- Smith, Peter
- Biographies and personal histories, History - WW1, WWI operations
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- June 2006 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
After a time, the boat got out of control, and as we had only three bottles of air left, the Captain thought it would be best to surface. At once we could hear heavy fire and we could hear pieces hit the hull of our boat. As a result of a hit in the centre of the boat, it could not dive again. We ran the gauntlet for half an hour under murderous fire from all round, only a few hitting the hull of the boat. Our wireless operator was badly wounded in the mouth and the left hand, and fell unconscious. The Captain, seeing it was hopeless ran the boat towards shore. His last words were, ‘We are in the hands of God, my men. Do your best to get ashore’.
A few seconds later, I saw his body mangled by shellfire, roll into the water and was taken under. The same shell killed the Navigator, and left me by myself, and other shells killed nearly all the hands.
Had the Turks stopped firing as soon as they saw us sinking, with a few wounded on deck, many more might have been saved. It must have been half an hour before they put out for us. Amid the cries of the wounded men in the water, several voices were heard saying ‘Goodbye, goodbye all’. Their hands went up and they disappeared for the last time.
Only nine survived
It was hell; when I look back at that fatal half hour, it haunts me. As no boat seemed to be coming out to pick us up, we made for Kum Kale, and were picked up only a few yards from the shore. Soon after the Turks got hold of us, all our clothing was taken from us, and we had to walk through Kum Kale naked. It broke our hearts when we saw only nine had been saved out of 32 officers and men. The three wounded were in a very bad state and unconscious when I saw them last.
On arrival at a small hut, a short pair of trousers, all patchwork, was given to us to put on, which we found to be full of lice. No underclothing was given to us. A small fire was made in a room, and we were very glad to get it as we were very cold; and shortly a filthy-looking Turk brought us some hot tea without milk or sugar. That is all he gave us to bring us round again.
In the evening, we were sent to Chanak and handed over the Germans, and here we remained for two days. Here we were sent to a small room for the night, feeling very tired and hungry, as the crew had nothing while submerged in the Dardanelles and it was midnight when a Turk came with some black barley and maize bread and a dish of beans boiled in olive oil which we could not manage to eat. This was our daily meal; two meals a day and one maize loaf and a bucket of water. During our time at Chanak many visits were paid by newspaper reporters and Germans of high rank.
Sleep was out of the question that night. Many questions were asked of us concerning England. They were under the impression that England was in a very bad state, as the submarine menace was hitting us hard. On the following day, we were sent to Constantinople, and when we arrived were taken on board a German liner, used as German Headquarters. Here we went before a court of German and Turkish officers, one at a time, and many jokes were passed.
At 5.30, we were taken over to the Turks and were taken through Istanbul thinking we were going to a British camp, but found ourselves behind prison bars, for what reason I do not know. We were housed in filthy compartments, among some of the biggest criminal prisoners in Turkey, sitting in a room with huge chains and handcuffs on.
The place was full of lice and bugs. We remained there for two days and then went to another room with 150 of the same kind of criminals, some dying of cholera and dysentery. When we arrived we asked for bread which was not brought to us until 36 hours after. A man named Firuze Hanzandian, an Armenian subject, bought four loaves of bread with one Turkish pound and then gave them to us. He got a flogging for it and was not allowed to talk to us. He said, ‘I am not a rich man, but I am a man.’