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Air Ops at Gallipoli/Dardanelles.

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Mal Murray View Drop Down
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    Posted: 05 Jan 2011 at 19:52
The following is a brief description of Turkish Air Ops over Gallipoli and the Dardanelles during the Great War.

The full article may be viewd here;

Although the capabilities of the Turkish Air Force were far behind those of the Allied forces due to the lack of aircrafts and equipment, Turkish pilots have contributed remarkably to the efforts of the land forces at various fronts.


The first aerial operation during the Gallipoli campaign was Lieutenant Fazıl Bey’s reconnaissance flight over the islands of Tenedos and Limnos on 5 September 1914. Flying for 70 minutes on his Nieuport Hydravion seaplane, Fazıl Bey discovered that British warships were patrolling outside the Dardanelles and controlling the vessels entering and leaving the straits. Others followed this initial reconnaissance flight and since one single seaplane was not enough for this task, another Nieuport Hydravion was brought from Istanbul to Çanakkale by Captain Savmi Bey.

As of March 1915, there were three aircrafts in Gallipoli, manned by German and Turkish pilots. These were brought together to form the Turkish 1st Air Squadron, under the command of the German Lieutenant Ludwig Preussner. On 1 March 1915, Lieutenant Cemal Bey dropped bombs on the British battleship Majestic, causing substantial damage. 

Pilots returning from a reconnaisance flight

On the night of 17/18 March 1915, a few hours before the Allied fleet attempted –without success- to force Dardanelles, German pilots Captain Erich Serno and Captain Schneider were flying towards Tenedos and they spotted a remarkable concentration of British and French battleships and transportation vessels. They returned to Çanakkale and informed the Turkish commanders there about the situation. This reconnaissance proved to be extremely useful for the success of the Turkish defense the next day. Reconnaissance missions continued during 18 March. German Lieutenant Frank Seydler and Captain Hüseyin Bey flew the second wave spotting 13 warships near Mudros.

Until the Allied landings of 25 April, the Turkish  1st Aircraft Squadron continued to fly above the entrance of the Dardanelles and the island of Limnos. These were not only for reconnaissance, they also dropped bombs on Allied ships. Meanwhile the Allies were also forming up their air power and fearing of losing the air superiority, the Turks attacked the Allied air base on Tenedos. This attempt was unsuccessful and the same day the British retaliated by bombing the Turkish air base in Çanakkale. Since the Turkish aircrafts were carefully camouflaged, the bombing did not cause any damage.

The first air battle at Gallipoli took place on 2 May. As they were flying a reconnaissance mission, Captain Erich Serno and Captain Hüseyin Sedat encountered an Allied aircraft. They fired their pistols and prevented the enemy plane from approaching the Turkish lines.

 As the Allied landings kicked off, the Turkish aircraft squadron had only 4 aircraft, one of which was a seaplane, and it was attached to the Command of Çanakkale Fortified Zone, not to the Turkish Fifth Army. Therefore the squadron could not be used efficiently, whereas the Allies were observing the Turkish lines using a fixed balloon at an altitude of 200 meters.  The balloon was attached to a British vessel anchored off Arıburnu and thanks to the intelligence it was providing, the Allied artillery was causing great damage. Although the Turkish aircraft did not manage to sink the ship, through their raids they forced the balloon to descend from time to time.

A Turkish seaplane at Gallipoli

Over the following months, Turkish aircrafts continued successfully with their operations, bombing Allied lines and ships, doing reconnaissance and dropping leaflets on Allied troops for psychological warfare. Meanwhile, the Allies were also escalating their air operations. 13 British aircrafts attacked Turkish artillery positions, strategic targets at Arıburnu and Seddülbahir and Turkish airbases during May and June.In July, the Turkish 1st Aircraft Squadron was deployed under the command of the Fifth Army, but on 5 July, an air raid on the airbase in Çanakkale destroyed three Turkish aircrafts, hence forcing the squadron to halt its operations temporarily. The Turks were in dire need for new aircrafts and after long discussions Germany agreed to provide 20 of them. They were stored in Hungary and from there they were supposed to fly to Istanbul – a flight of 6 hours- without trespassing Bulgarian territory. Some of the planes crashed on the way and some were confiscated; at the end of the day 11 planes reached Istanbul.  This number was to increase when Bulgaria joined the war on the side of the Central Powers.

Despite the reinforcement both in terms of aircrafts and personnel, air superiority at Gallipoli remained with the Allies. Still, Turkish aircrafts used every opportunity to identify enemy artillery positions and to attack them with bombs and aircraft arrows. Another duty of the Turkish 1st Aircraft Squadron was to prevent enemy aircrafts from communicating information related to Turkish positions to Allied artillery and to eliminate fixed balloons.

In September 1915, a new Turkish air base was established in Tekirdağ, halfway between Istanbul and Çanakkale, hence providing greater maneuver space for Turkish aircrafts. Following the arrival of new aircrafts from Germany in November 1915, Turkish pilots began to fly reconnaissance flights over a larger zone covering Alexandroupoli and Saros Bay. It was during one of those flights, when the Turks shot down an Allied aircraft for the first time. On 30 November, flying in their AK I Albatros, Lieutenant Ali Rıza Bey and his observer Lieutenant Orhan Bey encountered and shot a French plane, which went down in flames with a pierced fuel tank, crashing between İntepe and Cape Helles.

<P align=justify ="style2">As the Gallipoli campaign ended and the Allies were evacuating the peninsula, the Turkish 1st Aircraft Squadron had only a handful planes left intact. Still, reconnaissance activities continued. On 25 December, three Turkish planes bombed the island of Imbros and spotted an increase in the number of transport vessels; the Allies were indeed leaving.

<P align=justify ="style2">After the Gallipoli campaign was over, the British maintained their air bases on the islands of the Northern Aegean. Flying from these bases, they controlled the Dardanelles, monitoring activities on the railroads in Thrace and launching air raids on Istanbul. Beside these activities of the British, renewed landings could be possible at any time and therefore the Turks kept their air power in the region at full power.

The 6th Fokker Squadron, which was recently arrived from Germany, was stationed in Gallipoli to counter the operations of the British forces. During 1916, pilots of this squadron had several encounters with British planes and achieved great successes. German Captain Buddecke has alone shot down 5 enemy aircrafts. They also bombed several targets around the islands of Tenedos, Imbros, Limnos and Thassos.

In 1917, British planes continued to use the North Aegean bases to launch raids on Istanbul and Izmir. In addition to the 6th Fokker Squadron, commanded by German Lieutenant Croneiss, the 1st Squadron and a German Seaplane Squadron were also in Gallipoli, whereas the 1st Seaplane Squadron, commanded by Captain Savmi Bey, and 5th Aircraft Squadron, commanded by Lieutenant Faller first and then by Lieutenant Fannenstiel, were based in Izmir and the 15th Aircraft Squadron was based in Uzunköprü. These squadrons continued with their operations, gathering intelligence and engaging enemy aircrafts, not only the British, but also the Russians taking off from warships off the Bosphorus, and bombing specific targets. They were reinforced by the 12th Aircraft Squadron in May 1918.

Until the end of the war, Turkish aircraft squadrons based in Gallipoli, Uzunköprü, Istanbul and Izmir did an important job against enemy operations. Other than the duties mentioned above, they also supported the operations of the navy. One of the last of such operations was the bombing of Imbros and Mudros by warships Yavuz and Midilli. Although Midilli sunk and Yavuz was damaged during this raid, Turkish aircrafts played a crucial role in the operation by providing air cover and engaging both British and Greek planes.

Edited by Mal Murray - 20 Jan 2012 at 20:00
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