadron in Salonica Bay. As it was in the French sphere a French Admiral would command, and he was immediately to organise a squadron to join him. Till all was ready the note would not be presented, nor would anything be done till the time limit of the ultimatum expired. Then, if the reply was unfavourable, the Greek fleet was to be destroyed.

 

Here, then, was a further complication standing in the way of the quick decision for which Lord Kitchener was pressing. One step, however, the War Committee now took towards clearing the board. On November 15 they came provisionally to the conclusion that the Ayas project should be dropped. In view of the danger of a new military commit­ment in the Near East while the situation at Salonica was so uncertain, and of the naval difficulties of a new line of communication, and finally of the objection of the military authorities and the French Government, his bold project seemed inadmissible. He was at once informed that our whole policy in the Near East was to be discussed at a conference with the French which was to meet in Paris on November 17.

 

It had been called at the instance of General Joffre with the main object of considering the whole tangled situation, and generally to co‑ordinate the efforts of the two allies. Its conclusions were that no new line of operation in the Near East was possible and that our two Divisions which had been ear‑marked for strengthening the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and on which Lord Kitchener was counting for his coup de main at Ayas, should go direct to Salonica. Meanwhile the evacuation of Gallipoli was to await the final appreciation of Lord Kitchener and Colonel Girodon, whom the French had sent out for the purpose. As

 

Nov. 17-18, 1915

SALONICA

 

for the note to Greece, it was not to be presented till Salonica was rendered safe from surprise by the Greek Army and the eventual retreat of the Anglo‑French forces secured, nor until the necessary naval measures for enforcing the note had been taken. It was further decided to set up an Inter‑Allied Council of War ‑ with a permanent staff in close touch with the naval and military staffs of the two countries to secure better co‑ordination between the Entente Powers. It was to be composed, in the first instance, of the British and French Prime Ministers and such expert members as they deemed necessary. Its office was to advise the two Governments, but Italy and Russia were to be invited to participate in the arrangement.

 

This was the end of the Ayas project, but, so far, nothing had been settled about Gallipoli, nor did Lord Kitchener see his way to giving a final opinion till the question of Greece was cleared up. The naval preparations for enforcing the intended ultimatum were well advanced, but as a last chance of weaning the harassed King from the influence of his Germanophile staff our Minister at Athens was suggesting that Lord Kitchener, who was coming to Salonica, should go on to Athens and see if he could not open the King's eyes to the mistake he was making in assuming a German victory as a foregone conclusion. It looked like a forlorn hope, but the mission was one for which Lord Kitchener's peculiar diplomatic power was well adapted, and the suggestion was adopted. This was on November 18, and next day, in reply to his request for instructions as to the line he should take, the Prime Minister told him he was to make it clear we were not attempting to force Greece to join the Allies against Germany, but that any attempt to intern or disarm our retiring troops would be taken as an act of war.

 

Further, he should try to convince the King that Germany was going to lose the war, that Russia and ourselves were only beginning, and that our determination to win was unchanged by recent reverses. Our vast resources as yet had hardly been touched, and this view he was to press as strongly as possible. As this was Lord Kitchener's own unshakable opinion, no man could do it better, and he was completely successful. (Official History of the War: Gallipoli, Vol. II, pp. 419‑20.) The impression he made was deep and lasting; every undertaking we required was given, the unmolested retirement of General Sarrail's force was promised, as well as all we required for making Salonica safe as a base, and the embarrassing need for violent naval action passed away.

 

With the Near Eastern problem so far simplified it was

 

Nov. 22‑23, 1915

GALLIPOLI AND EVACUATION

 

possible to come to a conclusion about the Dardanelles. Just as Lord Kitchener was leaving Mudros for Athens he had received word that the conference had vetoed his Ayas project, and had been asked if he could not now give a considered opinion on the burning question of Gallipoli. It was on November 22, after he had returned to Mudros and had held a further combined conference with Admiral de Robeck and the Generals, that he at last gave a reluctant opinion for evacuation. (The Admiral took no part in the discussion. He left the conference as soon as it appeared that the questions at issue were purely military.)

 

In his view the Salonica venture, into which we had been drawn against our better judgment, left no other course open. But for that he believed we could have stopped the German designs in Egypt, either by turning the Turkish right from Suvla or by breaking in from the Gulf of Alexandretta. Entangled as we were in the Balkans, neither operation seemed possible, and we now had to face the necessity of defending Egypt in Egypt, a task so formidable in the eyes of all who knew the political situation, that it must inevitably compromise the possibility of a serious offensive on the Western Front in the Spring. So it was he saw the future. His recommendation was that the troops withdrawn from Gallipoli should in the first instance remain at Imbros, Tenedos and Mytileni, where they would still menace the Turkish communications and hold back considerable forces in Asia Minor. He was therefore of opinion that SuvIa and Anzac should be evacuated at once, but that, on naval grounds, Helles should be retained at least for the present.

 

On this telegram a prolonged discussion took place next day (November 23) in the War Committee. They had also before them a carefully considered appreciation by the General Staff and another from the Admiralty. That of the General Staff, while frankly admitting the extreme complexity of the problem, concluded regretfully with the opinion that the military reasons for the evacuation out­weighed all others, but that, on naval considerations, Helles might be retained for the present provided it was tactically suitable to be the last point evacuated. Admiral de Robeck was for its retention, mainly on the ground that if it were abandoned it would be practically impossible to prevent the enemy using the Dardanelles as a submarine base. With all the relevant considerations fully before them the War Committee in the end decided to advise the Cabinet that on military grounds the Gallipoli peninsula should be evacuated and that the naval advantages of a permanent

 

Nov. 23-25, 1915

 

occupation of Helles were outweighed by the military disaadantages it involved.

 

For the navy it was a severe blow. The idea of holding on to Helles was one which Admiral de Robeck had been urging ever since he had been instructed to prepare for a possible evacuation. For him Helles was on quite a different footing from Suvla and Anzac. Were it abandoned the Turks could quickly mount heavy guns at the mouth of the Straits and permanently deny entrance to the fleet. Not only would it be impossible to keep up the menace of seizing the Dardanelles, but a submarine base could he established at a point where it would be most disturbing to our Near Eastern operations. Now he did not conceal his regret that even Suvla and Anzac were to be given up. This was not, he said, favoured by the navy, but was entirely, a military necessity, in which the navy must co‑operate if wanted. When asked if he concurred in the military decision, he replied on November 25 that he could not understand it. This was his last word before he started home for the short leave which was now indispensable for the restitution of his health.

 

Admiral Wemyss, who for some time past had been engaged in working out evacuation plans, was left in command to carry them to completion. But, as we have seen, he fully shared Commodore Keyes' belief in another attempt to break through, and was even more firmly opposed than his chief to letting go anything that had been so hardly won, and he clutched resolutely to the last threads of hope. The word had not yet been given, and his first act was to beg that it should be held up till he had been able to consult further with the Generals and prepare a naval appreciation. The point upon which he now insisted was the dangers of a winter evacuation, which he said he could only regard with the gravest misgiving. For this view he had good grounds. At the end of October the weather had broken, with a south‑westerly gale, which in the early hours of November 1, besides doing much other damage, had driven the destroyer Louis ashore in Suvla Bay. For several days it prevented all attempts to salve her, and she became a total loss. For the next three weeks strong south‑west winds were almost incessant, culminating on November 22 in a heavy gale, which blew for thirteen hours and played havoc with the piers and small craft, and even broke the back of one of the blockships that formed the makeshift harbour at Kephalo. As this was the advanced

 

Nov. 25‑29, 1915

NAVAL PLAN RECONSIDERED

 

base for the evacuation, Admiral de Robeck had reported the damage before leaving, with a request for old battle­ships or cruisers to be sunk for the better protection of the piers and beaches, and Admiral Wemyss was requested to send in an appreciation explaining his views without delay.

 

It came to hand on November 28. While fully realising the military reasons for the decision, he considered the evacuation of the army was almost entirely a naval operation, the difficulties of which he proceeded to point out. In the first place, a lengthy spell of fine weather was essential at a season when every north‑easterly wind was quickly followed by strong south‑westerly weather, to which all the beaches were open. Then the shelving nature of the shore involved the lengthy process of embarking men in lighters, the number of piers was inadequate, most of them had just been swept away, and owing to the submarine danger, transports, except at Suvla, could not come nearer the beaches than Kephalo. Moreover, the beaches were all under fire, and the Turkish guns so accurately registered on them that they could work effectively at night. He agreed with General Monro that thirty per cent of the force must be lost, and before accepting such a disaster he begged that one more joint naval and military effort should be made to retrieve the situation. He had ready a plan for the naval part, and was sure General Monro would be willing to co‑operate. In reply he was directed to submit his plan at once.

 

It came promptly next day, and proved to be the same which Commodore Keyes had taken home. Its main lines, as before, were the rushing of the Straits by a squadron of old ships in the night, so as to seize Pasha Liman harbour at dawn, establish control of the upper reaches, and then take the Narrows forts in reverse, while the first squadron attacked from below and the third squadron over the land from the neighbourhood of Anzac. The only modification was that the army would not necessarily be expected to attack simultaneously, but a vigorous diversion would materially assist the fleet by holding the enemy to his ground so as to prevent him reinforcing the light gun defences of the minefield. The demoralising effect of such a surprise attack from the sea he hoped would give him control of the Straits, and then the question of immediate action against Constantinople could be settled from home.

 

The impression this message made was strong enough for it to be referred to the Cabinet, together with the resolutions of the War Committee, and for some time longer the question of evacuation remained open. Indeed, it was

 

Dec. 1-3, 1915

 

practically impossible to come to a final decision until we had reached a definite understanding with France as to what was to he done with the Salonica force. The way was now clearer for the withdrawal of General Sarrail's army to the base, but, while we were determined to stand by the limit we had fixed when we were first induced to join in the enterprise, we could not ascertain what the French intended to do.

 

When, on December 1, Lord Kitchener was back in London, he expressed an unqualified opinion against proceeding with the Balkans enterprise, and, having seen the French Minister of War in Paris, believed General Sarrail would be ordered to fall back on Salonica. We, in any case, felt the time had come to remind our allies that with the failure to join hands with the Serbian army the limit of our commitment had been reached and we were at liberty to withdraw. Next day Admiral de Robeck arrived. On the problem of Gallipoli his opinion was unshaken, that another attempt to force the Straits involved risks that were unjustifiable, since he was still unable to see any clear advantage to which it would lead. He was also hopeful about evacuating Suvla and Anzac successfully, but was firm as ever in pressing for the retention of Helles, in which opinion he had Lord Kitchener's support.

 

The latest news from the Dardanelles added further doubt. Another north‑easterly gale had been blowing for three days (November 26‑28) with heavy rain. Ashore, particularly, at Suvla, which was fully exposed to the storm, the effects were lamentable. Trenches were flooded out, the nullahs were raging torrents and the flats a swamp. Most of the roads became impassable and many trenches were wrecked. To make matters worse, there came with the gale a bitter spell of cold. The high ground was white with snow, ten degrees of frost were registered, and the drenched troops in their summer clothing suffered terribly. Over two hundred died from exposure and more than 5,000 became casualties from sickness and frost‑bite. At sea things were as bad; piers were destroyed; and at Kephalo, the most essential point for the coming operation, the damaged blockship broke up. It was the middle one of the three forming the breakwater, and the raging sea drove in through the gap, spreading havoc in the harbour. Here, as well as elsewhere, numbers of small craft, including a torpedo boat, were wrecked, and until the damage was made good it was impossible to attempt evacuation. The news, in fact, told as strongly for the need of a speedy

 

Dec. 3‑5, 1915

QUESTION OF EVACUATION

 

withdrawal as for the difficulty of carrying it out. Finally it was agreed that no decision could be reached without another conference with the French, and a meeting of the new Allied Council was called for December 4 at Calais. (It was attended by Mr. Asquith, Mr. Balfour and Lord Kitchener; and on the part of France by M. Briand (Premier and Foreign Minister), General Gallieni (Minister of War) and Admiral Lacaze (Minister of Marine). The experts assisting were General Murray, Chief of our General Staff, and for France General Joffre and the Chiefs of the General and Naval Staffs. Neither Russia nor Italy was represented.)

 

It was one of the crises in the Entente when its harmony was likely to be severely tried. The main question was whether or not the Salonica enterprise was to be abandoned, and in this the views of the two Governments were diametri­cally opposed. Our General Staff was actually at work on arranging transport for removing our troops at Salonica and taking them to Gallipoli. In short, the question of evacuation was again in the melting‑pot, as the Cabinet, with whom the final decision rested, was not persuaded. To Lord Kitchener the idea of abandoning the enterprise was as obnoxious as ever, and having found on his return home that the Admiralty were ready to make another attack on the lines of Commodore Keyes's plan, provided the army gave it its full support, the distasteful conclusion he had come to at Mudros was shaken.

 

Two days before the conference was to meet he sent General Monro an urgent query as to whether four divisions from Salonica could be landed at Suvla before the stormy season set in, and, if so, whether sufficient depth could be gained to make its retention possible. The navy, he added, were ready to co‑operate with a big offensive operatien. But General Monro, replied next day that the terrain at Suvla did not lend itself to support from ship fire, that the transfer of the Salonica divisions could not be made in time to avoid bad weather, and that in any case the utmost we could hope for was an advance of a few hundred yards. He was, moreover, apprehensive about the difficulty of maintaining so large a force after the bad weather had made the flow of supplies irregular; nor did he think it possible to interrupt the enemy's line of communication along the Bulair road for any length of time. The General on the spot was, therefore, persuaded that the Dardanelles expedition ought to be liquidated. Those with whom the final decision rested were still in doubt, and the idea of transporting our Salonica force to Suvla remained a possibility.

 

In this highly charged atmosphere the critical conference met. The discussion that took place was very frank, we,

 

Dec. 5, 1915

 

on our part, insisting that the original object of the expedition was no longer attainable, and that we did not feel that 150,000 men should any longer be risked in so precarious a position; the French, on the other hand, pleaded that the Serbian army had not been destroyed, and was capable of resuscitation. They urged the lamentable moral and strategical effects of retirement empty-handed, the possibilities of future action in the Balkans, and the objection to evacuating without first consulting Italy and Russia, both of whom we had been urging to co-operate and who had promised assistance in Albania and on the Rumanian frontier. We could only reply that we required the troops for the security of our eastern possessions, and if they wished us to provide a sufficient force for operations in the Balkans, the men could come only from France. Still, the French pleaded to retaining at least a pied a terre at Salonica. Their troops were already falling back upon the town, and in any case it must be held and placed beyond the possibility of attack before evacuation was possible.

 

On these lines a kind of compromise was reached. In the end we formally announced that with all sympathy with the views of our Allies, and without prejudice to further possible operations in the Balkans, our General Staff were of opinion that to keep 150,000 men at Salonica was at present a dangerous measure, which might well end in disaster. We could not, therefore, consent to retain the place, and wished steps to be taken forthwith to evacuate it. To this end, Greece should be informed that we intended to occupy all positions necessary for the security of the troops, with an assurance that there was no intention to trench on her sovereign rights. As we had expressly reserved the right to retire on the conditions which had arisen, M. Briand could only bow reluctantly to our decision. All he asked was that General Sarrail should be placed in supreme command of the operations for retirement, and that all Senegalese and Creoles at Helles, who were rapidly wasting away from disease, should be immediately withdrawn. To both these requests we readily agreed.

 

An important point was thus left undecided. The naval objection to the evacuation of Salonica appears to have been overlooked. Nothing had been said about taking precautions to prevent the port being ultimately used as a submarine base against us. Attention was quickly called to the omission, with a suggestion that Greece should be required to hold the port neutral, on pain of failure being regarded as a casus belli.

 

Dec. 6-7, 1915

ANZAC AND SUVLA

 

An Allied Military Conference, moreover, which met at the French Headquarters on December 6 to define a concerted policy for all theatres of the war, declared that opinion was unanimous on the extreme urgency of organising the defence of Salonica, and with equal unanimity they required the immediate and complete evacuation of Gallipoli. This decision was the final blow to the greatest combined campaign that history records. From this moment the idea of reinforcing Suvla was dropped and the conclusions of the conference were in the main accepted by the Cabinet and sent out to the Dardanelles on December 8.

 

There, as was only to be expected, the verdict could not be meekly accepted. For the devoted men who had so gallantly borne the burden and reverse of the long struggle in the Aegean it was a judgment to which they could not bow without passionate resistance. On December 7 Admiral Wemyss was informed that in face of unanimous military opinion it had been decided "to shorten the front" by evacuating Anzac and Suvla. To him and his staff, who had not ceased to press for leave to make one more attempt to force the Straits, the decision was specially disappointing. The latest intelligence had further increased their confidence. Their agents were reporting that the demoralisation of the Turks which their abortive and costly attacks had caused was greatly deepened by the effect of the late storms and by the growing accuracy of the ship-fire on their billets, reserves and magazines.

 

There was, moreover, excellent news of Commander Nasmith in E 11. (See Map 3 - repeated.)

 

Map 3. The Sea of Marmara

After failing to get in touch with his lost consort, E 20, on November 15, he found two large steamers in Bergaz Bay. One he torpedoed, but his shot at the second did no more than sink two schooners that were protecting her. (This ship proved to be one that had been beached after he had torpedoed her on August 23 on his last cruise.)

 

Eleven days later he found two more at anchor in Artaki Bay, and though both were protected by a cover of dhows he managed with his gun to sink one and damage the other. The first week in December was specially full of adventure. On the 2nd he was lying in wait for a passing train on the railway in the Gulf of Ismid. The first one that came he hit and set on fire, and next day as he was leaving the gulf he cleverly torpedoed the Turkish destroyer Yar Hissar, which was coming from the westward to look for him. Out of her total complement of seventy Turks and fifteen Germans he was able to rescue the captain, another officer and forty

 

Dec. 2-23, 1915

 

men, five of whom were Germans. It was clear, as well as encouraging, to find that our chief enemy was feeling acutely the effect of our submarine work and using every effort to stop it, and in addition to what Commander Nasmith now learnt, he ascertained from a prize a few days later that the Germans had established and were manning no less than eleven anti-submarine batteries at various points of vantage or refuge. (They were Gallipoli, Karabuga, Rodosto, Erekli, Silivri, San Stefano, entrance to Ismid, Mudania, Panderma, Artaki and Kalolimno.)

 

Again, next day (December 4), while he was attacking off Panderma a 5,000-ton steamer with his gun, a torpedo boat came hurrying up, opened fire and started circling round his quarry. But for all she could do he continued to attack, and finally, while the torpedo boat was on one side of the ship, he, on the other, got in a shot on the steamer's water line at twenty yards and finished her. His next encounter was near Gallipoli with a despatch vessel coming out of the port, with which he was in action for two days, finally leaving her on fire fore and aft on the north shore of Marmara Island. On December 10 he met E 2, which had just come up, and leaving her to the westward went up himself to the entrance of the Bosporus, where he sank another large steamer proceeding across from the Golden Horn to Haidar Pasha. So he continued, in spite of every effort to catch him, till December 23, when, after narrowly escaping an attempt to torpedo him at the rendezvous, he went down in safety.

 

(Commander Nasmith's cruise had lasted forty-seven days, making his total time in the Marmara only three days short of a hundred. In this last cruise he had destroyed or rendered useless five large and six small steamers, as well as one destroyer, five large and thirty small sailing vessels. For the remarkable tenacity and skill he had displayed he was promoted to captain after only a year's service as Commander, and the admirable behaviour of the ship's company received proportionate recognition.)

 

The work of stopping the enemy's sea communications was now practically complete. From one of his prizes he had learnt that only three large steamers then remained, and two of these he had destroyed. From the same prize he also learnt that the success of his and his comrades' work was so effective that the Germans had built a railway from Uzun Kupru, the nearest point on the Adrianople-Constantinople line, to Kavak, at the head of the Gulf of Xeros, and that all munitions and troops were going that way and thence by road across the Bulair lines into the Gallipoli peninsula. But this line of supply had also been taken in hand. After several unsuccessful efforts by various craft, the Agamemnon with the Endymion and the monitor M 33

 

Dec. 7-8, 1915

ADMIRAL WEMYSS'S VIEWS

 

had succeeded on December 2 in destroying the three central spans of the Kavak road bridge and so cutting up the road as to make it impossible for anything to pass that way. Everything, in fact, gave the Admiral and his staff increased faith in their ability to afford the troops support enough to enable them to hold their ground, and brighter hope of a successful naval surprise. So confident, indeed, were they that they could now completely isolate the Turks in the peninsula, that the decision to evacuate on military grounds came as a complete surprise. The despatch of naval reinforcements, for which they had asked, and the prefatory steps that had been ordered for the transfer of the Salonica troops to Gallipoli, had led every one to believe the naval staff views had prevailed with the Government. General Monro himself, having no doubt he was overruled, had declared his determination to do all in his power to make the new offensive a success.

 

To the Admiral and his staff the decision to evacuate was in the circumstances incomprehensible. They could not even believe that it had really turned on the strategical possibilities of the theatre. It would seem to them as though a conviction was growing in military circles that the sole way to win the war was by "killing Germans," a method which could only he effective in the main theatre. To men whose outlook had been so long fixed on the promise of a great strategical stroke in the Near East, such a view of the war meant mere bankruptcy of leadership. It meant, moreover, entirely ignoring the fleet and its oft-proved capacity for substantially increasing the power of the army. It was impossible not to protest, and in a long reasoned telegram Admiral Wemyss endeavoured to show how unsound was the idea on which he believed the decision rested.

 

It involved, so he urged, the conclusion that our only way of defeating Germany was to fight her with one arm. The navy was practically being left out of the account. Nor was he without ground for his complaint. For he knew, and had had to point out, that in calculating the military force necessary for the defence of Egypt the General Staff had omitted to take any account of the naval guns; and this although, since the Turkish attempt to invade in February, practical experience at the Dardanelles and improved methods of gunnery had immensely increased their power of finding military targets ashore. Further, he urged that since the war was now admittedly one of exhaustion, nothing could increase our staying power so much as the opening of the Black Sea and the settlement of our

 

Dec. 10-14, 1915

 

preoccupations in Asia and Egypt by cutting Turkey out of the Central Powers combination; and, could any doubt remain as to this not being our right policy, he pointed to the now obvious indications that Germany's paramount war aims were the markets and industrial resources of the East.

 

His protests and arguments were in vain. The Admiralty could only reply that to them his proposed operations looked so precarious that they did not feel justified in risking a defeat which might well prove disastrous enough to shake our naval prestige and make our position in the East still more difficult. A new attempt to force the Straits by the fleet alone could not, therefore, be sanctioned. Nor could they, in face of the overwhelming military opinion and the strain of Salonica, press any further objections to the evacuation of Suvla and Anzac. The only consolation they could offer was that the retention of Helles would enable the kind of attempt he desired to be made later on. This final decision Admiral Wemyss acknowledged on December 12 "with the greatest regret and misgiving," and announced that he hoped to carry out the evacuation of Suvla and Anzac on the nights of December 19‑20 and 20‑21, and at once set about arrang­ing for the concentration of his detached units so as to provide the number of officers, men and small craft that the operation would require.

 

As the preparations proceeded his misgiving increased. The compromise under which Helles was to be held only deepened his anxiety, till, on December 13, he felt compelled to lay before the Admiralty the very serious situation that would arise at Helles when Suvla and Anzac were evacuated. As it was, the daily casualty list ashore with no regular fighting going on amounted to hundreds, and the abandon­ment of the northern area to the enemy would mean that the artillery fire to which the whole area was always exposed from the Asiatic shore and the north of Achi Baba would be doubled in intensity. Unless therefore Achi Baba was captured before the Turks could move their guns down from the evacuated area, or German howitzers and ammunition arrived, Helles would be untenable. He was quite ready to support an attack upon the long‑coveted position, but unless it was held, there was no naval advantage great enough to justify the sacrifice of the army, which the retention of Helles would entail. Judging from the admitted effect of ship fire he did not doubt the success of a determined combined attack.

 

The fact was that in both services confidence in the power

 

Nov.‑Dec. 1915

THE QUESTION OF HELLES

 

of the fleet to give tactical support to an army ashore had been growing rapidly during the past two months, and with no one more than General Davies, who, as commanding at Helles, was in the best position to know. His supporting squadron was under Captain D. L. Dent of the Edgar, an accomplished gunnery officer, to whom the recent improve­ment was greatly due. On November 15 the General had put his faith to the test by arranging with Captain Dent for tactical co‑operation in an attack he had planned for driving in an awkward salient in the enemy lines at the junction of the two Krithia ravines. The operation proved a rapid and complete success. After springing three mines our men rushed forward, and so completely did the fire of Captain Dent's squadron demoralise the Turkish gunners, that we were able to seize and consolidate the captured section with trifling loss. (Captain Dent's squadron comprised the Edgar, two 14‑inch monitora, Abercrombie and Havelock, M 21 and two destroyers.)

 

In this case there could be no doubt about the navy's contribution, and the Headquarters report for the day contained much more than the usual acknowledgment of the ships' assistance. The result, it said, "was mainly due to the effective fire from the Edgar." General Davies' full staff report went further, and was no less appreciative of the monitors. "All who saw it," the report says, "agree as to the accuracy and value of the monitors' fire, but the chief point is that it has been established that co‑operation in an attack has now become a practical reality, and that a system has been established which with further development will prove a powerful factor both in attack and defence." It was not too much to say, for the weather had been too bad for air­craft to go up, and the remarkable results had been obtained without their assistance in spotting.

 

General Davies, though he agreed with General Monro on the question of evacuation and was equally opposed to a further attempt on Achi Baba, was much impressed as to the tactical value of fire from the sea. After November 15 he had thought it all out, and on December 4 he presented a lonq memorandum detailing the classes of ships that were required and what each class could do. What he wanted was a per­manent squadron of "Edgars" and heavy monitors, with the addition of battleships for large operations requiring a great volume of fire. For his left flank he desired destroyers, and if possible the same he had hitherto had, since they knew the local conditions and their work had been as valuable as it was important. (The destroyers he referred to were Scorpion, Renard and Wolverine.) His reason for asking for heavy monitors

 

Dec. 14, 1915

 

was that he had found they afforded a steady enough plat­form to enable them to fire on works close in front of his line, but if the weather happened to be too bad for them to be at sea he would be content with two or three "Edgars."

 

Admiral Wemyss had, therefore, ample grounds on the experience gained for urging a combined attack on Achi Baba and for insisting that the possibility of capturing it was not a purely military question. With the support of the ships he felt sure it could be done if it were attempted at once. Soon it would be too late, and he therefore begged for an immediate decision. Finally he pointed out that it was the real key of the situation. If it were captured we should then be in the position we had hoped to attain at the first landing. Not only could Helles be held, but with the essential observing station in our hands the main difficulties which had foiled the first attempt on the Narrows would disappear and the forcing of the Straits would become a task well within the power of the reinforced fleet. If, on the other hand, no attempt to take the dominating heights was to be allowed, then Helles should be evacuated while evacua­tion was still possible.

 

Whether right or wrong, his proposal for securing the position at Helles had now little chance of being accepted. A corrupting blight too familiar in some of our older combined expeditions was making itself felt; for the naval and military leaders held views about the future conduct of the campaign which were utterly opposed. General Monro, though in command of both sections of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, had been at Mudros for less than a week, and after one short visit to each sector had left for Salonica. Though personally his relations with Admiral Wemyss were excellent, his absence necessarily prevented that close and continuous interchange of ideas that is the essence of successful combined work. On December 14, on his return from Salonica, the Admiral's telegram containing the proposal to attack Achi Baba, a copy of which the Naval Staff had already given him, was sent to him from home. His immediate reply was as follows: "In this telegram Admiral Wemyss deals with the military situation at Helles and urges an attack on Achi Baba without delay. I wish to dissociate myself from the views expressed by the Admiral."

 

His final opinion was that, while the capture of Achi Baba would improve our position, the resources at his command were unequal to the operation. Emphatic as was this opinion, it did not silence the controversy. The difference between the naval and the military views was as marked

 

Dec. 1915

THE SALONICA EXPEDITION

 

as ever and, as so frequently happens, Ministers were left to decide a vital question of war policy while their most trusted and competent expert advisers were in open conflict upon its essential technical factors.

 

Even this difficulty was but one strand in the tangle of uncertainties that perplexed their deliberations. They had also to face the fact that the question of retaining Salonica, which they considered had been closed at Calais, was still open. In spite of the Conference having come to a clear decision on the matter, the French were showing strong dis­inclination to abide by it. At the Allied Military Conference at Chantilly which, as we have seen, followed the Ministerial Conference at Calais the Russian, Italian and Serbian repre­sentatives strongly urged the retention of the place, and the Russian Emperor, in a personal telegram to King George, backed the appeal, and the French were already presenting a formal request that the decision to withdraw should be reconsidered. It was difficult to tell what to do. All we knew was that there was a growing feeling in Paris which once more threatened to overthrow the Ministry, to wreck the Entente and to render all co‑ordination of effort impossible. So acute was the crisis that it was decided that Sir Edward Grey and Lord Kitchener should go over to Paris to explain our views and should remain there until a definite understanding was established. They arrived there on December 9.

 

They found the atmosphere as bad as could be, but when they pointed out that in spite of our written agreement, which entitled us to retire at once, we had no thought of doing so, but were actually sending another division to secure the place for the retreat of General Sarrail, the air quickly cleared. M. Briand was able to explain to the Chamber that, so far from desertion, we were actually going beyond the commitment to which we had explicitly bound ourselves. So the crisis passed, but only at the cost of our being still tied for an indefinite time to an adventure of which we heartily disapproved and which made the defence of Egypt a task of increased difficulty.

 

It is possible the anxiety in the last direction was more than the conditions warranted, but the phantom of the February invasion had never ceased to haunt the Egyptian authorities, and a new spectre was walking on the western frontier. The Lybian desert was dominated by the Senussi, an independent Arab organisation on the strictest Mussulman lines. Of late years it had become powerful enough to be a factor with which both the Egyptian authorities and the Italians in Cyrenaica had to calculate as a dangerous field

 

Nov. 1915

EGYPT

 

for German and Pan‑Islamic propaganda. For some time past signs of unrest, religious in character, but with un­mistakable indications of outside inspiration, had been causing increased anxiety, and now apprehension was sud­denly confirmed by the appearance of an enemy submarine at Sollum. Here was our slender frontier garrison, two hundred miles from the railhead west of Alexandria, and connected with it by no more than a chain of weak coast­guard stations. For practical purposes the line of communication was by sea, but owing to the pressure of the anti‑submarine work in the Eastern Mediterranean there was nothing to spare for its adequate protection beyond four armed boarding steamers of the Egyptian Coast Patrol. It was organised in two sections, the Eastern working from Alexandria and the Western from Sollum.

 

At this time the Western section was commanded by Captain R. S. Gwatkin-Williams in the Tara, which had just come out from serving in the Irish Sea with the North Channel Patrol. His instructions were to co‑operate with the Italian Coast Patrol. Italy was at war with the Senussi and had established a patrol of the Gulf of Sollum, to which the Senussi had access, in order to prevent contraband from reaching them. We were the more concerned in the matter seeing that, though still nominally at peace with us, the Senussi were threatening Sollum with a large force and continually sniping the place. Captain Gwatkin‑Williams, therefore, had orders that one of his vessels was to visit it once a day so as to evacuate the garrison if the port was rushed. (The garrison was only about one hundred men of the Egyptian Army, under Colonel Snow. The Tara was a London and North‑Western Railway Company's steamer of 1,800 tons, armed with three Hotchkiss 6‑pounders. She was still under her old captain Lieutenant Tanner, R.N.R.)

 

In the morning of November 5, in pursuance of these orders, the Tara was coming in with no thought of danger when she was suddenly torpedoed by a submarine. She sank immediately, but seventy of her crew of a hundred got away in the boats and were towed by the submarine into Bardia, which though nominally an Italian port, was claimed by the Senussi and was actually in their possession, and there they were handed over as prisoners to the Turkish commandant. Thence the sub­marine went back to Sollum and sank an Egyptian coastguard gunboat at her moorings and damaged another.

 

It was U 35 that effected the surprise, the same boat which three weeks before had sunk the transport Marquette in the Gulf of Salonica, and it was soon discovered that what damage she had done was only incidental to her real mission.

 

Nov. 1‑23

THE SENUSSI

 

From the Gulf of Salonica she had gone to a rendezvous in the Gulf of Xeros, known as "Hersing Stand," and had there received orders to proceed to Budrum and take a Turkish mission and war material to Bardia. After embarking ten Turkish and German officers and some stores she left Budrum on November 1, and taking in tow two sailing vessels similarly laden, reached her destination three days later, having sunk a British tramp steamer on her way, besides unsuc­cessfully attacking a transport, the Japanese Prince, with troops from Alexandria to Salonica. The Jonquil and her roving patrol of eleven trawlers were quickly ordered to the area to hunt for the offending submarine, but with no success.

 

The result of this energetic move of the Germans was that on November 15 Sollum was attacked. The garrison held its ground, but the fact that the Senussi were now in open war with us, and the fear that their move was not an isolated operation, gave deeper colour to the rumour of an impending invasion from Palestine. Steps were therefore promptly taken to deal with the minor menace before the greater one could materialise. The idea was to concentrate a suffi­cient force at Marsa Matruh, the post half‑way between Alexandria and Sollum, and to that point the Sollum Garrison was withdrawn by the coastguard gunboat on November 23, the day on which the main force began to be transported there by sea. Since there was nothing but trawlers available as transport, the work was very slow, nor could Vice‑Admiral Sir Richard Peirse provide proper protection. But on his urgent entreaties Admiral de Robeck detached his other roving patrol, the Clematis, and six trawlers, to his assistance.

 

It was only with the greatest difficulty that the ships could be spared, for the second organised raid of the German submarines on our Mediterranean communication was in full swing. On November 3 another boat, U 38, had passed the Straits unseen, and between Gibraltar and Alboran had caught the British transport Mercian, with a regiment of Yeomanry on board. The submarine attacked with shell­fire which immediately took effect, and some or the crew got out of hand. The Mercian's Commander, Captain Walker, had to take the helm himself, and, unknown to him, boats were lowered by order of a ship's officer, two of which capsized (sic). For an hour the attack continued, yet by zigzagging Captain Walker was able to dodge most of the shells. Mean­while the troops had been ordered on deck and behaved admirably. A soldier relieved the captain at the wheel and several more assisted in the stokehold. The regiment's

 

Nov.-Dec. 1915

"U' BOATS IN THE MEDIERRANEAN

 

machine‑guns were got going, and with a parting salvo the submarine gave up. By that time the casualties were seventy­-eight, including twenty‑three men killed, besides an officer, twenty‑two men and eight of the crew missing from the capsized boats. (The officer, thirteen men and five of the crew were picked up later. Captain Walker was awarded the D.S.C. for his conduct.)

 

On November 3 the U 38 also attacked the armed steamer Woodfield. Before she was sunk by torpedo a search party discovered the Admiralty secret instructions to armed steamers and naval guns' crews. This document heavily weighted the arguments of the German Naval Staff in favour of regarding armed merchant ships as men‑of‑war, and on February 8, 1916, the German Government issued a memorandum, together with what purported to be a photographic reproduction of our secret instructions, and warned neutrals against using "the armed merchant vessels of the Powers with whom the German Empire is at war." An Imperial Order, to come into force on February 29 (issued on the 11th) instructed all naval commanders to destroy "enerny merchant ships armed with guns by every means." This order was modified on the 24th to the effect that enemy passenger steamers are to be spared until further orders, even when armed," a restriction due mainly to the attitude of America with whom the correspondence about the Lusitania had not yet reached a conclusion.

 

Continuing her way, U 38, sank eleven vessels by the 11th, and for two days held up the sailing of transports. So severe were the losses that the French could not help complaining of the inadequacy of the Gibraltar patrol, and it had to be reinforced by two sloops. (From November 15 to December 6 U 33 sank sixteen merchantmen, including one neutral. Her British victims included the Clan Macleod, sunk by gunfire on her way home from India. Her Master (Captain H. S. Southward), who described in his report the treatment he received from the U‑boat commander, made a gallant effort to escape, but after a two hours' chase found the submarine had the advantage of speed and was obliged to surrender. See Official History of the War: The Merchant Navy, Vol. II, pp. 102‑4.)

 

In the vital Mediterranean area the destruction was no less. There, besides the U 35, two others, U 34 and U 33, were at work again, and between them all during November fifty‑two ships were attacked, of which forty were sunk. Of these three were armed, and of the twelve that escaped five were armed? At this time, indeed, defensive armament seemed to be the best answer to the submarine campaign. Escort had been found impossible for lack of sufficient destroyers, and neither the roving squadrons, the patrols, nor the disguised ships, had had any apparent success.

 

Fortunately, by the end of November, when all possible small craft had to be called in for the evacuation of Suvla, the activity of the submarines died down again, and by moving only at night 4,500 troops were safely disembarked at Marsa Matruh by December 7, and in position to begin the operations.

 

The new disturbance on the Western Frontier of Egypt was not the only cause for the anxiety that existed. As one looks back now it seems to have been excessive, but it must be remembered that at this time our whole position in the East was felt to be quivering under a blow from which no man could see a quick recovery. The rash attempt on Bagdad had failed. On October 5, it will be recalled, General Townshend had stopped his pursuit of the Turks retiring from Kut at Aziziya, and there he was ordered to concentrate for a possible further advance. (See Map 1 - repeated.)

 

 

Map 1. Lower Mesopotamia

 

On October 23 General Nixon had received a guarded permission to make the

 

Nov. 21‑25

BATTLE OF CTESIPHON

 

attempt on which he was bent, but so difficult was the work of transport from the far‑away base at Basra, with the river at its lowest, that it was not till a month later that General Townshend was ready to strike. Meanwhi