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 19




The Forward Policy of Winston Churchill




 Churchill when First Lord of the Admiralty

Churchill when First Lord of the Admiralty

Mallet’s telegram, reporting his meeting with Djemal, arrived at the Foreign Office on the morning of Wednesday, 19 August, just as the Cabinet was discussing the situation in Turkey. On virtually no tangible grounds other than the return of Mallet Asquith now believed that the position was ‘decidedly better’ and would improve further if the two battleships were returned to the Turks at the end of the war while, in the meantime, Britain leased the ships at the rate of £1,000 per day to begin when the last German crew member had ‘cleared out of Turkish territory.’[1] When the Cabinet adjourned Asquith lunched with Churchill at the Admiralty where the First Lord was in ‘quite undefeated form’ and soon put the Cabinet proposals into concrete form.

That afternoon Grey wired Churchill’s offer to Constantinople with the instruction that, as before, it was to be conveyed to Enver by Admiral Limpus:

I deeply regretted necessity for detaining Turkish ships [Churchill wrote] because I knew the patriotism with which the money had been raised all over Turkey. As a soldier you know what military necessity compels in war. I am willing to propose to His Majesty’s Government the following arrangement:—

(1) both ships to be delivered to Turkey at the end of the war after being thoroughly repaired at our expense in British Dockyards; (2) if either is sunk we will pay the full value to Turkey immediately on the declaration of peace; (3) we will also pay at once the actual extra expense caused to Turkey by sending out crews and other incidentals as determined by an arbitrator; (4) as a compensation to Turkey for the delay in getting the ships we will pay £1,000 a day in weekly instalments for every day we keep them, dating retrospectively from when we took them over.

                This arrangement will come into force on the day when the last German officer and man belonging to the Goeben and Breslau shall have left Turkish territory definitely and finally, and will continue binding so long as Turkey maintains a loyal and impartial neutrality in this war and favours neither one side nor the other.

                Do you agree?[2]

Before Limpus had a chance to deliver the message the Turks again raised the question of the money they claimed had been paid to Armstrong’s immediately prior to the pre-emption of Sultan Osman but which had not been returned.[3] Ottley complained at once to Churchill about this ‘fantastically untrue’ statement and then fronted the Turkish Embassy, where he forced the Naval Attaché to admit that Ambassador Tewfik had notified Constantinople of the repayment and that the whole incident was a ‘regrettable mistake, due to the inefficiency of the telegraph communications.’[4] Then, when Limpus finally called on Enver on 24 August to put Churchill’s proposal to him, the War Minister was allegedly recovering from a minor operation and was not receiving visitors.

                Somehow, in an unconscious echo of Asquith’s new found optimism, Mallet was also convinced that the situation was showing ‘decided improvement’[5] and particularly so after Djemal had seen him with the Turks’ shopping list. The Germans had already received their list; the Russians also; now it was Britain’s turn. Djemal maintained that if France and England would provide Turkey with a guarantee of security against Russia, ‘German influence would collapse at once’ and, to accomplish this, a defensive alliance would fit the bill. In addition, to guarantee Turkish adherence to the Entente, Djemal would need to have the Capitulations abolished immediately; the two dreadnoughts restored to Turkey at once (‘Impossible’ said Mallet — Djemal should ‘look upon them as a loan from Turkey to a friend in need’!); non-interference in the internal affairs of Turkey (‘This is of course’, Mallet reported condescendingly, ‘an absurd suggestion, which need not be taken too seriously’); the Entente to hand Western Thrace to Turkey if Bulgaria intervened in favour of the Central Powers; and, last, an ‘arrangement’ respecting the Greek islands.[6]

                ‘Turkey’s rôle in the immediate future’, Ryan wrote to his wife the following day, ‘is still a puzzle. We are working on the theory that two conflicting forces are at work in the highest places, one moderate, working for neutrality with, if anything, a tinge of sympathy with our side; the other militarily pro-German. Our policy is to keep Turkey out of the War by backing up the moderates (Grand Vizier, Jemal, and Javid, unless they are lying to us) by exhortation, promises and advice. Enver is entirely in German hands…’[7] Limpus painted a similar picture to Churchill in his letter to the First Lord on 26 August:

In fact I consider that Constantinople is almost completely in German hands at this moment. It appears to me that Enver and the Army wish and intend this. That Djavid knows that anything but neutrality means ruin; that Talaat probably understands this; that the Grand Vizier certainly does; and that Djemal is – a little uncertain – but has French leanings. The lesser Ministers and the bulk of the people are on the whole adverse to the Germanophile policy of the few: but so long as the Army remains German they cannot do much.[8]

In London, however, despite the Prime Minister’s equanimity, patience was wearing thin. Churchill was, by this time, ‘violently anti-Turk’ while, on a report from St Petersburg that Turkish mobilization was now being ‘hastened energetically’, Crowe minuted that this was ‘Another piece of evidence that Turkey means to go to war.’[9] As if to provide immediate confirmation of Crowe’s belief, a further telegram arrived from Mallet that day – 22 August – which mentioned the possibility that a coup was being fomented by Liman and Wangenheim with the aim of  installing Enver as military dictator. This would lead to a Turkish declaration of war against Russia in which case the two German ships (despite their ‘sale’ to Turkey, no-one in London referred to the ex-Goeben and ex-Breslau as anything other than German) would presumably sail into the Black Sea. The latest intelligence was that Goeben’s boiler defects would be repaired by 2 September, or possibly sooner, which prompted a further warning from Crowe that ‘If the Goeben’s boilers will not be ready before September 2, we may expect that the Turkish Government will continue their game with us up to then. Our troops are due in Egypt on August 28.’[10]

                It was probable therefore that, if Grey accepted Crowe’s advice and did not push the Turks too hard, the troops could pass unmolested through the Canal, safe from Turkish interference. Churchill, however, continued to press Grey on sticking ‘to our point’ regarding all the German ratings: if the Turks remained friendly, the First Lord argued speciously, the Admiralty could provide skilled ratings to replace them even though these were indispensable to the British war effort.[11] Surely this was an offer Churchill knew would never be accepted, but which was, in any event, made redundant when, on the night of 25/26 August, Bax-Ironside reported that 90 German sailors had passed through Sofia on their way to Constantinople.[12] Once Churchill had confirmed this report with Mallet (who added that, despite a strong protest, the Grand Vizier was unable to control the situation)[13] the time had come to drop the pretence. On the morning of 27 August Rear-Admiral Troubridge was ordered to attack instantly and destroy Goeben and Breslau if they came out of the Dardanelles ‘whatever national colours they are flying.’[14] Mallet, even now unwilling to admit the obvious, confided blithely to Grey that the ‘situation is most unsatisfactory, though not actually desperate.’[15]


German assistance to Turkey took the form of both men and gold — as early as 7 August (as the German ships made their run to Cape Matapan and safety) a shipment of 1.5 million marks in gold left Berlin for Constantinople.[16] The stakes were raised considerably with the arrival of Souchon who, on his own responsibility, wired Berlin on 15 August both for more money and for specialist staff to take over the defences of the Straits.[17] That evening Captain von Rintelen was descending the stairs of the Admiralty building in Berlin when his departmental chief showed him the dispatch, just received from Souchon, that Turkish tradesmen and contractors refused to accept German paper money: gold was required immediately. Von Rintelen went at once to the Reichsbank where he was, at first, told to come back during business hours. Fortuitously the vice-president of the Bank, who lived on the premises, was summoned and agreed to open the vault; but it required two keys held by two officials who were then enjoying their Saturday night in Berlin. One key was promptly located; the whereabouts of the other remained a mystery until the official was finally traced by the police to Kempinski’s; the second key was duly delivered to the Reichsbank.

                Von Rintelen now had his gold; he needed a train to transport it. First attempts to arrange one through the Railways Department of the Great General Staff drew stares of blank amazement. Eventually a train was arranged for the following morning – Sunday 16 August – but only as far as the Austrian frontier, after which the fate of the shipment would be in Austrian hands. Von Rintelen walked across the street from the General Staff building to the Austrian Embassy and saw the Counsellor there who promised that a train would be waiting at the frontier to tranship the gold on to Constantinople. ‘I must however point out’, he warned, ‘that there are unlimited possibilities of trouble in connection with the transport of gold right through the Balkans.’ Trouble or not, the gold was loaded and sent on its way on Sunday morning, under the watchful eye of a bank official[18] — it had been a long, but fruitful, night and it must have been with a pleasant degree of satisfaction that the message was relayed to Souchon, ‘Two million marks in gold forwarded by rail to Constantinople on August 16th. Half of it for you.’[19]

                But that was not the end of the matter: just when he might otherwise have let the Counsellor’s warning recede from his mind, at 4 o’clock on Sunday afternoon, von Rintelen had a telephone call from the Bank official on the train, which was now at the frontier. The Austrian train was not in sight and, being Sunday, no officials could be found. In due course it was agreed that the Austrian Automobile Corps would take the boxes to Vienna from whence a train could be organized. Von Rintelen relaxed again; his relief was to be short-lived. The following day, the Austrian Embassy in Berlin received a telegram from Vienna reporting the arrest of what appeared to be Serbian agents with German passports who were found to be driving cars loaded with gold obviously intended for Serbian propaganda purposes in Austria! As the Austrians continued to puzzle over why the gold should be in German currency, von Rintelen cleared up the misunderstanding, the arrested men were released with profuse apologies and the gold dispatched on an express train to Budapest. At last, on 22 August, von Rintelen received the news he had been waiting for: the gold had arrived safely.[20] The shipments would continue throughout September and October.

                In comparison to the gold fiasco, the mission of Admiral Guido von Usedom was smoothly accomplished. Charged with the defence of the Straits, von Usedom decided that it would cause less sensation to transport the men who would take over the defences in one large group rather than in repeated, isolated detachments. The strategy worked. ‘Nowhere’, he reported, ‘were we seriously held up or examined on the score of our uniforms and weapons.’[21] At Budapest his group was joined by 90 men destined for Breslau to bring the cruiser up to its wartime complement; these were the sailors reported by Bax-Ironside. Von Usedom’s procession now numbered 27 officers and 521 other ranks. They travelled cautiously through Roumania and Bulgaria, making sure to traverse the two capitals at night, until they reached Adrianople where, according to the Admiral’s account of the journey, ‘we were greatly disabused in our expectations when we learnt that we must preserve our incognito still further longer, and not be brought into Constantinople but detrain before we reached it and be quartered on the steamer General. I had assumed that we would be considered very welcome and distinguished allies and treated as such.’

                Von Usedom was met by Souchon as the men were transferred to General where they were able to wash for the first time in eight days. Souchon first briefed von Usedom on the ‘extremely complicated’ situation and, when he had rested, von Usedom was taken to see Enver by Hans Humann, the commander of the German naval base. The presence in Constantinople of Humann – son of a famous archaeologist; a Turcophile, fluent in the language; and a friend of Enver – was of inestimable value as Souchon was personally cool towards the Turks.[22] The Minister of War was still unwell (he was now suffering from mild blood poisoning) so it was to the Pasha’s private house that Humann took von Usedom. There they were received by Enver, lying on a sofa as he heard the Admiral explain his mission; although he listened courteously, von Usedom ‘did not gain the impression we should be very welcome.’[23]


British attention in both Constantinople and London now shifted to consider the strategic options available. Limpus informed Churchill on 26 August that, although he personally was striving to keep Turkey neutral, if this failed Britain could foment ‘Arabian and Persian Gulf troubles against Turkey’ while encouraging the Greeks to land between Smyrna and the Dardanelles, overrun the Asiatic forts, run their torpedo craft into the Sea of Marmora and starve out the troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula. These measures would, Limpus believed, if undertaken methodically and carried out persistently, annihilate the remaining power of Turkey.[24] On the day after Limpus presented this appraisal the Military Attaché, Cunliffe-Owen, submitted his own report: the Russians, he thought, had no fear of the Turkish Army nor of the Turkish Navy in its original state; Goeben however changed everything. Control of the Black Sea would pass to Turkey when the ship was again ready for sea and this, in turn, might help to determine the attitude of Bulgaria and Roumania. If this happened, the Military Attaché ventured that ‘it may be advisable to consider question of our fleet entering the Straits.’

                Cunliffe-Owen asserted that, if it were possible to avoid the mines, there would be little difficulty in running past the shore defences and steaming for Constantinople to take up a commanding position off Stamboul, thereby cutting off all military movements between the European and Asiatic shores. Even so, he was against a purely naval enterprise — except as an emergency measure to afford Russia immediate assistance. Although it would probably succeed, he argued, there would be little permanent effect unless the Russians participated in a fleet action or effected landings; in addition,

to command situation properly at Dardanelles, requires also use of military force and point arises whether substantial enterprises should be attempted in quite a subsidiary theatre of war. Moreover military operations against Turks would be far easier in Persian Gulf or Syria where Turkish forces are almost negligible. Should decision be eventually taken for a fleet movement I need hardly impress that for local reasons there should be no mistake as to rapidity of execution and minimum risk of failure.[25]

In a covering message to Grey, Mallet admitted to being ‘much impressed by military attaché’s views respecting inadequacy of naval action alone, for supposing that our fleet came in and went into the Black Sea after Goeben it might have difficulty in getting out again through the Straits…Failure or partial success would have a disastrous effect here.’[26]

                The Attaché’s report was sent to London via Athens where the British Minister was busily engaged in trying to drum up Greek support for the Entente in the face of the Prime Minister’s open willingness but private prevarication and the King’s reluctance to become embroiled in Balkan hostilities once more. Despite the hesitancy shown in Athens, the prospect of Greek co-operation offered the tangible hope of alluring benefits as all military opinion conformed to the belief that forcing the Straits could only be accomplished as a joint operation; but there were no Entente troops to spare at that moment. A Greek army would circumvent this problem and, with the additional promise of concessions thrown in, would assure Greek adherence to the Triple Entente. The thorny problem of both Greeks and Russians vying for Constantinople could be set aside — for the moment.

                On the last day of August Churchill met Kitchener and arranged for two officers from the Admiralty, in conjunction with two from the Director of Military Operation’s department, to ‘examine and work out a plan for the seizure by means of a Greek Army of adequate strength of the Gallipoli Peninsula, with a view to admitting a British Fleet to the Sea of Marmora.’ The matter was deemed urgent as ‘Turkey may make war on us at any moment.’[27] The meeting took place on the following evening, 1 September 1914. Kitchener, who favoured such a scheme as it would not denude the Western Front of troops, had left earlier that day for Paris.[28] Whether his absence emboldened the D.M.O. to speak his mind is problematical; what is certain is that, from Churchill’s point of view, the meeting did not go at all well. Major-General Callwell did not consider the proposal a ‘feasible military operation’ given the strength of the Turkish garrison.[29] This should have been the end of the matter; instead, Callwell was summoned to a further meeting at the Admiralty but this time with the big guns, Churchill and Battenberg, in attendance to lend weight to the Admiralty argument which, in the circumstances, began to prevail after the matter was thrashed out again. Under pressure Callwell modified his opinion: he now admitted that the operation was feasible but was ‘likely to prove an extremely difficult operation of war.’[30] This was all Churchill needed, for the First Lord had already decided to proceed with the Greek scheme before the meeting had taken place on 1 September.[31] He clearly expected the gathering to rubber stamp his proposals and no more; in the event, Callwell’s temporary intransigence resulted in nothing more serious than a three day delay. On 4 September Admiral Kerr at the British Naval Mission in Athens was instructed to examine and ascertain the views of Greek naval and military experts. In the meantime Grey assured the Greek Minister, Gennadius, in answer to his query, that if Goeben attempted to come out of the Straits into the Aegean she would be treated as a German ship if she retained a German crew.[32]

                The situation regarding Greece was discussed in the Cabinet the day after Grey had spoken to Gennadius; the necessity of not losing the Greeks was so great it was decided that, should war break out between Greece and Turkey, the British Government would go one step further and ‘assure Greece that in such a contingency we should prevent any Turkish ships from coming out of the Dardanelles.’[33] Despite this, Grey also suggested that Britain would be in a better position to negotiate with Turkey if the Mediterranean squadron was not so menacingly close to the Straits. However, with the wheels thus apparently set in motion (and unaware that the carriage would soon be derailed by Admiral Kerr), Churchill was not about to let Grey use the fleet as bargaining ploy by offering to move the ships away from the Dardanelles. ‘The position of our ships’, the First Lord wrote on 3 September, ‘must surely be regulated by our view of the naval situation, and not be bargained away beforehand in return for Turkey giving up doing wrong.’[34] Within the Foreign Office opinion was not as sanguine regarding the First Lord’s proposed operation: ‘By the time Turkey comes out into the open’, Clerk forecast despondently, ‘the Dardanelles will be a tough nut.’[35]

                These were difficult times as well for Mallet, who strove to find any faint glimmer of hope; ultimately this did little but add a rather forlorn tinge to his reports which now tended to mirror his own moods to a far greater degree.[36] Yet, although the situation now appeared irretrievable, attempts were still being made to resolve the issue of the two pre-empted ships. Having investigated the agreements, the Admiralty Director of Contracts confirmed that, due to the heavy loss incurred by the Turks in issuing bonds at 75%, the ships had actually cost almost £6.9 million,[37] of which the Turks had paid £3.6 million, leaving £3.3 million due either to the shipbuilders or the bond holders, of which the Admiralty had already paid £690,000.[38] Churchill now proposed that, as long as the ships remained in British hands, Turkey would not have to meet the regular payments due; however, if the ships were returned to the Turks, they would be expected ‘to discharge the suspended payments as a condition of regaining possession of the ships.’[39] Understandably, in view of this less than generous offer, Mallet was not impressed, nor did he think the Turks would be — ‘We are taking unfinished ships for our own use’, he complained. To Mallet and Sir Richard Crawford (the Ottoman Financial Adviser) it appeared ‘that the Turks might reasonably expect at close of war, after having been used, [the ships] would be handed over to them completed, without any question of reimbursing the surplus amounts outstanding for construction…’[40] In consequence the First Lord spitefully adjusted his offer: Turkey could now have £1,000 a day for the use of the ships minus the portion of the original cost paid by the Admiralty. ‘We cannot’, Churchill declared, ‘pay her any lump sum of money during the war for the ships which we do not intend to buy but to lease. That money would only go to Germany or be used to buy other ships for Germany.’[41]

                In the meantime Mallet had had a long conversation with Talaat (reporting, typically, that ‘he assured me there was no question of Turkey going to war’) during which the Ambassador pointed out that the Turkish fleet was now regarded as an annexe of the German. If, therefore, it ventured into the Aegean it would be sunk. Talaat quickly vouchsafed that the fleet had no intention of leaving the Dardanelles. Warming to his task, Mallet then pointed out ‘several infringements of neutrality’ to the Minister after which it was Talaat’s turn to spring his own surprise. Mallet reported, very confidentially, that Talaat had said ‘that now Turkish Government wished to sell us outright two Turkish ships. They wanted money badly as the economic situation was desperate.’[42] Mallet’s account of the meeting continued:

…I doubted whether HM Government would readily pay millions to a country which was entirely in German hands, and which was breathing out threats against us, our allies and against Greece. He replied that HM Government could make what conditions they liked if they bought ships; and that they would send away all Germans…I was at first inclined to think that if by buying ships we should also buy Turkish Government it would be worthwhile…but I have learned the same evening from an impeccable source…that Turks want to purchase two Argentine men-of-war now building in America and nearly completed. Argentines are apparently willing to sell. If those two ships are really in the market Germans have evidently suggested their purchase to Turks, possibly with object of acquiring ships themselves.

                Unless it is possible to prevent the sale of Argentine ships to Turkey I would strongly deprecate buying Turkish, but I would not refuse outright as it is important to let matters drag on as long as possible for there will be no war with Greece pending negotiations. Even if however we refuse to buy it must not be forgotten that the Germans might send Turkey the money to buy ships. I would suggest that steps be taken with Argentine Government, or at Washington, to find out how matters stand, unless Admiralty are already aware of this possible move. It is important that sale to Turkey should be stopped without it being known that HM Government intervened.[43]

Grey handed Talaat’s offer to Churchill, who promptly kicked it into touch. The Turkish violation of neutrality made it contrary to the public interest to pay a lump sum to Turkey during the war; Churchill’s last offer would stand.[44] This was further clarified on 23 September: if Turkey went to war, the ships would be forfeited altogether.[45]

                Mallet did have one surprise of his own for Talaat: this was the information that Admiral Kerr had hoisted his flag on the cruiser Averoff as C-in-C of the Greek Navy, a position Limpus would now have held in the Ottoman Fleet had he not been put ashore. Despite the mutual caginess Mallet thought overall that ‘things look better’ and that Talaat was ‘inclined to be reasonable.’ Indeed, the situation seemed almost constantly to be improving according to the Ambassador whose judgment was now becoming suspect and no more so than in the episode of Limpus’ transfer. This began when Churchill composed the following message for Limpus to hand to Djemal personally and which would leave the Minister of Marine in no doubt as to where the Admiralty stood with regard to the position of the Naval Mission:

Now that the Turkish Navy is paralysed by German intrigues, Admiralty consider your mission at an end. You and your officers have laboured faithfully and well to raise the efficiency of the Turkish Navy…It is not your fault that these efforts have not been crowned with success. You have borne with patience and loyalty the continued disappointments of your task, and I am glad now to be able to release you from a position which was ceasing to be in accordance with what is due to the Royal Navy.

In a separate, private, message Churchill also informed Limpus that he was to be appointed to succeed Troubridge, who had been recalled to face a Court of Inquiry. Limpus was instructed to hoist his flag in Indefatigable ‘off the Dardanelles and take command of the detached squadron there.’ Churchill sent both messages to Grey with the instruction that, when forwarded to Constantinople, Limpus’ new appointment should not be communicated to the Turkish Government.[46]

                Churchill’s proposal that Limpus assume command at the Straits was a logical move, given the Admiral’s experience and knowledge, but Mallet would not hear of it. ‘I regard transfer of Admiral Limpus as a grave mistake from a political point of view’, he replied on 11 September, adding

It will be looked upon by all Turks as a piece of sharp practice on our part to transfer an officer from the nominal command of the Turkish fleet…to the command of our own Fleet, which is universally believed to be seeking an excuse for forcing the Straits…There is already an impression that, by manner of detaining Turkish men-of-war, and by letting the Goeben escape we are largely responsible for the present difficulties…I am perfectly aware that on paper the Turkish action and attitude is as bad as possible to determine, but the Turks cannot be judged like other people…(Very confidential) The Admiral is much against withdrawing at all. He entirely shares my views respecting his appointment to the Dardanelles command, and thinks that it would be dangerous provocation. He considers that it would be regarded in the worst possible light by the Turks, destroying all chances of better relation.[47]

                It does not take much imagination to envisage the effect Mallet’s injudicious remark about ‘letting the Goeben escape’ had on the First Lord. As a direct result of this imagined slight Churchill commenced a campaign against both the Ambassador and his old friend Limpus, who was now, cynically, to be used as a pawn. When Limpus had expressed a desire to return to England earlier that year it had been Churchill who had gone to bat for him against Battenberg. Now it was different. And, as for Mallet, ‘He must be hard up for arguments against us’, Churchill remonstrated with Grey, ‘when he complains of our “letting the Goeben escape”.’ Churchill countered with arguments of his own:

I do not myself believe that the withdrawal of the mission, the delivery of my message & the appearance of the Admiral in command of the Meditn Sqn, would have any other effect than to cow and embarrass the Turks. If Mallet thinks he is dealing with a Govt amenable to argument, persuasion, & proof of good faith, he is dreaming. Factions are struggling for ascendancy, & are only actuated by considerations of force & fear, & only restrained by their great doubt as to who is going to win in Europe. The right course would be to have presented my message to the Minister of Marine as I originally intended, when I believed, and still believe they would have implored Adl Limpus to remain. Nothing appeals to the Turkish Govt but force; & they will continue to kick those who they think are unable or unwilling to use it against them. You must decide. There is no question of any other appointment for Limpus. He never would have got this chance but for the fact that he was the only man on the spot, & that it was urgently necessary to fill the place.[48] If he is to be vetoed, another Admiral must go from home at once. In case you take Mallet’s view, the mission had better remain until the Germans decide to make it prisoner of war. I shall not say any more.[49]

At the same time, unprompted and unaware of Churchill’s edict, Mallet privately proposed a compromise to Grey — why not send Limpus and the Mission to Malta, from where they could be held in readiness in case it was decided finally to attempt to force the Dardanelles?[50] As, from the Foreign Office viewpoint, Mallet was their own ‘man on the spot’ Churchill had little option other than to acquiesce and let Grey decide the matter, though not before Battenberg had sent a premature signal to the Admiral Superintendent, Malta (Admiral Carden) announcing Limpus’ temporary appointment to succeed Troubridge. Three days later Churchill decided to appoint Carden, who was manifestly unfit for the new post, to replace Troubridge while Limpus went to Malta to take Carden’s place.[51] It was a deeply unsatisfactory arrangement. In revenge, Churchill would redouble his efforts to undermine Mallet’s position.

                However, no sooner had Mallet suggested the compromise to avoid Limpus’ immediate transfer to the Dardanelles than he acted with almost unseemly haste to get Limpus and the mission away, fearful that, otherwise, they would be held by the Turkish authorities. On Sunday, 13 September Mallet informed the Ottoman Government that, active immediately, the Naval Mission was withdrawn from Turkish service and attached to the British Embassy; Turkish pay ceased that day. The following day Limpus took his formal leave of Djemal who expressed ‘great and friendly regrets’ at his departure; Tuesday 15th was taken up with removing all books and papers of importance from the Ottoman Admiralty. As the time dragged on Mallet was becoming increasingly nervous: at 9 o’clock on the morning of the 16th he ‘strongly advised’ Limpus to get away that day on the neutral Italian steamer Sardegna bound for Brindisi. Limpus accepted this advice and the whole mission departed at five o’clock that afternoon.[52] When the Sardegna stopped en route at Patras the mission disembarked, to be picked up by HMS Hussar and taken to Malta — with the exception of Engineer Lieutenant G. W. Le Page.

                The Russian Admiralty was not about to show the same deference to the sensibilities of the Turks as Mallet. In Patras, Limpus was informed by telephone from the British Legation in Athens that the Russians desired the services of one of the mission for intelligence and liaison duties with the Black Sea Fleet. Le Page was selected by Limpus for his special knowledge of the Turkish fleet and his aptitude for intelligence work; additionally, his French was deemed ‘very good’. The engineering officer was directed to report to the British Minister in Athens, there to await further instructions. Le Page was also given a general warning that it would be inadvisable to re-enter Turkish territory.[53]

                Limpus reached Malta on 20 September; it did not take long for the news to disseminate through the fleet. A characteristic reaction was that of Lieutenant Parry in HMS Grasshopper: ‘We got a signal today that V[ice] A[dmiral] Carden had been appointed to command the Dardanelles Sqd, & R[ear] A[admiral] Limpus to be Adl Supt. at Malta. This must be wrong or else it is awfully stupid: for Limpus must know a lot about the Turkish navy & Coast defences, while Carden has been Adl. Supt. at Malta for a long time.’[54] Limpus lost no time in passing on the benefit of his knowledge. On the day after his arrival he sent Carden his own appreciation of the Dardanelles’ situation, which had not changed since his letter to Churchill in late August: first, an Asiatic landing to seize the forts there, then tackle the Gallipoli Peninsula. Furthermore, it seemed doubtful to Limpus ‘if it is worthwhile forcing the Straits until troops can also be taken up’ and that, while the Straits could be forced, ‘the Admiral must be prepared to lose ships in the minefields.’[55] An intelligence report was also prepared on the state of Goeben (based on information received from a friendly Turkish officer who had received his training in England) and in which it was estimated that about 250 Turkish bluejackets had replaced a similar number of Germans — out of a complement of 1,100.[56]

                Admiral Carden was instructed that his ‘sole duty is to sink Goeben and Breslau, no matter what flag they fly, if they come out of the Dardanelles’, though Carden was left with a certain latitude to exercise his discretionary judgment for dealing with minor Turkish warships — either ordering them back or allowing them to proceed as he saw fit, ‘remembering that we do not want to pick quarrel with Turkey.’[57] By this time the prospect of immediate Greek participation in a Dardanelles campaign had vanished. Following Churchill’s cable on 4 September, Admiral Kerr developed a plan in conjunction with the Greek General Staff. However, before replying, Kerr had a ‘general’ discussion with King Constantine on 7 September at which the King made clear his fears regarding Bulgaria’s ambivalent position. Ostensibly neutral, Constantine was worried that, if Bulgaria did not join Greece in attacking Turkey, ‘she would remain so strong afterwards that she would find some pretext to attack us’.[58] The King was not alone in his concern: Greek Premier Eleutherios Venizelos was also wary of Bulgarian intentions. Venizelos, however, argued that Greece’s position would be secure if some means could be found of assuring either the active co-operation or guaranteed neutrality of Bulgaria, while at the same time declaring that this condition was ‘difficult of realization’.[59] In fact, there was no way of absolutely realizing this condition — though Venizelos dare not admit as much.

                Following his meeting with the King, Kerr again took matters into his own hands and decided to alert the Admiralty to what he believed was the actual Greek position, despite a request from Venizelos not to send such a telegram.[60] On 9 September, Kerr answered Churchill: ‘I have consulted with Greek General Staff on the subject of your telegram. They are of opinion, and I agree, that force at disposal of Greece is sufficient to take Gallipoli if Bulgaria does not attack Greece. It is not sufficient guarantee for Bulgaria to undertake to remain neutral. They will not trust her unless she also attacks Turkey at the same time with all her force. The plan for taking the Straits of the Dardanelles is ready if above conditions obtain…but since Turkey has mobilised and obtained German ships operation has become greater…’[61] Receipt of this telegram ended all immediate hope of Greek assistance. ‘The condition as regards Bulgaria seems to me scarcely practicable’, noted George Clerk in the Foreign Office, while Nicolson, not overly enamoured of the Premier, wearily added, ‘Greece would have to offer Bulgaria something to join with her. I think M Venizelos declines to do.’[62]

                The question remains, why did Kerr go further than Constantine had apparently and Venizelos had certainly intimated in his reply to Churchill? Although Kerr did state, if somewhat bluntly, the actual Greek position, Constantine denied – to Venizelos at least – giving him the authority to do so, while Venizelos twice attempted to resign to prevent Kerr’s reply being sent. Did Kerr simply misinterpret a friendly discussion with the King or did he, with Constantine’s consent, try to pull the rug out from under Venizelos by stating a condition he must have known would be rejected?[63] For the time being, Admiral Carden, off the Dardanelles, was on his own, though his flag was soon reinforced by the addition of two French battleships after a dubious intelligence report had been received from Constantinople that Souchon planned to lead a raid on Smyrna![64] Souchon’s sights were by now, however, firmly fixed on the Black Sea.


Please click to go to the top of this page





[1]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 19 August 1914, Asquith Letters, no. 125, pp. 178-80.

[2]    Grey to Mallet, no. 398, 19 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/800. This, like the infamous ‘superior force’ telegram, is another example of Churchill’s sloppiness in attempting to draft concise, unambiguous messages: it is difficult to see how Turkey’s neutrality could, at the same time, be ‘loyal’ and ‘impartial’. It is also not quite clear if the offer of £1,000 per day was for both ships or each ship; nevertheless, Churchill counted on getting a bargain. On 8 August he had instructed the Admiralty departments to proceed on the basis that the war would last one year; in that case (assuming the offer covered both vessels) £365,000 was a small price to pay for the use of two fine Dreadnoughts which made Britain’s position in the North Sea all the more secure. See, Duration of the War - Estimate of First Lord, 8 August 1914, PRO Adm 1 8388/235.

[3]    Mallet to Grey, no. 576, 21 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/800.

[4]    Ottley to Churchill, 21 August 1914, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 47-8; Grey to Mallet, no. 411, 21 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/800.

[5]    Letter of Proceedings, Troubridge to Admiralty, 10 September 1914, (see entry for 20 August), Lumby, no. 430, pp. 449-53.

[6]    Mallet to Grey, no. 572, 20 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2138. Djemal added, for good measure, that ‘the idea of Goeben being allowed to attack [British] shipping was preposterous.’ Cf. Djemal, Memories of a Turkish Statesman, p. 123.

[7]    Ryan, The Last of the Dragomans, pp. 97-9.

[8]    Limpus to Churchill, 26 August 1914, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 56-60.

[9]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 21 August 1914, Asquith Letters, no. 127, pp. 184-6; Buchanan to Grey, no. 311, 21 August 1914, and minute by Crowe, 22 August, PRO FO 371/2138.

[10]  Mallet to Grey, no. 591, 21 August 1914; minute by Crowe, 22 August, ibid.

[11]  Churchill to Grey, 22 August 1914, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 49.

[12]  Bax-Ironside to Grey, no. 66, 25 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/800.

[13]  Mallet to Churchill, 26 August 1914, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 56.

[14]  Admiralty to Troubridge, 27 August 1914, Lumby, no. 426, p. 448.

[15]  Mallet to Grey, no. 628, 26 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2138.

[16]  Z. A. B. Zeman, A Diplomatic History of the First World War, (London, 1971), p. 57.

[17]  Der Krieg Zur See, IV, p. 10.

[18]  Captain von Rintelen, The Dark Invader, (London, 1933), pp. 26-30.

[19]  Nauen to Goeben, no. 81, 18 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/4065.

[20]  Von Rintelen, The Dark Invader, pp. 31-3.

[21]  Von Usedom’s instructions had included the following: ‘...(1) to pay careful attention to the orders given you by the central authorities in Berlin as to the conveyance of arms and equipment through Roumania and Bulgaria in order that no difficulties may be caused (with) these countries.’ Admiralty Staff of the Navy to Goeben, no. 90, 23 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/4065.

[22]  Humann ‘was posted to Turkey in the autumn of 1913 with rather vaguely defined functions (including command of the ageing ambassadorial stationnaire Loreley), and it was only in 1915 that his de facto role as naval attaché was formally acknowledged. In any event, until his recall in 1917, Humann was probably the most valuable contact man to the CUP regime the Germans had.’ Ulrich Trumpener, “Germany and the End of the Ottoman Empire”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, p. 115.

[23]  Report of Admiral von Usedom, 9 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215. On 18 September T E Lawrence admitted to having ‘a horrible fear that the Turks do not intend to go to war: for it would be an improvement to have them reduced to Asia Minor, and put into commission even there. It all depends on Enver’s getting loose again. At present he has “blood-poisoning” and is sulking in his palace…’ Lawrence to Mrs Rieder, 18 September 1914, quoted in, D Garnett (ed.), The Letters of T E Lawrence, (London, 1938), p. 185.

[24]  Limpus to Churchill, 26 August 1914, WSC Comp. III, pt. i, pp. 56-60.

[25]  Mallet to Grey, no. 630, 27 August 1914, enclosing report by Military Attaché, PRO FO 371/2138.

[26]  Mallet to Grey, no. 632, 27 August 1914, ibid.

[27]  Churchill to General Sir Charles Douglas, C.I.G.S., 1 September 1914, PRO Cab 19/28 Appendix A1.

[28]  This was a desperate time for the Entente. On 1 September news was received in London of the Russian defeat at Tannenberg, while it appeared that Paris was in danger of falling. Kitchener had in fact been dispatched to Paris to ensure the complete co-operation of Sir John French who had intimated that he wanted to pull back his troops. Sazonov, concerned that if Paris fell the French, and perhaps the British, might sue for peace, proposed that an agreement should be signed precluding the possibility of a separate peace. Although Grey understood Sazonov’s motives only too well, he had little option but to agree. Grey informed Buchanan on 3 September: ‘I am ready to sign the following with French and Russian Ambassadors here:— “The British, French and Russian Governments mutually engage not to conclude peace separately during the present war. It is understood that when terms of peace come to be discussed, no one of the allies will demand conditions of peace without the previous consent of each of the other allies.” ’ The Pact of London, transforming the Entente into an Alliance, was signed on 5 September. Grey to Buchanan, no. 671, 3 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2173/46060; see also, French, British Strategy and War Aims, pp. 35-6.

[29]  Callwell, it should be noted, had been attached to the Greek Army during the Greco-Turkish war of 1897.

[30]  Memorandum by Major-General Callwell, 3 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/96.

[31]  Although the message was sent to Athens on 4 September, in a clear indication that Churchill had already made up his mind and had expected no opposition from the War Office, the original draft outline had been written on 1 September, before Callwell had had a chance to voice his objections! The draft outline of the 1st was revised the following day; the revision was virtually identical to the cable as sent. PRO Adm 1 8393/301.

[32]  Grey to Elliot, no. 143, 1 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2171.

[33]  Asquith to the King, 2 September 1914, PRO Cab 41/35/40 [my emphasis].

[34]  Churchill to Grey, 3 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2138.

[35]  Minute by George Clerk, 2 September 1914, ibid.

[36]  For an indication of Mallet constantly trying to see an improvement in the situation, refer Troubridge to Admiralty, Letter of Proceedings, 10 September 1914, entries for 2, 5, 6 and 7 September, Lumby, no. 430, pp. 449-453.

[37]  This was made up as follows: for Reshadieh — contract price, £1,796,500 to which was added £285,000 interest, £123,500 extras on ship and £302,000 for ammunition, giving a total of £2,507,000. For Sultan Osman — although the contract price was £3 million, the Turks had had to sell £4 million of Treasury Bills to obtain this sum. So, therefore, the real contract price was £4,000,000 to which was added £100,000 interest paid since the issue of the bills plus £246,000 for ammunition, giving a total of £4,346,000. The total for the two ships was, then, £6,853,000 but that was not all: ‘To this amount is to be added approximately £40,000 for Inspectors, Crews, etc. over here for the last three years, so that the Turks will have to receive approximately £6,893,000 to reimburse themselves for the actual indebtedness which they have incurred for the two ships, and which they will have had to pay.’ Vickers to F.O., 20 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2137.

[38]  Minute from Director of Contracts, 27 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/800.

[39]  Grey to Mallet, no. 475, 31 August 1914, ibid.

[40]  Mallet to Grey, no. 688, 4 September 1914, ibid.

[41]  Churchill to Grey, 8 September 1914, ibid.

[42]  Limpus confirmed this when he reported to Churchill that Sir Adam Block was ‘extremely pessimistic’ about the Turkish financial situation. Within days of Mallet’s interview the Turks would unilaterally abolish the Capitulations.

[43]  Mallet to Grey, no. 715, 6 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/800.

[44]  Admiralty to F.O., 15 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2137/49805. Note: it took the Admiralty six days to reply to Grey’s letter!

[45]  Admiralty to Treasury, 23 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2137/52468.

[46]  Churchill to Grey, 9 September 1914, First Lord’s Minutes, Naval Historical Library.

[47]  Mallet to Grey, 11 September 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/80.

[48]  The urgent necessity was brought about by Troubridge’s recall to face a Court of Inquiry.

[49]  Churchill to Grey, 11 September 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/88.

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

[51]  Admiralty to A.S., Malta, no. 408, 17 September 1914; Admiralty to Rear-Admiral Carden, no. 429, 20 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[52]  Those on board the Sardegna were more fortunate than Naval Instructor Horace Herbert Holland, who had been attached to the Mission since 1911. Holland went on leave in August 1914 and was unfortunate enough to arrive in Berlin, en route to England, the day after the British Ambassador had asked for his passports. The American Ambassador personally took Holland to the German Foreign Office to plead on his behalf, explaining that he was a non-combatant, but once it was admitted that Holland was entitled to wear a sword he was made a prisoner of war and dispatched to Spandau. See, Notes of a Conversation between Winston S Churchill and Captain Henderson, 8 August 1914, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i. pp. 22-4.

[53]  Limpus to George Le Page, 18 September 1914; Limpus to A.S., Malta, 20 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[54]  Parry diary, 21 September 1914, IWM 71/19/1. Parry wrote subsequently on 31 October when off the Dardanelles that Carden was ‘the last man wanted here now.’ Fisher’s opinion was just as succinct: ‘...who expected Carden to be in command of a big Fleet!’ he wrote Jellicoe in 1915, adding, ‘he was made Adl Supt of Malta to shelve him!...’ Fisher to Jellicoe, 16 March 1915, Jellicoe mss., BL Add MSS 49006.

[55]  Limpus to Carden, 21 September 1914, enclosure in Limpus to Admiralty, 23 March 1915, PRO Adm 137/1089.

[56]  Report on Goeben by Lieutenant-Commander Guy Hallifax, 1 October 1914, PRO Adm 137/881. The information on which the report was based was dated 12 September 1914.

[57]  Mallet had telegraphed on 11 September: ‘German object being to embroil us with Turkey it is of the greatest importance to give them no handle.’ Mallet to Grey, no. 755, Lumby, no. 431, p. 454.

[58]  King Constantine to Prime Minister Venizelos, 7 September 1914, quoted in, Mélas, Ex-King Constantine and the War, pp. 245-6.

[59]  Venizelos to the King, 7 September 1914, quoted in, Mélas, Ex-King Constantine and the War, pp. 240-4.

[60]  Ibid.

[61]  Elliot to Grey, no. 205, 9 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/4178. The original draft of this telegram can be found at FO 286/573 [my emphasis].

[62]  Minutes by Clerk and Nicolson, 9 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2140/46344.

[63]  This question is examined more thoroughly in chapter 14 of Miller, Superior Force.

[64]  Admiralty to Marine, Bordeaux, 20 September 1914; Admiralty to Carden, no. 435, 21 September 1914, Lumby, nos. 433-4, pp. 454-5.



The Links Page :

As the range of our activities is so diverse, we have a number of different websites. The site you are currently viewing is wholly devoted to the second of the three non-fiction books written by Geoffrey Miller, and deals specifically with British policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the origins of the Dardanelles Campaign. The main Flamborough Manor site focuses primarily on accommodation but has brief details of all our other activities. To allow for more information to be presented on these other activities, there are other self-contained web-sites. All our web-sites have a LINKS page in common, which allows for easy navigation between the various sites. To find out where you are, or to return to the main site, simply go to the LINKS page.

Please click to go to the top of this page



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

  Geoffrey Miller can be contacted by:
01262 850943  [International: +44 1262 850943]
Postal address

The Manor House,
East Riding of Yorkshire, YO15 1PD
United Kingdom.




Secondary Navigation Copyright © 1995-2014
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be further reproduced by any means without the prior permission of the author, Geoffrey Miller, who has asserted his right in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
Click to go to top of page
Home Introduction Preface Search Contents Feedback Links Ordering Order Form
Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18
Chapter 19 Chapter 20 Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Bibliography Appendices Index Other books Order Form PDF

Web-site design & content Copyright © 1995-2013 Geoffrey Miller