World War One
It is impossible for me without mentioning the fights on the Bomb Hill. Distance between trenches is about eight meters, That’s to say, death is certain… The soldiers in the first trench are completely dying and the second group replaces them immediately with such great resignation and coldness that no one can imagine. A Soldier sees those dying soldiers and knows that he will die in a few minutes but doesn’t show any hesitation and fear at all. By reading Kuran , some are ready to go Heaven and others are fighting and praying to God. This is one of the instances that shows the astonishing high spirit of Turkish soldiers. This is the high spirit that won Canakkale Wars.
( From the diaries of Ataturk – group commander of Anafartalar).
The story started with two huge German warships, Goben and Breslaw. At the time the winds of World War I were blowing and the Ottoman Empire was not involved yet until these two ships, Globen and Breslaw, escaped from the British Navy and stopped in front of Dardanelles. The names of these two ships were replaced with Turkish names, Midilli and Yavuz. A few days later, these ships sailed from Istanbul and bombed Russian Harbors on the Black Sea shores. As a result, the Ottoman Empire entered into World War I. Five days later, a huge navy consisting of England, France, and their allies, attacked the straits. This was the beginning of their end but who could know the reality.
Let’s go back to the story again. The joining of the Ottoman Empire into World War I wasn’t a coincidence. This was a part of a well planned game by both sides of World War I. At the time, Russia wasn’t in good condition and the Ottoman Empire had Dardanelles and Bosphorus. These straits between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean Sea were one of the obstacles in reaching Russia for its allies, England and France. On the other hand, Germany needed greatly to change the direction of the war. If the Ottoman Empire entered the war, their load would be decreased. Allies didn’t pass from the straits by beating the Ottoman Army , but at the end of the war, the Ottoman Empire was on the losing side. Allies passed from the straits without fighting and occupied Istanbul, and then they started to share the land of the Ottoman Empire under the preplanned treaty.
Goben (Turkish name Yavuz on the right). Picture source: “The Ottoman Steam Navy 1828 – 1923” , Bernd Langessiepen and Ahmet Guleryuz, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, Maryland, 1995.
On August 10, 1914, Goben and Breslaw anchored at the entrance of Canakkale Straits. After long conversation, the Ottoman Empire accepted these two ships and announced that they were bought from Germany and included in the Ottoman Navy. At that time, British and French ships came in front of the strait and waited for the return of the German ships. After the announcement, there was nothing to do for them. The names of German ships and the uniforms of soldiers were changed. These war ships came to Istanbul by carrying the flag of the Ottoman Empire.
On October 27, 1914, somehow these two ships sailed to the Black Sea and on October 29, attacked the Russian Harbour of Odesa, Navroski, and Sivastopal for two days. Russia declared a war without waiting for an explanation from the Ottoman Empire. This attack was planned by General Enver who was under the of German pressure. He was the leader of the political party of “Ittihat veTerakki” , the military affairs of the Ottoman Empire, and was the person that initiated the end of the Ottoman Empire. Essentially Britain, France, and their allies had blocked the Canakkale strait after the entrance of German ships into the strait. Four days later, Britain and France declared war and a few days later (November 3) they bombed the guns at the entrance of the strait (Sebdulbahir) and caused more damage. The Ottoman Empire replied with their declaration of war.
Gallipoli wars can be examined in two phases; sea wars and land wars. We will begin with sea wars. After the first bombardment, until March 18, 1915, the strait forts were bombed many times. According to sources, 11 attacks were made and each of them continued for days. The entrance forts were closed after the first three attacks. Then they bombed the other forts inside of the straits. The Ottoman forces had almost 100-150 guns at 40 bases for 247 cannons of the ally ships. In addition to ground bases, the straits had been mined. Until the end of the war, approximately 610 mines were set into the deep water of the strait. And two underwater nets against the submarines had been set, one of them was between Karanfil point and Akyarlar, the other one was in front of Nara Point. On March 18, 1915, the enemies attempted a final attack. They would pass from Canakkale Strait and occupy Istanbul. The Turkish side was expecting a such an attempt. Outside forts were already stopped on August 25 attack. English admiral believed that inside forts were destroyed under the heavy bombing of the navy but they were wrong.
Admiral Robeck divided his navy into three parts. first group consisted of Queen Elizabeth, Agamemnon, Lord Nelson, Inflexible, Triumphe (English battleships). The second group of Albion, Irresistible, Wangeance, Switsure, Majestic, Prince George, Ocean, Corn Wallis (English battleships). At the third group consists of Bouvet, Gaulois, Souffren, Charmagne, Canopous (French battleships). The attacks were planned in four phases. The first and second groups would enter the strait and destroy the inside forts and clear the mines in the entrance of the strait. The second phase French battleships would join the first and second groups. In the third phase, French battleships would pass the English battleships, move forward and pass the strait. Fortunately during the last phase, Istanbul would be occupied.
Canakkale strait had a different feature. At the entrance of the strait, there were four main forts; Sebdulbahir fort on the Europe side and Kumkale, Orhaniye and Ertugrul forts on the Asia side. After this the strait widened and in the middle of the straits it nor rowed. Here Kilitbahir fort was on the Europe side and Hamidiye on the Asia side. These two step defense lines protect the strait. These forts had many guns along the shore, and between these there were several small forts.
On March 18, 1915 at 11:10 am, the attack started. The first and second English battleships entered the strait and started to bomb the forts inside of the strait. Before this, mine-search ships had entered the strait but three of them were destroyed by the shore guns, others escaped. It was risky for the battleships to continue the fight. The Ottoman’s fort guns returned their fires. This attack wasn’t effective. Allies were confused because of the fires from the forts that were thought completely destroyed. Powerful English and French battleships decided to go forward without searching for mines. Then French battleships entered the strait and stopped five mile away from the English battleships. Mesudiye, Dardanos, and Kepez forts were at the range of their guns. The day was hell. Many guns were firing at each other. The surface of the strait was covered with water fountains. Many places on land and over the battleships were on fire.
Then French battleships began moving to take place in front of the navy. Everything happened at that moment; Bouvet hit one of the mines, and it sunk immediately. The shock spread over allies, because all mines had been cleaned before at this area. But who would know that Nusret, the Turkish mine ship, had mined the same area after their cleaning operation. Irresistible and Ocean wanted to help Bouvet but because of the mines and heavy fire from the shore, they were wounded. After a few minutes these two enormous battleships were lost in the cold water of the strait. On the other hand, Gaulois, Souffren, Agamemnon, Albion, Inflexible, and Charlmange were in a very bad situation and getting worse. At the receding maneuver, Gaulois and Souffren hit the mines. Enemies lost half of their navy. Turkish forces lost 3 guns, 44 martyrs, and had 70 wounded soldiers. Passing from the strait with battleships was impossible for the allies. They finally realized the fact that Canakkale strait can not be crossed through. After that the land fights would begin.
From March 18 to April 25, the allies prepared to land at Gallipoli peninsula. Three landings were done at Kumkale, Saros Gulf, and Besige Harbour. These were made to mislead Turkish forces and to hide the main target. Liman Von Sanders, general of the strait forces, had a different plan. he thought the target was Bolayir -the most narrow neck of the peninsula respectively, and he believed that Turkish forces couldn’t stop the enemy at the shore. They could be stopped at the upper side of the shores. This thought was completely wrong. Therefore, the battle was too bloody and long.
Information about World War One WWI in general and Gallipoli Turkey