In the first half of February, 1915 in Constantinople had information that the Anglo-French forces intend to take the Dardanelles from the Aegean Sea, and the Russians intend to break through with them from the Black Sea to the Bosphorus. Therefore, for the defense of the straits, large forces were planning to gather around the 20 divisions, which were part of the 2 Army Vehib Pasha and the specially formed Von Sanders Army (the future 5 Turkish Army).
The army of Sanders had a 4 army corps. The 3 Corps Essad Pasha defended Gallipoli, the 15 Corps defended the Asian coast, the 14 Army Corps was located on the Princes ’Islands and the 6 Army Corps was in the San Stefano area. The 2 Army Vehib Pasha was supposed to defend the northern front along the Black Sea coast against the Russians. The total strength of the two armies reached 200 thousand people. However, it must be remembered that these armies were still being formed. At the beginning of the battle the Turks had a small force in the Dardanelles area.
The fortifications of the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles were supervised by the German Admiral Used, and Admiral Merten was the authorized representative of the Turkish main apartment in the Dardanelles. There was a lot of friction between Sanders and Usedom, as each of them controlled independently. But in general, the Germans commanded the defense of the straits area.
England and France had a problem with the question of command. Earlier, London and Paris agreed that operational management in the Mediterranean belongs to France. However, after the Ottoman Empire sided with the Central Powers, most of the ships operating against it turned out to be British. As a result, new negotiations began. The French gave way to the British in the Dardanelles, but retained their command in the area of the Syrian coast to Jaffa. And the senior naval commander in the area — the British admiral Pierce — had to work either in conjunction with the French or submit to the French command.
In February 1915, Admiral Cardin had three squads for the operation in the Dardanelles (two English and one French). In the operation took part, according to various estimates, from 80 to 119 combat and auxiliary ships of the allies, including dreadnoughts, battleships, line and light cruisers, aircraft fleet with 6 seaplanes, destroyers and submarines. The commander of the operation, Admiral Sackville Cardin, even got the newest superdreadnought "Queen Elizabeth", whose armament consisted of eight main caliber 381-mm guns, which had tremendous destructive power.
"Queen Elizabeth" in the Dardanelles
The start of the operation was scheduled for February 19. The British planned: to fire at the outer forts at the entrance to the strait, in the Bezik bay and on the north shore of Gallipoli; remove the mines and destroy the forts between the entrance and the narrowness; destroy the forts in narrowness; trawling a minefield at Kefets; crush the next fortifications and exit to the Sea of Marmara. Turkish fortifications were planning to first fire from a long distance out of reach from enemy batteries, then from middle distance and finally destroy them with a quick fire from a distance of 1915 - 15 cable. At first they planned to attack the forts Helles, Tekke-Bournou, Sedd-el-Bar, Orkaniye and Kum-Kale, which were equipped with weapons from 20-mm to 150-mm. The Anglo-French fleet had a great superiority in artillery over the enemy: a seven-fold superiority in large and eight-fold in middle artillery.
9 hours 51 min. February 14 was given the first shot at Fort Orkanie. The shooting was carried out from a distance 7 000-11 000 m. Ships were beaten on Turkish forts, anchored. The volleys of powerful ships thundered at the entrance to the strait. At noon, the reconnaissance seaplane reported that all the guns at Kum-Kala, Sedd-el-Bar and Orkaniy were intact. Although reports of ship observers talked about the successful shooting. In the afternoon, shelling was carried out by ships on the move. K 15 hour. 50 min. Turkish batteries seemed depressed. But when the British battleship Wengeens came closer to look at the forts, the Turks returned fire.
Thus, the six-hour bombardment of the powerful Anglo-French fleet could not crush the Turkish batteries. In the evening, Cardin ordered the shelling to stop. The British at first believed that they had achieved serious results, since the Turks almost did not answer. The amendment was given by an air reconnaissance, indicating that the guns on the forts are intact. The Turks had minimal losses in men, since, while the ships were out of range of battery fire, the garrisons were taken away from the forts. Artillery losses were also insignificant. According to German-Turkish information, only one weapon was put out of action for a long time.
“The result of 19 February’s actions showed with my own eyes that the effect of bombardment from long positions on modern earthen forts is insignificant,” Admiral Cardin wrote in the report. “There were a lot of hits on the forts with ordinary 12-inch shells, but when the ships approached, they opened fire from all four forts.”
The bombing of the external Turkish forts planned to continue on February 20, but the operation had to be postponed due to bad weather. Only February 25 allied fleet was able to continue the operation. This time the allies acted more decisively. One detachment fired from long distances, from an anchor, the second - on the go. Several ships were assigned to correct the shooting. The shelling began at 10 hours. At first, the Turks actively responded, especially strongly from Fort Hellen. But by the time the 15 watches the Turkish batteries were silent. The minesweepers calmly began to mine mines at the entrance to the straits.
Thus, 25 February, almost all of the Turkish guns of the forts were temporarily disabled and about a third for a long time. The forts Helles, Sedd el-Bar, Kum-Kale and Orkania were abandoned by the Turkish garrisons, and the stockpiles of shells were removed from them. The German-Turkish command believed that the allies would then undertake a decisive operation to break into the Sea of Marmara.
February 26 in the morning, the Allies, with the help of a group of old battleships supported by destroyers, launched an operation against a group of Dardanos forts, covering the minefields inside the straits with fire from their batteries. The British hoped to destroy the fortifications to Kefets. After passing a few miles inside the strait, the armadillos opened fire on enemy forts. In addition, on this day, the allies under the cover of naval artillery landed small landing forces and completed the destruction of the forts of Kum-Kale and Orkania using explosives. Up to 15 hour. everything went well, but then the British ships came under fire from heavy field artillery, firing from close range. Howitzers were virtually invulnerable to projectiles from ships. These field batteries forced the Allies to stop the operation.
The next day, the weather turned bad again, and the operation was postponed again. She continued 1 March. The fighting continued under the same scenario. The Allied fleet continued to be pushed at the very beginning of the Dardanelles, going only a few kilometers further into the depths. The Turks, passing the enemy ships to the fairway, opened massive fire from field guns at them. The fire of the ships that fired at low speed was almost invalid. The Turks suffered minimal losses. The field mobile artillery of the Turks, remaining in complete impunity, did not allow the ships to anchor. Attempts by minesweepers to work at night were also unsuccessful. Heavy fire opened fire on them and they left.
The German-Turkish command, noting the success of field batteries, began to strengthen the defense of the straits by field means. Field troops with howitzer batteries appeared in the area of Kum-Kale and Orkany 4 in March. When the Anglo-French forces finally tried to destroy the guns of these forts with amphibious forces under the cover of naval artillery fire, their attacks were repulsed with heavy losses. March 5 under the fire of Turkish artillery came the dreadnought "Queen Elizabeth." The British ship, having received 18 hits in a short time, was forced to move beyond the reach of the enemy's field batteries.
The next day, 6 in March, the British Dreadnought fired at Turkish fortifications again, but fell under the fire of howitzer batteries. March 7 on Turkish fortifications fired armadillos "Lord Nelson" and "Agamemnon". The Turks actively responded and their defense was not damaged. March 8 decided to use Queen Elizabeth with its powerful artillery inside the strait. To protect him from enemy fire, the battleship was surrounded by less valuable ships. Releasing 11 volleys on the Chanak batteries, the dreadnought stopped firing as bad weather prevented the aircraft from correcting the fire.
As a result, the allied fleet could not break into the Sea of Marmara. Admiral Cardin ordered the squadron to return to Lemnos. Winston Churchill was very annoyed by the failure in the Dardanelles, and made Cardin the scapegoat. Cardin, under the specious pretext, was replaced by Admiral John De Robek.
Commander of the British and French naval forces in the Mediterranean Sea Sackville Cardin
Among the objective reasons that did not allow the allies to break through to the Turkish capital, there are several. First, there was no surprise factor. The German-Turkish command was aware of the plans of the Allies. And the British themselves gave out their plans when November 3 of the year fired at Turkish fortifications on 1914. This forced Istanbul and Berlin to take measures to strengthen the defense of the straits.
Secondly, the experience of the assault on Port-Arthur during the Russian-Japanese war and the siege of Qingdao in 1914 showed that strong coastal fortifications cannot be taken only by the forces of the fleet. A landing operation was necessary. For the operation it was necessary from the outset to attract large ground forces.
It should be noted that the Turks were afraid of this scenario. So, on February 25, when almost all Turkish guns were suppressed and the Allied trawlers began to unloading mines in the fairway, the Turkish command withdrew the garrisons of external forts. The Turkish General Staff considered landing at any place of the peninsula at that time quite a possibility, and it was really easy to take the straits with the help of a land operation, because by the end of March the Turks had only 2 divisions in the Gallipoli area. If at that moment the Allies had launched a large landing operation, they would have almost met no resistance. However, the Allied command did not plan the landing at the first stage of the operation. So, if earlier they decided to send the 29 Infantry Division to the strait zone, then a series of failures in France forced the Allies to cancel this decision. At a meeting of the Military Council in London on February 26, Churchill protested in vain. Kitchener insisted on his own and offered to use in the Dardanelles operation only the New Zealand and Australian troops, which were transferred to Egypt. In addition, the Military Council decided to wait until the first forts were captured.
February's Kitchener 26 issued an order that troops can only be used when the fleet is successful. “Forcing the Dardanelles should be undertaken only by the fleet. Make a plan to assist the fleet, keeping in mind: a) until the Dardanelles are open, you need to confine yourself to small operations in order to completely destroy the batteries after they are silenced by the fire of the fleet; b) it is possible, however, that some heavy batteries, hidden in the folds of the terrain, cannot be silenced by the fire of our ships; then, if Admiral Cardin turns to you, you can undertake several small landing operations to destroy them; c) I remind you, however, of the significant forces of the enemy, located on both sides of the straits, so that you would not undertake operations of this kind without aerial reconnaissance and without providing your landings with full fleet cover. ” Only as a last resort were allowed to use troops concentrated in Egypt. 1 March this order was exactly repeated in the form of instructions to Jan Hamilton, appointed commander of the Dardanelles Expeditionary Force.
Third, the Allied fleet operation itself was poorly prepared. The flaws in adjusting the fire from the ships affected. Air corrections did not produce the expected results, as bad weather and a shortage of aircraft prevented this. Coastal batteries could be suppressed by fire from close distances, but this required a good observation and adjustment service and a willingness to sacrifice ships for the sake of victory. The idea of trawling minefields was not feasible, in conditions when the enemy’s batteries could not be suppressed. Field batteries, which operated so successfully that they forced the ships to anchor and fire on the move, reduced the effectiveness of the fire and led to wastes. The use of small airborne detachments to eliminate enemy fortifications yielded results only until the Turkish field forces appeared in the combat area.
Inflexible battle cruiser
To be continued ...