Book: The World Crisis, Vol. 2: 1915

Previous: XXIV. The Consequences of 1915
Next: G The State of the Navy, May, 1915



(Prepared by Admiralty War Staff and approved by the First Sea Lord.)

(Most Secret.)

The British force will consist of the following ships:—

Queen Elizabeth 15-inch guns.
Inflexible 12-inch guns.
Swiftsure, Triumph 10-inch and 7.5-inch guns.
Cornwallis, Irresistible 12-inch, 40 calibre guns.
Ocean, Albion, Canopus, Vengeance 12-inch, 35 calibre guns.
Majestic, Prince George 12-inch, 35 calibre guns, 6-inch howitzers.
Doris, Amethyst, Sapphire, Dublin
Blenheim, Swanley Destroyer depots.

Ark Royal, seaplane ship.

8 destroyers (‘Beagle’ class).

8 destroyers (‘River’ class), including Wear.

1 yacht (in charge of trawlers).

21 mine-sweeping trawlers.

6 submarines, viz. AE 2 and 2 B class from Gibraltar, B9, B10. B11.

Use of ‘Queen Elizabeth.’

Queen Elizabeth has been detailed on account of her long-range 15-inch guns.

It is particularly important that her guns should not be unduly worn, nor a large quantity of her valuable ammunition expended.

She should not be risked in positions which have not been thoroughly swept free from mines.

With seamanlike precaution it is quite possible to anchor vessels in any depths which obtain in or about the Dardanelles. Given fine weather and good conditions of visibility, and the ship anchored in view of, but out of range from, the fort she is to attack, the destruction of the fort will be entailed if from five to ten of Queen Elizabeth’s heavy shells can be dropped in it.

Very careful arrangements will be required to mark the fall of shot by means of anchored marking ships and sea-planes.

To reduce the expenditure of ammunition and wear of the 15-inch guns and obtain the greatest percentage of hits to rounds fired, salvos should not be fired, and reduced charges should be used whenever the range of the fort’s guns permits the ships to be anchored within a distance which permits of the use of reduced charges.

The problem of destroying a fort from a ship at a fixed range, at which she cannot be hit, is a different one from that of ships under way engaging each other, because time does not enter into the calculation, and the range is a fixed quantity.

If, say, five-gun salvos are fired from the Queen Elizabeth it is hardly possible that more than one hit per salvo will be made (after a straddle is obtained), owing to the guns not shooting together at long range, due to the spread in elevation. Four rounds will be wasted for every hit made in addition to the rounds used before the straddle is obtained. The shell smoke and dust from the misses will render marking difficult, and more time will be required for the smoke to clear and the target to become visible.

If a single gun is used hitting should be established in four or five rounds, and a very high percentage of the subsequent rounds should be hits. Personal and other errors will also be reduced proportionately.

The 38-cm. howitzers which destroyed the Antwerp forts by indirect fire used about five rounds to establish hitting and five further rounds to destroy the fort. It is to be expected that Queen Elizabeth, using direct fire at older forts, will equal this performance at a fixed range if accurate marking is ensured and the greatest care and deliberation is used.

When the same conditions apply, similar methods should be followed in using the fire of the 12-inch guns in other vessels. Their ammunition is limited, though not to the same extent, and wasteful expenditure of ammunition may result in the operations having to be abandoned before a successful conclusion is arrived at.

In the case of indirect fire having to be used from ships, it is recognized that the expenditure will be considerable. For indirect fire the older ships should be preferred, if possible, to the Queen Elizabeth.

A base should be seized and garrisoned. Any convenient Turkish island should be selected.

The entrance forts at Cape Helles and Kum Kale should be deliberately bombarded at long range from an anchored vessel or vessels. After this, some of the older battleships should approach nearer to draw the fire of the forts and silence any remaining guns. If the fire is found to be still considerable they should withdraw, and the fort should be subjected to further deliberate long-range fire from anchored ships.

Sweeping to approach the entrance will then be necessary, and it is to be expected that the sweeping vessels will be fired at by guns placed in other positions than the forts. These will require to be dealt with by vessels covering the sweeping vessels, and, as probably no very large guns will be in other positions than the forts, 6-inch and 7.5-inch guns should be sufficient to deal with them.

As the sweeping vessels close the entrance, it is to be expected that they will come under machine-gun and infantry fire, and air reconnaissance will be advisable to locate the trenches.

The trenches and the positions of the torpedo tubes will require to be well searched with fire.

Should it not be possible to locate the torpedo tubes and destroy them by gunfire it may be necessary to land men, if the enemy’s infantry can be kept at a sufficient distance by shell and machine-gun fire.

If there is any doubt as to the torpedo tubes being destroyed, it may be possible to take ships past them by securing colliers or other merchant vessels alongside.

Vessels covering the mine-sweepers will be exposed to attack by drifting mines, especially when at anchor. Torpedo nets will be some protection against pairs of mines, connected by lines, coming alongside when the connecting rope takes across the stem.

It may be advisable to prepare buoys to be laid ahead of vessels anchoring in the Dardanelles to catch the drifting mines, and also to make use of fishing-nets between buoys to intercept mines. Concrete blocks could be used as moorings for the buoys.

Drift nets have been found efficacious in the North Sea as a means of clearing away moored mines. They are allowed to drift with the tide, and foul the mines and break them adrift.

Nets might be laid at night by shallow-draught vessels or picket boats above the minefields to drift down with the current.

There may be considerable difficulty in dealing with observation mines owing to the depths at which they may be moored.

The cables will probably have to be crept for with explosive grapnels, but it may be possible also to sweep with mine-sweeping vessels to a sufficient depth.

When the defences at the entrance are put out of action the operations will probably develop into a slow methodical progress of perhaps a mile a day, silencing fire of concealed guns and keeping down fire from trenches or machine-gun pits which will inconvenience the mine-sweepers.

It is not expected or desired that the operations should be hurried to the extent of taking large risks and courting heavy losses. The slow, relentless creeping forward of the attacking force mile by mile will tend to shake the moral of the garrisons of the forts at Kephez Point, Chanak, and Kilid Bahr, and will have an effect on Constantinople.

The forts at Chanak and Kilid Bahr appear to be open to bombardment by long-range direct fire from ships anchored on the European and Asiatic shores respectively, but the difficulty of ensuring accurate marking will be considerable.

Indirect fire from an anchorage off Gaba Tepe should be effective against the works on the Asiatic side, but it would appear difficult to ensure its effect against the works at Kilid Bahr. This will be apparent if the trajectory curve is plotted in relation to a vertical section of the intervening hills. But there is no reason it should not be tried, and anchorage positions may be found where the trajectory curves will have the best clearance over the intervening ridges.

The possibility of increasing the effective range of the older ships by listing them should be borne in mind. This was practised at Tsingtau recently.

H.M.S. Triumph took part in the reduction of Tsingtau, and the experience gained by her captain and officers should be made use of.

Two battalions of Royal Marines are being sent out to Malta under Brigadier-General Trotman. Their transports should be retained so that they can at any time be moved to the Dardanelles. They will be of service as garrison for the base or for any small landing operation of a temporary nature in circumstances where they can be efficiently protected by the guns of the Fleet against superior Turkish forces.

They should not be landed against superior forces or entrenched positions in circumstances where they cannot be efficiently supported by the ship’s guns without first obtaining Admiralty sanction.

Twenty additional Maxim guns are being sent with the Royal Marine force, either for use when landed or for use in small craft to keep down rifle fire.

So far as can be ascertained, no submarines have as yet been put together at Constantinople, but, when operations against the Dardanelles commence, it is to be expected that Germany will endeavour to either send submarines to the Mediterranean or to influence the Austrians to send them out of the Adriatic.

As a measure of precaution, submarine indicator nets are being sent out. They can be either moored or used as drift nets, and will betray the presence of a submarine to the boats watching the nets, and possibly permit of explosive charges being used to destroy her.

An arrangement is being made to establish agents in the Greek islands to watch for and report submarines or vessels supplying them, and prevent them establishing secret bases.

A number of merchant vessels have been altered to represent ‘Dreadnought’ battleships and cruisers, and are indistinguishable from them at 3 or 4 miles distance.

A squadron of these vessels will be sent out to Tenedos Island. They should be used with due precaution to prevent their character being discovered, and should be shown as part of the Fleet off the entrance to the Dardanelles, as if held in reserve. They may mislead the Germans as to the margin of British strength in Home Waters.

The mine-sweeping trawlers will require a depot ship for provisions, pay, and medical attendance, and, as Blenheim will suffice for the destroyers, the Swanley, or one of the supply ships, should be used for them, unless it is preferred to attach them to the battleships as tenders.

The bombardment of the forts at the entrance need not be delayed until the arrival of all the ships, and can be commenced as ships become available.

The French Minister of Marine has been requested to provide two battleships with as many long-range guns as possible and as many small cruisers, destroyers, seaplanes, and submarines as possible, as the proportion of small ships to large ships in the British Fleet is not as large as is thought desirable.

Previous: XXIV. The Consequences of 1915
Next: G The State of the Navy, May, 1915