Halas 71 (Waterwitch)

The backbone of the Navy
Halas 71 (Waterwitch)
Halas at Istanbul 2016

HALAS was ordered by Sirketi Hayriye of Istanbul (the Bosphorous Steam Navigation Co.) under the name RESHID PASHA. She was built in Glasgow by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company and launched on 17 October 1914. She was commandeered by the British Admiralty in November 1914 during fitting out and was renamed WATERWITCH.

At first she was thought to be of little use to the armed forces, but it was soon realised that her shallow draught made her ideal for inshore work, as large troop carrying vessels could not get close to shore. She was immediately dispatched to the Greek Island of Lesbos in the northern Aegean to serve as a Royal Fleet Auxiliary (RFA) ferry during the Gallipoli Campaign.

On 8 August 1915 men of the Isle of Wight Rifles were embarked on ships that sailed to Imbros off the coast of Gallipoli. There the men were transferred to smaller vessels including WATERWITCH for the onward journey to the beaches of Suvla Bay, in preparation for the September 1915 offensive.  Following the abortive campaign WATERWITCH was engaged in helping to evacuate British, Australian and New Zealand troops from the Gallipoli peninsula during the months of November and December 1915 and January 1916. She later supported the First World War Macedonian Campaign (1915-1918) as an RFA tender based in Salonika, Greece.

WHERE IS SHE NOW?

HALAS was handed back to her Turkish owners Sirketi Hayriye, Istanbul (Bosphorous Steam Navigation Co.) in August 1923. She served as a passenger ferry linking Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait for the next 60 years. She was refitted in 2008 as a commercial coastal cruiser and events ship, operated out of Istanbul, and is still in full service today.

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