Published By Ben Hillidge
Dardanelles. HM Submarine E14. 28 January 1918.
In January 1918 HM Submarine E14 was ordered to go in pursuit of the Turkish battleship ‘Goeben’ which was reported to have run aground in the Dardanelles straits. The submarine negotiated passage of the straits successfully avoiding submarine nets and Turkish patrols. However, when they arrived at their destination they discovered the Goeben had gone. On the return trip an enemy merchant ship was spotted and it was decided to sink it. Two torpedoes were fired but one seems to have exploded prematurely as it left the tube. Damage was done to the boat. Leaks sprang and water flooded. She became harder and harder to manoeuvre and was going out of control. As a last resort the commander, Lieutenant Commander White, decided to raise the boat and try to escape on the surface. As soon as they broke the surface the submarine came under fire from shore based artillery. Commander White and Lieutenant Drew went up to the bridge to run the ship. Under heavy fire they ran the gauntlet trying to get away. The boat was hit several times. The situation was hopeless, the only option was to run her aground in order to save the crew. As they made the turn there was a direct hit amidships leaving the conning tower a mangle of metal. The captain was killed as was Lieutenant Drew whose body fell into the sea and disappeared. E14 then sank. They and other members of the crew are commemorated on the Plymouth War memorial. There were 9 survivors from 33, they were taken prisoner by the Turks. A Turkish announcement reported that the submarine had gone down off Kum Kalen Fort and that 7 men had been saved. The message adds that the submarine’s periscope had been hit.
For his actions Lieutenant Commander White (CWGC)was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. Lieutenant Drew was mentioned in despatches. This was the second time that the commander of E14 had received the award of VC.
Extract from the “London Gazette,” No. 31354, dated 24th May, 1919, VC Citation:- “For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty as Commanding Officer of H.M. Submarine E.14. on the 28th of January, 1918. E.14. left Mudros on the 27th of January, under instructions to force the Narrows and attack the ‘Goeben’. which was reported aground off Nagara Point after being damaged during her sortie from the Dardanelles. The latter was not found and E.14. turned back. At about 8.45 a.m. on the 28th of January a torpedo was fired from E.14. at an enemy ship; 11 seconds after the torpedo left the tube a heavy explosion took place, caused all the lights to go out, and sprang the fore hatch. Leaking badly the boat was blown to 15 feet, and at once a heavy fire came from the forts, but the hull was not hit. E.14. then dived and proceeded on her way out. Soon afterwards the boat became out of control and as the air supply was nearly exhausted, Lieutenant-Commander White decided to run the risk of proceeding on the surface. Heavy fire was immediately opened from both sides, and, after running the gauntlet for half-an-hour, being steered from below, E.14. was so badly damaged that Lieutenant-Commander White turned towards the shore in order to give the crew a chance of being saved. He remained on deck the whole time himself until he was killed by a shell.”
Naval Historical Society of Australia – link to an account of the action in which E14 was lost by Rueben Mitchell, Royal Australian Navy and one of the surviving crew
GOOGLE MAPS Satellite view centres on Nagara Point, Dardenelles.
References and Sources An internet search for Submarine E14 will give many references. The history of the boat is well recorded and particularly because of the 2 VC awarded to its commanders.
B&O ALL YEARS. Sea War. Dardanelles. HM Submarine E14. 28 January 1918.