The French battleship Bouvet was sunk during the Battle of Canakkale (Gallipoli Campaign) on March 18, 1915, by Turkish troops, causing a major defeat for the allied forces including Britain and France.
Mithat Atabay, a Turkish historian from Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University, told Anadolu Agency that 105 years ago, one of the bloodiest battles in the world took place in Canakkale.
The French Bouvet was the first battleship of the allied forces to be sunk by Turkish forces, which claimed the Canakkale Victory.
On the morning of March 18, the Allied Navy, commanded by Admiral John de Robeck, entered the Canakkale Strait. They began battering the shore of the narrow waterway shortly after the first shot was fired from the flagship HMS Queen Elizabeth.
Atabay said the Turkish batteries did not initially respond to this barrage, intensifying their fire only gradually.
During the afternoon hours, the Queen Elizabeth began bombing one of the Turkish bastions on the shore of a bottleneck in the strait, causing an explosion after striking an ammunition depot.
Admiral John de Robeck soon thereafter decided that the allied ships had done sufficient damage to further approach the Turkish deployments, ordering the Third French Naval Division to continue the bombardment from a closer distance.
At this point, the Turkish artillery units increased their fire, hitting and severely damaging the HMS Agamemnon and HMS Inflexible.
Upon orders from Robeck, the French ships Suffren and Bouvet advanced on the strait’s eastern coast as the Gaulois and Charlemange did so on the western side.
According to Atabay, these ships had exposed themselves to Turkish artillery from Kilitbahir on the western coast before they could begin shelling.
“Bouvet was the third from the left of the four French ships in the fleet of war that progressed seven miles into the Canakkale Strait,” Atabay said.
Towards noon, while the British navy was shelling at a distance, French ships were given the order to fire from more nearby, with the Gaulois and Suffren ships heavily damaged by the Turkish response.
Meanwhile, some of the Bouvet’s crew were affected by a gas leakage when the ship’s ventilation system malfunctioned. Turkish artillery hit the ship a total of eight times, disabling its front gun, Atabay said.
Though their names are relatively unknown today, it was Turkish artillerymen Cemal and Mehmet Ali whose shots hit the Bouvet, he added.
The Bouvet continued its bombardment until it reluctantly obeyed orders to retreat from Admiral Emile Guepratte, who sent the Suffren to repeat his order after the commander of the Bouvet, Colonel Rageot de la Touche, did not want to pull back the first time.
The Suffren delivered the order by firing a blank shot, after which the Bouvet began to maneuver to the starboard towards Erenkoy Bay.
“At 01.54 p.m., the Bouvet hit an 80-kilogram [176 pounds] mine directly under its starboard gun that it had not noticed and a violent explosion erupted, presumably after ammunition detonated. A bit of smoke began to rise from the ship, which then began to list,” explained Atabay.
Realizing that there is no way to save the ship, Colonel Touche locked himself in his room after helping his crew escape.
The sinking of the Bouvet was one of the turning points and heroic acts of the Turkish troops in Canakkale victory. *Writing by Dilara Hamit