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,
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.’
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
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.
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.’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
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
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.
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.
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
the Mediterranean Squadron was thereby reduced to 6 battleships, at which
strength it would remain until the great debate of 1912.
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’.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.’
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.’
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.’
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
or with the realization that the Admiralty ‘would not take kindly in the first
instance to new organisation imported direct from the War Office.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.’
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.
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’.
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.’
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:
GREY TO PAUL CAMBON
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.
years the only permanent representative of the Imperial German Navy in the
Mediterranean was the small stationnaire at Constantinople, SMS
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.
In April 1913 (allegedly at the prompting of Admiral Milne) the modern light
cruisers Dresden and
were also dispatched to the Eastern Mediterranean to support the small force
after the older ships had been withdrawn.
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,
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.
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.’
On this basis, the revised Mediterranean
War Orders No. 1
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.’
Milne’s new adversary,
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
– 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.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)
the problem would continue to haunt the new commander of the
Rear-Admiral Wilhelm Souchon,
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.’
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).
In fact the only admiral Souchon did not meet was Milne, although this was
probably due, he admitted,
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.
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.
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.
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.
As the visit came to an end and
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!’
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.
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
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.
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
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.’
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.’
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
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.
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,
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
(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
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
Milne telegraphed the Admiralty to request that his visit should be in
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
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.
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.
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
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,
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
All official functions were cancelled
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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:
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.
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
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
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
This was not the end of the
hospitality, however, as the crews played water polo together while Commander Kettner of
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,
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!’
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
to sea to carry out precautionary gunnery and torpedo exercises.
Then, after the Austrian declaration of war against Serbia on 28 July,
Troubridge took the further precaution of moving Defence to seaward of
out of torpedo range,
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.
 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.
 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!
 “Memorandum of First Lord on the Distribution and Mobilisation of
the Fleet”, 15 March 1905, The Naval
Annual 1905, pp. 455-69.
 Fisher to Selborne, 13 November 1904, in, A J Marder (ed.), Fear God and Dread Nought, vol. II, p. 49 [hereinafter referred to
 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.
 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.
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.
 Fisher to the Prince of Wales, 23 October 1906, F.G.D.N.,
vol. II, pp. 102-5.
 Minute by Grey, 13 January 1906, BD, III, p. 174.
 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
 In addition to Grey, only the Prime Minister (Campbell-Bannerman),
Asquith, Haldane and Lord Ripon were aware of the talks.
 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.
 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.
 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’.
 Minutes of the 114th meeting, Committee of Imperial Defence, 23
August 1911, PRO Cab 38/19/49.
 Haldane to Asquith, quoted in, Maurice, Haldane,
 Asquith to Crewe, 7 October 1911, WSC
Comp. vol. ii, p. 1295.
 Report of an Interview with Adl Boué de Lapeyrère, 21 January 1912,
PRO Adm 116/3109.
 Howard Kelly, Journal as Naval Attaché, pp. 28-9, Kelly mss., NMM
 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
 Memorandum by Beatty, quoted in, Chalmers, Life
and Letters of Beatty, pp. 112 ff.
 Minutes of the 117th meeting of the C.I.D., Strategical
Situation in the Mediterranean, 4 July 1912, PRO Cab 38/21/26.
 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.
 Churchill to Asquith and Grey, 17 July 1912, PRO Adm 116/3110.
 Draft Anglo-French Naval Agreement, 23 July 1912, PRO Adm 116/3109;
Lumby, pp. 92-3.
 Churchill to Grey, 29 July 1912, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/87; Lumby, pp.
 See, Wilson, The Policy of the
Entente, chapter 5 passim.
 Grey to Cambon, 22 November 1912, PRO Adm 186/618; Lumby, p. 106.
 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.
 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].
 Hurst (ed.), Key Treaties for
the Great Powers, 1871-1914, pp. 861-2.
 German Cruisers in Mediterranean,
memorandum by Battenberg, 19 June 1913, Masterton-Smith mss., PRO Cab 1/33.
 Milne’s War Orders are given in appendix vii.
 Mediterranean War Orders No. 1, PRO Adm
137/819; Lumby, pp. 114-5.
 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.
 N J M Campbell, Battle
Cruisers, (London, 1978), pp. 22-3.
 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.
 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”].
 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.
 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.
 Souchon, p. 482. The Austrian C-in-C, Admiral Haus, had learned on 31
July that Italy intended to declare neutrality.
 Peter Padfield, Dönitz,
(London, 1985 p’back), p. 59; Kopp, Two
Lone Ships, p. 17.
 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.
 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
 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.
 See, Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 30 March 1915, Asquith
Letters, no. 375, p. 521.
 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.
 See, WSC Comp. vol. II, pt.
iii, pp. 1664-71 for 1912, and pp. 1760-64 for 1913.
 Churchill to Asquith, 30 October 1913, WSC
Comp. vol. II, pt. iii, pp. 1793-4.
 The Naval Annual, 1914, p. 3. See also
 See, Maurice de Bunsen to Grey, No. 82, 3 May 1914, Milne mss., NMM
 Report of Naval Attaché, 25 May 1914, in Mallet to Grey, No. 350,
PRO FO 371/2133/23200.
 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.
 Mallet to Grey, No. 294, 23 May 1914; minute by Crowe, 25 May 1914.
PRO FO 371/2133/23140.
 Nicolson to Grey, minute by Grey, 27 May 1914, PRO FO 371/2133/23140.
 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
 Mallet to Nicolson, 1 June 1914, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/374.
 Sir Andrew Ryan, The Last of
the Dragomans, (London, 1951), pp. 89-90.
 Mallet to Grey, private, 1 July 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/80.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Horniman, Smiling Through,
IWM PP/MCR/46, p. 95.
 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.
 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.
 Wied, alone and forgotten after the outbreak of war, fled to Vienna
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
The original drawings are all in pencil.
Reducing the file size and therefore the
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The "Straits Trilogy"
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Goeben and Breslau
Volume II: Straits : British Policy towards the
Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles
Volume III: The Millstone : British Naval Policy in
the Mediterranean, 1900-1914, the Commitment to
France and British Intervention in the War
These books provide a comprehensive account of
British naval and diplomatic policy in the two
decades prior to the Great War, focusing in
particular on the escape of the German ships Goeben
and Breslau [Superior Force], the origins of the
Dardanelles Campaign [Straits], and the political
and diplomatic imperatives behind the British
decision to enter the war in August 1914 [The
Each volume of the "Straits" trilogy is designed to
stand on its own; together, however, they represent
the fullest account yet published of the escape of
Goeben and Breslau, the Royal Navy in the
Mediterranean and British policy towards the Ottoman
Empire in the period 1900-15.
THE [AMERICAN] JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY
One may not always follow the author to the
full extent of his interpretation, but at
the very least he has demonstrated that
[Admiral] Kerr would have had some difficult
questions to answer … Miller is so skilful
in analyzing the numerous errors on the
British and French side that facilitated the
escape of the Germans … this first volume on
the Goeben episode will be indispensable for
future naval historians.
Geoffrey Miller, whose research for his
trilogy has been monumental, reveals a tale
even more fascinating than previously
imagined. Nowhere more so than his
revelations concerning the role played by
Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, Head of the British
Naval Mission to Greece … This is a work of
fine scholarship …
Can anything new be said about the German
battle cruiser Goeben , the ship which
brought Turkey into the Great War and
changed the world? Yes it can — and this
book says it. Geoffrey Miller draws together
and evaluates previously published accounts
in the light of more recently available
evidence, which itself provides a great deal
of new information. Particular emphasis is
given to the part played by Greece and that
country’s British naval C-in-C (Rear-Admiral
Mark Kerr) … Author and publisher are to be
congratulated on producing a worthy
contribution, not just to naval history, but
to world history … a large, readable and
UNITED STATES NAVAL INSTITUTE PROCEEDINGS
Besides the new information on the
conspiracy, this is a comprehensive account
of the whole affair, encompassing the
political, diplomatic, and naval
implications and providing a great deal of
insight into the world-shattering events of
World War I.
JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN GREAT WAR SOCIETY
Fine as Miller’s account is of the events at
sea, the book’s meat lies in the allegation
in the subtitle, which advances a contention
so novel that revisionistic is too mild a
term for it. This is that three
highly-placed individuals in Athens
connived, directly or indirectly, to abet
the escape … Miller’s version of events
seems confirmed by his highly impressive
research in primary sources … a valuable
contribution to Great War naval literature.
CANADIAN MILITARY HISTORY JOURNAL
…an impressive book, and Miller is to be
commended for his diligence in piecing
together occasionally fragmentary evidence
into a convincing argument. Furthermore, he
has provided much new grist for people
interested in debating the "what might have
beens" of the Dardanelles expedition.
THE NAVAL REVIEW
The story of the ‘escape’ of Goeben and
Breslau in August 1914 from the pursuing
Mediterranean Fleet and their arrival in
Constantinople has been told many times. It
exerts a fascination because, without these
powerful reinforcements, Turkey might have
remained neutral in the First World War.
Russian trade through the Dardanelles might
have continued and the fate of the Russian
Empire and of the whole of the Middle East
might have been different. Geoffrey Miller
not only knows how to make the familiar
story exciting, he also reminds his readers
of aspects of the escape which other
accounts sometimes overlook … Superior Force
is a valuable and readable contribution to
naval and diplomatic history.
MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
Superior Force is an important, informative,
authoritative work of scholarship and an
asset to any military history collection on
the First World War.