Wednesday 23 April 2008 by Robyn Van Dyk. No comments
Battlefield Tours, Gallipoli

The first action by the Allies against the Ottomans began as a naval operation and occurred here on the Dardanelles. On the 18 March a large British and French fleet of 18 war ships advanced towards the Narrows, hoping to put the forts that defended the Dardanelles out of action, threaten Constantinople and open supply routes to Russia.The war operation began with preliminary bombardments of the Turkish forts in January and February 1915. The operation failed due to the impenetrable defences of this passage which included artillery and mines that were laid strategically in the narrows.

Mobile Howitzers were the key to the defences of the Narrows. Original Krupp L40 150 cm Howitzer defending the Dardanelles (left). Barrell from a mobile Howitzer at the Naval Museum Cannakale (right) Photographs by Colin Simpson.

The Bouvet was one of the 18 warships that made a concerted attack on the Turkish defences at the Dardanelles in February and March 1915. During the attack on the 15 March the Bouvet was rocked by a huge explosion while manoeuvring in Erenkuri Bay and sank within minutes. Almost the entire crew of over 600 were lost, only some 66 men being saved. British and Turkish accounts differ over the cause of the explosion which may have been due to the vessel striking a mine and also being hit by a shell from the Turkish shore guns.

Colin Simpson and the Memorial to the Bouvet

Colin Simpson, one of the members of our tour, discovered this little known memorial to the Bouvet. He found it while walking along the beach at Guzelyah that runs from the Iris Hotel where we were staying. The Memorial is erected on the site where the survivors of this ship came ashore.

The Memorial is in English, French and Turkish and reads:

On March 18th 1915 the Bouvet Cruiser joined the Dardanelles sea war to pass through the Strait toward Istanbul. There Turkish Artillery and floating mines hit it and it sank in a very short time, three minutes, with its 639 crew. Its location in the waters of the Dardanelles is on the Soyandere Intepe line 750m away from this point. Although Turkish Artillery stopped firing very few of its crew was saved and they came out on the land at this point.

This small monument was erected after the war but was damaged and lost. Guzelyali village administration found the base of this monument in the year 2000 and it was erected again on the same spot using the same material as those of the original, in memory of 639 French Mariner to keep this historic act alive.