The first six chapters of “The Traitor” are available to read on-line. Copies of the book can be purchased from : ISBN  978 1 4092 9076 6 Based on “Superior Force” the acclaimed study of the escape of Goeben and Breslau SYNOPSIS The opening two chapters of The Traitor are set in August 1914 when Major Lionel Samson, a British Military Consul, is forced to observe impotently as the German battle cruiser Goeben is able to coal in a secluded location in the Aegean and so complete her fateful journey to the Dardanelles. As he watches, Samson goes back over the events of the previous seventeen months, commencing with the disappearance of his lover Edith Roberts in Smyrna in October 1912, through to the assassination of the Greek King George in Salonica in March 1913. This act brings to the Greek throne his son, Constantine, who was both educated in Germany and is married to Kaiser Wilhelm’s sister. As such, the obvious belief in London is that Athens, thenceforward, will follow a policy aligned to the ‘Triple Alliance’ of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, notwithstanding the presence of the pro-Entente Premier, Eleutherios Venizelos. The Admiralty reaction to this is to send Admiral Mark Kerr, who is known personally to the Kaiser, to Athens as head of the British Naval Mission assisting the Greeks in the creation and training of their new fleet. The hope is that Kerr, by his influence at Court, will help to counter the pressure it is assumed will be applied to Constantine from Berlin. Simultaneously but independently, the Foreign Office in London is apprised of a rumour from Constantinople that the assassination was not the irrational act it first seemed, and that leading circles in Athens were forewarned. Realizing that, if this is the case, Venizelos must be implicated, and it is upon his trust in Venizelos that the Foreign Secretary bases his Balkan diplomacy, Sir Edward Grey determines that he must have a secret source in Athens reporting on events. This is the task given to Major Samson. Samson sets off from Adrianople with the intention of travelling first to Salonica and then by steamer to Athens. While crossing Macedonia, however, he comes across a German archaeological dig at Avret Hissar, a site of little apparent interest. His suspicions are immediately aroused. Once in Athens Samson begins his investigations. These quickly lead to the German Archaeological School and the School of Surgery at the University of Athens, where the assassin once taught. It appears initially that a rumour of Austrian involvement in the assassination is correct: hoping, thereby, to be able to further their own territorial ambitions, a scheme had been hatched in Vienna to assassinate the Greek King in the knowledge that he would be succeeded by his Germanophile son. Although planning commenced, it was supposedly called off as a result of pressure from Berlin. Samson, unsure whether this is a cover story, seeks permission to interview the assassin in the insane asylum to which he has been confined. At this interview the facts behind the assassination are revealed, but not the rationale. As he begins to unravel the various strands of the mystery, Samson learns that the Greek Government’s investigator, Triantafyllakos, has written a report detailing the full extent of the conspiracy. However, before the Greek can pass this information on to Samson, he is murdered. As his own investigation progresses, Samson becomes increasingly disillusioned, haunted by a past love affair. In this frame of mind, when he learns that a large cache of Turkish arms, known to have been delivered to Salonica, has since disappeared, he is certain that the key to the mystery is at Avret Hissar. By enlisting as his agent the Greek porter at the German Legation, Samson is able to provide both London and his own Legation in Athens with information on German intentions. It is through the agency of the Greek porter that Samson learns that his opposite number, the German agent Hoffman is active, and also that there is a Greek traitor, supplying information to the Germans. Acting without official help, Samson is unable to uncover the identity of the Greek traitor, although he does learn that a surprise Bulgarian attack upon Greece will soon be launched, but will be countered by the Greeks, with the use of the missing Turkish weaponry. The Greeks hope to ambush the Bulgarians at Avret Hissar. Samson travels to Avret Hissar where, as the battle opens, there is a confrontation between Samson and Hoffmann at which Samson is dangerously wounded. His life is saved by the Greek surgeon Geroulanos, whom Samson suspects of involvement in the murder of Triantafyllakos and the Major returns to Athens to recuperate. During this time he falls in love with Rachel Summers, married to one of the officers of the British Naval Mission; however, realizing the hopelessness of the situation, and still haunted by the disappearance the previous year of his great love, Edith Roberts, Samson longs to leave Greece. With the arrival of Admiral Kerr at this time, the balance of power within the British Legation alters. In his first meetings with the Prime Minister, Kerr develops an instant dislike of Venizelos. In part this is due to a different perception of the course that Greek naval expansion should follow; it is also a result of Kerr’s infatuation with the very idea of kingship. Kerr soon joins the court faction, along with the Military Attaché, while the majority of the British diplomats still back Venizelos. As tension begins to increase with Turkey, following the end of the Balkan Wars, Kerr goes about his job, developing the Greek Navy while Samson, ill physically and mentally, returns to Constantinople to regain his strength. This is the situation in June 1914 following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. As the crisis develops in July, King Constantine comes under intense pressure to join Germany and Austria in declaring war. The King is adamant however that neutrality is the only sensible option for Greece. He successfully convinces Kerr who agrees to support him. Ordinarily this would mean no more than sending slanted reports to London. This position changes radically on 4 August 1914 when Constantine is informed by the Kaiser that the two German warships in the Mediterranean (including the powerful battle cruiser Goeben) have been directed to Constantinople to join the Turkish fleet. Kerr now faces an agonizing choice: he has, in the period of his tenure in Athens, become wholly devoted to the Greek cause. He is convinced that Constantine is right and that neutrality is the only course for Greece to follow. However, if he divulges the information which he is now also privy to, and the German ships are intercepted and destroyed by the more powerful British Mediterranean Fleet, a declaration of war by Germany against Greece is certain to follow. Kerr’s choice (a choice he had to make in real life) highlights the central moral issue of the book: the theme of betrayal. Eventually, after waiting three days, he formulates a scheme by which he hopes to circumvent the Kaiser’s threat. He informs the Russian Minister in Athens of the ships’ destination, so that when the intelligence is routed via St Petersburg and Paris (as he knows it will be) the source will be sufficiently disguised. What he does not count on is that the message, which he has left deliberately vague, is not deemed urgent and is delayed in getting through. A second scheme, in which the German ships are apparently located innocently by direction finding equipment also fails. Meanwhile, Samson, against his better judgment, had been ordered to return to Athens, as there are fears that the Greeks will launch a pre-emptive strike against the Turkish Navy. While Kerr’s mental torment continues, Samson has discovered that a consignment of German coal is being loaded aboard a collier at Piraeus on the instruction of Venizelos. In an attempt to discover its destination, he slips aboard looking for any paperwork which might provide a hint. However he is trapped aboard by Hoffmann as the ship sails and remains in hiding. The collier is in fact carrying coal for the German ships, which, although being pursued by the British fleet, have a day’s start. Not having enough coal to reach the Dardanelles the German admiral decides to use one of the many Greek islands as cover, while he coals. It is to this rendezvous that the collier proceeds. As the coaling takes place Samson is a mute witness. He has discovered the destination of the German squadron but cannot relay the information to Athens. Rather than risk capture, he swims to shore and has to await rescue, by which time Goeben has reached the Dardanelles. While casually reassessing the evidence awaiting rescue Samson believes, at last, that he knows the true identity of the traitor. Once back in Athens he confronts his suspect, a confrontation which forms the climax of the novel.
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"The terrible ‘ifs’ accumulate" The Traitor A novel by Geoffrey Miller The Balkans, 1914 Home Synopsis Balkans My Books Contact Order
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