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Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau


This Day in History

This event repeats every year forever

Event details

As the beginning of World War I caught the German battlecruiser Goeben and light cruiser Breslau far from friendly ports, their commander Konteradmiral Wilhelm Souchon was supposed to attack French troop convoys in the Mediterranean. After carrying out a bombardment of North African ports, his ships were ordered to seek shelter in Turkey.

While theoretically outgunned by the British fleet, admiral Souchon managed to avoid pursuit by a series of risky maneuvers and reached the safety of Dardanelles on August 10th, 1914. Based on the agreement between Germany and the Ottoman Empire, both ships were transfered to the Turkish Navy - along with their German crews and admiral Souchon was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the ottoman Navy on September 23rd, bringing the Ottoman Empire to war by his Black Sea raid against Russian targets on October 29th.



British ships shadowing the Goeben and Breslau before the beginning of hostilities.

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There is a great book called "The Guns of August" which highlights that the UK kept battleships it had been constructing for Turkey and thus this move by Germany brought them on board to their side.

Once that happened then Turkey effectively sealed the Black Sea commerce route for Russia, making supply harder, perhaps this contributed to the revolution that happened that let to the USSR because of the hardship it inflicted on the population.

It would have been an interesting what if scenario had these ships never made it or the UK had valued Turkey above the battleships under construction.

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There's a good description of the Goeben's escape in Castles of Steel by Robert Massie, including a much more sympathetic (and to my mind at least, plausible) explanation of Admiral Troubridge's actions than the usual superficial dismissal. Well worth a read, and puts the event in context very well with regard to the rest of the First World War at sea.

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3 hours ago, NobleSauvage said:

There's a good description of the Goeben's escape in Castles of Steel by Robert Massie, including a much more sympathetic (and to my mind at least, plausible) explanation of Admiral Troubridge's actions than the usual superficial dismissal. Well worth a read, and puts the event in context very well with regard to the rest of the First World War at sea.

Thanks, to me this is one of those pivotal events in history where if things were different the course of history would have potentially changed.

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It would be interresting if the Brits had Caught these ships.

The Ottoman Empire not would have the Naval Power to do that Blockade but great Britain would probably have lost several Cruisers and maybe even a Battlecruiser.

I think these Ships would make a great Addition to World of Warships.

Goeben could be the Premium Version of the German Battleship Moltke or she could be a Battleship for the Ottoman Navy in World of Warships (Pan-EU)

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Absolutely it should be in WOWS as these two ships by bringing the Ottoman Empire into the fight extended WW1 by two years according to historians. Some of the consequences:

"In August, Germany—still expecting a swift victory—was content for the Ottoman Empire to remain neutral. The mere presence of a powerful warship like Goeben in the Sea of Marmara would be enough to occupy a British naval squadron guarding the Dardanelles. However, following German reverses at the First Battle of the Marne in September, and with Russian successes against Austria-Hungary, Germany began to regard the Ottoman Empire as a useful ally. Tensions began to escalate when the Ottoman Empire closed the Dardanelles to all shipping on 27 September, blocking Russia's exit from the Black Sea—that accounted for over 90 percent of Russia's import and export traffic.


Germany's gift of the two modern warships had an enormous positive impact on the Turkish population. At the outbreak of the war, Churchill had caused outrage when he "requisitioned" two almost completed Turkish battleships in British shipyards, Sultan Osman I and Reshadieh, which had been financed by public subscription at a cost of £6,000,000. Turkey was offered compensation of £1,000 per day for so long as the war might last, provided she remained neutral. (These ships were commissioned into the [Royal Navy] as HMS Agincourt and HMS Erin respectively.) The Turks had been neutral, though the navy had been pro-British (having purchased 40 warships from British shipyards) while the army was in favour of Germany, so the two incidents helped resolve the deadlock and the Ottoman Empire would join the Central Powers."


"Although a relatively minor 'action' and perhaps not widely known historical event, the escape of Goeben to Constantinople and its eventual annexation to Turkey ultimately precipitated some of the most dramatic naval chases of the 20th century. It also assisted in helping to shape the eventual splitting up of the Ottoman Empire into the many states we know today.


General Ludendorff stated in his memoirs that he believed the entry of the Turks into the war allowed the outnumbered Central powers to fight on for two years longer than they would have been able on their own, a view shared by historian Ian F.W. Beckett.[17] The war was extended to the Middle East with main fronts of Gallipoli, the Sinai and Palestine, Mesopotamia, and the Caucasus. The course of the war in the Balkans was also influenced by the entry of the Ottoman Empire on the side of the Central Powers. Had the war ended in 1916, some of the bloodiest engagements, such as the Battle of the Somme, would have been avoided. The United States might not have been drawn from its policy of isolation to intervene in a foreign war.


In allying with the Central Powers, Turkey shared their fate in ultimate defeat. This gave the allies the opportunity to carve up the collapsed Ottoman Empire to suit their political whims. Many new nations were created including Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Iraq."


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Absolutely, it was a pivotal moment of the war (although I'd suggest that it had more effect on history by closing Russia to re-supply by France and Britain, contributing pretty significantly to the revolutions and rise of the Bolsheviks, as well as leading to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, than it did militarily).


Unfortunately there were likely not many alternatives: the British government didn't really trust the Ottomans to remain neutral, as there was a rather large and influential German-supporting faction in the Ottoman government; the British also couldn't really release two frontline battleships to a foreign power (they also took over the Almirante Latorre-class which were ordered by Chile, which became HMS Canada and (eventually) the aircraft carrier HMS Eagle), as though it may seem quaint today the battleships really were the contemporary equivalent of a nuclear deterrent (and certainly noone would sell a nuke to a potentially hostile power on the eve of war!). The chances of the Ottomans coming down on the Alliance side sooner or later were fairly high, it could still have happened without Goeben's escape (although it would probably have taken somewhat longer if at all).


What might have changed was the Royal Navy's response: Admiral Milne (Troubridge's superior) had Indomitable and Indefatigable in the area, but completely fluffed his deployment (Goeben was in the Straits of Messina, Milne put his battlecruisers to cover the northern exit and a single light cruiser to the south, Goeben headed south). It's possible if the battlecruisers had been in the right place to intercept (again, using hindsight here) that Goeben could have been brought to battle by two battlecruisers and four armoured cruisers simultaneously, which should hopefully have been decisive.


It's worth noting that militarily at least, Goeben's adventures could have been worse for the Entente powers as it was feared she could have intercepted the convoys carrying French troops from the North African colonies to fight on the Western Front.


On a related note, I'd love to see an event based on the various (shall we say) 'loan'-ships from WWI: obviously there's Goeben and Breslau which became Yavuz (for far longer than she was ever Goeben actually) and Midilli; then there's the two battleships the Ottomans were expecting (HMS Agincourt had a 14-gun broadside!); and the Chilean battleships (HMS Eagle being converted into an aircraft carrier). There's even the Brazilian river gunboats and Norwegian coastal battleships that became RN monitors, and arguably Salamis. Would also be nice if they introduced a version of each ship to the faction it would have gone to in its original (Pan-American, Pan-Euro) as well as the faction/configuration that it served in, that's one kind of what-if design I could get behind.

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