The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean 1900-1915


"Superior Force"

The "Straits" Trilogy by Geoffrey Miller



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Superior Force
The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau


In the first weeks of August, 1914 the German battle cruiser, Goeben, and her accompanying light cruiser, Breslau, escaped the clutches of the pursuing British Mediterranean Squadron and took refuge at Constantinople, where they would later exert a decisive influence upon Turkey’s attempts to remain out of the war.

In October 1914, with the connivance of the Turkish Minister of War, but against the wishes of the majority of the Turkish Cabinet, the German Admiral at the head of the Turkish Navy single-handedly forced the issue. At the helm of Goeben, Admiral Souchon manoeuvred into the Black Sea and deliberately shelled Russian ships, ports and shore installations. The Turks, reluctant to the last, were finally catapulted into the War. Yet, would this outcome have eventuated without the presence of Admiral Souchon and Goeben? The Turkish fleet by itself was too weak to risk a sortie in the Black Sea. Without Goeben could the issue have been forced?

Meanwhile, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, actively sought Greek co-operation for a planned major offensive against the Turks at the Dardanelles. His plea for assistance reached the British Officer at the head of the Greek Navy, Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, who set impossible conditions which he knew would result in the proposal being rejected in London. What Churchill did not know, and which has never previously been revealed, was that Kerr had not only removed any chance of Greek participation at the Dardanelles, but had also been instrumental in the conspiracy afoot in Athens during August to allow the German ships to escape in the first place.

Various accounts of the escape have sought to apportion blame, with the Admiralty (under Churchill), the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, and the Rear-Admiral, First Cruiser Squadron all being found culpable to some extent. What no previous account has revealed however is the fact that there was an organized conspiracy afoot in Athens, involving the Greek Premier on one side, and the King and a serving British Rear-Admiral on the other, to facilitate the escape of the German ships.

The eventual destination of Goeben and Breslau (a mystery to the British until the ships actually reached the Dardanelles) was common knowledge amongst ruling circles in Athens some hours before Britain declared war on Germany. Privy to this secret was Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, the British Officer at the head of the Greek Navy. For three vital days Kerr kept the secret to himself; then, when it was almost too late, he fed the Admiralty clues which were, however, not acted upon.

In addition to being the most complete account of the dramatic escape yet published, Superior Force, for the first time, reveals the extent of the Athens conspiracy and the ambivalent rôle played by Mark Kerr who, soon after, would also remove any chance of Greek co-operation in the major offensive planned by Churchill against the Turks at the Dardanelles. Few men can genuinely be said to have changed history; by his actions in Athens in the summer of 1914 Mark Kerr is one of those few.




Please click to go to the "Superior Force" web-site Superior Force
The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau
xxiii + 458 pages, 20 illustrations, 2 maps
Full bibliography, notes and index
Card cover, 6¼" x 9¼"
ISBN 0 85958 635 9
Published 1996


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SMS Breslau off Constantinople
SMS Breslau off Constantinople


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HMS Berwick : Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller
HMS Berwick
[Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller]


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