SUPERIOR FORCE : The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau © Geoffrey Miller



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SUPERIOR FORCE : The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau © Geoffrey Miller




Chapter 1




Mediterranean Meanderings




Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot Fisher

Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot Fisher

The British naval position in the Mediterranean had undergone an overwhelming change since the turn of the century when to be in command of the Mediterranean Fleet was the crowning pinnacle of an Admiral’s career; when France was the certain enemy; when Italy and Austria possessed feeble navies. From 1899 to 1902, with the British Mediterranean Squadron at its zenith,[1] this enviable post was occupied by Admiral Sir John Arbuthnot Fisher. This was perhaps just as well as Fisher believed ‘that the question of naval supremacy in a war will be fought out in the Mediterranean.’[2] Yet, by October 1904, when Fisher became First Sea Lord, the French threat had been completely dissipated by a combination of economic necessity and diplomatic manoeuvrings. From its comparative peak in 1902, the battleship strength of the French Mediterranean fleet was reduced so that only nine[3] remained on station by 1904 — the same year that witnessed the culmination of the Anglo-French entente, when an agreement was signed settling colonial differences. A new enemy had been discovered to concentrate the military and naval mind: Germany.

As the naval centre of gravity began to shift northwards, the British Mediterranean Squadron which, in 1903, had comprised 14 battleships, was first shorn of two battleships in 1904 and a further four the following year, so that it then consisted of eight battleships and ‘a sufficient number of cruisers’, the larger of which would be grouped together.[4] There was one other minor change in the Mediterranean which was to have unforeseen consequences: Fisher had complained that his predecessors on the Mediterranean station had all been Admirals but because he was a Vice-Admiral he ‘was docked of a number of servants…and also docked of a large amount of pay.’[5] As a result, it was announced that, in future, the C-in-C of the Mediterranean Fleet would hold the rank of Admiral, or the acting rank of Admiral.

                Soon after Fisher’s accession to the supreme post the Royal Navy took a qualitative leap forward with the advent of Dreadnought, the all-big-gun, turbine-engined battleship. Concomitant with the introduction of the new class of battleship was another type of ship featuring a similar heavy main armament and higher speed, at the expense of protection: the battle cruiser. In August 1904, Fisher had provocatively argued that there was no function of a battleship that could not be fulfilled by what he termed ‘a first class armoured cruiser’;[6] however, this extreme view was met with a certain amount of scepticism and it is possible that Fisher compromised by agreeing to the construction of Dreadnought so long as he was assured that ‘his’ battle cruisers would also be built. As, indeed, they were: the 1905-06 programme allowed for the laying down of three Invincible class all-big-gun cruisers, in addition to the solitary battleship.[7] Design work on the German equivalent of the fast armoured cruiser commenced in August 1906, though the ship (von der Tann) was not laid down till March 1908 and would not be ready for her commissioning trials until September 1910.[8] By the autumn of 1906 Fisher had accepted that ‘Our only probable enemy is Germany.’ To meet this threat a new Home Fleet would be created by transferring two battleships each from the Channel, Atlantic and Mediterranean Fleets;[9] the Mediterranean Squadron was thereby reduced to 6 battleships, at which strength it would remain until the great debate of 1912.

Following the 1904 entente, Britain and France were drawn closer together by inept German diplomacy. The first Moroccan crisis the following year, when Kaiser Wilhelm landed at Tangier to utter a pledge to support Moroccan independence, resulted in plans being drawn up to assist the French in the event of German armed aggression; as the crisis deepened in December 1905, coinciding with a change of government in Britain, Fisher himself became convinced that war was inevitable. Unofficially at first, secret talks were initiated between the French and British War Offices with a view to co-ordinate their respective forces should war eventuate. When the incoming Liberal Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, was made aware of the situation, he gave his consent for the talks to continue, provided that they were conducted in the ‘proper manner’ and were to be ‘solely provisional and non-committal’.[10] Crucially, however, on the basis of a short meeting between the French Naval Attaché and Fisher at which the only exchange that took place was the Grand Cross of the Légion d’Honneur for Fisher in return for platitudes, Grey believed that full naval talks had also been initiated.[11] To compound this, a general election was in progress at the time, and the new Liberal cabinet would not meet until the end of the month; when it did knowledge of the talks was withheld from general dissemination.[12]

                The first Moroccan crisis blew over by the Spring of 1906 and all remained relatively quiet on the diplomatic front until September 1908 when a minor Franco-German quarrel ensued following an incident at Casablanca; this was quickly followed however by the far more serious Balkan crisis the following month when Austria-Hungary annexed the Turkish provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria declared her independence, and Crete announced her union with Greece. Once more, the malodorous scent of war hung in the air, and once more the French Naval Attaché came calling. This time, though, as a consequence of the grave nature of events on the Continent, the naval talks were substantive, assumed a far greater import and led to the adoption of what became known as the “three conventions”. The first of these stipulated that, in the event of a war against Germany, Britain and France would each have its own well defined zone of action, within which each fleet would have complete independence of action; however, the overall direction of naval operations would be in the hands of the British. The second convention sought to define the zones of action. The French Home Fleets would concentrate in the Mediterranean with the object of engaging and destroying the Italian and Austrian navies in the anticipated eventuality that they would enter the war as Germany’s allies. The French zone, at the start of the war, would be the western basin of the Mediterranean as far as Cape Santa Maria di Leuca – the heel of Italy – leaving the Adriatic out of bounds: the French were only to engage the Austrians if they emerged from the Adriatic to effect a junction with the Italian fleet. The British would watch the Adriatic (for the purpose of warning the French) but their main duties would be to protect commerce and the entrance to the Suez Canal. The third convention concerned the defence of the Straits of Dover.[13] This was not enough for Fisher however who now proposed that the French should assume responsibility for the whole of the Mediterranean, including the tasks assigned to the British. Although the French Naval Attaché was enthusiastic, common sense at last prevailed when the proposition was forwarded to Paris. The cardinal principal of French naval strategy was to safeguard the link with French North Africa and, clearly, their fleet was in no position to do this and carry out all the other tasks; for the time being, the British would remain in the eastern basin.[14]


                Indeed, following the prudent attitude of the new Turkish administration after the initial shock of the Bosnian crisis, tempers calmed and the Mediterranean became a pleasant backwater. So much so that, by March 1911, the ambitious, young Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, could advocate that the Mediterranean should be all but abandoned: the ‘maintenance there of a strong and costly subsidiary establishment is inconsistent with accepted modern naval theory’, he argued. ‘It should be further remembered’, Churchill added, ‘that we are no longer the strongest Power in the Mediterranean, and that to have an inferior fleet in those waters would lead, on the declaration of war, to great risks…’. Following this proclamation, there was a conclusion to be drawn, and Churchill drew it: ‘It seems, therefore, a matter for consideration whether the Mediterranean establishments should not be reduced to that of a cruiser squadron, capable of discharging all minor measures of police, and whether the assertion of the British flag in those waters should not be effected, not by the permanent retention of a very large but still inferior fleet, but by the periodical visits at convenient junctures of a preponderant battle fleet.’[15] While Churchill’s arguments did not then win the day, it would not be long before the whole position in the Mediterranean would have to be re-examined in view of the latest threat from Germany: the attempt to wrest colonial concessions from France and the prospect of a German naval station at Agadir.

                The Agadir affair occupied a good part of the torrid summer of 1911. On 23 August the Committee of Imperial Defence convened for what was to prove one of the most important meetings in its history. As the naval and military representatives outlined their strategy in the event of war it soon became apparent that to glorify the Admiralty policy by describing it as ‘strategy’ was a gross misrepresentation. The then First Sea Lord, Fisher’s successor Admiral Sir Arthur Wilson, declared that it was the Admiralty intention upon the outbreak of war to ‘blockade the whole of the German North Sea coast’, to which he added that this close blockade was so secret, ‘It was not even known to the Fleet.’[16] This was too much for Lord Haldane, the Secretary of State for War. ‘The fact is’, he admonished the Prime Minister, ‘that the Admirals live in a world of their own. The Fisher method, which Wilson appears to follow, that war plans should be locked in the brain of the First Sea Lord, is out of date and impracticable. Our problems of defence are far too numerous and complex to be treated in that way. They can only be solved correctly by a properly organised and scientifically trained War Staff, working in the closest co-operation with the Military General Staff under the general direction of the War Office. Wilson’s so-called plan disclosed an ignorance of elementary military principles which is startling.’[17] Haldane was eager to go to the Admiralty, there to carry out similar reforms to those instigated by him during his tenure of the War Office. What Haldane did not know was that there was another suitor in the wings, the Home Secretary, Winston Churchill. That Churchill was eventually made First Lord might have been the result of Asquith trying to detach him from the ‘economist’ wing of the party,[18] or with the realization that the Admiralty ‘would not take kindly in the first instance to new organisation imported direct from the War Office.’[19] In any event, Haldane’s recent elevation to the Lords was used as a convenient excuse: the First Lord, it was maintained, should be in the Commons.

                While these intrigues were taking place, the French held their 1911 manoeuvres: a great fleet was massed at Toulon and visions of Mediterranean supremacy clouded the eyes of the important guests. Now confident, despite the Austrian and Italian dreadnought building programmes, that they could command the sea, the French took up where Fisher had left off in 1908 and announced that they would now be able to extend their zone to cover the whole of the Mediterranean. Admiral Wilson was disposed to accept the proposal with but one modification: as he doubted that the French could simultaneously cover both the Adriatic and west coast of Italy a token force of British cruisers would still be necessary for commerce protection. As it happened, Wilson found an ally in the new French Mediterranean Commander-in-Chief, Vice-Admiral Boué de Lapeyrère (a former Minister of Marine). Lapeyrère announced that, ‘with his present force of 12 battleships and 6 armoured cruisers, all fully commissioned, he can hold the command of the Mediterranean, with the following reservations: first, he cannot guarantee the safe passage of the Algerian Army Corps to France, a point on which the General Staff of the Army insist, unless he has been reinforced by the Third [French] Battle Squadron of 6 older battleships, who are usually stationed in Northern Waters; secondly he cannot guarantee the security of commerce in the Mediterranean without assistance from British cruisers.’[20] As far as the British were concerned, as all attention was focused on the North Sea, the six pre-Dreadnoughts would remain on station at Malta for the time being and the Mediterranean could be safely ignored. When the British Naval Attaché reported to the Admiralty of his fears that the French were perhaps over-stretching themselves, in that all their energies were directed towards the safe transportation of the Algerian Army Corps and, until that was completed, they would have no forces available for other purposes, he was waved away. The first Chief of the new Admiralty War Staff, Rear-Admiral Troubridge, confidently declared that ‘we have got something more serious to think about than the passage of the XIXth [Algerian] Army Corps.’[21]

                That ‘something’ was the new, accelerated German ship-building programme. When news of this was received Churchill proposed, in March 1912, that to allow for the maximum concentration in Home waters the Mediterranean Squadron should be moved from Malta to Gibraltar, where they could supposedly operate in either Home waters or the Middle Sea; only cruisers would be left on station at Malta. This announcement was the catalyst for a concerted campaign to be launched against such an evacuation: ranged against Churchill would be the Foreign Office, the War Office, Lord Kitchener, Reginald McKenna (the Home Secretary) and Lord Esher (a permanent member of the Committee of Imperial Defence). Undeterred, Churchill fought back in typical fashion: ‘The actual point’, he argued, ‘has been settled long ago by the brute force of facts. We cannot possibly hold the Mediterranean or guarantee our interests there until we have obtained a decision in the North Sea. The War-plans for the last 5 years have provided for the evacuation of the Mediterranean as the first step consequent on a war with Germany, & all we are doing is to make peace dispositions which approximate to war necessities. It would be very foolish to lose England in safeguarding Egypt. Of course if the Cabinet & the House of Commons like to build another fleet of Dreadnoughts for the Mediterranean the attitude of the Admiralty will be that of a cat to a nice fresh dish of cream. But I do not look upon this as practical politics. It would cost you 3 or 4 millions a year extra to make head against Austria & Italy in the Mediterranean & still keep a 60% preponderance in the North Sea.’[22]


                To investigate the situation further, Asquith suggested that advantage should be taken of his summer cruiser in the Mediterranean to convene a preliminary meeting of the C.I.D. at Malta. During the voyage, Rear-Admiral Beatty, then Churchill’s naval secretary, occupied part of his time composing a memorandum in which he suggested that ‘It would strengthen the chances of arriving at a proper and equitable agreement with the French if we are committed to withdraw from Malta (not Mediterranean), that we should immediately strengthen the cruiser force in the Mediterranean by an addition of two battle cruisers to be increased to three by 1st May 1914, when the comparison of the forces of Italy and Austria with France will be unfavourable to France.’[23] This was the first mention of battle cruisers in connexion with the Mediterranean and it would provide Churchill with the compromise he needed to assuage most of his critics. Kitchener certainly was satisfied; Reginald McKenna, however, would not let go. Eventually, on 4 July 1912, the issue was thrashed out in the C.I.D., where, not for the last time, Asquith reached an infelicitous conclusion: ‘There must always be provided a reasonable margin of superior strength ready and available in Home waters. This is the first requirement. Subject to this we ought to maintain, available for Mediterranean purposes and based on a Mediterranean port, a battle fleet equal to a one-Power Mediterranean standard, excluding France.’[24] In the interim, although dreadnoughts would eventually be called for to match the new Austrian and Italian ships, Churchill proposed to satisfy this requirement in the immediate future ‘with a force of an entirely different character’. He would ‘occupy the Mediterranean with a containing force of battle-cruisers. For this purpose 4 battle-cruisers – Indomitable, Inflexible, Invincible and Indefatigable – will be based on Malta in April 1913, and 2 of them will go out in November this year…It is proposed, further, to replace 3 ships in the Armoured Cruiser Squadron in the Mediterranean by stronger vessels, so that it will consist of Shannon, Duke of Edinburgh, and Hampshire. This is as fine a cruiser force as there is in the world, and steams at such a speed that whatever may happen in the Mediterranean, and however unfavourable the combinations, it can take care of itself.’[25]

                Later that month Churchill became aware that, as anticipated, the French would move their six remaining battleships in Atlantic waters to the Mediterranean. As the new British Mediterranean dispositions had at last been agreed upon, this seemed an ideal time to re-open the Anglo-French naval talks.[26] As a prelude, a draft naval agreement was completed by the Admiralty on 23 July in which the British objective was given as the protection of Anglo-French interests in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean (that is, east of Malta), while the French would take responsibility for the western basin; the fleets would combine ‘for the purposes of a general engagement.’ Paradoxically, while the Admiralty admitted that France had ‘disposed almost the whole of her battle fleet in the Mediterranean, leaving her Atlantic sea board to the care of Flotillas’, and that ‘Britain on the other hand has concentrated her battle fleets in home waters, leaving in the Mediterranean a strong containing force of battle and armoured cruisers and torpedo craft’, they still tendentiously maintained that these ‘dispositions have been made independently because they are the best which the separate interest of each country suggests’.[27]

                This sophistry did not impress the French and their Ambassador to London, Paul Cambon, soon pointed out that it was as a result of the negotiations that had been conducted since 1908 between the two Admiralties that had led to the French concentration in the Mediterranean. Once more Churchill fought back: ‘The present dispositions’, he maintained, ‘represent the best arrangements that either power can make independently. It is not true that the French are occupying the Mediterranean to oblige us. They cannot be effective in both theatres and they resolve to be supreme in one.’[28] But, like McKenna, the Frenchman would not go away: he demanded something in writing. The result was an exchange of letters on 22 November 1912 in which the ‘Fiction of the Free Hand’ was dubiously, if unconvincingly, preserved:[29]


My dear Ambassador,                From time to time in recent years the French and British naval and military experts have consulted together. It has been understood that such consultation does not restrict the freedom of either Government to decide at any future time whether or not to assist the other by armed force. We have agreed that consultation between experts is not and ought not to be regarded as an engagement that commits either Government to action in a contingency that has not arisen and may never arise. The disposition, for instance, of the French and British fleets respectively at the present moment is not based upon an engagement to co-operate in war. You have, however, pointed out that if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power, it might become essential to know whether it could in that event depend upon the armed assistance of the other. I agreed that, if either Government had grave reason to expect an unprovoked attack by a third Power or something that threatened the general peace, it should immediately discuss with the other whether both Governments should act together to prevent aggression and to preserve peace, and, if so, what measures they would be prepared to take in common. If these measures involved action, the plans of the General Staffs would at once be taken into consideration, and the Governments would then decided what effect should be given to them.[30]


For years the only permanent representative of the Imperial German Navy in the Mediterranean was the small stationnaire at Constantinople, SMS Loreley; this presence was augmented in the winter months by training ships escaping the bleak northern winter to exercise in the more agreeable surroundings of the temperate sea. This situation changed on 1 November 1912 when an Imperial Cabinet Order directed the new battle cruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau to proceed to the Mediterranean to join some elderly vessels safeguarding German lives and property during the First Balkan War.[31] In April 1913 (allegedly at the prompting of Admiral Milne) the modern light cruisers Dresden and Strassburg were also dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean to support the small force after the older ships had been withdrawn.[32] With this embryonic yet powerful force the German commander at the time, Admiral Trummler, suggested that a permanent divisional command should be formed, a proposal which found little favour with Tirpitz (who preferred to see the ships in the North Sea) but which recommended itself to Wilhelm as a means to divert British attention away from the North Sea. In the event, Dresden and Strassburg were withdrawn in September 1913 when the main Balkan crisis had passed, though the latter was scheduled to return in the summer of 1914, and all four ships were listed in the Annex of the Triple Alliance Naval Convention as being available for joint operations in 1914.[33]


                By June 1913, the continued presence there of the Mittelmeerdivision was taken for granted by the Admiralty. The First Sea Lord, Battenberg, noted that ‘the Goeben and her light, fast consorts will be maintained in [the] Mediterranean for some time, as a means of insuring Austria taking an active part afloat in an Anglo-German War…The conditions under which the Triple Alliance exist make it absolutely certain that Austria must join Germany in any war, but nothing like certainty exists as to the action of Italy.’[34] On this basis, the revised Mediterranean War Orders No. 1[35] sent to Admiral Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne on 20 August directed him to concentrate at Malta, where he would be reinforced, ‘if necessary’, to enable him to ‘accept battle with the Austrian Fleet and any German force which may be in the Mediterranean’. He was also instructed to watch the exit from the Adriatic ‘with the object, as soon as you are strong enough, of bringing the enemy to battle and preventing their return to their home bases should they attempt to leave the Adriatic.’[36]

                Milne’s new adversary, Goeben, was a magnificent ship, built by the private firm of Blohm and Voss, Hamburg who were also responsible for the machinery. Mounting ten 11-inch guns on a displacement of 22,616 tons and length of 611 feet she was, for a matter of days – until the appearance of Inflexible[37] – the only battle cruiser in the Mediterranean, and even after the arrival of Milne’s flagship she remained a far superior ship to the British 12-inch battle cruisers. Her turbine engines produced a speed of 28 knots on the measured mile, slightly slower than her sister ship Moltke, but herein lay the seeds of a problem.[38] Goeben had been dispatched to the Mediterranean before her steam trials had been fully completed and her boiler tubes leaked badly, restricting both her speed and radius of action; though repair work had been carried out in Pola before 27 August 1913 (to take advantage of the one year guarantee given by Blohm and Voss on her turbines[39]) the problem would continue to haunt the new commander of the Mittelmeerdivision, Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon,[40] who took over from Trummler and hoisted his flag in Goeben on 23 October 1913.

                ‘From this time on’, Souchon later wrote, ‘I made it my business not only to visit personally and appraise all naval bases and sources of supply of possible interest, but also to become acquainted with such leading men as I might be called upon to regard as opponents or as helpers and allies, in the event of war.’[41] Souchon used his time well, visiting harbours and anchorages in Sicily and Sardinia and the Italian naval ports and dockyards; he met the Italian Minister of Marine and the Chief of the Naval Staff in Rome; the Italian C-in-C, the Duke of Abruzzi, in Spezia; the Austrian Admirals at Pola and Trieste; and, at Messina, the French C-in-C, Boué de Lapeyrère who was described as ‘surly looking’ and feared by his subordinates as a loup de mer (seawolf).[42] In fact the only admiral Souchon did not meet was Milne, although this was probably due, he admitted,

to the consistent practice of the British to avoid having their ships at foreign ports together with ours. The British Admiral always promptly appeared at the port I had just left, with several ships and in an ostentatious fashion, obviously calculated to efface the impression of our visit. “John Bull had always to spit into the soup”, as a marginal note on my report on this subject, by the All-highest hand, drastically remarked. Nevertheless, I was in friendly communication by wireless, with the British Admiral also.[43]

Showing the flag did, of course, have its more congenial side, typified by balls and receptions held on board the flagship, or parties ashore. Souchon was, for example, able to spend ‘some pleasant hours over strawberry punch and omelette’ with Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife at their ‘cosy, sunny little palace of Miramar’ in March 1914, while his visit to Constantinople in May extended to days of official and semi-official functions.

                Goeben arrived at the Sublime Porte on Friday, 15 May 1914 and anchored off the German Embassy at the entrance to the Bosphorus for the ostensible object, so the British Ambassador reported, of conveying the greetings of the Kaiser to the Sultan. The following day the German Admiral and his officers were received by the Sultan in his Palace and on Sunday 17th Souchon hosted an afternoon tea party in honour of the German residents of Constantinople. Goeben rode slowly at anchor, bucking the strong current, her flags flying, the whole of the afterdeck adorned with valuable carpets and transformed into a terrace of flowers. At 4.30 p.m. the 70 members of the ship’s band played their first waltz, handsome couples danced and the music floated sweetly on shore in the warm evening sunshine. That night the Sultan gave a dinner in Souchon’s honour, after which the Admiral was presented with an Imperial Order. The next night it was the turn of the German Embassy to host the dinner; then on Wednesday 20th Souchon dined with the Minister of Marine, Djemal Pasha. The ships band went ashore to play in public gardens, while everywhere the German sailors could be seen in their blue cloth jackets and brass buttons.[44]

                As the visit came to an end and Goeben coaled, preparatory to departure, a fire which broke out on the shore gave the sailors a last chance to impress their stay upon Turkish minds, as they raced through the streets to help fight the blaze. Louis Mallet, the British Ambassador, commented sourly and cynically that his German opposite number had been presented with an extraordinary stroke of luck: ‘he was able to sacrifice the lives of three young sailors from the Goeben on the altar of Turco-German friendship, in the attempt to extinguish a fire which broke out, most opportunely, in the Tache Kéchla barracks. One recalls Bismarck’s observation about the whole Eastern question not being worth the life of one Pomeranian grenadier, but times are changed!’[45] Souchon resumed his cruise after the excitement of the fire and soon had other things to worry about: the state of the ship’s boilers continued to cause grave anxiety; and in the circumstances, the Admiral might have reflected, it was perhaps just as well that Goeben was scheduled to be relieved by her sister ship at Algeciras on 4 October 1914.[46]


                All such plans were forgotten the following month: Goeben was then at Haifa, on the Syrian coast, where Souchon was being entertained by the German consul, when the latter handed him the news of the assassinations of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his consort in Sarajevo on 28 June. Believing (or so he later claimed) that this might eventually lead to war[47] Souchon’s first thoughts turned to his boiler problems which had become so serious that the crew were attempting to effect makeshift repairs and the ship’s speed had dropped to an alarming 12 to 14 knots, with perhaps 20 knots available in an emergency.[48] Souchon had to reach Pola as quickly as he could, and to make sure everything was in readiness when he got there — he sent an urgent message to Berlin to dispatch a large quantity of new tubes as soon as possible, together with skilled dockyard workmen capable of doing the work, and then arranged for Goeben to reach Pola a few days ahead of the men and supplies coming from Germany. During the 13 days Goeben spent at Pola, as the engineers toiled in blistering heat replacing 4,460 tubes, Souchon had the chance to review the strategical and tactical situation with the Austrian C-in-C, Admiral Haus.

                Souchon had already discussed ‘exhaustively’ the unified plan contained in the 1913 Triple Alliance Naval Agreement, first with Haus in October 1913, then with the Duke of Abruzzi when the two happened to be in Alexandria in December 1913, and later with the Head of the Admiralty in Rome in January 1914. At a further meeting with Haus in March 1914 it had been agreed that the primary objective was the interruption of the transport of the French XIXth Army Corps. Souchon ‘begged that this duty might be carried out by the German ships, reinforced by Austrian and Italian light cruisers and torpedo boats.’[49] A divergence had, however, emerged between the German Admiralty Staff and its allies, with the former of the opinion that the French would, on the outbreak of war, commence all-out offensive operations to gain command of the sea, either with the aid of the British or without them. Yet, although soundly based, this view of French strategy was not shared by the Austrians or Italians and, furthermore, Admiral Haus was reluctant to place allied ships under Souchon’s command.[50] The Naval Convention was coming apart at the seams already. Souchon was also anxious to discuss the situation with the Italian Chief of the Naval Staff before war commenced and suggested a meeting at Rimini on 30 July. Still officially undecided about which way to jump, the hesitant response came back that the meeting could take place at Alatri, near Rome, on 3 August 1914; by that time Italy had declared herself neutral.[51]

                Instead, Goeben sailed from Pola on 30 July. The following day Breslau, which had been lying off Durazzo providing support for the puppet regime of Prince Wilhelm zu Wied of Albania, was instructed to proceed first to Brindisi, to organize colliers, then to steam to Messina, the agreed concentration point for Triple Alliance forces. Breslau arrived at Brindisi early on 1 August where a young officer, Karl Dönitz, was selected to go ashore to locate the German consul and make the necessary arrangements while Breslau sailed on; Dönitz was to be picked up by Goeben which was due later that day. As Goeben sailed south from Pola the ship was made ready for war and work continued on the task of retubing though 3 of the 24 boilers remained out of action; the ship could now, at least, maintain 18 knots. Having completed his assignment and lunched with the Consul and his family Dönitz returned to the harbour, impatiently gazing seaward, worried that for some reason or other Goeben might not call. His fears were allayed when she came into sight late that afternoon; Dönitz reported on board and Souchon continued his journey later that night after his attempt to take on some coal at Brindisi had been forestalled by the Italian authorities. Goeben arrived at Messina, where Breslau already lay at anchor, on Sunday 2 August.[52]


The peacetime routine of Admiral Milne’s force was not dissimilar; however, Milne was not in as close touch with his entente partners as Souchon was with his allies. While there was nothing to stop unofficial fraternization with the French, Milne’s actions reflected official policy in London and he was content to leave it at that knowing that preparations had been made for joint action by virtue of the receipt of his comprehensive War Orders. It is fashionable to portray Milne[53] as an incompetent dandy, but there is little hard evidence for this view other than the jaundiced outbursts of Fisher – himself no great strategist – who railed against Milne[54] on the basis of Milne’s friendship with Beresford and his influence at Court (an ironic charge from an admiral who was never happier than when in the company of King Edward). Typical, for example, was Fisher’s assertion to Esher in 1912 that, ‘Milne, an utterly useless Commander (Asquith leaned across McKenna on the Front Bench and said so to Winston), is now the Senior Admiral afloat.’[55] Asquith’s alleged comment is hard to swallow: the Prime Minister was not particularly interested in naval affairs and had little knowledge upon which such a judgment could have been made; besides, there is a clear indication that Asquith blamed ill-luck rather than incompetence for Milne’s subsequent misfortune.[56] Fisher may have acted out of pique upon seeing the prize Mediterranean command – his own a decade before – go to a man he personally disliked, and it might have been a prize still worth having early in 1912.[57] However, following the withdrawal of the Malta battleships that year and the recall of the Third Battle Squadron, which had been on temporary duty during the Balkan crisis under Admiral Burney, Milne’s command regularly consisted only of his own flagship, Inflexible, with sometimes a cruiser or two for good measure, and at its peak as war loomed comprised three battle cruisers, four heavy and four light cruisers and a destroyer flotilla. Indeed Fisher’s vituperation moderated as Milne’s command was attenuated until, of course, the escape of Goeben brought it all to the fore again.


                Churchill, who regularly spent a portion of each year skirmishing with the King over the names of new ships,[58] and did not take kindly to Royal interference, does not appear to have been influenced by Fisher’s strictures that Milne owed his position to his standing at Court; neither, for that matter, was Beatty, then the First Lord’s Naval Secretary, who also had a hand in appointments. Furthermore, it is clear that, far from the Mediterranean being the culmination of his active service life, Churchill had Milne singled out as the next C-in-C, Nore. Admiral Alfred Winsloe had approached Battenberg in October 1913 seeking a command, preferably the Mediterranean;[59] however, Milne’s customary three years would not expire until June 1915. As Churchill did not wish to see Winsloe out of service for so long he proposed that Milne’s stint in the Mediterranean should end after two years (that is, the summer of 1914) and, to compensate him, Milne should then go to the Nore. This would be, Churchill explained to Asquith, Milne’s ‘only chance in the next 3 or 4 years of succeeding to the command of a great Home port…He would be exchanging one year’s additional employment in the Mediterranean for 3 years’ employment at home, and he would have 5 years’ continuous employment so that he has no reason to complain.’ Churchill was naturally not unaware of Milne’s court influence and he therefore proposed to speak to the King beforehand on the subject ‘as otherwise intrigues might be set on foot’; finally, to be certain of leaving Milne no room to manoeuvre, Churchill decreed that, other than acceptance of the offer, the Admiral’s only option would be to refuse altogether: there would be no compromise.[60]

                For his remaining year in the Mediterranean Milne cruised, showed the flag, and spat in the German’s soup. Crucially, however, although Milne had by now been reinforced by the battle cruisers Indomitable and Indefatigable, his squadron was short one ship: the fourth battle cruiser slated for the Mediterranean, Invincible, was taken into dockyard hands early in 1914 so that the electric fittings in the gun turrets, which had not functioned well, could be replaced by hydraulic gear.[61] In the short term, there were no plans to send a replacement. The peacetime climax of that golden summer of 1914 would be the official visit of the C-in-C upon the Sultan in Constantinople which, inevitably, was timed to occur immediately after Souchon’s visit; before that, Milne’s squadron spent a fortnight in May, 1914 visiting the various ports of the Dual Monarchy while being feted by that most unlikely of naval Powers, Austria-Hungary.[62] At the same time as Milne’s ships were leaving the Adriatic ports, Souchon was being similarly feted in Constantinople — a sight that was too much for Captain Boyle, the British Naval Attaché, to stomach. All previous courtesy visits by the British C-in-C had been made in the Admiralty yacht Hussar (despite the graceful description she was in reality a torpedo boat of 1893-4 vintage) but now Boyle submitted in his report to the Foreign Office that, in view of Souchon’s visit in a battle cruiser, which followed hard upon that of the French admiral in a large cruiser, if Milne carried out his intention to visit the Sublime Porte in late June he should come in his flagship and not Hussar.[63] Perhaps anticipating the likely response from the Foreign Office, Boyle decided not to take any chances: he leaked the news of the forthcoming visit of the British squadron to the Turkish press and probably informed Milne of what he was up to; in any event, before the Foreign Office had received the Naval Attaché’s report, which had been delayed to allow Boyle to cover the complete stay of Goeben, Milne telegraphed the Admiralty to request that his visit should be in Inflexible.[64]

                Ambassador Mallet could not understand how news of Milne’s impending visit had leaked, but it had, and the Grand Vizier had been to see him to ask that the visit be confined to a small cruiser. When asked by Mallet how could he then explain the visit of Goeben the Grand Vizier protested that it had been the first occasion of the visit of a German admiral to Constantinople and, besides, the impression created had not been favourable: the visit had seemed as interminable as the banquets and the civility had been overdone. Mallet thereupon proposed that, in the circumstances, Milne should come in the cruiser Chatham but this tame suggestion immediately set alarm bells ringing at the F.O. where Eyre Crowe fumed against ‘the systematic indiscretions of our naval authorities and officers’, and how they would ‘one day lead to a really bad incident’. Crowe suggested on 25 May that the Admiralty be informed that, due to the ‘unfortunate premature disclosure’ of Milne’s visit, if the C-in-C now proceeded in a small cruiser it would be taken as a snub at the hands of the Grand Vizier and, therefore, the only way to maintain dignity would be to cancel the visit altogether.[65] Battenberg would have none of this: he telephoned Sir Arthur Nicolson, the Permanent Under-Secretary at the Foreign Office, two days later to insist on Milne having equal treatment, a line that Grey fully expected the Admiralty to take — the Turks were to be given the choice of Milne in his flagship or no visit at all.[66]

                No sooner had the Grand Vizier reluctantly acquiesced to the visit of Inflexible, than the Admiralty stuck its oar in again by telephoning to the Foreign Office on 5 June to inquire as to whether Milne could take Hussar with him as well to use as his personal yacht. Although the Admiralty thought the Turkish Government could hardly object, this is exactly what they – or rather the Grand Vizier – did. The F.O. could not understand the substance of the Turkish complaint, which led Crowe to surmise that they were not dealing with the Government as such but that this was the personal policy of the Grand Vizier, ‘a malcontented Egyptian’, deliberately trying to be discourteous. Before the issue of the humble Hussar could blow up the Admiralty backed down on 10 June,[67] while, in an effort to make amends, Mallet promised that he would give Milne a banquet in the gardens of the Embassy’s summer residence on the Bosphorus at Therapia and that he would try to arrange for other entertainment ‘on a more striking and magnificent scale’ than that given by the German Ambassador to Souchon.[68] Even so, now that the diplomatic sea had been calmed, there still remained some doubt about the visit due to increasing tension between Greece and Turkey — the impending Aegean crisis raised the peripheral question (which was far more important from Milne’s point of view) as to whether mines had been laid in the Dardanelles by the Turks to prevent Greek attacks. After an assurance was given that his flagship would not risk destruction, Inflexible passed the Dardanelles at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, 25 June 1914. Milne reported that there were no signs of mines having been laid, though a mine-layer and a mine-carrier were observed at Chanak and, in addition, considerable numbers of troops were seen on both sides of the Straits, together with field guns positioned at likely landing places.


                At 10:30 the following morning Inflexible dropped anchor off Constantinople and, presently, Milne and his staff proceeded up the Bosphorus in a Turkish steam launch to lunch with Mallet; the festivities had begun. On the 27th Milne had a private audience with the Sultan, which was described as a painful affair as Mehmed V was at his worst. As Milne left he confided to his interpreter (Andrew Ryan, the dragoman from the Embassy) in a loud whisper that His Majesty was ‘just an imbecile’. Ryan did not disagree.[69] The faintly sinister Turkish Minister of Marine, Djemal Pasha, also paid two long visits to Inflexible after which Mallet reported privately to Grey that Djemal had been ‘greatly struck by her superiority in every way to the Goeben which he said bore all the marks of the parvenu in comparison with the real article.’ Either Djemal was no judge of ships or Mallet was too susceptible to the Minister’s evident charm.[70]

                On the evening of Sunday 28 June 1914 (at the same time as Souchon was being entertained by the German consul at Haifa) Milne and his officers proceeded to the Sultan’s banquet at the Yildiz Kiosk where they dined off gold plate — ‘the service was most efficient’, reported Milne with the casual air of one thoroughly accustomed to such occasions.[71] During the banquet the news was received of the Sarajevo assassinations. The Grand Vizier smiled broadly: it gave him the perfect opportunity to escape the rest of the functions arranged for Milne, which bored him.[72] All official functions were cancelled[73] though sports still took place among the crew on Monday afternoon (following the cricket match with the Embassy on Saturday which had been won by the diplomats) and when Inflexible departed at 7 p.m. on Wednesday 1 July there was no foreboding of what was to follow; the cruise continued as normal.[74] From 3 to 9 July Inflexible was at Maimance – where the crew held a regatta – after which visits were paid to Lannaka, Alexandretta, Tripoli and Beirut. Only at Alexandria on 22 July did the crew become aware of the ‘mutterings that preluded the coming storm’ which forced Milne to return to Malta to gather his forces.[75] While in Alexandria Milne also received official notification of his transfer to the Nore; he was ordered to arrive at Chatham in Inflexible by 29 August, haul down his flag in the battle cruiser and raise it over Admiralty House there on 30 August.[76]


As Milne began his summer cruise that year, the next most senior British officer in the Mediterranean, Rear-Admiral Troubridge, was with his flagship (the heavy cruiser Defence) in the Adriatic also engaged in the monotonous and thankless task of helping to protect the throne of Prince Wilhelm zu Wied of newly created Albania.[77] Troubridge must have occasionally wondered why the effort was being made, especially when the Kaiser described the Prince’s position as ‘impossible’ and helpfully suggested that notices be erected in the country along the lines of those in American saloons: ‘Don’t shoot the Pianist, he’s doing his best.’[78] It was a long way from the heady days of 1912 when Troubridge had been the first Chief of the War Staff, and had been intimately involved in the Admiralty discussions upon the Anglo-French position in the Mediterranean. Following his desire to return to sea duty Troubridge was eventually released by Churchill in November 1912 with the following letter:

My dear Troubridge,

                Your position on the list makes it impossible for me to offer you the position of 2nd in Command in the Medt.; but I am very glad to be able to offer you the command of the Medt. cruisers. The Defence which is returning from China to exchange with the Hampshire will be available for your flagship.[79]

Now Defence rode at anchor, part of a small international contingent, attempting to preserve the new state carved out of Turkey-in-Europe and its exasperating ruler, holed up in his palace in the besieged city of Durazzo, whose perimeter trenches were manned against the insurgents by troops loyal to Wied, augmented by landing parties of sailors from the ships.

                Such common service quickly created a bond between the ships’ companies of Defence and the German contribution to the forgotten task, Breslau. A landing party from Defence found, when they occupied their section of trench, that on their right was a similar group from Breslau with whom they soon became friendly. The general order was given that night that fire was only to be opened if it were certain that rebels were approaching the trench. At 2 a.m. firing suddenly opened all down the line as something very dark moved in front of the trench. When order was restored, and the foe beaten off, the eager sailors had to wait till first light to discover the damage they had inflicted: all they found was a black donkey. Not surprisingly, the landing parties were withdrawn that afternoon and, on the strength of their shared experience, three of Defence’s junior officers were invited to dine aboard Breslau. Captain Fawcet Wray thought this an excellent idea and permission was quickly granted. The three so chosen had a most enjoyable evening and then – as one of them reported to Fawcet Wray immediately afterwards – ‘as we were waiting by the gangway for our boat back, my host took me by the arm and pushed me through one on the bulkhead awnings. There, to my amazement, I saw on each side of the quarter deck, rails carrying little trollies mounted with mines. At that moment, the German Commander arrived, shrieked and shouted, seized my host by the back of the neck and I do not think I ever got down into one of our boats so quickly before.’[80]

                This was not the end of the hospitality, however, as the crews played water polo together while Commander Kettner of Breslau personally conducted Edith Durham, a British observer, around the ship of which he was so proud, telling her while on the bridge that, for her size, Breslau was one of the fastest ships in the world (presumably this visit avoided the mines). This was the same Miss Durham who, when later having tea with the British Consul, Mr Lamb, and his wife, saw a silver-haired officer panting up the hill towards them in the enervating afternoon heat. Without pausing he entered the house: ‘I have come to tell you’, gasped Rear-Admiral Troubridge, ‘our wireless has picked up a bit of a message. The Archduke Franz Ferdinand has been murdered at Serajevo. Just that!’[81] Perhaps unexpectedly there then followed, in early July, a pregnant, ominous lull which lasted until the delivery of the Austro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia on 23 July. Larger forces were then at work though Troubridge still had to deal with his own minor diplomatic problem not all that far removed, geographically at least, from the centre of events.

                On the same day that the ultimatum was delivered, Troubridge was invited to the Palace at Durazzo by the Prince ‘to discuss affairs of some importance’ only to discover that all the other senior naval officers had similarly been summoned in the hope that, from the ensuing meeting, a plan could be decided upon for ‘the proper protection of the town and of his Palace.’ Troubridge declined to have his freedom of action so hindered by a joint decision, at which the Prince, having shortly afterwards visited Valona for the day in the Italian yacht provided for him, proposed simply to ‘await the developments’. As his already minute empire crumbled around him, the Prince remained ‘fixed in his determination to remain here so long as he is sure of personal protection by foreign warships.’ The German Minister also spent a fruitless two hours endeavouring to persuade Wied either to leave Albania or take steps to ‘come to an understanding with his subjects.’ But it was no use; the Prince seemed quite incapable of understanding the situation. In the meantime Troubridge had ordered Defence to sea to carry out precautionary gunnery and torpedo exercises.[82] Then, after the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July, Troubridge took the further precaution of moving Defence to seaward of Breslau, out of torpedo range,[83] though this sad necessity was short-lived as Troubridge was recalled to Malta by the Admiralty and sailed on the evening of 29 July, leaving Wied to his fate.[84]

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[1]    Typically comprising 12 battleships, two coast defence ships, two 1st class cruisers, five 2nd class cruisers, six 3rd class cruisers, a torpedo depot ship, three torpedo-gunboats and 21 destroyers [The Naval Annual 1902, p. 48], though the peak year for battleships was 1903 when 14 were on station, to be reduced to 12 again the following year.

[2]    Selborne to Curzon, 19 April 1901, in D G Boyce (ed.), The Crisis of British Power, The Imperial and Naval Papers of the Second Earl of Selborne, 1895-1910, pp. 113-5. Although the position seemed secure this did not stop Fisher asking for more ships!

[3]    Of which three were in reserve.

[4]    “Memorandum of First Lord on the Distribution and Mobilisation of the Fleet”, 15 March 1905, The Naval Annual 1905, pp. 455-69.

[5]    Fisher to Selborne, 13 November 1904, in, A J Marder (ed.), Fear God and Dread Nought, vol. II, p. 49 [hereinafter referred to as F.G.D.N].

[6]    Mackay, Fisher, p. 322. See also, Fisher to Selborne, 5 January 1901, Selborne Papers, pp. 108-12; Keith McBride, “The Weird Sisters”, in Robert Gardiner (ed.), Warship 1990, p. 102.

[7]    Fisher subsequently informed the First Lord that, in his opinion, the Invincibles were superior to Dreadnought. Fisher to Tweedmouth, 26 September 1906, Marder, F.G.D.N. Vol. II, p. 91.

[8]What emerged then, however, was a superior fighting ship to the Invincibles. Worse, when the subsequent Indefatigable class was laid down in Britain under the 1908-09 programme, the mistakes of the Invincible class were repeated, an extraordinary oversight given the three year lapse between classes. The subsequent German class, comprising Moltke and Goeben, represented a great improvement and would have given Germany the lead in this particular design had the building time been faster. Goeben, for example, took exactly three years from the date of her laying down (28 August 1909) till the completion of her trials (28 August 1912). By this time the third generation of British ships, the Lion class, had been completed or were near completion. Britain maintained the quantitative edge, though not, overall, the qualitative in spite of the fact that the latest class featured the excellent new 13.5-inch gun.

[9]    Fisher to the Prince of Wales, 23 October 1906, F.G.D.N., vol. II, pp. 102-5.

[10]  Minute by Grey, 13 January 1906, BD, III, p. 174.

[11]  Grey to Bertie, private, 15 January 1906, BD, III, no. 216, pp. 177-8. See also, Grey to Tweedmouth, ibid., p. 203, in which Grey mentions that ‘the French Naval Attaché has been unofficially and in a non-committal way in communication with Fisher, as to what help we could give in a war between Germany and France. We haven’t promised any help, but it is quite right that our Naval and Military Authorities should discuss the question in this way with the French and be prepared to give an answer when they are asked, or rather if they are asked.’

[12]  In addition to Grey, only the Prime Minister (Campbell-Bannerman), Asquith, Haldane and Lord Ripon were aware of the talks.

[13]  Fisher proposed that the French should undertake the defence of the Straits entirely, using torpedo boats and submarines; these boats could have the free use of the port of Dover. All British ships there would be withdrawn to the north for operations in the North Sea and Baltic.

[14]  The 1908 talks are referred to in an Admiralty memorandum of 29 August 1911, PRO Adm 116/3109; see also, Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 8-10; Lumby, pp. xiv-xv; H. I. Lee, “Mediterranean Strategy and Anglo-French Relations 1908-12”, in The Mariner’s Mirror, No. 57 (1971), pp. 267-285.

[15]  W S Churchill, The Mediterranean Fleet, 15 March 1911, PRO Cab 37/105/27. ‘It should further be remembered’, Churchill asserted, ‘that it is no longer possible to force the Dardanelles, that nobody would expose a modern fleet to such perils, that, therefore, the one decisive method of putting pressure on the Turks which depended upon speed has become inoperative’.

[16]  Minutes of the 114th meeting, Committee of Imperial Defence, 23 August 1911, PRO Cab 38/19/49.

[17]  Haldane to Asquith, quoted in, Maurice, Haldane, pp. 283-4.

[18]  Jenkins, Asquith, p. 242.

[19]  Asquith to Crewe, 7 October 1911, WSC Comp. vol. ii, p. 1295.

[20]  Report of an Interview with Adl Boué de Lapeyrère, 21 January 1912, PRO Adm 116/3109.

[21]  Howard Kelly, Journal as Naval Attaché, pp. 28-9, Kelly mss., NMM Kel 3.

[22]  Churchill to Haldane, 3 May, 6 May 1912. WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1548-9; Wilson, diary entry for 7 May 1912, quoted in Callwell, Wilson, vol. I, p. 113. Churchill added: ‘All the above is true, independent of anything France may do. If she is our friend, we shall not suffer. If she is not, we shall suffer. But if we win the big battle in the decisive theatre, we can put everything else straight afterwards. London is the key of Egypt — don’t lose that. Considering you propose to send the whole British Army abroad, you ought to help me to keep the whole British Navy at home…’

[23]  Memorandum by Beatty, quoted in, Chalmers, Life and Letters of Beatty, pp. 112 ff.

[24]  Minutes of the 117th meeting of the C.I.D., Strategical Situation in the Mediterranean, 4 July 1912, PRO Cab 38/21/26.

[25]  Memorandum by Churchill, 6 July 1912, (not circulated), PRO Cab 37/111/89; Lumby pp. 83-5; WSC Comp vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1588-91.

[26]  Churchill to Asquith and Grey, 17 July 1912, PRO Adm 116/3110.

[27]  Draft Anglo-French Naval Agreement, 23 July 1912, PRO Adm 116/3109; Lumby, pp. 92-3.

[28]  Churchill to Grey, 29 July 1912, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/87; Lumby, pp. 96-7.

[29]  See, Wilson, The Policy of the Entente, chapter 5 passim.

[30]  Grey to Cambon, 22 November 1912, PRO Adm 186/618; Lumby, p. 106.

[31]  There, Goeben joined the cruisers Weymouth and Hampshire, sent by Britain; from France came the Leon Gambetta and Victor Hugo; from Italy, the Emanuele Filiberto and Coatit; the Aspern and Admiral Spaun from Austria; the Rotislav and Kagul from Russia; and the Reina Regente from Spain.

[32]  Der Krieg Zur See, 1914-18, The War in Turkish Waters, vol. I, The Mediterranean Division, in Monthly Intelligence Report, Confidential, Admiralty, No. 107, 15 April 1928, p. 37. Kelly mss., NMM Kel 13 [hereinafter quoted as Der Krieg Zur See; future references refer to this source].

[33]  Hurst (ed.), Key Treaties for the Great Powers, 1871-1914, pp. 861-2.

[34]  German Cruisers in Mediterranean, memorandum by Battenberg, 19 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/33.

[35]  Milne’s War Orders are given in appendix vii.

[36]  Mediterranean War Orders No. 1, PRO Adm 137/819; Lumby, pp. 114-5.

[37]  Goeben had called in at Malta on her voyage from Kiel on 12 November 1912, ten days before the arrival of Inflexible from Sheerness. Papers relating to the escape of the Goeben and Breslau, National Library of Scotland, Accession 4321, folder 9.

[38]  N J M Campbell, Battle Cruisers, (London, 1978), pp. 22-3.

[39]  Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, p. 265.

[40]  The Admiralty Intelligence file on Souchon described him thus: born 2 June 1864; entered navy 12 April 1881; 5' 8", clean shaven, inclined to stoutness. Born in Leipzig, the son of a portrait painter. Is an authority on W/T, and has written much on the subject. Also went in for ballooning. Is accounted an exceptionally capable flag officer, distinguished by wide knowledge, perspicacity and imperturbability. Pleasant in manner. Gives the impression of strength of character. See, Admiralty notes on foreign naval officers, PRO Adm 137/4166.

[41]  Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, The Breakthrough of the Goeben and Breslau from Messina to the Dardanelles, The Naval Review, vol. 10, 1922, pp. 480-91. Naval Historical Library P (NS) 341 [hereinafter referred to as “Souchon”].

[42]  By comparison, Howard Kelly, the British Naval Attaché, who had many dealings with him, found the Frenchman kind hearted and a very fine seaman, though with a ferocious expression. Journal as Naval Attaché, Kelly mss., NMM Kel 3.

[43]  Souchon, p. 481.

[44]  Report of Captain William Boyle, Naval Attaché, and article from Tasfir-I-Efkiar, 19 May 1914, enclosed in Mallet to Grey, No. 350, 19 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/23200.

[45]  Mallet to Nicolson, 1 June 1914, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/374.

[46]  Souchon, p. 480.

[47]  But note: Souchon’s account of his alleged prescience could well be tempered with hindsight — as late as 25 July he was writing to his wife that he doubted a major war would eventuate. Paul G Halpern, The Naval War in the Mediterranean, 1914-1918, (London, 1987), p. 12.

[48]  Der Krieg Zur See, p. 39.

[49]  Ibid.

[50]  Halpern, Medt Naval Situation, pp. 267-8.

[51]  Souchon, p. 482. The Austrian C-in-C, Admiral Haus, had learned on 31 July that Italy intended to declare neutrality.

[52]  Peter Padfield, Dönitz, (London, 1985 p’back), p. 59; Kopp, Two Lone Ships, p. 17.

[53]  Sir Archibald Berkeley Milne Bt GCVO KCB Extra Equerry to the King (1855-1938). Captain, 31 December 1891; Rear-Admiral, 25 April 1904; Vice-Admiral, 12 May 1908; Admiral, 19 September 1911.

[54]  Milne was parodied as ‘Sir Berkeley Mean (he buys his Times second-hand for a penny)’ and Churchill was accused of betraying the Navy. ‘You are aware’, Fisher fumed, ‘that Sir Berkeley Milne is unfitted to be the Senior Admiral afloat, as you have now made him.’

[55]  Fisher to Esher, 29 April 1912, F.G.D.N., vol. II, p. 458 and see, generally, F.G.D.N., vol. II, pp. 445-459. Fisher’s principle grievance – that Milne’s appointment would hinder Jellicoe’s rise – was given short shrift: the appointment would ‘not affect in any way the command of the Home Fleets, which will be determined without regard to seniority as a matter of high state policy.’ Besides, the glamour of the Mediterranean command was not what it had once been. ‘The Mediterranean Fleet shorn down to a cruiser squadron is the smallest command over which an Admiral has ever hoisted his flag in recent times’, Churchill rightly pointed out. ‘That Milne should take it shows the modesty of his claims.’ Churchill to Fisher, 27 April 1912, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, p. 1547.

[56]  See, Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 30 March 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 375, p. 521.

[57]  Though even this was debatable in Fisher’s opinion: when Admiral Sir Edmund Poë succeeded Admiral Curzon-Howe as C-in-C in April 1910 Fisher’s comment was characteristically succinct: ‘Poë’s an ass’, he informed the First Lord, Reginald McKenna, ‘but the Mediterranean don’t require anything else.’ Fisher to McKenna, 1 February 1910, F.G.D.N., vol. II, p. 302.

[58]  See, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1664-71 for 1912, and pp. 1760-64 for 1913.

[59]  At the time Winsloe was unemployed.

[60]  Churchill to Asquith, 30 October 1913, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1793-4.

[61]  The Naval Annual, 1914, p. 3. See also appendix vi.

[62]  See, Maurice de Bunsen to Grey, No. 82, 3 May 1914, Milne mss., NMM MLN 208.

[63]  Report of Naval Attaché, 25 May 1914, in Mallet to Grey, No. 350, PRO FO 371/2133/23200.

[64]  Admiralty to Foreign Office, M13589, 18 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/22308; Mallet to Grey, No. 294, 23 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/23140.

[65]  Mallet to Grey, No. 294, 23 May 1914; minute by Crowe, 25 May 1914. PRO FO 371/2133/23140.

[66]  Nicolson to Grey, minute by Grey, 27 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/23140.

[67]  Mallet to Grey, no. 302, 31 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/24341; F. O. minute, 5 June 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/25146; Mallet to Grey, no. 316, 5 June 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/25329; Mallet to Grey, no 317, 6 June 1914 and minute by Crowe, PRO FO 371/2133/25409; Admty to F.O., 10 June 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/26163.

[68]  Mallet to Nicolson, 1 June 1914, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/374.

[69]  Sir Andrew Ryan, The Last of the Dragomans, (London, 1951), pp. 89-90.

[70]  Mallet to Grey, private, 1 July 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/80.

[71]  Mallet to Grey, no. 497, 6 July 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/32684; Report of Sir A. B. Milne, no. 948/852, 4 July 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/32907.

[72]  Ryan, Last of the Dragomans, p. 90.

[73]  However, the Turkish flag was not lowered in mourning in several of the provincial Governments, causing the Austrian Foreign Minister to protest. Frank G Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, (Cornell, 1971), p. 60.

[74]  J H Macnair, Midshipman’s Journal, Inflexible 1914, IWM P209. The home side won the cricket match in the last over after the sailors had declared.

[75]  Horniman, Smiling Through, IWM PP/MCR/46, p. 95.

[76]  Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., 22 July 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19. Note: Milne’s replacement was not scheduled to be Admiral Winsloe after all, but Admiral Sir Henry Jackson, the former C.O.S.

[77]  Wied had emerged as favourite for the hot seat from a list of suggested candidates which included Lord Kitchener, Prince Arthur of Connaught, and the English cricketer C. B. Fry! Crampton, Hollow Detente, p. 119.

[78]  Ibid., p. 211 note 50.

[79]  Quoted in, Redmond McLaughlin, The Escape of the Goeben, (London, 1974), p. 32.

[80]  Captain G H Warner, Recollections of a Junior Officer on HMS Defence, IWM P389.

[81]  Edith Durham, Twenty Years of Balkan Tangle, (London, 1920), p. 274.

[82]  Rear-Admiral Troubridge, Report of Proceedings, Events at Durazzo, 28 July 1914, PRO Adm 1 8387/221.

[83]  Padfield, Dönitz, p. 59.

[84]  Wied, alone and forgotten after the outbreak of war, fled to Vienna in September.


First Class Battleship HMS London

Ships of the Victorian & Edwardian Navy :


I have been drawing the ships of the Victorian and Edwardian Navy for twenty years for my personal pleasure and I am including some of these drawings on this site in the hope that others may find them of interest. The original drawings are all in pencil. Reducing the file size and therefore the download time has resulted in some loss of detail.

A set of postcards featuring eight of my drawings is now available for £2.50, which includes postage anywhere in the world.

For more information please click on the drawing below:


Please click here to see more ship drawings




SUPERIOR FORCE : The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau © Geoffrey Miller

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 first of the three non-fiction books written by Geoffrey Miller, and deals specifically with the escape of the German ships Goeben and Breslau to the Dardanelles in August 1914. 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.


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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.




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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.
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Home ContentsSearch FeedbackEssay Introduction TimeLine Reviews 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
Appendices Bibliography Index Straits The Millstone Ordering Order Form Biographies Links

Web-site design & content Copyright © 1995-2006 Geoffrey Miller