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 16




Negotiate and Temporize






Meanwhile, in Constantinople, the inner circle of the C.U.P. – Talaat, Djemal and Enver – had had a busy week. The Bulgarians had relented enough to allow talks to commence between their Minister to the Porte, Toshev, and Talaat and Djemal. As any land-based attack by the Turks against Greece would, of necessity, violate Bulgarian territory, Djemal suggested that a Turco-Bulgarian military convention would successfully circumvent this difficulty, and could also be used to delineate a division of the expected spoils. Maintaining the cynicism which helped keep their hold on power, the Turkish pair also clearly intimated to Toshev that one reason for the commencement of talks was to be able to resist German pressure for an immediate entry into the war; indeed they desired nothing so much as that the talks could be extended until it became clear that German victory would seem to be assured. If not, they hinted that Turkey might gravitate towards the Entente.

                In the general jockeying for position which characterized the opening phase of the war, the Roumanians had, in turn, approached the Grand Vizier with a proposal for a three-power neutral Balkan bloc comprising Roumania, Turkey and Greece. Said Halim, still wary of Bulgarian intentions, preferred to have that scheming country included in the bloc, from whence its actions could, hopefully, be controlled. In any event, further talks meant further delay.[1] While Talaat and Djemal kept the Bulgarians occupied, and Said Halim dealt with the Roumanians, Enver Pasha conducted his own intriguing manoeuvre. On Wednesday 5th – just two days after he had ostensibly wished to declare war against Russia immediately so as to be able to seize ‘three valuable Russian steamers with wireless equipment’ that were lying off Constantinople[2] – Enver saw the Russian Military Attaché, General Leontiev, to reassure him that Turkish mobilization was not directed against Russia and that, given an adequate guarantee, the Turkish troops in the Caucasus might be withdrawn. Turkey was not bound to anyone, Enver asserted, and would act solely out of self-interest. In that case, if the Russians thought the Turkish army could be used either to neutralize the armies of any of the Balkan states, or in conjunction with a Balkan combination against Austria, Enver did not think that a Russo-Turkish military compact was impossible. To Leontiev’s obvious question – what exactly did Turkey require to turn against her German patrons? – Enver replied that all that would be needed was the return of the Aegean islands and a rectification of the frontier in Western Thrace.[3] ‘The Straits Question - Enver evasively promised - would fall of its own weight.’[4] At least it was a shorter shopping list than the one presented to Wangenhiem.

                As Enver was making his unusual approach, Toshev called on his Russian colleague, Giers, in a crude attempt to depict a concerted front; but the Bulgarian was a little too obvious. His country, Toshev asserted, would observe strict neutrality and he doubted she would side against Serbia however ‘she would wish to have guarantees that she would not be attacked by Turkey’ and this could be assured by a mutual pact between Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Roumania to remain out of the war. For giving this guarantee the Balkan countries would, naturally, require territorial compensation; and it was here that Toshev overplayed his hand. Giers reported to Sazonov that Toshev’s views on compensation were identical to those expressed by Enver to Leontiev earlier in the day ‘which proves with certainty that Turkey and Bulgaria, supported by Germany and Austria, have been holding discussions on common action in the present crisis.’ Giers put the joint approach of Turkey and Bulgaria to Russia down to fear of German failure in the war (it was, after all, the day after Britain had declared war on Germany) and, given that new complication, he believed the suitors were casting around for someone else to offer them a tangible benefit.[5] Even so, Giers thought that, for the moment, these advances should not be rejected though it is clear that he doubted their sincerity. Indeed, he did not deny that possibility in a later dispatch that day, when he referred to Toshev’s ‘pretty transparent allusion’ to a Turco-German understanding, even if he also maintained that ‘it cannot have any import for the moment on account of the state of the Turkish army.’ However, when Enver saw Leontiev once more on 9 August – this time with a proposal for a five- or ten-year defensive alliance; the immediate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Caucasus; and the dismissal of the German military mission – Giers at once wired Sazonov that, sincere or not, Enver’s offer should be accepted as this would ‘clarify the situation’ and leave the next move in the hands of the War Minister. Sazonov vacillated.[6]

                What was Enver up to? His motives for approaching the Russians have been variously ascribed: for example, ‘an obvious manoeuvre on the part of Enver Pasha to conceal the alliance with Germany [from the Russians]’[7] — though this ignores Toshev’s concerted approach with Enver on 5 August and the Bulgarian’s ‘transparent allusion’ to the existence of an understanding. Were his overtures ‘designed to cover the impending arrival of the German cruisers’?[8] Was Enver simply stalling for time[9] given the slowness of the Turkish mobilization? Did he have second thoughts: ‘He may have simply changed his mind; yielded to the objections of his colleagues, many of whom were not consulted on the treaty’?[10] Or, in the most extreme interpretation, did he merely lose his nerve and attempt ‘to restore the situation by performing a simple double-cross?’[11] One possibility not canvassed is that Enver wanted the Russians to believe that an agreement had been concluded between Germany and Turkey but without going into details and leaving the Russians to fear the worst. The action most feared in Constantinople – a Russian advance into Asiatic Turkey – might be forestalled if the Russians could be convinced that Turkey could call on Germany for help. Certainly Sazonov himself  appreciated that his strongest weapon lay in the threat the Russian armies presented to Asiatic Turkey.

                However, in response to Giers’ plea that Enver’s offer should be accepted with alacrity, Sazonov wired back that the Ambassador should stall for time: ‘Remember’, Sazonov impetuously reminded him,

that possible action on the part of Turkey against us directly gives us no anxiety. At the same time, while maintaining the entire friendly tone of the discussions with the Turks, endeavour to intimate to them that actions on their part which do not receive our sanction will jeopardize the whole of Asia Minor, whose existence we, in alliance with France and England, hold in our hands, while they are not in a position to harm us.[12]

Enver might have gambled that, so long as he could hold out the hope to the Russians of being able to buy Turkey’s loyalty and then string out the negotiations, the Russians would not make a move; if so, Sazonov promptly played into his hands.

                The Germans, meanwhile, continued to press for Turkish action and this time it was the turn of the Grand Vizier to temporize. On 9 August (the day Enver made his alliance proposal to Leontiev) in consideration of the belief that the Turco-German treaty did not impose upon the Porte an immediate obligation to enter the war, the Turkish Cabinet formulated its policy to meet the emergency. The result would be a profound disappointment to Wangenheim and Liman. First, the Turks would attempt to conclude alliances with Roumania and Bulgaria but, in any event, would not enter the war ‘on any side’ until negotiations with Roumania, Bulgaria and Greece had taken a favourable turn. And, in a direct snub to their new ally, it was decided that the German Ambassador should not be allowed to interfere in military affairs nor Liman in politics in continuance of the policy to convince the Entente that Turkey intended to remain neutral; overall, the strategy was to gain time until it became clear which side held the upper hand in the war.[13] The prospect of having such an each-way bet obviously appealed to certain sections of the Cabinet[14] and, while this may provide a further clue to Enver’s actions during the week, it is doubtful if, although a supreme opportunist, Enver seriously intended to switch sides even should it become apparent that the Russians were in the ascendant on the battlefield.

                Enver continued to defend the mobilization to Beaumont, arguing again on 6 August that its aim was to protect neutrality and guard against a Bulgarian attempt to retake Adrianople. In contrast to his Military Attaché Beaumont now reported that the mobilization was ‘not being pushed forward as completely as was originally provided for’ and that its main benefit was to the Turkish economy: Christians could buy their way out of the army, so providing the Treasury with much needed funds.[15] This did not apply to Christians only, as the American journalist John Reed was later to discover in conversation with his Turkish guide, Daoud Bey:

‘Of course,’ he [Daoud] said, ‘you Westerners cannot be expected to understand. Here you buy out of military service by paying forty liras. If you don’t buy out it amounts to the admission that you haven’t forty liras — which is very humiliating. No Turk of any prominence could afford to be seen in the army, unless, of course, he entered the upper official grades as a career. Why, my dear fellow, if I were to serve in this war the disgrace would kill my father. It is quite different from your country. Here the recruiting sergeants beg you to pay your exemption fee — and they jeer at you if you haven’t got it!’[16]

                In a further misreading of the political situation, Beaumont also reported that the British decision to go to war with Germany had ‘already calmed pro-German ardour artificially created and unscrupulously encouraged by German Ambassador.’[17] The subject of Turkey’s parlous economic state had also been raised by Djemal Pasha on the 6th in the context of the pre-empted dreadnoughts. The Minister of Marine, who was ‘still in a very bad temper about detention of Sultan Osman’, was particularly annoyed as – he maintained to Beaumont – when the contract for the ship was being drawn up the Ottoman Government wished to insert a clause providing for a fine of £1 million, payable by Armstrong’s should the ship be embargoed, but were persuaded otherwise by the written opinions of Ottley, Caillard ‘and another’ that no such right of embargo existed. Beaumont therefore urged that the British Government pay the fine ‘which would have been paid by Messrs Armstrong had the clause been inserted in the contract. In view of effect this display of generosity would have, it might be worthwhile to consider question.’ Further, Djemal’s ‘unreasonable attitude’ was placing Admiral Limpus and his staff in an extremely difficult position and they were ‘doubly anxious to be recalled.’[18]

                To complicate the situation, when Djemal saw the Armstrong’s representative, Captain Vere, that morning the Minister had been even less diplomatic: ‘acting like a spoiled child’, he had told Vere ‘that he would never place another order in England and threatened cancellation of Vickers-Armstrong dock contracts if mission be now withdrawn…’[19] Aware that he was not likely to get anywhere with Djemal, Limpus pleaded directly to Churchill: ‘Naturally anxious to take part in war’, he appealed, ‘Please recall us or tell us to stop.’[20] The French Ambassador – who was ‘doing his utmost to induce the Ottoman Government to dismiss German military mission, influence of which is pernicious’ – stepped into the fray to suggest a compromise. As his argument for the removal of the German instructors was undermined by the retention of the British, Bompard proposed that the British personnel should apply for leave. They could cease drawing Turkish pay (the Admiralty could make good the loss) and Djemal would be less likely to apply to another country to replace them if they were only on leave.[21] However Bompard’s suggestion came to nothing and the hopes of Limpus were dashed when the Admiralty wired the single word to Constantinople: ‘Stop.’[22]

                Beaumont’s request that some payment be made in compensation had already been considered at the Foreign Office in relation to the second of the Turkish dreadnoughts, Reshadieh. As the Chargé pointed out ‘while Sultan Osman was bought by money borrowed at usurious rate, Reshadieh has been paid for by public subscription, mostly in small sums, so that millions of Moslem contributors are personally interested in her fate and are affected by her requisition.’[23] However the National Bank of Turkey had already informed the Foreign Office (on 5 August) that a considerable proportion of the Treasury Bills for Reshadieh remained to be paid and that, if they continued to be unpaid, the Bank, representing the holders of the Bills, would have a claim on the vessel; no money, therefore, should be paid to Turkey in respect of the purchase price until all the outstanding Bills (plus accrued interest) had been settled.[24] This provided the perfect excuse for procrastination, as was made clear by Clerk at the Foreign Office when he admitted that the Admiralty were in no hurry to pay for the ship and that ‘the question of policy – whether immediate payment will mollify the Turks and keep them quiet – has still, I believe, to be decided.’[25] Djemal’s complaint that he was misled by Armstrong’s was delivered to Beaumont on Thursday 6 August, telegraphed to the Foreign Office the following day, but not received in London till 10 a.m. on Saturday, 8th. Nevertheless, it was taken seriously enough to warrant Grey writing to Ottley, a director of Armstrong’s who was personally known to him, on Sunday to ascertain if there were any substance to Djemal’s complaint.[26] The representatives of Armstrong’s would call at the Foreign Office the following Tuesday to discuss the matter; by then, the position had changed and Turkey was about to obtain a capital ship from an entirely unexpected source.

                Churchill was not nearly so punctilious as Grey: informed by Admiral Wilson that negotiations were in place to pay the Turks some amount of money (although, it should be pointed out, the last remittance of £700,000 had been returned and, in any case, the prospect of paying £1 million was out of the question) Churchill commented on the 8th that the Turks ‘should have back whatever they have paid — no more. And there is no hurry about this. They may join the Germans, in which case, we shall save our money. Negotiate and temporise.’[27] The First Lord was already exhibiting signs of his belief that any diplomatic effort in Constantinople would be a waste of time; the Turks were a lost cause. Before long, the lamentable escape of Goeben and Breslau, and their ability safely to take refuge inside the Dardanelles, which remained barred to the British by virtue of the minefield, confirmed Churchill in the wisdom of this belief (and helped to alleviate any responsibility he may personally have felt following the order to embargo the Turkish dreadnoughts). For the next 48 hours the discussion concerning the Turkish situation was suspended, to be replaced by impotent fascination as the finale to the drama of the escape was played out.

                After Goeben and Breslau had bombarded the coast of French North Africa on the morning of the 4th in an attempt to disrupt the transportation of the Algerian Corps to France they steamed back to Messina to re-supply with coal for the dash to Constantinople. The signing of the Turco-German alliance had been sufficient reason to countermand the original order (that Goeben could not be dispensed with[28]) and override the wishes of the German Admiralty staff, who believed that the battle cruiser had no business to be in Turkish waters. As the German ships raced back to Messina on 4 August, they were fortuitously intercepted by the British battle cruisers Indefatigable and Indomitable which had been detached from their temporary assignment to Rear-Admiral Troubridge’s First Cruiser Squadron, guarding the Adriatic, and directed west by the First Sea Lord, Prince Louis of Battenberg, to close the exit through the Straits of Gibraltar. As war between Britain and Germany had not then been declared[29] the British ships could do no more than silently and sullenly follow their prey, waiting for the signal that hostilities could commence. It would not come in time. During the afternoon, by dint of superhuman effort below decks, Goeben, although way below her trial speed, was able to edge away from her pursuers until, eventually, she was swallowed by the haze that had descended. Once back in Messina, and with war now declared, Souchon coaled as best he could from the limited stocks available from half a dozen steamers in the harbour and considered his options. They were not promising. The last message he had received from Berlin was to the effect that, due to Said Halim’s wavering, it was not possible to put into Constantinople for the present.[30] His erstwhile Italian allies had already declared their neutrality, while the Austrian fleet seemed disinclined to come to his rescue. Souchon determined, therefore, to make for the Dardanelles and force a passage if necessary. After coaling as quickly as he could he would break out of the Straits of Messina south and then east, but only after first feinting as if to go to the Adriatic.

                For Admiral Milne it should have been a relatively simple task, once Souchon had re-entered Messina, to blockade him there. With three battle cruisers at his disposal, together with the four heavy cruisers of Troubridge’s squadron and a further four light cruisers, Milne could have ordered Indomitable and Indefatigable to close the northern exit of the Straits, while he, in his flagship Inflexible, together with three of the four light cruisers,[31] could have closed the southern exit. Troubridge’s squadron could have been left on station guarding the entrance to the Adriatic. Instead, convinced that Souchon intended to break west to interfere in the transportation once more, Milne placed his heaviest forces to the west of Sicily in a position to block this move. The northern exit from the Straits of Messina was left unguarded while, to the south, the humble light cruiser Gloucester patrolled alone. When Milne signalled his dispositions Admiral Leveson at the Admiralty merely noted ‘no action proposed’ on the telegram.[32] The following day Milne was ordered to maintain a watch on the Adriatic both to prevent the Austrians emerging unobserved and to prevent the Germans from entering. Thus, at this time, the Admiralty War Staff remained in agreement with Milne that Souchon had but two options: break west to attack the ships transporting the Algerian Corps to France and escape into the Atlantic, or move up to the Adriatic to join the Austrian fleet.

                Souchon made his break late on the afternoon of Thursday, 6 August and, as planned, first feinted north-east, as if to enter the Adriatic to join the Austrians. He continued on this course until shortly before 11 p.m., when he put the helm over and headed towards Cape Matapan. It was still possible for Goeben to have been intercepted by Troubridge’s squadron, but, in a fatal error of judgment based on a notorious signal from Churchill, Troubridge decided that the German battle cruiser constituted a superior force to the First Cruiser Squadron and declined to intercept.[33] Throughout most of Friday, 7 August, as Souchon steamed towards Cape Matapan, the British were able to keep in touch through the admirable efforts of Captain Howard Kelly, who continued to shadow in Gloucester.

                The first indication of the escape was received in the Admiralty at 6.52 on Friday morning: according to the C-in-C, Goeben and Breslau were ‘evidently going to eastern Mediterranean.’[34] Thirty-five minutes before sending this dispatch to London, Milne had ordered that the British Ministers in Athens, Constantinople and Egypt should be instructed to warn British ships that the German cruisers had gone eastwards. It was the first time that mention had been made of Constantinople on the British warships in the Mediterranean that day although the Admiralty had received, some hours previously, a message from Russian sources that the Austrian fleet might be heading for the Dardanelles.[35] It was precisely at this time that Milne needed all the guidance he could get from London; instead, at 11 o’clock that morning, the Chief of the War Staff signalled ‘Keep French Admiral fully informed of the situation’ — and then there was silence for 24 hours.[36] Milne’s next message, postulating that the German ships were proceeding ‘towards Crete’ and indicating that his own battle cruisers would first coal at Malta and then search for Goeben, was received by the Admiralty at 5.40 p.m. on the 7th. Just over an hour later Milne reported that there had been a brief action between Gloucester and Breslau; aware that Kelly was short of coal and fearing that his ship might be ambushed, Milne ordered Kelly to go no further than the Cape.[37] When Kelly reluctantly gave up the chase that afternoon it was the last the British would see of the German ships until they reached the Dardanelles three days later. Even so, had they been but aware, one last chance remained to catch Souchon’s squadron. An ideal opportunity presented itself as, himself short of fuel once more, Souchon planned to coal from a collier he had arranged to meet at the rocky island of Denusa, on the eastern fringe of the Cyclades. The collier, which had set out from Athens on Friday morning, would not arrive until the afternoon of Sunday, 9 August and coaling would continue throughout that night. After the faulty dispositions previously adopted, Milne was being presented with an undeserved second chance to destroy Souchon and the Mittelmeerdivision.

                As Souchon steamed at full speed back to Messina the Admiralty might have been safe in simply accepting Milne’s dispositions to cover what seemed the most likely eventualities. By the 7th some of those eventualities no longer existed: it was just possible, but unlikely, that Souchon would attempt to double back from the Aegean to join the Austrians and it was also just possible that the Austrians might battle their way through the Adriatic blockade to assist Souchon; but with the path to the west barred the focus was narrowing. Opinion in the British ships tended to favour a German attack on the Levant Coast or Port Said and Alexandria, leaving Suez as the only exit from the trap Souchon had apparently got himself into. Constantinople was rarely mentioned as a likely destination and it should have been clear in the Admiralty that Milne had no firm idea of where the enemy was after he had ordered his shadowing cruiser to withdraw. Yet the Admiralty had, at its disposal, further information that day which pointed to the Dardanelles. On 6 August Sazonov had telegraphed his Ambassador in London,

Our Minister of Marine believes there is a possibility of an attempt to send the Austrian fleet into the Black Sea with the connivance of Turkey, whose attitude is very ambiguous. With the reinforcement of the German ships and perhaps the Turkish, this combined squadron would be superior to ours. It is of the utmost importance to ascertain as soon as possible whether we can count on the co-operation of France and England to prevent this Austrian move.

The Ambassador communicated this note to the Foreign Office on the 7th, when it was seen by Crowe and Nicolson, and also by Clerk who minuted that it should be sent to the Admiralty immediately for their observations.[38] The Admiralty was apparently apprised of this information on the 8th though before this, early on the morning of the 7th, the same warning was received in the Admiralty War Room after Sazonov had also confided in the British Ambassador, Buchanan, that he had reason to believe ‘Austria has made arrangements with Turkey for entrance of her fleet into Dardanelles.’[39] This information was not forwarded to Milne. Instead, the Admiral learned, from an Italian press report, that the Austrian fleet had left Pola for an unknown destination which was enough to cause him to signal his cruiser squadron to make sure Goeben had indeed gone east and was not endeavouring to double back north or west to effect a junction with the Austrians. Milne might have had a clue to the destination of the German ships in the early afternoon of the 7th when the cruiser Dublin picked up a coded message being passed from Goeben to the W/T station at Athens for transmission to Constantinople but, although Dublin’s report was logged by most of the British ships in the area, crucially, the message was not received aboard Milne’s flagship.

                All Milne’s actions that week appeared to be characterized by a lack of urgency and so it was now. On Friday 7 August, as Souchon raced for Cape Matapan and the Aegean, Milne calmly gathered his main forces at Malta and proceeded to coal. Indomitable had only just arrived from coaling at Bizerta and had a job to stow the small additional amount taken on board. Finally, after midnight, he set out; precisely 45 minutes later a message was handed to Milne from the Admiral Superintendent, Malta — ‘Following from Athens begins: from strength of signals Goeben thought to be near Syra.’[40] The Greek Navy had apparently picked up Souchon’s signals[41] and passed the information to Admiral Mark Kerr, the British Admiral on loan to the Greek Government for the purposes of reorganizing their fleet. Kerr, who, by virtue of an impetuous telegram from the Kaiser, already knew of Souchon’s eventual destination but kept this information to himself, in turn roused George Rendel, the Third Secretary at the British Legation in Athens. Rendel then sent, or so he subsequently claimed, a “most immediate” telegram to Malta that ‘Goeben was known to be off the island of Syra and sailing north-eastwards.’[42] Whether Rendel originally mentioned the direction in his signal to Malta cannot be ascertained; however it is clear that the signal which eventually reached Milne mentioned only that Goeben was thought to be near the island of Syra — there was no indication of direction.

                Nevertheless, at last it appeared as if Milne had been given a clear idea of Souchon’s position. If true, that Souchon was heading into the Aegean, rather than attempting to steam to the Levant to attack the trade routes, what could be his ultimate destination? The three most probable choices were Salonica, Constantinople or Smyrna. Milne eliminated Constantinople at once — that is if he ever considered it in the first place: ‘Although,’ Milne was later to inform the Admiralty, ‘I anticipated the possibility of the German ships going to Salonika to interfere with Servian supplies through that port, the idea that belligerent ships would proceed into a neutral port…did not enter into my calculations and, I submit, could not reasonably have been guarded against.’ In the circumstances, Milne made his dispositions ‘to ensure that [the German ships] did not return West or break through towards Egypt and the trade routes’.[43] He refused to alter his pre-conceived idea of a grand, stately sweep by his battle cruisers towards the Sapienza Light, north of Cape Matapan, to box the Germans in the Aegean, giving them no way to escape. Throughout the morning of Saturday 8th there was no guidance from London: the silence of the Admiralty, extending from 11 a.m. on the 7th, was not broken until noon on the 8th and then with disastrous consequences.

                The anomalous position of Austria (the British declaration of war on 4 August being against Germany only) did nothing to alleviate Russian fears that, with Turkey’s connivance, the Austrian fleet would proceed to the Black Sea where it would be markedly superior to the Russian fleet there. Still concerned to forestall such an eventuality the Russian Ambassador, privy to sources of intelligence denied to the British (one of which was Admiral Mark Kerr in Athens), approached Grey on Saturday 8th to urge that the Austrian fleet should be prevented, by force, from going through the Straits to the Black Sea. Grey was prepared to condone the use of force as soon as the French fleet was ready; however to ‘declare war and invite the Austrian fleet to attack our fleet while part of it was looking after the German warships, the Goeben and Breslau, in order to protect our commerce, while the French fleet was far away, convoying the transports with French troops from Algeria to France, and while therefore our fleet could make no resistance to the Austrian fleet, would be neither useful nor politic.’[44] Unfortunately for Grey, the French Ambassador decided to dip his oar in the water that day by declaring that using the pretext of the transportation of the Algerian troops was not a sufficient reason for not declaring war against Austria. Cambon reasoned that if the Austrian fleet left the Adriatic it would constitute a danger but, if war were declared, ‘the French fleet would at once close the Adriatic moreover the Austrian fleet is more likely to go to the Dardanelles.’ Grey disagreed that the French fleet was in a position to do this: if war were declared ‘before the French fleet is ready to help in closing the Adriatic, the Adriatic cannot be closed. The British ships cannot alone stop the Austrians.’[45] As these discussions were taking place, at noon on Saturday 8th an Admiralty clerk mistakenly informed Admiral Milne that war had been declared against Austria, which caused Milne to abandon the chase of the German ships and, in accordance with his War Orders, to close the Adriatic. Meanwhile, Admiral Souchon in Goeben, having separated from Breslau, spent a tense but idle Saturday to afford his crews some relief from the strain of the previous days before putting into the harbour on the small island of Denusa at 5.32 on Sunday morning. He would be joined by Breslau some hours later but the humble collier Bogados, on which so much depended, would not arrive till that afternoon.

                It was not until late that Sunday morning, after Milne had signalled his position, that the realization dawned in the War Room that he had abandoned the chase. Shortly after, at 12.25 p.m., the Chief Censor telephoned the Admiralty to report the interception of a message from ‘Metriticicas, Athens’ to ‘Warplume, London’: ‘…informed Goeben anchored Syra asked to coal — do not know if demand will be agreed to following decision of Government to appropriate all available coal.’[46] This message was seen by the Director of the Operations Division, the Chief of the War Staff and the First Sea Lord. The information was more up to date than that which had been received from Buchanan in St Petersburg in the early hours – that Goeben and Breslau had passed Cape Matapan on the morning of 7 August, steering to the north-east[47] – though it still would not have been news to Milne: as already related, he had received a signal from Athens almost 36 hours previously, soon after having steamed out of Malta harbour to begin the chase of the German ships, that Goeben was thought to be ‘near’ Syra. The mysterious Metriticicas apparently wanted it to be known that Goeben had asked for, and been refused, coal; nevertheless, although corrupted, it was still the most up-to-date intelligence the Admiralty possessed.[48] Despite this, when, twenty-five minutes later, an urgent priority signal was sent to Milne it was the earlier, obsolete, Russian information that was used: ‘Not at war with Austria. Continue chase of Goeben which passed Cape Matapan early on 7th steering N.E.’ As Milne put his huge ships about he therefore had absolutely no guidance from the Admiralty; it was Milne, himself, who had reported Goeben’s position on the 7th.[49]

                The dismal episode of the Admiralty’s performance that weekend was capped by the apparent confirmation of the ‘Metriticicas’ message when the Russian Admiralty, again receiving its information from a privileged source in Athens, erroneously informed the British Naval Attaché and the French Admiralty that Goeben had been coaling at Syra on Saturday 8th.[50] Coming from a more acceptable source than a Censor’s intercept, the Admiralty relayed this information to Milne at 5.10 p.m. on Sunday. However, the C-in-C was sceptical: he knew that Syra was an out-station of the Eastern Telegraph Company and that any event as sensational as the appearance of two German ships coaling would be reported at once. Milne should, of course, have paid more attention to the first signal he received direct from Athens which simply placed Goeben and Breslau ‘near Syra’ (and, in fact, they did pass the island that night without stopping); however, at the time, his primary concern was in blocking a junction of the German ships and the Austrian fleet, or in preventing the Germans doubling back and escaping westward. Once in the Aegean he believed they were, in effect, bottled up so long as he remained vigilant. Thus he had been in no hurry when he set off from Malta to begin his long pursuit as, sooner or later, the German ships, short of coal, would either be cornered and destroyed or interned; all that was required was patience and diligence.

                The performance of the Foreign Office was hardly more edifying. Following the receipt of Buchanan’s telegram containing the first report of Goeben and Breslau the Foreign Office telegraphed William Beaumont, the British Chargé d’Affaires in Athens, early on Sunday morning, repeating the message from St Petersburg: ‘Russian Admiralty informed from Athens, Goeben and Breslau passed Matapan morning of August 7, steering to North-East.’[51] This was received in Athens at 9 a.m. but was hardly news to the Legation, where Admiral Kerr admitted that he had supplied this information to the Russians.[52] Beaumont replied at 11.45 a.m. that the information was correct; that he was ‘in constant communication with Intelligence Officer Malta respecting movements of German ships of war referred to & am being secretly helped by wireless telegraphy of Greek Admiralty.’ According to the latest news at his disposal Goeben was believed to have been near Syra on the evening of the 7th and the Greek Government ‘think she may contemplate going into Black Sea & have warned Greek fleet not to expose themselves to possible danger.’[53] However, before this was received, and fearing that the Russians were being supplied intelligence at the expense of the British, or that the Legation was falling down on the job, a second message was sent to Athens directing Beaumont to ‘Ask Greek Government to let you know whatever news may reach them as to movements of German ship Goeben and her consort.’[54] The Greek Government and Admiral Kerr, however, knew far more about Souchon’s movements than they let on.

                Kaiser Wilhelm, playing a lone hand in his Balkan policy, had attempted to carry off the neat trick of aligning both Turkey and Greece, previously implacable foes, to his cause. On the day that Wilhelm secured Turkey’s adherence, King Constantine of Greece was faced with the task of replying to a similar demand from his impulsive, blustering brother-in-law. At a Council of Ministers in Athens that day a decision was reached which urged neutrality for Greece and argued for an appeal to be delivered to the Central Powers (the new term for the Triple Alliance following the defection of Italy) to restrain the Bulgarians, whom the Greeks — and the Turks — feared.[55] ‘It seems to me’, Constantine therefore informed the Emperor, ‘that the interests of Greece demand her absolute neutrality and the preservation of the status quo in the Balkans’. Disinclined to accept such advice, Wilhelm’s comment was succinct, if entirely in character: ‘Rubbish’, he declared, ‘the Balkans are marching!’ And, to make certain that he put a stop to this unconsidered Greek wavering, the Emperor summoned Theotokis, the Greek Minister in Berlin, told him of the alliance that Germany had just concluded with Turkey and of Souchon’s destination and warned him that Greece would now be treated as an enemy if she did not join the alliance at once.[56]

                On 4 August, as the British battle cruisers chased Goeben and Breslau back to Messina after the German ships had bombarded the North African ports, Theotokis telegraphed the text of the Kaiser’s appeal-cum-threat to Athens: ‘The Emperor [Wilhelm] begs to inform Your Majesty that an alliance has to-day been completed between Germany and Turkey. Bulgaria and Rumania are also siding with Germany. The German ships at present in the Mediterranean are about to unite themselves with the Turkish fleet in order that they may act together… If Greece does not range herself on the side of Germany, every link between Greece and the Empire will be broken…’[57] Still trying to hang on to his tenuous grip on neutrality, Constantine warned the German Minister on 6 August not to present a German ultimatum which would only have the effect of forcing Greece to draw closer to the Entente. He did, however, inform Quadt that he would be ‘willing to offer binding assurances to both Turkey and Bulgaria that Greece would under no circumstances act against them in the event they decided to join Germany.’[58] This was enough to satisfy Quadt who cabled Berlin that ‘In general the King wants to help us fully and with all means and to stand on our side, and he thinks that he would be able to do this best if he could remain neutral.’[59] The Foreign Office in Berlin, who preferred this state of affairs, agreed with Quadt. And there the matter might have ended were it not for the fact that, when the dramatic appeal arrived from the Kaiser on the 4th, containing as it did the vital information as to the destination of Souchon’s squadron, King Constantine took the telegram to Admiral Kerr, head of the Greek Navy and a serving British officer.

                Kerr had been convinced by the King that, in the interests of self-preservation, neutrality was the only course Greece could sensibly adopt; but could this be squared with a calculated decision to let two enemy ships escape? Was there another way? For the moment, Kerr could do nothing. The Kaiser’s impetuous telegram provided Kerr with the knowledge of Souchon’s eventual destination, yet, if he simply informed Milne that Goeben was known to be heading for Constantinople, he stood the risk of compromising the King, with, perhaps, dire consequences for Greece. Admiral Kerr waited three days, until the evening of 7 August, when fortunately, or so it must have seemed at the time, the Greek navy obtained a W/T fix on Goeben. This, at last, provided Kerr with the opportunity to disguise the source. The signal Milne received after sailing from Malta stated that ‘from strength of signals Goeben thought to be near Syra’ so, apparently, Kerr was trying to lead Milne in the right direction. What he might not have counted on was the fact that Milne would ignore this new source of intelligence.

                What complicates an already complicated scenario is the fact that there was not one, but two conspiracies afoot in Athens to see Souchon safely on his way. Deeply implicated in this second conspiracy was Kerr’s bête noire, Eleutherios Venizelos, the Greek Premier. Venizelos was also aware, by virtue of the cable from the Greek Minister in Berlin, of the Turco-German alliance and Souchon’s destination. As mentioned, Venizelos saw the British Chargé d’Affaires on Wednesday 5th and, as Beaumont stated in a report of the meeting to Sir Edward Grey: ‘M. Venizelos told me this morning that Greek Minister at Berlin had just learnt from Government circles that military convention has now been concluded with Turkey.’ So far, Beaumont added, no bait had been offered and Venizelos assured Grey that ‘in no circumstances, and no matter how great an inducement might be offered, would Greece range herself against a combination of Powers including Great Britain.’ Indeed, the Premier continued, he could not see ‘what inducements could be offered to Turkey unless at expense of Greece, but thinks that possibly Greek Minister may have been deliberately misled by German Government as to convention [with Turkey] in order to frighten Greece into compliance with their wishes.’[60] Venizelos withheld two vital pieces of information: the Turco-German alliance was referred to as a less alarming ‘military convention’ and, more seriously, he made no mention of the destination of Goeben and Breslau; he then tried to undermine the report as a whole by hypothesizing that Theotokis had been deliberately misled. Venizelos was well aware of the political leanings in Constantinople yet he consciously played down this information. Like Kerr, but for different reasons, he had decided to keep quiet about Souchon’s orders to proceed to Constantinople.

                At the same time as Venizelos was thus intriguing, Souchon, having arrived at Messina, soon became aware that, due to the time limit placed upon him by the Italian authorities, he would be unable to fill his bunkers with sufficient coal to allow for a margin of error should he reach the Dardanelles and find his way blocked. He had to have another source of coal en-route. On the afternoon of 5 August Souchon duly cabled the German Legation in Athens with instructions to purchase 800 tons of coal and have it dispatched in a German collier to rendezvous with him off Cape Malea. The cable was handed to the German Minister late than night. Aware of the restrictions placed upon the exportation of coal by the Greek Government, and also of the urgency of the request, Quadt asked for, and was granted, an immediate audience with Venizelos despite the lateness of the hour — now approaching 2 o’clock on the morning of 6 August. Roused from his slumber Venizelos agreed ‘at once’ to the release and exportation of 800 tons from the sequestrated stock of a German coal company.[61] Quadt left clutching Venizelos’ calling card, on which the Prime Minster had scrawled ‘Eleutherios Venizelos begs the Master of the Port of Piraeus to allow the coal merchant Plok to dispose out of the coal in his possession eight hundred tons in favour of the German steamers actually in the Port of Piraeus.’[62] This was despite the prohibition that had been placed on the sale of coal by private individuals.[63] Plok was located and dragged from his bed at 4 a.m. and the coal was loaded on to the German collier Bogados.[64] Once under way the collier was camouflaged so as to resemble a Greek ship and would sail for her rendezvous with Souchon at Denusa as the Polymitis.[65]

                If Venizelos did not know the precise destination of the Bogados he nevertheless knew where her coal was destined for: the bunkers of Goeben and Breslau. The urgency of Quadt’s appeal, coupled with his knowledge from Theotokis of the route the German ships would be taking, must have left him in no doubt whatsoever that he was supplying vital fuel to the fleeing warships. Indeed the Prime Minister later made this admission to his colleagues but excused it on the specious pretext that, having agreed to supply coal for British men-of-war, Greece would be failing in her duty as a neutral not to do the same for the Germans,[66] a sentiment which sits uneasily alongside his earlier effusion to Beaumont. For Souchon the equation was simple: ‘Everything’, he later recorded, ‘depended on my being able to obtain enough start on the pursuing British to enable us to coal en route, and that we would find at least one of the colliers ordered to meet us.’[67] Indeed, it is tantalizing to suggest that ‘Metriticicas’ was an agent of the Prime Minister and that the message to ‘Warplume’ in London was meant to be intercepted by the British to show that the Greeks had, apparently, refused to coal the German ships. Venizelos, above all – if he wished to carry to fruition his plan to align Greece with the Entente – had the most pressing reason to conceal the fact that he, personally, had provided the lifeline Souchon needed if the German ships were to reach the Straits safely.

                There was no dispute as to the strong pro-Entente sympathies of Venizelos yet, within the space of 48 hours, he had neglected to pass on vital information regarding the destination of Goeben and Breslau; had deliberately played down the reports being picked up by the entente representatives in Athens of a Turco-German compact; and had supplied coal to the fleeing ships. Venizelos had three imperative motives for wanting Goeben and Breslau to reach Constantinople. Believing – following Quadt’s nocturnal visit – that Souchon was short of coal, the prospect of the German ships putting in to neutral Athens to coal, only to have them interned there should the British establish a blockade, must have been alarming to Venizelos to say the least. It is clear, for example, that Milne presumed that, once Souchon had entered the Aegean, one of the few options available to the German Admiral was to seek refuge in a Greek port.[68] The thought of a palace inspired coup against him, supported by the guns of the Mittelmeerdivision, would have been all the prompting Venizelos required to send Quadt on his way with a simple message on the back of a calling card and the expression of the Premier’s ‘friendliest intentions’ towards Germany.

                Second, if the Turks were wavering at the prospect of their new allegiance, the presence of Goeben and Breslau in the Golden Horn would have signalled the unequivocal alliance of Turkey with Germany and would have jolted Greek public opinion, which was tired of war and remained neutralist in the current crisis.[69] In gambling so, Venizelos was applying the same logic as Ponceau in the Quai d’Orsay who, on 10 August, declared to Isvolsky, the Russian Ambassador, that ‘it might be advantageous for us to draw Turkey to the number of our enemies in order to make an end of her.’[70]

                Third, a revivified Turkish navy, manned by German officers, and with the addition of a first rate battle cruiser and cruiser, would have been overwhelmingly powerful in the Black Sea and therefore able to forestall a Russian descent on Constantinople while the Aegean would have been out of bounds to the German ships due to the presence of the British and French navies in addition to the Greek. By ensuring that Goeben and Breslau made it safely through the Dardanelles Venizelos was also ensuring that their future radius of action would be limited to the Black Sea. From that moment on, Souchon’s only opponents would be the Russians. The Russian Black Sea fleet could not hope to launch an assault against the Ottoman capital once the Turkish fleet had been augmented by Goeben and Breslau and, with the Turkish army and navy fully committed in the east against the Russians, the way was left open for a Greek move on the Turkish rear, with the ultimate objective being the capture of Constantinople.

                And Kerr’s motives? It seems clear that, having finally decided upon a course of action, Kerr would not deviate; easily influenced initially, he also possessed, in greater measure than average, a capacity for self-deception. For a few crucial days early in August 1914, an impressionable, egotistical officer suddenly found himself in possession of vital information which could affect the course of the war, and took it upon himself to decide how that information was to be used. What other explanation is there for Kerr to have kept his silence when, if not by 4 August certainly by the 7th, he must have been certain that Souchon was heading for the Dardanelles? Having been convinced by the King that neutrality was the only course open to Greece, Kerr could have reasoned that, with the German ships safely through the Straits, the possibility of Greece now attacking Turkey was out of the question. Unable to attack Turkey, worried always about Bulgaria, the only option available then was neutrality.

                Kerr and Venizelos were both applying the same means to achieve different ends. Whereas Kerr acted out of a misguided loyalty, to try to preserve Greek neutrality, Venizelos sought to embroil his country in a fresh war of territorial aggrandizement. Once at their destination, the German ships would, he must have hoped, precipitate a quick breach between Turkey and her neighbours under the influence of Turkey’s German ally. With Turkey in the war it would have made sense for the Entente, as they planned, to seek active Greek participation. Venizelos could then name his terms, not least of which would be the fulfilment of long-standing Greek aspirations to large slices of the Ottoman Empire. What Venizelos did not count on, what robbed him of his glorious goal, was the reluctance of the Turks to enter the lists.

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[1]    F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Keith Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War (London, 1995), p. 242.

[2]    Constantinople to Foreign Office, no. 416, 3 August 1914, Kautsky Documents, no. 795, p. 562. Enver and Liman were apparently forestalled by the concerns of Said Halim.

[3]    Howard, The Partition of Turkey, pp. 96-7.

[4]    Alan Bodger, “Russia and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 96. Enver’s demands later came to include abolition of the Capitulations.

[5]    Giers to Sazonov, 5 August 1914, quoted in, Albertini, III, pp. 618-9.

[6]    Giers to Sazonov, 9 August 1914, quoted in, Howard, pp. 97-8.

[7]    Albertini, III, p. 618.

[8]    F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Keith Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 263, n.47, citing Howard, The Partition of Turkey, pp. 96ff., and Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 24-5.

[9]    See, for example, Ahmed, Turkey in the World War, p. 70, but note that Ahmed admits it is not possible to decide whether this was the case or whether Enver really would have changed sides.

[10]  Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, p. 66.

[11]  Moorehead, Gallipoli, p. 22.

[12]  Sazonov to Giers, 10 August 1914, quoted in, Albertini, III, p. 619.

[13]  Ahmed, Turkey in the World War, p. 72 ; F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Keith Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War (London, 1995), p. 242..

[14]  For example, see, Djemal, Memories of a Turkish Statesman, p. 116.

[15]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 492, 7 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[16]  John Reed, War in Eastern Europe, (London, paperback edition, 1994), p. 126.

[17]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 489, 6 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[18]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 493, 7 August 1914, ibid.

[19]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 489, 6 August 1914, ibid.

[20]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 496, 7 August 1914, ibid.

[21]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 495, 7 August 1914, ibid.

[22]  Minute on Beaumont to Grey, no. 496, 7 August 1914. Churchill followed this on 8 August by telegraphing to Limpus ‘You must remain where you are.’

[23]  Beaumont to Grey, no. 510, 10 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2137/37843.

[24]  National Bank of Turkey to Under-Secretary of State, Foreign Office, 5 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2137/36347.

[25]  Minute by Clerk, ibid.

[26]  Grey to Ottley, 9 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2137/36904.

[27]  Churchill to Wilson, 8 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[28]  On the evening of Sunday, 2 August, and as yet unaware of the signing of the alliance, the Kaiser, fully supported by Admiral von Pohl, the Chief of the Admiralty Staff, had informed the German Ambassador to the Porte that his request for Goeben to be sent to Constantinople, to reinforce the Turkish fleet against the Russians, could not be entertained. For the present, Goeben could not be spared for such an adventure. Aide-de-Camp (on duty) to Foreign Office, Berlin, 9.15 pm, 2 August 1914; Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs to Constantinople, no. 304, Berlin, 6.45 am, 3 August 1914, in Max Montgelas and Walter Schücking (eds.), Outbreak of the World War. German Documents collected by Karl Kautsky, (London, 1924), nos. 683, 712, pp. 505, 520; Ulrich Trumpener, The Escape of the Goeben and Breslau: a Reassessment, The Canadian Journal of History, VI, (1971), p. 173.

[29]  During the bombardment of Philippeville and Bona, the British ship Isle of Hastings was seriously damaged. It would be interesting to speculate what effect this news might have had on the deliberations in London on 4 August if it had arrived immediately by acting as a casus belli to justify forthwith the instigation of hostilities in the Mediterranean. There seems little doubt that Churchill would have put this information to good use if available in time but, with the delay in reporting and the pressure on the wires, it was not received at the Foreign Office until just after midday on the 5th. See, Acting Consul-General, London to Sir Edward Grey, 5 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[30]  The order was soon rescinded, though Souchon remained temporarily unaware of this.

[31]  That is, Chatham, Gloucester and Weymouth. The fourth light cruiser, Dublin, had been assisting Indomitable and Indefatigable in the shadowing of Goeben.

[32]  C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 398, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19. The telegram was then initialled by the C.O.S., Sturdee.

[33]  For this action he was subsequently court-martialled and acquitted. See Geoffrey Miller, Superior Force (University of Hull Press, 1996) for a detailed account of this episode and its aftermath.

[34]  C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 404, 7 August 1914, ibid.

[35]  Buchanan to Grey, no. 235, received in Admiralty, 1.40 a.m., 7 August 1914, ibid.

[36]  Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., no. 234, 7 August 1914, ibid.

[37]  C-in-C to Gloucester, (1251)[code time, GMT], 7 August 1914, Naval Staff Monographs, vol. VIII, the Mediterranean, 1914-15, appendix B. Operations Signals extracted from the logs of various ships. PRO Adm 186/618; E. W. R. Lumby (ed.), Policy and Operations in the Mediterranean 1912-14, (Navy Records Society, 1970), p. 186.

[38]  Note communicated by Count Benckendorff, 7 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2163/36780.

[39]  Buchanan to Grey, no. 235, 7 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[40]  A.S., Malta to C-in-C, (2351), 7/8 August (rec’d 1.45 a.m., 8 August), C-in-C’s Signal Log, Milne mss., National Maritime Museum [hereinafter NMM] MLN 210/7.

[41]  It is clear that the Greek fix had been accurate and that Goeben had, in fact, passed Syra on the night of 7/8 August. See, Trumpener, Reassessment, p. 182, note 45; E. Keble Chatterton, Dardanelles Dilemma, p. 31.

[42]  Sir George W Rendel, The Sword and the Olive, (London, 1957), p. 19 [my emphasis].

[43]  Milne to Admiralty, 26 August 1914, para. 3, PRO Adm 137/879; Lumby, pp. 223-6.

[44]  Grey to Buchanan, no. 312, 8 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2164/38079.

[45]  Nicolson to Grey, 8 August 1914 and minute by Grey, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/375.

[46]  Chief Censor to Admiralty, 9 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.

[47]  This message was dispatched to the Foreign Office from St Petersburg at 3.05 a.m., 8 August and was eventually received in the Admiralty War Room at 1.15 a.m., 9 August, an unconscionable delay: see, PRO Adm 137/4083. There is evidence however that the delay originated in the Foreign Office as, 50 minutes after the information was logged in the War Room, the message was repeated by the Foreign Office to Erskine in Athens with the explanation that ‘Following received yesterday from St Petersburg.’ See, Grey to Erskine, no. 112, 9 August 1914, PRO FO 286/575 [my emphasis].

[48]  At the time no one in the Admiralty could decide if Souchon was heading for Egypt or the Dardanelles. See, Dumas, diary entry for 9 August 1914, IWM PP/MCR/96.

[49]  Milne’s signal, however, referred to the German ships as steering ‘east’ rather than the more accurate ‘north-east’.

[50]  The Attaché’s report was logged in the War Room at 5 p.m., precisely ten minutes after the same report had been received from Paris.

[51]  Grey to Erskine, no. 112, 9 August 1914, PRO FO 286/575.

[52]  Minute by G W Rendel, 9 August 1914, ibid.

[53]  Erskine substantially altered the original draft of this telegram, which appears in the Archives as follows:

Dft Mr Erskine to Sir E Grey    Tel. No. 140 Secret  sent 11.45 a.m.

Petersburg Tel. No. 247

Your tel No. 112

Information is correct.

I am in constant communication with Intelligence Officer Malta respecting movements of German ships of war referred to & am being helped by secretly helped by Admiral Kerr by wireless telegraphy of Greek Ministry of Marine Admiralty. Latest news of Goeben believed to be off near Syra nig evening of Aug 7. Greek Govt think she is may contemplate going into Black Sea. & They have warned Greek fleet to not to expose themselves to possible danger.

[54]  This message did not arrive until the morning of Monday 10 August by which time it was redundant and was minuted simply, ‘Crossed with all our correspondence of this subject.’ Grey to Erskine, no. 113, 9 August 1914, PRO FO 286/575.

[55]  George Leon, Greece and the Entente, (Institute for Balkan Studies nº 143, Thessaloniki), p. 21.

[56]  King Constantine to Wilhelm II, no. 231, 2 August 1914 and note by Wilhelm, 3 August, in Max Montgelas and Walter Schücking (eds.), Outbreak of the World War. German Documents collected by Karl Kautsky, (London, 1924), no. 702, p. 515.

[57]  J. S. Willmore, The Story of King Constantine as revealed in the Greek White Book, (London, 1919), p. 13 quoting White Book, no. 19 [my emphasis].

[58]  To assuage further the excitable Quadt, Constantine held out the hope that the Greek merchant marine might secretly supply Germany with American coal.

[59]  Quadt to Foreign Office, 6 August 1914, quoted in George Leon, Greece and the Great Powers, (Institute for Balkan Studies nº 143, Thessaloniki), p. 31.

[60]  Erskine to Grey, no. 137, sent 5 p.m., 5 August 1914, rec’d 6 August, PRO FO 371/2162/36270. Note: in the Greek Legation Archives (PRO FO 286/572) the draft telegram is dated 4 August.

[61]  Frangulis, La Grèce et la Crise Mondiale, (Paris, 1926), p. 121; Trumpener, Reassessment, p. 174. Quadt, according to Cosmetatos, apparently sought authorization to coal two German merchant vessels, though, as Cosmetatos acknowledges, ‘M. Venizelos said that he had granted the request although he knew that the coal was intended for the Goeben and the Breslau…’ Cosmetatos, The Tragedy of Greece, (London, 1928), pp. 6-7.

[62]  Frangulis, La Grèce et la Crise Mondiale, p. 122. A photograph of the actual card appears in Sir Basil Thomson, The Allied Secret Service in Greece, (London, 1931); see also pp. 39-41.

[63]  See, The Times, 4 August 1914.

[64]  This is the generally accepted version of the ship’s name [as reported by the British consul in Piraeus who watched her being loaded with Plok’s coal] but other variations have included Bogabos, Bogadir and Bogador. Similarly, the German coal merchant appears variously as Plock or Plok. See also Trumpener, Reassessment, p. 175 and note 17.  Such activity could not escape the notice of the British consul at Piraeus who informed both the Admiral Superintendent, Malta and Erskine at the Legation that the Bogados, after loading ‘about 700 tons of German coal’, had left at daybreak, destination unknown. See, British Consul, Piraeus to Mr Erskine, 1 p.m., 7 August 1914, PRO FO 286/581/203.

[65]  There was a report that the ship had been supplied with false papers showing her destination as Cape Town, the significance of this being that, as she was allegedly headed for a British port, she was more likely to pass unmolested through either Suez or Gibraltar. Frangulis, La Grèce et la Crise Mondiale, p. 122; Trumpener, Reassessment, p. 175; Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, The Breakthrough of the Goeben and Breslau from Messina to the Dardanelles, The Naval Review, vol. 10, 1922, pp. 480-91. Naval Historical Library P (NS) 341p. 490; Der Krieg Zur See, 1914-18, The War in Turkish Waters, vol. I, The Mediterranean Division, in Monthly Intelligence Report, Confidential, Admiralty, No. 107, 15 April 1928, p. 48.

[66]  Thomson, Allied Secret Service in Greece, p. 39.

[67]  Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, The Breakthrough of the Goeben and Breslau from Messina to the Dardanelles, The Naval Review, vol. 10, 1922, pp. 489.

[68]  Milne, The Flight of the Goeben and Breslau, (London, 1921).

[69]  Once the German ships had arrived in the Golden Horn, the Venizelist newspaper Patris soon began the process of forming public opinion: by arming the enemies of Greece it declared, Germany had departed from the benevolent neutrality Greece had shown to Germany. Later, citing the fictitious sale of the German ships to Turkey as a move directed against Greece, the paper advocated Greek entry into the War. Theodoulou, Greece and the Entente, p. 26, note 34.

[70]  Quoted in, Harry N. Howard, The Partition of Turkey, 1913-23, (Norman, 1931), p. 98.



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