Reply To: Gallipoli 1915 – did the RN desert the Army?

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Frank Scott

    I will concentrate on the Gallipoli issue that is the topic title. To cover the rest would require a large book.
    The pre-dreadnought HMS Implacable is on record as expending 180 rounds of 12-inch & nearly 3000 rounds of 6-inch during the first two month after the landing. So clearly quite a lot of gunfire support was taking place.
    However, naval fire control equipment and guns have always been optimised against ships, which are best hit in the lower register (less than 45 degrees elevation). This prohibits howitzer type fire, which is the best method of dealing with land targets on reverse slopes. At Gallipoli actually hitting relatively small stationary targets with flat trajectory naval guns proved extremely difficult. Visibility and weather were complicating factors, but spotting was a big issue. Spotting, or rather the ability to visually locate a target and pass corrections, is vital in gunfire support, and even in my time there was quite an art to this. In the era before portable radios even the passing of corrections from shore to ship was difficult, and other means of spotting, such as balloons and towed kites were tried by the navy. Moreover HMS Ark Royal was sent out to provide aircraft for that role, although the under-powered aircraft then available proved inadequate.
    Note also that the maximum elevation on naval guns was quite low in WW1. Between the wars Queen Elizabeth, Warspite and Valiant, along with Renown all had their 15 inch turrets re-designed and re-built to increase maximum elevation from 20 to 30 degrees. The outbreak of war prevented this scheme being extended to the other WW1 era capital ships.
    How much consideration either the army or the navy had given to combined operations before the war is open to question. Overall it can be said that the campaign histories available concentrate more on explaining what happened, and have little to say about the ability of the services to execute power projection operations in 1914/15. How different it would all have been had it been a combined operation from the very beginning was perhaps the main lesson.
    This subject of gunfire support at Gallipoli has been the subject of some discussion on the Naval Review forum, and what I have written summarises the gist of that.

    Frank Scott