The attack of modern marine artillery upon strong land forts presented an interesting as well as a terrifying spectacle. At times the forts were completely enveloped in smoke. At 2 o’clock the Allies changed their tactics and concentrated their fire upon individual batteries, but it was evident that they found difficulty in getting the range. Many of the shells fell short, casting up pillars of water, or went over the forts to explode in the town.
At 3:15, when the bombardment was at its hottest, the French battleship Bouvet was seen to be sinking at the stern. A moment later her bows swung clear of the water, and she was seen going down. Cheers from the Turkish garrisons and forts greeted this sight. Torpedo boats and other craft of the Allies hurried to the rescue, but they were successful in saving only a few men. Besides having been struck by a mine, the Bouvet was severely damaged above the water line by shell fire. One projectile struck her forward deck. A mast also was shot away and hung overboard. It could be seen that the Bouvet when she sank was endeavoring to gain the mouth of the strait. This, however, was difficult, owing, apparently, to the fact that her machinery had been damaged.
Shortly after the sinking of the Bouvet a British ship was struck on the deck squarely amidship and compelled to withdraw from the fight. Then another British vessel was badly damaged, and at 3:45 was seen to retire under a terrific fire from the Turkish battery. This vessel ran in toward the shore. For a full hour the Allies tried to protect her with their guns, but it was apparent that she was destined for destruction. Eight effective hits showed the hopelessness of the situation for this vessel. She then withdrew toward the mouth of the Dardanelles, which she reached in a few minutes under a hail of shells. The forts continued firing until the Allies were out of range.
This was the first day when the warships attacking the Dardanelles kept within range of the Turkish guns for any considerable length of time. The result for them was terrible, owing to the excellent marksmanship from the Turkish batteries. The Allies fired on this day 2,000 shells without silencing one shore battery. The result has inspired the Turks with confidence, and they are looking forward to further engagements with calm assurance.
The London Times naval correspondent writes, in its issue of March 20:
The further attack upon the inner forts at the Dardanelles, which was resumed by the allied squadrons on Thursday, has resulted, unfortunately, but not altogether unexpectedly, in some loss of ships and gallant lives.
The clear and candid dispatch in which the operations are described attributes the loss of the ships to floating mines, which were probably released to drift down with the current in such large numbers that the usual method of evading these machines was unavailable. This danger, it is said, will require special treatment. Presumably the area having been swept clear of anchored mines, it was not considered necessary to take other precautions than such as were concerned with the movement of the battleships themselves.