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.

The Elder Wand from Harry Potter Will Be Surprisingly Important in Fantastic Beasts 2

Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

For about a year now, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald has been using an image of the Elder Wand in promotional teases, as pointed out by The Ringer. You surely remember the instrument—which is said to be the most powerful wand to have ever existed in JK Rowling's Wizarding World—from the original Harry Potter series. So just how important will it be to the Fantastic Beasts sequel? Extremely.

According to Pottermore, the Elder Wand (also known as the Deathstick or "The Wand of Destiny") is the most sought after of the three Deathly Hallows. According to "The Tale of the Three Brothers," a fairy tale often told to wizard children, the Elder Wand was given to Antioch Peverell by Death himself. Whoever was able to reunite the wand with the other two Deathly Hallows—the Resurrection Stone and the Cloak of Invisibility—would become the Master of Death.

As such, the Elder Wand is extremely dangerous—and can be made even more so, depending on the intentions of the wizard who possesses it. As Dumbledore once ​said in The Tales of Beedle the Bard, "Those who are knowledgeable about wandlore will agree that wands do indeed absorb the expertise of those who use them."

So how does all of this connect to Fantastic Beasts? While in disguise in the first Fantastic Beasts movie, Gellert Grindelwald didn't carry the Elder Wand—though we know from previous installments that he had acquired it by the time the first movie takes place. Grindelwald stole the wand from Mykew Gregorovitch, stunning the wizard to gain the allegiance of the Elder Wand, sometime before 1926. But while promotional stills indicate that Grindelwald will have physical possession of the wand in this second movie, which witch or wizard has the wand's allegiance is less clear—after all, Newt Scamander captured Grindelwald at the end of the first film, and Tina Goldstein disarmed him.

However, we know from the Harry Potter series that Dumbledore takes possession of the Elder Wand after a duel in 1945, which is the same year the Fantastic Beasts series will end (so it's pretty safe to assume that Dumbledore and Grindelwald will face off in the series' fifth and final film). And Dumbledore's own words about how he came to possess the wand in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows are also particularly telling. "I was fit to own the Elder Wand, and not to boast of it, and not to kill with it," he stated in the novel. "I was permitted to tame and to use it, because I took it, not for gain, but to save others from it."

We'll have to wait until this weekend to see how it all plays out in The Crimes of Grindelwald, but this is one story that will take several more installments to tell.

Simon Pegg Says New Star Wars Films Are Missing George Lucas's Imagination

John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures
John Phillips, Getty Images for Paramount Pictures

While many Star Wars fans were unimpressed with the most recent film in the Luke Skywalker saga, The Last Jedi, even those viewers would likely agree that the most recent slate of entries into the Star Wars franchise are much better than the prequel series ... right? Well, it might not be so black and white.

Simon Pegg, who appeared in The Force Awakens as Unkar Plutt, had previously slammed the prequels, specifically ​calling The Phantom Menace a "jumped-up firework display of a toy advert." But now he seems to have come to a new conclusion: Star Wars needs George Lucas.

"I must admit, watching the last Star Wars film [The Last Jedi], the overriding feeling I got when I came out was, 'I miss George Lucas,'" Pegg confessed on The Adam Buxton Podcast. "For all the complaining that I'd done about him in the prequels, there was something amazing about his imagination."

Pegg also shared the story of how he once met Lucas at the premiere of Revenge of the Sith, and that the legendary filmmaker gave him some advice.

"He was talking to Ron Howard and I think he'd seen Shaun of the Dead  because he immediately went, 'Oh hey, Shaun of the Dead!,' and shook my hand," Pegg recalled. "And George Lucas immediately changed his demeanor."

"Don't be making the same film that you made 30 years ago 30 years from now," Lucas told Pegg, according to the actor.

Of all the complaints about The Last Jedi, from Rey's parentage reveal to Luke abandoning the Force, the lack of George Lucas is not quite a popular criticism. But we are glad to know his influence is missed—by at least one person.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER