In the old days of sailing ships the Dardanelles were a most formidable obstacle which no Admiral would have faced with confidence.
It was almost impossible to overcome the obstacles in the early days of the nineteenth century. The difficulties and dangers of the passage have been increased tenfold now by long-range weapons, torpedoes, and mines. Nevertheless, the navy is of opinion that the Narrows can be forced, in spite of these obstacles, and this opinion has been strengthened and confirmed by the great trial of March 18. It might mean the loss of ships, but if the occasion justified the sacrifice the fleet would not hesitate to make the attempt.
But, unless there is a powerful army ready to occupy the Gallipoli Peninsula the moment the fleet passed into the Sea of Marmora or made its way to Constantinople, the strait would immediately be closed behind it, and, supposing the Turks, backed up by German officers and German intrigues, decided to continue the war, it would have to fight its way out and again clear the minefield. It has long been an accepted axiom of naval warfare that ships are of no use against forts, or that they fight at such a disadvantage that it is not worth while employing them for such a purpose.
This axiom must now be modified, after the experience which the fleet has gained in the present operations against the Dardanelles. Any fort built of stone or concrete, however strong, can be put out of action by direct fire from guns, if only a clear view of it can be obtained, or provided aeroplanes are available to “spot” for the gunners, to signal back results, and correct the fire.
The Landing at Gallipoli
The following series of dispatches sent by a special correspondent of The London Times at the Dardanelles describes the first phase of the operations resulting in the landing of the allied troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula:
Dardanelles, April 24.
The great venture has at last been launched, and the entire fleet of warships and transports is now steaming toward the shores of Gallipoli.
Yesterday the weather showed signs of moderating, and about 5 o’clock in the afternoon the first of the transports slowly made its way through the maze of shipping toward the entrance of Mudros Bay. Immediately the patent apathy which has gradually overwhelmed every one changed to the utmost enthusiasm, and as the huge liners steamed through the fleet, their decks yellow with khaki, the crews of the warships cheered them on to victory, while the bands played them out with an unending variety of popular airs. The soldiers in the transports answered this last salutation from the navy with deafening cheers, and no more inspiring spectacle has ever been seen than this great expedition setting forth for better or for worse.
It required splendid organization and skilled leadership to get this huge fleet clear of the bay without confusion or accidents, but not one has occurred, and the majority are now safely on the high seas steaming toward their respective destinations.