Five: Distinguished Service Medal, G.V.R. (212700 G. Traves, P.O. H.M. Submarine E.14); 1914-15 Star Trio (P.O. 1 R.N.); Royal Navy L.S. & G.C., G.V.R., Admiral’s bust (P.O. H.M.S. Adamant) very fine (5)
D.S.M. London Gazette 13 September 1915 “The following men have been awarded the Distinguished Service Medal for services in submarines in the Sea of Marmora.”
One of the earliest of the ‘E’ class boats to win distinction was the E.14, a vessel completed by Messrs Vickers soon after the outbreak of war and despatched at once to the Eastern Mediterranean under the orders of Lieutenant Commander Edward Courtney Boyle. This officer had already been mentioned in despatches for his observation work off the German coast in the opening days of the war, his command then being submarine D.3; but he was to do far greater things with E.14.
On 27 April 1915 he left the main body of the fleet and made for the Dardanelles. In the four months that had elapsed since the B.11 had achieved such a brilliant coup, the Turks had greatly improved the anti-submarine defences of the narrow channel. The submerged minefields had been increased in numbers and efficiency; in certain parts of the Straits old hulks had been sunk in order to impede the progress of our submarines, while guns had been mounted in favourable positions ashore for covering any vessel that happened by this means to be compelled to rise to the surface. The enemy had also organised a system of patrols, a number of small vessels being apportioned to each two or three miles of the channel to guard it against the pagssage of submarines. Appropriately enough it was one of these very ships that the E.14 secured as her first victim. Lieutenant Commander Boyle had set out with the intention of first getting into the Sea of Marmora, and then settling down to work when he got there, but coming up on one occasion to take his bearings, he saw, by means of the periscope, the reflected image of a Turkish gunboat not many hundred yards distant. A couple of brisk orders, and three hundred pounds of gun-cotton was tearing towards the enemy at the rate of thirty-five miles an hour, eight or nine feet beneath the surface of the water. In a few seconds the submarine rocked to a terrific explosion as the torpedo reached its target. Boyle then proceeded on his journey, leaving the Turkish navy the poorer by a vessel, either the BERK-I-SATVET or a sister ship, of 740 tons, built in Germany in 1907, and carrying a crew of 120 men.
This was an excellent beginning, but more important successes were yet to be achieved. Entering the Sea of Marmora, Lieutenant Commander Boyle was compelled to use the utmost caution, for the news of his coming had preceded him, and the anti-submarine patrol was being pursued with the utmost determination, sometimes compelling the E.14 to remain totally submerged for twelve hours at a stretch. On 29 April however she ‘bagged’ her second victim, this time a Turkish transport; though whether she had troops on board at the time, or was returning more or less empty after carrying them across to the Asiatic side, is not known. Four days later she repeated her success of 27 April, stalking and sinking one of the vessels specially deputed to destroy her. After this the hunt became so hot that the E.14 had to make herself scarce, though she was still able to cruise about in the less frequented parts of the sea and pick up a good deal of useful information. For a week no favourable opportunity of using her torpedoes presented itself, but on 10 May came the greatest success of all. What the Admiralty described as ‘a very large transport, full of troops’ was sighted not very long after she left Constantinople. The sinking of transports laden with more or less helpless soldiers is not one of the nicest refinements of twentieth-century warfare; but it stands in principle on the same basis as the mining of an enemy trench, and its legitimacy is, of course, fully recognised even by those who most deplore it. Consequently, when Lieutenant Commander Boyle found this transport, without convoy, carrying soldiers into the fighting line against British, French and Russian troops, he had no doubts whatever as to his duty. He took up his position at right angles to the course of the transport and waited, and when the right moment came the torpedo was released.
As there were no other hostile ships in sight the E.14 came to the surface. The transport was already settling down when our men emerged from the hatch of the conning tower on to the deck, and doubtless a large number of men had been killed by the torpedo's explosion. Others, however, had succeeded in launching boats and rafts, and these, of course, were not interfered with, though German submarines in similar circumstances had not hesitated to fire on innocent civilians. The submarine remained for some time on the surface and when the approach of hostile torpedo craft warned her that it was time to submerge, the transport had already disappeared. How many men went down with her only the Turks know.
The E.14 remained in the Sea of Mamora another eight days after this, and on 13 May, while cruising on the surface, forced a small enemy steamer, probably carrying munitions of war, to run herself ashore in order to avoid being torpedoed. On 18 May the submarine slipped back again into the Dardanelles, and within a few hours was past all dangers and back into the open Mediterranean. As a mere record of work done her performance was a great one, but we shall fail to realise it to the full unless we remember that for three weeks she had been operating single handed in an area only 175 miles long and 50 miles across at its widest part, its water constantly scoured by hostile warships in search of submarines, and every inch of its shores in the possession of the enemy.
Within a few days after the E.14's return it was announced that the King had been pleased to award the Victoria Cross to her commanding officer, that the Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to Lieutenant E.G. Stanley, and to Acting Lieutenant R.W. Lawrence of the Royal Naval Reserve, and that each member of the crew had been granted the Distinguished Service Medal. The official statement issued by the Admiralty recorded the report of Vice Admiral de Robeck, Commander in Chief in the Eastern Mediterranean, that ‘it was impossible to do full justice to this great achievement, and that His Majesty the King's appreciation and reward for these services have throughout the Allied Fleets given universal satisfaction.’