While Russia waged a hard struggle with the German Empire, Turkey secretly prepared for war, starting mobilization and launching propaganda of the “holy war against the infidels.” Russia, leading heavy battles with the Austro-Hungarian and Germanic empires, did her best to avoid opening another front or at least delay its opening as much as possible.
On August 29, 1914, the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry Sazonov sent to the Headquarters and the headquarters of the Black Sea fleet a circular in which the need to maintain peaceful relations with Turkey was noted until a decisive superiority of the Russian-French troops over the Austro-German forces was revealed. It was recognized as “undesirable any defiant action against the Turks”, which could cause a conflict with Porta. The Russian fleet was ordered not to respond to provocations. The Black Sea Fleet received the right to start hostilities only at the direction of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (he was Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich), or at the direction of the Russian ambassador in Constantinople. True, the beginning of the Russo-Japanese War, when the Japanese fleet suddenly attacked Port Arthur and temporarily paralyzed the activities of the Russian fleet, was able to calmly land the ground forces (Attack on port arthur), showed the fallacy of such a position. After a decade, the Russian government came to the same rake. The command of the fleet was bound by the directive of the government, the high command, and did not decide to take appropriate measures to strengthen the defense. The Black Sea Fleet was in the position of a passive observer, awaiting the first move of the enemy.
I must say that the plan for the war with Porto was prepared by the Russian General Staff as far back as 1908. In 1912, the war plan was adjusted. He was purely defensive. The Russian Empire had no territorial claims to Turkey, there were no fundamental contradictions. Russia had no reason to attack Turkey. The Ottoman Empire itself safely degraded itself and approached its death, which the Balkan powers (Balkan wars) and Italy (Tripolitanian war) took advantage of. The establishment of the Young Turkic dictatorship in Turkey did not strengthen the state, on the contrary, the degradation processes increased even more (100 years ago the Ottoman Empire launched a war against Russia; Part of 2; Part 3).
However, in St. Petersburg they understood that the military-political dependence of Turkey on the German Empire makes the situation in the south-western strategic direction dangerous. It was considered likely that Berlin would push Istanbul to war with Russia, since the Ottomans had enough historical preconditions for inciting revanchist sentiments. It was noted that even the fall of the Ottoman Empire would be beneficial to Vienna and Berlin, they would be able to crush Anatolia.
In the event of war, the Black Sea Fleet had the task of blocking the Turkish naval forces in the straits with the help of light forces and mines. The Russian fleet also had to reliably cover the seaside flank of the Russian Caucasian Army, ensure the transfer of troops and supplies by sea, and ensure the defense of strategically important objects by the sea. At the same time, Russian ships were to disrupt Turkish shipping along the Black Sea coast. When the Turkish fleet appeared on the high seas, which was considered complete fantasy in the pre-war years, the Russian fleet was to destroy it. In the future, the Black Sea Fleet could conduct a Bosphorus operation - the capture by the forces of the Black Sea Fleet and the amphibious units of the Bosphorus and Constantinople.
Before the war, the Russian Black Sea Fleet, on all major points, had complete supremacy over the Turkish Navy. The Russian fleet had the advantage in the number of pennants, in firepower, in combat training and in the training of officers and sailors. The Black Sea Fleet consisted of 6 battleships of the old type (so-called squadron battleships, or dodreadnoughts), 2 cruisers of the Bogatyr type, 17 destroyers, 12 destroyers, 4 submarines. By the beginning of the 20th century, the Ottoman fleet was a sad sight — a bunch of morally and technically outdated ships. One of the main reasons for this was the complete bankruptcy of the Ottoman Empire, there was no money in the treasury. Porta had only a few more or less efficient ships capable, at best, of enhancing the coastal defenses of the straits. And the almost complete lack of combat training in the navy reduced the combat effectiveness of the Turkish Navy to zero.
True, it cannot be said that the Turkish leadership did not try to strengthen its navy. In Germany, two squadron battleships “Torgut Reis” and “Hayreddin Barbarossa” were bought (battleships of the “Brandenburg” type - “Elector Friedrich Wilhelm” and “Weissenburg”), two armored fighter cruisers “Medgidiye” and “Gamidiye” were built in a battlefield. . In France and Germany, 8 destroyers were bought and built. In 1908, a grand update program of the Turkish fleet was adopted. In Port, they wanted to buy the newest battleships 6, 12 destroyers, 12 destroyers, 6 submarines and a number of auxiliary vessels. Unsuccessful wars with Italy, the Balkan countries devastated the treasury, and the maritime program was thwarted. However, in England, they still laid two dreadnought battleships - the Sultan Osman I and Reshad V (Reshadiye), several destroyers and submarines. What is interesting is that the allies of the Russian Empire built the ships for Turkey, a potential enemy of Russia on the Black Sea, on the Entente. This replenishment could seriously change the balance of forces on the Black Sea in favor of Turkey. Russia did not have the latest dreadnoughts on the Black Sea. In Russia, 4 powerful modern battleships of the modern type (dreadnoughts) were built, the first battleship was the "Empress Maria", but they did not have time to build them by the beginning of the war. The port could have an advantage. Turkish crews had already arrived at the new battleships, but as soon as the war began, England confiscated the ships in favor of its fleet. The British needed ships to contain the power of the German fleet.
The arrival of 10 August 1914 from the Mediterranean Sea of two newest German cruisers: the heavy “Goeben” (called “Sultan Selim”) and the light “Breslau” (“Midilli”), allowed Porte to conduct military operations at the Black Sea theater. The Goeben was stronger and faster than any old type Russian battleship, which made him a dangerous adversary for the dodrednoughts. However, together the Russian battleships were much stronger than the German cruiser, so when confronted with the entire squadron, the Goeben tried to escape, using their high speed.
Before the war, the Caucasus defended three corps. However, later the attention of the General Staff switched to a growing German threat. The Turkish army, despite its large human reserves, was weak, beaten by all and sundry. At the same time, they did not take into account that the Germans could strengthen the organizational Turkish forces. They can throw the Ottomans on the offensive, in order to divert Russian troops from Germany and Austria-Hungary. By themselves, the Turkish soldiers, with good management, were brave and stubborn, and could bring a lot of trouble. In addition, the opening of the Caucasian Front and the Black Sea Theater forced Russia to divert large forces to the south-western strategic direction.
Since the beginning of the war, only one army was stretched for hundreds of kilometers to cover the border with Romania and the Black Sea coast - 7-I army of 7 infantry and 2 cavalry divisions. In the Caucasus region, only one corps was left, two were sent to the Austro-German front. In the Transcaucasus, only the 1 Caucasian Corps remained. In the future, it was planned to be reinforced by troops from Turkestan (the 2 of the Turkestan Corps). But it took quite a lot of time. In Transcaucasia, there was only one railway, it ran along the Caspian.
The situation in the Caucasus was difficult. The port negotiated with the Georgian emigre “Committee of Independence”, the Armenian party “Dashnaktsutyun”, offered the Armenians and Georgians to revolt in the Caucasus, and after the victory they promised wide autonomy within Turkey. Georgians responded. Connected the Germans. In Trapezund, the Georgian Legion began to be formed under the command of Captain von Schulenburg. However, the Armenians remembered that they were deceived during the Young Turk Revolution, there were many promises, and in response to the support of the Armenian national liberation movements, the Young Turks responded with a massacre. But it was impossible to annoy Istanbul, in Turkey the national question was acute. Armenians reported that they would serve in good faith in the Turkish army, but refused to take subversive actions against Russia.
Russian intelligence noted an increase in pan-Islamist sentiment in Turkey and reported that in the event of a war between Russia and Turkey, a massacre of Christians would begin in the Ottoman Empire. The same conclusions were reached by the Chief of Staff of the Caucasian District, General Nikolai Yudenich. He proposed to arm Armenians, Aysors, Dersim Kurds for self-defense, asking for 25 thousand rifles and 12 million ammunition for this case to be allocated. However, due to the miscalculations of prewar construction weapons in the Russian Empire was not, all stocks were spent on mobilization, there was a need to purchase weapons and ammunition abroad. In addition, the diplomatic factor also interfered. Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov said that “the hope for peace has not yet been lost,” therefore, reasons for conflict should be avoided. The Foreign Ministry ordered to guard the Russian-friendly Turkish subjects from uprisings. In order not to give Istanbul a reason for cavils, Petersburg even withdrew its troops from northern Persia.
But it was all in vain. Mighty forces were pushing Turkey towards war with Russia. The British "slept through" the arrival of the German ships in Constantinople, sharply strengthening the Turkish fleet and giving the Young Turks "hawks" a tool for military provocation to start a war. Kaiser and the German military hurried the Young Turks. Gave out a loan for the war. Moltke demanded from the head of the German military mission at Port von Sanders: "It is desirable that Turkey should act as soon as possible."
Most of the Young Turkish leaders also sought war. The official party documents indicated: “Our participation in the war is justified by our national ideal. The ideal of our nation leads us to the destruction of our Moscow enemy, in order to thereby establish the natural boundaries of our empire, which will incorporate and unite all the branches of our people. " The concepts of Pan-Islamism and Pan-Turkism justified militarization and revanchism, the desire for war with the “historical enemy” - Russia. At the same time, Istanbul was in no hurry to start a war, wishing that as many Russian troops as possible would be drawn against the Germanic friends. Ideally, Turkey wanted to enter the war at a decisive turn on the Eastern Front in favor of the Austro-German armies. The defeats of the Austro-German troops in the Battle of Galicia and the Warsaw-Ivangorod operation only strengthened the desire to enter the war as soon as possible. Germany also increased pressure to divert Russian troops from the Austro-German front.
Meanwhile, as Turkey’s propaganda and readiness for war intensified, the Ottomans began to behave more and more arrogantly. In Russian, the water was detained by the Turkish steamer, which cruised under the Russian flag and clearly carried out a reconnaissance mission. The Russian government chose to hush up the case. The ship and the crew were released, the diplomatic protest was made in a very polite manner. The Caucasian governor Vorontsov-Dashkov reported to the king that Kurdish gangs were committing excesses, crossing the border, stealing cattle, and creating violence. On the border area noted the growth in the number of Turkish troops. In Erzurum, goods were arrested by Turkish merchants; the secretary of the Russian embassy was stoned.
Ships of the Black Sea Fleet in the Sevastopol Bay during the First World War: the battleship Evstafy, John Chrysostom, Panteleimon and Three Saints
Turkish "hawks" and their German curators felt it was time to start. October 21 War Minister Ismail Enver Pasha became supreme commander, received the rights of a dictator. By the first order he ordered the German admiral Wilhelm Anton Souchon to take the fleet into the sea and attack the Russians "without a declaration of war." Enver Pasha and Souchon were supporters of the “Port Arthur scenario”, they wanted to deliver a sudden, paralyzing blow to the Russian Black Sea Fleet. During the offensive of the Turkish troops in the Caucasus, the Russian fleet was to remain idle, not to hinder the Turkish courts from supporting their army from the sea.
The strategic plan of the commander of the united German-Turkish fleet, Rear Admiral Souchon, was to deliver a sudden blow to the main base of the Russian fleet, Sevastopol. They also planned to attack Odessa, Theodosia and Novorossiysk, to lay mines in the Kerch Strait. They planned to strike at the Russian fleet that had not expected to attack, to undermine its main forces and throw off the Black Sea Fleet, to gain complete superiority at sea. German-Turkish forces were supposed to destroy or seriously damage the Russian warships and merchant ships that were in the ports, the most important military and industrial facilities on the coast.
The plan was decisive, but in fact was an adventure. First, the German-Turkish forces were dispersed and instead of one strong blow, several weak ones came out. Secondly, Souchon simply did not have enough firepower to do serious damage to the Black Sea Fleet. If the Turkish fleet were more powerful, the consequences for the Russian fleet and the situation at the Black Sea theater could be serious. The Black Sea Fleet could miss the bounce and would be weakened for a long time. This dramatically worsened the position of the coastal flank of the Russian Caucasian army, violated the Black Sea communications, led to the threat of serious losses for coastal cities, settlements and objects.
Wilhelm Souchon (right) and Otto Lyman von Sanders (left)
The commander of the Black Sea Fleet, Andrei Avgustovich Ebergard, received news of the withdrawal of the enemy fleet from the Bosphorus on October 27. The Russian admiral brought the Black Sea Fleet into the sea, and waited all day on the approaches to Sevastopol, hoping to meet the enemy. However, on October 28, the headquarters of the fleet received a message from the High Command "not to look for a meeting with the Turkish fleet and to enter with it into battle only if absolutely necessary." As a result, the Russian ships returned to the base and no longer tried to take active steps. Thus, Ebergard acted on orders from above, but this does not relieve him of all responsibility for further events. Be in his place a more decisive person, the Russian fleet could meet the enemy at sea.
True, the command of the Black Sea Fleet has taken certain precautions. There were reconnaissance activities, a patrol was put up - on the approaches to Sevastopol there were three destroyers - “Lieutenant Pushchin”, “Zhivuchy” and “Hot”, the main forces of the fleet (battleships) were in base in full readiness. In the evening of October 28 a telegram came from the Chief of Staff of the Supreme Commander of the Russian Army Nikolai Yanushkevich that Turkey decided to declare war on Russia during 24 hours. The admiral ordered the mine division, which had gone to Yevpatoria for firing practice, to go to Sevastopol. Mineslayer "Prut", the former with the assignment in Yalta, also received instructions to return.
The precautions taken were insufficient. Sevastopol fortress was not prepared for the attack. The head of the security of the raids offered to include a minefield, but Ebergard forbade it to do so, as the arrival of the Prut came to life. The head of the raid warned the commander of the artillery of the fortress about the possible appearance of the Turkish squadron. Therefore, the coastal artillery more or less proved ready to attack.
At night, a spotlight of a large vessel was noticed at an observation point on Cape Sarych. We decided that it is returned "Prut". Early in the morning from Cape Lukull reported the approach of the ship. Soon they clarified that they were seeing “Goeben” in 35 cable. Almost simultaneously, the salvo of the German cruiser followed. Shells fell in the bay, were torn in the city. The German battle cruiser for 15 minutes walked freely through our minefield, without opposition, and fired at the port and ships. The electric circuit of the minefield was turned off, and without an order no one decided to turn it on. Of the ships in the harbor, the old battleship “George the Victorious” began to respond to the German cruiser, surviving his age as a staff ship. The rest of the ships were confused, they were waiting for the order or they were standing so that they could not respond. I must say that the situation was dangerous. Borders with full sets of mines stood in the roadstead, and hitting them would have led to the death of nearby ships and the destruction of the port, city.
Konstantinovskaya battery was silent at first, waited until the German cruiser entered the targeted square, and when it opened fire, it immediately struck the target three times. The German ship immediately gave full speed and retreated into the sea. On the way back, “Goeben” met “Prut”. Trying to save the Minzag, the commander of the destroyers battalion battalion, the captain of the second rank Goloviznin led the ships in a suicide attack. Three small boats of old construction, firing from small-caliber guns, attacked a huge cruiser. They had no chance of success. "Lieutenant Pushchin" caught fire, pipes were brought down to him, the destroyer lost his turn. Yet the Russian ship fired a torpedo from afar, with no chance of hitting. And "Goeben" did not continue the fight, retreated. The whole battle at Sevastopol lasted just 25 minutes.
True, Prut "it did not save. Around the 7 hours of the morning "Prut" in 14 miles from Cape Chersonese met the German cruiser. The Germans offered to surrender. The Prut commander, captain of the 2 rank, G. A. Bykov, refused and ordered the ship to be prepared for flooding. German cruiser fired minzag from their guns. The ship caught fire. The crew took measures for flooding and began to leave the ship. Lieutenant Rogussky, midshipman Smirnov, hieromonk Anthony (he lost his place in the boat to the sailor and died on the ship), the boatswain Kolyuzhny and the 25 sailors died in battle. Part of the Prut command was captured by Turkish destroyers. The 3 officer, including the commander, the ship's doctor, the conductor 2 and the sailors 69, were captured. The rest of the crew (3 officer and 199 sailors) were rescued by the Sudak submarine which had left Balaklava. The Prut carried most of the naval mines, so it was a great loss.
Minelayer "Prut" Black Sea Fleet
In addition, the light cruiser "Breslau" sank several fishing boats, put mines in the Kerch Strait, the steamers Yalta and Kazbek sank and sank and drowned them. In Odessa, the Turkish destroyers bombarded the city and the port, sank the gun “Donets”, damaged the gun gun “Kubanets”, the minelayer “Beshtau” and 4 civilian ships. Turkish shells hit the oil tank, sugar factory and other objects. The coastal defense in Odessa was weak, but it began to respond, there were several hits on Turkish ships, they retreated. The Turkish cruiser Gamidiye fired upon Theodosius, who had no military facilities and coastal defenses. German-Turkish fleet also fired on Novorossiysk, but without much success.
Russian fleet conducted a return raid. Russian ships went to the Turkish shores. The cruiser “Kagul” (“Memory of Mercury”) destroyed the huge Turkish coal storages in Zonguldak. The battleship Panteleimon (the former notorious “Prince Potemkin-Tavrichesky”) and the destroyers sank three Turkish military troop carriers. Then the Russian squadron of 5 battleships “visited” Trabzon. The Turks were unpleasantly surprised by such activity of the Russian fleet. Thus, the “Sevastopol wake-up” did not affect the combat capability of the Russian fleet. The Black Sea Fleet was alive and functioning.
The cruiser "Memory of Mercury". 1914
To be continued ...