3.3 The Aftermath of 18th March
19th March, the attack was not resumed.
everyone in the Navy was badly shaken by the proceedings of the day before
and the loss of one third of the fleet, nobody wanted to give up. It had
become clear however that the Narrows could not be taken as long as the
minefields were not dealt with and to accomplish that, a complete
reorganisation of the sweeper force was necessary. This task alone would
take two weeks.
apart from Keyes perhaps, could guess how close to a breakthrough they had
been. The accidents of Bouvet and the other ships in Eren Keui Bay had in
fact been caused by an unfortunate coincidence. Only a few days before the
naval attack, the tiny Turkish vessel Nusret had managed to lay a new line
of mines. Where the Allied commanders suspected much greater dangers, it
was this string of mines which was entirely responsible for all the damage
done. Apart from that, when the Allied fleet was ordered to break off the
attack, the Turkish ammunition supplies had completely been exhausted. The
German and Turkish officers who commanded the batteries in the forts had
been close to despair, but their Allied counterparts were unaware of the
precarious situation their opponents had to cope with.
19th March Hamilton sent a telegram to Kitchener, in which he expressed
the opinion that success could only be obtained if a combined action of
the Navy and the infantry was undertaken.
22nd March the different commanders had a meeting on board the Queen
Elisabeth : the Navy was represented by De Robeck and Keyes, the infantry
by Hamilton and Birdwood, who commanded the Anzac Corps. Soon it became
clear that a new naval attack was impossible before 4th April, the day
when new and better mine sweepers would be available. Hamilton declared he
would at least need time until 14th April to organize a landing. When news
of the meeting reached London the following day, Kitchener declared
abruptly that the land forces would solve all the problems and nobody
dared to contradict him.
English started to work furiously to prepare a landing. A combined naval
and infantry attack of this dimension had never been undertaken in the
past and was therefore new to the military planners : not only was it
necessary to train and equip the force that was still in Egypt, but the
Greek islands that had been chosen to act as an operational base lacked
any kind of infrastructure. It is no wonder that quite a number of
mistakes were made, the consequences of which would only later become
on 11th April, did Hamilton's administrative staff arrive at Alexandria.
They were refused any cooperation from Maxwell, the local commander, who
was obsessed by a possible Turkish attack against Egypt. On the other
hand, the preparations for the campaign were so immense, that after a
couple of days, any form of secrecy proved to be an illusion.
Hamilton himself decided that the landing would take place on 25th April.