The Times is continuing its 100-year anniversary walk through of World War I battles. This week is the torpedoing of the Messudiyeh.
The Torpedoing of the “Messudiyeh”
The torpedoing of the Battleship, Messudiyeh, one of the three seagoing battleships possessed by Turkey, by the B 11 constitutes a brilliant success for the attacking British submarine. The official summary of the incident is interesting as indicating the difficulties with which the B 11 had to contend in her daring attack on the Turkish battleship: Yesterday submarine B 11, Lieutenant-Commander Norman D. Holbrook, R.N., entered the Dardanelles, and in spite of the difficult current, dived under five rows of mines and torpedoed the Turkish battleship Messudiyeh, which was guarding the minefield. Although pursued by gunfire and torpedo boats B 11 returned safely, after being submerged on one occasion for nine hours. When last seen the Messudiyeh was sinking by
Naval Critics, however, gave more details of the difficulties which attached to the action. The naval correspondent of The Times, for instance, made the following comments: “The most striking circumstance in connection with this fine feat of seamanship and courage is the negotiation of minefields, five rows of which Lieutenant Holbrook passed under in taking B11 to the place where she found her quarry. The under-water navigation of the Dardanelles is made most perilous and difficult by the swift currents which sweep through the Straits and, striking the various projecting points are turned in to eddies and whirlpools. Under such conditions to take the submarine, blind as she is, and feel a way along the bottom of the sea, evading the mooring of the minds, is a task which few would care to attempt. Not only caution and daring, but nerves of steel are required in the successful commander of a submarines in such
And the correspondent of The Daily Chronicle, commented on the same action, wrote as follows: “Evidently a blockade of the Dardanelles has been maintained, and close observation has been maintained, and close observation has doubtless been made of the operations of the Turkish mine layers, which have almost certainly been under the direction of German officers. The mines, too, are probably German. The situations of the mine field was known, and the raid seems to have been made some considerable distance up the Dardanelles. The submarine had difficulties with the currents, which are not felt materially until the narrows are approached. Five successive rows of mines were passed under, these being anchored, and it was an act of extreme hardihood to dive under them, because at any moment the submarine might have fouled an anchor chain, probably entangling her screw and possibly drawing one or more mines into contact with her hull as she went
The significance of the action was well indicated in the press by several well-known naval critics. Mr. Archibald Hard, writing in The Daily Telegraph in the course of a long article on the exploit of the B 11, says: “The significance of the incident lies in the fact that this young officer probably planned the exploit weeks ago, studied the chart, and considered all the chances of success, carefully overhauled his boat, and then, supported by the confidence of his crew, and by splendid confidence in himself, he started forth on an errand such as no man ever essayed before. The journey to the entrance to the Dardanelles must have been a memorable experience in itself, for the B 11 is slow and small and uncomfortable, and then to thread a way through the mines- any one of which exploding might have meant the end- and raise the periscope near the Turkish vessel, lying all unconscious as guardianship of the minefield, take the bearings, and launch the torpedo.”
Interesting details were also given concerning the locality in which the action occurred. The writer states: “Separating Europe from Asia the Straits known as the Dardanelles have a length of thirty-five miles and a breadth which varies from four miles to less than one mile. The breadth at the Mediterranean entrance, which B 11 entered, is two miles. Protection was afforded by two forts, one on either side, known as Kum Kale’ and Seddul Rahr, and there are other fortifications. The annexed chart shows the section of the Dardanelles penetrated by the submarine B 11.