The satisfactory feature of the operations is that the ships maintained their superiority over the forts, and succeeded in silencing them after a few hours’ bombardment. The sinking of the battleships occurred later in the afternoon, and it would seem at a time when a portion of the naval force was making a further advance to cover the mine-sweeping operations. There is nothing in the dispatch which indicates anything but the eventual success of the work, nor that the defenses have proved more formidable than was anticipated. The danger from floating mines may have been somewhat underestimated, but it is one that can be met and is most unlikely to form a decisive factor.
Manifestly the Turks, with their German advisers, have done their utmost to repair, by means of howitzers and field guns, the destruction of the fixed defenses; but it is not likely that any temporary expedients will prove more than troublesome to the passage of the fleet. The determination of the Allies to make a satisfactory ending of the operations is shown by the immediate dispatch of reinforcing ships, and by the fact that ample naval and military forces are available on the spot.
Every one will regret that illness has obliged Vice Admiral Carden to relinquish the chief command, but this is now in the very capable hands of Vice Admiral Robeck.
[From The London Times, March 20, 1915.]
After ten days of mine-sweeping inside the Dardanelles the British and French fleets made a general attack on the fortresses at the Narrows on Thursday. After about three hours’ bombardment all the forts ceased firing.
Three battleships were lost in these operations by striking mines—the French Bouvet, and the Irresistible and the Ocean. The British crews were practically all saved, but nearly the whole of the men on the Bouvet perished.
The Secretary of the Admiralty issued the following statement last night:
Mine-sweeping having been in progress during the last ten days inside the strait, a general attack was delivered by the British and French fleets yesterday morning upon the fortresses at the Narrows of the Dardanelles.
At 10:45 A.M. Queen Elizabeth, Inflexible, Agamemnon, and Lord Nelson bombarded Forts J, L, T, U, and V; while Triumph and Prince George fired at Batteries F, E, and H. A heavy fire was opened on the ships from howitzers and field guns.
At 12:22 the French squadron, consisting of the Suffren, Gaulois, Charlemagne, and Bouvet, advanced up the Dardanelles to engage the forts at closer range. Forts J, U, F, and E replied strongly. Their fire was silenced by the ten battleships inside the strait, all the ships being hit several times during this part of the action.
By 1:25 P.M. all forts had ceased firing.
Vengeance, Irresistible, Albion, Ocean, Swiftsure, and Majestic then advanced to relieve the six old battleships inside the strait.