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Submarine warfare results in restrictions on naval support

from the British O.H.

“After the sinking of the Triumph the larger warships were recalled to Imbros; but the following day Admiral de Robeck decided that, risk or no risk, the army must not be deprived of naval support, and that in addition to destroyers off Anzac and Y Beach, one battleship must be maintained at Helles and another in the Straits to check the Asiatic fire.
In accordance with these arrangements the battleship Majestic proudly returned to Helles on the evening of the 26th and anchored, with her nets out, and surrounded by small craft, about a quarter of a mile from W Beach. Early next morning she, too, was torpedoed and sank in a quarter of an hour. Every boat at Helles rushed out to pickup the crew, and luckily once again the loss of life was small.
After this second disaster the number of supporting ships was further reduced. The policy of keeping battleships off the coast was abandoned, and until the arrival of monitors and ‘blistered’ cruisers from England the daily support of the army was entrusted to destroyers. The flagship Lord Nelson was sent away to Mudros, but the admiral, anxious to remain on the scene of action, transferred his flag to the yacht Triad.
Thus in the short space of two days, the U-boat attack succeeded in freeing the Turkish army from the continuous menace of heavy naval guns, and the general policy now adopted by the British admiral was that battleships should only leave harbour when actually required to support the army, and should then be employed only for short periods and in an area previously searched by aircraft and destroyer patrols.”

The photograph below, ‘The last moments of HMS Majestic, torpedoed on May 27,’
is from ‘Gallipoli Then and Now’ by Steve Newman

[Broken link removed]


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Were anti-torpedo nets not very effective then? Was that the result of one torpedo hit? :( Phil B

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Good questions Phil, and I don’t have the answers

Hopefully one of our Pals has more details on the number of torpedoes fired, possibly from the records of Hersing or U21.

Regarding nets; there is an enigmatic footnote in the O.H. which refers to the Exmouth having, quote ‘heavy net fittings.’ This suggests to me that there was more than one type of anti torpedo net in service, but again, I would prefer to hear the opinion of an expert.

Can it also be that problems with less than effective nets were already known at this time and that this had already prompted the building of the ‘blistered’ ships referred to above?


Michael D.R.

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Blistered ships is something else I`d like to know more about. I can`t imagine that moving a torpedo explosion a few feet (yards?) away from a ship would make a lot of difference, but who knows? Were the blisters air filled or was there something in there to absorb blast? They don`t seem to have caught on! Phil B

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I can`t imagine that moving a torpedo explosion a few feet (yards?) away from a ship would make a lot of difference, but who knows?

It would make a huge difference. For a better explanation than I can give, see Michael Redgrave playing Barnes Wallace in the "Dambusters" on the importance of the explosive device being in contact with the target under water.

A single torpedo would be capable of making a big enough hole if in contact. Whether the ship sinks then depends on the precise nature of the damage, the extent of water tight compartments in the ship and the actions of the ship's damage control parties.

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While I do have U 21's war diary on microfilm, it will be at least a week before I can get to the library to have a look at it. Michael Wilson and Paul Kemp's Mediterranean Submarines notes that U 21 only fired a single torpedo. That would be quite reasonable -- U-boats typically only tired single torpedoes at targets in WWI. A sinking from one hit is also quite feasible. The design of Pre-Dreadnought battleships and armoured cruisers made them extremely vulnerable to underwater damage. A mine or torpedo hit on the machinery spaces would cause extensive flooding, which when combined with the centerline bulkhead used in these ships, would cause asymetrical flooding and often a sinking with a severe list or a capsize. Looking at the photo, that's also about what you see. The typical German 50cm torpedo carried a charge of 160 kg of explosives, easily more than enough to inflicit fatal damage to a non-bulged large warship if it hit in teh right location.

Best wishes,


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  • 4 weeks later...
Guest Simon Bull

until the arrival of monitors and ‘blistered’ cruisers

Could someone tell me roughly what a blistered cruiser looked like?

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