The Defence of the Dardanelles - From Bombards to Battleships, Michael Forrest

The Defence of the Dardanelles - From Bombards to Battleships, Michael Forrest

The Gallipoli campaign is one of the most famous of the First World War, but it was actually the second Allied attempt to breach the defences of the Dardanelles, coming after a failed naval assault that came in the spring of 1915. For a month a large Allied fleet attempted to destroy the Ottoman fortifications and minefields, before on 18 March 1915 a final attack ended in disaster and the loss of the battleships Bouvet, Irresistible and Ocean.

The actual naval attacks themselves are the subject of two chapters (44 pages). This covers the first attack on 19 February, the second attack on 25 February, a series of lower intensity operations in the first half of March and the final major attack on 18 March 1915. I feel that this is enough space for the actual attacks, which were after all fairly ineffective.

The actual attacks come at about the middle point of the book. We start with a look at the earlier history of the fortifications, the relationship between the Ottoman and German Empires, the actual fortifications of the straits and the problems faced by ships attempting to take on land defences. One of the key strengths of the book is the author's impressive knowledge of the Turkish defences, including their guns, the impact of the bombardment on them and their current state of repair. After the account of the attacks we move on to the Turkish reaction to the disappearance of the Allied fleet, the role the navies played at Gallipoli and the daring submarine raids that reached Constantinople, the post-war occupation of the Dardanelles and finally the current state of the fortifications - which ones can be visited, which ones have disappeared and perhaps most importantly which ones are still active military bases and should thus be avoided!

This is one of those topics that attracts historical 'what ifs'. Forrest disagrees with one of the more common - the idea that a renewed assault soon after the attack of 18 March might have been more successful, although does suggest that a daring attack at the very start of the war might have won through.

This is a excellent study of this sometimes neglected clash between naval forces and land fortifications, giving a clear idea of why the Allied naval attacks failed, as well as providing a great deal of interesting background on the wider history of the Dardanelles.

1 - A Brief History of the Dardanelles
2 - Germany and the Ottoman Empire
3 - The Fortifications and Other Defences
4 - Ships versus Forts
5 - The Reduction of the Fortifications - the Beginning
6 - The Reduction of the Fortifications - The Hammer and the Anvil
7 - 'They are Gone'
8 - Submarines, Destroyers and More Guns
9 - The Chanak Crisis and After
10 - The Fortifications Today

Appendix 1 - Krupp Coastal Defence Guns Purchased by Ottoman Turkey
Appendix 2 - Krupp Coastal Defence Gun Locations on the Dardanelles

Author: Michael Forrest
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 254
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2012

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