Gallipoli 12: The Best Laid Plans O’ Mice And Men

First World War Hidden History

Grimsby trawler requisitioned as a minesweeperThe Dardanelles were heavily defended. The Turks had placed 370 mines across the Straits in ten lines and an eleventh line of 26 mines parallel to the shore, a mile or so off the coast at Eren Keui Bay. Rather than providing powerful Royal Navy minesweepers as Admiral Carden had requested, the Admiralty had supplied unarmed fishing trawlers manned by volunteers and commanded by a naval officer with no experience of minesweeping. [1] The trawlers, with their sweeps down, could barely make 3 knots against the strong 5-6 knot current which ran through the Dardanelles. They faced serious problems, especially at night, when picked out by powerful searchlights and exposed to gunfire from mobile howitzers and field guns. It was a vicious circle. The make-shift minesweepers could not do their job until the guns had been silenced, and the battleships could not get near enough to silence the guns until…

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Gallipoli 10: It’s All For You

First World War Hidden History

On 6 January 1915 Winston Churchill sent a telegraph to the commander of the Mediterranean fleet, Vice-Admiral Sackville-Carden asking how many ships he needed to break through the Dardanelles and how he would go about it? In his response five days later Carden suggested a force of 12 battleships, three battle-cruisers, three light cruisers, 16 destroyers, six submarines, four seaplanes and 12 minesweepers. In addition, he required a dozen support vessels. Surely but subtly, responsibility for the operation that could never succeed was passed to Carden.

Dardanelles Gun

What he proposed was not so much a plan as the order in which the ships might attack the Dardanelles forts, [1] but from that moment on, Churchill presented Carden’s list as if it was a carefully considered strategic plan. The old Vice-Admiral imagined that battleships would first bombard the outer forts guarding the entrance to the Dardanelles from a long distance. Minesweepers would…

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Gallipoli 8: Trouble With Russia

First World War Hidden History

Russian_prisoners_tannenberg

Once the immediate German threat to Paris had passed, and the Western Front stuck fast in what would become a four year-long stalemate of miserable trench warfare, London was faced with a serious problem. The Russians had been badly beaten on the Eastern Front. They had invaded Germany’s eastern borders but were driven back by the German defensive-offensive at the Battle of Tannenberg and the first Battle of the Masurian Lakes. Despite outnumbering the German Eighth Army under von Hindenberg and Ludendorf by almost two to one, the Russians had lost some 300,000 men by the middle of September 1914. Rather than face the wrath of the Czar, General Alexander Samsonov shot himself.

Russian morale plummeted. Such heavy and unexpected losses only six weeks into the war drained their enthusiasm. With the way to Constantinople blocked by the Goeben, some of the Czar’s advisors began to consider an armistice with…

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Gallipoli 7: Goading Turkey

First World War Hidden History

Vice-Admiral Sackville-Carden

Once Souchon and his warships were assimilated into the Turkish navy, Rear-Admiral Sir Arthur Limpus, who had been the naval advisor to the Turkish government for two years, was withdrawn from his mission by Churchill on 9 September 1914. Limpus knew the precise details of all the Dardanelles defences and had a prodigious knowledge of every aspect of Turkish naval planning. [1] Logically, he was the prime candidate in every sense for the post of Commander in Chief of the Mediterranean fleet but he was relegated to the desk-bound job of superintendent of the Malta dockyards while Vice- Admiral Sackville Carden, who had spent the past two years in this relative backwater, assumed command of the fleet. It was a strange decision by any standard. Sackville-Carden was considered slow and ineffective, [2] but the arrangement was apparently based on the need to reassure the Turks that Britain, as their natural…

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