H.M.S, Albion Report 17 Apr 15

H.M.S. “ALBION”

17th April 1915

FIRST PHASE OF OPERATIONS.

SWEEPING THE STRAITS

  1. The operation is to consist of a fast deliberate search for mines by destroyers, and their removal, if they are very heavily moored by French Sweepers.

ORDERS FOR SWEEPING.

  1. Six large buoys are to be laid by the SAPHIRE in positions ordered at a distance of 500 yards apart (literally).       They will carry numeral flags numbered from N.N.W. to S.S.E. Two more buoys are to be laid in the following positions, No.7 being 8 cables N.61 E from Kum Kale Lt., and No.8 being S.S.E. 500 yards from No.7, next day by Destroyers as soon as the enemy’s gun fire is under control.
  2. The course to be steered when sweeping is E.N.E., and after each sweep, destroyers will return to the line of buoys to start the next sweep.
  3. One division of 6 destroyers is to sweep in “U” formation. The outer destroyers will take their departure first from 1 and 3 buoys, secondly from 2 and 4 buoys, and so on up the line; thus if accurate courses are steered, the whole ground will be covered twice; at all events it will allow for divergences of course.

If not required for any other service, the second division of four destroyers will be signalled to commence sweeping, and they are then to take up “A” formation, and commence sweeping E.N.E from No.8 buoy, and gradually work back across the line being very careful to overlap their last sweep every time.  The buoys being 500 yards apart are not ideally spaced for this formation, but will give a good guide so as to cover all the ground.

  1. If under any fire that is likely to damage a destroyer seriously the leader of the Division when arriving at a position S.S.E. of Domuz Deresi is to order ”Slip Sweeps”. If however he finds no serious interference by the enemy, he is to go on as far as possible, but not more than a mile beyond that position.

Each time the sweeps are slipped the port destroyer of the division is to drop a white buoy to mark the distance of advance.

  1. In the event of a sweep being spoilt by any misadventure such as a parting sweep, the leader is to order ”Slip Sweeps”, and the Sweep is to be recommenced over again.
  2. AGAMEMNON will follow the destroyers in the first instance, and after that keep in the previously swept area to cover the operations.
  3. Captain ”S” will be on board “AGAMEMNON”, and with the concurrence of the Captain of that Ship, will give any necessary orders such as to suspend operations temporarily until the enemy’s fire is controlled, and to recommence again, or in case of one or more destroyers being temporarily disabled to replace casualties.
  4. Destroyers are at liberty to return the enemy’s fire whilst sweeping.
  5. Three French Sweepers will follow AGAMEMNON, and are to be prepared to go ahead at once and clear any obstruction that may have been found, and parted the destroyer’s sweeps.
  6. After this area is swept the destroyers are to be prepared to sweep the area to the southward of it. Both divisions acting as before, but sweeping from east to west, slipping their sweeps close to Henders Shoal.

A.W. Henage  CAPTAIN (S)

G G Hammond letter 9 Apr 15

P/e G.G. Hammond

No 3142 2nd 7th Mc/r Reg.

27 Scarisbrick St.

Southport

9-4-15

Dear F & M,

I have been rather a long time in answering your letter but under the circumstances it was impossible to write sooner.  How is it that you seem to be making such a fuss about me being ill?  Did I not write last week telling you I was much better?  I might say that I had another bad turn and that I have only commenced parade today but I am now quite fit except for pains over my eyes like I used to have at school.

I am afraid that Pa will have to postpone his visit on the coming Saturday as the officer has promised me a pass home.  When I get home I shall have a doctor & get a certificate so that I can stay about a week.  If the doctor won’t give me a certificate I shall stay in any case and pay the penalty.  There is no doubt that I have had the rottenest illness I ever had in my life.  We went for a 15 mile march today, I did it all but about 4 miles, and I could have done that only there is nothing like playing the old soldier.

I am sorry to hear that Ma has not been well.  She will have to dash about when I get back I hope she is not worrying about me because as I said before I am quite alright only I am going to play the old soldier when I get back.

You all seen to have been having colds.  I heard from Willie this morning he has lost his position as section commander to the KTL for the time being as the others say they have not had a fair chance.

We are all having rifles shortly.  50 of our company have got them already, they are the proper Home Service Lee Metford pattern & not Japanese as have been served out to a number of the men here.  The Japanese rifles only hold 3 cartridges in the magazine whilst ours hold 10.  I am sorry to hear that Mr. Smith has been down with the Influ, but of course he has been under better treatment than I.  you know I have had an awful cough & when I asked the doctor for something to cure it he said that they had nothing for coughs.

I thought that I was going to get a pass last week but it did not work, there is a lot of underhand work goes on & if the chap in the orderly room is not a pal of yours it is practically impossible to work the oracle.  I had to leave the parade yesterday (old soldier) & when I saw the OC I asked him if there was any chance of sick leave, he said I should have to see the doctor so I knew it was off.  However he said that he would give me my leave at weekend so I shall remind him tomorrow.

Well I shall have to finish now & for heavens sake stop worrying I have found a place where I can get a badge.  Love George

 

PS I will write a PC on Thurs or Friday letting you know if I have my leave for certain G

APRIL 1915

The 8th April 1915 brought to a head the long and bitter struggle between the Turkish citizens and the Armenian subjects living in Eastern Turkey. Early 1915 saw the Russians countering the potential threat of Turkish invasion of Southern Russia on the border with Eastern Turkey. Despite dreadful weather the Russians defeated the Turkish army. The Turkish Government sought revenge by rounding up hundreds of thousands of Armenian citizens, and shot approximately 50,000 men. The remaining Armenians either were force-marched into the mountains of Turkish Mesopotamia and the remainder of the population slaughtered. Approximately one million Armenians died 400,000 of the 500,000 during the forced march and another 500.000 massacred. 200.000 Armenian citizens had been forcibly converted to Islam.

Russia, France and Britain denounced the massacres as acts against “humanity and civilisation”. The charge was rejected by the Turkish Government on the grounds the allies had fermented Armenian unrest in the first place.

The Armenian massacre was to be the First Genocide of the 20th Century.

 

 

On the 16th April 1915, the price paid for the Secret Treaty of London was that Italy announced the end of her neutrality and joined forces with the British, French and Russian allies. Like the German Empire, Italy was a newly united European state. She had a growing population of 36 million citizens and was desperate to acquire additional territories. The country was facing wide rural poverty and mass illiteracy. The Government was economically backward and the Parliamentary system hardly functioned. Social reforms were either staggeringly inefficient or shelved.

In 1914, Italy remained neutral between the two opposing forces but over a period she conducted a diplomatic auction promising to join forces with the highest bidder. Germany and Austria-Hungary yielded too slowly to Italian demands for substantial additional territories. The Triple Alliance promised everything Italy requested.

 

 

The Second Battle of Ypres commenced on the 22nd April 1915. The Ypres Salient followed the Yser Canal and bulged East around the town of Ypres. The Belgian army held the line from the coast of the English Channel to the Yser Canal. The French army held the Northern section of the Salient. British and Canadian forces held the Eastern sector. The attack commenced with the German army releasing 5,370 gas cylinders, each weighing 90lb. (41kg) along a 4 mile (6.5km) sector of the front line. The gas cylinders were carried by hand to the front line position. At approximately 5.00pm the cylinders were opened releasing the contents of chlorine gas against the Northern section of the salient defended by the French troops. The prevailing wind drove the gas-laden air drifted towards the Allied lines. However, whilst carrying out this operation a large number of German soldiers were injured or killed. The French army, consisting of French Territorial and Colonial Moroccan and Algerian troops suffered more than 6,000 casualties when the gas-laden air reached the trenches. Within 10 minutes many had died, mainly from damage to the lungs or asphyxiation. The chlorine gas blinded many troops. When chlorine gas mixes with moisture, it destroys the soft tissue of eyes and lungs. The denser than air gas quickly filled the trenches. Many French troops abandoned their trenches straight into enemy fire. The front line sustained a 4-mile gap, upon which the Germans were not able to capitalise. Not having foreseen the effectiveness of the gas attack the German High Command did not have sufficient reserve forces to exploit this advantage. Most of the available German reserve forces had been transferred to Russia. Canadian troops were able to fill the gap created by the French Moroccan line collapsing. To counter the effects of the gas the Canadian troops used urine saturated cloths over their nose and mouth. The demands of securing the left flank and being enveloped on three sides by the Germans the 13th Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force took very heavy casualties.

Two battalions of the Canadian army were ordered to counter-attack Kitchener’s Wood to close the gap created by the gas attack. Forming up and advancing in two waves the two battalions ran into small arms fire whilst they were still only halfway to the wood. This resulted into a bayonet charge, finally clearing the wood of the Germans but at a cost of 75% casualties.

Before the gas attack the village of St. Julien had been behind the lines in the British sector. After the gas attack St. Julien was the front line. Despite the stand by Lance Corporal Frederick Fisher employing a machine gun to halt the German advance, a further gas attack enabled the Germans to secure the village. For his gallant defensive action Fisher was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Between the 8th May 1915 and 27th May 1915 the German army forced the British to retreat and established a straightened but shortened front line salient to the East of Ypres.

All combatants took huge casualties:-

The German army almost 35,000

The French army almost 21,000

The British army almost 60,000

The Canadian army almost 6,000

During the 2nd Battle of Ypres, the Canadian Lieutenant Colonel John McRae MD wrote his memorable poem “In Flanders Fields” which established the poppy as the symbol of sacrifice.

 

 

Landings on Gallipoli began on the 25th April 1915. The Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) consisting of British, French and Anzac troops. Awaiting them were 84,000 Turkish troops. The French mounted a diversionary attack at Kum Kale on the Southern, Asiatic side of the Dardanelles.  British forces landed at Cape Helles at the south end of the Gallipoli peninsular. Their orders were to destroy the forts defending the narrow entrance to the Dardanelles. In the meantime, the Anzacs attacked the Western coast to cross the peninsular and cut the lines of communication to prevent any Turkish re-enforcements reaching the defenders.

Despite the British landing on 5 points at Cape Helles Point and the Anzacs landing at Ari Burnu (known as Anzac Cove) the landings were not successes. Hamilton’s plans for invasion had caused some confusion to the Turkish defenders as regards the MEF strategy; however the British did not exploit any advantage offered. Well-defended Turkish defensive positions trapped the attackers on the beach but the Anzac landings met with limited resistance. Confusion occurred because the Anzacs had inferior maps of the area, which gave the Turkish troops time to re-organise their defences. Some Anzacs forces moved quickly inland and reached the high ground of Chunuk Bar but they were soon in retreat from a Turkish counter attack. By dusk, the Anzacs had retreated to the beach having taken very heavy casualties.

By the time darkness fell on the 25th April 1915, the allies had attained little more than establishment on the beaches. Stalemate transpired as the Turkish defenders took up positions on the high ground.

Hamilton did try to break the stalemate and get his forces inland but necessity forced both sides to dig in. Trench warfare had begun at Gallipoli, not dissimilar to that on the Western Front.

 

 

On the 26th April 1915, the Treaty of London commits Italy to take-up arms against Austria-Hungary on the side of the Entente Powers.