conspiracy behind the
escape of Goeben and Breslau
first volume ofthe Straits Trilogyby Geoffrey Miller
I: Superior Force
: the conspiracy behind the escape of Goeben and
: British Policy towards the Ottoman
Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign
III: The Millstone
: British Naval Policy in the Mediterranean,
1900-1914, the Commitment to France and British Intervention in the War
provide a comprehensive account of British naval and diplomatic policy in the two decades
prior to the Great War, focusing in particular on the escape of the German ships
and Breslau [Superior Force], the origins of the Dardanelles Campaign
[Straits], and the
political and diplomatic imperatives behind the British decision to enter the
war in August 1914 [The Millstone].
Each non-fiction title by Geoffrey Miller has its
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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.
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Naval Review" (review of "Superior Force")
of the ‘escape’ of Goeben and Breslau in August
1914 from the pursuing Mediterranean Fleet and
their arrival in Constantinople has been told
many times. It exerts a fascination because,
without these powerful reinforcements, Turkey
might have remained neutral in the First World
War. Russian trade through the Dardanelles might
have continued and the fate of the Russian
Empire and of the whole of the Middle East might
have been different. Geoffrey Miller not only
knows how to make the familiar story exciting,
he also reminds his readers of aspects of the
escape which other accounts sometimes overlook …
Superior Force is a valuable and readable
contribution to naval and diplomatic history."
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