16 December 1915 – Sykes ignores Navy

At Gallipoli, the Navy issued general orders for the evacuation of Suvla Bay and ANZAC Cove on 18 and 19 December which arrived at RNAS HQ on 12 December. In typical fashion of the time, they contained sparse references to aerial operations. Buried in Part IV of Appendix F was the order:

“aircraft must endeavor to keep off those of the enemy who may
be reconnoitering.”

Sykes’s flyers are to avoid their usual activities that brought out enemy airmen. Instead, they are to stand ready to launch in case the enemy attacked in mass. At each of the bays, Sykes was to provide only one aircraft for reconnaissance.

Sykes disagreed with the orders in favour of normal operations prior to the evacuation so that the enemy would not be suspicious, and he wanted a constant patrol of aircraft over the evacuation sites. The Navy sent a message today notifying Sykes that the Vice-Admiral would compromise. The RNAS could fly continuous patrols, but Sykes had to have aircraft available to defend a large aerial attack if it came.

Sykes disseminated his own orders to the RNAS later today. Sykes’s orders reflect his offensive posture, as they contain instructions to fly to the east, not to the west. Pilots from Second and Third Wings are to fly the strongest patrols possible in areas well forward of the evacuation sites, so that the Turks will not focus attention on the bays.

Aircraft are to carry bombs which are to be used in appropriate situations against suitable targets, at least one wireless-capable aircraft is to be airborne at all times. Patrol aircraft are not to be drawn from their areas by enemy aircraft, and the RNAS are to ensure no enemy flyers slip past the patrol areas to where the Army was disembarking.

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