Jump to content
Great War Forum

Remembered Today:

Sign in to follow this  
Dido

Kephalo blockships

Recommended Posts

Dido

On January 1, 1916 the steamers (disguised as dummy battleships) ORUBA and MICHIGAN were scuttled at Kephalo harbour in Imvros for us as blockships.

Reading the HISTORY OF THE GREAT WAR. Naval Operations. Vol. I. available at: https://archive.org/stream/navaloperations03corb/navaloperations03corb_djvu.txt

one understands that already in November 1915 there were three blockships at Kephalo. When one was damaged by a storm, a fourth was scuttled only to be refloated when the dummy battleships arrived.

Can anyone name the four ships scuttled in 1915 at Kephalo?

I copy the following extracts from the book:

on November 22 in a heavy gale, which blew for thirteen hours and played havoc with the piers and small craft, and even broke the back of one of the blockships that formed the makeshift harbour at Kephalo. As this was the advanced base for the evacuation, Admiral de Robeek had reported the damage before leaving, with a request for old battleships or cruisers to be sunk for the better protection of the piers and beaches,[...]
Dec. 1-3 : At Kephalo, the most essential point for the coming operation, the damaged blockship broke up. It was the middle one of the three forming the breakwater, and the raging sea drove in through the gap, spreading havoc in the harbour. [...]
Owing to the necessity for repairing the breach in the Kephalo breakwater before the last stage could be begun, an earlier date was thought to be impossible. So important was it, however, to expedite matters while the fine weather lasted, that instead of waiting for a blockship which had been asked for, it was decided to sink a laden collier at the gap. This was successfully accomplished by December 13, [...]
The sinking was so cleverly done that after the evacuation she was refloated and left for Mudros with her valuable cargo under her own steam. 
Edited by Dido

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dido

The three ships scuttled on 15/12/15 were used as breakwater/piers at Suvla Point in the Gallipoli peninsula, not at Imvros.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

Dido,

a little information from my bookshelves, but alas, not all four names

Keyes wrote to de Robeck on the 2nd December and his letter appears to suggest that the Oruba was already acting as one of the blockships at that time, well before January 1916:

“The central blockship has simply disappeared – They say the seas went over the funnels of the Polavon. The Oruba's upper works are much wrecked and they say she has settled 5 feet. The little blockship is intact.”

[NB: The Polavon was not a blockship, but employed distilling water]

In his autobiography Keyes again suggests that the Oruba was used in this way before January 1916:

“We had made a little harbour of refuge at Kephalo, protected by a couple of old Italian steamers as blockships. After our experience of 17th-18th November, this was greatly improved by sinking the Oruba (one of Lord Fisher's dummy battleships) filled with concrete, to extend the breakwater....”

and a little later

“When the southerly blow started, remembering the gale of 17th to 18th, the small craft at Anzac and Helles were sent to the harbour of refuge at Kephalo. Unfortunately, in the northerly gale one of the old Italian steamers broke up and the sea running through the gap thus formed, wrecked the piers and jetties and piled up all the small craft on shore....”

The fourth ship [after the two Italian steamers and the Oruba] was very probably a collier which was filled with concrete: see The Navy in the Dardanelles Campaign by Wester-Wemyss

“A loaded collier was therefore carefully sunk and admirably fulfilled the requirements. Later she was successfully raised without having sustained any damage either to herself or to her cargo.”

regards

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dido

Thank you Michael. Now we understand that three blockships were ORUBA and two ex-Italian steamers.

The British Admiralty had bought several old Italian steamers in 1915 for use as blockships.

From various sources I have compiled the following list:

FIERAMOSCA scuttled 18.12.1915 at Suvla Point

PINA scuttled 18.12.1915 at Suvla Point

MARIA DELLE VITTORIE scuttled 29.12.1915 at Tekke Burnu

VINCENZO FLORIO scuttled 29.12.1915 at Tekke Burnu

PEUCHETA not used as blockship. Resold 1915 for commercial service

GARGANO used? resold 1919 for commercial service

LUCANO used?

PELORO used?

Maybe the Kephalo blockships were from those last ones that are unaccounted for...

Edited by Dido

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

Dido

I have some more details of the collier from Keyes autobiography:

“The Admiralty had demurred when Admiral Wemyss telegraphed to say he would sink one of the old battleships or the Terrible, and they assured him that one of the special service ships (dummy battleships) was being hastened out to act as a blockship. But we could not afford to risk another disaster like that caused by the northerly blizzard, so a large collier containing 1,500 tons of coal was moored head and stern across the gap in the Kephalo blockship breakwater, ready to be sunk if a northerly blow threatened before the blockship arrived.

On the 13th December, as the blockship was still some days away, the collier was sunk, much to the distress of her captain. A salvage vessel pumped water into her hold, the engine room and stokeholds being left empty, and her living quarters were above the water line when she was sunk. When the blockship eventually arrived to take her place, the collier was pumped out again and raised undamaged, and she steamed away none the worse for her immersion.”

Note:

i] there is no mention of concrete being used, only water [i'm not sure now where I got that idea from]

ii] referring to the blockship sent out from the UK, Keyes uses the singular throughout, further suggesting that one, the Oruba, was already in use

regards

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

The British Admiralty had bought several old Italian steamers in 1915 for use as blockships.

Just dotting 'i's and crossing 't's here

It seems that (some of?) the Italian blockships arrived in the theatre in mid-summer

see The Naval Review http://www.naval-review.com/issues/1910s/1916-2.pdf

quote:

June 27th to July 4th.-A new game has been provided for the ships at Mudros. It is very simple. First several old Italian steamers are bought. The nationality is really immaterial, but they are all Italian. They are then anchored just opposite our bathing beach and various ships are told off to fill them with sand, When they have-been filled the game is not over, the exciting part (a weak point about the game is the lack of excitement of its opening stages) now is at hand. And that is, will the ship that filled the sand now have to empty the stuff out again? As a matter of fact, in justice to the inventor of the game, it must be said that such a ghastly climax is rarely enforced. I had better say here that utility as well as amusement is the object; these old ships when filled are used as breakwaters by being sunk off the beaches. … … .. .

… … … .. .

One of the ships, the Vincenzo, having been filled with sand, we have been ordered to send her round to Kephalo. Cadogan went in charge, and had a very adventurous trip. The engines and steering gear refused duty in turn, and I believe they finished up by ramming the mark light at the entrance. Cadagan, usually so loquacious, is rather reserved about the doings of the gallant Vincenzo. We had one bit of luck before she left; the moment she arrived at Mudros and we received the order to fill her, a pillaging party went on board to see what there was to be taken out of her. There was not much, as her crew had taken everything worth having before they were sent home to Italy. I was rather late in the field, the commander had got on board first, and I only managed to pick up a bath can, from one of the cabins. There was one find, however, a large barrel of rather coarse red wine. We sent it back to the ship and sold it for the benefit of the wine fund at 6d. a whisky bottle full. It was not at all bad stuff, and was very handy in hot weather It was christened for some unknown reason " Equipage."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dido

Many thanks Michael

The "Vincenzo" is the VINCENZO FLORIO that was scuttled at Gallipoli. The Naval Review mentions that she was sent to Kephalo but that might have been a port of call on her way to the beachhead.

A friend send me a file from the ADM archives mentioning the dimensions of the two ex-Italian (but not named) blockships at Kephalo as:
180ft (54,8m) and 270 ft (82m) long
From this and comparing with the afforementioned Italian steamers purchased by RN for use as blockships, we can make some speculations about their identity.

GARGANO and sister ship LUCANO were 52.4m long
PELORO was 91.4m
Those are the ones with the closest dimensions to the ones mentioned.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

The "Vincenzo" is the VINCENZO FLORIO that was scuttled at Gallipoli. The Naval Review mentions that she was sent to Kephalo but that might have been a port of call on her way to the beachhead.

Agreed.

And thanks for the further info.

best regards

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

“We had made a little harbour of refuge at Kephalo, protected by a couple of old Italian steamers as blockships. After our experience of 17th-18th November, this was greatly improved by sinking the Oruba (one of Lord Fisher's dummy battleships) filled with concrete, to extend the breakwater....”

and a little later

“When the southerly blow started, remembering the gale of 17th to 18th, the small craft at Anzac and Helles were sent to the harbour of refuge at Kephalo. Unfortunately, in the northerly gale one of the old Italian steamers broke up and the sea running through the gap thus formed, wrecked the piers and jetties and piled up all the small craft on shore....”

I wonder if the above (as underlined) is illustrated by this photograph

see https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/asset-viewer/wreckage-in-kephalos-harbour-isle-of-imbros-following-a-gale/fgGPqYmOG92hFQ?hl=en

Click on the smaller right-hand image to get an in-focus enlargement of the section showing the gap between the Oruba and the steamer to her left.

Regrettably the steamer is half hidden behind a lighter or two

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Sepoy

Not one of the Blockships but here is a close up of a dummy battleship at Kephalo.

Sepoy

post-55476-0-62679500-1457357492_thumb.j

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

Sepoy,

That's a nice photograph, thanks for sharing. Judging by the angles (stem to stern and side to side*) then I would guess that here she has already taken up her post as blockship/breakwater

*Also compare with this photograph http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205119263

and note that in yours she is already very low in the water

....................................................................................................

re my previous post No.10 above - If I had had a little more patience and clicked on the Description panel then I would have seen the following

"Description - More Details

Photograph of a view of wreckage in Kephalo harbour, Isle of Imbross, following a north westerly gale. The 'Oruba' otherwise the dummy battleship 'Orion' is seen lying where she was sunk for the purpose of makeing a breakwater to form shelter for the landing of troops and provisions, the ship that was next to the 'Orion' was completely washed away."

regards

Michael

Edited by michaeldr

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dido

Very interesting finding :thumbsup:

Looking now again in the photo at http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib/264/media-264190/large.jpg?action=d&cat=photographs

one will notice the same grounded ship (now at extreme left).

In this photo (at iwm) there is a ship lying upright between ORUBA and the grounded ship but I cannot tell if it is one moored afloat next to the blockships or the blockship that was washed away in Nov.15

Comparing the condition of ORUBA with her condition after the gale (see: http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib/264/media-264336/large.jpg?action=d&cat=photographs) I would say that the photo was taken before the gale.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
michaeldr

In this photo (at iwm) there is a ship lying upright between ORUBA and the grounded ship but I cannot tell if it is one moored afloat next to the blockships or the blockship that was washed away in Nov.15

Thanks for adding the shots from the IWM collections

I think that these two

http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib/264/media-264190/large.jpg?action=d&cat=photographs

https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/asset-viewer/wreckage-in-kephalos-harbour-isle-of-imbros-following-a-gale/fgGPqYmOG92hFQ?hl=en

may have been taken at the same time

The first one (IWM) is from outside the 'breakwater' looking in

and the second (Kings College) is from inside the harbour looking out

Taking the latter up to its maximum magnification, then the two masted ship with the high funnel which is along side the Oruba/Orion seems to be afloat and to have survived the storm well.

I do not believe that she was one of the blockships

regards

Michael

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Dido

Regarding ORUBA and MICHIGAN, does anyone have any infromation whether the wrecks were raised or scrapped on the spot and when?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...