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WWI Manuscript Journal recording the exploits of HMS Doris in the Dardanelles in April 1915, as recorded by H. J. Bowden, Stoker
1916. Bowden, a stoker in the British Navy, used this journal, a re-purposed "Day Book of Engineers' Stores," to record his service off the Egyptian, Turkish and Syrian coasts, in the Dardanelles, and off the coast of Bulgaria during the First World War, with near daily entries between August 1, 1914 and March 26, 1916, aboard the HMS Doris. The Imperial War Museum holds a diary of Captain Twigg of the HMS Doris, where it states that their first action was on 25 April 1915 when she bombarded forts around Bulair. "On 26 April, together with HMS Triumph, Doris shelled the area around Gaba Tepe in support of Australian troops."* Bowden's journal adds another perspective to the information from Captain Twigg. He is quite specific about which ships wee involved in the various actions, what kind of shells were used in bombardments and later tells of the drowning death of his brother, who was in the British Army, and the subsequent torpedoing of his ship. "April 25th- Trawlers sweep Channell (sic) Doris, Canopus, 11 transports following up behind formed up by the Dartmouth Kennett (?) x we proceeded with Dartmouth to bombard Buliar Lines 5.40am commenced bombarding Forts Napoleon and Sultan x completely demolish them 6.15 directed our fire on trenches x entanglements 7/45 again bombarded forts seaplane went up to reconnoiter (sic) when she returned she reported no sign of guns in either fort but observed Turkish Ships on her way in Dardanelles. Also small camp one mile east of Buliar no troops could be seen observed horses bombarded them x hoisted seaplane aboard. 26th Order Trawlers to go on sweeping received orders to support Triumph at Gaba Tepe. On arrival we were ordered to assist Minerva in covering landing of Troops. The Ships taking part in it were Queen London P. Wales Canopus Majestic, Ba xxxxk, Minerva, Doris, Talbot. Triumph Queen Lizzie. The shells were bursting all over the Hills it was a grand sight x awful in its Grandeur to see the enemy x their horses x sometimes their guns being blown sky High. 27th The bombardment had Continued all night we hoisted out our seaplane to try and locate the position of the enemy big guns whose shells were falling alround (sic) the Ships We were compelled to shift our Berth as the shell were dropping to (sic) close to our Ships to be pleasant Seaplane returned and reported Turkish Ships Goeben x Toorgoat Reis (sic,Turgut Reis) firing from the Dardanelles Fleet continued to bombard the Hills observed the enemy in Large force coming over the Hills as reinforcements so we opened fire on these assisted by the Baccante (sic) x Minerva Triumph we were ordered to increase volume of fire several 11 in Shell fell in the Harbour close to Several of our Ships x Shrapnell (sic) and were bursting alround (sic)us at 9:30 pm we Lighted the Slopes of the beach by searchlights Fierce fighting could be seen from the Ship. 28th - records the congratulatory message from the General to the officers of the Fleet 29th Observed Turk on beach waving white flag so we sent in a boat to bring him aboard Observed enemy coming over hills in large forces opened fire on them ordered to increase fire assisted by majestic Canopus Bacchante x Minerva HMS Queen proceeded to sea to bury the 10 transports arrived with the Naval Divisions We received orders to increase fire at shore Batteries Switched on Searchlights to illuminate the Slopes Fierce fighting could be seen yet curious to relate amid the rain of Shrapnel some of the troops could be seen bathing as if there were nothing doing. " (p. 18a, b & c) Herbert H. J. Bowden (b. October 1884, Kingskerwell, Kingskerswell, Devonshire, UK, d. 9 Jun 1953, Torbay, Devonshire, UK) was the son of Louitene Hingston (1845-1926) & Charles Bowden (1840- ). He is recorded in the 1891 Census as a 6 year old living with his family in the place of his birth, Kingskerswell, Devon. His wife was possibly Sarah Rosina Treloar. The1911 Census lists a Herbert Bowen, age 31, married, born in Tiverton, Devon, residing in Woolwich (Navy) E Supply Company A S E as a baker. There is also an H. J. Bowen listed in UK, WWI Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920, 2nd lieutenant, British War Medal and Victory Medal, Lincolnshire Regiment. Herbert H. J. Bowden is listed in UK records as having died 9 June 1953 at Torbay hospital. His will was probated in Torquay, his effects L 3970 10 s. 10d. The HMS Doris was an Eclipse Class Light Cruiser. In August 1914, when Bowden's journal begins, she was part of the 11th Cruiser Squadron, performing trade protection patrols west of Ireland. In November 1914, the Doris was detached from the 11th Cruiser Squadron and sent to Egypt equipped with a seaplane to conduct an aerial reconnaissance of the Turkish positions at Beersheba. In December she was part of the force available to Admiral Peirse for the purpose of disrupting Turkish communications off the Syrian Coast. Then, under Captain Larken, the Doris attacked Turkish forces at Askalon, carried out a reconnaissance of Haifa and Jaffa, then landed a party four miles south of Sidon, cutting the telegraph to Damascus. Captain Larken and the crew of the Doris were active at Alexandretta beginning December 18, dropping a landing party north of the city, cutting both the railway and the telegraph. Bowden's journal records all this in great detail, including the tense standoff with the Turks at Alexandretta, first-hand accounts of raiding parties on shore, shelling enemy trenches, destroying rail lines and stations, fighting enemy submarines, capturing prisoners, sending out seaplanes for reconnaissance missions, landing spies, etc. According to an article by Edward J. Erickson entitled "Capt. Larken and the Turks: The Strategic Impact of the Operations of HMS Doris in Early 1915," [Routledge: 2014], these spying and intelligence gathering activities "were most likely the actual reason for the Doris' operations along the coast in late 1914 and early 1915." Its January 1915 log book remained classified 'confidential' and closed to access until 1966. The Doris saw their first action supporting the ANZAC troops at the Gallipoli Landing April 25th through 27th, 1915. "HMS Doris 1914-1918" has a presence on Facebook, and they were active in recording the action the ship saw for the 100th anniversary of the Landing at Gallipoli. On April 24th, the HMS Doris was involved with a feint off Bulair, but feel frustration that they are not involved in the main attack. Lt. Twigg reports 'There is an enormous amount of wire entanglements & trenches at Bulair. Sent up hydroplane, unmolested... Anxiously await news of main landing, I heard faint guns in early morning!" On late evening 25 April, the crew are "ordered south to join the 2nd Squadron and support the landings at Anzac Cove, where the situation is becoming desperate. On the way, HMS Dartmouth is to head to Gaba Tepe to support the troops ashore there. The rest of the squadron are to enter the Cove, with HMS Doris joining HMS Triumph, and Grant's own HMS Canopus joining HMS Majestic." ** In August 1915, the Doris took some 2500 soldiers on board, the majority from the Warwickshires Yeomanry, with orders to deliver them to the Gallipoli Peninsula. In November, they were awaiting orders to fetch troops from Anzac and Suvla. In January 1916, they assisted with the final evacuations from Gallipoli which, Bowden notes tersely "the troops were preparing to leave in the hands of the Turks." The ANZAC troops retreating from Gallipoli escaped largely unharmed, due to a brilliantly conceived plan which disguised their departure with the random firing of guns which lead the Turks to believe their adversaries were present. In fact, the guns were controlled by a water drip system, and the troops had retreated to safety. Bowden and the men of the Doris received their first leave since the war commenced in May 1916. He returned home to Devonport, near Plymouth, for three weeks to see his wife and to re-qualify for work on oil engines. He passed the exam and proceeded back to Mudros on a ship carrying the Admiral "no doubt they knew it by wirewe had no less than 4 Torpedo fired at us during the Journey." He joined the Monitor 19, with orders to proceed to South of Greece submarine hunting. "… proceeded to the little Island called Stavros which was to be our Base to cover the Troops when advancing over the Bulgarian Lines. I had a Brother in the Army there in the Camp so I felt more at home as I used to see him as often as possible and him same but we had to do a Cruise around the Island for to Protect the Armenian and the English people … "While there, he and some friends were teaching his brother and friends to swim. They were ordered to suppress rioting between Turks and Greeks, and he received the news that his brother drowned.Shortly thereafter, the "message come for 2 Stokers to man Submarine Destroyer of course I happened to be one of the unlucky 2We proceed to a to relieve the other boat… we sighted a Submarine we fired and down he went and up come another and give us a torpedo the other side and down we went but thank God we were all saved 15 to the Crew and we where(sic) left in the open Sea for 15 Hours but we where (sic) all in good Spirits we had a good rest on some of the wreckage that was floating we where (sic) waiting to be taken prisoners by the Submarine but no he dipped and got away and left us the Dirty Coward…" Eventually they were saved. The diary ends with the end of Bowden's service in April 1917. It is signed at the end : "With Thanks from your Humble (?)" Cloth-backed marbled boards. 4to. 103pp., approx. 27,000 words. Some wear to covers, final two leaves detached, but all entries legible. Housed in a custom pale blue cloth slipcase with a paper label. A lengthy addition the history of the British and ANZACs in WWI, with the stories from this sailor's point of view, an important and candid WWI naval journal. * Imperial War Museum, diaries of Captain A G D Twigg, RN. **Facebook, "HMS Doris 1914-1918, April 25, 2015 entry.
      [Bookseller: Antipodean Books, Maps & Prints ]
Last Found On: 2017-10-08           Check availability:      ABAA    

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