A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Belated Centenary: March 8, 1915: Nusret Lays Her Mines

Nusret (all photos Wikipedia)
I'm two days late in marking another World War I centennial event over the weekend: on March 8, 1915, the little Turkish minelayer Nusret  surreptitiously laid the minefield that would deter the Allied fleet from running the Dardanelles 10 days later, forcing the decision to land troops at Gallipoli, with ultimately disastrous results. I posted about the feat last year and quote from that post:

As daring as it seems, the Ottomans took it seriously. The US Ambassador to the Porte, Henry Morgenthau, recorded that archives and critical documents were being crated up to be moved deeper into Anatolia. (Note that just a few years later, the capital was moved to Ankara.) The Ottoman forts were nearly out of ammunition, the minefields were largely cleared, and there seemed to be little standing between the Allied flotilla and the Golden Horn.
The Allied Flotilla in the Dardanelles, 1915
Except for the little minelayer that could. Nusret would become a legend in Turkish naval history. Only 40.2 meters (131 feet) from stem to stern,she was no match for the battleships in the Allied flotilla.

And it's said that the 26 mines she carried were the last mines available to the Turkish Navy.

Line No 11 is Nusret's Minefield
On March 8 (a month and a half before ANZAC Day), Nusret slipped down the Dardanelles by night into areas controlled by the Allied fleet, and laid those 26 mines close inshore in Eren Köy Bay on the Asian side where she hoped the Allied minesweepers wouldn't find them. It's said that at the end of her mission her captain died of a heart attack from the stress.
Nusret's mines remained undetected. On March 18, the mines and shore batteries sank one British and one French battleship and a British battle cruiser and crippled others. The attempt to force the straits with ships alone was abandoned. By the time the landing force arrived in late April, the Turkish defenses were much strengthened.

As I concluded in that previous post:
As for little Nusret, whose 26 mines sank three men of war and arguably saved the Ottoman Empire for another three years, not to mention derailed Winston Churchill's political rise for some time, she stayed in service for years, spent some time at the bottom of the sea but was later raised; as she was much remodeled through the years. a better sense of what she looked like in 1915 is provided by this modern reconstruction at a museum in Çannakale:

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