- Smythe, D.H.D., AO, Commodore, RAN
- History - WW1, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 1991 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
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 April 14. 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 Campaign. The real disaster lay ahead.
The landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula, as everyone knows, began on April 25. The boats taking the soldiers ashore were commanded by 15 year-old midshipmen, displaying great and mature courage in what was the biggest amphibious naval landing that had ever taken place. 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, I’m afraid, the fault of the navy, although the Turks later claimed to have deliberately moved a marker buoy during the night to deceive our boats. You 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 April 25 by the Australian Submarine AE2 She, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Stoker, on April 25, 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 30, 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 himself went below to open the sea cocks. He was accompanied by the First Lieutenant, Lieutenant Haggard (who, incidentally, was later my 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 half-dozen of the crew, the remainder being already overboard. A minute later she slid gracefully below the surface, on her last and longest dive. Captain and crew were picked up and made prisoners of war.
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 the conditions. 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 May 12 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 reported that he had been against the Dardanelles adventure from the beginning.