>Lest We Forget: Nusret. The Little Ship That Changed The History

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Today is the 95th anniversary of the Turkish forces over the Allied Fleet in the Dardanelles.

Known as the Çanakkale Naval Victory, in Turkey, this battle effectively sunk (no pun indented) the hopes of the British Admiralty and Churchill to force the Turkish Straits and a quickly dash to Istanbul to occupy it. This Turkish victory forced the Allies to use ground force in order to bring Dardanelles under their control and led to the merciless Gallipoli Campaign.

Churchill realized that if Allies could eliminate Ottoman Empire from the war, they could help Russia via Black Sea and could pressure Central Powers from the east as well.

While the main of the British Army deeply entrench in Belgium and France and the most potent s capital ships loitering in the North Sea Allied Forces had few forces to spare for such a secondary and diversionary front.

The plan of the British Admiralty was to bombard the forts that were protecting the shores of Dardanelles to annihilation and later clean the mines to open the way for Allied warships to sail to Istanbul.

The plan had two important mistakes:
1) It grossly underestimated capability, strength and sprit of the Turkish forces, assisted by Germany.
2) It did not take Lord Nelson with his oft-quoted dictum: “A ship’s a fool to fight a fort” into consideration.

The order of the battle for the Allied fleet consisted of HMS Queen Elizabet, HMS Agamemnon, HMS Lord Nelson, HMS Inflexible, HMS Prince George, HMS Triump, HMS Ocean, HMS Majestic, HMS Swiftsure, HMS Vengeance, HMS Irresistible, HMS Albion from Royal Navy, Gaulois, Charlemange, Bouvet, Suffren from French Navy.

The fighting began at around 10:00 in the morning. Everything seem to be on the side of the Allied forces until at around 14:00 a small cloud of yellowish smoke, which turned black afterwards, came out of the starboard quarter of the Bouvet. She had struck a mine. This mine was laid ten day ago by Turkish minelayer Nusret, in an area that was previously cleared by Allied minesweepers and used by capital Allied ships for maneuvering. This new single mine line consisting of 20 mines, changed the whole history.

Winston Churchill defined those mines as the reason for the prolonging of the war and the enormous casualties, in the interview he made with “Revue de Paris,” in 1930.

At 16:00 first HMS Inflexible 5 minutes later HMS Irresistible struck to mines. HMS Ocean was ordered to tow the now abandoned HMS Irresisteble. But she too hit a mine at around 18:00, followed moments later by a shell that penetrated to a magazine below the water line.

Of the 16 capital ships that sailed in the Dardanelles that morning HMS Ocean, HMS Irresistible and Bouvet never returned. HMS Inflexible and Gaulios had to be beached at the near by small island in order to be rescued. Suffren heavily damaged by Turkish guns had to be docked at Malta for intensive repairs.

This Turkish victory forced the Allies to use ground force to occupy the hills commanding Dardanelles in order to destroy the forts protecting the straits and mine fields. This campaign was too destined to be a defeat for the Allies.

Today where the littoral warfare is the buzz word there are many lessons to be learned or re-learn from the naval battles of Gallipoli campaign.

During Gallipoli campaign all kind of naval action took place that can be expected today as well. The shore bombardment, the shooting of ships from land sites, submarine operations, ASW operations, attacks from fast and swift ships to larger and ungainly capital ships, mine warfare just to name a few.

For further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naval_operations_in_the_Dardanelles_Campaign

>Lest We Forget: DM-357 TCG Muavenet

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I have missed the anniversary of the incident of TCG Muavenet being hit.

On 2th October 1992, 11 minutes past midnight, during the NATO’s Display Determination ’92 naval exercise, two Sea Sparrow surface to air missiles fired accidently from the aircraft carrier CV-60 USS Saratoga, hit the bridge of the Turkish destroyer DM-357 TCG Muavenet. 5 sailors including the commander of the ship were killed instantly and 15 badly hurt. A fire broke out on board. At the time of the incident two ships were 3 miles apart and were streaming north in the Aegean.

According the United States Court of Appeals, Eleventh Circuit the fatefull events unfolded as follows:

“On October 1, 1992, the Combat Direction Center Officer aboard the Saratoga decided to launch a simulated attack on nearby opposition forces utilizing the Sea Sparrow missile system. After securing the approval of the Saratoga’s Commanding Officer and the Battle Group Commander, the Combat Direction Center Officer implemented the simulated assault plan. Without providing prior notice, officers on the Saratoga woke the enlisted Sea Sparrow missile team and directed them to conduct the simulated attack.

Certain members of the missile firing team were not told that the exercise was a drill, rather than an actual event. As the drill progressed, the missile system operator used language to indicate he was preparing to fire a live missile, but due to the absence of standard terminology, the responsible officers failed to appreciate the significance of the terms used and the requests made. Specifically, the Target Acquisition System operator issued the command “arm and tune,” terminology the console operators understood to require arming of the missiles in preparation for actual firing.

The officers supervising the drill did not realize that “arm and tune” signified a live firing. As a result, the Saratoga inadvertently fired two live Sea Sparrow missiles at the TCG Muavenet. Both missiles struck the TCG Muavenet, resulting in several deaths and numerous injuries.”

According to a report prepared by Turkish Naval Military Prosecutor’s Office on November 11, 1992 the Saratoga was with the visible horizon and the launch of the missiles were observed on TCG Muavenet.

One of the missiles hit the ship approximately after a flight of ten seconds. The first missile hit the front of the ships bridge and destroyed it. The second missile exploded in the air probably because the blast of the first missile and peppered the ship with shrapnel. Ships radar antenna, forward gun turrets, hedgehog launcher suffered from the shrapnel damage. The pieces of the second missile penetrated the forward gun turret, cabins of the supply officer and XO.

A fire started at the ammunition chamber of the Hedgehog system. The explosion of the Hedgehog rounds would have caused the loss of the ships. After the hits general quarters were sounded and the fire fighting teams started to tackle the fire. On the other hand the damage control teams were throwing the ready ammunition in the forward gun turrets and other explosives near the fire over the board as a safety measure.

When the situation was under control TCG Muavenet was towed to the Gölcük Naval Base. And the exercise continued as planned.

The damage to the old ship was extensive. She was not useable anymore therefore she was decommissioned right away. Later US gave Knox class FFG-1093 USS Capodanno as compensation.

The fire was under control in 10 minutes but the water caused damage in the decks that were not harmed in the initial blast.

These two photos were taken after TGC Muavenet was towed to Gölcük Naval Base.

The extend of the damage resulting both from missile impact and fire is obvious. It was quite a skill to bring the fire under control before reached to the gun turret in B position. If the fire has spread further to the turrets and ammunition chambers of the guns, the she would not have survived.

All the fire fighting and damage control efforts were done in the absence of the commander of the ship. This fact speaks for the professionalism of the officers and the bravery of the whole crew. They simply did not give up the ship.

Commander Kudret Güngör
Ensign Alertunga Akan
Petty Officer 3th Class Serkan Aktepe
Sergant Mustafa Kılınç
Private Recep Akan

Paid the ultimate price for the defence of their country.

For further reading:
US Navy Court of Inquiry

Turkish Navy Court of Inquiry

Wikipedia

An interesting but technical legal article about why USA did not paid indemnities to the Turkish sailors

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