HMS Ben-my-Chree: How the Ottoman Empire was the first to sink an seaplane Carrier from land!

Published on 8 April 2021 at 21:52

HMS Ben-my-Chree After sunk by Ottoman artillary.

Life as SS Ben-my-Chree

Construction & Launch

The SS Ben-my-Chree or "Woman of My Heart" in English, was a packet steamer built by Vickers Sons & Maxim shipyards from 1907 to 1908 for the Isle of Man Steam Packet Companys fleet was

At 2,651 tons 120m long and 14m wide, driven by three Parsons steam turbines providing 25 knots of speed and fitted with 12 lifeboats certifying her to carry up to 2,700 people and a crew of 116. She became the biggest and fastest ship at the Company. In appearance, she resembled big liners such as the Lusitania.

SS Drawing of the Ben-my-Chree

''What the Lusitania is to the Atlantic the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company's new steamer Ben-my-Chree will probably be to the Irish Sea.'' —  The Daily Mail.

This however wasn't unplanned as the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company stated that the Ben-my-Chree would be the fastest and most luxuriously appointed channel steamer afloatOn her five decks were 10 saloons for dining, smoking and sitting with separate bars for first and second class. First-class sections had mahogany and oak panelling with wood carved pilasters and furniture even including lifts in the dining saloon connected to the kitchen.

interior of the first class

Launched Monday the 23rd of March 1908, she would set multiple speed records on her maiden voyage and become one of the favourite steamers going to the Isle of Man being named ''The Ben'' by passengers. She became the flagship of the Steam Packet Fleet by the time the Great War broke out in the summer of 1914, carrying more passengers than any other company ship.

SS Ben-my-Chree Launching

Service in the Royal Navy 

Requisitioned in January of 1915, chosen for her speed, as it made her able to join the Grand Fleet. She was sent to Cammell Laird's where she was converted into a seaplane carrier. Refitted with a large aircraft hangar aft with a workshop below and a smaller one forward with a flying-off platform. In addition, Cranes were fitted to hoist the seaplanes back on board. renaming her HMS Ben-my-Chree

HMS Ben-my-Chree after refitting.

By August 1915 HMS Ben-my-Chree had made her way to the Mediterranean to support the Gallipoli Campaign using her aircraft to spot naval gunners as they bombarded Ottoman positions. She simultaneously performed reconnaissance spotting Ottoman transports on the 11th and 17th of august Launching aerial attacks on both.

First successful plane launched torpedo sinking

The Short 184 seaplane used in both attacks

11th - 12th of August

On the 11th of august, HMS Ben-my-Chree spotted an Ottoman transport seemingly at anchor an attack was launched the next day by Flight Commander Charles Edmonds flying his Short 184 seaplane equipped with an 810-pound (370 kg) torpedo. He would successfully drop his torpedo at a distance of about 800 yards (730 m) hitting his target but it turned out that the vessel was beached after having been torpedoed by the British submarine E14 days earlier.

17th of August

While accompanying a reconnaissance flight on the 17th Edmonds suffered engine damage forcing him to land on the water using the remaining power output to taxi back to the HMS Ben-my-Chree over water. During this journey, he encountered a large Ottoman steam tugboat, which he promptly torpedoed hitting and sinking it making it the first aerial torpedo launch to hit and sink a ship.

Flight Commander Charles Edmonds awarded with the first ever ship sinking by aerial torpedo

On the 2nd of September, HMS Ben-my-Chree helped to rescue Australian troops from the torpedoed troopship HMT Southland. She became the flagship of the East Indies and Egypt Seaplane Squadron when it was formed in January 1916.

Sinking by Ottoman Artillery

On the 20th of December 1916, French troops occupied the Greek island of Kastellorizo hoping to use it as an advance base against the mainland Ottoman positions. Understandably irritated by the French trying to put up a base the Ottoman army secretly sent an artillery battery of four 155-millimetre (6.1 in) and twelve 77-millimetre (3.0 in) under the command of Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker which set up his guns in range of the French position where he waited for the right moment to strike.

Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker

Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker

In early January The French commander would request a seaplane carrier to conduct reconnaissance in the area. The Royal Navy sent HMS Ben-my-Chree Arriving on the 11th of January she would anchor in the harbour that faced the mainland In full view of the artillery battery. Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker would open fire about two hours later, hitting the carrier with his third shot. Subsequent shells disabled her steering and started a fire in her hangar that spread across her upper deck. Soon the crew was ordered to abandon ship after about forty minutes of the bombardment using the only remaining operable motor lifeboat. One officer and four enlisted men were injured, but no one was killed. The Ottomans continued their bombardment for five hours until HMS Ben-my-Chree listed to starboard and sank in shallow water. After this event no Navy ever send a carrier type ship near enemy controlled lands again.

HMS Ben-my-Chree's wreck remained in place until 1920 when it was refloated by the salvage ship Vallette and towed to the port of Piraeus. The ship proved to be a constructive total loss and was broken up in Venice, Italy in 1923.

Pictures taken in 1920 while refloating 

Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker

For the feat of sinking a carrier ship and multiple others from land in addition to exemplary service during multiple battles Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker was awarded the following medals:

Ottoman Order of Merit, 2nd class
Subsidize the Navy Medal - given for services and assistance to the Ottoman Navy
Austria 305 numbered commemorative badge mortars top union Canakkale
Iron Cross (Germany)
Medal of Independence (Turkey)
Order of Merit (Prussia)
Cedit Girid Medal
Battle of Galicia medal
Military Medal for actions at Canakkale, Galicia, the Caucasus, Iraq and Egypt

He is also mentioned in the memoirs of Liman von Sanders and Field Marshal Erich Ludendorff and with the relatively recent founding of more information about Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker, I will be sure that he will eventually get his own article showing off all his exploits and accomplishments! (if you want to be notified when that article goes up consider joining our email listdown below!)

Mustafa Ertuğrul Aker

Fun Fact

After the Ottoman bombardment had halted The captain and the chief engineer returned to the wreck to inspect the damage and rescue the ship's mascots, a cat and dog which had both survived the attack.


Do you consider HMS Ben-my-Chree a Aircraft carrier?

Thank You for reading!

Thank you for reading this small piece of Anglo-Turkish history! I hope you enjoyed it (if you did let me know down below!) Personally, I think HMS Ben-my-chree isn't a modern style aircraft carrier but it certainly is a Carrier if we consider CV development as the HMS Ben-my-Chree included most elements of a modern carrier just in a primitive form.

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Sedat Akkuş
3 years ago

If you want more information about Mustafa Ertuğrul AKER, watch this video.