a British submarine sails into enemy waters
'In the Golden Horn'
by William Guy Carr

The Heart of the Lion

from a French newsmagazine - the E-II cheered as it returns from a daring raid in the Sea of Marmara


25th May. The rumour was already abroad in Constantinople that eleven British submarines were operating in the Sea of Marmora when E II herself arrived in the harbour. She was the first enemy of any description to intrude on the sacred precincts of the Golden Horn in the five hundred years the Turks had held the city. Nasmith's own account is a classic of maddening brevity. "So," he wrote, "we dived unobserved into Constantinople." The word "so" refers to the disgust the crew of E II felt when they could find nothing but small fry out in the open.

Nasmith raised periscope shortly after noon in the centre of the harbour, and immediately there occurred one of those incongruous, incidents which pleased him. "Our manoeuvring," he used to say, "was rather difficult because of the cross-tides, the mud, and the current, but most particularly on account of a damn fool of a fisherman who kept trying to grab the top of my periscope every time I raised it to take an observation. I don't think he had any idea what it was, but to get rid of him I gave him a chance to get a good hold on it. Then I ordered 'Down periscope quickly' and almost succeeded in capsizing his boat. When I looked at him a minute later he wore the most amazed and bewildered expression I ever hope to see."

The Arabian Nights Entertainment did not end with the adventure of E II and the modern Sinbad the Sailor. Rising close to the United States ship Scorpion, a good- sized vessel was seen close to the arsenal. Nasmith fired the port-bow tube. The torpedo developed a gyro-failure, which means that the gear which governed her direction failed, locking the rudder hard over.

Nasmith said that the torpedo went chasing around the harbour, acting like nothing so much as a hen with its head cut off. Round and round it went at a speed of forty- seven knots, and every few seconds it switched from hen to porpoise and jumped out of the water. "It was bound to hit something, and by the look of things it was just as likely to be us as anything else."

So he fired the starboard-bow tube. By this time the harbour was in an uproar, and if ever a submarine was in a delicate position it was E 11 at that moment. But Nasmith did a thing which I never heard equalled for sheer nerve. The moment he fired the torpedo at the ship loading by the arsenal wharf he put a small camera to the eyepiece of the periscope and took a picture of the munition ship blowing up. The first torpedo hit something and exploded at the same time.

"The enemy was given to issuing false reports about any successes we claimed," I have heard him explain. "They were experts at propaganda and counter- propaganda. So that we could reap the full moral effect of going into their precious harbour and blowing their ships to Hades as they lay moored safely inside, we tried taking some exposures with the camera lens close to the eyepiece of the periscope."

I saw the photograph. You could see the munition ship enveloped in a cloud of smoke with debris flying as high as the masthead. The sensitive film had also registered the cross wires and degree marks on the periscope lens which are used for judging distances and for taking bearings.

There was little question of the moral effect of E II’s astonishing exploit. Although the Stambul which she had sunk was an old ship, and was possibly beached before she sank, the city was thrown into a state of panic, troops were ordered off transports, and all sea traffic between Constantinople and the Peninsula was virtually stopped.

Getting out of Constantinople was infinitely more exciting than getting in there. Once certain of his kill, Nasmith gave the order to dive. Down she sank and then grounded heavily.

“Then we bounced thirty feet, if the depth indicators were to be believed," to recall Nasmith's own story again. "I went down and sat on the bottom. Then a strange thing happened. We looked at the compass to discover our best course, and we noticed we were altering course rapidly even though we were right on the bottom. We were swinging right round the compass card. We watched this happening with great interest. It was evident that we must be resting on the shoal under Leander Tower, judging by the depth, and were being turned by the current unless something had succeeded in hooking on to us and was towing us. This was a disquieting thought, so we started the motors and bumped our way gently off the shoal, sank into about eighty-five feet of water, and proceeded as requisite out of the harbour."

And when they were safely out of the harbour and out of the narrow waters of the Golden Horn they headed for the quieter reaches in the centre of the Sea of Marmora by Kalolimni. Here they rested the next day, charged their batteries, and washed and bathed. Nasmith told me, and I know from experience, what a godsend it was to bathe and change into clean clothes.

William Guy Carr

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