|Warships, submarines and transports crowd Mudros Harbour prior to the Gallipoli landings, April 1915 Australian War Memorial image J02424|
Gallipoli began as a naval campaign, with a major naval assault on the Dardanelles straits on 18th March 1915. This attack, involving 18 British and French battleships - including the mighty HMS Agamemnon - with a supporting array of cruisers and destroyers - against the heavily mined waters and surrounding Turkish guns, resulted in failure. Three battleships were sunk - Bouvet, Irresistable and Ocean, with three more damaged and sent to Malta for repairs - Gaulios, Suffren and Inflexible. While submarines would play a role in the Gallipoli campaign, the failure of this naval assault tipped the balance of the Allied campaign's strategy to a land attack. Battleships would be confined to escorting troopships and providing naval bombardment support for the troops that would now attempt to force the Dardanelles on land.
As the main staging base for the landings, ship after ship steamed into Mudros Harbour until some 200 ships was moored there, making a “city on the water”. Some of the major allied warships at Mudros Harbour were the Queen Elisabeth, the flagship and headquarters of the campaign commander, General Hamilton, the French battleship Henry IV and the five funneled Russian cruiser, Askold, referred to by troops as the “Packet of Woodbines” in reference to her funnels.
In terms of Australian naval vessels, the famous AE2 E Class submarine was based in Mudros Harbour during its operations in the Dardanelles Straits. This was the first allied naval vessel to pass through the straits. For further information on the AE2 and the Gallipoli campaign go the Australian Deparment of Veteran's Affairs website here.
|Submarine on the left is the submarine AE2, Mudros Harbour Lemnos 1915 Australian War Memorial image C01654|
Following the end of the Gallipoli campaign, five Royal Australian Navy warships – HMAS Brisbane, HMAS Parramatta, HMAS Swan, HMAS Warrego and HMAS Yarra reached Mudros and patrolled off the Gallipoli peninsula and Imbros.
In addition to naval warships, all manner of civilian vessels were pressed into service to assist in the transport of troops, including Greek caiques. The former were also involved in landing Australian troops on the beach at Anzac Cove in their lifeboats – the merchant seamen also coming under the deadly fire from the Turkish guns. It is also interesting to note that the great majority of wounded in that campaign were also transport in these civilian vessels’ lifeboats to the hospital ships offshore. The merchant ships evacuated most of our troops from Gallipoli to Lemnos, as well as to Alexandria and Cyprus and then transported the wounded home to Australia.
|Two Greek men in a traditional caique boat, handling goats and sheep for the Indian troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula and Cape Helles, the animals having to be killed by the Indians themselves.,1915. Australian War Memorial image A02037|
One of the most celebrated Anzac units of the Gallipoli campaign was the 1st Royal Australian Navy Bridging Train unit, originally comprising nearly 400 men, which landed at Suvla Bay on 7 August 1915.
A logistics and engineering unit, the RAN Bridging Train Unit constructed the piers used during the landings (the heavy timber required having been obtained from Mudros). They also carried out maintenance duties, assisted with the landing of troops, stores, and ammunition, controlled water supplies to the front lines, stockpiled and repaired machinery and equipment in their makeshift workshop on the battlefield. And they played a key role in preparing and implementing the final evacuation of the peninsula in December 1915.
|Australian Navy Sailors at West Beach Gallipoli 1915 - 1st RAN Bridging Train, Australian War Memorial Image P01326.008|
It was the last Australian unit to leave the Gallipoli peninsula during the December 1915 evacuation (departing 20 minutes after the last Anzac troops left Anzac Cove) and rested at Mudros on Lemnos before departing for Egypt. It was the most decorated RAN unit in the First World War.
Lemnos' Dangerous Waters - The Attack on the Southland
German submarines and Turkish naval vessels operated throughout the Gallipoli campaign, with a number of allied ships sunk by German submarines. These included several troop ships that were sunk near Lemnos. As a result, there remain a number of significant naval graveyards surrounding Lemnos.
|Australiann troops embarking on HMT Southland at Alexandria.Australian War Memorial image A01865|
One of the ships torpedoed near Lemnos was the HMT Southland. A former ocean liner, this troopship was carrying the men of Headquarters, 2nd Division, AIF, Headquarters, 6th Infantry Brigade, 21st Infantry Battalion and one Company of the 23rd Infantry Battalion from Egypt to Gallipoli to replace the losses of the disastrous August Offensive.
She was torpedoed by the German submarine UB14 at 9.51 am on 2nd september 1915, 30 nautical miles (or 56 km) from Lemnos near the Island of Agios Efstratios. Although the ship did not sink immediately, she was subsequently beached, repaired and returned to service in August 1916.
All but 40 of her 1,400 men were able to leave in lifeboats and were picked up by other transports and HT Neuralia – some troops however did spend up to 4 hours in the water. The London Gazette reported on the attack on HMT Southland on 16th November as follows
“...There was never a cry or sign of fear. The Australian soldiers merely came briskly on deck singing ‘Australia will be there’. The troops all went to their stations and lowered the boats in an orderly manner ... 14 persons were killed by the explosion and twenty two were drowned including Brigadier General Linton”
One of those killed as a result of the attack on the HMT Southland was Colonel Richard Linton. The commanding officer of the 6th Australian Brigade, Colonel Linton was born in Scotland and from Middle Brighton. He is recording as having died of exhaustion and heart failure, in the Aegean while on board the French destroyer Massuo on 2nd September 1915, following the torpedoing of the HMT Southland.
|Sinking of the Southland by Fred Leist Australian War Memorial image ART0982|
The circumstances of his death were recorded by 6th Brigade Corporal Frank Drew, a 21 year old, single, former Letter Carrier, of Raleigh St Essendon. The Essendon Gazette and Keilor,Bulla and Broadmeadows Reporter reported on 16th November 1915 the circumstances of his death:
“Corporal Drew was in the same boat as Colonel Linton when they pushed off form the transport. Their boat was capsized, and Drew, under orders from an officer, swam clear of the ill-fated transport, which was afterwards beached. Corporal Drew, who was attached to the headquarters staff of the 6th Infantry Brigade, is loud in his praise of the heroism displayed by Colonel Linton, who was two hours in the water. When the rescue boat arrived on the scene Colonel Linton absolutely refused to enter the boat until every member of his staff had been placed in it. Then he was taken into the boat, and within five minutes died in the arms of Private George Tetlow, of B Company, 21st Battalion. Corporal Drew, in relating the pathetic end of the brave Colonel, said he was very anxious to deny the silly rumour which gained currency in Egypt, and had even reached Australia, to the effect that Colonel Linton jumped over board when the transport was struck. ... “He was one of the bravest officers that ever left Australia”, concluded the returned soldier. ‘after being two hours in the water he placed the safety of the men under him before his own life, died as a result of exposure and shock, and was buried with full military honours at Mudros. On the day following the funeral, I attended an In Memoriam service held at the grave. The late Colonel Linton was a father to us. Every man had a good word to say of him and he was loved by every lad in the brigade.”
Colonel Richard Linton's AIF Record of Service can be viewed here.
|The troopship HMT Southland, following its torpedoing with two life boats leaving the side of the sinking vessel (centre rear). Australian War Memorial image A00737|
|A lifeboat from the Ben-My-Chree passing a line to a lifeboat full of Australian troops from the troopship HMT Southland. Australian War Memorial image A04501|