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 9




Enver Intervenes




Enver Pasha

Enver Pasha

At the start of the new year Turkish overtures were made to the National Bank, the Banque Ottomane and the Deutsche Bank for funds with which to continue the war.[1] Despite the parlous financial state, Lowther reported a rumour that the Porte had made a conditional contract to purchase from Brazil the dreadnought currently being built in England for that country.[2] Nevertheless, with the arrival of the collective note from the Powers, the game was up for the Turks — except that no-one bothered to tell Enver Bey or Talaat Bey. By 14 January Talaat had apparently decided that a coup should be staged; though he would only put his plan into effect after the present Government had sued for peace and had borne the odium for so doing. But this postponement was conditional; and it was a vital condition. The only stipulation was that, whatever else the Government agreed to for the purpose of procuring peace, Adrianople must not be sacrificed.

                At the first of the C.U.P. meetings convened to discuss the staging of the coup the moderate wing, led by Kemal and Fethi, succeeded in negotiating a delay while means were sought to oust the Government constitutionally. Fethi then innocently returned to his post at Gallipoli; no sooner had he done so than Enver returned to Constantinople and, at the second meeting, was able to overturn the decision to act within the law.[3] In the meantime, Nazim Pasha, the Minister of War, was urged to continue the fight. Whether Nazim arrived at some kind of pact with the C.U.P. is unclear, though later evidence suggests a deal of sorts was struck, yet, once the collective note was delivered on 17 January, the future of Adrianople as a Turkish city appeared academic.

                Kiamil, making sure that responsibility for the loss of Adrianople would not rest on his shoulders alone, called a Grand Council which met on the morning on 23 January to draw up the Turkish reply to the Powers’ note; by noon the text, which was in French, had been agreed upon. It was thought, however, that the subsequent Turkish translation was unsatisfactory so, while a more accurate rendition was made, the Council adjourned for lunch. At 3 p.m., just as the new version had been produced, Enver, Talaat and forty armed men ‘followed by a small rabble’ appeared at the entrance of the Sublime Porte ‘demanding the overthrow of a Cabinet which was preparing to make so ignominious a peace.’ What happened next was the subject of some confusion: the earliest report had the Minister of War, Nazim, coming out of the Cabinet room to ascertain the cause of the commotion. Seeing Enver and his group he told them to go to hell – ‘a euphemism for the Turkish expression he is said to have used’ – at which point Nafiz Bey, the ‘hot headed’ young Albanian aide-de-camp to the Grand Vizier, aimed a shot at Enver whose men promptly returned fire with a hail of bullets.

                The second, and slightly more reliable, account had Nafiz going to see the cause of the disturbance and, realizing that Enver’s was not a social call, fired a shot at the Bey which missed. Nafiz was immediately seized by Enver’s bodyguard but continued to struggle to try to regain the use of his revolver and put it to more telling effect. Other shots rang out and the unfortunate Nazim Pasha emerged from the Council Chamber to ascertain what the commotion was about; upon seeing Enver he was said to have declared, ‘You have deceived me: is this what you promised?’ before being ‘met by a bullet in the head, which was not, however, intended for him.’[4] Nazim’s A.D.C. was also killed in the mêlée while Nafiz, too, fell, mortally wounded.

                Forcing his way into the Council Chamber, Enver ordered the Cabinet, at gunpoint, to resign. Kiamil, with the insouciance of age, refused to hand over the seals of office without express orders from the Sultan. Momentarily thrown by this futile act of defiance Enver soon recovered his composure and promptly dictated a form of resignation which the Grand Vizier was forced to sign; while Enver motored over to the palace with the document to lay before the Sultan and obtain the necessary authorization, outside the Porte paid agitators worked to instil some enthusiasm in the curious crowd of onlookers that had collected but who refused to enter into the spirit of the occasion. Enver duly returned with one of the Imperial Chamberlains to whom Kiamil handed over his insignia as Grand Vizier. Shortly before 8 p.m. none other than Shevket Pasha, Nazim’s predecessor as Minister of War, arrived in answer to a pre-arranged summons and the Imperial Decree appointing him Grand Vizier was read. Shevket also assumed his previous duties as War Minister. Lowther pointed out the following day that the new Cabinet had ‘a distinctly German colouring’ and that it was being said that Enver Bey had been ‘in communication with the German Embassy, and Mahmoud Shevket Pasha called upon the German Ambassador late last night’ — directly after assuming office.

                His luck having run out in both life and death, Nazim was hastily buried, within 24 hours and with a remarkable lack of ‘pomp and ceremony’, whereas the rebellious soldier generally supposed to have fired the fatal shot, and who himself was killed, was given a martyr’s funeral on 25 January.[5] Lowther was convinced that he was able to divine the motivation behind the actions of the C.U.P., believed the coup came about because the leading members of the party had got wind of the fact that the dossiers against them were all but complete and arrests would soon be made; it was ‘difficult to find any explanation other than this for the folly of taking office, knowing as they must have done that they would not get better peace terms than their predecessors.’[6] The British Military Attaché came closer to the truth with his appreciation that Enver’s actions ‘were probably prompted just as much by what he considered to be the interests of his country as by any personal ambition.’[7] Where the plan had gone wrong was in the question of timing: it had succeeded too quickly. Enver and Talaat found themselves ‘dictators no doubt but with the surrender of Adrianople as yet uncovenanted, so that they were under the necessity of either continuing a hopeless contest or making an unpopular peace.’[8]

                The coup had brought to the fore once again the complex personality of Enver. The thirty-year-old officer had only recently returned from Cyrenaica at the conclusion of the Turco-Italian war and was nominally appointed to the staff of the Tenth Army Corps. To the charge that, by his latest action, he had clearly contravened the order forbidding officers to meddle in politics his admirers would argue that – as he was away in Tripoli at the time – he never, personally, took the oath imposed on all officers. Impulsive, autocratic and fatalistic, Enver’s particular brand of opportunism rested on an outward show of confidence which was only occasionally undermined by a lack of nerve; as he once explained, ‘The Government knows what it is going to do, I don’t.’ Enver left differing impressions with those who met him depending, in the main, on the outlook of the observer. Léon Ostrorog, the legal adviser to the Porte, described him as

a dark little man with a dull complexion…His intelligence is mediocre. His speech is hesitating. In society he easily becomes confused, blushes and looks down…In morals he is a Puritan. He neither drinks nor smokes: his mentality is like a gun’s barrel; not many ideas enter his narrow brain, but once entered they stick there, and on the rare occasions when they come forth it is like a flash, with a well-fired bullet’s hardness and directness of aim. At Constantinople his courage and perfect honesty have not been called in question, not even by his worst enemies, and he has many mortal ones.[9]

On the other hand Aubrey Herbert, having been warned by Embassy friends of Enver’s posturing vanity, was ‘Very agreeably surprised…He certainly strikes me as one of the most statesmanlike of the Turks. He has no desire whatever to put himself forward.’[10] In the British Embassy’s 1913 Report (written during the first months of 1914) the authors, if less openly hostile than Ostrorog, followed the more usual line: Enver was just as daring as Talaat but even more unscrupulous. He was described as small, with regular features,

and a pale clear complexion, with flashing eyes, gentle and peculiarly attractive when he smiles, but with an occasional gleam suggestive of hardness or even cruelty. He is quiet and reserved. For a long time he was content to remain in the background, though his influence as one of the secret group which has governed Turkey since the revolution has been powerful…He is thought to wish to play the part of Napoleon whom he considers he resembles…Though without private means, he lives in a palace on a scale which contrasts with the simplicity of the habits of his other colleagues, except the Grand Vizier. He never moves except accompanied by 4 or 5 general officers and A.D.C’s, with a second motor car always in attendance. On more than one occasion, when giving a banquet to the Ambassadors of the Great Powers, instead of receiving his guests, he waited until they were all assembled, when he made his entry in semi-royal state, accompanied by his suite. His sympathies, education and methods are German, and his residence in Berlin as military attaché has had a strong influence on his character and career. It is more than possible that he is subventioned by the German Government.[11]

Opinion was more uniform regarding the imposing figure of Talaat, the humble minor official from Salonica who had worked his way up by sheer strength of character (backed up by his imposing bulk, which verged on ‘corpulence’). Talaat was ‘a man of high capacity and great energy, unscrupulous and absolutely fearless. He is intensely patriotic, and the main object of his ambition, which can hardly be called personal, since with many opportunities he has not enriched himself, is the regeneration of his country.’[12] Ostrorog agreed, but felt obliged to add that Talaat imagined affairs of State could be ‘conducted by means of the tricks and guiles of a horsedealer.’[13]


Immediately following the coup Kiamil was held under house arrest, which did not stop him complaining that he had nothing to eat, was not allowed to keep his fire going, and ‘when he wanted to go to the W.C. it was occupied.’[14] This torment did not last long for, on 4 February, Kiamil went into temporary exile in Cairo where he would scheme and plot for his return. Before this, in London, as Churchill debated whether, in view of the revolution, the Third Battle Squadron of King Edward class pre-dreadnoughts (which were on temporary service in the Mediterranean) should still be recalled,[15] negotiations between the delegates at the St James’s conference had been broken off on 29 January. The following day the new Cabinet in Constantinople forwarded the redrafted reply to the collective note: the Turks would now agree to cede only that part of Adrianople on the right bank of the Maritza; the remainder, containing the mosques, tombs and places of special historic and religious association would not be given up. In addition, the Powers could, in general, decide the fate of the islands, but those closest to the Straits were necessary for the defence of Constantinople, whiles others were no less indispensable for the security of Asia Minor.[16] If Enver seriously entertained any hope that his opponents would submit to these terms in deference to the new hardline administration at the Porte the delusion was short-lived; on 3 February, when the two month time limit on the armistice had expired, the Balkan artillery opened up on Adrianople once more.

                Having failed to forestall the coup Kemal and Fethi (at Gallipoli) argued that, to try to break the military deadlock which now ensued, a simultaneous offensive should be launched immediately from Gallipoli and the Tchatalja lines, both to relieve the pressure on Constantinople and prevent the situation where, if Adrianople fell, additional Bulgarian troops would then be freed to join the main attack at the gates of Constantinople. Accepting this advice, Enver travelled to Gallipoli to take charge of that part of the offensive. He planned to launch a two-pronged attack against the Bulgarians, a plan which included an ambitious amphibious landing. This operation, scheduled for 8 February, was however a débâcle due to poor weather conditions; worse followed when the other part of the Turkish force, not knowing that the landings had failed, attacked on schedule and were beaten back with heavy casualties. To complete the Turks’ frustration, the previous day Ferik Isset Pasha, commanding almost 200,000 troops behind the Tchatalja lines, had led a general assault against the Bulgarians but had not been able to make any headway.[17] Following this disaster the Turkish delegates in London appealed once more for Great Power intervention only to be rebuffed as they refused to give up Adrianople. The most the Turks would do was to accept a frontier line from San Stefano on the Black Sea to the Maritza — but only on condition that the fortifications at Adrianople be dismantled and the garrison be allowed to march out with all honours, taking with them their arms and war material.

                On 19 February, after having set off as soon as word reached him of the coup, Aubrey Herbert arrived at Stamboul once more but this time to a Bosphorus ‘bleak and cold’. Staying at the Pera Palace Hotel he was able to renew many acquaintances, his joy being tempered by the overall impression sustained that, at last, Constantinople may be lost. The visit also marked the final falling out with Fitzmaurice who opposed the coup as much as Aubrey supported it. The latter’s diary and reports are filled with diatribes against the dragoman: ‘Fitzmaurice loathes Turkey and after that England. He is the Irish Catholic of the really bitter Dillon-Lynch type, cunning as a weasel and as savage…Fitzmaurice cannot be loyal to any chief. He hates Lowther alive now as much as he hates O’Conor dead…Fitz [sic] will catch a cold whispering behind doors and die the death.’[18] It would appear that only the wife of Admiral Limpus had much good to say about the dragoman: ‘We like Mr Fitzmaurice very much’, she wrote uncritically, ‘and quite readily forgave him being late for lunch he is such an interesting man — so engrossing in his work that he has no time to avoid treading on other people’s toes. He knows his Turkey well…’[19] In contrast Lowther, now in his fifth year at the Porte, was growing weary of it all, his disenchantment best summed up by his limp comment after the renewal of hostilities: ‘I fear the Powers will have lots of trouble eventually with the Balkan States and will live to regret the departure of the Turks.’[20]

                Of the remaining three Turkish outposts in Europe the first to fall – Janina – capitulated to the Greeks on 6 March; then, twelve days later, a general assault on the Tchatalja lines commenced which was to herald two weeks of continuous fighting. While this assault was in progress to the north-west a Bulgarian force, assisted by the Serbs, began the last battle for Adrianople. The two month armistice that had extended from December 1912 to early February 1913 had given the defenders of Adrianople a breathing space. When the armistice expired at 7 p.m. on 3 February the Bulgarian batteries on the east of the town prepared themselves for action though on the southern, Serbian, sector everything remained quiet; earlier that afternoon two Serb officers, under a flag of truce, had announced officially to the Turks opposite that the armistice would be prolonged for four days. It was a feature of the siege that the Serbs played little active part — indeed, the first shots were not exchanged until 11 March. This was very different to the Bulgarian front where fire was opened soon after the time limit expired on 3 February, at first on the eastern defences and, half an hour later, on the town itself with a bombardment that was described as being of a ‘somewhat severe nature’ and which continued for five days.

                In an early form of psychological warfare, on 5 February a Bulgarian aeroplane swooped low over the city to rain down leaflets purporting to describe the situation at Constantinople and Tchatalja; detailing Bulgarian successes; and calling on the garrison and civilian population to surrender. In case this did not have the desired effect, the following day’s propaganda shower contained ‘slighting references to the Young Turkish party’. Major Samson, the British consul who remained in Adrianople throughout the siege, noted that although the C.U.P. was completely in the ascendant in the town, ‘the popularity which this party had enjoyed amongst the garrison consequent upon their decision to continue the war waned with the hopes of the relief of the town.’ To try to even the odds, when the Bulgarians began to concentrate their siege artillery to the north and east of the town by moving pieces from the western sector, the Turkish military commander, Shukri Pasha, saw his chance and ordered a sortie on 9 February against a battery of 15 cm guns. Sadly, this failed, with heavy Turkish casualties.

                The onset of severe weather on 13 February, which lasted a fortnight, limited operations; however, rather than alleviate the city’s suffering, the populace now had to contend with low temperatures instead of high explosive. Then came a partial thaw only to be followed by a period of intense cold early in March which caused many cases of frostbite and exposure. All the horses, except those belonging to the cavalry and artillery, were slaughtered for food. Morale had sunk dangerously low by the middle of March, by which time all the Bulgarian batteries had been moved to their new locations opposite the weakest part of the Turkish defences, described by Major Samson as ‘mere earthworks, not capable of withstanding the fire poured into them.’ The Bulgarian commander waited till 24 March, when he was satisfied all was in place, before launching the attack with a diversionary bombardment to the south and west, which convinced the Turkish General that the main attack would come from the south. Instead, the main assault, on the northern and eastern sectors, commenced at 1 a.m. on 25 March and was quickly successful: within five hours all the objectives had been obtained and Turkish resistance had crumbled. By 9.30 a.m. on the 26th the eastern sector was in Bulgarian hands and, within hours, they controlled the centre of the city. The end had come; Shukri Pasha surrendered his garrison of 50,000 unconditionally. Turkish losses were put at 10,000 killed and wounded while Bulgarian and Serbian casualties amounted to about 7,000.[21]

                Janina gone; Adrianople gone; only Scutari now held out, and this only until 23 April when, it was rumoured, the Turkish commander, realizing the inevitable could no longer be forestalled, decided to capitalize on the situation by ‘selling’ the city to Montenegro for £80,000.[22] Nevertheless it was the fall of Adrianople that signalled the end of the war which had only been continued by the Turks in the forlorn hope that, somehow, the fortress might be retained. The spectre was raised once more of a renewed Bulgarian advance on Constantinople, a possibility which was discussed by the meeting of Ambassadors on 11 April with the predictable suggestion being made to send an international fleet to maintain order in the capital and secure the freedom of navigation of the Straits. Although this suggestion was, naturally, supported by the Russians, the other Ambassadors reserved their position. There was no need to force the issue; the Turks had had enough. On 17 April Lowther telegraphed en clair that the suspension of hostilities between the Ottoman and Bulgarian armies had been agreed verbally, on certain conditions.[23]

                A peace formula had already been on the agenda in London during April, as military events took their course, so that, by 5 May, a draft treaty was ready for submission to the delegates. Yet, despite the fact that the proposals were hardly new, the representatives now could not reach full agreement until, his patience wearing paper thin, Grey summoned them to his room at the Foreign Office on 27 May to explain the need to sign the treaty without further ado. In a scene later recorded by the son of Sir Arthur Nicolson:

The delegates of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Turkey, somewhat sheepish in their frock-coats, were ranged one by one upon the carpet. Sir Edward Grey advanced towards them and fixed them with his eagle eye: he pointed towards them with an outstretched and imperative finger: he summoned to his assistance the total resources of his Wykhamist French. “Ou signer,” he shouted at them, “ou partir!”[24]

Grey’s uncharacteristic display of petulance did the trick and the Treaty of London was signed on 30 May 1913! By Article 2 the Sultan ceded ‘all the territories of his Empire on the continent of Europe west of a line drawn from Enos on the Aegean to Midia on the Black Sea, with the exception of Albania’ whose frontiers would be determined under the auspices of the Great Powers. Crete was ceded to the Balkan allies, while the Powers would also decide ‘the matter of passing upon the title to all the Ottoman Islands in the Aegean’ except Crete.[25] Even before he had the signatures on the treaty Grey was still able to report to the Cabinet ‘the satisfactory development of the international situation…The most serious point of possible difficulty in the near future appears to be the question of the Aegean Islands.’ While the Cabinet agreed that no Great Power could permanently retain any of the islands, the Turks – as reported by Lowther – looked to their own resources to hold the islands rather than vainly hoping for a beneficent response from the Concert of Europe.[26] Turkey now looked to her Navy.

                Lowther had warned in November 1912 that the Turks were allegedly attempting to purchase two Argentine dreadnoughts being built in America. He followed that up with a report in January 1913 that they were trying to buy two battleships being built in England for Brazil (there was, in fact, only one). Then, in March 1913, he warned Nicolson that ‘the Turks’ great idea now is to buy ships once peace is declared for they realise that it is the intention of the Powers to deprive them of their islands and they will want to take them back.’[27] Following the departure of Admiral Williams after his contract expired in April 1912 and, despite fears in London that they would turn to Germany, the Turkish Government requested another British admiral; specifically, they would have liked Admiral Gamble, the first head of the Naval Mission, to return. Understandably, at the time, Gamble was less than keen.[28] Instead Rear-Admiral Arthur Limpus was nominated to head the Mission of 72 personnel. Churchill was able to inform the Turks that he had taken ‘the greatest personal trouble’ in selecting Limpus as he was ‘anxious that you should have at your disposal an officer who would do credit to the reputation of the British Navy, and would confer the greatest amount of benefit upon the Turkish fleet.’[29]

                Limpus and his wife found life pleasant in Constantinople to begin with: the Admiralty building looked ‘like a cool white Palace set in a green garden’[30] and Limpus got on better with the Turks than his predecessors though with the same over-riding problem. Whatever his advice, the Turks wanted battleships! In September 1910, as a stopgap until their own overseas building programme reached fruition, Turkey had purchased from Germany two antiquated pre-dreadnoughts of the 1891 Brandenburg class.[31] Brazenly, early in 1913, Berlin had approached the Turks with an offer to sell them the remaining two ships of the class at a knock down price of between £120,000 and £160,000. The two ships already in Turkish possession had performed inauspiciously in the major naval action of the Balkan wars: on 18 January 1913, in a running battle with a Greek fleet headed by the modern, Italian-built, cruiser Averoff, the two Turkish battleships had sustained serious damage — enough to warrant their retirement inside the Straits and for the Greek Admiral to proclaim victory. The Turks were therefore hardly likely to be impressed if their two ‘battleships’ could not scrap with a cruiser.[32] Nevertheless, Limpus wrote to Churchill on 12 March that, unless Britain sold the Turks two pre-dreadnoughts (for example, Triumph and a Royal Sovereign or two Royal Sovereigns) at a competitive price, and allowed the Turks to send thirty officers for training in Britain after the Balkan war had ended, there would be a ‘much more decided leaning towards Germany’ in Constantinople with the possible consequent elimination of the British Naval Mission.[33]

                However, this was not the message passed back to the Foreign Office by Lowther the next day, when he informed Nicolson of his opinion that ‘it seems to me a silly idea to buy two antiquated Germans but Limpus rather approves as they cannot buy anything good. The worst of it is, if the Navy here is to be full of German ships, our argument that the officers should be English falls to the ground.’[34] Whether Lowther misunderstood, or whether Limpus thought the Turks were not entirely serious, was immaterial as the reaction by Battenberg at the Admiralty was scathing: he would sell the Turks nothing. The officers of the British Naval Mission, Battenberg declared,

have twice in a short time passed through the humiliating position of being associated in war with a fleet whose exploits have been beneath contempt…From a Naval point of view it must be realized that the Turkish Navy is hopeless. They are welcome to buy worn-out German ships. They will never make any use of them. The rising Sea Power of Greece is much more worthy of our care and assistance, and I earnestly hope that the Naval Mission will be definitely withdrawn from Constantinople and that a Naval Mission of specially selected Active Service Officers will be offered to Greece in the place of the handful of retired Officers now in the pay of the Athens Admiralty and which carry little weight in their councils.[35]

The First Sea Lord would soon get his way, at least as far as Greece was concerned: during the summer he pushed successfully for his close personal friend, Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, to be sent to Athens. That Battenberg should have let his ties with the Greek Royal Family, and his general sympathy for the Greek cause, dictate the harsh treatment he wished to mete out to the Turks is a sorry indictment of his strategic judgement; besides, the Turks would be getting no bargain. Churchill, at the time less of a Turcophobe than his Admiralty or Cabinet colleagues, believed there was no reason why the Mission should not be continued. ‘Surely’, he minuted, ‘we could sell the Royal Sovereigns at £100,000 apiece, and buy airships with the money.’[36] Churchill’s counsel prevailed and Limpus was duly informed early in April that the two old ships would be offered to the Turks, once peace had been concluded, but that nothing more modern was available.[37]

                As the Turks had not been interested in the Royal Sovereigns some years previously, when Admiral Williams had been in charge, there was little likelihood they would be more disposed this time and nothing further came of the British offer. Yet this apparently did Limpus little harm for it is clear that he had established a close working relationship with the Grand Vizier, Mahmoud Shevket, sufficient at least for Wangenheim, the German Ambassador, to wire Berlin that Shevket was ‘turning his thoughts a great deal towards England [Wilhelm’s marginal note: “Far too much!”] and if the Grand Vizier’s ideas are to be realised, she will acquire far reaching influence in Turkey.’ This included, so Wangenheim believed, the adoption of Limpus’ proposal that retired British officers would be retained to command Turkish ships, which the Emperor thought ‘Very regrettable and unpractical.’ Even so, the Ambassador was not entirely despondent: ‘The Power which is in control of the Army will always be the strongest one in Turkey! There cannot be an anti-German Government if the Army is controlled by us…!’ But Wilhelm had his doubts: this was ‘Well meant but fanciful!’ to which he added a perhaps unconsciously prophetic indictment, ‘In truth this detailing of various European nations for work in Turkey is a splendid bridge for mutual intrigues and partition of Turkey!’[38]

                When Lowther reported once more on 24 April that, through the auspices of the Deutsche Orient Bank, the Turks were now negotiating for the purchase of “two” Brazilian ships (which he continued to maintain were being built in England) and five French destroyers, costing £3.5 million, he felt the need to add that ‘No folly seems to be too great for these poor Turks but they imagine they will get better terms over the islands if they have the ships.’[39] In fact, of the two Turkish dreadnoughts ordered in England in the summer of 1911, work on one (Reshad-i-Hamiss) had been halted at an early stage when the builders, Armstrong’s, demanded a better guarantee regarding payment. The other ship (Reshad V), ordered from Vickers, had been built well up to the protective deck, while ‘considerable progress had been made with the turbine engines and auxiliary machinery’ when Vickers, presumably catching the same cold as Armstrong after the outbreak of the Balkan Wars, ‘decided to stop work pending further developments.’[40] Nevertheless, despite all the evidence that their attempts to regenerate their fleet amounted to so much wishful thinking, the idea – prompted by the recent defeats on land – that ‘Turkey must henceforth devote her energies and expense to reform her Navy and become a Naval Power’ had become ingrained in leading circles in Constantinople. It was given official imprimatur when the heir apparent left a suitably exhortative inscription in the visitors book at the Admiralty Museum, ending ‘The future of our country depends on our fleet alone.’

                Lowther’s warnings concerning the Brazilian dreadnoughts continued into May though, by that time, he no longer seemed to believe that the various Turkish schemes were designed simply to be used as a bargaining ploy to influence the Powers over the fate of the Aegean Islands. Instead he reported that, after the peace had been agreed, the Turks wanted to have ‘a navy superior to that of Greece in the Eastern Mediterranean, if not to that of Russia in the Black Sea.’[41] If true, this would have had profound implications for the Entente. However whether Lowther’s many warnings continued to be heeded is problematical; his days at the Porte where numbered.


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[1]    Lichnowsky, Abyss, p. 200.

[2]    Lowther to Grey, no. 25, 17 January 1913, PRO Adm 1/8365/8. Lowther mentioned two dreadnoughts in his cable causing the Director of the Admiralty Intelligence Department to minute on 21 January that Rio de Janeiro – being built at Elswick and to be launched the following day – was the only ship in England destined for Brazil. It would not be the last time that the Turks attempted to buy Rio de Janeiro.

[3]    Dyer, Nationalist Officers, p. 129.

[4]    According to yet another account, hearing the uproar Nazim went to investigate and found himself facing Enver ‘with a cigarette in his mouth and his hands in his pockets. “What do you want?” he asked cheerfully enough. The reply was another shot: Nazim fell mortally wounded, saying “The dogs have done for me!” ’ F. Yeats-Brown, Golden Horn, p. 92.

[5]    Turkey: Annual Report, 1913, PRO FO 371/2137; Coup d’Etat, January 1913, Report of the British Military Attaché, Lt-Col. G E Tyrrell: First Report, 23 January; Second Report, 24 January, PRO FO 195/2451/340; Lowther to Grey, no. 62, 24 January 1913, PRO FO 371/1788.

[6]    Lowther to Nicolson, 27 February 1913, Lowther mss., PRO FO 800/193.

[7]    Turkey, Annual Report, 1913, “Army”, Col. Cunliffe-Owen, PRO FO 371/2137.

[8]    F Yeats-Brown, Golden Horn, p. 93.

[9]    Count Léon Ostrorog, The Turkish Problem, (London, 1919), pp. 72-3.

[10]  Fitzherbert, Greenmantle, p. 83.

[11]  Turkey, Annual Report, 1913, “Personalities”, PRO FO 371/2137.

[12]  Ibid.

[13]  Ostrorog, The Turkish Problem, p. 73.

[14]  Lowther to Nicolson, 13 February 1913, Lowther mss., PRO FO 800/193. Apparently, according to Lowther’s gossip, the W.C. was occupied by Sheikh-ul-Islam who had taken refuge there on hearing the first shots of the coup!

[15]  First Lord’s Minutes, 24 January 1913, Naval Historical Library.

[16]  Turkey, Annual Report, 1913; Shaw and Shaw, vol. II, p. 296; Ahmad, The Young Turks, p. 123.

[17]  Another expedition to Podrina on the Black Sea also failed. Turkey, Annual Report, 1913; Dyer, Nationalist Officers, pp. 129-30.

[18]  Fitzherbert, Greenmantle, pp. 114-5.

[19]  Diary of Mrs Florence Limpus, September 1912, NMM LIM Ms 75/139.

[20]  Lowther to Nicolson, 13 February 1913, Lowther mss., PRO FO 800/193.

[21]  Consul L. L. R. Samson, Major to Grey, no. 4, 30 March 1913; no. 5, 26 April 1913, PRO FO 371/1812.

[22]  Crampton, Hollow Detente, p. 90.

[23]  Lowther to Grey, no. 199, 17 April 1913, PRO FO 371/1812. The conditions were: ‘1. hostilities at Chatalja and Bulair are suspended till 23 April [this was later extended till 4 May]. 2. this suspension may be prolonged by agreement if peace negotiations are not meanwhile concluded. 3. neutral zone to be fixed by joint commission. 4. 48 hours notice to be given in case of resumption of hostilities... 5. during the suspension the Turkish fleet will not oppose the revictualling of the Bulgarian army with food and provisions between the Gulf of Saros and the Black Sea.’

[24]  Nicolson, Lord Carnock, p. 388.

[25]  Treaty of London, 30 May 1913, in Hurst (ed.), Key Treaties for the Great Powers, pp. 852-3; also, Crampton, Hollow Detente, pp. 97-8.

[26]  Asquith to the King, 8 May 1913, PRO Cab 41/34/17.

[27]  Lowther to Nicolson, 13 March 1913, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/364.

[28]  Ironically, when the First Balkan War broke out, the prospect of leading a revitalized Turkish navy against the evenly matched Greeks suddenly seemed very attractive to Gamble, who was now anxious to return. Neither Grey nor Churchill was, however, particularly enthusiastic for fear of sending the wrong signal to the belligerents. See, Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 329.

[29]  Limpus was a personal friend of the First Lord, their paths having first crossed during the war in South Africa where, according to Churchill, Limpus had played ‘a distinguished part. He is a sincere and thoroughly competent officer; and if you trust him and give him a fair chance, he will greatly increase your naval efficiency.’ Churchill to Mahmoud Mukhtar, 15 August 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1631.

[30]  Diary of Mrs Florence Limpus, NMM LIM

[31]  The ships had been modernized in 1903-5.

[32]  Turkey, Annual Report, 1913, “Naval”, PRO FO 371/2137; The Naval Annual, 1914, pp. 163-4.

[33]  Quoted in, Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, pp. 302-3.

[34]  Lowther to Nicolson, 13 March 1913, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/364.

[35]  Minute by Battenberg, 27 March 1913, quoted in, Marder, Dreadnought, vol. I, p. 303.

[36]  Minute by Churchill, 28 March 1913, ibid.

[37]  Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 335.

[38]  Wangenheim to Bethmann-Hollweg, 26 April 1913, Dugdale, German Diplomatic Documents, vol. IV, p. 202.

[39]  Lowther to Nicolson, 24 April 1913, Lowther mss., PRO FO 800/193.

[40]  The Naval Annual, 1913, p. 75.

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




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