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Need to repack British transports before Gallipoli landing


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#1 RodB

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 12:05 AM

Peter Hart in his book "Gallipoli" appears to have a go at perceived incompetence in the way transports were packed before the 25 April landings : "...so it was that Hamilton's army came together: troops from all over the world, thrown together with no planning or forethought, as symbolised by the packing of the transports with the various units broken up on different ships and their equipment randomly intertwined below decks. A diversion via the Egyptian ports was essential so they could sort themselves out in a more logical fashion".

I seem to remember reading somewhere that this was a result of those responsible for logistics not being correctly informed of the precise requirements for the landings and how quickly various units with supplies and weapons needed to be deployed, rather than incompetence. I understand that the ships were packed in the most efficient manner for a traditional campaign requiring everything to be methodically landed followed by a period of buildup and consolidation before active operations commenced - such as had occurred in South Africa. Whereas Hamilton wanted some units and their equipment and weapons to go into action on an opposed coast immediately on landing : in which case presumably you want all the immediately needed stuff available for speedy unloading in the order you expect to need it. In which case either Hamilton didn't make clear to the logistics wallahs what his requirements were, they failed to ask, or didn't listen - it certainly wasn't random chaos, they packed for a different type of campaign, the only kind up until then. This was the first modern campaign where troops were expected to land on a hostile shore and immediately fight their way inland with all manner of supplies, equipment and arms closely following - a new type of warfare that was not perfected until D-Day, with infinitely more resources allocated.

thoughts anybody ? Anybody know exactly what the differences were between the two modes of packing and/or why the specific needs for an opposed landing and breakout were not incorporated into the first loading plan ?

#2 b3rn

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 03:26 AM

Was just reading The Royal Engineers Corps History (Vol VI) -

"Incredible as it may seem, it was not until 11th March that the General Staff was informed that any large military operations in the Dardanelles were contemplated. On 12th March, Sir Ian Hamilton learned that he was to command the expedition, and next day, with his Chief of Staff and a few General Staff offciers, he left England. For over a fortnight he had no "A' or "Q" staff officers with him, nor any engineer officer. Events were to prove that his arrival at the Dardanelles was not an hour too soon, but the separation of his staff caused by this hurried departure was a misfortune from which the force never quite recovered..."

Regarding the transports reloaded at Alexandria, a section is quoted from the Official History - Military Operations, Gallipoli, Vol. I, p.116 - excerpt below:

"In the hurry of embarkation in England the contents of the transports had been even more intermixed than was at first realized, and there was no alternative to completely unloading every ship. One of the infantry battalions of the 29th Division, for instance, had been embarked in four different vessels. Units had been separated from their first line transport, wagons from their horses; guns had been loaded in one vessel, their ammunition in a second and, in some cases, the necessary fuses in a third. For a whole week, the ammunition of the 29th Division's ammunition column could not be traced at all..."

There is a section on Mudros, how it was never intended as an advanced base and was not suited to the role given it after Triumph and Majestic were torpedoed, and no ocean-going craft were permitted beyond Lemnos - "...cargoes would be transferred to smaller vessels in its harbour ... the complete tonnage of maintenance stores and supplies was to be handled at least twice ... ships often took six or eight weeks to discharge ... and furthermore even when cargoes had been unloaded the items required by the troops could not be sorted out so as to be reloaded for transshipment in smaller vessels ... moreover the one method by which cargoes might have been handled more quickly - adequate tugs and lighters - were also lacking." Work on piers began in earnest in July 1915, the Corps History lists the piers built and in use by December 1915.

#3 truthergw

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 08:11 AM

There was nothing new about ships being badly loaded. There are reports of similar muddle when troops first went to France. The fact that ships could be loaded properly in Egypt and with the experience of similar errors and their effects in F&F less than a year before implies to me a degree of ineptitude somewhere along the chain.

#4 healdav

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:31 AM

Don't forget that there is an awful lot of difference between normal commercial style loading and combat loading.

In the first the objective is to get as much on board the ship as possible with only a sorting by destination i.e. ports en route.

In the second, the objective is to ut together everything that will operate together and make it as easy as possible to unload.

It is inevitable that changing from the first to the second will produce seeming chaos.

Logistics was far from as sophisticated then as it is now, and no one had ever - at least not really since the time of the Normans - tried an opposed landing on a coast. And the Normans basically came ashore with pretty much everything they required, except for food, in their hands - bows, lances, swords.

Considering that this had never been done before they made a pretty good fist of it.

You could equally wwell ask why no one had invented the landing craft, which would have made an enormous difference. In fact, I think I am right in saying that as a result of Gallipoli experience, Churchill made a poit of writing about creating Mulberries and building landing craft. So it was not a complete disaster.

Incidentally, it is generally agreed that the most important part of amphibious landings, and one which permitted them to be so successful in the Pacific was the DUKW (Swam and moved on land, could take troops and supplies). Who is going to be the first to demand to know why they didn't invent that before Gallipoli?

#5 PMHart

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 09:53 AM

I seem to remember reading somewhere that this was a result of those responsible for logistics not being correctly informed of the precise requirements for the landings and how quickly various units with supplies and weapons needed to be deployed, rather than incompetence.


The incompetence was that of those responsible for doing the informing....

Pete

#6 Waggoner

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:19 AM

Actually, the British had been quite skilled at amphibious landings - unfortunately they had forgotten those skills by the time the First World War had started. It is also true that the Logisticians frequently bear the brunt of the blame for problems created by poor staff planning! In a perfect world, the battle plan would have been made in time for the ships to have been loaded in the correct fashion - either assault or administrative. When this does not happen, the normal procedure is to stop at an intermediate port so the loads can be reconfigured. This is what appears to have occured here.
All the best,
Gary

#7 truthergw

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 11:51 AM

I don't follow that argument. There was never any doubt as to why the soldiers were going to Gallipoli. They were to make an armed assault on a defended beach. It was possible to load the ships for the best effect towards that end. Surely it should have been done in England? I grant that this was only one instance of incompetence out of many but it is hard to deny that it was incompetent.

#8 michaeldr

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 01:11 PM

It's important to remember the time-line here

Per Stair Gillon's history of the 29th Division “embarkation...began on the 15th and ended on the 19th March. The GOC and his staff sailed on the Andania late on the evening of the 17th.”
i.e; before the naval attack of the 18th March, which ended in failure and ensured that the army would have to make an opposed landing.

Later Gillon says 'At Alexandria the troops had to be reshuffled into transports, so as to conform to the general plan of invasion, which had been worked out during the voyage.'
They appear to have sailed, and then the objective changed en route.

The OH (Vol. I, p.104) has the decisive date as being 27th March
“On the 27th March, when a military landing in force was finally agreed upon.....”

#9 PMHart

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Posted 25 April 2012 - 07:51 PM

Hi,

The ships were not being loaded to make an armed landing direct. They would land from strings of rowing boats towed by small steamers. The River Clyde was a later addition to the landing plans and a 'special case'. They were bound for Mudros which did not have any any port facilities - hence they needed to reorganize at Alex. Units and equipment were split up across several ships which could not be rectified in the open bay at Mudros. It made no real difference to the results of the campaign and is one of the favourite 'red herrings' deployed by Churchill's fawning acolytes.

Pete

#10 michaeldr

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 07:23 AM

It is worth having a look at 'Defeat at Gallipoli: The Dardanelles – Part II 1915-1916' republished by The Stationery Office in 2000 as part of their Uncovered Editions series. Pages 41 – 45 are devoted to this subject.

“No special instructions were given in the first instance as to how the transports should have been packed. The reason for this was that the exact use to be made of the troops was not decided, and no plan of operations had been prepared. The ordinary principles which govern embarkation in the absence of special instructions therefore applied............................
On the whole we think that, though there may have been instances of bad stowage, the real reason for the extensive repacking was the absence of knowledge of the operations for which the embarkation was required, and that the embarkation officers at the ports of loading were not to blame.
At first sight the delay caused by this repacking and the change of base from Lemnos to Egypt appears serious, but on examination we think that the effect was very slight.”

With regards to RodB's question in his opening post - 'Anybody know exactly what the differences were between the two modes of packing'
p.42 has “We were informed by the Director of Movements that the principles are:
[1] To split up units as little as possible
[2] To ensure that, when units are split up, the ships on which they are embarked should sail on the same day, or on dates as near each other as possible
[3] To embark troops in such a way that they should be able to take to the field at once on disembarkation.
He explained however that these principles cannot always be adhered to, especially in the matter of sending men and their transport together. Many transports, especially the larger ship, some of which were used in this instance, are not fitted to carry animals or vehicles..............”

As well as the use of ships not suitable for animal and vehicles, there is also mention that “..it must be remembered that at Liverpool, where part of the force embarked, there were considerable troubles as to dock labour; that this was the first long sea embarkation that had been undertaken by the officers in charge...”

#11 RodB

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Posted 26 April 2012 - 10:46 AM

Thank you all gentlemen. In view of all the difficulties, and

"No special instructions were given in the first instance as to how the transports should have been packed. The reason for this was that the exact use to be made of the troops was not decided, and no plan of operations had been prepared. The ordinary principles which govern embarkation in the absence of special instructions therefore applied............"

and
"They appear to have sailed, and then the objective changed en route.
The OH (Vol. I, p.104) has the decisive date as being 27th March
“On the 27th March, when a military landing in force was finally agreed upon.....” "

: I think the logistics people did bloody well to deliver what they did : horses, mules, water, ammo, mountain guns, basic medical support : all coming ashore by the end of the first day. and shortly followed by field guns and howitzers, tents, food, cooking facilities, water purifiers, field surgeries etc. etc. and all the ammo that was made available.

#12 bob lembke

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 01:05 PM

I understand that the detour and reloading cost a month. I have closely followed the Central Powers' activity at Gallipoli (my father fought there with the Turkish Army), and a month's delay was vital, not long before, the construction of the defenses of the Dardanelles was amazingly directed by a British admiral, who not surprisingly was not very energetic or effective, and in the days and weeks before the landing the Germans were madly directing and implementing the preperation of the defenses, rounding up material, weapons, and scarce shell; for example, the defences at the Black Sea, where the Russians threatened, were stripped of much of their coastal defense shells to be shipped to Gallipoli.

That month was crucial.

Perhaps poor staff work, and even more accurately poor political high-level decision-making, making it difficult to good staff work in a very limited time frame.

Bob Lembke

#13 michaeldr

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 03:00 PM

Bob,

I think that you have hit the nail on the head there!
To the Entente Powers it may not have made much difference or as the Dardanelles Commission put it - the effect was very slight.

However, to the Central Powers and their new comrade-in-arms Turkey, this time was invaluable

Per Liman - “The British gave me four full weeks before their great landing. They had sent part of their troops to Egypt … The time was just sufficient to complete the most indispensable arrangements and to bring the 3rd Division under Colonel Nicolai from Constantinople.”

Per Kannengiesser - “... the transports had been loaded in series with similar material troops, wagons and horses etc., all separately. This may be an excellent method looked at from a business point of view, but from a military standpoint it is, to put it mildly, not understandable. An unravelling of this puzzle was impossible in the limited space available on the Islands. The ships were forced to go to Alexandria to tranship. Valuable time was lost, which was of the utmost assistance to us. Almost the whole of April was gone before Hamilton finally had his landing corps ready collected before the Dardanelles.”

Quote: Perhaps poor staff work, and even more accurately poor political high-level decision-making, making it difficult to good staff work in a very limited time frame.

Right!
The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, was apparently also known as 'Kitchener of Chaos'. His decision to withhold the 29th Division for several weeks cannot have helped any planing for their departure, shipping or deployment.
The history of the RASC (Vol.2) by Col Beadon gives the example of 3 ton lorries, the standard vehicle on the WF. These were originally ordered for the 29th Div. “But the Intelligence Branch of the Staff not having been informed that military operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula were contemplated could not say whether the roads were at that season fit ...” As a compromise 30 cwt (1˝ ton) lorries were decided upon."
“...many months afterwards ...it was known that General Maxwell, who was commanding in Egypt, had informed Lord Kitchener on the 7th March that 'all our information indicates that there are no roads … it therefore seems that pack transport is necessary."

regards
Michael

#14 horatio2

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 03:59 PM

The RMLI battalions of the RND, who might have been expected to have some experience of organising landings from the sea, were similarly stymied by an early departure from UK and the "order, counter-order, disorder" generated by the higher command. As General Blumberg puts it:

" A great deal has been written about the unpreparedness with which the 29th and Royal Naval Divisions were embarked in their transports for the Gallipoli Expedition, but this did not altogether apply to the Royal Marine Brigade [of the RND]. It was known that they were to be employed with the Fleet, probably in landing parties, so that it was arranged, after some difficiulty with the Transport Department, that each battalion should be embarked as a complete unit, with its officers, transport, etc. [Note that Plymouth and Chatham Battalions RND embarked for the Dardanelles on 6 February 1915, weeks before any other units.] This was also the case with the Portsmouth and Deal Battalions [RND], for whom the arrangements were also made by the Adjutant-General, Royal Marines, when they were ordered to the Rufigi River, East Africa. ... This expedition was cancelled ... and they were diverted to the Dardanelles."

The bulk of the RND embarked for the MEF at the end of February 1915. They led by a fortnight the units of 29th Division, so had even less notice of the way things were likely to develop. Small wonder that they arrived less than well-prepared and not loaded for an Army Corps-strength, opposed amphibious landing.

#15 Martin G

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Posted 27 April 2012 - 06:25 PM

It didn't improve much as the campaign progressed. The accounts from the 10 Irish Div, 11th Northern Div and the 2nd Mounted Div's moves appear to be pretty disorganised and wrapped in confusion with units split up, separated from kits, transport, confusion over what to take etc.. I believe the balance between secrecy and advanced warning erred on the side of caution, so, rather like the fighting, many of the units (and the logistics teams that had to execute the moves) had very little time to prepare for their moves. Also I would have thought reorganising an invasion force at Mudros (even if it were possible) might have given the game away, so Alexandria would have been preferable for a whole host of reasons. What the modern military would describe as battle prep - getting the right men in the right place at the right time with the right equipment and the right orders and the right objectives was rather lacking at every level - certainly at Suvla by all accounts. I dont recall seeing any account suggesting that the logistics and time allowed for planning were in any way adequate, except perhaps for the evacuation.

Personally I think their lack of experience in this type of operation was the main factor. Skills that had either been lost or forgotten or diluted as the small standing army expanded must have been a factor. Many of the men at Gallipoli (outside the 29th Div and the RND) had been civilians a year before, having spent a significant part of their training in England for land operations. A heavy mixture of Kitchener's Army and Territorials with the bare minimum of training in overseas amphibious operations. I believe the RND provided beach parties for the Suvla Landings in an attempt to make things run smoothly. Until the arrival of the K Lighters, I don't think there were many specialist vessels.

The K Lighters provide a much smaller scale example of what could go wrong when the logistics are not properly thought through: during the landing of the 11th Northern Div on the night of the 6th August and the morning of 7th August, the 34th Inf Bde's K Lighters grounded 100-200 yards, too close to the Lala Baba stronghold with disastrous consequences - mainly because they were incorrectly packed. The heavy reserve ammunition boxes had been packed at the sterns to keep the propellers in the water as they were being loaded with men - too much so as they were not properly trimmed even when fully loaded with men. When the sterns grounded, the bows were so high up that the ramps would not even touch the water and the first men off the Lighters went under, some of them drowning in 6' of water. Only due to the heroic actions of some (taller) Officers and men (and in two cases the COs of two battalions) did they manage to get a rope ashore and allow men to haul themselves in. Many could not swim and were heavily laden with kit - the 11th Manchesters losing an MG in 6' of water in the process - all this done at night under rifle-fire, and all due to poor loading practices (as well as poor navigation). This incident suggests to me either inadequate training (did they practice with fully loaded K Lighters ?) or lack of expertise. Either way it was one of the many things that went wrong that night, losing any element of surprise and delivering fewer men in the right place in the right condition. It took many hours before the weapons were all in a sufficient state to be used and in the case of the surviving MG of the 11th Manchesters involved it being completely stripped and reassembled (and urinated on) whilst under fire before it came into action. The ammunition belts also had to be dried out before they could be used, further delaying any heavy MG support available on Kiretch Tepe within the added consequence of greater casualties and a slower advance. The determination of the 11th Manchesters in these conditions is another story in itself and more remarkable when one realises this was their first ever day in action and the first large scale use of Kitchener's Army in the assault. The heroics of the Bn signals officer exposing himself to fire on a few occasions to semaphore to the RN and getting a boat landed with ammunition being one mitigating factor. Arguably their plight could in some large part be traced back to poor logistics and packing. The knock-on effects were even greater - the grounded Lighters not being able to return fast enough to get the other half of the 34th Inf Bde ashore in before daybreak, meaning alternative landing spots needed to be found and consequently units were split up....A example of what we now call a hinge factor.

I recall reading elsewhere of the shambles in organising the water supplies (Aspinall-Oglanger I think) - and how there was little coordination between the RN and the Army and their respective responsibilities in the chain. Lots fell in the 'gap' .Perhaps one example of how the massive logistical challenges overwhelmed the limited expertise in this area. I wonder if the lack of an overall commander was a factor too - in that its effects would have filtered all down the two chains of command - the RN and the Army working to different instructions..

Any mistakes are entirely mine.

MG



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