“The British casualties in personnel were not heavy considering the scale of the operations, but practically the whole of the crew of the Bouvet were lost with the ship, an internal explosion having apparently supervened on the explosion of the mine.” [About 500 lives were lost on the Bouvet.]
On March 16 Vice-Admiral Carden, who had been incapacitated by illness, was succeeded in the chief command by Rear-Admiral John Michael De Robeck, with the acting rank of vice-admiral.
ADMIRAL DE ROBECK’S TRIBUTE TO THE FRENCH
After the engagement of March 18 Admiral De Robeck telegraphed to the British Admiralty the following tribute to the gallantry of the French in action:
“I desire to bring to the notice of your Lordships the splendid behavior of the French squadron. Their heavy loss leaves them quite undaunted. They were led into close action by Rear-Admiral Guepratte with the greatest gallantry.”
About this time it was noted by the press and generally commented upon, in both England and America, that the Admiralty had not made public a single word of commendation for the work of the British navy since the war began. This unusual fact was interpreted as evidence of the inflexible purpose of the British to ignore minor losses and even defeats until the main battleship fleets of the belligerents should come to grips in the open sea. English newspapers began to taunt the Germans with permitting their navy to “rust in the Kiel Canal.”
The sinking of the battle cruisers Irresistible, Ocean and Bouvet was the heaviest loss sustained by the Allies since the war began. The British crews were rescued, almost to a man, and the loss of the French crew was due mainly to the internal explosion following that of the mine. All the ships sunk were of the earlier pre-dreadnought type. On the same day, March 18, the British battle cruiser Inflexible and the French battleship Gaulois were put out of commission temporarily by the fire of the Turkish forts.
The Irresistible, the Ocean and the Bouvet were all sunk in portions of the straits which had been swept clear of anchored mines, and the drifting mines which proved so deadly were undoubtedly set afloat by the Turks, probably under the direction of German officers, on the swift current of the Dardanelles at points near the allied ships after the action began. On March 24 the allied fleets renewed with vigor their attack upon the forts at the Narrows of the Dardanelles. A large body of troops was also landed upon the peninsula of Gallipoli, commanding the approach to Constantinople, and the Russian Black Sea fleet co-operated by a bombardment of the Turkish naval base, which left the Turkish fleet without supplies and practically paralyzed its movements.