STRAITS British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © 1997-2005 Geoffrey Miller





STRAITS : British policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © Geoffrey Miller



Map of Turkey
STRAITS British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © 1997-2005 Geoffrey Miller



Chapter 12




The Unhappy Plight of Admiral Limpus






The first hint of a real breakthrough came after Jagow had again seen Goschen on New Year’s Day, 1914. The German Foreign Minister was altogether more hopeful that an amicable agreement could be reached: Liman would command, initially, the Army Corps during which time he would locate ‘all the weak spots of the Turkish military organisation’, then he would be promoted to ‘something in the nature of an Inspector General without any special command’ after relinquishing his command of the First Army Corps.[1] But still Sazonov would not let go. He received the Tsar’s approval on 5 January to chair a special conference to be attended by the Prime Minister, the Ministers for War and the Navy, and the Chief of the General Staff; the meeting would be held on 13 January. In the meantime Sazonov could accede to the wishes of Britain and France not to do anything until Wangenheim, who was returning to Germany from Constantinople for consultations, had had a chance to reach Berlin.

                On 6 January Buchanan reported that Sazonov would wait another week to allow Germany time to meet Russia’s wishes; if there seemed no prospect of satisfaction being received he suggested that further informal Entente representations should be made at the Porte warning that the 4% customs increase would be refused and no financial assistance of any kind would be forthcoming. Sazonov again threatened that British failure to support Russia ‘after all pacific means had been tried’ would signal the end of the understanding between the Powers. When Buchanan inquired if Russia meant to go it alone in that case, Sazonov would not even contemplate such an eventuality ‘as separate action by Russia would inevitably cause war into which we [Britain] should be dragged in the end, whereas collective action by the three Powers would accomplish its object without war.’[2] Grey’s patience was wearing extremely thin: the issue was causing him ‘more anxiety than all other questions together.’ Yet this did not prevent him leaving London on the evening of 7 January for a short break (having only returned to the capital the previous day from his Christmas break). He would be away till the 19th and hoped some progress could be made in the negotiations between Germany and Russia by then, otherwise he ‘feared that [he] should be confronted with a very unpleasant situation.’ Between these absences Grey found time when in London to speak to Lichnowsky and suggest that, if the German Government felt unable to modify Liman’s command immediately, they might at least announce that his position was temporary and would be revised.[3]

                The focus of attention shifted to Constantinople where, also on 7 January, an Imperial iradé was published announcing the retirement of a large number of previously prominent Turkish officers. Liman’s command appointment was confirmed, while the new Minister of War – none other than Enver Pasha – became his own Chief of Staff. Additionally, in a move not designed to appease the Russians, Mahmud Mukhtar, who had been at the Berlin Embassy, became the Inspector of the Third Army at Erzinjan on the Russian frontier.[4] Enver justified the changes in an interview in The Tanin on 10 January by stating that the army had previously comprised a peace cadre and a war cadre and ‘it had become necessary to put an end to this unnatural dual system.’ He had been guided in making his new appointments by the principle of giving scope to youth and ability.[5] Very much his own man, Enver had formulated a personal opinion as to what position Liman should occupy, and, predictably, it diverged markedly from Liman’s perception; friction soon arose between them.[6] Enver in fact doubted the usefulness of the German mission, particularly when it appeared inevitable that it would be compounded by the political problems associated with a visible German presence at the Porte. Paradoxically, while in no tangible way ceding control of the Ottoman Army to the German Mission, the diplomatic rumpus had strengthened Enver’s own position:[7] his preference for an alternative solution, which he was now in a position to enforce, was to send more Turkish officers to study in Berlin. When discussing this with the Commander of the German Naval Base, Korvettenkapitän Hans Humann had to resort to pointing out that a few months previously Enver had survived a serious operation in part due to the skill of a German surgeon. This crude reference to a debt of gratitude was enough for Enver to agree that the mission should remain, but not sufficient for him to desist in working against it.[8]

                The compromise solution first mooted by Jagow to Goschen had received the reluctant approval of the Emperor who, given his head, would have preferred to take a strong line. Liman would be promoted to Lieutenant-General of Cavalry giving him the equivalent rank in the Turkish army of Marshal and, therefore, making him too senior to command an Army Corps. Ironically, having reached a decision in Berlin, the Turks stubbornly held out for a fortnight, determined not to give way until, with Enver’s appointment, the issue declined in importance. No doubt Enver thought he could handle Liman. In any event, just as Sazonov’s special conference was about to commence on 13 January, word came through from Constantinople that, although the situation was still somewhat confused, Liman might be about to step down from the command of the First Army Corps.[9] Ever the pragmatist, Talaat was able to extract one crumb of comfort, however illusory, from the whole episode: when informed by a deputy that the German plan was to make Turkey a German colony, he admitted that this was the German intention but that

we cannot put this country on its feet with our resources. We shall therefore take advantage of such technical and material assistance as the Germans can place at our disposal. We shall use Germany to help reconstruct and defend the country until we are able to govern the country with our own strength. When that day comes, we can say good-bye to the Germans within 24 hours.[10]

In reporting that Liman was ‘fully satisfied’ with his new position, the German Chargé in Constantinople also perceived a great advantage in that Liman was now ‘outside all internal complications in Turkey, and this would have been difficult and sometimes impossible for him as commander of the First Army Corps.’[11] Liman meantime, despite the earlier categorical assurance of the Grand Vizier to the contrary, placed special emphasis on the fortification and defence of the Straits, while, within weeks, the British Military Attaché was reporting that Enver had completely transformed the War Office which was now ‘as up to date in its methods as the Kriegsministerium.’[12]

                The apparent sudden compromise in Constantinople nullified the carefully planned agenda of Sazonov’s special conference of 13 January.[13] On the crucial issue of how far Russia would go if Germany intervened after coercive measures had been taken against Turkey, Prime Minister Kokovstov and Sazonov both timidly agreed that a war with Germany was ‘undesirable’ while the Minister of War and Chief of the General Staff declared that, although Russia could take on either Germany or Austria alone, this was hardly likely and Russia would then find herself up against the Triple Alliance. Sazonov believed, in any event, that Germany would not view with any marked concern a war against both France and Russia combined: it was only the addition of Britain that would tip the scales — yet British intervention was extremely doubtful as Grey had rebuffed every Russian proposal designed to force the issue. With nowhere else to turn, Kokovstov, adopting a conciliatory tone, reverted to measures which would not precipitate a war and so favoured a financial boycott even to the extent of reimbursing the French (the heaviest investors in the Ottoman Empire) for any losses suffered as a result. Unable to face the humiliation of having to buy protection, and unsure of the efficacy of a boycott, Sazonov, the Army and Navy ministers and the Chief of Staff all preferred that Trebizond and Bayazid should be occupied to bring about the quickest solution; indeed, the C.O.S. went even further, advocating a naval demonstration off Constantinople. It was Sazonov’s wishful belief this would result in a revolution at the Porte which might, concomitantly, solve the problem of the military mission.

                These ramblings were only considered possible on the basis of the closest Anglo-French co-operation and the Prime Minister spoke for everyone when he declared that war would be considered ‘the greatest misfortune for Russia.’[14] If nothing else, the Conference underlined the weakness of the Russian position whereby coercive measures could only be undertaken with the active participation of Britain and France. By 20 January Buchanan was able to report that Sazonov was ‘perfectly satisfied’ with the new arrangement for Liman and only the prospect of a German general commanding a division at Scutari caused him concern.[15] One serious casualty of the crisis was Sazonov’s own standing within the British Foreign Office which deteriorated, if that were possible, even further. Descriptions of him at this time ranged from ‘tiresome’ to ‘ridiculous’ to ‘almost incredibly jejune’ while a more honest critical appraisal labelled him ‘somewhat excitable, and like many weak men occasionally irritable and fractious.’ Overall, Nicolson thought that ‘Too great weight need not be attached to his opinions.’[16] Unfortunately for Sazonov, just as his reputation was debased, the experience in Turkey convinced him that a decisive strengthening of the Triple Entente was required to prevent a recurrence of such incidents. For Sazonov, the German compromise was not the end of the matter: ‘Russian policy with regard to Constantinople and the Straits’, he later wrote,

had been inspired for a great many years by one fundamental principle: the maintenance of the status quo — however disadvantageous it might be, in many respects, for Russia…From the day when Germany first laid hands on Constantinople, Russia felt uneasy. There was no need to fear a coup de main, for the forces that Germany could dispose of in Turkey were insufficient for such an enterprise; but there was always the possibility that she might seize the opportunity afforded by political disturbances…to sweep away the last remnants of Turkish power over the Straits…[17]

                Having witnessed the failure of diplomatic methods to achieve his aim (it was true the Germans had compromised, but Liman – whatever his post – remained in Constantinople), Sazonov’s mind turned once more towards contingency plans for military action to safeguard Russian interests in Constantinople and the Straits. This subject would be thrashed out in a further special conference to be held on 21 February and at which the Foreign Minister now envisaged a two-pronged attack: military preparedness on the one hand; a concerted effort to consolidate the Entente on the other.

The appearance of German officers on the Bosphorus, armed with unusual powers [Sazonov claimed] was the decisive moment which prompted Russia to seek an understanding with England more definite than the vague sense of common danger…If a formal alliance with England was out of the question…the Imperial Government wished at least to come to some agreement which would provide that, in certain contingencies, we might hope to receive assistance, not fortuitously, but as a result of a plan elaborated in common. Such an agreement might have taken the form of a conditional military convention…An agreement of this kind would have no political significance whatever.[18]

From the British point of view, the Liman affair wound down in February. Sazonov made one final attempt to complain that the Germans were attempting to obtain the command of the Scutari division but Grey had the last word on 11 February: the intrinsic importance of the German Military Mission had, he thought, ‘been very much exaggerated,’ producing the general impression that Germany had received ‘diplomatic set-back, which the German Press has had to explain away as best it could.’ Grey did not ‘see why Sazonof should not be content with that.’[19]

                Although Grey had, throughout, considered Sazonov to be over-reacting there is also no doubt that his own freedom of action was limited due to the scope and nature of the British Naval Mission. Following the appointment of Limpus to succeed Williams in the summer of 1912, the Admiral had struggled manfully, in less than ideal conditions, fortified at least by the unceasing jollity of his wife, Florence. His complaints to the Admiralty in London generally went unanswered until, eventually, Churchill was able to reply at the end of the Balkan Wars, when the situation had settled somewhat, that

You must not think that because I do not answer I do not appreciate your letters…The Government certainly wish the Mission to continue. I recognise very plainly the difficulties and discouragements of the task, but, even if very little positive progress is made, we at any rate keep one sphere of Turkish affairs from falling under German influence. I sympathise with you very much in the difficulties and disappointments you have to face. Still, you have been at the centre of affairs during a very exciting time.[20]

Limpus encountered the same basic problem as his Greek counterpart, Admiral Mark Kerr, in that he continued to urge, fruitlessly, that the country could not afford battleships and would be better suited by a more diverse naval building programme — but the Turks wanted dreadnoughts because the Greeks wanted dreadnoughts because the Turks wanted dreadnoughts! An additional complication was provided by the continued Italian occupation of the Dodecanese Islands following the Turco-Italian war and, more important strategically, the Greek occupation of certain Aegean Islands during the Balkan Wars.

                The Turks had stoked the fires with their 1911 order for two British dreadnoughts; although one was soon cancelled, work on the other, scheduled for completion by the summer of 1914, continued. Before his recall, Lowther had warned that Turkey was seeking to augment its single dreadnought by purchasing another ‘off the peg’: in this case the battleship being built in England for Brazil. The acquisition of such units, Lowther asserted, would allow Turkey ‘to influence in her favour the solution of the question of the Aegean islands, and in any case have…a navy superior to that of Greece in the Mediterranean, if not to that of Russia in the Black Sea.’[21] Lowther’s warning was premature as Brazil had, as yet, shown no inclination to sell the ship (the Rio de Janeiro) though it would appear that Russia, Italy and Turkey had all approached the Brazilian Government secretly and independently with offers to purchase the vessel. It was not until 4 September 1913 that the British Minister in Rio de Janeiro reported, on good authority, that a sale was mooted at the ‘first favourable opportunity’ and that, once sold, Brazil proposed to place an order for ‘a new battleship more suitable to Brazilian requirements.’[22] In fact, following a sharp fall in rubber exports and the failure of a loan floated in May, Brazil could not afford this, or any other, ship.[23]

                Initially, the Admiralty reaction was one of unconcern and disinterest. It was the opinion of the Third Sea Lord that the ship was ‘most unsuitable for the British Navy’, a judgment with which the First Sea Lord, Battenberg, fully concurred — Battenberg’s minute, initialled by Churchill, was to the effect that Britain had ‘no use for the ship’.[24] Limpus, however, echoing Turkish fears that the Greeks might buy the ship, thought one solution would be for Britain to buy it; indeed, it was difficult to see where the ship could go without the risk of upsetting some localized naval balance. By the time the Board of Admiralty met on 17 November to discuss the problem, information had been received that the Italians had requested a ten day option to purchase the ship. Despite this approach by a member (however tenuously) of the Triple Alliance, the Board decided they ‘were not aware of any circumstances which would justify them in purchasing the ship in order that it might not come into the possession of the Italian Government.’[25] After what had seemed an uncompromising verdict, second thoughts quickly surfaced when the French Naval Attaché was informed on the following day of the Italian interest.[26]

                In sharp contrast to the nonchalance of the Admiralty, the casual approach to the French Attaché resulted in near panic in Paris; the French now had a few scant days to decide whether they wanted the ship themselves to forestall the Italians. Instead, in what must have seemed an inspired compromise at the time, the Foreign Office in London was informed on the morning of Saturday, 22 November that the French Government had decided to find the money for Greece to buy the ship. Grey – wary of the Italians and not enamoured of the Greeks – left it to the Admiralty to judge whether it was better for Greece or Italy to have the ship, though, from the point of view of the Foreign Office, it was on balance preferable that it should go to the former. The French also wanted Armstrong’s, the builders, to be warned to delay the completion of the sale, which Grey thought might take place early on Monday morning, 24 November, in which case he proposed to ask Sir George Murray of Armstrong’s ‘at once to await further communication from the Admiralty.’[27] Suddenly the matter had become so urgent that, on Sunday 23rd, Churchill sent a telephone message to Battenberg declaring that the Foreign Office should be told the Admiralty regarded it as ‘most important’ that Greece should purchase the ship and Armstrong’s ‘should be warned at once not to conclude alternative bargain.’[28]

                The Italian connexion remains something of a mystery, as Italian interest in the vessel was more apparent than real: there was certainly no Italian delegation waiting on Armstrong’s doorstep on Monday morning ready to sign on the dotted line. As the Sea Lords were only too well aware – when delivering their comment that Rio de Janeiro had no place in the Royal Navy – the ship had been built to special Brazilian requirements and mounted the most number of guns (14 x 12-inch) of any dreadnought afloat.[29] It is difficult to see how the ship would conform with the planned 15-inch gunned Italian dreadnoughts although one hypothesis has been advanced that the rumour of an Italian bid originated as a result of the rivalry between competing Italian yards.[30] It is perhaps too much to suggest that Armstrong’s used the Italians as a stalking horse, to raise the stakes and make the ship easier to dispose of once it became known the Brazilians could not honour their contract.

                By 8 December the agent for Armstrong’s in Brazil, while still confirming that Italy had been negotiating a sale ‘for some time past’, reported that now, suddenly, another Power, as yet unknown, had made an offer.[31] Three days later details began to emerge of the offer itself but not as to the identity of the prospective purchaser. It was well known that the reserve price was £2,750,000 and, by the 11th, it was learned that the mysterious buyer had made a firm offer with an immediate cash deposit of £250,000 and a further down payment of £940,000 to be paid in a matter of weeks. If the balance was not then forthcoming, the Brazilian Government could keep the ship and the deposit. These terms must have proved acceptable to the Brazilians as their Foreign Minister notified the British Legation that same day that the ship had been sold, but that, incredibly, ‘the Brazilian Government also do not know to what Power.’[32] Then, on 13 December, Mallet reported from Constantinople that he had just learned ‘that the Ottoman Government some time ago telegraphed to the Turkish Ambassador in London to negotiate for the purchase of the Rio de Janeiro on the basis of payment of £1 million in cash and the remainder in instalments.’[33] Coming so soon after the information from Brazil that a similar offer had been made by an ‘unknown’ buyer, Mallet’s telegram should have alerted the Admiralty; two days later the issue appeared beyond doubt when the Minister in Brazil wired succinctly that ‘Turkey is the purchaser’[34] but it was not that simple and, on the 19th, Mallet was still referring to a race between Turkey and Greece for the ship.[35]

                The French plan had been for an additional sum, specifically to finance the purchase of the ship, to be added to the Greek loan then being negotiated in Paris. Knowing full well that France could not afford to take the chance that the ship might go to Italy, the Greeks apparently used this as a lever to extract better terms for the loan; all this did was to delay matters.[36] The Turks were more astute. Their campaign featured intense lobbying of European banks to convince them of the country’s credit-worthiness together with a forthright admission in Athens that they planned to have their islands back. Then, to whip up popular indigenous support for their expensive prospective purchase, a flag-waving cruise took place by the one genuine hero of the Turkish navy, Raouf Orbay, who had harassed the Greeks during the Balkan War in the lone cruiser Hamidieh after breaking out of the Dardanelles. Raouf’s cruise itself had a dual purpose: as well as raising the prestige of the navy, his final destination was England where he soon made contact with Armstrong’s. The Turks had also got the money they wanted, albeit at a usurious rate and, embarrassingly, from a French bank![37]

                In the race to decide the fate of the Brazilian battleship the Turks had been the first to come up with the money, and the ship was theirs; the deal was done on 28 December and publicly announced the next day though Mallet continued to report, as late as 31 December, of ‘persistent rumours’ that the Ottoman Government had purchased Rio de Janeiro![38] Indeed, as the announcement was being made in England, Mallet was having a long discussion with Djemal in which the Ambassador, referring to the rumours, ‘doubted whether the Turkish navy would be able at present to make use of such a vessel — could they man her and where was the dock into which she could go for repairs?’ Mallet cautioned that Turkey was attempting too much in too great a hurry and should proceed slowly concentrating, to begin with, on education and reform rather than arousing the jealousy ‘of one Power in particular’ by proceeding too quickly in the matter of the fleet. Djemal ‘at once enquired whether England had not lent them a Naval Commander and other officers…in order to help them create a good fleet. Was not England serious in the matter?’ Besides, the Turkish Government was determined to have a fleet stronger than Greece, which would be a great advantage for Britain, as ‘Turkey’s fleet would always fight on her side’ while, additionally, the Turks ‘would help to maintain the balance of power in the Mediterranean against the growing power of Italy.’[39]

                So the Turks had their second ship, which would now be known as Sultan Osman I, though locally in Elswick, where work had stopped on her for some time, she was disparagingly known as HMS Rust. The unemployed dockyard hands awoke on New Year’s Day, 1914, to find in their local newspaper an imaginary drawing of the completed ship flying the Turkish flag together with a photograph of ‘Captain Raouf, of Turkey, who is in London in connection with the matter.’ Work began again on the great ship and the former gibe was forgotten: she was now the Sultan.[40] Naval fever gripped the Turks. Newspapers advocated the imposition of a special tax for the maintenance of the fleet and Mallet was ‘informed that the Government expect to obtain over £1 million in voluntary subscriptions.’ Although, he added, ‘the methods employed to obtain them hardly warrant the conclusion that these subscriptions are in all cases voluntary.’[41] Mallet recounted that one unfortunate Greek shopkeeper was compelled to give one particular day’s takings to the Ottoman Naval Fund: on the appointed day he ‘found his premises invaded by crowds of Moslem customers who bought out the entire contents of his shop.’[42] The Greeks were left to lick their wounds after losing the ship while the French were cynical enough to believe that the sale was not unconnected with the recent concession awarded by the Turks to Armstrong’s and Vickers for the reorganization of the Ottoman dockyards. This suspicion would not have been weakened when, at the beginning of May 1914, Armstrong’s clinched a new Turkish order for a third dreadnought for the Ottoman Navy.[43]

                The dockyards’ concession, the third strand of British aid to revivify the Turkish navy after the Naval Mission and the dreadnoughts, was obtained late in 1913. The representatives of Armstrong’s (Sir Charles Ottley, a former Secretary of the C.I.D.) and Vickers (Sir Vincent Caillard) had arrived in Constantinople on 22 October 1913 to tout for work although Limpus took the credit for persuading them to take the business up. In a rambling letter to Churchill the Admiral set out what was required:

The Turks have built the Rechadieh. They need a dock for her. Their arsenals in the Golden Horn are crumbling – have nearly crumbled – to decay. They need capable management, workmen, and money. Then they could be used both for the navy and commercially. But in the future their main arsenal must be outside the Golden Horn.

The Armstrong’s group had formulated broad terms which the Turkish Government accepted in principle before further discussing the details; hard negotiating continued unrelentingly – ‘Often we are at it from 9.30 a.m. till 6.30 p.m. with a very brief lunch interval’ – and, twice, the negotiations nearly failed altogether. The agreement had to be re-drafted thirteen times but, by early December, it was settled. Limpus provided a barely coherent outline of the final agreement to Churchill:

3 parties to the agreement, Government, the public debt, and the Group (Armstrong Vickers). They form a Compagnie Cointeressée. Object: naval & commercial construction & repair works. Duration: 30 years. Existing docks & arsenals, and, aided by the public debt, guarantees the interest & sinking fund on the £1,300,000 capital and agree to have all work done by the Société Impériale Ottomane des Docks &c, and, what the Société cannot do is to be done in England. The Group finds the capital, finds the management & direction & certain English workpeople, and engages to put the existing plant into order, install a floating dock near Ismidt with the necessary nucleus of workshops on shore & a model village. Engages to be in a position to execute certain classes of work in certain definite times, & to so train the Turkish personnel that at the end of the term it shall be handed back to the Government as a going Turkish concern.

To Limpus it was a tangible success which would secure for British interests a predominant position in Turkish naval affairs for thirty years: if that were so it would be justification enough for the work of the mission. ‘It is bad to shout too soon’, concluded Limpus confidently, ‘but the appearance of the infant is so healthy that the temptation to cheer a little is strong.’[44]

                Whatever response Limpus anticipated from the First Lord, he received instead a sharp rebuke from Churchill criticizing ‘the general style and presentment of your letters.’ For his months of hard work Churchill merely recognized ‘that you have played a useful and effective part in the negotiations, and I congratulate you upon the result.’[45] Although Limpus was, inevitably, feeling somewhat deflated after the euphoria of the contract signing, even before receiving Churchill’s rebuke he was questioning his future in Turkish service, particularly as he now believed his prospects for advancement in the Royal Navy might suffer.[46] The onset of the Liman crisis apparently proved the last straw. By 11 December 1913 Limpus was complaining bitterly to Mallet that

The Turkish Government was persuaded not without difficulty to put their crumbling dockyards into really capable hands. The most experienced and able firms in the world were persuaded not without difficulty to take this work seriously in hand. The parties were brought together with my draft proposition before them after 16 months’ work. Then after 6 weeks careful negotiations an agreement was reached and signed which will save the valuable dockyards from destruction, and make them available to the Turks with a trained Ottoman personnel…I am astonished to find this accomplishment looked upon not as a tremendous gain to the Turks (which indeed it is) but only as a point scored by the scheming British Government against the other Great Powers!…Whereas I know that the British Government had no hand in the business at all, except of course, that they sent me as a Naval Adviser when the Turks asked for such a man…[47]

Further, the option most widely voiced at the height of the Liman crisis – of a simultaneous alteration in the powers of both Liman and Limpus – also found little favour with the Admiral.[48]

                Limpus’ mind was made up by January 1914; he informed the Admiralty that his contract expired on 30 April and could they kindly let him know who his successor was to be so he could begin to pass information on to him.[49] In a singularly malicious minute Battenberg suggested ‘Admiral Limpus being informed that it is regretted but that no further employment can be found for him. It would then be for him to consider the desirability of retiring and devoting himself permanently to the Turkish Navy.’[50] Fortunately, Churchill’s sense of honour precluded such cynical expediency — he had promised Limpus ‘previous to taking the Turkish post, that it would not prejudice his future career in the Royal Navy. Nor will it.’[51]

                What Limpus did not anticipate was that the Turks themselves would campaign for his retention, more so when Djemal Pasha was appointed Minister of Marine. Djemal saw Limpus at the end of February to request that the Admiral and his staff remain for at least another year. Although flattered, Limpus informed Churchill that his personal inclination had not varied ‘since you first did me the honour of selecting me for this duty. It is that I should prefer to serve in the British Navy even if the salary here were £30,000 a year.’ Limpus’ ambition was to go as the next C-in-C on the East Indies or China Station.[52] Mallet took up the Admiral’s cause as well, admitting that he would be sorry to urge a course – staying on in Constantinople – which would injure Limpus’ chance of promotion. The predicament however was that a change of adviser ‘would make things more difficult for Djemal Pasha, who is quite new to the work, and who depends on Limpus and likes him.’ It was cruel luck that Limpus’ resolve to depart should coincide with the appointment of Djemal who, rightly or wrongly, was seen as the one really influential member of the Government who might be susceptible to the courting of the Entente Powers.[53] The Admiral’s fate was settled and he now resolved to stay on ‘if HMG express desire that he should do so’[54] which the Government quickly did for reasons of political expediency.Please click to go to the top of this page






[1]    Goschen to Grey, private, 31 December 1913/2 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 455, pp. 405-6.

[2]    Buchanan to Grey, no. 4, 6 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 459, pp. 408-9. Harcourt, for one, was furious when he read this telegram from Buchanan and complained bitterly to Grey about Sazonov’s threats that British failure to support Russia would see Britain dragged into war: ‘It seems more than ever necessary to make it clear that there is no “Anglo-Russian understanding”, as apart from Persia, and that we have little or no interest in the German Military Mission to Constantinople. In fact so slight is our locus standing that before we can obtain one we must reduce the status of Admiral Limpus (who already has a Fleet Control which we are supposed to decline to the Germans for the army) before we can make a protest over a matter which does not concern us. This is I fear “Triple Entente” run mad — a result which I always feared from the use of this terminological inexactitude.’ Harcourt to Grey, 9 January 1914, quoted in, Lowe & Dockrill, Mirage of Power, vol. III, p. 482.

[3]    Grey to Goschen, no. 4, 7 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 461, p. 411.

[4]    Mallet to Grey, no. 15, 8 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 464, pp. 414-5. According to Liman, Enver’s reason for becoming his own C.O.S. was to eliminate the unceasing conflicts which had previously occurred between the two posts: see, Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 19.

[5]    Copy of Tanin article, PRO FO 195 2456/118. It was said that Izzet Pasha, the previous Minister of War, ‘recognized the need for a purge of the old officer corps, but refused himself to carry it out since “all those to be purged are my friends.”…’ Kinross, The Ottoman Centuries, p. 598.

[6]    Liman, Five Years in Turkey, p. 9.

[7]    F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 232.

[8]    Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, p. 37.

[9]    Kerner, Mission of Liman von Sanders, pp. 102, 97; Grey to Mallet, no. 51, 26 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 471, p. 421.

[10]  Quoted in, Henry Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, (London, 1918), p. 21. Morgenthau was the American Ambassador to the Porte.

[11]  Mutius to Bethmann-Hollweg, 20 January 1914, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, p. 215.

[12]  Mallet to Grey, private, 4 February 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/80.

[13]  In fact the issue still seemed in doubt as the telegrams from Giers on 11 and 12 January appeared to contradict one another. The conference went ahead anyway, as a detailed discussion document had already been drawn up, but with the proviso that, if Liman did eventually give up his command, the present consultations would remain of academic significance. The topics of conversations covered the following points: 1. Russia could not consent to the presence of a German general in command of troops at Constantinople, though Adrianople might be acceptable; 2. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was to continue negotiations in Berlin and Constantinople in this sense; 3. Decisions must be taken to provide for enforcement of Russia’s demands by coercive measures, if necessary; 4. These measures might take the form of the occupation of a point in Asia Minor such as Trebizond or Bayazid, with the announcement that they might remain there until the demands were satisfied; 5. England and France should be consulted and their level of support ascertained; 6. Sazonov would point out to his Entente partners the possibility of serious consequences, leading perhaps to a general European war, and would make all efforts to secure their assistance; 7. If this point of view was adopted by the three Powers, then the following steps might be taken in order: (a) financial boycott of Turkey, (b) if this did not have the desired effect, the Ambassadors should be recalled, (c) they would, together, notify the Porte of the time-limit available to have their demands met, (d) after which, they would proceed to coercive measures; 8. If threats had to be made, they should be followed immediately by action. Kerner, Mission of Liman von Sanders,  p. 96; Howard, Partition of Turkey, p. 45.

[14]  The Conference ultimately concluded, 1. That Russia could not accept the German command in Constantinople, but recognized as acceptable a general inspectorate of the Turkish army; 2. That the negotiations in Berlin should be continued until their complete failure became evident; 3. That, thereafter, the suggested means of pressure on Turkey should be taken up with Britain and France; 4. That should they fail to secure the active participation of Britain and France in coercive measures, it did not seem possible to adopt means of pressure which could result in a war with Germany. Kerner, Mission of Liman von Sanders, pp. 99-102; Howard, Partition of Turkey, pp. 44-6; Fischer, War of Illusions, pp. 344-5.

[15]  Buchanan to Grey, no. 22, 20 January 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 468, pp. 418-9.

[16]  See, for example, Heller, British Policy, pp. 115-6; Kent, “Constantinople and Asiatic Turkey”, in Hinsley (ed.), op. cit., p. 160.

[17]  Sazonov, Fateful Years, p. 125.

[18]  Ibid., pp. 125-8.

[19]  Grey to Buchanan, private, 11 February 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 474, p. 423.

[20]  Churchill to Limpus, 19 September 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1780.

[21]  Lowther to Grey, no. 417, 13 May 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[22]  Sir W Haggard to Grey, no. 17, 4 September 1913, ibid.

[23]  Hough, The Big Battleship, p. 63.

[24]  Minute by Admiral Moore, Third Sea Lord, 23 October 1913; minutes by Battenberg, 23 September and 24 October 1913, the former initialled by Churchill, 27 September, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[25]  Board of Admiralty, minutes, 17 November 1913, ibid.

[26]  By now, the Russians had apparently dropped out of the race. Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 339.

[27]  Telegram from Battenberg to Churchill, 22 November 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[28]  Telephone message from Churchill to Battenberg, 23 November 1913. ibid.

[29]  There was a rumour (completely unfounded) that a full broadside would break the ship’s back: see, Hough, The Big Battleship, pp. 72-3.

[30]  Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 340, note 104.

[31]  Robertson, Rio de Janeiro to Foreign Office, no. 23, 8 December 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[32]  Robertson to Foreign Office, no. 24, 11 December, no. 25, 12 December 1913, ibid.; Hough, p. 74.

[33]  Mallet to Grey, no. 620, 13 December 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[34]  Robertson to Foreign Office, no. 26, 15 December 1913, ibid.

[35]  Mallet to Grey, no. 633, 19 December 1913, ibid.

[36]  Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 341.

[37]  It was this bank that had transferred the million pound deposit to London that Mallet had mentioned on 13 December. Hough, The Big Battleship, pp. 73-5.

[38]  Mallet to Grey, no. 646, 31 December 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[39]  Mallet to Grey, no. 1048, 29 December 1913, B.D., X, i, no. 185, pp. 168-71.

[40]  Hough, The Big Battleship, p. 87.

[41]  Mallet to Grey, no. 35, 21 January 1914, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[42]  Mallet to Grey, 27 January 1914, PRO FO 371/2126/4590.

[43]  Mallet to Grey, no. 295, 2 May 1914, PRO Adm 1 8365/8.

[44]  Limpus to Churchill, 3 December 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1800-1.

[45]  Churchill to Limpus, 10 December 1913, ibid. ‘A flag officer writing to a member of the Board of Admiralty on service matters [Churchill replied] ought to observe a proper seriousness and formality. The letters should be well written or typed on good paper; the sentences should be complete and follow the regular British form. Mere jottings of passing impressions hurriedly put together without sequence, and very often with marked confusion, are calculated to give an impression the reverse of that which is desirable. You do not do yourself justice in these matters. No one can be so busy as not to be able to cast a letter to a superior in a proper form. You should make up your mind beforehand exactly what you mean to say, and study to say it in the clearest and shortest way, if necessary re-drafting your letter. In your latest communication three letters appear to be mixed up without beginning or end. Knowing the good work which you did in South Africa and your zeal in your Turkish mission, I am able to dispel from my mind the impression which the chaotic character of your correspondence would otherwise convey.’

[46]  Mallet to Grey, no. 994, 8 December 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/4.

[47]  Limpus to Mallet, 11 December 1913, PRO Adm 1 8365/4.

[48]  Mallet to Grey, no. 623, 14 December 1913, B.D., X, i, no. 428, pp. 380-1.

[49]  Limpus to Admiralty, 12 January 1914, PRO Adm 1 8365/4.

[50]  Minute by Battenberg, 31 January 1914, ibid.

[51]  Minute by Churchill, 4 February 1914, ibid.

[52]  Limpus to Churchill, 24 February 1914, ibid.

[53]  Although others members of the Government – Djavid in particular – were known to be favourable to the Entente, none wielded the power of Djemal.

[54]  Mallet to Grey, no. 163, 12 March 1914, ibid.



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