One step before winning the sea
Autumn 1914 of the year in Crimea. The velvet season is in full swing, the magnolias are blooming for a long time. On the embankment of Yalta, charming ladies with and without dogs walk to the sounds of a military band. They are accompanied by gallant gentlemen. As if there is no war, thousands of non-devoted Russian soldiers do not lie in the swamps of East Prussia. It's so far from here. Every day a steam locomotive with one car leaves the peninsula in St. Petersburg. He carries flowers to the court of the Empress. Only the military does not share the good mood.
Commander of the Black Sea fleet Admiral Andrei Eberhard regularly receives radio reports from Constantinople. At the beginning of September, two German cruisers entered the local Golden Horn Bay: the Goeben and the Breslau. Warships of non-Black Sea countries could not enter there, except on an official visit for a period of not more than a day. Russia knocked this condition out of its Western partners, mindful of the bitter lessons of the Crimean War. But neutral at that moment, Turkey misses the German squad of ships. In a secret Russian correspondence, these cruisers are now referred to as "uncle" and "nephew."
The liner “Goben” was named by the sailors “The Flying German” for its phenomenal 28 knots speed at that time. 280-mm guns of the main caliber and by coincidence armor of the same thickness made it almost invulnerable to Russian guns.
The “uncle” with the “nephew” went on combat duty in the Mediterranean in 1912 year. Even then it was clear that war was inevitable. The Germans were afraid of dark-skinned Zouavas from French North Africa like fire. Their courage, as boundless as it was merciless, they remembered from the Franco-Prussian War of the 1870 of the year. Cruisers were supposed to prevent the transfer of colonial troops from Algeria to France. But the Goeben itself inspired the Admirals of the Entente with such horror that against the only two German ships of Rear Admiral Wilhelm Souchon the British fleet held ten cruisers and eight destroyers in the Mediterranean. However, even with such a balance of power, the British managed to miss the moment when Souchon quickly went to the coast of Algeria. Here, the Germans, violating all the customs of the war, raised the Russian flag, freely approached the ports of Philipville and Bon and destroyed the marinas from which the vessels with the Zuavy were to leave.
After the perfidious attack, Souchon brought his ships to Sicily. The British looked through the binoculars standing on the roads cruisers, not daring to disturb the peace of neutral Italians. Soon the German grand admiral Alfred von Tirpitz ordered to go to Constantinople. It’s not for nothing that the cunning Sushon started a provocation with the Russian flag. The Black Sea and its Russian ports are the main goal of the Germans. At stake was a big bet: to break through to the Turkish shores and by their presence persuade the Sultan to enter the war with Russia.
The British pursued "Goeben" and "Breslau" as in a game of cat and mouse. The advantage in the speed and range of the guns allowed the Germans to keep the enemy at a distance. To give a volley, the British needed to substitute the sides under the fire of the main caliber of the “Geben”, which they were not ready for. In two months, the Russians will dare to come to grips with the Flying German. In the meantime, two shells on the Breslau deck are all that His Majesty’s fleet has achieved.
But the race across the Mediterranean was expensive for the German cruisers: the boilers of the "Geben" worked at the limit. Guido Knopp, the future famous military historian, and then a radio operator, recalled that four firemen died, scalded with steam. The ships did not have enough coal, they rushed around the sea in search of a coal miner, not disdaining to take away fuel from oncoming merchant ships. 10 August they anchored in the Dardanelles with completely empty coal pits.
At that moment, the crumbling Glitter of the Port hesitated. On the one hand, it is still a great power, it controls strategic territories, and on the other hand, in the words of Nicholas I, it is a “sick man of Europe”. Sultan tried to maneuver between the giants, but 2 in August London requisitioned the battleships Reshadie and Sultan Osman First, which were built at British shipyards by order of Turkey.
The Ottoman Empire was left without a modern fleet and rushed into the iron arms of Kaiser Wilhelm, who received a springboard for striking Russia from the south. September 27 Turks announced the closure of the Dardanelles, mining it. The Black Sea Fleet was cut off from the allies. But it was precisely this theater that was central to the empire, since there were no significant geopolitical interests on the western borders. But hundreds of thousands of lives were paid in payment of allied debt in East Prussia and Galicia.
80 percent of Russian exports came from the ports of the Black and Azov Seas. The decrepit Turkey from the last forces clung to the control over the Bosphorus and the Dardanelles - the only thing that made the great powers reckon with it. For a thousand years, Russia has fought for the straits, but the West was not going to hand it the keys to them. Who knows whether the requisition of Turkish dreadnoughts and passivity in the pursuit of "Goeben" was due to the real purpose of the British - to send the Germans to the east, to tie the hands of the Russian army and navy.
Further developments would have been envied by Khoja Nasreddin himself. Turkey announced the purchase of "Geben" and "Breslau." Of course, the deal is fictitious, in the treasury of the Sultan there is no money for such luxury. Nevertheless, red flags with a star and a crescent were raised on the masts, and new names, “Yavuz Sultan Selim” and “Midilli”, were quickly brought out on the sides. The crews on the 90 percent remained Germanic, and for the propriety of the officers' gentlemen they delicately asked to change the white caps to the red fez. Two admirals and ten senior officers who made up the headquarters of Admiral Souchon, the new commander of the Ottoman Empire’s fleet, urgently arrived from Germany.
As Henry Morgentau recalls, the then American ambassador to Turkey, not all of the Turkish elite were delighted. “Do we really need this war?” The sultan Mehmed V. asked the court courtiers. They led him to the window and showed the guard of the German sailors around the perimeter of the palace. Immediately came the message about the loan 100 million francs in gold. Usually restrained and correct, the Germans changed the sense of proportion. "Goeben" was anchored in front of the mansion of the Russian Embassy. The personnel poured out onto the deck, defiantly took off the fez, put on native headdresses and sang German hiking songs for an hour. The beginning of hostilities in the Black Sea was a matter of several days.
On October 28, the trading ship "Queen Olga" radioed to Sevastopol, that he saw a detachment of ships leaving the Bosphorus, among them the "Goeben". But the command of the Black Sea Fleet kept calm. It remains a mystery why a minefield was not installed at the entrance to the most important port of Odessa. As always, the war began for Russia unexpectedly, although in Germany they did not particularly conceal the strategic goal of creating the axis Berlin-Constantinople-Baghdad. The block would allow to control the restless Balkans, the Eastern Mediterranean, the oil-bearing Middle East, to provide access to the Indian Ocean.
At night, two Turkish destroyers, Mouavinet and Gayret, entered the harbor of Odessa without hindrance and threw their whole stock of torpedoes and artillery shells into business. The gunboat “Donets” was sunk, the Kubanets gunboat and the mine layer Beshtau were disabled, several moorings were destroyed, the famous Potemkin stairs were damaged. At dawn, the Turks went to sea with impunity, their raid claimed the lives of 25 Russian sailors. It is not difficult to imagine what would happen if “Goeben” and “Breslau” appeared in Odessa.
But the "uncle" and "nephew" were looking for bigger prey. A few hours later, "Goeben" fired at Sevastopol. Again, due to inexplicable negligence, the harbor electrical mine protection system did not work. It was simply turned off, because they were waiting for the Prut mine layer. For some reason, the battleships standing on the roads did not receive an order to go to sea and take the fight. It is said that the Tsushima syndrome was strong among Russian sailors. Fortunately, the Germans could not inflict significant damage to the main base of the Black Sea Fleet, the coastal batteries did not allow them to conduct aimed fire.
At the exit from Sevastopol, the “Goben” intercepted the Prut returning to the base. After the shelling, the minzag caught fire. To prevent the ship from getting to the enemy, the Russian sailors blew up a mine fixed to the bottom. "Prut" went under the water, killed 23 sailor, the rest of the boats reached the shore. According to Knopp, only the ship's priest did not want to leave the Prut and died with the Bible in his hands. This made a great impression on the German sailors. Just as a desperate attack of three destroyers, accidentally colliding with "Goeben." They rushed to the rescue "Prut", having no chance of success. The German cruiser badly damaged the destroyer Lieutenant Pushchin, but the cruiser commander, captain of the mission Zee Ackermann preferred to withdraw from the battlefield and turn away towards the Bosphorus.
The next day, the Turkish cruiser Gamidiye fired upon Theodosius and sank the Russian merchant ship. A little later, Breslau tried to land troops at Batumi. Since Turkey did not formally enter the war, and Turkish flags were flown on German ships, the Russian command issued an order not to take part in an emergency unless necessary. But such a need will arise very soon. The Germans and the Turks hosted on the Black Sea, fired ports, sank two warships of Russia with impunity. It was obvious that this could not last long.
On the morning of November 18, a squad of eight Russian ships led by the battleship Evstafy discovered the Geben and Breslau. The Germans tried to leave, using the advantage in speed, but the Russians blocked the enemy’s path and pushed back to Cape Sarych between Sevastopol and Yalta. “Breslau” fell behind and was away from the scene of the action, so that only his “uncle” fought. The first volleys sounded in 12.24. Thick fog prevented the aimed fire, besides the Germans put a smoke screen and the advantage in the number of ships did not play a special role. Slow-moving Russian cruisers could only interfere with each other, and Admiral Ebergard sent only Eustathia to battle. Its speed is only 16 nodes, but the main caliber is 305 millimeters.
An artillery duel lasted just 14 minutes. The main caliber of each opposing ship fired 20 shells per minute or six tons of metal. The commander of the battleship, captain of the 1 rank, Vasily Galanin, realizing that he had little time, the German could at any moment change his mind about fighting and flee, went to a closest approach with the enemy. The first salvo "Evstafiya" covered "Goeben", 12 sailors died instantly. The next hit covered the 152-mm projectiles in the cellar, a fire and serious damage began, and the Russians continued beating the enemy. This brief battle claimed the lives of 115 sailors and Kaiser officers against 33 killed on Eustathia. According to Knopp's memoirs, the Goben's casemates represented a terrible picture: “Death gathered its harvest, the brave men lay shabby and torn to pieces, others sit, seemingly unharmed, leaning on the bulkheads. With yellow faces - the result of hellfire. "
"Uncle" and "nephew" hastily went to Constantinople to lick their wounds. The Russian squadron, meanwhile, sent three Turkish bulk carriers to the bottom. The masquerade was over, and Sultan Mehmed declared war on the Russian Empire as his firman.
Soon the Russians lured the Goben into a minefield trap. Two holes in the hull again forced the cruiser to become a repair. Russian destroyers managed to set the 240 min at the entrance to the Bosphorus. In that war, they had no equal in the world. Minelayers "Ksenia" and "Konstantin" worked tirelessly. The Turkish cruiser “Berk-i-Satvet”, minelayer “Nilufer”, gunboat “Nevsehir” and a bit later “Breslau” were blown up on their mines. At the very Bosphorus, the “nephew” ran into a mine and was out of action for seven months.
In the spring of 1915, the Black Sea Fleet launched six raids to the Bosphorus. Batteries and coastal fortifications were severely damaged. Fort Riva was destroyed as a result of a direct hit in the arsenal. The defense of the Turkish capital was not as impregnable as previously thought. A plan for landing on the Bosphorus, drawn up thirty years earlier by the great Stepan Makarov, was extracted from the archives. The assault on Constantinople was supposed when the dreadnought "Empress Maria" was put into operation, but circumstances corrected all plans.
Two battleships usually went to the line of fire, the rest guarded the area of operation in case an evil “uncle” appeared. The air transport “Nikolay I” with five seaplanes also constituted the attack group. The aircraft were first used by the Russian fleet for reconnaissance and bombing. At that time, our air advantage was absolute. The reconnaissance aircraft found the Goeben flying at full speed in time. After a short artillery duel, two hits of 305-millimeter shells from “Eustache” made the German go back home. It became clear that its technical superiority does not play a decisive role.
In 1915, in addition to the sea aviation submarines became an important factor. With their help, the Black Sea Fleet managed to block the delivery of coal from the port of Zunguldak to the Bosphorus, where the main enemy forces were based. In just one raid, four coal miners sunk the submarines. The German-Turkish squadron more and more often remained in the raid due to lack of fuel.
But the enemy did not sit with folded arms. German submarines destroyed five Russian merchant ships. “Goeben” managed to approach the Crimean and Caucasian coasts several times and bombard Novorossiysk, Batum and Yalta. In December, Turkish commanders landed 24 troops in Bessarabia with cavalrymen dressed in Russian uniforms contrary to the laws and customs of war. They were supposed to blow up the railway and die heroically, because they didn’t even have a theoretical chance to return. Only the second part of the perfidious plan was removed. The assault force was detected and neutralized immediately after the landing. Not succeeded and the new attack of Odessa. It was conceived by the Turks as revenge for the bombing of the Bosphorus. A detachment of two cruisers and four destroyers went on a raid, but the flagship, the cruiser Medjediye, hit a mine on approaching the Russian port. The Turks had to leave, and the Russians soon raised the sunken cruiser and put it into operation under the name Prut in memory of the deceased minelayer.
Judging by the map of hostilities, it seemed that a crushing blow would have been delivered to Germany and Turkey from the Mediterranean, the allied fleets on the Entente would be united and the campaign would soon end. 18 March 1915, the Anglo-French armada of 16 battleships and Allied battleships approached the Dardanelles. The government in Constantinople prepared for evacuation. Before that, for four days there was a continuous shelling of Turkish fortifications on the Gallipoli peninsula, covering the entrance to the Dardanelles. But shore batteries survived.
After bloody battles, the Allies still managed to land a landing, consisting mainly of Australian and New Zealand soldiers. The Turkish units commanded by Kemal Atatürk, the future leader of the nation, held off the Allies for six months. Having lost 265 of thousands of soldiers and officers in a bloody meat grinder, in November 1915, the Anglo-French command evacuated the remnants of the expeditionary force from Gallipoli.
Not much more successfully acted fleet of the allies. In just one day on March 18, three battleships were blown up by mines. Soon, three more were killed by torpedoes fired from German submarines and the Turkish destroyer Muavenet, the one that attacked Odessa in the fall of 1914. The British were able to bring to the asset only two Turkish battleships sunk in the Sea of Marmara. Coupled with the defeat of Gallipoli, it was a fiasco of Paris and London.
The Allies left for the Mediterranean, and the Russians had to confront the German-Turkish squadron alone. But the successes of our army and navy finally forced Western partners to turn to the interests of Russia. In the same year 1915, a secret agreement was signed between London and Petrograd, according to which, after victory, Russia would gain complete control over the Bosporus and the Dardanelles, guaranteed influence in the dominions of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. In turn, the sphere of influence of Great Britain extended to the Turkish territories in Asia. So could look like the most important part of the peace treaty at Versailles. In this case, the huge sacrifices that Russia suffered in the First World War would not have been in vain. The country could significantly strengthen its position in the world, but the revolution brought it out of the war and the composition of the victorious powers.
In January, 1916, a revival reigned in the camp of the opponents of Russia. The movement of passenger trains on the route Berlin - Constantinople. But a few more days later a much more serious vehicle was put into operation: the dreadnought "Empress Maria" entered the Black Sea.
On January 8, Russian destroyers in the southern part of this sea destroyed Turkish transport, the nearby “Goeben” set off after them in pursuit and ran into the powerful “Empress” head-on. The main Russian caliber began to work from a distance of 110 cable, that is, 20 kilometers. The recent master of the sea responded with just five salvos. Akkerman quickly realized that the duel with the guns of the new battleship would be the last in his life, and considered it a blessing. From that moment it became clear who is the master at sea now. The “Maria” 12 guns with 305 caliber of millimeters did not leave “Geben” chances. Moreover, Russian destroyers and submarines with the support of naval aviation regularly heated transports with coal. The “uncle” with the “nephew” dared only to short raids and raids.
Russian ships dominated the entire basin. Their safety was provided by the Empress Maria and the dreadnought of the same type, Empress Catherine the Great. Gunboats and destroyers bombarded the cluster of troops in the eastern part of the Turkish coast. Here in the midst of the land operation was the imperial army. The firepower of the ships suppressed and demoralized the resistance of the Turks. On March 5, a landing force landed at the mouth of the river Buyuk-dere, a few hours later at the town of Mepavri - the second. In mid-April, the landing force captured the strategically important port of Trabzon and a bridgehead within a radius of fifty kilometers around. This allowed the Russian ground forces to develop an offensive in the rear of the Turkish army.
The Germans tried to counterattack. In July, “Goeben” and “Breslau” made a daring raid to the shores of the Caucasus. They shelled Novorossiysk and Tuapse, sank three ships, set hundreds of mines. Admiral Eberhard again showed startling indecision without sending a squadron to destroy the enemy. After all, the advantage of Russian ships in firepower was overwhelming. The admiral was reminded of the passivity of 1914 in the attacks of "Goben" on Odessa and Sevastopol and sent to serve the king as a member of the Council of State. His place was taken by 42-year-old Vice-Admiral Alexander Kolchak.
Yet 1916 was the year of success for the Russian army and navy, a rematch for the failures at the beginning of the war. Brusilovsky breakthrough on land, the victories of the army in Transcaucasia, successes in maritime affairs gave hope for a favorable outcome of the war. The sailors were waiting for the command to bombard and storm Constantinople. Mines set by the Russians locked up the enemy’s fleet at the bases; Russian landings landed on the coast of Turkey made a turning point in the campaign on this sector of the front. The Germans relied on the excellent fighting qualities of the Goben was not justified. They failed to inflict serious damage to our coastal bases, to ensure the landing of their troops, to paralyze the movement of the merchant fleet. Before the victory in the Black Sea, Russia remained one step.
But other forces intervened. Not everything in wars is decided by the talent of admirals and the courage of sailors. October 6, under still unclear circumstances, exploded and sank the battleship Empress Maria. It was a sad point in the success of the royal fleet in the southern theater of operations. From February 1917 began the gradual collapse of the country and its armed forces. Sailors of the warring parties were drawn into a bloody circle. The Black Sea Fleet died at the hands of the Bolsheviks, Ukrainian nationalists and occupiers. The uprising in the Kaiser fleet in 1918 was the beginning of the revolution in Germany and the most painful pages in stories of this country. And the exploits of the Russian sailors off the coast of the Crimea and Turkey were undeservedly forgotten during the Soviet period. In the West, they prefer to talk only about their victories, while in our war with the label "imperialist" for almost a century was a taboo ...
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