- NAVAL ASPECTS OF, by CDRE Dacre Smyth AO RAN Ret'd
NAVAL ASPECTS OF ANZAC (1914)
by COMMODORE D.H.D.SMYTH AO RAN Ret'd
Copyright D Smyth Aug 2004
Originally, the Gallipoli campaign was planned to be a purely
naval show. But let me go back in history a little further even
The Gallipoli campaign was caused, basically, by the fact that
Turkey entered the First World War. There was no need for Turkey
to do so; for no one threatened her seriously and both the Allies
and the Central Powers (Germany) wanted to keep her neutral.
However, the government of the Young Turks, who had deposed the
Sultan, had placed their country in a chaotic political situation.
Among other problems, their government was bankrupt.
The hopelessness of the situation compelled the Young Turks to
look to the outside world for allies, and the choice rested between
Britain and Germany.
Britain was not enthusiastic about "taking on" the Turks as allies,
but the Germans were.
In August 1914 the British Naval Mission was still operating in
Constantinople, but it was out-numbered by the German military
mission which was actively infiltrating the Turkish Army.
This created complicated intrigues in Turkey.
The situation between Britain and Turkey became tense when Britain
refused to deliver two warships which she was building for Turkey.
On August 3rd, 1914, Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty,
announced that in the interests of British national security the
two ships had been requisitioned by the Royal Navy.
Germany responded by offering Turkey the battle-cruiser GOEBEN
and the light-cruiser BRESLAU, which "happened" to be in the Western
Mediterranean at the time.
The GOEBEN had a displacement of 22,000 tons, had ten 11 inch
guns and a speed of 26 knots. She could dominate the Russian Black
Sea fleet, whose presence was worrying the Turks at that time,
and out-distance, though not out-gun, any British navy ship in
British warships shadowed the Germans but had orders not to fire
until war broke out with Germany - which it did at midnight on
By that time the German ships had eluded the British with no credit
to the British Admiral, (who was later court-martialled) and on
August 9th, they steamed through the Dardanelles.
This still did not, however, bring Turkey into the war: Germany,
as well as Britain and its Allies, were still attempting to get
Turkey to remain neutral, although Germany had reservations about
The situation was a stalemate until after the Battle of the Marne
(when the Allies drove the Germans back on the River Marne relieving
the threat to Paris) on 14 September, 1914. This battle showed
decisively that Germany was not going to "walk through" the British
and the allies, and that the war would not by any means be over
by Christmas, as almost everyone had forecast.
As a result, Germany began to look for allies and decided that
she wanted Turkey in the war.
One of the earliest indications of this changed attitude was in
the treatment of the British Naval Mission in Constantinople.
This Mission, under the command of Admiral Limpus, had for some
years undertaken the training of the Turkish Navy, With the arrival
of the GOEBEN its position had become at first embarrassing and
then insupportable. Early in September it was clearly impossible
for Admiral Limpus to go on. On the 9th the Mission was withdrawn,
and the Germans now controlled the Turkish Navy as well as the
Army. Then on September 26th, a Turkish torpedo-boat was stopped
as she tried to leave the Dardanelles by the British squadron
lurking there2 and when it was found that there were German soldiers
on board, the vessel was ordered to go back to Turkey. On hearing
this news the German Army officer commanding the fortifications,
took it on himself to close the Dardanelles. New mines were laid
across the channel, lighthouses were extinguished, and notices
were put on the cliffs warning all vessels that the passage was
Things were quiet for about a month, and then, on the 29th October,
the GOEBEN, the BRESLAU and a Turkish squadron which was manned
in part by German soldiers, steamed through to the Black Sea,
and on this and the following day they opened fire without warning
on Odessa harbour, on the Russian fortresses at Sevastopol and
on Novorossik, sinking all shipping they could reach and setting
the oil tanks on fire.
On October 30th the Russian, British and French ambassadors at
Constantinople delivered a twelve-hour ultimatum to the Turkish
government and, when it was unanswered, asked for their passports.
Hostilities began on the following day, and on November 3rd several
British and French battleships bombarded the forts at the entrance
to the Dardanelles (without much effect).
Nothing much happened after this until January 3rd, 1915, when
Lord Kitchener, the Secretary of State for War, received an appeal
from the Russians to start a movement against the Turks which.
would compel them to relax their pressure on the Russian army
in the Caucasus.
Kitchener thought the only plan likely to meet with success was
to sweep through the Dardanelles and capture Constantinople.
The famous British admiral, Lord Fisher, who had been brought
out of retirement to become First Sea Lord, agreed with Kitchener's
proposal but added the reservation that the action must be immediate.
Churchill and Kitchener agreed that whatever the action was, it
must be carried out by Royal Navy ships.
The Commander-in-Chief of the RN forces which were stationed outside
the Dardanelles, Vice-Admiral Sackville-Carden, was asked his
advice and replied that he did not consider the Dardanelles could
be rushed. He recommended extended operations with a large number
Admiral Carden sent a plan, which involved the use of no less
than 12 battleships, 3 battle-cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 17 destroyers,
6 submarines, 12 minesweepers and a score of other craft of all
kinds. Further assistance was to be obtained from a French squadron
of four battleships and auxiliaries.
At a meeting of the War Council on 28th January Lord Fisher changed
his attitude once again and became opposed to the Dardanelles
scheme, which he said could only be justified on naval grounds
by military co-operation.
Fisher in fact tried to resign as a protest, but was persuaded
by Kitchener not to do so and to support Royal Navy action against
By the middle of February Kitchener, however, was himself coming
round to the idea of sending an army to the Dardanelles, and on
the 16th he announced that the 29th Division could sail for the
Aegean. It would assist the marines already on the spot in mopping
up the Gallipoli peninsula, and later in occupying Constantinople.
This brought so sharp a protest from the generals in France (who
wanted the 29th Division there) that on February 18th, the day
before the naval bombardment began, Kitchener revoked his decision
and said that the Australian and New Zealand divisions then in
Egypt should go instead. At this the ships which the Admiralty
had assembled for the transport of the 29th Division were dispersed.
Later Kitchener changed his mind yet again, and decided that the
29th Division would be sent as well.
Meanwhile, the Navy was still on the scene at the Dardanelles.
A bombardment which had begun on l9th February was resumed on
25th when all guns were destroyed on each of the two outer forts
on the European and Asiatic shores.
Landing parties were disembarked, mines were swept and as a result
the Fleet sailed six miles inside the straits.
Bad weather then intervened and the Fleet withdrew, but plans
were made to renew the Naval operations on 18th March.
General lan Hamilton was appointed to command the military force
and left London on 13th March with his staff, with an inaccurate
map of the Gallipoli area, with a 3-years-old handbook on the
Turkish army and with a lot of other doubtful information.
They arrived on the 18th March in time for Hamilton to board the
cruiser PHAETON to watch an assault by the British and French
At that stage Hamilton was a Commander-in-Chief without an army
or a plan.
The naval battle with the shore guns was not a success this time.
It had been preceded by a test bombardment to find out if the
Turks had 15-inch guns. The Turks had these - as it was discovered
later - but cunningly did not use them, and the allied fleet was
Between the 18th and 22nd March the allied fleet lost the IRRESISTIBLE,
the OCEAN and the BOUVET, sunk by mines floated down the Dardanelles
on the four-knot current. HMS INFLEXIBLE was saved only by the
skill of her commanding officer, Captain Phillimore.
On the 22nd March Vice-Admiral de Robeck, who had succeeded Admiral
Carden, (who had been sent home) decided to withdraw and do no
more until the army - now scattered along the Mediterranean -
was assembled and ready to land.
De Robeck described the result of the bombardment as a disaster
and, as he had lost three battleships in the 18th of March attack,
he apparently felt he should not try any more.
The Admiral's Chief of Staff, Commodore Roger Keyes, was appalled
at the decision and pleaded with him to carry out a plan he had
to make a new attack, aided by a new minesweeping force which
had been organised.
De Robeck and Keyes went to see General Hamilton about it and
were assured that the army would be available on 14th April.
They decided to wait, but Keyes said he was "fearfully disappointed
and unhappy". The general feeling both then and now was that,
if the Navy had returned to the attack, the Dardanelles would
have been forced by a purely Naval operation.
In fact, much later, the Turkish leader, Enver, himself said that
if the British had only had the courage to rush more ships through
the Dardanelles they could have got to Constantinople.
That was the end of the all-Naval participation in the Gallipoli
The real disaster lay ahead.
The landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula, as everyone knows, began
on 25th April. The 15 year-old midshipmen, displaying great and
mature courage in what was the biggest amphibious naval landing
that had ever taken place commanded the boats taking the soldiers
ashore. The Australians and New Zealanders, however, were put
ashore a mile or so out of position - at Anzac Cove instead of
Gaba Tepe. This seems to have been the fault of the Navy, although
the Turks later claimed to have deliberately moved a marker buoy
during the night to deceive our boats.
All know how the landings went, and how the whole Gallipoli campaign
went from then on.
About the only successes were those of the British submarines,
led originally on 25th April by the Australian Submarine AE2.
She, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stoker, on 25th
April, while the landings were in progress, most gallantly and
skillfully dived through and under the minefields and succeeded
in entering the Sea of Marmora - the first British submarine to
do so. On the way through the straits she sank a Turkish cruiser,
ran aground twice, was fired on by over a hundred guns from 8
inches to 14 inches in calibre, and was nearly rammed four times.
Once into the Sea of Marmora, for five days she attacked enemy
shipping but, on April 30th, while diving to escape the attentions
of the Turkish torpedo-boat, the Sultan Hissar, the submarine
got out of control. As she was alternately breaking surface and
descending to a great depth, the enemy scored a hit and holed
her in three places. Stoker ordered his crew to swim for it and
he went below to open the sea cocks. He was accompanied by the
First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Haggard (who, incidentally, was later
the author's wife's father).
While they were below, the ship was settling in the water, and
the Sub-Lieutenant on the conning tower anxiously called them
up. So they dashed up the ladder, just in time. The water was
only about two feet from the top of the conning tower; and only
a small portion of the stern was still above the water. On this
were clustered the last halfdozen of the crew, the remainder being
A minute later she slid gracefully below the surface, on her last
and longest dive. Captain and crew were picked up and made prisoners
But I must return to the overall position, some months later.
By then so many other British Submarines, commanded by such famous
officers as Naismith and Holbrook, had got through the Narrows
that a hopeful situation existed, of which no-one took advantage.
The situation ashore on the other hand, was hopeless, and so were
In Britain Lord Fisher had become increasingly angry at the situation.
Churchill wanted a limited naval advance before the Turkish Army
was defeated, but Fisher was opposed to this.
Following the sinking of the battleship GOLIATH on 12th May, Fisher
had wanted to order the huge QUEEN ELIZABETH to return to England,
and he had won his point and the ship had been recalled.
Lord Kitchener complained bitterly that he had sent an army into
Turkey because he had been assured that the Navy would force the
Dardanelles. The Navy had failed, he said.
Fisher retorted that he had been against the Dardanelles adventure
from the beginning.
Churchill and Fisher agreed on the replacements that were to be
sent for the QUEEN ELIZAETH; but later on Churchill added two
E-class submarines without informing Fisher.
So Fisher resigned.
This gave the Conservative Opposition their chance to attack Churchill,
and they managed to persuade Prime Minister Asquith to have him
dismissed from the War Cabinet.
They then obtained eight posts in the new Coalition Ministry,
which was formed.
Thus the Gallipoli fiasco had produced only the end of the Liberal
government and the discrediting of the Navy Chiefs.
On August 6th General Hamilton began his last great assault, at
Suvla Bay, but it was a horrible failure. Four thousand Anzacs
were killed, mostly at the diversionary battle of Lone Pine, commanded
by the author's father, and General Hamilton was sacked by Kitchener.
For three months the War Cabinet argued about whether the campaign
should be continued.
Finally, the evacuation was ordered in November.
It was completed on 20th December - a triumph of military discipline
and amphibious planning and an operation of which the Turks completely
failed to take advantage.
Whatever may be said about the Gallipoli Campaign as a blunder
or a brilliant idea it was the greatest amphibious operation ever
undertaken up to that time.
Nearly everything was experimental for modern warfare; the use
of naval aircraft and submarines; the trial of naval guns against
shore batteries; landing large armies in small boats on a hostile
shore; the use of radio ... and so forth.
All this had its influence in World War II, the Mediterranean
landings, the "island hopping" of General MacArthur's Pacific
Campaign and the second front in Normandy. Gallipoli was a guide-book
to modern warfare.
Copyright CDRE D. Smyth AO RAN Ret'd Aug 2004