The British Empire and its effect on Plymouth

Mark Lambert Bristol

Mark Lambert Bristol was the Commander of the US Submarine Chaser Detachment (Destroyers) based in Plymouth. The HQ was on Elliot Terrace on the Hoe and the US Destroyers came and left from the Cattedown side of Plymouth Sound as the Royal Navy still operated fully out of the Hamoaze. The role of the US Submarine Chaser Detachment was primarily to support the movement of troopships across the Atlantic to deliver the American soldiers safely to France. This was a period before any radar or even Asdic systems so most submarine chasing was hoping to catch them on the surface or respond to sightings from aircraft, balloons or other ships as rapidly as possible. Fortunately, U-boat technology was similarly restrained compared to say World War Two submarines and their ranges and ability to stay under water for any length of time were somewhat curtailed.

Admiral Bristol would later become an extremely controversial character connected to the Turkish defeat of the Greeks in 1922 and particularly to the tragic events culminating in the destruction of Smyrna and the deaths of tens of thousands of Greeks, Armenians and Jews and the exodus of hundreds of thousands more from Anatolia. Admiral Bristol was deeply suspicious of the power of Britain and used his position as the senior American official in Constantinople to frustrate British power in the region. The British Prime Minister, Lloyd-George, had given his backing to Greek demands to expand their power in the region. However, when they were defeated by Ataturk in 1922, the Americans under Bristol were more than a little lackadaisical in helping the imperilled local population escape from the vengeful Turks. Indeed, American destroyers in Smyrna harbour at the time of the huge fire that destroyed most of the city were on strict instructions from Bristol not to intervene. Fortunately, there were American sailors and missionaries who ignored Bristol's orders and worked with the British and Greeks to evacuate a significant number from the Anatolian coastline of Turkey. Admiral Bristol hardly kept his views hidden as he told the New York Times in 1922 "I hate the Greeks, I hate the Armenians, I hate the Jews. The Turks are fine fellows."

Empire in Your Backyard: Plymouth Article

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by Stephen Luscombe