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  • Writer's pictureShaun Lewis

Naval Heroes of WWI - Martin Nasmith VC

The hero of my submarine novel, The Custom of the Trade, is partially based on the exploits of Lieutenant Commander Martin Nasmith during the Dardanelles campaign. By coincidence, Nasmith was later to command the 7th submarine Flotilla in the Baltic and to become the senior naval officer at Revel (now Tallinn) in Estonia during the campaign by the Baltic States for independence from the Bolsheviks. The story of the Baltic submarine flotilla is the subject of the novel I am currently writing and its sequel features the naval battle against the Bolsheviks.

Nasmith was an early pioneer of submarines, qualifying for command in 1905. Unfortunately, his first command was sunk in an accident, but he and his men escaped to the surface and all survived. He went on to set up the submarine attack trainer at HMS Dolphin before taking command of HMS E11 in 1914. He made his name and earned his VC in 1915 when he created havoc amongst the Turks. As well as sinking several Turkish ships, he struck fear at the very heart of the Ottoman Empire when he entered the harbour of the then Constantinople and torpedoed a ship alongside. As well as sinking ships, he and his men used their gun to attack Turkish trains and even cavalry passing by the coast. His second-in-command, Lieutenant D’Oyly-Hughes, is credited with the first commando raid when he swam ashore to destroy a railway viaduct.

Nasmith was promoted to flag rank and held a number of senior appointments during WWII, including Rear Admiral Submarines, before retiring as a full admiral in 1946. He married Beatrix Justina Dunbar-Rivers in 1920, changing his surname to Dunbar-Nasmith, and settled in Morayshire where he died in 1965. He is buried in Elgin.

Lt Cdr Martin Nasmith

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