18 March 1915 – Air service failures scupper operation in the Dardanelles

The Navy began its operation to force the Darndanelles Narrows today by bombarding the forts. As part of the plan, the Ark Royal had agreed to send up a seaplane every hour to report the effect of the bombardment. Luckily the day was fine and cloudless, ideal for air observation. At around 11.30 everything was in place and the bombardment started.

An hour later, Flight Lieutenant R. Whitehead with Lieutenant L. H. Strain went up in their Wight Seaplane to ascertain the progress of the ships’ fire.

Wight Seaplane

They reported that the forts at Medjidieh, Hamidieh II, Namazieh, and Hamidieh I were all manned and firing rapidly, but that Chemenlik (20) was not manned. They saw also that Medjidieh, Namazieh and Hamidieh I were being repeatedly hit, although owing to the thick smoke, they found it impossible to estimate the damage. The forts at Mount Dardanos and at Kephez Point were not manned, but there were many field guns in the vicinity.

Dardanelles Map

A line of boats was seen above the Narrows lying broadside to the stream, engaged possibly in mine-laying. Many other active guns were reported. The information, as it was observed, was at once sent back by wireless. Before the Wight had landed, Flight Lieutenant Douglas with Petty Officer B. J. Brady had took off in their Sopwith Tabloid.

Sopwith Tabloid

They found by the time they were over the forts that only Hamidieh I, south of Chanak, was firing with any determination. All her guns were still in action, and the shells from Vengeance which were falling into her were exploding in the centre of the fort but doing little or no damage to the guns. Chemenlik, it was confirmed, was not manned, and two of the guns were pointing at a sharp upward angle. A little after this, the troublesome Hamidieh I concentrated with salvoes on Irresistible which soon developed a slight list.

At this point the failure of the aircraft to spot that the minefields had been refreshed proved critical. At 4.15 Irresistible struck a mine and had to be abandoned. At five minutes past six Ocean, in the act of withdrawing, struck a mine ; she, too, was abandoned. The Inflexible had been mined soon after 4, but, although badly crippled, had got to Tenedos. The French battleship Bouvet also struck a mine and sank rapidly with a loss of over 600 lives.

SS Bouvet

In addition the Gaulois and Sujfren were badly damaged. In the end the damage caused by mines forced the allies to withdraw.

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2 thoughts on “18 March 1915 – Air service failures scupper operation in the Dardanelles

  1. Pingback: 13 June 1915 – Frederick Sykes to review air operations in the Dardanelles | airwar19141918

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