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











  Time for signals is time received unless otherwise stated 

Day Date Time Action
Tuesday 4


Goeben and Breslau bombard Bona and Phillipville

Admiral Kennedy intercepts with his British battle cruisers before the declaration of war

day Kaiser Wilhelm’s telegram to Athens: The German ships at present in the Mediterranean are about to unite…
afternoon Goeben and Breslau steam for Messina
Wednesday 5 0745 Goeben arrives Messina (Breslau arrived earlier)
morning Greek Premier Venizelos has meeting with British Chargé, Erskine, and undermines report from Kaiser
afternoon Souchon signals Athens, asking for coal
Thursday 6 0200 Venizelos awoken by German Minister Quadt to request coal for the German ships
day The German collier Bogados loads coal after this is released by Venizelos
evening Goeben and Breslau depart Messina
Friday 7 0345 British Admiral Troubridge, commanding the 1st Cruiser Sqd, declines to intercept the German ships
0651 British C-in-C, Medt., Milne, signals “Urgent. G&B off Matapan. Make enquiries”
0730 Bogados departs Piraeus and is observed by British Consul who informs Malta at 7.30 am and the Legation at 1pm that the collier left at daybreak, destination unknown
1305 The British light cruiser Dublin intercepts Goeben signalling Constantinople
? Greek Admiral Condouriotis informed that Goeben and Breslau “may try to enter the Dardanelles.”
1800 Goeben and Breslau pass Cape Matapan steering north-east
evening Greek W/T intercept of German signals, approximate fix obtained

Admiral Mark Kerr, head of the British Naval Mission in Athens, informs the Russian Minister, Demidoff, who cables his Admiralty in St Petersburg that Goeben and Breslau are steering north-east

evening The Third Secretary at the British Legation, Rendel, is roused by Kerr and allegedly sends most immediate telegram that Goeben and Breslau have passed the island of Syra proceeding north-east, but the signal received by Milne has no indication of direction
Saturday 8 0100 Milne leaves Malta with his battle cruisers
0145 Signal send to Milne from the Admiral Superintendent, Malta — ‘Following from Athens begins: from strength of signals Goeben thought to be near Syra.’ NOTE: NO INDICATION OF DIRECTION
0245 Message to Milne from Athens from Athens, ‘Bogados is Austrian, proceeding Salonica.’
0305 After being informed by the Russian Admiralty the British Naval Attaché
day Goeben and Breslau in Aegean
1258 Signal to Milne from London: Adty to C-in-C (1200) 371. Commence hostilities at once against Austria.
1450 Signal to Milne from London: Adty to C-in-C (1345) 372. Negative my telegram hostilities against Austria. Acknowledge. Urgent.
1719? Signal to Milne from London: Adty to C-in-C (1610) 373. With reference to the cancellation of telegram notifying war on Austria, situation is critical.
1815 Signal to London from Milne: C-in-C to Adty (1720) 409. In view of Adty tel 371, I am not following Goeben into Aegean Sea. [It was on this telegram that the War Room duty officer has written, at 2 a.m. on 9 August, “Apparently after 371 was sent out from Admiralty, another one cancelling it was sent soon after, so no doubt a further reply from C-in-C will soon arrive.”]
Sunday 9 0115 Signal received in London: WAR ROOM, from NAVAL ATTACHE, ST PETERSBURG: Russian Admiralty informed from Athens Goeben and Breslau passed Matapan morning of the 7th August steering to North East.
0115 Signal received in Foreign Office, London: BUCHANAN TO FO, no. 247, following from naval attaché: Russian Admiralty informed from Athens Goeben and Breslau passed Matapan morning of the 7th August steering to the North East. MINUTE. Repeated to Athens and Cple/Tel. sent to Athens to get information as to movements.
0115 Signal from Foreign Office to British Legation Athens: GREY TO ERSKINE: Following received yesterday from St Petersburg: ‘Russian Admiralty informed informed from Athens, Goeben, Breslau, passed Matapan morning of Aug 7, steering to North East.’ [Adm Kerr told me this morning it was he who had given this information to M. Demidoff. GWR 9.viii.14]
0520 Signal from British Legation Athens to Foreign Office: ERSKINE TO GREY, no. 140, 9 August, sent from Athens 11.45 a.m. Petersburg tel no. 247. Information is correct. I am in constant communication with Intelligence Officer, Malta respecting movements of German ships...Goeben was believed to be near Syra evening of August 7. Greek Government think she may contemplate going into Black Sea...
1145 Signal from Foreign Office to British Legation Athens: GREY TO ERSKINE, no. 113, 9 August (sent 1155) Ask Greek Government to let you know whatever news may reach them as to movements of German ship Goeben and her consort. [note by Rendel: crossed with all our correspondence on this subject]
1225 TELEPHONE MESSAGES RECEIVED BY CHIEF CENSOR, LONDON The following message has been intercepted by W O Censor: to Warplume from Metriticicas...informed Goeben anchored SYRA asked to coal - do not know if demand will be agreed to following decision of Govt to appropriate all available coal. 
1250 Signal to Milne from London: ADMIRALTY TO C-IN-C, no. 239, 9 August (1250) Not at war with Austria. Continue chase of Goeben which passed Cape Matapan early on 7th steering North East.
1400 Signal from British Ambassador, St Petersburg to Foreign Office: BUCHANAN TO FO, no. 253, urgent, following from Naval Attaché: Russian Admiralty just received telegram from Athens dated 8th stating that Goeben was then coaling at Syra. [init. LO, EAC 9.viii; GRC no date]
1600 Letter from British Under-Secretary NICOLSON TO Foreign Minister GREY: Count Benckendorff has communicated to me the following telegrams....It appears to the Russian Government that Goeben is proceeding to the Dardanelles.
1600 Signal from Foreign Office, London to British Embassy, Paris: TO BERTIE, 9 August, no 348 Ottoman Govt to allow the Austrian fleet through the Straits into the Black Sea. Should this fleet be joined by German and perhaps by Turkish ships, the Russian Black Sea fleet would be outnumbered....
1650 WAR ROOM, from ADMIRALTY PARIS Minister of Russian Navy warns that the Goeben coaled 8th August Syra (sent to CinC, Medt) also received wire from Naval Attaché St Petersburg “Russian Admiralty just received telegram from Athens dated 8th stating that Goeben was then coaling at Syra.”

Signal from Ambassador RODD in Rome to Foreign Office: no. 200, 9 August 1914 (sent 1310) Press telegrams (published) on sixth instant reported Austrian fleet having left Pola but these are not to be relied on. Russian and French Naval Attachés had reason to believe that it has descended to lower Adriatic to facilitate escape of German cruisers from Messina and subsequently returned North. [init. LO 9 Aug., GRC, EAC 10 Aug.]

1710 Signal to Milne from London: ADMIRALTY TO C-IN-C, no. 240, 9 August Russian Embassy Paris report Goeben coaled Syra Eighth August
British Foreign Minister GREY TO British Chargé BEAUMONT in Constantinople, no. 350, 9 August 1914 (sent 1730) You should urgently represent to the Porte that they should not let vessels of war pass through the Straits and that, if vessels of war enter the Straits, they should either be disarmed or sent back. You should join your French and Russian colleagues in making this representation.

BEAUMONT TO GREY, no. 499, 9 August Grand Vizier tells me that additional mines had been laid in the Dardanelles at the request of the Russian Ambassador...In any case their is no question of Turkish connivance and if the Austrian fleet comes through the Dardanelles it will be at their own risk and peril...

midnight Milne passes Matapan
Monday 10 dawn Goeben and Breslau depart Denusa
0830 Capt Dumas arrives Admiralty, London and is told Goeben passed Syra on way to Constantinople
1030 Signal to Milne from London: ADMIRALTY TO C-IN-C, no. 380, 10 August Two more light cruisers to join in search of Goeben which is of paramount importance.


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

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