Today, on March 18, 2015, is the centenary of the naval battle of the Dardanelles, fought during the First World War. From the outbreak of this war the Allied forces were planning to cross this narrow strait that connects the Aegean Sea with the Sea of Marmara, an important section of the sea route from the Mediterranean to Istanbul. Their main goal was to capture this city which was, at that time, the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The naval operations of the fleet, which consisted mainly of ships from the Royal Navy, were led by Rear Admiral John de Robeck. He had taken over the command of the operations in the mid-March 1915.
However, De Robeck did not realize that the outcome of the naval battle had already been decided by the events that had taken place before he took up the command of the Allied fleet. On the night of March 8, 1915, the captain Hakki Bey of the Ottoman minelayer Nusret, secretly directed his ship to the waters of Erenköy bay, located near the Asian shore of the Dardanelles. The crew spent that night laying 26 mines parallel to the shoreline. Allies knew about the other mines protecting the Dardanelles before their attack, but Erenköy bay area was considered safe for maneuvers. This way the trap had been prepared for the flotilla of British and French ships.
On the 18th of March 1915 the great flotilla of Allied vessels began a concentrated attack in the Dardanelles. While maneuvering in Erenköy bay French battleship Bouvet struck a mine and sank quickly, taking 639 crew members to the bottom of the Dardanelles. The British thought that the ship was hit by a torpedo or a missile which caused an explosion on board, but did not suspect that in reality Bouvet sank because of a naval mine.
Around 4pm a British battlecruiser HMS Inflexible ran into a mine near the place where Bouvet sank. This time 30 people were killed, but the cruiser remained on the surface and eventually made it as far as the island of Bozcaada (Tenedos) where it was beached. Another ship, that fell into the same trap, was a Formidable-class pre-dreadnought battleship, HMS Irresistible. As the result another 150 lives were lost. The surviving members of the crew were taken from the deck of the sinking ship by HMS Ocean. This Canopus-class battleship was sent to tow away the severely damaged Irresistible. However, during the maneuvers carried out in the shallow waters the bay, HMS Ocean also hit a mine. The crews of both ships were rescued by several destroyers, but HMS Ocean drifted into Morto Bay and sank there unobserved by Allied forces.
Heavy losses forced de Robeck to order the withdrawal of the remaining ships from the Dardanelles. The 18th of March 1915 turned out to be a day of great victory of the Ottoman Empire and one of the few triumphs its army could claim during the First World War. The Allies began to prepare for the land invasion of the Gallipoli peninsula, which began on the 25th of April 1915.
Since these events Nusret has been regarded as a hero of the Dardanelles campaign. However, the fate of the ship does not reflect its role in the Ottoman victory in March of 1915. After the end of World War I Nusret was moored in Istanbul until 1927, when she was refitted in shipyard in Gölcük, where one of the Turkish Navy bases is located. For a short period of time, from 1937 to 1939, the ship, renamed as Yardım, served as a diving vessel. Then, in 1955, again as Nusret, she was decommissioned and the plans were made to convert her to a museum ship. Unexpectedly, in 1962, the ship was sold to private entrepreneurs who turned it into a merchant vessel known as Kaptan Nusret. The end to Nusret's long service in the merchant navy came in 1989, when she sank near Mersin harbour.
But this is not the end of her story - after almost 10 years under the waters of the Mediterranean Nusret was pulled out of water and acquired by the Municipality of Tarsus. After extensive reconstruction ashore Nusret was finally transformed into a museum ship and is now the main attraction of Tarsus Çanakkale Park, opened in 2008. In the meantime, or more precisely, in 1982, a replica Nusret was built by the Gölcük Naval Shipyard to be displayed in Çanakkale Military Museum. On board of this replica some photos and plans showing the history of the ship are displayed. However, in order to see the real Nusret it is necessary to travel to Tarsus, located on the Mediterranean coast, far to the south-east of the Dardanelles.