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Dmitry Yudo aka Overlord, jack of all trades
David Lister aka Listy, Freelancer and Volunteer

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Corporal Seyit

Here’s the last of the Competition articles. This was originally written by bigmantr from the EU server. With his permission I’ve gone through and tweaked some of the English for a better flow, and added some bits I found on the subject.

After the Ottoman Empire entered the Great War new fronts were opened, and the war was prolonged. The Ottoman entry into the war also closed the Dardanelles straits to the Allied ships. The allies planned an offensive to open the straits as this would both eliminate Ottoman Empire by taking their capital city Istanbul and aid Russia, allowing a better flow of supplies.

At the age of twenty Seyit Ali enlisted into the Ottoman army and fought in the Balkan Wars. After the war he was not discharged but assigned to the Dardanelles straits as a gunner of the famous artillery battery in Mecidiye Forts located in the European side of Dardanelles. Their mission was to stand guard over the waterway. Their 240mm Krupp guns were old but there was no time or resources to replace obsolete weapons.
However the Ottoman forces had time to prepare the battlefield. After a probing attack on 19th February 1915 the Ottomans started to lay more mines. On the night of March the 8th the tiny minelayer Nusret left port. It offensive armament consisted of a pair of 47mm guns, and just over 20 mines in a bay on the south side of the strait.

Later that month on the 18th, a combined force of British and French ships approached the strait. At 1100 the first line of British ships began to bombard the fort, including the one where Seyit Ali was stationed. With the forts under heavy fire the French contingent of four ships was ordered forward, to pass through the British lines. Although the French ships took some severe hits their point blank fire combined with the British pounding destroyed every gun but one in Seyit Ali’s battery and disabled nearly all of the crew.
British battleship firing on the Turkish positions.
By early afternoon the task force commander judged it was safe to force the strait as the return fire was almost nil. He ordered the French to retreat, and pushed the majority of his force forward. The bombardment had destroyed the artilleries loading crane and each round weighed around 275 kilograms. When they got within firing range of Seyit Ali’s battery he was furious that enemy was in range and a broken crane was in between him and his target.

He prayed to God and tried lifting the artillery round. Unbelievably he managed to lift the round and carry it to the gun, his bones were creaking but he didn't give up until he loaded the gun. Now it was time to shoot back. He aimed at one of the ships in front of him, HMS Ocean which was a Pre-dreadnought battle ship.
After being bombarded for hours the Ottoman army was shaken. Titanic battleships were pounding everything on the ground but the Turks could not reach them let alone harm them. At this grim hour for the Ottoman army a miracle happened. While the allied ships were crossing the strait one artillery piece roared behind them which took everyone by surprise.

The first shot missed but Seyit Ali was determined and he loaded another heavy artillery round into the gun again and fired the second shell. It landed closer to the dreadnought but still didn't do any damage. He lifted one last round and loaded the gun, and fired again.

At around this time the British began to withdraw. Earlier when the French contingent had withdrawn one of their ships had been blown to pieces by one of the mines. In the confusion the British had thought the ships magazine had been hit. Thinking their route clear the British followed the same line of retreat. First one, then a second battleship struck a mine. The first ship sunk immediately, the second began to drift. HMS Ocean was dispatched to assist with recovery of the second ship. After being unable to help and taking off the last of the drifting battleships crew, HMS Ocean suffered the same fate of striking a mine. She too began to drift; damaged beyond repair and with incoming fire she was abandoned and both ships later sank.
The French battleship Bouvet withdrawing, moments before hitting the mine
The Ottoman Empire lacked weapons superiority but her soldiers accomplished heroic deeds and held their ground. Seyit Ali was promoted to the rank of corporal after the war and he lived the remainder of his life as a coal-miner and forester in his village. For a photo shoot they invited him to his former battery, but he failed to lift the artillery rounds again.

Image credits:
commons.wikimedia.org, www.naval-history.net, www.anzacsite.gov.au and www.davidpride.com

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