"Any fool can make history, but it takes a genius to write it."
Oscar Wilde

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Goeben's Great Getaway: Part 2

Here it is everyone! Part 2 of the daring and dangerous chase! Enjoy!
During the night, the Goeben and Breslau charged out of Italian waters and maintaining full speed, zipped towards Turkey, hoping to avoid what might be an encounter with the whole British navy. Instead, they encountered only one small ship that Admiral Milne posted there as a precaution. The British navy was waiting on the wrong side of Sicily! The small British ship, the Gloucester, immediately radioed its superiors informing them of the Goeben’s course and silently followed the Germans. As war had not yet been declared, neither side dared to fire. That midnight, the British declared war on Germany, and the captain of the Gloucester received word that he was free to fire.
 In the morning, the Gloucester opened fire on the Breslau, and the Goeben stopped to give support to its smaller companion. The Gloucester veered off as its’ small guns could not match those of the powerful warship. Four more ships soon joined the Gloucester, but failed to engage as they thought that the Goeben’s longer range guns could pick them off before they were even able to fire.
Confident that the German ships were trapped in the eastern Mediterranean, Admiral Milne ordered the Gloucester and the other pursuing battleships to give up the chase. Never suspecting that Souchon might be headed for Turkey, Milne sent some ships to the southeast to guard the Suez Canal from possible German attack. At 5:00 pm on August 10, the Goeben and the Breslau reached the entrance to the port of Constantinople. In this manner, the enterprising, audacious and breathtaking chase comes to an end; but what would become of the Goeben and Breslau, now blocked by the English inside the harbor of Istanbul?
Lodged safely inside the neutral port of Istanbul, the mighty guns of the Goeben loomed ominously, causing the Turkish government to rethink their neutrality in the War. German diplomats rushed to the capital to take advantage of the wavering situation of the Turks. They reminded them of Britain’s confiscation of two newly-made warships upon the declaration of Turkish neutrality. Finally, a proposition between the Germans and Turks was agreed upon. The Germans would sell the Goeben and Breslau to the Turks, their German crews would be retained, and the Turks would ally themselves with Germany. Renamed the Yavuz Sultan Selim and the Midili, the two battleships were still commanded by Admiral Souchon, who conveniently became the Commander-in-Chief of the Turkish navy. After finally exhuming the Goeben’s boilers, Admiral Souchon set out with the Midili and bombarded several Russian ports. With this, Turkey joined the First World War.
This meant disaster for the Russians as, with the Black Sea closed to Russia, her imports dropped by 95% and her exports by 98%. According to Barbara W. Tuchman in her book The Guns of August, Turkey’s alliance with the Central Powers allowed them to cut off Russia, having many consequences.  Among these consequences were “the vain and sanguinary tragedy of Gallipoli, the diversion of Allied strength in the campaigns of Mesopotamia, Suez, and Palestine, the ultimate breakup of the Ottoman Empire, the subsequent history of the Middle East, followed from the voyage of the Goeben. The escape of the Goeben and Breslau ended the career of Admiral Milne and embarrassed English sea power. Milne was assigned to land-based duty and served on half-pay for the rest of the war. Only the Gloucester actually received commendation for having at least exchanged fire with the two fleeing German ships.
Thus this daring chase resulted in a satisfactory victory for Germany and Turkey, but a rather embarrassing and unfortunate incident for England. The mighty guns of the Goeben had done their work in the harbor of Istanbul. Now Turkey had joined sides with the Central Powers and officially entered the First World War due to the exciting, daring and action-packed chase of the Goeben and Breslau.

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