Monday, March 18, 2013

Ships, submarines and aircraft: Naval and aerial aspects of the Gallipoli War

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where Professor Serhat Güvenç, Kadir Has University, Istanbul is speaking on "Ships, submarines and aircraft: Naval and aerial aspects of the Gallipoli War". Professor Güvenç discussed the arms race with Dreadnought battleships before World War Two. In 1911 Dodecanese Islands were lost by the Ottoman Empire. In 1913 the Ottomans outbid Greece and Russia to purchase a British dreadnought, the Sultan Osman-i Evvel, but the ship and another was retained by the UK. The German battlecrusers SMS Goeben and Moltke escaped the British Mediterranean fleet to Ottoman territory and were  transfered to Ottoman control. Professor Güvenç argued that these circumstances effectively decided the Ottaman's would side with Germany, against the UK.

Heavy artillery from the German armoured cruiser Roon, 1915 mounted onshore at Gallipoli
Only obsolete ships were used for the UK's Gallipoli Campaign as the Ottamans were seen as not having a significant military force. The available Ottaman ships were required to counter the Russian threat. Instead Gallipoli was defended with shore mounted obsolete naval guns and sea mines. Guns and mines were carefully positioned in anticipation of the likely lines of approach for UK ships. The UK forces used Greek  (notionally neutral) islands. Professor Güvenç argued that the Minelayer Nusrat while a small ship was very significant to the Gallipoli War. One aircraft available to the Turks, was also significant in providing advice on the status of the mines. Australian submarine AE-2 penetrated to the Sea of Marinaras, which was a morale boost for UK forces, but not militarily significant. German submarine U-21 was more effective in forcing K ships from the Gallipoli area. UK submarine E-11 in the Marmara Sea severely disrupted Turkish shipping (and attacked a train with gunfire).

Professor Güvenç argued the Turks won the Gallipoli War because they had better military leadership, but also were well prepared. The Ottoman Empire in effect won their war with Russia, but ultimately lost with the allied victory in WWI. From another perspective the modern Turkish state arose partly from Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's rise to prominence in the Gallipoli War.

Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock ships
Professor Güvenç's analysis of the Gallipoli is significant not only historically but for the world today. One lesson is that major warships are at a disadvantage in the littoral zone close to shore. Ships are vulnerable to relatively unsophisticated sea mines, land based aircraft and gunfire. Large ships are also vulnerable on approach to shore from submarine attack. There are significant issues for Australia, which has ordered two Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock ships (LHDs). These ships are purpose designed for amphibious assault in the littoral zone as flagship of an Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). But the LHDs are very vulnerable and must be protected by mine-clearing, anti-submarine and anti-aircraft defenses. This will require a significant investment by Australia, not only in ships, but in specialized highly trained personnel. Australia is building Hobart-class Air Warfare Destroyers and upgrading Anzac-class frigates, to provide air defense, but does not have sufficient mine or submarine countermeasures.
The Gallipoli Peninsula stands as one of the earliest theatres of joint military operations in the modern era. At Gallipoli, both the Allies and the Ottomans employed their naval, land and air power assets in pursuit of a decisive victory. The campaign, which opened with a naval assault to force a quick capitulation of the Ottoman Empire, turned into a massive land campaign as a result of the allied amphibious landing. However, the naval assault failed, and degenerated into a war of attrition waged increasingly by submarines and aircraft to the end of World War I.
This presentation has three objectives. The first is to provide an overall assessment of the factors that contributed to the Ottoman decision to go to war. The second is to discuss the reasons how and why the submarine and aircraft, as new and largely untested weapons, gradually succeeded the battleship, as principal means of warfare upon which both sides continued to rely until the end of the conflict. The third objective is to discuss the legacy of the Gallipoli Wars in shaping the contours of the subsequent Turkish War of Liberation and the Republic of Turkey.
Dr Serhat Güvenç is an Associate Professor of International Relations at Kadir Has University, Istanbul.  He has a BA in International Relations and an MA in European Studies from Marmara University, Istanbul and a PhD in Political Science and International Relations from Bosphorus University. He has worked at Koç University, Istanbul Bilgi University and the University of Chicago as a Visiting Assistant Professor of History in 2006.
Dr Güvenç’s research interests include Turkish defence policy and modern Turkish military/naval history. He is the author of Ottomans’ Quest for Dreadnoughts on the eve of the First World War, Istanbul: Is Kultur Yayinlari, 2009, and Turkey in the Mediterranean during the Interwar Era: The Paradox of Middle Power Diplomacy and Minor Power Naval Policy, Indiana: Indiana University Turkish Studies, 2010 (co-authored with Dilek Barlas). He has published in the Middle Eastern Studies, International Journal of Naval History, Uluslararasi Iliskiler (Turkish Journal of International Relations), Exotierika Themata (in Greek) and the Journal of Strategic Studies. He guest-edited a special issue of Uluslararasi Iliskiler on the 60 Years of Turkey’s NATO Membership.

No comments: