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Allied Ships Bombard Turkish Forts

The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that shaped our modern world. Erik Sass is covering the events of the war exactly 100 years after they happened. This is the 169th installment in the series.

February 19, 1915: Allied Ships Bombard Turkish Forts

The tragedy of Gallipoli was the result of a series of errors and misjudgments by British civilian leaders and military commanders, which began to unfold on February 19, 1915, with the first Allied bombardment of Turkish defenses at the Dardanelles.

With the Western Front in stalemate and Russia on the defensive in the east, First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill wanted to use British naval power to make a breakthrough on the flanks of the Central Powers. Churchill convinced his fellow cabinet members that the Royal Navy could decisively alter the strategic balance by forcing the Turkish straits and capturing Constantinople, thus knocking the Ottoman Empire out of the war and reopening the maritime supply route to Russia through the Black Sea.

Crucially the original plan called for an amphibious element, with ground forces landing on the Gallipoli peninsula to attack Turkish positions from the rear; however Secretary of War Lord Kitchener refused to divert any troops from the precarious Western Front, so the cabinet eventually approved a purely naval operation, pitting an Allied fleet against interlocking Turkish defenses including forts, mobile artillery, mine fields, and submarine nets. Everyone involved recognized from the beginning that the plan was risky, but they were persuaded by the promise of huge gains—maybe even an end to the war.

In mid-February a formidable Allied naval force gathered in the Aegean Sea, under the overall command of Admiral Sir Sackville Carden. The British fleet consisted of the super-dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth; three battle-cruisers; twelve older (“pre-dreadnought”) battleships; four cruisers; 16 destroyers; five submarines; seven minesweeping trawlers; and the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal with six seaplanes aboard. The French contingent consisted of four “pre-dreadnought” battleships, two destroyers, one submarine, and fourteen minesweepers.

Carden had divided the attack into a number of phases, aiming to methodically dismantle the various layers of Turkish defenses one by one. In the first phase, battleships would bombard the Turkish forts protecting the entrance to the straits with their heavy guns at long distance, outside the range of the Turkish coastal artillery. In the second phase, they would press ahead into the mouth of the straits, where the minesweepers would begin clearing the minefields so the battleships could destroy the mobile artillery batteries protecting “the Narrows,” the strategic choke point where the channel was less than two kilometers wide.

Operations for the first phase began on the morning of February 19, 1915, with long-range shelling of the four forts covering the entrance to the straits—two located on Cape Helles at the tip of the Gallipoli Peninsula on the European side, the others at Kumkale on the Asian side, not far from the ruins of Troy (below, a Turkish gun at Kumkale today).

Although they scored a number of hits, British and French commanders were dissatisfied with their gunnery, believing minimal damage had been inflicted; in fact the damage was substantial, but the Allies had no way of observing this. When they finally approached for close-range bombardment, Turkish forts laid down a heavy return fire and kept the Allied ships moving, making it even more difficult to target effectively (luckily for the Turks, the Allied commanders were also unaware that the forts were running low on ammunition).

After a delay caused by storms and rough seas, the Allies would return to the attack a week later, on February 25, 1915, and again in early March (top, HMS Agamemnon fires at the Turkish fort at Sedd el Bahr on March 4, 1915; above, Agamemnon under fire on February 25). These attacks, combined with landings by British marines, finally managed to subdue the outer forts—but now the fleet ran into fierce defensive fire from the well-hidden mobile artillery batteries protecting the inner entrance to the strait. These proved much more difficult to clear, in part because the Turks moved them at night—which meant, in turn, that the relatively defenseless minesweepers couldn’t clear the minefields before the Narrows. The plan was stalling at the second phase.

In mid-March these obstacles would force the Allies to adopt a new, even riskier strategy: the minesweepers would clear the minefields by night, so the battleships could destroy the mobile batteries and rush the Narrows in one fell swoop. However the nighttime minesweeping missions were unsuccessful; even worse, unbeknownst to the Allies the Turks managed to lay a new minefield in Erenköy Bay, along the eastern approach to the Narrows. On March 18, 1915, this would result in disaster for the Allies.

See the previous installment or all entries.

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Food
How to Make Miles Davis’s Famous Chili Recipe
STF/AFP/Getty Images
STF/AFP/Getty Images

Miles Davis, who was born on May 26, 1926, was one of the most important and influential musicians of the 20th century, and changed the course of jazz music more times in his life than some people change their sheets. He was also pretty handy in the kitchen.

In his autobiography, Miles, Davis wrote that in the early 1960s, “I had gotten into cooking. I just loved food and hated going out to restaurants all the time, so I taught myself how to cook by reading books and practicing, just like you do on an instrument. I could cook most of the great French dishes—because I really liked French cooking—and all the black American dishes. But my favorite was a chili dish I called Miles's South Side Chicago Chili Mack. I served it with spaghetti, grated cheese, and oyster crackers."

Davis didn’t divulge what was in the dish or how to make it, but in 2007, Best Life magazine got the recipe from his first wife, Frances, who Davis said made it better than he did.

MILES'S SOUTH SIDE CHICAGO CHILIK MACK (SERVES 6)

1/4 lb. suet (beef fat)
1 large onion
1 lb. ground beef
1/2 lb. ground veal
1/2 lb. ground pork
salt and pepper
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin seed
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 can beef consommé
1 drop red wine vinegar
3 lb. spaghetti
parmesan cheese
oyster crackers
Heineken beer

1. Melt suet in large heavy pot until liquid fat is about an inch high. Remove solid pieces of suet from pot and discard.
2. In same pot, sauté onion.
3. Combine meats in bowl; season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder, and cumin.
4. In another bowl, season kidney beans with salt and pepper.
5. Add meat to onions; sauté until brown.
6. Add kidney beans, consommé, and vinegar; simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
7. Add more seasonings to taste, if desired.
8. Cook spaghetti according to package directions, and then divide among six plates.
9. Spoon meat mixture over each plate of spaghetti.
10. Top with Parmesan and serve oyster crackers on the side.
11. Open a Heineken.

John Szwed’s biography of Davis, So What, mentions another chili that the trumpeter’s father taught him how to make. The book includes the ingredients, but no instructions, save for serving it over pasta. Like a jazz musician, you’ll have to improvise. 

bacon grease
3 large cloves of garlic
1 green, 1 red pepper
2 pounds ground lean chuck
2 teaspoons cumin
1/2 jar of mustard
1/2 shot glass of vinegar
2 teaspoons of chili powder
dashes of salt and pepper
pinto or kidney beans
1 can of tomatoes
1 can of beef broth

serve over linguine

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4 Fascinating Facts About John Wayne
Fox Photos, Getty Images
Fox Photos, Getty Images

Most people know John Wayne, who would have been 111 years old today, for his cowboy persona. But there was much more to the Duke than that famous swagger. Here are a few facts about Duke that might surprise you.

1. A BODY SURFING ACCIDENT CHANGED HIS CAREER. 

John Wayne, surfer? Yep—and if he hadn’t spent a lot of time doing it, he may never have become the legend he did. Like many USC students, Wayne (then known as Marion Morrison) spent a good deal of his extracurricular time in the ocean. After he sustained a serious shoulder injury while bodysurfing, Morrison lost his place on the football team. He also lost the football scholarship that had landed him a spot at USC in the first place. Unable to pay his fraternity for room and board, Morrison quit school and, with the help of his former football coach, found a job as the prop guy at Fox Studios in 1927. It didn’t take long for someone to realize that Morrison belonged in front of a camera; he had his first leading role in The Big Trail in 1930.

2. HE TOOK HIS NICKNAME FROM HIS BELOVED FAMILY POOCH. 

Marion Morrison had never been fond of his feminine-sounding name. He was often given a hard time about it growing up, so to combat that, he gave himself a nickname: Duke. It was his dog’s name. Morrison was so fond of his family’s Airedale Terrier when he was younger that the family took to calling the dog “Big Duke” and Marion “Little Duke,” which he quite liked. But when he was starting his Hollywood career, movie execs decided that “Duke Morrison” sounded like a stuntman, not a leading man. The head of Fox Studios was a fan of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, so Morrison’s new surname was quickly settled. After testing out various first names for compatibility, the group decided that “John” had a nice symmetry to it, and so John Wayne was born. Still, the man himself always preferred his original nickname. “The guy you see on the screen isn’t really me,” he once said. “I’m Duke Morrison, and I never was and never will be a film personality like John Wayne.”

3. HE WAS A CHESS FANATIC. 

Anyone who knew John Wayne personally knew what an avid chess player he was. He often brought a miniature board with him so he could play between scenes on set.

When Wayne accompanied his third wife, Pilar Pallete, while she played in amateur tennis tournaments, officials would stock a trailer with booze and a chess set for him. The star would hang a sign outside of the trailer that said, “Do you want to play chess with John Wayne?” and then happily spend the day drinking and trouncing his fans—for Wayne wasn’t just a fan of chess, he was good at chess. It’s said that Jimmy Grant, Wayne’s favorite screenwriter, played chess with the Duke for more than 20 years without ever winning a single match.

Other famous chess partners included Marlene Dietrich, Rock Hudson, and Robert Mitchum. During their match, Mitchum reportedly caught him cheating. Wayne's reply: "I was wondering when you were going to say something. Set 'em up, we'll play again."

4. HE COINED THE TERM "THE BIG C."

If you say you know someone battling “The Big C” these days, everyone immediately knows what you’re referring to. But no one called it that before Wayne came up with the term, evidently trying to make it less scary. Worried that Hollywood would stop hiring him if they knew how sick he was with lung cancer in the early 1960s, Wayne called a press conference in his living room shortly after an operation that removed a rib and half of one lung. “They told me to withhold my cancer operation from the public because it would hurt my image,” he told reporters. “Isn’t there a good image in John Wayne beating cancer? Sure, I licked the Big C.”

Wayne's daughter, Aissa Wayne, later said that the 1964 press conference was the one and only time she heard her father call it “cancer,” even when he developed cancer again, this time in his stomach, 15 years later. Sadly, Wayne lost his second battle with the Big C and died on June 11, 1979 at the age of 72.

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