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E11 torpedoes the "Stamboul" off Constantinople, 25 May 1915
E11 torpedoes the Stamboul off Constantinople, 25 May 1915. Drawing from the Illustrated London News.
Name: HMS E11
Launched: 23 April 1914
General characteristics
Class & type: E class submarine
Displacement: 667 long tons (678 t) surfaced
807 long tons (820 t) submerged
Length: 181 ft (55 m)
Beam: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: 2 × 1,600 hp (1,193 kW) diesels
2 × 840 hp (626 kW) electric
2 screws
Speed: 15.25 knots (28.24 km/h; 17.55 mph) surfaced
10.25 knots (18.98 km/h; 11.80 mph) submerged
Range: 3,000 nmi (5,600 km) at 10 kn (19 km/h; 12 mph)
65 nmi (120 km) at 5 kn (9.3 km/h; 5.8 mph)
Complement: 30
Armament: • 5 × 18 in (457 mm) torpedo tubes (2 bow, 2 beam, 1 stern)
• 1 × 12-pounder gun

HMS E11 was an E-class submarine of the Royal Navy launched on 23 April 1914. E11 was one of the most successful submarines in action during the 1915 naval operations in the Dardanelles Campaign, sinking over 80 vessels of all sizes in three tours of the Sea of Marmara.


European operations

In September 1914, Havmanden, a submarine of neutral Denmark displaying her pennant number of 3 on her conning tower, was mistaken for the German U-boat SM U-3 by E11. A launched torpedo from E11 that missed its mark spared Havmanden.[1]

In October 1914 E11, under the command of Lieutenant-Commander Martin Nasmith,[2] was dispatched to the Baltic Sea along with two other submarines, but was twice intercepted by German patrols, and forced to return to Harwich. During the Scarborough Raid in December 1914, the E11 attempted to intercept the German battlecruisers, but failed due to faulty torpedoes.

E11 took part in the Cuxhaven Raid, which culminated on 25 December 1914 in the attack by seven seaplanes from the aircraft tenders HMS Engadine, HMS Riviera, and HMS Empress (escorted by three cruisers and several destroyers of the Harwich Force) on Zeppelin sheds and other military targets near Cuxhaven. Four of the aircraft failed to regain their ships; three of them landed at the rendezvous point where E11 was waiting and were scuttled, the crews being taken on board.[3][4]

Mediterranean operations

In May 1915, still commanded by Nasmith, E11 arrived at the Dardanelles to join the submarine campaign in the Sea of Marmara. E11 was the second submarine to undertake a successful tour, following the E14 which had passed through the straits on 27 April.

The E11 passed through the Dardanelles on the night of 18 May. Surfacing off the town of Gallipoli, Nasmith captured a Turkish sailing vessel and lashed it to the conning tower to act as a disguise. However, this ruse failed to attract any targets, so after several days he abandoned it. Travelling up the Sea of Marmara, he sank a gunboat and several other small craft on 23 May. The following day, near the port of Rodosto (today Tekirdağ), E11 encountered the Turkish transport Nagara, laden with ammunition. Aboard the transport was an American journalist Raymond Swing, from the Chicago Daily News. Nasmith sank the ship after it was abandoned by the crew and passengers. Nasmith sank another transport and forced one aground before being driven away from the shore by some Turkish cavalry.

On 25 May 1915 E11 reached Constantinople/Istanbul. Nasmith was searching for the German warships SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau, but when he surfaced at 12:40, he sighted the elderly transport Stamboul lying alongside the Tophane Arsenal. Nasmith's first torpedo ran in a circle and nearly struck the E11, however the second torpedo hit Stamboul. Under fire from shore-based artillery, E11 dived to make her escape. Caught in the strong Bosphorus current, E11 was out of control for 20 minutes until she settled on the bottom near the Maiden's Tower. Stamboul failed to sink, but was beached at Harem. E11's attack on Constantinople, the first by an enemy vessel in over 100 years, had an enormous impact on Turkish morale, causing a panic in the city and compelling Goeben to shift to a safer mooring.

The crew of HMS Grampus cheering the surfaced E11 after a successful attack, 1915.

E11 returned to the Bosphorus approaches on 27 May and sank more ships, but running short of torpedoes and with mounting mechanical problems, Nasmith headed home on 5 June. On his return passage through the Dardanelles he encountered another transport which, despite his vulnerable position and the poor state of the submarine, he attacked and sank with his final two torpedoes. Passing through the Narrows near Çanakkale, E11 snagged a moored mine. Nasmith had to tow the mine out of the straits before he was able to disentangle the submarine.

On E11's first tour, eleven ships were sunk or disabled. For this successful tour Nasmith was awarded the Victoria Cross, the third submarine commander to receive the award during the Dardanelles Campaign.

E11 was on her second tour when, on 8 August 1915 as a new British landing was underway at Suvla, E11 torpedoed the antiquated Turkish battleship Barbaros Hayreddin off Bulair at the northern entrance to the Dardanelles. Barbaros Hayreddin was one of two Ottoman battleships sunk during the campaign. Visiting Constantinople again, E11 sank a Black Sea collier as it was preparing to unload — a significant blow as coal was the main fuel source and supplies were scarce. Moving into the Gulf of Izmir, on the night of 20 August, E11's first officer, Lieutenant Guy D'Oyly-Hughes, swam ashore and blew up a section of the Constantinople–Baghdad railway line, a feat for which he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order.

E11 made three tours of the Sea of Marmara and sank in total 27 steamers and 58 smaller vessels.[citation needed]


  1. Compton-Hall, Richard (2004) [1991]. Submarines at War, 1914–18. Penzance: Periscope Publishing. p. 140. ISBN 978-1-904381-21-1. OCLC 57639764. 
  2. He would go on to command A/S forces in Western Approaches during the Second World War.
  3. Barnes & James, p.98.
  4. The rescued pilots were Flight Lieutenant Arnold John Miley (aircraft serial no. 120), Flight Sub-Lieutenant Vivian Gaskell Blackburn (aircraft serial no. 814) and Flight Commander Douglas Austin Oliver (aircraft serial no. 815).
  • Barnes C.H. & James D.N. Shorts Aircraft since 1900. London (1989): Putnam. pp. 560. ISBN 0-85177-819-4. 

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