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 20




The Last Hurrah for Said Halim




 Turkish troops leaving for the front

Turkish troops leaving for the front



After his unsatisfactory initial meeting with Enver, von Usedom was now more encouraged by what he saw and thought that Turco-German co-operation would be possible. He remained until Sunday then returned to Constantinople to persuade Enver to close the Dardanelles and complete the mine barrier, a project to which the Pasha demurred pleading that he would not be able to convince his Cabinet colleagues who feared that such a move would result in an ultimatum from Britain or France (or even Italy). This, in turn, would lead to war which the Turks wanted to avoid until assured of non-intervention by Roumania and Bulgaria. It was a further let down for von Usedom who complained in his official report that, in view of the briefing he had been given in Berlin, ‘I had thought matters considerably more rosy and more settled than they actually were.’[2]

                Souchon, who had now completed his report on the available military options following the indecisive conference in August, presented his findings to Enver on 10 September. Unsurprisingly, he followed the same line as before, that the Turkish transports required for a Black Sea coast landing would be at the mercy of the Russian fleet, in which opinion von Usedom was in complete agreement. The landings, von Usedom acknowledged, depended upon Turkish command of the Black Sea, but the Russians would not allow themselves to be drawn into a naval battle and the Turkish fleet was not strong enough to blockade the Russian warships in their ports.[3] This somewhat unpalatable advice, which went counter to Liman von Sander’s preferred option, did nothing to quell the rumours sweeping the British ships waiting patiently off the Dardanelles. ‘Altogether it seems evident that the Turks are up to some dirty game against either ourselves or our allies’, wrote Lieutenant Parry in HMS Grasshopper on 18 September. ‘I suppose tho’ that we shan’t trouble to go to war with them unless they force our hands, as we’ve got nothing to gain by it. But if they do send an expedition against Odessa (as was rumoured they intended doing), or declare war on Russia, it seems to me we can’t possibly stay out. To us who are on the spot it seems awfully stupid to allow the Turks to go on shilly shallying like this; but I suppose our Govt have enough to do without worrying about a small country who can’t do us much damage.’[4] Although Enver accepted that the Egyptian expedition could be undertaken, the Turks would still have to base a sizeable proportion of their army in Thrace, to guard against a possible Bulgarian attack. Talaat went further, by maintaining that any military adventure was out of the question until the attitude of the Bulgarians had been definitely decided.[5]

                Despite the narrowing of the strategic possibilities, and the concomitant difficulty in achieving surprise, Wangenheim was under continual pressure from Berlin to get something done. A further conference was convened at Enver’s house attended by Liman, Souchon, Usedom, Wangenheim and some German staff officers. The proposed Odessa landings were finally laid to rest, much, one would imagine, to Souchon’s relief; discussion turned instead to options in the Caucasus and Egypt and to what form Turkish participation should take if Bulgaria marched on Serbia and Greece. The Egyptian project was strongly supported by Wangenheim, Souchon and Usedom as the only option capable of exercising immediate pressure on Britain. Liman, however, remained the stumbling block; he could not see much resulting from such an undertaking.[6] At least one thing was settled — now that the Dardanelles’ defences were, as Mallet reminded Grey, ‘being every day strengthened’ those present at the meeting could take heart that soon the Straits would become, if not impregnable, at least too strong to force without unacceptable losses. At that point Souchon’s rear would be safeguarded and, with Enver’s guarantee, he could then sortie into the Black Sea assured always of a secure base inside the Bosphorus so long as Enver continued to wield power.

                In view of this, on 14 September, Enver authorized Souchon to patrol in the Black Sea with a remit to attack any Russian vessels he might come across. That same day news that the planned assault on Egypt by the Turkish Eighth Army was being postponed leaked in Vienna from a German source. Whatever motive there might have been for the leak[7] the Germans were quick to pin the blame on the faint-hearted Austrians, who remained keen on the Odessa landings as a way of removing pressure from their own front and who wanted the Egypt project scrapped for fear of upsetting the Italians.[8] This was despite the fact that Liman was the main beneficiary of the leak, which put the Black Sea plan firmly back on the agenda. Nevertheless Enver’s precipitate authorization was too much for his Cabinet colleagues, advancing as it did the day of judgment unacceptably close. Said Halim at once recognized that if he did not stop Enver the War Minister would become de facto dictator of Turkey. Enver meanwhile claimed to von Usedom that he still wished to embark upon war immediately but that he had only managed to convert Djemal and Talaat;[9] as for Enver’s more intransigent colleagues, von Usedom reported that, ‘he will have to bring about a small coup d’état to set aside such of his colleagues who do not agree with him…’ As tantalising as this prospect must have appeared in Berlin, von Usedom then added, alarmingly, ‘If his political opponents succeed in putting him aside first the prospect of working with the Turks will have passed. In that case the usefulness of the German missions ceases at the same moment, since all three exist only through Enver, and depend on him for results.’[10] Yet this is precisely what Said Halim tried to do – and succeeded, if only temporarily – though without the dire result forecast by von Usedom.

                The Grand Vizier was able to rally enough support in Cabinet to demand that Enver rescind his authorization to Souchon; it was a rare, if short-lived, victory for the Prince but which brought an immediate objection from Souchon who threatened that, if he were not allowed, officially, to conduct ‘nonprovocative training manoeuvres’ he might do so unofficially.[11] The Admiral had already worked out his plan for a Black Sea cruise to commence on 20 September either with the bulk of the Turkish fleet or, if Enver’s powers of persuasion were insufficient and the Turkish ships were withheld, then only Goeben and Breslau would proceed, but under the Turkish flag.[12] In the event, as Enver was so roundly defeated, Souchon, on his Ambassador’s orders, sent only Breslau into the Black Sea on 20 September for a cruise of several hours’ duration. This would remain a temporary setback only as Souchon’s overall plan was common knowledge in Constantinople — and further afield: on the same day in the waiting British fleet there was ‘Much talk about the Turkish fleet plus Goeben and Breslau sallying out into the Black Sea and annoying the Russians.’ For Lieutenant Dickens in HMS Harpy this was tantamount to good news: ‘Hope they do’, he recorded artlessly in his diary. ‘That should settle it, and we’ll then be able to attack the Dardanelles.’[13]

                After a heated meeting following Breslau’s lone sortie, Enver tendentiously attempted to argue that a Black Sea demonstration was necessary to prevent the Roumanians from gravitating towards the Entente Powers. But no amount of prevarication could conceal that the real intention was to provoke the Russians. If Souchon attempted to take his ships into the Black Sea, Enver was warned, they might be debarred from returning to the Bosphorus, while Djavid and Djemal apparently suggested that the Bosphorus’ forts should be given permission to open fire on the German ships if they tried to pass into the Black Sea without Turkish authorization.[14] The Grand Vizier, who had seen his carefully orchestrated Cabinet victory destroyed at a stroke by the unilateral action of the German Admiral, now had to face the wrath of the Entente Ambassadors. Mallet, in particular, had a card up his sleeve, for he had heard indirectly of the political edict that had been delivered to Enver and which had now been so blatantly undermined. Mallet began, however, by innocently asking the Grand Vizier why the Turks had allowed Breslau into the Black Sea, at which Said Halim attempted to stand on what remained of his dignity: the Turks had every right to send their fleet into the Black Sea. Not so, replied Mallet, as, according to international law, neither Goeben nor Breslau were Turkish ships. Then, when the Grand Vizier ‘disclaimed with utmost vehemence and absolute sincerity any hostile intention to Russia’, it was time for Mallet to play his trump card. The Council of Ministers had, he said, ‘wisely decided’ against sanctioning a foray for fear of provoking an incident with Russia; however, ‘the very day they had come to the decision Minister of War totally disregards it, which shows how much power was left to His Highness.’ Constantinople, Mallet added, was an armed German camp with everyone, including His Highness, at the mercy of Enver and Liman.[15]

                It was a harsh rebuke, coming from Mallet, but not undeserved and the Ambassador was promptly proved correct. The game of brinkmanship was won by Souchon and Enver after the latter reported on 21 September that his colleagues now took the view that Souchon had a right to maintain German interests even if in conflict with Turkish. Henceforth, Goeben and Breslau could cruise in the Black Sea though the Ottoman Government would disassociate itself if Souchon committed a warlike action.[16] It should have been obvious however that no amount of dissembling would dispel the impression that Souchon was acting in conjunction with the Turks. For Djavid, like Said Halim, the appreciation of the real situation was sharply brought home when the Minister of Finance consoled a Belgian acquaintance: ‘…“I have terrible news for you,” said the sympathetic Turkish statesman. “The Germans have captured Brussels.” The Belgian, a huge figure, more than six feet high, put his arm soothingly upon the shoulder of the diminutive Turk. “I have even more terrible news for you,” he said, pointing out to the stream, where Goeben and Breslau lay anchored, “The Germans have captured Turkey”…’[17]

                Despite his strong words to the Grand Vizier, Mallet again came under fire from Churchill who was by now violently antipathetic to the Turks and still smarting from Mallet’s earlier unguarded comment that Goeben had been ‘allowed to escape’. Leafing through Mallet’s dispatches, it was not difficult for Churchill to find a recurring theme along the lines of “the Grand Vizier expressed his extreme surprise at information which I gave him this morning and disclaimed vehemently any knowledge of it and promised...” So equipped, Churchill set to work on 23 September in continuance of his campaign to discredit the Ambassador.

I must write you a line about Turkey [he began his letter to Grey]. Poor Mallet’s telegrams are in the main repetitions of the paragraph attached [quoted above]. We are suffering very seriously from Turkish hostility. Our whole Mediterranean Fleet is tied to the Dardanelles. We are daily trying to buy Turkish neutrality by promises and concessions. Meanwhile the German grip on Turkey tightens and all preparations for war go steadily forward. But all this would in itself be of minor consequence but for the fact that in our attempt to placate Turkey we are crippling our policy in the Balkans.

While not advocating aggressive action against Turkey, the time had come, the First Lord argued, to consider territorial inducements for the Christian Balkan states at Turkey’s expense; it was too late for strong words at the Porte to have any effect. ‘Like you,’ Churchill continued, ‘I sympathize deeply with Mallet in the futile and thankless task on which he is engaged. I do not know what the result will be but I am sure it is not worth while sacrificing the bold and decisive alternative of throwing in our lot frankly with the Christian States…to get the kind of neutrality which the Turks have been giving us, and for which we are even asked to pay and be grateful…I do most earnestly beg you not to be diverted from the highway of sound policy in this part of the world…by wanderings into the labyrinth of Turkish duplicity and intrigue.’[18]

                Churchill also took his attack into the Cabinet which met that morning where he gained the support of some of his colleagues that the Government should now free itself from the obligations already made as to Turkey’s future and ‘make common cause with the Balkan states.’ Although Grey was not prepared to go this far, his patience was wearing undeniably thin, and it was his proposal that carried the day: Mallet would be instructed to inform the Porte ‘that while not contemplating for the moment hostile measures, we are grievously dissatisfied with the recent action of the Turkish Government, which has resulted in placing Constantinople under German, and no longer under Turkish, control. Unless the “peace party” soon succeeds in getting upperhand we shall be compelled to adopt an attitude of hostility and to take measures accordingly.’[19] But the ‘peace party’ was fast running out of both options and adherents. Djavid’s repeated warnings that the cost of mobilization was bankrupting the Treasury fell on deaf ears. The only argument which might have caused Enver to reconsider concerned the shipments of munitions from Germany which were being seriously disrupted by the Roumanian authorities.[20] This hardening of the British attitude to Turkey was strengthened by a dispatch from Athens reporting that all Turkish ships, whatever their size, carried a proportion of German officers and men and recommending that, for the safety of British shipping off the Dardanelles, Admiral Carden’s discretionary instruction of 21 September should be altered so that all Turkish ships (and aircraft) should be treated as hostile.[21] The C.O.S., Admiral Sturdee, with Battenberg’s full approval, agreed that the new order should be issued. ‘We are running great risks’, noted Sturdee, ‘and possibly may lose an important unit if the order is not given.’[22] Carden had independently decided to attack any Turkish torpedo craft issuing at night from the Straits and closing his patrol; his telegram informing the Admiralty of this decision, sent on the evening of 25 September, crossed with the formal Admiralty authorization to attack any Turkish ship, day or night.[23] Mallet was also informed that Grey, having consulted Churchill, now thought it would be ‘better and safer’ to tell the Turks they must not send their ships to sea while the fleet remained under German control. ‘We are bound’, added Grey, ‘knowing German methods to regard Turkish ships coming out under present conditions as having the intention to attack some British interest.’[24] The news that they were free to attack was warmly greeted in the patrolling British ships, typified by Lieutenant Parry who noted in his diary, ‘…AT LAST this looks more like business — ‘OORAY!’[25]

                The British fleet did not have long to wait. At lunch on the 26th the signalman on HMS Grasshopper ‘fell down the hatch and breathlessly told us a Turkish T[orpedo] B[oat] was coming out.’ Racing on deck they saw an ‘exceedingly diminutive’ one-funnelled torpedo boat being chased by HMS Rattlesnake with HMS Savage coming up fast in support. As the British destroyers were rapidly overhauling her, the Turkish boat stopped and was ordered to return, whereupon she soon ‘skidaddled back into the Dardanelles.’[26] The report of this minor incident did not reach Mallet until the following day, by which time it was accompanied by the staggering news that, in retaliation, the Commandant at the Dardanelles had promptly closed the Straits. Although, without any doubt, Enver was looking for a suitable excuse and Carden had not, in any case, followed his new orders to the letter (the Turkish boat was, after all, only turned back and not sunk), yet it appeared another example of one of Churchill’s orders having an immediate and counter-productive effect. While this might have provided useful ammunition in Churchill’s fight to have Turkey ditched, it also presented Mallet with another headache — and one he could do without.

                Accompanied by his French and Russian colleagues, Mallet tackled the Grand Vizier at once. If only a short notice had been given before the Admiral had been instructed, Said Halim claimed, ‘he could have arranged things quietly but sudden action of [British] fleet had given rise to supposition that we intended immediate attack.’ Mallet explained as best he could that Turkey was only hurting herself by this action which also gave rise to the fear that she was intent upon taking some desperate step.[27] Said Halim, personally, was in favour of re-opening the Straits, though it was not until Mallet returned to the Embassy that he discovered the price the Grand Vizier placed upon his personal desire. Mallet was then informed by a Turkish Foreign Office official that the Dardanelles would be re-opened if the British Government ‘will move fleet a little farther from entrance to Dardanelles towards Lemnos.’[28] Bearing in mind Churchill’s previous reaction to such a suggestion it was no surprise that the entrenched hard-line Admiralty attitude showed no signs of moderating: ‘An impertinent request considering the conduct of the Turkish Government’, commented Sturdee. ‘Our ships must be prepared for offensive action if Germans obtain the upper hand.’[29]

                Mallet was therefore informed on 30 September that the watch on the Dardanelles would not be withdrawn so long as Germany controlled the Turkish fleet and that the request of the Grand Vizier could not be entertained until all the German officers and crew had been repatriated.[30] However Mallet demurred when asked to be so blunt — before seeing Said Halim he tried to persuade Grey to alter his stance, arguing ‘If it is necessary on practical grounds that fleet should remain in close proximity to forts, then I would not advocate its receding. But if it can go a little distance off without impairing efficiency of its supervision I would recommend it on political grounds.’[31] Mallet believed that, to save face, the Grand Vizier required an excuse before he could re-open the Straits. Said Halim had reminded Mallet that it was not many days since the Ambassador had informed the Porte in writing that if Goeben and Breslau went out singly or accompanied by Turkish warships, they would all be treated as enemies; this note, he maintained, had led the Turks to consider that they were free to send out Turkish ships alone. Then, no sooner had they done this, suddenly and ‘without any warning’ their torpedo boat had been turned back. It would not be difficult to sympathize with Said Halim who had been placed in as awkward a situation by Enver as Mallet had been by Churchill. But British ‘face’ was also involved: re-opening the Straits would be regarded as a diplomatic success; tacit acceptance of the closure a sign of weakness. ‘In these circumstances’, contended Mallet, ‘might it not be imprudent to inform Grand Vizier point-blank that we will not move our ships a little farther off from the entrance and would it not be better to say nothing at all? His Highness will draw his own conclusions…’[32]

                Mallet succeeded; Grey relented. On 2 October the Ambassador was left to use his discretion as to whether to tell the Grand Vizier that the fleet would not be moved. If, however, Said Halim mentioned the subject again, Mallet was instructed that the situation must be made plain to him.[33] The next day Mallet received intelligence from ‘a usually reliable source’ which led him to believe that the question of moving the fleet had now become academic: the Dardanelles, he was now informed, had been closed not by an administrative act but by the laying of additional mines to close off the navigation channel. ‘There is reason to suppose’, he reported, ‘that these mines have been laid by Germans and that their position is unknown to Turks.’[34] Mallet’s source was only half right — after the minor incident of the torpedo boat, the Turkish commandant at the Dardanelles, with the full support and advice of his German colleague, Vice-Admiral Merton, had promptly closed the passage through the outer minefield with four mines and reported this fact to Constantinople. Enver had no trouble, once this initial step had been taken, in obtaining the complete closure of the Dardanelles. All remaining passages through the barriers were blocked and a fourth minefield was laid at the narrowest point.[35] Although it provided few grounds for comfort Mallet was forced to surmise that it was ‘certain that Germans have been long working for closing of Straits with object it is supposed of giving them freer hand in Black Sea.’[36]

                Mallet’s hypothesis was correct in that it accurately reflected German intentions; what he could not have known, however, was that, at the same time, Souchon had decided to call an end, temporarily, to his provocative cruises and concentrate instead on training his crews. This situation had arisen after Djemal argued that, despite the earlier edict that Souchon had a right to maintain German interests, Goeben and Breslau should only venture into the Black Sea with Enver’s approval. As this was tantamount to giving an inmate the key to his own cell, it came as no surprise that once more, on 27 September, Enver failed to persuade his anti-interventionist colleagues. As von Usedom had already acknowledged, the German position at the Porte depended upon Enver and, as Souchon must have suspected that it would only be a matter of time before the War Minister won over his colleagues, it was decided not to force the issue. However, events promptly began to conspire against Enver. On 2 October the Roumanian border was closed to military shipments, so blocking the vital supply route from Germany; the attitude of Bulgaria continued to cause grave cause for concern; and the Treasury was almost exhausted.[37] Time was running out for Enver, and therefore for Souchon.

                Information reached London, via an agent of the Aga Khan, of a secret meeting at this time in Constantinople between ‘Leaders, Ministers & Secret Agents’ to discuss the whole policy of Turkey. The report of the meeting claimed that it was felt that, having gone so far towards accommodating Germany, even if the Turks continued to remain neutral they could count upon no favours after the war from a victorious Entente ‘who would seize her country and divide it amongst themselves.’ It was decided then that Turkey would have to find a pretext for declaring war against the Entente within the next few weeks, though it was also agreed that one final effort should be made to come to an understanding with the Entente on all points. To accomplish this a senior figure, possibly Talaat, would propose to come to London for personal negotiations with Grey.[38] That the Foreign Office had little recourse other than to accept these reports at face value was the direct result of the dearth of reliable agents able to operate in the Ottoman Empire. Sir John Maxwell in Cairo lamented that he could get ‘no information as the Turks guard the frontier very closely — our agents cannot get through — those we had on the other side have all been bagged.’

                Were the Turks stupid enough, Maxwell also asked, to commit political suicide? This seemed to depend on how capable they were of resisting German pressure for, while Enver was entirely in German hands, Maxwell believed that Talaat was the real strong man and may not want to ruin his country.[39] Talaat, it seemed, was becoming the pivotal figure. It was generally accepted, rightly or wrongly, that there were ‘peace’ and ‘war’ factions at the Porte, with Enver the most extreme of the war group, balanced by Djavid, the Minister of Finance, who was seen as standing for peace at all costs. Djemal, a less rabid interventionist than Enver but still hawkish, was in turn balanced by Said Halim, who continued to temporize; although this split was mirrored throughout the C.U.P. overall, a small majority favoured intervention in the war. On this basis, it appeared that Talaat held the casting vote; certainly this was how the situation was perceived by the various protagonists, and Talaat was ardently wooed by all sides. The Germans thought he was their man[40] while Mallet believed him ‘inclined to be reasonable’. Reasonable or not, Maxwell was correct in pointing to the relentless German pressure upon Turkey.

                Wangenheim’s apparent reluctance to force the issue had resulted in the dispatch, early in October, of Richard von Kühlmann (formerly of the Embassy in London) to hurry things along; however Kühlmann’s mission was resented by both the Ambassador and Souchon. Indeed, given his declining influence in the counsels at the Porte, Wangenheim’s position was not too far removed from Mallet’s. Kühlmann immediately ran up against the same problem which had beset the Germans in Constantinople since August — with Bulgaria and Roumania still undecided, only two moves remained open to Turco-German arms: an overland advance on Suez, or a Black Sea adventure. Yet, as Souchon pointed out, superiority in the Black Sea rested solely upon Goeben. She could outrun the Russian ships but what if she struck a mine? With her, to the bottom, would go the hopes of Turkey.[41] Despite this, the last realistic hope the Turks had of continuing their neutrality was based on financial grounds: the Porte simply could not afford to go to war. It was the desperate economic situation that had led to Talaat’s request to Mallet for Britain to buy outright the two pre-empted dreadnoughts (knowing full well, of course, that Turkey was unlikely ever to have them back in any case). According to Djemal, no direct advantage had been derived from the abolition of the Capitulations, as the customs’ revenues had dropped to a quarter of their peace-time levels,[42] while the mobilization was costing a fortune. Indeed, Enver had little choice, early in October, other than to heed the accumulative warnings and order at least a partial demobilization.[43]

                Before this, on 27 September Enver suggested that, as usual, the solution to the problem was to be found in Berlin; although predictable, Enver’s opportunism always tended to be of the hard-edged variety. In the west, events were not unfolding to plan for Germany: their armies had been stopped on the Marne, after which entrenchment and the dual outflanking manoeuvres – the race to the sea – had begun. It would not be the quick victory needed to be able confidently to face the expected Russian steamroller; yet, on the Eastern Front, Tannenberg and the Masurian Lakes had been decisive German victories and it was not until the First Battle of Warsaw, begun on 28 September, that the German armies received their first check. The Austrians had not fared so well: the expected crushing of Serbia had not come about (instead trench warfare ensued) while on the Austro-Russian front the Battle of Lemberg had been lost. In these circumstances, a diversionary Turkish attack upon Russia, combined with an attempt to block Suez to the flow of Empire reinforcements, assumed even greater importance, and would have been worth paying for.

                Enver’s suggestion – that now was the perfect time to approach Berlin for a loan – was vetoed by Djavid who saw that the money would only be forthcoming once Turkey had entered the war. However the opinion of the Finance Minister no longer carried any weight and the approach was duly made through the Turkish Ambassador in Berlin; the sum required was to be T£5 million. Djavid’s fear were soon realized when it was agreed that a small interim down-payment would be made but the balance depended on active Turkish intervention. He noted on 12 October that 750,000 liras would be paid ‘ten days after we enter the war against either Russia or England, and the rest (4 million liras) would be paid in 400,000 lira instalments each month, thirty days after the declaration of war. If the war came to an end, so would the payments.’[44] Mallet’s conjecture was not wide of the mark. ‘I have reason to suspect’, he had written on 30 September, ‘that if the Turks are playing with us, they are also playing with our enemies, and having obtained from them soldiers, sailors, cannons, supplies, money and promises they are now showing great and increased reluctance to pay the bill.’[45] In view of the condition set by Berlin, a further secret meeting was convened in the German Embassy on 11 October; present were Wangenheim and Kühlmann, Enver, Djemal, Talaat and Halil. The Grand Vizier was specifically excluded;[46] indeed Said Halim was becoming increasingly marginalized. Enver had reported two days earlier to Wangenheim that Halil and Talaat were now also converts to intervention. Then, on 10 October, Djemal was ‘persuaded’ unreservedly to enter the interventionists’ camp, whether by threats or promises remains unclear.[47] Following these defections, the demand of the conspirators was simplified and made more attractive — Wangenheim was told that a payment of T£2 million would buy Turkish action against Russia. The die had been cast.

                The question of what to do with the Grand Vizier was easily resolved: Said Halim would be presented by the conspirators with a fait accompli and given the simple choice of acquiescing or retiring. As he enjoyed the trappings of office, only one answer was expected. Unlike the earlier efforts to ship gold to Constantinople the first instalment of T£1 million was dispatched on 12 October and arrived in four days. Despite Russian efforts to delay or derail transit through Roumania, the second tranche arrived on 21 October. Well informed of what was going on, the Russians went on the alert against a possible Turkish attack. Mallet apprised Grey on 23 October of the arrival of the German gold and also of the Russian apprehensions adding, however, that this ‘need not indicate immediate declaration of war…’[48] Mallet had set out his stall for October: while it was not possible to forecast what may happen from day to day it seemed ‘to be well worthwhile to continue to pursue the policy which has been hitherto successful, so far as keeping the Turks from participation on the German side can be called successful.’[49] Worthwhile or not, Mallet’s counsels counted for little in London as Turkey had by now been written off. Last minute attempts to placate the Turks, and forestall the inevitable, were advocated half-heartedly by the Foreign Office, only to run into a solid wall of hostility from the Admiralty.

                In view of the pre-emptions, Djemal refused to pay any further instalments on the large building programme agreed with Armstrong-Vickers earlier in the year[50] until he received a guarantee that the vessels would not be seized. Although George Clerk thought this would set an awkward precedent, ‘On the other hand, an assurance, if one can be devised which would not sacrifice the principle, might be politically desirable.’[51] The Admiralty would give the assurance, but it would lapse upon the outbreak of war between Turkey and Great Britain. [52] When, soon after Djemal’s request, the Turkish Ambassador attempted to obtain the release of certain vessels purchased by Turkey – steamers, tugs, and two armed motor launches – Grey proposed to let all but the launches sail as an act of good faith. The Admiralty objected violently, particularly Sturdee. ‘No military vessel must be allowed to go to Turkey from our yards’, Churchill minuted on 28 October. ‘War is imminent and may occur at any moment.’[53]

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[1]    Troubridge to Admiralty, Letter of Proceedings, 10 September 1914, Lumby, no. 430, pp. 449-53; entry for 5 September.

[2]    Report of Adl von Usedom, 9 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215.

[3]    Ibid.; Kurat, How Turkey Drifted into World War One, p. 306.

[4]    Parry diary, entry for 18 September 1914, IWM 71/19/1.

[5]    Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 249. Two further attempts, early in September, to reach an accommodation with Bulgaria, failed.

[6]    Report of von Usedom, 16 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215.

[7]    For example, to bring the debate before a wider audience than that confined to Enver’s conference.

[8]    Zeman, A Diplomatic History of the First World War, pp. 58-59.

[9]    While Talaat was apparently now in the interventionist camp, there remained some doubt still regarding Djemal’s affiliation. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 248.

[10]  Report of von Usedom, 16 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215.

[11]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 39-41.

[12]  Report of von Usedom, 18 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215.

[13]  Dickens’ diary, Sunday, 20 September 1914, IWM 90/35/2.

[14]  Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 252.

[15]  Mallet to Grey, no. 819, 21 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2138.

[16]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 41-2.

[17]  Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, p. 49.

[18]  Churchill to Grey, 23 September 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/88.

[19]  Asquith to the King, 23 September 1914, PRO Cab 41/35/47.

[20]  All such shipments had to travel via Roumania, whose Government was coming under increasing Entente pressure. However, as Yasamee (citing Trumpener) notes, the 200 mines Enver had requested were delivered successfully. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 251.

[21]  Elliot to Grey, no. 227, 21 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[22]  Minute by Sturdee, ibid.

[23]  Carden to Admiralty, no. 796, 25 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/96.

[24]  Grey to Mallet, no. 594, 25 September 1914, ibid.

[25]  Parry diary, entry for 26 September 1914, IWM 71/19/1.

[26]  Ibid.

[27]  Mallet to Grey, no. 879, 27 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[28]  Mallet to Grey, no. 880, 27 September 1914, ibid.

[29]  Minute by Sturdee, 29 September 1914, ibid. Sturdee was not popular at the Admiralty. Richmond, himself an abrasive character, commented on 9 October that ‘Sturdee takes any suggestions as personal insults to his own intelligence…’ Marder, Portrait of an Admiral, p. 113.

[30]  Grey to Mallet, no. 615, 30 September 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[31]  Mallet to Grey, no. 895, 30 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2140/54620.

[32]  Mallet to Grey, no. 904, 1 October 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.

[33]  Grey to Mallet, no. 627, 2 October 1914, ibid.

[34]  Mallet to Grey, no. 917, 3 October 1914, PRO Adm 137/96.

[35]  Report of von Usedom, 15 October 1914, PRO Cab 45/215. Confirmation that the Turks were aware, all along, of the location and extent of the minefields was provided after the war when members of the Ottoman General Staff were questioned by British Authorities: see, PRO Cab 45/217 question 95.

[36]  Mallet to Grey, no. 917, 3 October 1914, PRO Adm 137/96.

[37]  Already the Ottoman troops were on half-pay. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 253.

[38]  Memorandum by Lord Stamfordham, 12 October 1914, PRO FO 371/2172/59336. In the event of war with Turkey, the Aga Khan volunteered to go to India and other parts of the Empire to calm Muslim feeling.

[39]  Sir John Maxwell to Lord Kitchener, 5 October 1914, Kitchener mss., PRO 30/57/00/45.

[40]  Report of von Usedom, 16 September 1914, PRO Cab 45/215. F. A. K. Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Keith Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 259, offers a slightly altered appraisal: ‘As far as can be judged, Enver was solid for war throughout; Cavid was equally determined upon neutrality; Said Halim had favoured a Balkan war initially, but quickly moved towards Cavid’s position; Talat was at first for delay, but eventually gave his support to Enver; Halil followed a course similar to Talat’s; Cemal played an obscure double game, before finally throwing in his lot with the interventionists.’ As can be seen above, we differ in our view as to Djemal’s culpability.

[41]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 46-7; Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, p. 81.

[42]  Djemal, Memories of a Turkish Statesman, p. 129.

[43]  Yasamee, “Ottoman Empire”, in Wilson (ed.), Decisions for War, p. 254.

[44]  Djavid’s diary entries for 27 September and 12 October 1914. See, Feroz Ahmad, “The Late Ottoman Empire”, in Kent (ed.), The Great Powers and the End of the Ottoman Empire, note 51, p. 29.

[45]  Mallet to Grey, no. 895, 30 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2140/54620.

[46]  Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, pp. 48-9; Kurat, How Turkey Drifted into World War One, p. 308. Note: Both these accounts confirm that Djemal [p. 129] is incorrect in stating that Said Halim was present.

[47]  Djemal’s actions throughout this period seem to have been guided almost purely by motives of self-interest. Yasamee (p. 255) speculates that the offer of the command of the Egyptian Expedition was sufficient to satisfy the pretensions of Djemal, who saw himself as that country’s ruler.

[48]  Mallet to Grey, 23 October 1914, quoted in Kurat, How Turkey Drifted into World War One, p. 308.

[49]  Mallet to Grey, no. 895, 30 September 1914, PRO FO 371/2140/54620.

[50]  At the time Turkish vessels under construction in England included a 24,700 ton battleship (due for delivery in April, 1917), 2 fast, protected scout cruisers, 4 torpedo-boat destroyers and 2 submarines (all due in 1916). PRO FO 371/2137/57551.

[51]  Vere to Eastern Construction Committee, 6 October 1914 and minute by Clerk, 9 October 1914, ibid.

[52]  Indicative both of the feeling towards Turkey and of the Admiralty’s way of doing business, they took two weeks to reply. By the time Armstrong’s received this reply Souchon had already issued his sailing orders. Caillard to Tyrrell, 8 October 1914; Admiralty to Foreign Office, 24 October 1914 (forwarded to Caillard on the 27th), PRO FO 371/2137/57551 and 63046.

[53]  Minute by Churchill, 28 October 1914, PRO Adm 137/881.



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