27 April 1915

DARDANELLES - The first three days of the land battle to seize control of the Dardanelles had fallen short of expectations. The successful Turkish defence of the peninsula continually thwarted the Allied push towards the Kilid Bahr Plateau and the Narrows. Hope of a quick land breakthrough diminished, which temporarily turned attention to the sea. If a submarine could run amok in the Sea of Marmara it would disrupt the vital Turkish supply and communication lines. However a submarine had to first get through the 36 miles of narrow, mined and heavily-patrolled waters of the Dardanelles.

Photograph: Lieutenant Commander Edward Boyle, VC with crew aboard Submarine E14.

The first submarine to achieve this was the Australian submarine AE2, commanded by Irishman Lieutenant-Commander Henry Stoker. The submarine which followed in Stokers wake was the E14.

At 3.00 am on 27 April 1915, Lieutenant-Commander Edward Boyle, who was in command of submarine E14, entered the Straits. With the path ahead lit up by a ghostly glare of searchlights, he dived his vessel under the enemy minefields and, in spite of great navigational difficulties from strong currents and the presence of hostile patrols, successfully found himself in the Sea of Marmara. He had broken through the Dardanelles defences.

The E14 sailed for the next two weeks, where possible, on the surface to scare the enemy. At one stage Boyle rigged a dummy gun on the upper deck, which was enough to panic the crew of one Turkish steamer that ran aground trying to flee. Boyle also managed to torpedo and sink a gunboat, a minelayer and finally a troopship, the former White Star liner Guj Djemal which was reported as carrying 6,000 troops and a battery of field guns, on its way to Gallipoli.

Boyle made two more tours of the Sea of Marmara aboard E14 during 1915, spending 70 days in all targeting Turkish shipping. Her luck almost run out on one occasion when she hit a Turkish anti-submarine net, but more by good luck than good judgment she managed to scrape through with the hull heavily cut and scraped by wires. E14 was one of the few that got away.

For his successful patrol of the Dardanelles and the Sea of Marmora in April-May 1915, Boyle was awarded the Victoria Cross. His official VC citation read:

For most conspicuous bravery, in command of Submarine E14, when he dived his vessel under enemy minefields and entered the Sea of Marmara on the 27th April, 1915. In spite of great navigational difficulties from strong currents, of the continual neighbourhood of hostile patrols, and of the hourly danger of attack from the enemy, he continued to operate in the narrow waters of the Straits and succeeded in sinking two Turkish gunboats and one large military transport.” [The London Gazette, 21 May 1915] 

HELLES - 27 April was a day for consolidation at both Anzac and Helles. There was the truly mammoth task of trying to arrange the logistical supply chain for whole divisions of soldiers that would now have to get all their supplies through the open beaches until a proper port had been captured. This meant a busy day for Captaiin John Gillam of the ASC and he was first engaged in setting up a small advanced depot just behind the firing line at Helles with the help of pack mules supplied by the Zion Mule Corps.

There was very little fighting and Gillam mentions, "Rifle fire has died down; hardly a shot on our front comes over and no shells at all. On our right shell fire continues." Gillam was then sent to collect and remove all British stores from V beach as it had been decided that this would be the main supply and logistical base for the 1st Division of the Corps Expéditionnaire d’Orient which had begun landing on the night of 26 April. When Gillam got to the beach he was shocked at what he saw.

"With my fatigue party, my Corporal, Private, and servant, I march up the cliff toward V Beach. We pass the lighthouse, which has been badly knocked about, following the line of the Turkish trench, which is along the edge of the cliff, to the fort, which had withstood the bombardment well. At the fort we see two huge guns of very old pattern, knocked about a good deal. Then we dip down to V Beach, a much deeper and wider beach than W and walk towards the sea. Then I see a sight which I shall never forget all my life. About 200 bodies are laid out for burial, consisting of soldiers and sailors. I repeat, never have the Army and Navy been so dovetailed together. They lie in all postures, their faces blackened, swollen, and distorted by the sun. The bodies of seven officers lie in a row in front by themselves. I cannot but think what a fine company they would make if by a miracle an Unseen Hand could restore them to life by a touch. The rank of Major and the red tabs on one of the bodies arrests my eye, and the form of the officer seems familiar. Colonel Gostling, of the 88th Field Ambulance, is standing near me, and he goes over to the form, bends down, and gently removes a khaki handkerchief covering the face. I then see that it is Major Costaker, our late Brigade Major. In his breast-pocket is a cigarette-case and a few letters; one is in his wife's handwriting. I had worked in his office for two months in England, and was looking forward to working with him in Gallipoli. It was cruel luck that he even was not permitted to land, for I learn that he was hit in the heart on the hopper shortly after General Napier was laid low. His last words were, "Oh, Lord! I am done for now." I notice also that a bullet has torn the toes of his left foot away; probably this happened after he was dead. I hear that General Napier was hit whilst in the pinnace, on his way to the River Clyde, by a machine gun bullet in the stomach. Just before he died he said to Sinclair-Thomson, our Staff Captain, "Get on the Clyde and tell Carrington-Smith to take over!" A little while later he apologized for groaning. Good heavens! I can't realize it, for it was such a short while ago that we were all such a merry party at the Warwick Arms." (Captain John Gillam, Army Service Corps, 29th Divisional Supply Train)

This last is in reference to the pleasant social drinking at the Warwick Arms when the 88th Brigade had been billeted in the Warwick area and Gillam had got to know all these officers who were now dead. 

ANZAC - The arrival of Turkish reinforcements allowed Colonel Mustafa Kemal to attempt to drive the invaders into the sea'. Yet when his troops began to deploy on 27 April they encountered many of the same problems that had thwarted the Australian attempts to advance two days earlier. Before the start of the battle the Turkish regiments became dispersed amongst the broken ground to the east of the Anzac line and as a result they were late arriving at their starting points.

Photograph: The picture shows the 15" guns of HMS Queen Elizabeth - the Lousy Lizzie referenced below.

This confusion was then exacerbated by the fire of the British warships which caused not only serious casualties, but also badly damaged their morale. The combination of these problems made the attacks so disconnected and irresolute that the ANZAC Corps Headquarters did not realise that this was a determined attack. At the front though it was a different matter as reflected in the memories of Captain Dixon Hearder who was in command of a machine gun section of the 11th (Western Australia) Battalion.

"After a heavy bombardment all the morning, attacks were made in force on our right and left. First the right wing broke and we had the mortification of seeing our boys retire at a double. I ordered my gun to swing round and we checked the pursuit by pouring in a heavy enfilade fire on the pursuing Turco. This broke him up and gave our boys time to collect and take up a fair position which their supports had managed to get ready. Just then we noticed that the new line was in the rear of us, so that our position, which had been isolated all through was now liable to a daring enfilade on the right. We at once started digging and throwing up a parapet to meet this new danger, when I was thunderstruck to see our left, which had been really well reinforced, give way and retreat. You can guess our opinion of our chances. There we were, out in front, dug right in, no protection on our right or left and enfilade fire coming on us and our retreating troops. When suddenly the "Lousy Liz" lost her name for ever. She is now "The Lady." Like a bolt from the blue a 15" shell fell fair in among the pursuing enemy. Before they could rally another fell, then another. A panic set up and the momentary triumph of John Turco was over." (Captain Dixon Hearder, 11th (Western Australia) Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division, AIF)

J. Gillam, "Gallipoli Diary", (Stevenage, The Strong Oak Press, 1989), pp.46-47, IWM DOCS: D. Hearder, Typescript account, Landing of the 3rd Brigade, p.10