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 14




The Alliance






The possibility of war in the Aegean raised once more the unwelcome prospect of the closure of the Straits by Turkey as a defensive measure against Greece: if Britain intervened at all it would be to keep the Straits open as (Russian interests aside) closure caused ‘no end of trouble to and loss to British shipping.’ To this end Grey advised the Russian Ambassador that it was his opinion, which he had yet to put before the Cabinet, that Britain might send warships ‘to the mouth of the Straits to guarantee that, if Turkey kept the Straits open for merchant shipping, no Greek warship would be allowed to go through. On the other hand, it would be necessary to prevent Turkish warships from coming out; but we could hardly take a measure of that kind unless Turkey had first, by closing the Straits, shown that she did not intend her own fleet to come out and fight.’[1] Clearly anticipating trouble, Grey also informed the Admiralty that, in the event of a Greco-Turkish war, it was his judgment that the respective naval missions should be allowed to stay on, so long as they took no part in hostilities and their services were not calculated to assist the belligerents during the war.[2] But Grey was not so forthcoming to Mallet: writing the day after his interview with the Russian (and also the French) Ambassador, the Foreign Secretary merely mentioned that measures would have to be contemplated to keep the Straits open but it was ‘premature as yet to make any proposal on the subject to Turkey and it is not easy to frame one, but I should like you to consider the matter in view of future contingencies.’[3]

                Mallet, having vacated the Embassy, as was customary, in the second week of June as it was already ‘grilling’ in Pera, had moved to the more congenial surroundings of Therapia, further along the Bosphorus. Following Grey’s warning, and with the threat of a Greco-Turkish war still acute, the acting chief dragoman, Andrew Ryan, returned to the deserted Embassy on the afternoon of 19 June intending to sleep there, however the danger signs were so disturbing and ominous that he hurried back to the country late that evening to report his concern to Mallet.[4] Then, a week later, following the Greek purchase of two obsolete American battleships, and with the British battle cruiser Inflexible (on a goodwill visit) anchored off the Golden Horn, tempers had quieted. The Greek acquisitions restored some kind of equilibrium, if only temporarily, but, as neither side had the stomach for a fight, it was enough. In spite of furious Turkish protests, American Congressional approval had finally been obtained late in June for the sale of Mississippi and Idaho to Greece. Prime Minister Venizelos, for whom words were cheap, not only considered that the acquisition of these ships ensured peace but went so far as to make the incredible claim that possession would give Greece naval superiority even after the second Turkish dreadnought had been delivered.[5] Just in case, however, Venizelos decided to take no chances and, through the mediation of the British journalist Dr E. J. Dillon, a proposal was made to the Turks for a defensive treaty for which negotiations were still taking place when the European war broke out. Before this, Grey, having had to cope with the vexatious islands’ problem for a year, could not resist remarking that, ‘Their respective purchases of Dreadnoughts to overawe each other will be money wasted after a defensive Treaty has been made. When that is signed they had better agree to sell their Dreadnoughts, unless they are ambitious enough to attempt together to control Italy.’[6]

                But Grey had spoken too soon, for Djemal was not through yet with his own ambitious naval plans: in addition to the British dreadnoughts, the Turks had also ordered French submarines and, in June 1914, the mercurial Minister of Marine wangled an invitation to the French naval manoeuvres the following month. Enver and Talaat, concerned that their colleague might intrigue when beyond their reach, were distinctly cool towards the trip while the French believed that the Turks might be about to order additional submarines; Djemal certainly wanted French technical assistance but the proposal he had for his hosts was something altogether more breathtaking. In the British Embassy’s report on Djemal’s personality the Minister was described as ‘honest, impulsive and imaginative; violent tempered and frequently, if not systematically, brutal in his treatment of his subordinates. He is a man of great energy and determination, filled with a most ardent patriotism degenerating into Chauvinism, which makes light of difficulties, and is often blind to the realities of the situation. He is lacking in the qualities of statesmanship which Talaat has acquired, and more inclined to rash adventure.’[7] This inclination to rashness appeared confirmed when, in discussions at the Quai d’Orsay with Pierre de Margerie, Director of Political and Commercial Affairs, Djemal allegedly proposed an alliance with the Triple Entente.[8] At least, that was how Djemal chose to relate his visit in his post-war memoirs. According to Margerie however Djemal merely indicated that in return for French support in the Aegean his government would ‘orientate its policy towards the Triple Entente’.[9] Whether the Pasha might otherwise have received a sympathetic hearing is problematical for – and on such arcane matters do Empires totter – Djemal’s timing was awry: his visit coincided with the departure of Viviani, acting in his capacity as both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and President Poincaré to St Petersburg. Besides, the French could not possibly commit themselves without consulting their entente partners. Before they could do so (if, indeed, this was ever their intention) other events intervened: the fatal shots had already been fired at Sarajevo and, within days, the Austrian ultimatum would be presented to Serbia. In Constantinople Enver and Talaat had also been busy. Soon after Djemal returned on 18 July Talaat approached him: ‘What would you say Pasha’, he inquired with feigned innocence, ‘if Germany proposed an alliance with us on such and such terms? Would you accept it? You can see for yourself that we have nothing to hope for from France. As France has declined, would you decline Germany’s suggestion too?’[10]

                At this precarious time Mallet had, incredibly, gone on leave: the Embassy was in the hands of the Chargé, Henry Beaumont. In fairness, Mallet had left on 14 July only after writing to Grey early in June to clear the dates; Grey saw no objection to his coming on leave at the time proposed, ‘indeed’, he had declared, ‘it would be a good thing to get your leave over before the day when things may become acute between Turkey and Greece.’ For good measure, Grey added ‘you continue in my opinion to do excellently well in Constantinople.’[11] Mallet had certainly achieved better relations with the Young Turk leaders than his predecessor due no doubt to his personal charm and assiduous flattery and despite the fact that he quickly succumbed to the malign influence of Fitzmaurice. In the few months between Mallet’s arrival and Fitzmaurice’s forced departure the dragoman had laboured assiduously to reproduce the spell cast over Lowther. That he was less successful, despite Mallet’s apparent early dependence on him, owed more to Mallet’s own conception of his remit from Grey to appease the Turks; even so, the insoluble problem remained that Mallet’s constant appeals to the Foreign Office to adopt a more conciliatory tone towards the Porte fell on deaf ears. There were waverers within the Turkish Cabinet who might have been persuaded to pursue the course of a better understanding with the Entente if some tangible measure of support had been forthcoming from London; yet all the Turks got was well-intentioned but hurtful warnings which were perceived as indicative of a pro-Greek attitude. All of which was compounded in the early summer of 1914 by the constant fears that the completion of the two dreadnoughts upon which so much depended was being delayed as a deliberate act of British policy. One hopeful event occurred when Mallet lost the services of Fitzmaurice in February 1914 after the Embassy doctor certified the dragoman as having suffered a severe nervous breakdown.[12] This, at least, was the official excuse. The new counsellor at the Embassy, Henry Beaumont, admitted that Fitzmaurice had to go: ‘His sympathies with the old Hamidian regime and cynical hostility to the new rulers of Turkey left the F.O. no option but to accept a hint conveyed through the Ottoman Embassy in London that his remaining in Constantinople would be undesirable.’[13] One might also speculate that, with the rise of Enver Pasha (against whom Fitzmaurice had battled so long) to the position of War Minister, the dragoman’s own position had become untenable.

                Beaumont himself had been the counsellor at Athens since 1910 and was originally scheduled to go to Tokyo as his next posting. Mallet however wanted a married counsellor to replace Marling (who had left late in 1913) and, as Beaumont was thus happily encumbered, he was diverted to the Sublime Porte. In the opinion of Sir Edwin Pears, long an acute observer of the scene, the situation at the Embassy was ‘lamentable’ — Mallet was ‘totally inexperienced’ in Turkish affairs, as were the three secretaries under him. If anything, the situation deteriorated when Mallet went on leave: the First Secretary, Mr Ovey, was taken seriously ill, while Lord Gerald Wellesley lacked experience and neither of them could speak Turkish. Nor, for that matter, could Beaumont, who was now the Chargé, yet who found himself ‘busy almost night and day on the shipping cases.’[14] Beaumont later admitted, in his unpublished autobiography, that once the Embassy had shifted to Therapia ‘we were not kept fully informed of the European situation, and until presentation of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia…had no idea how critical it might become.’[15] Additionally, Ryan, now acting chief dragoman in Fitzmaurice’s place, did not share Beaumont’s outlook when things began to go wrong.[16] In such an atmosphere the leaders of the C.U.P. could scheme to their hearts’ content; and scheme they did.

                For both Talaat (who had reciprocated Sazonov’s desire to play for time) and the Grand Vizier the short term opportunity, offered by the prospect of joining the Triple Alliance, to rescind the hated Treaty of Bucharest and, finally, teach the Serbs a lesson, was too great.[17] There was never any doubt about Enver, who made no secret of his German affiliations, while Talaat’s deliberate approach to Djemal was apparently sufficient to ensure his conversion to the Triple Alliance after the futile trip to Paris. Yet, at this time, influential voices in Germany suddenly voiced doubts as to the wisdom of having Turkey as an ally; and this was not a one-way process as some Turks had become equally disenchanted with Germany. The friction resulting from the episode of the Military Mission had not been eased by the efforts of the Kaiser to woo Greece; when this new initiative in German foreign policy (certainly, in part, at Wilhelm’s instigation) appeared to backfire spectacularly following the Turkish approach to Russia Wilhelm, momentarily, had had enough. German officers had tried, ‘without money’ of course, to bring order to the tattered Turkish army: if the Turks wanted to fight the Greeks he would withdraw the mission. ‘Turkey is simply past saving’, he raged, ‘And it is worth nothing. Let it come apart in the arms of the Triple Entente.’[18] At the same time, the Chief of the German General Staff recorded: ‘To count on Turkey in the future in favour of the Triple Alliance is a big mistake.’[19]

                Indeed, at this critical juncture, the main impetus behind the Triple Alliance in Constantinople was not Wangenheim, who was also beginning to entertain serious doubts as to desirability of having Turkey as a partner, but the Austrian Ambassador (who himself held certain reservations). The Austrian position being intrinsically weaker, it was no surprise that Pallavicini advocated an Austrian-Bulgarian-Turkish bloc; he telegraphed to his Foreign Minister on 12 July (the same day that an Austro-German consortium sought to buy Bulgarian neutrality by the granting of a sizeable loan)[20] that, while there was an inclination towards Russia ‘strengthened by growing mistrust of Italy because of her aspirations in Asia Minor’, Turkey would prefer closer ties with Austria and the Triple Alliance if Austria could secure a decisive position in the Balkans ‘through vigorous and successful action against Serbia.’[21] His comments echoed those of the Austro-Hungarian Council of Ministers which was held on 7 July to formulate the measures to be taken against Serbia following the Sarajevo outrage. The Hungarian Premier, Count Tisza, had then argued that ‘a promising perspective for successful diplomatic action in the Balkans opens out, since by the accession of Bulgaria and Turkey to the Triple Alliance we may out-balance Roumania and Serbia and perhaps induce Roumania to return to the Triple Alliance.’[22] Yet, when the Austrians informed the German Foreign Minister of Pallavicini’s telegram, Jagow’s response was discouraging. Jagow answered that,

in my opinion, likewise shared by ambassador in Constantinople, for the next few years Turkey could only be a liability on account of her poor military state. She would be in no position to take the field against Russia…She would be sure to make demands on us. We could certainly not give her definite protection against, for instance, a Russian attack on Armenia. I was of opinion Turkey in her present state could assume no other position than that of swinging like a pendulum between the powers, eventually joining the stronger and more successful group. If Roumania stands firmly besides the Triple Alliance and if Bulgaria too were to seek alliance with our group, then undoubtedly this would influence Turkey’s attitude. It seems useless, if not risky, to make a démarche now in Constantinople because of inevitable demands, incapable of fulfillment, for counterperformance on our part.[23]

                It was no coincidence that, as Jagow was presenting this discouraging review, Wangenheim was temporarily in Berlin — the Ambassador, who was certainly aware of the Turkish approach to Russia, and presumably also of the concomitant soundings in Paris and London, was now completely dismissive of Turkey (his humour would not have been helped by the problem of dealing with such a difficult character as Liman von Sanders). When Wangenheim returned to the Porte on 15 July he lost no time both in reinforcing the Foreign Office view and in suborning his Austrian colleague. Pallavicini informed his Foreign Minister the following day that there was nothing to be gained by actively seeking an alliance with the Turks and that the prevention of their association with the Entente was the best option.[24] Wangenheim was more forthright: ‘Turkey is today’, he cabled emphatically on the 18th, ‘without any question worthless as an ally. She would only be a burden to her associates, without being able to offer them the slightest advantage. The association of Turkey to Bulgaria would be absolutely certain to provoke a counterblow from Russia in Armenia…’ While Germany should, Wangenheim maintained, in her own interests remain on friendly terms with the regime at the Porte, Turkey could only be advised to follow a course of benevolent neutrality, keeping away from ‘every political adventure.’[25] In one of those pleasant ironies attendant upon the affairs of men at such times, on the same day as Wangenheim forwarded his dismissive report to Berlin, at the elegant summer villa of the Grand Vizier on the shores of the Bosphorus, the inner circle of the C.U.P. met to discuss their plans; present in addition to Said Halim were Talaat, Enver and Halil. The prospect of the Austro-Serb crisis exploding into war in which, following the conclusion of the Second Balkan War, Bulgaria would probably side with the Triple Alliance, coupled with the imminent arrival of their dreadnoughts meant it was now or never. For the conspirators the chance to solve the Balkan question now presented itself. After what would have been, in that company, a one-sided debate, the decision was reached that, four days hence, Enver would approach Wangenheim with a formal offer of alliance while Said Halim would make a similar proposal to Pallavicini.[26]

                Wangenheim saw the Grand Vizier the day after the conclave at the villa, before the formal approach had been made, and, as Said was soon scheduled to make his trip to Brussels to negotiate with Venizelos, the Ambassador warned him against concluding an alliance of any kind until the Balkan situation had cleared up.[27] Wangenheim need not have been overly concerned about the Venizelos’ talks as the Grand Vizier did not want to make the trip (which was eventually cancelled) and had no intention of concluding an alliance with Greece, but instead was busily sounding out the Bulgarians as to what their attitude would be in an Austro-Serb conflict. Said Halim, Talaat and Enver all saw Pallavicini on 20 July to urge that ‘Austria had now arrived at the last moment at which she could make good the losses suffered in the Balkan War and restore her prestige as a Great Power in the eyes of the Balkan nations and of Turkey. Not only Bulgaria, but Roumania and Turkey also, would take an unconditional stand by the side of the Triple Alliance if Austria should give Serbia a proper lesson.’[28] The Austrians were preparing to do just that: on the same day, 20 July, Berchtold forwarded his country’s ultimatum to Serbia to the Austrian minister at Belgrade, with instructions to present it on the afternoon of 23 July.[29]

                As planned, Enver made his approach to Wangenheim on the 22nd: Turkey, he argued, could only carry out her reforms if secured against external attack and, for that reason she needed the support of one of the groups of Great Powers. Twisting recent history to his purposes, Enver maintained that, although a small minority of the C.U.P. favoured an alliance with Russia and France the majority, headed by the Grand Vizier, Talaat, Halil and himself, did not wish to become vassals of Russia and were convinced the Triple Alliance was, militarily, the stronger grouping and would emerge victorious. The Turkish Cabinet, Enver modestly asserted, understood how little use Turkey would be as an ally, so all it demanded was the protection of the Great Powers concerned while Turkey concluded an alliance with one of the lesser nations, either Greece or Bulgaria (though with the Cabinet strongly inclined towards the latter). However Bulgaria was loathe to enter a formal commitment except under the patronage of the Triple Alliance and, with the Grand Vizier supposedly planning to depart shortly for Brussels for his meeting with Venizelos it would be easier, Enver declared, to spurn the anticipated Greek offer if Turkey and Bulgaria were, instead, welcomed as part of the Triple Alliance bloc.

                Still Wangenheim was not convinced: Turkey’s economic recovery would be jeopardized if Russia and France withdrew, while Turkey’s border with Russia would become the strategic weak spot in the dispositions of the Triple Alliance and the obvious point for a Russian attack. This time, though, the mood of the All-Highest had shifted. ‘Theoretically correct’, minuted Wilhelm when the Ambassador’s dispatch reached the Foreign Office on 23 July, ‘but at the present moment wrong! The thing to do now is to get hold of every gun in readiness in the Balkans to shoot against the Slavs for Austria, and so a Turkish-Bulgarian alliance connected with Austria may well be accepted! That is opportunist politics, and must be pursued in this case.’ Unaware that he was being fatally undermined in Berlin, Wangenheim continued his diatribe as Enver listened attentively; even Turkey and Bulgaria combined, maintained the Ambassador, would scarcely be of any value as an ally. Realizing that Wangenheim was not to be swayed by a bland reiteration of the virtues of such a grouping Enver then switched to the negative argument: if the Triple Alliance prevented a Turco-Bulgarian compact the Entente forces within the C.U.P. would gain the upper hand. Besides, if Bulgaria were drawn into an Austro-Serb conflict Turkey could not remain neutral but would march on Greece through Western Thrace. Indeed, Wilhelm was not opposed to the Turks quietly trying to associate with Bulgaria and Roumania; better this, he thought, than driving Turkey into the arms of the Entente by ‘theoretical scruples’.[30] Wangenheim was duly informed that, despite the Kaiser’s own doubts as to Turkey’s capacity as an ally, expediency ruled the day; the Ambassador was instructed to work towards an ad hoc understanding, avoiding any far-reaching obligations.[31]

                Before this order arrived the Grand Vizier saw Wangenheim on 23 July to repeat Enver’s request of the previous day. Pallavicini, who was also present and who had been coaxed beforehand by Wangenheim, now entered the fray and told Said Halim that an alliance with Turkey would, at present, place too great a burden on the Triple Alliance, who could not defend Turkey against everybody. Said Halim responded that Turkey wished to be defended only against Russia, not against France and England. Wangenheim, who might have thought that he had now achieved his aim, reported to Berlin on the meeting; however when Jagow forwarded this dispatch to Wilhelm, who was on board the Hohenzollern (omitting in the process the final sentence that Turkey wished to be defended against Russia alone), the Emperor was furious:

She makes a direct offer of herself!! [he minuted] A refusal or a snub would amount to her going over to Russo-Gallia and our influence would be gone once and for all! Wangenheim must express himself to the Turks in relation to a connection with the Triple Alliance with unmistakably plain compliance, and receive their desires and report them! Under no circumstances at all can we afford to turn them away.

Jagow excised the injudicious ‘unmistakably plain’ and ‘at all’ and sent the message to Constantinople.[32]

                At six o’clock on the evening of 23 July the Austrian ultimatum was presented to Serbia, with a 48-hour time limit. The following day Pallavicini read it to the Grand Vizier who was somewhat surprised that it ‘even exceeded his expectations’. Time was running out for Enver and his cohorts to align their country unequivocally with Germany; what they could not know was that Wilhelm’s desire to enter the coming war with as many rifles behind him as possible would remove the one obstacle that seemed to bar the way — the objections of Wangenheim. ‘[I]n accordance with the peremptory order’ he had now received Wangenheim dropped his scruples and reported on 27 July that the offer of alliance had been made to the Turks; clearly put out that his objections had been over-ruled he now made a feeble attempt to save some face. ‘I should naturally have to correct my estimate of Turkey’s value as an ally’, Wangenheim cabled, not entirely convincingly, ‘if the Turkish army were actually commanded by German officers. Its military worth would thereby be increased threefold…German command of the army would have the inestimable advantage that Turkey, in the event of war, would have to fulfil the obligations she undertook.’[33]

                Wangenheim saw the Grand Vizier on the evening of 27 July to hammer out the details, after which he telegraphed Said Halim’s proposals to Berlin: the Turkish request was for a secret offensive and defensive alliance with the casus foederis to arise following a Russian attack on Turkey, Germany, or Austria-Hungary; or if Germany, or the Triple Alliance, attacked Russia. The negotiations for the alliance were to be conducted in the utmost secrecy, which was to extend even to Turkish ministers outside the ‘gang of four’; additionally, Said Halim maintained that it was ‘indispensable’ that the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin, Mahmud Muhtar Pasha, should not be made aware of what was going on.[34] Imperial acceptance of the Turkish proposals was quickly forthcoming. Bethmann-Hollweg telegraphed Constantinople on the evening of 28 July that Wilhelm agreed, subject to the following terms:

1. Both Powers bind themselves to observe strict neutrality in the present conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia.

2. Should Russia enter upon active military intervention in the war and a casus foederis with respect to Austria-Hungary be thus forced on Germany, a casus foederis shall also exist for Turkey.

3. Germany will leave the Military Mission in Turkey in the event of war. Turkey is to assure the actual exercise of the supreme command by the Military Mission.

4. Germany guarantees to Turkey as against Russia the possession of her present territories.

5. The treaty shall be in force for the purpose of the present Austro-Serbian conflict and for that of any possible international complications arising therefrom. In case no war should take place between Germany and Russia as a result of this conflict, the treaty automatically becomes inoperative…

Bethmann-Hollweg also made the somewhat embarrassing request that Wangenheim keep the negotiations secret from Pallavicini which, Wangenheim pointed out, would be difficult as the Grand Vizier usually dealt with them both.[35]

                The conciliatory Serbian reply to the Austrian ultimatum did not divert the latter from the course already determined upon: Austria declared war on Serbia on 28 July. Sazonov responded with a threat of partial Russian mobilization, to be declared the next day.[36] Crucially, in Paris, both Poincaré and Viviani were absent, having set off on a State visit to Russia; although this was promptly cancelled, they would only arrive back on the afternoon of the 29th. Meanwhile, in London, Grey saw Lichnowsky on 24 July to propose a ‘mediating group’ of England, Germany, France and Italy to offer its ‘good offices in the interests of peace.’[37] On the 27th Bethmann-Hollweg turned down the proposition flat: ‘We could take no part in such a conference’, the Chancellor declared, ‘as we would not be able to summon Austria before a European court of justice in her case with Serbia.’[38] In St Petersburg the tug-of-war began to go in favour of the military. Having been induced on the morning of 29 July to sign alternate orders for partial and general mobilization, the Tsar was then telephoned by Sazonov, wishing to call a conference to decide the issue. Between 7 and 9 p.m. the fraught debate continued before the conclusion was reached that to delay the general mobilization, by initially effecting a partial mobilization only, would be an unjustifiable risk. Telephoned again, the Tsar authorized the dispatch of the order for general mobilization. Less than an hour later, following a telegram from Wilhelm, Nicholas had a change of heart and insisted the order be rescinded; however, after further pressure on the 30th, the Tsar relented and general mobilization was reinstated.[39]

                As these decisions were being reached, heralding the collapse of the old order, in Constantinople the Grand Vizier was quite willing to accept the German terms on points 1 to 4; point 5, though, was deemed wholly unacceptable as it would be impossible ‘to fix the time at which it will be certain that a war between Germany and Russia will not arise as a result of the Austro-Serbian conflict.’ Said Halim had been considering a term of seven years for the alliance but, if pushed, the absolute minimum would be when Liman’s contract was due to expire — at the end of 1918.[40] Although this was a far longer term than was desired the air of desperation in Berlin resulted in Bethmann-Hollweg wiring on 31 July to agree that the compact should run to 1918 and Wangenheim was authorized to sign a treaty immediately, after first determining ‘whether Turkey either can or will undertake any action against Russia worthy of the name. In case she should be unable to do so, the alliance would, of course, be worthless, and should not be signed.’[41] Bethmann’s strictures were pointless: in the frenetic atmosphere, words were cheap. The Russian mobilization had produced in Constantinople – as elsewhere – a tremendous effect and, with the fear of a sudden Russian attack, the Turks were not about to admit they were incapable of action. The need for urgency was made more imperative by the financial crisis which ensued following the Austrian declaration of war. Economic activity in Constantinople was paralysed ‘as European-controlled enterprises suspended their operations. The imperial treasury was exhausted with only 92,000 liras in ready cash on 3 August and no European government willing to provide a loan. Germany alone was willing to meet the Porte’s financial need, but only if the Porte joined the war.’[42]

                Wangenheim, now a thorough convert, reported it was ‘high time’ to close with Turkey, otherwise Germany might find 300,000 Turks ‘against us instead of with us.’ The Ambassador also reported that the cancellation of the proposed talks between Venizelos and Said Halim was viewed as a plot by the Triple Entente with the intention of prolonging Greco-Turkish tension in the hope that Greece might block the entrance of the Dardanelles to the Turkish dreadnoughts.[43] Nerves were so strained in Berlin that Bethmann-Hollweg was now admitting the possibility that the alliance might contain a clause which permitted the granting of an extension past 1918, so long as Turkey was able to take a stand against Russia ‘actively and effectively’; the decision as to whether Turkish capabilities were up to the task rested with Liman.[44]

                The Chancellor need not have worried. Enver met both Liman and Wangenheim informally at the German Embassy on the morning of 1 August to discuss their plans for action: these developed along the lines of a joint Turco-Bulgarian offensive directed either at Russia or, perhaps, Greece, combined with a defensive line on the Transcaucasian border. There were, as yet, however too many imponderables, foremost of which was the continued uncertainty, despite the recent Austro-German loan, as to what attitude Bulgaria would assume.[45] Citing their fears that, by intervening against Serbia, they were exposing their flank to Roumanian attack, the Bulgarians remained hesitant and wary.[46] About noon Wangenheim, who was now in the company of the Grand Vizier, was informed by Pallavicini that, according to the latest information from Vienna, the Russian Black Sea fleet was planning an attack on the Bosphorus. Wangenheim immediately telegraphed Berlin to request that Goeben, if not necessarily required in the Mediterranean, might be used to reinforce the Turkish fleet to assist in holding the Russians in check, prevent a Russian landing on the Bulgarian coast and guarantee the integrity of the cable connection with Roumania.[47] When this report reached Berlin on 2 August the Chief of the Admiralty Staff, Admiral von Pohl, was not impressed: Goeben, he minuted, had no business to be in Turkish waters and would be of the greatest use in the Atlantic or North Sea.[48]

                It was also on 1 August that Enver and Talaat made the inviting proposition that Sultan Osman, which had recently returned to the Tyne from dry-dock in Devonport before being handed over to the Turks, should, rather than enter the Mediterranean, steam instead to a German port — an offer which was accepted with alacrity in Berlin.[49] This offer remains a curious feature of that Saturday’s intrigue: if genuinely fearful of the Black Sea fleet, why send the most modern unit in the Turkish navy, built at vast expense, to the North Sea? Did the Turks anticipate the objections of the German Admiralty to the dispatch of Goeben to the Straits and hope thereby to effect a trade-off? If so, one benefit of trading, in effect, Sultan Osman for Goeben was that the German ship was fully worked up and available for service at once. Were they concerned at the possibility of a Greek attack on Sultan Osman whereas the Greeks would not dare interfere with the German ship? Or did Enver and Talaat suspect that the British would never release the ship in the prevailing circumstances, so that the offer would earn them German gratitude with little or no prospect of it being fulfilled?[50] The multiplicity of motives highlighted the confusion apparent amongst the Ottoman leaders as to their war objectives. While Enver anticipated a general conflagration in which the Central Powers (following the defection of Italy) would soon emerge victorious, the Grand Vizier was thinking more in terms of a limited Balkan conflict in which Turkey and Bulgaria were in alliance against Greece and Serbia. Hence, for Said Halim (forever wary of Russian designs), the German alliance was viewed as a guarantee of Ottoman territorial integrity; for Enver it provided the excuse to launch military action in the Balkans combined with the call for a jihad in the rest of the Empire. This difference in objectives manifested itself in the call for action: while Enver wished to enter the war immediately, the more circumspect Said Halim was only committed to intervention when a Central Powers’ victory appeared inevitable.[51]

                On that Saturday evening Liman, Enver and Wangenheim met again in the German Embassy where Wangenheim put the hypothetical question to Liman: if, as expected, an alliance could be negotiated how should the Military Mission be employed? Liman replied that if Germany should be involved in a European war the contract called for the recall of the Mission. When pressed as to what they could do if left in Turkey Liman ‘advised that the German officers be assigned to positions that would give them real influence on the conduct of the war.’[52] The scene then shifted to the Grand Vizier’s villa at Yeniköy. Enver, Talaat and Halil were busily engaged with Weber, the counsellor from the German Embassy, when the Minister of Finance, Djavid Pasha, arrived on separate business to see Said Halim who was not yet present. When the Grand Vizier duly arrived Djavid, whose suspicions were already aroused, was sworn to secrecy and informed of the draft Turco-German alliance. Unlike Djemal, who was also brought in on the discussions as the night wore on, Djavid was indignant. He argued (it was now after midnight) that the expectation of a German victory was a fatal mistake which would cause the disappearance of Turkey from the map if they lost. With Talaat remaining quiet, it was left to Enver to seize the initiative. Dismissing Djavid’s argument, Enver announced provocatively, if prematurely, ‘There is nothing that we can do, the matter is now settled and the Grand Vizier has already signed the agreement.’[53] In fact Wangenheim would report to Berlin that the treaty was not signed until 4 o’clock on the afternoon of Sunday 2 August.[54] To put the seal on any further discussion Enver followed up this dramatic early morning announcement by reading out a telegram just received from Tewfik Pasha in London which contained the stunning news that the two Turkish dreadnoughts had been embargoed by the British.[55] Djemal’s reaction was typical of those in the room: ‘Never, never shall I forget my mental anguish when I heard this frightful news.’[56]

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[1]    Grey to Bertie, no. 390, 15 June 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 282, pp. 260-1.

[2]    Grey to Admiralty, 18 June 1914, PRO Adm 1 8384/193.

[3]    Grey to Mallet, no. 266, 16 June 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 285, p. 262.

[4]    Ryan, Last of the Dragomans, p. 89; Mallet to Nicolson, 1 June 1914, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/374.

[5]    Erskine to Grey, no. 112, 26 June 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 291, p. 266.

[6]    Minute by Grey, on Mallet to Grey, no. 429, 13 July 1914, B.D., X, i, no. 299, pp. 270-1.

[7]    Turkey, Annual Report, 1913, PRO FO 371/2137.

[8]    Howard, The Partition of Turkey, p. 73; Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 353.

[9]    L. Bruce Fulton, “France and the End of the Ottoman Empire” in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 161. As Fulton makes clear, according to Margerie’s ‘Note du Département’ of 13 July ‘Djemal spoke in terms of a reorientation of Ottoman policy and of a rapprochement rather than an alliance.’

[10]  Djemal, Memories of a Turkish Statesman, p. 107.

[11]  Grey to Mallet, private, 11 June 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/80.

[12]  Heller, British Policy, p. 104.

[13]  Sir Henry Beaumont, unpublished typescript autobiography, p. 405. Nevertheless, according to Marian Kent, Fitzmaurice technically retained his post as Chief Dragoman until 1920. See, “Great Britain and the End of the Ottoman Empire, 1900-23”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 176.

[14]  Pears, Forty Years in Constantinople, pp. 344-5.

[15]  Beaumont autobiography, p. 409.

[16]  Ryan, Last of the Dragomans, p. 92.

[17]  Corrigan, German-Turkish Relations, p. 151.

[18]  Quoted in, Fischer, War of Illusions, p. 308.

[19]  Von Moltke, 18 May 1914, quoted in Kurat, How Turkey drifted into World War I, p. 296.

[20]  Williamson, Austria-Hungary and the Origins of the First World War, p. 169.

[21]  Jagow to German Ambassadors, Vienna and Constantinople, 14 July 1914, quoted in Ernest Jackh, The Rising Crescent, (New York, 1944), p. 10.

[22]  Protocol of the Council of Ministers for Common Affairs, 7 July 1914, I Geiss (ed.), July 1914, Selected Documents, pp. 80-7.

[23]  Jagow to Vienna, Constantinople, 14 July 1914, quoted in, Jackh, The Rising Crescent, p. 10 [my emphasis]; see also, Albertini, The Origins of the War, vol. III, p. 610.

[24]  F. R. Bridge, “The Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, 1900-1918”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 45.

[25]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 349, 18 July 1914, Kautsky, German Documents, no. 71, pp. 130-1.

[26]  Kurat, How Turkey drifted into the World War, p. 297.

[27]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 532, 19 July 1914, Kautsky, German Documents, no. 81, pp. 136-7.

[28]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 354, 21 July 1914, ibid., no. 99, pp. 148-9. With regard to the stand that Bulgaria, Roumania and Turkey were apparently intent on making Wilhelm minuted this dispatch: ‘Well? Heaven permit it. We will remind the gentleman of this at the proper time.’

[29]  Berchtold to Giesel, 20 July 1914, Geiss, July 1914, no. 37, pp. 142-6.

[30]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 362, 22 July 1914, Kautsky German Documents, no. 117, pp. 156-8.

[31]  Jagow to Wangenheim, no. 268, 24 July 1914, ibid., no. 144, p. 175.

[32]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 364, 23 July 1914; minute by Wilhelm and Editor’s note, ibid., no. 149, p. 178. While Wangenheim remained a reluctant convert and Wilhelm a keen advocate of the Turkish alliance, the Chancellor ‘was lukewarm on the whole issue’ typifying the divisions which existed in German policy towards the Ottoman Empire. See, Ulrich Trumpener, “Germany and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 132.

[33]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 371, 27 July 1914, ibid., no. 256, p. 242.

[34]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 370, 28 July 1914, ibid., no. 285, p. 265. This stipulation probably owed its origins to the fact that Mahmud was a bitter enemy of Enver and might have worked against the alliance to spite the Minister of War. See, Ulrich Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, p. 19.

[35]  Bethmann-Hollweg to Wangenheim, no. 275, 28 July 1914, ibid., no. 320, pp. 286-7; Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 382, 29 July 1914, ibid., no. 398, p. 346. The German request was not that unusual: as F. R. Bridge notes ‘the Austrians cared less about the fragility of Ottoman rule in Asia Minor than about Turkey’s potential usefulness in helping to deal with the irredentist threat on the very frontiers of the Monarchy; hence their stubborn efforts to draw Turkey into concluding a military convention with Bulgaria, directed in effect against Serbia and Greece. All this diplomacy went on behind the backs of the German allies and ultimately proved futile. Altogether, Vienna and Berlin were quite unable to agree on any common and effective policy in the Ottoman Empire.’ F. R. Bridge, “The Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire, 1900-1918”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 43.

[36]  Sazonov to Chargé d’Affaires Bronevski, Berlin, no. 1539, sent to Vienna, Paris, London and Rome, 28 July 1914, Geiss, July 1914, no. 118, p. 262.

[37]  Asquith to the King, 25 July 1914, PRO Cab 41/35/20.

[38]  Bethmann-Hollweg to Lichnowsky, no. 179, 27 July 1914, Geiss, July 1914, no. 96, pp. 237-8.

[39]  L C F Turner, “The Russian Mobilisation in 1914”, in Paul Kennedy (ed.), The War Plans of the Great Powers, 1880-1914, (London, 1979), pp. 265-6.

[40]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 385, 30 July 1914, Kautsky, German Documents, no. 411, pp. 355-6.

[41]  Bethmann-Hollweg to Wangenheim, no. 290, 31 July 1914, ibid., no. 508, pp. 412-3.

[42]  Feroz Ahmad, “The Late Ottoman Empire”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 16.

[43]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 392, 31 July 1914, ibid., no. 517, p. 416.

[44]  Bethmann-Hollweg to Wangenheim, no. 296, 1 August 1914, ibid., no. 547, p. 436.

[45]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, p. 23.

[46]  F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Keith Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War (London, 1995), p. 238.

[47]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 396, 1 August 1914, Kautsky, German Documents, no. 652, p. 488.

[48]  Trumpener, Reassessment, p. 173 and note 7.

[49]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, p. 24.

[50]  Mansel, Constantinople, p. 370, argues that the offer was used ‘as bait to lure a reluctant Germany into the 2 August alliance’, however, as has been made clear, by this time initial reluctance had been overcome. The offer did not affect the course of the negotiations.

[51]  F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, pp. 238-9.

[52]  Liman von Sanders, Five Years in Turkey, p. 22.

[53]  Quoted in, Kurat, How Turkey Drifted in World War I, pp. 298-9.

[54]  Wangenheim to Foreign Office, no. 408, 3 August 1914, Kautsky, German Documents, no. 726, p. 526.

[55]  Kurat, How Turkey Drifted in World War I, p. 299.

[56]  Djemal Pasha, Memories of a Turkish Statesman, p. 116.



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