16 June 1916 – ‘Probably the seaplanes decided the matter’

Following the bombing attacks on 12 and 13 June, the HMS Ben-my-Chree sailed for Jeddah to take part in the capture of the city arriving in the early morning of 15 June . Later that day, around 5pm, three seaplanes were hauled out of the hangar and sent to reconnoitre, photograph, and bomb, the Turkish positions. Two Sopwith Schneiders (3789 and 3790) dropped 65lb bombs and one of the Short 184s (850) dropped a 112lb bomb. Where possible the aeroplanes also attacked the Turkish troops with machine gun fire.

This morning, the plan was for seaplanes to go up again and spot for the ship’s guns, but news came through from Captain W. H. D. Boyle, R.N., the officer in command of the naval operation, on board the light cruiser Fox, that the Turkish forces in Jidda had surrendered, adding:

‘Probably the seaplanes decided the matter.’

Wedgwood Benn

Captain Wedgwood Benn, an RNAS observer who took part in the attacks, also wrote:

‘One may fairly claim the capture of this city, by no means an unimportant event of the war, as a decisive result secured almost wholly by aircraft.’

It’s unclear how much of an impact the bombings had, as the morale of the Turkish defencders had already been sapped by the naval bombardment. Regardless the city fell with the capture of 45 officers, 1,460 men, 16 guns, and useful stores, and opened the way for supplies to be sent into the interior.

The battle over, the Ben-my-Chree set sail for Port Said.

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