- Grazebrook, A.W., Lietutenant Commander
- Naval technology
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1978 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Another factor was the growth of the Greek Navy – now becoming a traditional enemy, following her activity in the Balkan Wars. The Greeks, also under British guidance, began a major expansion programme. Two pre-Dreadnoughts were purchased from the United States, the keel of a battle cruiser (Salamis) was laid in Germany, and plans were formulated to build a Lorraine type Dreadnought in France and an Arethusa Class light cruiser in Britain.
Two new large Dreadnoughts – Sultan Mehmet Rechad V and Sultan Osman I – were commenced in Britain. A number of gunboats were built in France, and funds provided for 20 new Torpedo Boat Destroyers and three Submarines.
World War I broke out too soon for the Turkish Navy to benefit from this acquisition programme. The British seized the two Dreadnoughts – now virtually complete. The major ships in service were:
Four very old battleships (all launched before 1891)
Two middle aged protected cruisers.
Eight newish destroyers
Nine older torpedo boats
A number of senile gunboats
The British seizure of the Dreadnoughts enraged the Turks and played a part in the Turkish decision to enter the war against Britain. In August 1914, hotly pursued by the British Mediterranean Fleet, the German battle cruiser SMS Goeben and light cruiser SMS Breslau arrived in the Sea of Marmora.
Still manned by Germans, Goeben and Breslau were commissioned into the Turkish Navy as Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli. The British Naval Mission departed and the German RADM Souchon hoisted his flag in command of the Turkish Fleet. There commenced a series of lively actions between Turkey and Russia in the Black Sea, with both sides showing courage, determination and skill.
In virtually simultaneous operations, Turkish TBDs entered Odessa harbour, sinking or damaging a number of small naval and mercantile craft. Other craft laid mines off Odessa, whilst a squadron led by Yavuz Sultan Selim shelled Sevastopol and captured or sank a number of Russian ships. Midilli laid mines in the Straits of Kertch. The light cruiser Hamidiye shelled Feodosiya and sank two merchant ships off the Crimea.
The Imperial Russian Navy responded with bombardment of several Anatolian ports and minelaying operations. The minelaying was successful – Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli (together with a gunboat) were damaged.
Although an attack upon the Aegean approaches to Turkey was manifestly imminent, the Turks continued to devote their more capable naval strength to the war with Russia.
Russia took advantage of her control of the sea – established with the damage of Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli – to interrupt Turkish shipping along the Anatolian coast and undertake further bombardment. The only significant Turkish response resulted in the mining and capture of the light cruiser Meschidiye (which became the Russian Prut).
Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli returned to sea in 1916, but the Russians remained stronger and retained the initiative. Most of the actions were fought over the lines of communications with the land forces both sides were operating in the Caucasus.
In 1917, the War in the Black Sea came to an end with the Russian Revolution. Peace was signed and, in May 1918, Prut was recovered by the Turks, reverting to her original name of Meschidiye.
Meanwhile, the other side of Turkey, the British and French launched their 1915 assaults on the Dardanelles. Faced by a greatly superior enemy Fleet, the Turks turned to the mine for defence.
In the course of this campaign, the Turks gave what is widely regarded as one of the most effective demonstrations of the use of the mine in defence. In early March 1915, the tiny Turkish minelayer Nusret laid a line of 20 moored mines along (and not across) the Dardanelles. Onto this line steamed the Anglo-French bombardment Fleet. The British pre-Dreadnoughts Irresistible and Ocean and the French pre-Dreadnought Bouvet were sunk, and the battle cruiser Inflexible was severely damaged.
British (and one Australian) submarines penetrated the Dardanelles to the Sea of Marmora, sinking a number of merchant ships, together with the Turkish pre- Dreadnoughts Kheredin Barbaroosa (by E11) and Messudieh (by B11), and the Yarhis-Sar (by E11) with a number of other small naval craft.
A Turkish TBD showed skill and initiative when Muavenet-I-Milet steamed down the Dardanelles and torpedoed and sank the British pre-Dreadnought Goliath when that ship was undertaking bombardment early in the morning.
The main Turkish efforts at this time were devoted to fixed defences and patrols to prevent British sub-marines penetrating the Dardanelles. These efforts were eventually successful.
After the end of naval activity to force the Dardanelles, Turco-German surface warship operations were very limited. German submarines, however, were very successful.
After the Allied withdrawal from Gallipoli, there was very little naval activity in-the Aegean. However, the British retained a force there in case Yavuz Sultan Selim and Midilli sortied from the Dardanelles.
With the demise of Imperial Russia, these ships became free to make such a sortie, which they did in January 1918.
Although they caught the British napping, sinking two monitors, both Turkish ships were mined.
Midilli was sunk, whilst Yavuz Sultan Selim was beached on the Turkish side of the minefield (where only Fleet Air Arm aircraft could get at her). For four days, under constant air attack, the Turkish battle cruiser lay aground. In an interesting demonstration of seamanlike determination and ingenuity, the old battleship Torgud Reis was brought down the Dardanelles and secured alongside Yavuz Sultan Selim.
The battleship’s stern was pointed towards the sandbank upon which the battlecruiser’s bow was aground. The battleship’s propellers were worked to blow away the sand until the battle cruiser was free.
Yavuz Sultan Selim entered the Dardanelles, but she was too badly damaged to play any further part in the War. Repairs were not finally completed until 1930.
In November 1918, following the conclusion of an Armistice between Turkey and the Allies, an Allied Fleet (led by HMS Superb, wearing the flag of Vice-Admiral Sir Somerset Gough-Calthorpe) steamed up the Dardanelles and anchored off Istanbul.