|In the new year of 1915, with the world locked in a terrible conflict, Winston Churchill conceived of a bold plan. Constantinople would be seized and Turkey knocked out of the war. The key was the Dardanelles.
The British submarine E14 approached the portal of the Ottoman Empire, viewing the ominous darkness from its small conning tower, eight feet above the waves. If a submarine could manage to reach down the Dardanelles and into the Sea of Mamora it would block the Turks from using the route, potentially doing more to finish the war than any other single act. But it meant undertaking possibly the longest dive ever contemplated in a submarine.
It also meant passing the wreckage of the submarines that had tried to pass that way in the days and weeks before: their dead buried on the beach, their survivors in captivity. The submarine's captain, Lieutenant Commander Courtney Boyle, had a plan. It was to get as far as possible to conserve their battery before diving, to dive as deep as possible under the obstructions, but to rise to periscope depth as often as possible in the most difficult sections of the journey, where the current was most unpredictable, to make sure the submarine did not drift.
He was acutely aware that his own skill and experience was now the determining factor, above all others, in his survival, the survival of the other 29 men on board, and of course of the success or otherwise of the mission. The crew had said their goodbyes. They had written their farewell letters and given them into safekeeping, knowing that the chances were now against their survival...
E14 was many things. A grave, a symbol of the heroism of the crew, and a memory of those pioneering submariners of a century ago who first learned how to sail and fight underwater. It also remains the only submarine in the world which provided both its two commanding officers with the highest national decoration for bravery.
Author: David Boyle
Title: Unheard, Unseen: Warfare in the the Dardanelles
First Published by: Endeavour Press
Date: 14 July 2013