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Gallipoli Special Part 1: E2 Submarine and the Gallipoli Campaign, 1915

Posted by Susan Startin, on April 15th, 2015


Amid the general failure of the Dardanelles campaign, the activities of Allied submarines can be considered one of the few successes. Submarines were deployed in the area from December 1914 and, once the land campaign started in April 1915, they were sent into the Sea of Marmara with the aim of cutting the Turkish maritime supply line to the Gallipoli peninsula. The diary which forms the basis of this article, written as a log of events, gives us the opportunity to read a vivid eyewitness account of the two patrols made by one of these submarines, HMS E2. The writer of the diary, believed to be one Leading Seaman William Rowley who served on E2, provides a compellingly detailed narrative of the operations conducted against Turkish shipping. The descriptions of the cat-and-mouse duels with enemy gunboats and torpedo boat destroyers portray an image of incredible dash and daring, with the submarine diving to engage vessels with torpedoes when the tactical situation dictated. With 43 vessels sunk by E2 on her first patrol, this bold and unflinching narrative does not tread lightly with details of the submarine’s actions, and the loss of one of her crew is mentioned only briefly with cold but typical understatement. Altogether, this article is an absorbing study of a little-known aspect of the First World War that will fascinate both naval historians and general readers with an interest in the Dardanelles campaign.

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