8. Disaster at Long Island

M30 still ablaze on the day after she was hit.  

“On the strength of one link of the cable Dependeth the might of the chain, Who knows when thou mayest be tested? So live that thou bearest the strain!”
Rear Admiral Ronald Hopwood, The Laws of the Navy

“Farewell Aggie Weston, the barracks at Guz, Hang my tiddley suit on the door, I’m sewn up neat in a canvas sheet, And I shan’t be home no more.”
Charles Causley, The Song of the Dying Gunner, AA1

When M30 arrived in Mudros for the last time on 20 February, 1916, Reliance was still the sole repair ship serving with the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, and, although pressure on her had eased somewhat with the termination of the Gallipoli campaign, there were, nevertheless, many ships needing her assistance. Consequently, while awaiting attention, M30 was sent up harbour to mount an “aerial guard”, a dut y which required that the 6pdr. and the Maxims were manned each day from dawn to dusk. For 15 days bored lookouts and guncrews scanned the empty skies until, on 8 March, M30 made fast alongside the repair ship and, at last, work on her decks could begin after the fore and after 6” guns had been hoisted out. As the main repairs were on apace, M30’s anchor cables were ranged on the foredeck and surveyed, link by link, by Reliance’s blacksmiths, before being turned end for end – a task taking 4 days which peacetime regulations demanded should be carried out every 6 months but one which, under war conditions, had to await a favourable opportunity.

While M30 was alongside Reliance her longest serving crew member, Chief Gunner Martin, who had “stood by” the ship before her launch, was appointed to the Armed Merchant Cruiser Adventure (which was torpedoed in the North Atlantic in June, 1917) and was replaced, temporarily, by Chief Gunner Freeman who had 29 years service behind him. Freeman, whose naval adventures really demand a book devoted to them, (1) was, presumably, seconded to M30 to supervise the re-mounting of the 6” guns for he was aboard for only a fortnight before joining M16, leaving M30’s weapons in the care of Gunner H. Bevan.

By 25 March M30 was ready for action once again and, on that day, crammed with passengers and stores, she sailed for Port Iero to find on arrival in those familiar waters that important organisational changes had been made since her last visit 5 weeks previously. The spry figure of Captain Grant, whose jovial face was well known to everyone aboard, was no longer to be seen striding around the waterfront or seated in his barge as it raced across the harbour, for he had been superceded as SNO by Captain Frank Larken, RN, whose cruiser Doris was moored in the berth from which the squat shape of the ancient Canopus had dominated the anchorage.

Captain Grant had dubbed his command the “Smyrna Patrol” – a nicely descriptive name, officially recognised – but a re-organisation of the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron and a taste for administrative neatness required that the force which Captain Larken inherited should be known by the colourless title of “4th.Detached Squadron.” Such a change in designation meant nothing to M30’s ship’s company, of course; what was important to them was the personality and style of their new leader. The men of Doris, proud of their ship, were quite prepared to boast of their captain’s idiosyncracies on “runs ashore” and, as was often the case in these circumstances, it is probably that there was an elderly AB, tucked away in one of the other ships of the squadron, who claimed, perhaps, to have been bowman of Midshipman Larken’s picket boat and to have taught the “snottie” (2) everything he knew about seamanship. Having followed his protegé’s subsequent career, the old salt, in return for “sippers” (3) was quite prepared to share his knowledge with his messmates and, as yarns and “buzzes” (rumours) passed from ship to ship like wildfire, every sailor in the squadron would soon have been in possession of details of their new commander’s personal and naval life to an extent which would have surprised that officer.

In November, 1914, Captain Larken, “a big man, with a boyish face, an engaging clumsiness, and an abundant sense of humour” (4), was patrolling in Doris off the west coast of Ireland when, to his amazement and delight, he was ordered to leave those stormy waters behind and sail for Alexandria to join Admiral Peirse, CinC, East Indies, whose overriding responsibility at that time was the defence of the Suez canal. With Turkey joining the war on the side of the Central Powers there was a strong possibility that Egypt would be invaded by the troops of the powerful IVth. Army, based in Syria, who would advance on their objective along the ancient coastal road in preference to the more direct, but hazardous, desert route. To counter this move, Doris was despatched to reconnoitre 360 miles of enemy coastline with orders to cut the strategically important Hedjaz railway line and exert pressure on the Turks whenever and wherever opportunity offered. In the course of an extended cruise, crowded with incidents which would have enthralled readers of the Boys’ Own Paper, Captain Larken gave a perfect demonstration, perhaps the last in history, of how a single ship, well commanded and unthreatened by submarines or aircraft, could dominate a hostile coast for as far inland as her guns could reach or the landing parties march. Doris’s shells and demolition charges dismantled a grounded, modern German merchant vessel, derailed trains, destroyed bridges and tunnels, blew up rolling stock, a station and a military barracks, razed telegraph lines and, in a bravura performance, wreaked havoc on the Adana – Constantinople rail link at a point north of Alexandretta. In the face of such a display of naval power the Turks had to abandon the idea of using the coastal road as an invasion route (5) and Captain Larken rejoined his CinC with a Turkish price on his head, some questions to be answered successfully, about possible violations of International Law and with his reputation made.

A recent photo of the southern end of Long Island taken from Cape Aspro  

Captain Larken’s next service of note was performed in March, 1915, in the Gulf of Smyrna when Doris, escorting Gazelle and under heavy fire, shot out searchlights as soon as they were switched on, thus allowing her companion to lay mines close inshore off Pelican Point. During the April landings on the Gallipoli beaches, Doris (with Canopus) was part of the force which was detailed to make a diversionary demonstration off Bulair in the Gulf of Saros and, subsequently she did good work off Anzac. When Bulgaria entered the war “a further stretch of coastline provided opportunities for bombardment” (6) and, on 21 October, 1915, Captain Larken took command of a force which consisted of Doris, the cruiser Theseus, the monitors M16, M19 and M29, together with accompanying destroyers and drifters, which bombarded, with efficiency, an important junction on the Salonica – Adrianople railway link, sited where the line came down to the sea at Dedeagatch. In the spring of 1916, Frank Larken became Senior Naval Officer of a mixed force, including the destroyers Scorpion and Wolverine, whose main task was to “keep a watchful eye on the 150 miles of transport route between Rhodes and Nicaria” (7). Captain Larken’s vigilance impressed Vice Admiral de Robeck, who, faced with orders to run down the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron, did not wish to lose either the commanding officer of Doris or Captain Grant for both of them, he wrote, had “proved themselves wonderfully adaptable in dealing with contraband, smugglers and Greek officials.” (8) But, inevitably, one of them had to go and when Captain Grant was ordered to leave Port Iero to become, eventually, SNO, Gibraltar, it was the competent, experienced Frank Larken who took his place.

The force to which M30 belonged was under new direction and a new name when she returned to Mityleni, but the operational requirements had hardly changed so that the ship was soon on the familiar beat between Tuz Burnu and Cape Hydra. In the course of 2 B Patrols M30 intercepted a Greek steamer (unnamed in the log) and escorted out of the “Protected Area” numerous local craft whose crews, like their counterparts the world over before and since, could not bring themselves to believe that an imaginary line drawn in the sea could keep them from their traditional fishing grounds. However, in the eastern Aegean a fisherman could become a smuggler overnight, making a dash for the Turkish coast so conveniently close at hand, possibly carrying a profitable cargo of soda, an element in the production of high explosives. While patrolling, M30’s Number One, suspecting that the ship’s company had become a little slack during the stay at Mudros, drilled them at Action, Abandon Ship and Collision Stations, had them rigging the cumbersome collision mat (9) and exercised the 6pdr. and Maxim guncrews in firing at a kite streamed from the stern of the ship, thus ensuring that it was an efficiently manned monitor which left Port Iero for Long Island on 7 April to take up, once again, her proper role.

M30’s last sally into the Gulf had been as part of an aggressive, confident force which, with little opposition, had dominated the Smyrna defences, but she was to find on her return that the freedom of action of the ships operating from Long Island had, at last, been seriously challenged. To the Turks ancient Smyrna was of symbolic as well as strategic value “for it was no less dear to Constantinople than is a mother to her daughter” (10) and the February bombardments had been a humiliation, particularly as the base for the participating ships was a small island, part of the homeland, almost within hailing distance of the shores of the Gulf. The influx of reinforcements to oppose the expected landing provided the manpower to take a belated revenge; sweating and straining “Mehmets” (the equivalent of the British “Tommies”) hauled guns over almost roadless, mountainous or marshy country until, eventually, powerful batteries were established commanding Long Island from the east, west and south. The British, although well aware of the increasing enemy activity, were slow to discover the true extent of the build up of Turkish artillery around the Gulf, despite the dedicated work of the 2 RNAS aircraft from Ark Royal’s B Wing (11), which were sent from Tenedos to replace the French machines which had spotted for the earlier bombardments. The preparation of emplacements, and the positioning of guns within them, usually took place at night and the newly mounted batteries were then camouflaged: even if probable gun sites could be pinpointed, it was difficult to ascertain whether weapons were in place and, if so, whether they were manned, for it was often the case that the artillerymen were accommodated in concealed encampments nearby when they were not actually serving their guns.

The men of M30 were aware at once of the changed situation for their ship was despatched immediately, with M32 and accompanied by the motor boats Anzac and California, to attack the Mentessi battery, established on the Gul-Baghche peninsula, which air reconnaissance had shown consisted of 7 guns. M32 had shelled this position on the previous day, coming under heavy fire, but now the Mentessi guns were silent, the Turkish riposte being made by a single weapon, of 6” or larger calibre, mounted at Tres Tepe, to the east of Long Island: it was this gun which, a few days before, had shelled the monitors of the 4th. Detached Squadron out of their usual anchorage in East Bay and forced them to use the less convenient, constricted NW Bay as a temporary refuge.

On 8 April, Captain Larken and Commander Morton Smart travelled to Mudros to report to their CinC that:

“The situation at Long Island is tenable at present, but if the enemy mount heavier artillery to fire on the island, which is very exposed, it may become necessary to evacuate.

In the meantime the monitors stationed in that area will be actively employed in attacking enemy gun positions which may be observed by our airmen, who are most active.” (12)

The SNO’s report defined M30’s new function, which was to fight an increasingly desperate defensive action, the continuance of which must be ascribed to Vice Admiral de Robeck’s determination to keep Turkish troops deployed in an around Smyrna for as long as possible and the reluctance of the Royal Navy to accept defeat.

While Captain Larken was submitting his report in Mudros, an aircraft reconnaissance of the eastern shores of the Gulf had revealed that 2 guns were mounted near Cape Merminji – a new development – and that 2 fresh emplacements, believed to be unmanned as yet, had been constructed alongside the single large calibre weapon at Tres Tepe. Accordingly, M30 was sent to examine the lie of the land at Merminji and to shell Tres Tepe, which she did, firing 34 Lyddite rounds with an aircraft spotting for her. As always, the effectiveness of the monitor’s fire was limited by the flat trajectory of the shells, the enemy guns being mounted in “howitzer country” in broken ground and on the tops of hills. Nevertheless, on the following day, M30 savaged the Merminji battery with success, the observer of the aircraft hovering overhead signalling “OK” for 4 of the 24 rounds firred and the close grouping (a sign of good gunnery) of a further 12 shells which fell within a radius of 50 yards of the target.

At 9.30 a.m. on 10 April, a Greek sentry positioned on the northernmost point of Long Island, claimed to have spotted an enemy submarine. Such sightings, always fanciful, had been frequent ever since the Patrol had been established and no immediate action was taken. However, an hour and a quarter later there was a tremendous explosion in the strait between Chustan and the mainland, the cause of which led to a sharp division of opinion and lively discussion between all and sundry. Had a shell from the enemy detonated on hitting the water as the men of Anzac and the Gunner of the destroyer Chelmer asserted (gunfire had been heard before the main explosion occurred) or had a vessel, underwater or on the surface, struck a mine, as the experienced Commander Morton Smart and other old hands believed? At midnight M30’s lookout sighted oil on the surface of the sea and the ship turned to the north east, upwind, to follow a stinking trail, twice as wide as the monitor’s beam, for 3 ½ miles until, reaching line C of the minefield laid in July, 1915, she had to turn back. Captain Larken had the Greek sentry thoroughly questioned and, after sifting the evidence, came to the conclusion that a German submarine, after penetrating the Gulf, had come to grief on the British minefield. If the SNO was right (post war research suggested that the tin tadpole UB4 was lost in the area at about this time) then it was ironic that, nearly 8 months after the blockade had been set up expressly to prevent Smyrna becoming a submarine base, the first intruder had come from faraway Cattaro not seeking succour and supplies but intending to entrap the blockading ships. (13)

As April progressed worrying reports were received of burgeoning enemy strength, for not only was it clear that the Merminji, Tres Tepe and Mentessi batteries, to the north east, east and south west of Long Island, were being reinforced but that efforts were being made to encircle the British base by siting guns in the fearsome country of the peninsula to the west. Spies reported that 3” and 4” guns were being dragged along the road from Vourlah and Captain Larken stated that:

"Movement has been reported on the Kara Burnu peninsula. If guns are mounted here the island will be commanded on all sides. The place is being closely watched.” (14)

When not spotting for the monitors, reconnoitring suspected guns sites to the east and south, or dropping bombs and propaganda leaflets on enemy positions, the 2 overworked RNAS aircraft (which sometimes spent 9 ½ hours a day in the air) (15) kept a wary eye the the west, despite the SNO’s comment that “the country being so broken up they cannot depend on seeing any earthworks.” (16) In response to a report that emplacements were being constructed near Akharli, to the north of the peninsula, M30 and M16 carried out a careful reconnaissance of the coast, the latter ship coming, unexpectedly, upon a group of soldiers digging trenches being watched intently by a crowd of peasant women and children enthralled by this unusual spectacle staged in their wild country. The chivalrous captain of M16 fired a single 12 pdr.shell “into the blue!, so dispersing the soldiers and innocent bystanders without inflicting casualties.

Major Batteries Mounted to Command Long Island

Although the occasional enemy shell had fallen upon Long Island, usually aimed at the airfield which had been damaged, repaired and improved, it was not until 13 April that a serious attack was made when 20 shells were fired from Mentessi upon Nikola, the village to the south of Chustan which housed the motor boat base and a wireless station. The aim of the Turkish gunners was very poor, there being no casualties and negligible damage, but M30 replied to good effect, firing 40 rounds at the offending battery before steaming away to tackle a gun site near Cape Artex on the Kara Burnu peninsula from which would be mounted, if the Turkish army could establish itself in this most inhospitable countryside, the greatest threat to the continued occupation of the British base established so deep in the hostile Gulf.

M30, M16, M32 and M22, usually operating in pairs, did all that they could to disrupt enemy plans, firing daily at established positions or possible gun sites reported by the weary airmen overhead. It was a cat and mouse game with the monitors and the aircraft making every effort to seek out and destroy the proliferating batteries which the crafty Turk, using each fold and hillock in the ground, hid so effectively. In order to conceal the exact position of the guns, a battery which was attacked rarely responded, retaliation being delivered by guns sited elsewhere.

By her 8th.day on station, M30 had fired over 180 6” shells and was almost out of ammunition when her relief, M32, appeared off NW Bay early in the morning of 15 April, accompanied by Earl of Peterborough (2 12” guns) which had been sent over from Salonica to reinforce the hard pressed 4th.Detached Squadron. From the inception of the blockade of Asia Minor in June, 1915 the greatest Allied effort had been concentrated upon isolating Smyrna and coverage of the remainder of the coastline was maintained by skeletal forces, part French, part British. In April, 1916, Captain Larken’s resources were very stretched for, with important ships committed in the Gulf, he still had to sustain the patrols established by Captain Grant and furthermore, he had been ordered to take over a French sector of the blockade which included the island of Samos to the south.

M30 had an uncomfortable passage back to Port Iero, pitching and yawing in a Force 5 wind blowing from astern. Once stored and ammunitioned the ship provided an aerial guard for the other vessels in the harbour, a duty she performed for 6 days without sighting a hostile aircraft overhead, while the Port and Starboard watches enjoyed a run ashore on alternate days from 1.30 p.m to 6.00 p.m. a limited time for the libertymen, caps “flat aback”, to sample the wares of the local bars. The posting of an aerial guard was not the meaningless gesture it had been in Mudros for the enemy air presence in the Aegean was being strengthened, not to an extent which threatened the safety of the British vessels but to a level which produced an uneasy feeling, new to many sailors, that ships’ movements were being spied upon from the clouds. During the February bombardments, a single German aircraft, flying from Smyrna racecourse, had flitted over Long Island from time to time, on one occasion being driven off by M30’s 6pdr., but now a companion, a Fokker (17) had arrived as had 2 large seaplanes which, when not airborne or rocking gently in the Smyrna harbour swell, were hauled up slipways out of the water. There were other intruders also, flying singly from secret bases, which could keep both Long Island and Port Iero under surveillance. The British command of the air was being challenged and the recommendation was made that “all reconnaissance and spotting flights should be escorted by fast Scout machines” (18) – an aim hard to achieve given the shortage of fighter aircraft and pilots, although 2 Nieuports of Ark Royal’s B Squadron 2 Wing flew to Long Island to protect the vulnerable observation planes.

A confidential Intelligence Summary (19), collating information obtained from aircrews and from agents, written during M30’s brief stay in Port Iero, indicated that the threat to Long Island was mounting. The guns dismounted by the monitors’ fire at Merminji, Tres Tepe and Mentessi had been replaced and the batteries strengthened, while spies claimed (could this possibly have been true?) that 3 guns, 23 ft. long, together with 28 weapons of 3” or 4” calibre and numerous mortars and anti-aircraft cannon, had been conveyed to Vourlah, the gateway to the Kara Burnu peninsula. More reliably, agents stated that 3 of the 5 trains arriving in Smyrna daily were used exclusively to transport troops and ammunition, on one of which had travelled a great hero of Gallipoli, the German general Liman von Sanders. That such an eminent soldier had been appointed to command in the region was a tribute to the work of the Smyrna Patrol and its successor, the 4th.Detached Squadron, and a recognition of the pressure that the British ships exerted on the enemy. Aware of the inefficiency of the Turkish gunners, von Sanders’ first action was to summon 300 German and 150 Austrian artillerymen to man the coastal batteries.

The weather was unkind to the Long Island ships while M30 was at Mityleni but, whenever the wind dropped and the rain clouds dispersed, M32 and Earl of Peterborough hammered away at the Turks. Earl of Peterborough, in a change of tactics, shelled the Smyrna – Constantinople railway line, making 3 direct hits on an important bridge, despite being bombed. This success, alas, did not halt the flow of military traffic for long.

It was to a beleagured island that M30 returned on 24 April to spout defiance, Mentessi being her principal target, the battery sometimes being engaged while the monitor was moored head and stern in NW Bay. More guns had been mounted at Foujes (to the north east of Chustan) and to the east north east of Tres Tepe, and it was while bombarding these sites that M30 “drew fire”, as the log records, both from the batteries challenged and from “an unknown position” (20): 8” and 6” rounds were fired without hits being made on the British ship.

Air observers continued to report that the enemy was busy constructing earthworks on the Kara Burnu peninsula although they could not tell whether these were armed or manned. It was to fire from the west that NW Bay – “the last peaceful anchorage remaining on the island (21)” – was most vulnerable and, for 3 consecutive days, M30’s 6” guns probed the broken ground, with an aircraft spotting overhead, in an attempt to delay the inexorable advance of Turkish heavy artillery which would, finally, bring Long Island under fire from all sides.

The enemy guns, sited along the southern shore of the Gulf, which had survived the February bombardments had been almost silent since that time (undoubtedly many of them had been moved north nearer the Long Island base) but there were several occasions on which British ships were shelled by weapons in an unidentified location, and there was the possibility that this site was at Kirizman where aircraft observers had reported a freshly mounted battery. On 29 April, while the ship was anchored in NW Bay, M30’s guns fired at the Kirizman armaments and this must have been the incident that Lt.Cdr.Lockyer had in mind when he told Keble Chatterton that his vessel “was able, at a range of 22,000 yards, to shell the entrance to Smyrna harbour and knock out a couple of guns” (22), although the distant battery was 7,300 yds. (over 3 ½ nautical miles) beyond the official maximum reach of the Mark XII 6” weapons with which the monitor was fitted. M30’s log and a report from the SNO confirm the target without mentioning the range but the distance from ship to battery, as measured on the Admiralty Chart in use in 1916, is certainly all of that mentioned by the ship’s commanding officer. It is known that, on occasion, a ship fitted with bulges would flood one of them, listing the vessel to one side and thus increasing the elevation and range of her guns, but M30 had no bulges and her log does not reveal how her 6” weapons were persuaded to fire their shells over such a prodigious distance.

Captain Larken, like his predecessor, Captain Grant, and many of his contemporaries, had a natural pugnacity born of the days when the superiority of the Royal Navy was universally acknowledged, and he planned several attacks “to alarm the enemy” (23), one of which took place during the night of 29/30 April. This action, probably designed to force the Turks to reveal whether heavy guns were mounted on the Kara Burnu peninsula, began with the destroyer Chelmer and the motorboat Anzac laying calcium flares between Chustan and Cape Aspro in the light of which M22 shelled “the supposed position” of a battery to the west, while Chelmer’s 12 pdr. provoked a lively encounter with a group of enemy light quick firing guns sited along the shoreline. Both ships the moved round to the east of Long Island and, while shelling Tres Tepe, came under fire from a battery “whose position could not be estimated.” (24) Meanwhile, M30 was bombarding Mentessi with the enemy guns replying although, in the darkness, no shell splashes were seen. Previously, an alert Greek guard had intercepted an enemy heliograph message ordering troops to evacuate Mentessi an hour after sunset and several attempts were made this, perhaps, being one of them, to lay down a curtain of fire behind the battery in the hope that the Turkish gunners would be caught asleep in their tents.

The Turkish command, irritated by the time and energy expended in transporting heavy guns over the untamed Kara Burnu peninsula, devised an audacious plan to carry weapons and ammunition by the direct water route from Smyrna to Cape Aspro. This seemed to be a scheme doomed to fail given that the southern Gulf was patrolled each night by one of Morton Smart’s motor boats, often accompanied by a destroyer and sometimes by a monitor as well, but, lit only by the light of the new moon, an old tug towing 2 large lighters left Smyrna harbour in the early evening of 3 May and, taking a circuitous route,arrived undetected off Cape Aspro in the dark hours of the next morning. Amazingly, this feat was repeated during the night of the 4/5 May and the guns delivered, including Austrian howitzers, were mounted, heavily camouflaged, in the emplacements which had been prepared for them. On their first sally the tug and her charges were observed leaving Smyrna harbour but a search by Chelmer failed to find the vessels and it was assumed, wrongly, that this unusual waterborne venture was undertaken to carry stores to Mentessi. (25)

M30 left NW Bay for Port Iero during the morning of 5 May, leaving M32 and M16 to fire a handful of shells at the gun pits on Cape Aspro, Lt.Cdr.Denny of M16 reporting that :

“I did not fire more as air observer was not certain that emplacements were occupied with guns, Doris (26) having ordered only a few rounds unless emplacements were seen to be occupied. This as it turned out, was bad luck, as it was these guns that shelled us out of NW anchorage next morning.” (27)

At 5.15 a.m. on 6 May, with the ring of steel encircling Long Island completed, the heavy guns on Cape Aspro opened fire for the first time, aiming 50 or so 8” shells, and countless rounds of a lesser calibre, at the ships in NW Bay and the installations established at what was called North End. Mary Rose, Chelmer, M32 and M16 were quickly under way, the last named slipping her stern anchor to be picked up later, and steamed off to the northward, zigzagging and making smoke. M16 was soon straddled and replied to her assailants with the single 9.2” gun mounted on the foredeck, the ship having to yaw, first to starboard and then to port, to give the gun crew a clear sight of their target. Having cleared Long Island, Chelmer steered to the east to be brought under heavy fire by the guns of Tres Tepe, extricating herself from a difficult situation with help from M16. The aircraft of the RNAS, with their base under bombardment, quickly joined the fray, mounting bombing attacks on the Asprokavo battery and, to add to the tension, a message was received from the Commandant of Long Island stating that enemy landings were being made on Chustan from the east and the west. Captain Larken, already on his way from Port Iero in Kennet to assess the new situation, received the Commandant’s signal and putting on speed, his ship and Welland completed a circuit of the British base without finding any evidence of an enemy invading force. At a subsequent post mortem it was found that the false alarm originated with a report from an imaginative guard who, sighting a tug in Gul-Baghche Bay, was convinced that a Turkish armada had put to sea. (28)

Lt.Cdr.. Lockyer (2nd from R.) confers with RNAS aircrews outside their mess on Long Island a few days before his ship was sunk  

There was some relief for the ships using the Gulf and the garrison of Long Island on 7 May, as bad weather limited enemy bombardments but, thereafter, there were sporadic daily attacks. The monitors, denied East Bay, could now no longer use NW Bay as an anchorage except for brief periods at night and event then, it was much wiser to lie off 3 or 4 miles and use a boat or a drifter to transfer stores. At some point in the difficult week which followed the opening shots fired from Cape Aspro, Vice Admiral de Robeck sent a message to Long Island which was intended to stiffen the sinews of the men of the garrison, particularly those of the untrained Greek soldiers who, while being quite ready to meet the Turk in hand to hand combat, did not relish being exposed to artillery fire to which they could not reply. The signal read:

“I trust that you fully realise the importance of maintaining your post at Long Island. By doing so you are doing the most valuable service, your presence being a thorn in the side of the enemy and a menace which is causing him the greatest anxiety. Make yourself good dugouts and use every effort to secure your post. You will receive good support whenever necessity should arise.” (29)

The last of M30’s monthly logs held by the Public Record Office is that for April, 1916, so that it not possible to give the exact date on which the ship left Port Iero for the last time, but she was certainly back in the firing line by 12 May for Sub Lieutenant Portal, an RNAS observer, (30) wrote in his diary on that day:

“Spotting M30 on Aspro 1 & 4. Gun in emplacement at 1 hit and lost to view. Shot at us from Aspro as we came in and pitched shell within 15 yards of us as we came down valley.”

Stoker Walter Gillard, RN, who lost his life in M30, had served in Beatty's flagship Lion during battles of the Heligoland Bight and the Dogger Bank.

Early in the evening of 13 May, M30 met drifter 445, which was lying 4 miles NNE of Chustan Point, the northernmost tip of Long Island, laden with stores brought from Port Iero – bombs, cased petrol and paraffin – for the aviators ashore. The drifter was under orders to assist in the pre-arranged evacuation of Kilsali, a small island away to the south, and having transferred her dangerous cargo to M30, steamed off on her mission, accompanied by the motor gunboat Penelope. As M30 headed for NW Bay, her lookout noticed a green Very light ascending over Cape Aspro and this was followed by gunfire aimed at the destroyer Welland which was then rounding Chustan Point. But M30 herself was soon to be the target for, as she came to anchor, 2 shells landed within 50 yds. of her, forcing Lt.Cdr.Lockyer to take his ship out again to stand offshore. When all was quiet once more, M30 crept back to the anchorage and, while the cutter was landing the inflammable stores, RNAS aircrew came aboard to discuss the future firing programme. However, at 9.30 p.m, the conference was interrupted by the arrival of more well directed enemy shells, which fell even closer to the little monitor than their predecessors, so that the airmen were bundled ashore, the order “Up Anchor” was given and M30 steamed off towards the Kara Burnu peninsula, zigzagging violently and leaving the cutter to be picked up later. The invisible hostile gunners responded accurately to every abrupt change of course, their 10th shell shooting away M30’s W/T aerials and the 12th penetrating the monitor’s deck on the port side amidships, piercing the oil tank, wrecking the port engine and boiler, holing the ship’s bottom, killing 2 stokers instantly and mortally wounding 2 others. (31) M30 was now in a desperate situation, lying motionless under the enemy guns and illuminated by the flames which sprang up when escaping oil met the hot boiler fire bars.

At about 10.00 p.m. Morton Smart’s motor boat California came alongside, ignoring M30’s heavy list and the raging fires, to take off the wounded Surgeon Lt.Bates and 48 men together with the Secret and Confidential Books. Lt.Commander Lockyer kept back a party (the entire ship’s company had volunteered to stay with him) to shore up bulkheads and prepare the ship for towing by the Welland, which had now arrived upon the scene, but ultimately, with the Turkish gunners still firing accurately and the whole area lit by leaping flames, he decided not to put the destroyer at risk in carrying out such a dangerous task and he ordered her to stand off in safety. More ratings were now ordered to leave the ship, which they did in Carley rafts, leaving only the 3 executive officers, the gunner, the coxswain and a leading signalman aboard to flood the magazines and shell rooms, cast the “ready use” ammunition (stored around the guns) into the sea and let go the anchors on a short scope of cable, it having been decided to allow M30, driven by the current to bring up in the shallows where there was a faint chance that the fires could be extinguished and the ship saved. Eventually, the last few intrepid men left aboard the stricken monitor were compelled to take the skiff by the searing heat of the decks and they watched helplessly from the shelter of rocks ashore (6pdr.ammunition was exploding) as their ship, decks awash and ablaze fore and aft, ran aground 200 yds. from the southern beach of NW Bay. With hopes of a return to the ship dashed, Lt.Cdr.Lockyer and his weary companions made their way in the skiff to Chustan Point where they were picked up by M22 and despatched by drifter to Port Iero. (32)

In his report to the SNO, 4th.Detached Squadron, on the loss of his ship (33). Ltd.Cdr. Lockyer stated that the “conduct of all on board had been exemplary” and he mentioned each of his officers:

“Lt.F.C.Hanna, RN. Entered engine room after shell had burst there and assisted in the removal of wounded men.

Sub Lt.D.S.Muir, RNR. Took charge of Chronometer and Hack Watch and removed remainder of Confidential papers from my cabin. Also connected up hand steering gear aft in the dark.

Surgeon H.J.Bates,R.N Transferred the wounded men to California and materially relieved their sufferings under most difficult circumstances.

H.F.Bevan, Gunner,RN. Made certain by actual inspection that an adequate supply of water was entering through the Flood Valves of Magazines and Shell Room.

Of the named volunteers (34) who stayed aboard M30 after the remainder of the ship’s company were taken off by California, 3 received special commendations:

Shipwright Saunter and Stoker Petty Officer Bryan who “assisted in recovering wounded from the engine room” and Leading Signalman Hawtin who “assisted in removing Confidential books and papers, and made signals as ordered under difficult conditions.” Nor did outside help go unremarked for Lt.Cdr.Lockyer brought to Captain Larken’s notice “the most seamanlike manner in which HM Gunboat California came alongside under shell fire” and “the rapidity with which HMTB Welland picked up M30’s cutter and 2 Carley rafts and their crews.”

M30 afterCaptain Carvers's demolition charges had done their work.  

Despite being wrecked and stranded, M30 was not to be left undisturbed and, on 16 May, Captain Edward Carver, RN, the Eastern Mediterranean Squadron’s salvage expert (35) with 1 other officer and 11 men, landed on the east side of Long Island and “after a fearful cross country walk in seaboots, carrying tools, etc.” (36) managed to obtain a boat and get out to the ship. It was evident at once that the monitor could not be raised but it was unthinkable that any warlike or useful stores should be left for the Turk to loot so the salvage party set to work to save what they could. Toiling at night from 8.30 p.m. to 3.30 a.m. in surprisingly cold water, and sometimes silhouetted by a new installed enemy searchlight at Murdovan, Captain Carver and his men succeeded in removing M30’s guns (complete with breech mechanisms and sights), her anchors and cables and many other valuable items: each morning, before dawn, a motor lighter arrived from Port Iero to carry away the treasures rescued during the preceding night. Unaware of the salvage party’s activities (Captain Carver replaced the guns he removed with dummy weapons), the enemy, surprisingly, did not fire upon the beached M30, apart from putting a single shell through her foremost gunshield. It was not consistent with naval pride that even a ravaged hull should be left to rejoice the Turks and so on 28 May, before he left for Port Iero, Captain Carver placed 100lb. Demolition charges in M30’s after magazine and shell room and blew the ship up, her destruction being “very complete “ as Captain Larken commented with evident satisfaction. So died a gallant little ship.

The fires have died out: M30, aground, awaits the salvage party.

While the salvage party was at work the general situation on Long Island was deteriorating rapidly. On 16 May, an RNAS aircraft was destroyed on the ground and further excellent shooting by the enemy pockmarked the runway with shell holes so that 2 days later it was decided to abandon the Long Island strip and continue the flight from the air from Thermi on Mityleni. It was from this base that an attack was mounted on Smyrna railway station, and an adjoining barracks, on 24 May when, after the first bombs had fallen, all the lights of the city were extinguished. Interspersed with the bombs were leaflets which read:

“If you continue to fire on Long Island and ships communicating with the Island this attack will be repeated. Hitherto we have refrained from attacking Smyrna out of consideration for a large Turkish population with whom we have no quarrel.” (37)

This propaganda exercise stimulated rather than deterred the enemy and, on the day following the air raid, over 100 shells were fired at Chustan from Mentessi and Asprokavo, causing little physical damage but striking at the morale of the garrison.

During the last days of the allied occupation of Long Island a formidable naval force was assembled to mount a terminal defence: M18, M22, M33 (M30’s replacement), Earl of Peterborough and, latterly, the bulged cruiser Grafton(whose 10 6” guns were a welcome reinforcement but whose draft did not allow her to operate in the shallows) criss-crossed the Gulf, filling the air with the sound of fury. But the Turks were not to be denied; helpless under continual bombardment the inexperienced Greek soldiers of the garrison “chucked their hands in “ (38) and, finally, the inevitable decision was taken to abandon Long Island, a well organised covert withdrawal taking place during the nights of 26, 27 and 28 May. To foster the illusion that Chustan was still occupied, a small party landed on the island every night for a week after the evacuation had taken place, lighting fires in the bakeries and cook houses so that, as in former times, wisps of smoke emerged from the chimneys at dawn each day: and, moreover, a small, elusive ketch maintained the nightly ferry service carrying imaginary stores to a phantom garrison. Fooled by these measures, and others, hostile gunners rained shells on a deserted base until, deceived no longer, the enemy command organised an expeditionary force, carried in boats from Gul-Baghche Bay, which landed on Long Island on 14 June, 1916, to return it, after many anxious months, to Turkish rule.


1. Thomas Freeman joined the Navy in 1887 as a Boy Seaman and retired 34 years later as a Lt.Commander. The only copy of his memoirs was destroyed by a fire at the printers and so we are deprived of a lively account (on the evidence provided by the few surviving pages) of life in a variety of interesting ships, includng the monitor M16. (Information provided by John Freeman of N.Chailey, E.Sussex)
2. Naval slang for Midshipman.
3. The regulations imposed to ensure that a sailor consumed the whole of his daily “tot” himself as soon as it was issued were widely evaded and the rum ration was often shared with an obliging messmate, the amount he was allowed to drink being measured on an informal scale, ranging from “sippers” to “drainers”, which reflected the importance of the service rendered.
4. Usborne. “Smoke on the Horizon.”
5. For their unsuccessful attack on the Suez canal in February, 1915, the Turks used the difficult central route.
6. Buxton. “Big Gun Monitors.”
7. Cunningham. “Naval Odyssey.”
8. Vice Admiral de Robeck to First Sea Lord as quoted in “The Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918” (Ed.P.Halpern) published by the Navy Records Society.
9. The Collision Mat was intended to halt, temporarily, the rush of water through a hole made in a ship below the waterline and consisted of a large square of “thrumbed” canvas, i.e. lengths of yarn were pulled through at regular intervals, which was lowered, with difficulty, over the side to cover the underwater gash. 10. Keble Chatterton. “Seas of Adventure.”
11. After being confined to harbour by the appearance of U boats in the Mediterranean, Ark Royal became a depot ship for land based aircraft. ADM 137/364 XC1173 p296.
12. This account is taken from ADM 137/364 XC1173 p362 & p363 & M30’s log.
13. ADM 137/364 XC1173 p312.
14. Ibid p434
15. Ibid p363.
16. Aircraft identification not being an exact science in WW1 enemy machines of all types were liable to be labelled as “Fokkers”, the best known of the German planes.
17. ADM 137/365 XC11693 p111.
18. ADM 137/364 XC1173 p437.
19. Ibid p466.
20. Ibid p366.
21. Keble Chatterton. “Seas of Adventure.”
22. ADM 137/364 XC1173 p466.
23. ADM 137/365 XC11693 p30.
24. Ibid. p36.
25. In the RN a commanding officer was, and is, often referred to by the name of his ship so in this case Doris means Captain Larken.
26. ADM 137/365 XC11693 p37.
27. Ibid. p35.
28. Quoted in a written statement by Sub Lt.Portal, RNAS, entitled “Long Island, May 1916” a copy of which is held by the Liddle Collection, Brotherton Library, Leeds University.
29. Sub Lt.Portal (later Admiral Sir Reginald Portal) was an observer with Ark Royal’s B Squadron, No.2 Wing, who arrived on Long Island from Tenedos on 5 May; his diary is held by the Liddle Collection.
30. The 4 bodies were taken to Port Iero and, after a service conducted by Captain Larken in Doris, were taken aboard trawler 706 and buried at sea.
31. This description of the loss of M30 is taken from the account Lt.Cdr.Lockyer gave to Keble Chatterton (quoted in “Seas of Adventure) and from his official report (ADM 7 509).
32. ADM 7 509.
33. CPO S.Collings, ERA L.Shinnard, PO J.Atcheson, Shipwright C.Saunter, Stoker PO G.Bryan, Ldg.Seaman B.Bough, Ldg.Signalman W.Hawtin, Ldg.Seaman E.Boys, AB A.Wylie, AB W.Austin, AB R.Rousay, Pte.E.Munslow, RMLI,Pte.A Remmos, RMLI.
34. In his autobiography, the Earl of Cork and Orrery mentions a Dartmouth contemporary who, appointed to command Torch in the Far East, was so disgusted by the state of his ship that he sent a stinging letter to the Admiralty accompanied by a piece of rotten wood from the vessel’s bottom. Dismissed his ship by enraged superiors this officer left the Service in a huff and made a new home in Canada in a house he called “Rotten Bottom Torch” before re-appearing on the Gallipoli beaches “where he earned a great reputation for an unlimited vocabulary and great skill in salvage work.” Was this gentleman Capt. Carver?
35. Keble Chatterton. “Seas of Adventure.”
36. Sub Lt.Portal. “Long Island, May, 1916.”
37. Sub Lt.Portal’s diary.

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