Royal Navy Monitors in the Gallipoli Campaign

HMS Abercrombie (1914)

This picture shows the stark, uncluttered layout of the 14 inch monitors. Note the side bulges and the high gunnery control tower at the top of the tripod mast. Her 14 inch main armament was manufactured by Bethlehem Steel for battle cruisers to be delivered to Greece, which became redundant when war broke out. Abercrombie had quite an active war in the Mediterranean, covering the Gallipoli operations and various Allied operations in the Aegean. On one occasion she managed to fire her anti-aircraft gun into a store on petrol on deck, causing a sever fire. Luckily the damage was minor.

Monitor at Anchor in Bay, Imbros, 1.45pm, June 22nd 1915 (Art.IWM ART 4360) image: an annotated sketch of a Royal Navy monitor, effectively a floating gun platform, at anchor in a bay off Imbros island. The monitor is shown from the starboard side with a small vessel immediately before her. A rugged peak is visible on the coastline behind. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source:

HMS Humber

This picture shows Humber in her original configuration. Later she had a second turret with a single 6 inch gun mounted on the after deck, and the 4,5 inch howitzers were moved onto the upper deck. It is easy to see that her designers intended her for riverine use only. Any sort of sea would swamp the lower decks, and her lack of draft would cause her to skid sideways in a crosswind. However her low profile made her a difficult target and she and her sisters all survived the war with no serious damage.

While the first two monitors were active on the coast of Africa events of far greater importance were taking place in the Dardanelles. It was to prove one of the most disastrous actions ever undertaken by British arms. After Troubridge had been sent home in disgrace for letting Goeben escape, Admiral, Sir Sackville Carden, was placed in command of the force which was to find her, if she dared to emerge from her Turkish lair, and sink her and her consort. His task was not an easy one.

The Narrows, the passage leading from the Aegean to the Sea of Marmora was protected by powerful forts on Cape Helles and Kum Kale and by further batteries of heavy guns at Kephez and Chanak points. Even more dangerous than these was a dense minefield consisting of almost 400 moored mines in the channel which was less than 1 mile wide.

The Straits are dominated by hilly, broken country and are only about 5 miles wide at their widest point. Ships in the Straits are liable to shelling from the forts at the entrance and from others established at strategic points along the shoreline. The forts themselves were venerable structures, but around them had been built, with German advice and help, modern well-designed earthworks concealing heavy guns which could survive anything short of a direct hit on the gun itself. In the hillsides looking down on the Straits were concealed mobile batteries of field guns and howitzers. These were not big enough to damage heavily armoured ships much, but they could be fatal to unarmoured vessels such as trawlers or destroyers. There were also powerful mobile searchlights to spot for the guns at night. Through the Straits runs a current of anything from 2 to 4 knots, constantly running out into the Mediterranean. This current runs strongly in the centre, but is weak or nonexistent near the shores, especially the southern (Asiatic) shore. There could scarcely be a more suitable stretch of water for defensive mining.

The Narrows of the Dardanelles had been mined before the war, in mid-1914, but merchant ships were allowed to pass through a clear channel, accompanied by a Turkish pilot. In September of that year however a British patrol intercepted a Turkish destroyer just outside the Narrows and found German sailors on board. The resulting diplomatic incident caused the Turks to close the gap in the minefields and declare the Narrows closed, cutting Russia off from the Mediterranean. On 31 October Turkey joined the war on the German side. Immediately the minefields were reinforced, and the shore based heavy artillery and mobile field guns were increased in number. Their crews were rapidly stiffened by newly arrived German artillery specialists. More powerful searchlights were sent to cover the minefields and keep away sweepers. The old battleship Messudieh was sent into the Narrows to provide extra protection and fire power. Carden made two attempts to destroy forts guarding the entrance, doing considerable damage, but failing to silence them completely. The protective earthworks, reinforced with German help, ensured that although the guns might be dismounted and the gunners evacuated during a daylight bombardment, it was a relatively simple matter to restore them during the hours of darkness. Only a direct hit on the gun itself would effectively destroy it. The only notable Allied success was the sinking of Messudieh by the submarine B-11, which managed to dive below the mines and stem the current in the Narrows, although her underwater speed was only 4 knots.

By the end of January 1915 the War Cabinet had determined to adopt a more aggressive policy with the hope of forcing Turkey out of the war altogether. A fleet of ten British and four French old pre-dreadnought battleships would force the Narrows and steam towards Constantinople, protected by minesweepers and destroyers. The entrance forts would be silenced by their guns, supported by the great 15 inch main armament of Queen Elizabeth, the navy’s most modern and formidable battleship, which had been sent out by the Admiralty to provide support. She was not allowed to penetrate the Straits themselves – that would be too risky – but she could bombard from far off. Unfortunately accurate long-range indirect gunfire was impossible without good spotting from the air, and this, for various reasons, was not available. Carden had proposed this scheme and it was endorsed by the War Cabinet in the face of opposition from Fisher, the First Sea Lord who correctly foresaw the danger from mines and the problems associated with attacking coastal artillery from the sea.

The attacks on the forts commenced on 19 February, and by 25th most of the guns in the outer forts had been destroyed by the ship’s bombardment and by Royal Marine landing parties. The fleets were now able to move into the mouth of the Straits and silence the inner forts guarding the entrance to the Narrows. This was less successful, once again the Turkish gunners took cover when they were being hit by naval gunfire, only to emerge as soon as it ceased, furthermore, as the ships entered the restricted waters, they came within range of the mobile field guns. These could not do severe damage to heavy ships but they did make matters extremely difficult for the intruders, and forced the unarmoured destroyers to keep moving so as to avoid being hit. Firing on the inner forts at long range did little damage to them and it was clear that the warships would have to get closer for their assault to be effective.

The first section of the Strait was clear of mines, but to move further in and tackle the second pair of forts at the entrance to the Narrows themselves at close range, the minefields would have to be swept. To do this, North Sea trawlers had been provided, and these were given light armour to protect them from small arms fire. They were manned by their regular RNMR (Royal Naval Minesweeping Reserve) crews. It had originally been intended to supplement these with “mine bumpers” – cargo ships with reinforced hulls filled with concrete which would clear a path for each capital ship by steaming through the field blowing up mines as they went. These were not eventually provided. (Strangely the British did not make much use of reinforced mine bumpers to protect capital ships in either world war. The Germans used them, calling them Speerbrechers, extensively in both). The trawlers had to battle against the strong currents in the Straits, so that their speed over the land was only 2 or 3 knots making them easy targets for guns on shore. To give them some protection from shore batteries, the sweepers were detailed to work at night and were supported by destroyers and a light cruiser. On 1 March they set off on their first mission. Before they reached the minefield they were detected from the shore, and illuminated by brilliant searchlights, making them an excellent target for the shore based field guns. No trawlers were hit, but the fisherman crews hastily withdrew. They had not been trained for work under fire and were badly shaken by the experience. Who can blame them? Their little ships were almost stationary in the strong current, and a single hit from the 4 inch or 6 inch field guns would have proved fatal. Three more attempts were made, but with no result. A different tactic was then port to try to silence the tried. This time the trawlers steamed up stream as fast as they could go, with their sweeping gear stowed, then turned and swept down with the current. A handful of mines were recovered, but some of the crews were so scared, especially when they had to turn round and deploy their sweeps under fire, that they did not attempt to sweep at all. After two weeks of failure the regular navy was becoming disillusioned with the fishermen-sweepers. One trawler had been sunk and several damaged, but no one had been killed and there were open accusations of cowardice levelled at the RNMR. On 13 March one final attempt was made with the sweeper crews stiffened with Royal Navy volunteers and supported again by fire from a battleship. This was even more disastrous. The supporting cruiser Amethyst was badly hit, suffering twenty-four men killed, and several trawlers were severely damaged, also suffering casualties. A few mines were swept, and some more were found floating free in the Straits. Possibly these had been deliberately floated down by the Turks. They were easily dealt with and in future operations small picket boats operated alongside major ships to deal with any more “floaters”. This was a pretty high risk operation for the picket boat’s crews, exposed as they were to the fire of field guns on shore. Some of them were actually fitted with explosive sweeping wires and seem to have accounted for several mines.

By this point Carden was coming under severe pressure from Churchill who urged him to make progress regardless of casualties. After all, he argued, thousands were dying on the western front and the Dardanelles operation could relieve pressure on the hard-pressed troops in France. It was well worth hundreds of casualties among the minesweepers to force the passage and achieve their objective. The minesweeper crews, not unnaturally, did not agree.

The unfortunate Carden fell sick and was replaced by Admiral de Robeck, who had been his second in command. He resolved to continue the attack but to use a new tactic, devised by Carden, of making a daylight attack on the shore batteries and to sweep the minefields as he went. He intended to use his full force now consisting of thirteen British and four French battleships, and one dreadnought battle cruiser. The battleships were all pre-dreadnoughts except for the super dreadnought Queen Elizabeth, still attempting to make her indirect fire from outside the Narrows effective. A heavy bombardment at long range would attempt to silence the shore batteries and suppress the guns in the forts, then a second wave of battleships would steam close to the forts and complete their destruction, covering the passage of trawlers into the minefields. The warships could then follow the sweepers and force their way right through the Narrows. Some of the attendant destroyers were adapted to carry light sweeping gear.

The action took place on 18 March. At first things went as planned, the armada steamed into the straight and advanced towards the forts on Kephez Point, Turkish shore batteries replied vigorously, but the only ship badly damaged was the French Gaulois, which had to be beached. Gradually the warships got the better of the shore guns, and things were going according to plan when the advancing second line of battleships, steaming close to the forts to blast them at close range, suffered a series of appalling disasters. Bouvet (French) and Irresistible (British) were sunk by mines where there should have been none, and the battle cruiser Inflexible was severely damaged by gunfire. Shortly afterwards the battleship Ocean was disabled by gunfire and a mine strike and had to be abandoned. Once again, to the disgust of the naval officers present, the trawlers fled from the scene under heavy bombardment. Two of them had tried to deploy their sweeps and steam upstream. They dealt with three moored mines, but fire from the shore was too much for them and they abandoned their attempt in spite of orders and encouragement shouted from the picket boats and destroyers. It was impossible now for the battleships to proceed into the Narrows and de Robeck had no alternative to withdrawing his battered force. What had happened was that a Turkish mine expert, Lieutenant Colonel Geehl, had anticipated a close range attack on the inner forts and had taken a small fast steamer Nousret down the Narrows and laid a small field of twenty mines in exactly the right position. Hence an insignificant little civilian craft had brought about the sinking of three major warships and the disablement of a dreadnought battle cruiser. From that day on de Robeck was determined that no further attempt could be made to force a passage into the Sea of Marmora, until at least the European shore was held by the Allies. The Admiralty supported him and the scene was set for the even greater disaster of the landings on the Gallipoli Peninsula.

This sorry performance made the navy keener than ever on the idea of the monitors. If big gun monitors, such as the 14 inch, 12 inch and 15 inch vessels then being built, had been available to get close to the coastal guns, things might have gone differently, or so it was argued in Whitehall. The monitor’s big guns could have been brought to bear on the forts from close range, as they could operate in shallow water, close under the enemy guns, and their mine defences and shallow draft would have at least reduced the possibility of their sharing Ocean’s fate. Monitors must be got to the Aegean as quickly as possible.

Humber, it will be recalled, had remained at Malta while her sisters were making their way down the African coast. A small ship with only three 6 inch guns and two howitzers she seems to have been overlooked, in any case her mission had been to act as a river craft when the march up the Danube began. Then the great events taking place at Gallipoli brought a sudden change.

General, Sir Ian Hamilton, who had arrived just in time to witness the events of the 18 March, and was to command military operations on land, had agreed with de Robeck that the army would have to occupy the northern shore and destroy the enemy forts once and for all before any further naval assault on the Narrows could be contemplated. Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty objected strongly to this scheme and ordered de Robeck to resume his naval offensive but the order was countermanded at the insistence of Fisher. 75,000 troops had been earmarked for landing at Gallipoli, consisting of Australians and New Zealanders then training in Egypt, the British 29th Division and a French North African Division. Hamilton had been assured that his task would be easy. The whole peninsular would be swept by naval gunfire, the Turks would put up only a token resistance as the bulk of their troops would be busy elsewhere and the affair would be over in a few weeks. It appears that no one had taken the trouble to find out that the ground on which the army would be fighting was rugged and desolate, rising in places to 1,000 feet in height and ideal for defensive warfare. The Turkish army was indeed ill equipped and poorly trained, but it was stiffened by highly professional German officers and supplied with some excellent German weapons, especially machine guns and artillery. In command was the redoubtable General Otto von Sanders.

The Allied army took some time to organise itself, giving von Sanders the opportunity to make an excellent job of fortifying the peninsular. The landings took place on 25 April, gradually and with terrible losses, the troops battled their way inland constantly supported by the guns of the fleet. It soon became clear, however, that naval support, critical as it was to the campaign, could not be maintained. For the first month all went well for the fleet, although their bombardment of the enemy positions ashore was not nearly as effective as everyone had hoped, due to the rugged terrain and the excellent defences built by the Turks. Commodore Roger Keyes, Chief of Staff to de Robeck, who was the strongest advocate of a further attempt to force the Narrows by the now much increased Allied fleet, confessed to being ashamed of the relative inactivity of the navy while so many soldiers were dying ashore. Then, on the 12 May the battleship Goliath, lying just 100 yards off-shore and waiting to be allocated a new target, noticed an unfamiliar looking destroyer approaching her during the night. The officer of the watch challenged the stranger, but he was too late. The ship was the Turkish destroyer Muavenet, her German captain had skilfully brought her down the Narrows, close inshore on the European side and she let loose three torpedoes at close range. Goliath rolled over and turned turtle, rapidly sinking. There was a strong current running at an estimated 4-5 knots so men attempting to swim ashore were all carried away and drowned. Out of 750 men on board only 180 were saved by boats from nearby ships. This disaster set off an almighty row in the Admiralty. Fisher, who had always disliked the whole idea of the Dardanelles campaign, was in a fever of worry about the possibility of Queen Elizabeth, the super dreadnought, suffering the same fate. Churchill pacified him by agreeing to withdraw Queen Elizabeth and replace her as soon as possible with 14 inch monitors. This was set in hand, but as soon as the War Office heard of it Lord Kitchener objected violently. “If she goes,” he said, “we may have to consider . . . whether the troops had better be pulled back to Alexandria”. The navy, it seemed to him, was deserting the army in its hour of need. Fisher was adamant and stated that if Queen Elizabeth did not sail that very night he himself would walk out of the Admiralty. Tempers were temporarily cooled by the promise of sending still more monitors and bringing home some more battleships, but this had the effect of annoying Fisher again as he had hoped to use the monitors for his scheme for a landing on Germany’s Baltic coast. He resigned in a fury and played no further part in the war.

The navy’s problems were only just beginning however, on 17 May U.21 had been sighted passing through the Straits of Gibraltar. Admiral de Robeck was informed but seems to have taken no new precautions. On 25th the old battleship Triumph was standing off Anzac Beach in full view of both armies. She suddenly rolled over and sank, a victim of the first of U.21’s torpedoes. The Turks in their trenches shouted and danced for joy as she went down, mercifully with the loss of only fifty-six men. The following day Majestic, another ancient battleship, was preparing to fire on the Turkish trenches when a seaman said to an officer “Look Sir, there is a submarine’s conning tower.” “Yes” he replied, “and here comes the torpedo.” The old battleship rolled over and lay in the shallow water, her hull just awash. The Allies had clearly lost control of the waters close to the peninsula. The following day a German officer, looking down from the heights, was astonished to see the water which had once been alive with British warships almost deserted. The fleet had retired to safe anchorages around Murdros Island leaving the hard-pressed troops ashore almost without heavy gun support. It was whispered in the trenches that the navy had run away.

Then someone remembered Humber. She was at Malta, she was expendable, there didn’t seem to be much prospect of sending her up the Danube and if she could replace the heavy warships withdrawn she would at least be better than nothing. At the same time some cruisers, hastily fitted with anti-torpedo bulges, were pressed into the bombardment squadron and sent to cruise off the peninsula. On 4 June Humber started to bombard an especially troublesome nest of Turkish artillery hidden among the olive trees in a ravine called Axmah. Her intervention was most welcome to the beleaguered troops on shore and she was able to provide effective bombardment with her 6 inch guns and also use the two 4.5 inch howitzers for high trajectory fire into ravines and trenches. There was a problem the following day when a premature detonation damaged one of her forward guns, but she remained in action until December, becoming a bit of a favourite with the Anzac troops, who were short of artillery of their own, and were constantly pestered by Turkish guns hidden in olive groves which enfiladed the beaches over which all their reinforcements and supplies had to travel. Working very close to the shore she was often fired on by enemy field guns, but never seriously damaged. After the loss of the three battleships, the bombardment squadrons of monitors and cruisers were careful to deploy their torpedo nets and were not troubled by enemy submarines or destroyers. They put up an impressive performance.

The bitter rows in London about the deployment of Queen Elizabeth, and the possibility of attacks on the German coast had resulted in the dispatch of the first of the specially built 14 inch monitors, the four “Generals” with the American built 14 inch guns, to join the makeshift fleet supporting the Dardanelles operation. Their departure was delayed by the need to replace the wrongly designed propellers and correct other faults found on trials. They were so slow and underpowered that they had to be towed for most of the 3,000 mile voyage. Abercrombie, towed by the old cruiser Thesus set off on 24 June, Havelock, Raglan and Roberts leaving a few days later also under tow. They arrived at Murdros in late July, and the sight of their massive turrets must have put new heart into troops on shore.

As soon as she arrived Abercrombie targeted ammunition dumps on shore at Eren Keui on the Asiatic shore, the Turks replied and she was hit by a heavy shell which luckily did not explode. Her own fire seems to have been ineffective, possibly because of lack of proper spotting from aircraft. It had always been intended that large monitors should carry their own spotter planes, but these were found to be a nuisance because they were a fire hazard, and because they had to be removed every time the guns were fired as the shock damaged them. Roberts joined Abercrombie in mid-July and she was tasked to destroy heavy gun batteries on the Asiatic shore, near Kum Kale, which were able to fire on the flank of the troops trying to force their way forward up the Cape Helles peninsula. To do this she anchored off Rabbit Island. This was to be a favourite berth for monitors for many months, it was over 10 miles from their target, well within range of the 14 inch guns but hidden behind the island and far enough away from the enemy to be almost immune from counter fire. The monitor’s own fire was indirect, they could not see their targets, but aiming marks on the island enabled the guns to be correctly aligned. The Turkish batteries were never totally destroyed, but their fire was much reduced. Occasionally aircraft attempted to bomb the monitors but they did little damage.

On 6 and 7 August the Allies landed reinforcements at Sulva Bay, this action was supported by the final two 14 inch monitors, Havelock and Raglan and by some of the small monitors which had now arrived on the scene straight from their builders. Once again the main targets were mobile Turkish batteries and troop concentrations. Naval support was critical to the success of the landing, although on one occasion a naval gun, firing prematurely, landed a shell among British troops causing four casualties. Havelock moved into Sulva Bay itself, giving direct close fire support to troops, but it soon became clear that ammunition expenditure was becoming excessive and had to be curtailed. It seems that the process of spotting and communication between the ships and observers on land and in the air during these operations left something to be desired. The lessons being learnt at almost the same time by Severn and Mersey about developing very close relations between the airmen and the gun crews, working out easily understood codes and keeping the spotter’s job as simple as possible, were not so easy to apply in the complicated situation of the Gallipoli campaign. Frequently the monitors operated very close to the shore in support of ground forces, and were in range of Turkish guns. Most of these were 75mm (approximately 12lb.) which could do little damage to the ships. Splinters could of course kill crewmen in the open, but only on rare occasions was anyone needed on deck during firing operations. There were some bigger guns as well, but Turkish shooting was not the best and no serious damage was done. Occasionally very long range bombardment was called for, and for this the ships would be heeled over by flooding the anti-torpedo bulges so as to give extra elevation. This put extra strain on the guns and turrets reducing the life of the gun barrels, so the technique had to be used sparingly.

As 1915 progressed stalemate developed on the peninsula. The Sulva landings had broadened the Allied front but had been contained by the Turks, who held firm on the high ground. Also the 14 inch monitors were starting to show some weaknesses, especially in their steering engines and, in some cases, in their much abused gun barrels. A repair ship, Reliance, was at Murdros and worked hard to keep them in action. It was obvious that the monitors would never be able to force a passage up the Narrows as they could barely stem the current. In the autumn, as more of the small monitors appeared on the scene, a re-organisation of naval forces was undertaken and four bombardment divisions were formed comprising:

The four 14 inch monitors.

Ten 9.2 inch small monitors M15-M23 + M28.

Five 6 inch monitors M29-M33 + Humber.

Four bulged cruisers.

Gradually, with experience, the fire of the big monitors became more effective. Roberts remained off Rabbit Island, Abercrombie supported the left flank of the Cape Helles beachhead, firing on batteries on the slopes of Achi Baba. Her accurate and effective fire drew heartening compliments from senior army officers. Havelock seems to have specialised in long range bombardment, firing right over the peninsula, on one occasion hitting an armaments dump 17,000 yards away eleven times out of fifteen shots. Raglan continued to support the Sulva Bay position then moved off on another mission.

Serbia was being threatened by Bulgaria and an Allied contingent was landed to support the Serbs. A small naval squadron was dispatched to the Aegean in support, Raglan’s heavy guns were considered a useful addition to the cruisers and destroyers involved, but in the end there was very little fighting (see map 4).

Although it became plain to most observers by the end of the summer of 1915 that the land battle at Gallipoli was making no progress, the momentum of the campaign caused it to drag on until December and more and more monitors of various kinds started to appear as the campaign progressed. The small monitors being faster and handier than the heavy gun ships were particularly effective at harassing the coastline of European Turkey. The 9.2 inch guns, old as they were, proved to be most accurate and effective weapons, although their recoil was such that the little ships lurched violently each time they were fired. They were invaluable in suppressing enemy counter fire aimed at their big sisters and in firing at long range at enemy ships in the Narrows. Their 9.2 and 6 inch ammunition was not in such short supply as 14 inch so they could be more liberally used. One exciting side show action was carried out against Bulgaria during October when the 9.2’s of M15, M19 and M28 bombarded Bulgarian railway installations and barracks at Dedeagatch. Much damage was done and the Bulgarians, fearing an Allied invasion, were forced to adopt a defensive posture in place of supporting their Allies against Serbia.

In spite of their relative simplicity the small monitors did present some problems for the fleet’s engineers. The diesel engine ships often suffered funnel fires due to hot exhaust gasses setting fire to soot deposits in the funnels, although the results of these could be alarming they were seldom serious. M19 suffered a more serious problem when she was moored alongside Abercrombie and joining in a bombardment of the slopes on Achi Baba. Suddenly she appeared to be in the middle of a colossal explosion and chunks of metal rained down all round her. What had happened was that a shell had exploded inside the bore of her gun blowing it to pieces and setting fire to the magazine. Acting promptly and coolly the crew flooded the magazine and got the fire under control. Two men had been killed and another injured by a fragment which came in through the slits in the armoured conning tower, six others suffered serious burns. The ship managed to limp to Malta where she was repaired. Another casualty was M30, patrolling off Smyrna (Izmura) in Asiatic Turkey. She was hit by a well concealed heavy gun onshore and caught fire. This time the fire spread to the fuel and she had to be abandoned. Her guns were eventually recovered and the hull was blown up.

In December the eventual abandonment of the Dardanelles commenced and it was completed by the 8 January. The withdrawal had become strategically inevitable. The army was making almost no progress on land, and losses were mounting steadily, not just from enemy action, but from the bitter cold and freezing rain storms which started in October and grew steadily worse. Bulgaria’s entry into the war meant that there was even less prospect than before of a thrust up the Danube to attack the flank of the Austrian army. Hamilton, who had gloomily forecast that half his men would be lost if the force was evacuated, was relieved of his command. His replacement, General, Sir Charles Monro, arrived fresh from the western front, made no secret of his belief that the whole Gallipoli affair was a waste of time and of resources desperately needed elsewhere. Commodore Roger Keyes still believed that a last attempt to force the Narrows should be made by the fleet reinforced by fast minesweepers, but now that Arthur Balfour had taken over the Admiralty from Churchill, and de Roebeck remained staunchly opposed to any such venture, Keyes’s appeals fell on deaf ears.

In sharp contrast to most of the campaign, the evacuation was brilliantly handled with rifles and artillery arranged to continue firing after the troops had withdrawn so as to disguise the fact that the withdrawal was taking place. Almost all the monitors, including two of the new 12 inch ships which had just arrived from Britain, together with the bulged cruisers, had been assembled to cover the final evacuation from the beaches and the whole operation was completed without a hitch and with minimal casualties. Of the half a million men involved in the Gallipoli expedition almost half had been wounded or became sick, 50,000 died.

This ill-conceived campaign had shown up very well the strengths and weaknesses of the big gun monitors. They had provided useful fire cover and destroyed some important enemy installations but their interventions had not been in any way decisive and their co-ordination with ground forces had not always been good. They were so slow that they were utterly useless for the operation which it had been hoped they could perform – forcing the Narrows. Furthermore their appetite for heavy ammunition was a serious embarrassment on this station, distant as it was from Great Britain. For most of the campaign the 14 inch monitors had to be limited to two or three rounds per day. Land battles in the 1914-1918 war were won by using massed artillery pouring thousands of rounds down in a hail of fire on enemy positions, and this could not be achieved using the great guns of the monitors on this distant battlefield. Introduced as a cheap, quickly constructed force which would allow Britain to project military might overseas and carry the battle to the enemy, these limitations of the monitors must have been a sore disappointment to everyone involved. Conversely the small monitors had been reasonably successful. Their guns had been effective, especially the old 9.2s and because they were small and readily mobile they had done everything that could be expected of them, effectively harassing enemy lines of communication and making movement by land or water along the coastline extremely difficult. They were also useful for patrolling the narrow seas between Greece and Turkey, keeping a lookout for suspicious movements, a task for which they were to be used extensively in later campaigns.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.