Gallipoli tour

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Asian Shore

2 The Nusret, Çanakkale

The seafront at Çanakkale is an enchanting place to walk past restaurants, ferries loading and scurrying off across the Straits, and the ‘simit’ sellers with their cartloads of round, sesame seed-covered bread. Out in the Dardanelles flows a procession of tankers, cruise ships, container vessels and numberless other craft. Gallipoli is close, and away to the north-west, high up above this magnificent waterway, is Chunuk Bair with its Turkish and Anzac memorials. Further along the front is a reminder of the stout defence Turkey put up to hold the Dardanelles in 1914 and 1915 – the replica of the minelayer Nusret at the Çanakkale Boğaz Komutanlığı Askeri Müze (Çanakkale Strait Commandery Military Museum).

Enlarge HMS Irresistible sinking, Times History
The British battleship HMS Irresistible sinking off Erenköy Bay in the Dardanelles after the warship had struck a Turkish mine during the British and French naval attack of 18 March 1915. [From The War Illustrated, 1 May 1915]

On the night of 8 March 1915, the Nusret’s commander, Captain Hakki Bey, took his ship into Erenköy Bay, south of Kephes Point. Observers had noticed that French and British battleships would manoeuvre here as they turned to head out of the Straits after a bombardment of the forts. The Allied captains knew about the minefields stretching across the Straits from above the point but assumed Erenköy Bay was safe. Here, the Nusret laid a new line of 26 mines parallel to the shore.

Enlarge Nurset and Cemenlik Castle
Replica of the Ottoman navy’s minelayer Nusret at Çemenlik Castle, Çanakkale, Turkey, 2005.

On 18 March 1915, the great Allied flotilla came up and commenced the most intensive bombardment to date aimed at destroying the shore batteries. In the early afternoon, the French warship Bouvet was turningaway in Erenköy Bay when there was an explosion, and within minutes the ship had keeled over and sunk, taking 600 men to the bottom. A handful of the crew survived. The sinking was attributed both to one of the Nusret’s mines and to a shell from one of the forts. It was a great morale boost to the Turkish gunners, who had been taking a pounding from the Allied battleships. Two more British warships, HMS Irresistible and HMS Ocean, again both manoeuvring in Erenköy Bay, struck mines and eventually sank. Next day the Allied fleet did not return to the attack and, not surprisingly, the Nusret is regarded as the ‘hero’ ship of the Turkish defence of the Dardanelles. (351)