The Traitor © 1997-2006 by Geoffrey Miller
 

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The Traitor © 1997-2006 by Geoffrey Miller

 

  

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Superior Force
The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of Goeben and Breslau

 

Synopsis :

In the first weeks of August, 1914 the German battle cruiser, Goeben, and her accompanying light cruiser, Breslau, escaped the clutches of the pursuing British Mediterranean Squadron and took refuge at Constantinople, where they would later exert a decisive influence upon Turkey’s attempts to remain out of the war.

In October 1914, with the connivance of the Turkish Minister of War, but against the wishes of the majority of the Turkish Cabinet, the German Admiral at the head of the Turkish Navy single-handedly forced the issue. At the helm of Goeben, Admiral Souchon manoeuvred into the Black Sea and deliberately shelled Russian ships, ports and shore installations. The Turks, reluctant to the last, were finally catapulted into the War. Yet, would this outcome have eventuated without the presence of Admiral Souchon and Goeben? The Turkish fleet by itself was too weak to risk a sortie in the Black Sea. Without Goeben could the issue have been forced?

Meanwhile, the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, actively sought Greek co-operation for a planned major offensive against the Turks at the Dardanelles. His plea for assistance reached the British Officer at the head of the Greek Navy, Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, who set impossible conditions which he knew would result in the proposal being rejected in London. What Churchill did not know, and which has never previously been revealed, was that Kerr had not only removed any chance of Greek participation at the Dardanelles, but had also been instrumental in the conspiracy afoot in Athens during August to allow the German ships to escape in the first place.

Various accounts of the escape have sought to apportion blame, with the Admiralty (under Churchill), the Commander-in-Chief, Mediterranean, and the Rear-Admiral, First Cruiser Squadron all being found culpable to some extent. What no previous account has revealed however is the fact that there was an organized conspiracy afoot in Athens, involving the Greek Premier on one side, and the King and a serving British Rear-Admiral on the other, to facilitate the escape of the German ships.

The eventual destination of Goeben and Breslau (a mystery to the British until the ships actually reached the Dardanelles) was common knowledge amongst ruling circles in Athens some hours before Britain declared war on Germany. Privy to this secret was Rear-Admiral Mark Kerr, the British Officer at the head of the Greek Navy. For three vital days Kerr kept the secret to himself; then, when it was almost too late, he fed the Admiralty clues which were, however, not acted upon.

In addition to being the most complete account of the dramatic escape yet published, Superior Force, for the first time, reveals the extent of the Athens conspiracy and the ambivalent rôle played by Mark Kerr who, soon after, would also remove any chance of Greek co-operation in the major offensive planned by Churchill against the Turks at the Dardanelles. Few men can genuinely be said to have changed history; by his actions in Athens in the summer of 1914 Mark Kerr is one of those few.

 

 

 


"Superior Force"

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 


 

 

PART ONE THE ESCAPE
Introduction
1 Mediterranean Meanderings
The British position in the Mediterranean—Fisher’s preference for the battle cruiser—the Anglo-French naval talks—the plan to evacuate the Mediterranean—a compromise is reached—the Mittelmeerdivision—Admiral Souchon—preparations for war—Goeben and Breslau rendezvous at Messina—the British Mediterranean Squadron—Admiral Milne —Inflexible visits Constantinople—the slow awareness of the gathering storm—Rear-Admiral Troubridge and the First Cruiser Squadron—events at Durazzo.
2 Opening Moves
Milne regroups his forces—the Admiralty ponders whether to reinforce the Mediterranean —the "superior force" telegram—Italian neutrality likely—the Admiralty ponders whether to denude the Mediterranean—Sailing Orders—Troubridge’s opinion of a superior force —a misunderstanding—Grey’s chickens come home to roost—the moral commitment to France—the Cabinet debates—the assurance to Cambon—Milne’s efforts to contact the French—Admiral Lapeyrère has second thoughts.
3 The First Shot
Souchon makes his plans—a change of heart in Berlin—Souchon holds to his intention— the opening bombardment—Troubridge’s dispositions—Battenberg looks to the west— the French set sail at last—a missed opportunity?—the chance meeting—Churchill jumps the gun—a voluntary supererogation—chaos in the War Room—the failure of the War Staff.
4 The Chase Begins
Souchon’s limited options—more speed—the British ships are found wanting—Captain Kennedy has a plan but is over-ruled—Milne effects a concentration—Troubridge’s anomalous position—Captain Kennedy is sent to Bizerta—Souchon returns to Messina— the problems of coaling—startling news from Constantinople—the dilemma of Admiral Haus—Souchon frames his sailing orders.
5 The Break-out
The German ships are located—further misunderstandings—Troubridge’s premature sortie—the conflicting analyses of Milne and Troubridge—a fiasco in Bizerta—Milne’s idée fixe—Souchon steers east—Milne returns to Malta—the Italian prohibition— Gloucester takes up the chase—Dublin misses her chance.
6 Admiral Troubridge Changes His Mind
Troubridge’s dilemma—no coal for the destroyers—his intentions known—a plan is formulated—Troubridge holds his course initially—the decision to engage—the puzzle of the Austrian fleet—the torment of Admiral Troubridge—the intervention of his Flag Captain—Troubridge abandons the attempt—Milne’s reaction.
7 The War That Was Cancelled
Some clues as to Troubridge’s state of mind—Gloucester continues the chase alone— contact is lost—Milne returns to Malta—the puzzle – what are Souchon’s intentions?— the recall of Gloucester – Milne is called to account—the anomalous position of Austria —the strange case of the punctilious Admiralty clerk—confusion over signals—an unwarranted assumption—where was Churchill?—a final chance—intelligence is received —who is "Metriticicas"?—Milne’s doubts—reliable information?
8 Souchon Arrives!
Souchon rests his crews, then coals—positive news from Constantinople—Milne flounders—what did the Admiralty know?—Milne’s options—Goeben and Breslau reach the Dardanelles—a dubious transaction is announced.
PART TWO THE GREEK CONNEXION
9 Mark Kerr and the Balkan Background
Mark Kerr, an untypical officer—his association with Battenberg—unorthodox ideas—an opportunity presents itself—friends in high places—Kerr appointed C-in-C of the Greek Navy—Kerr and the King—the influence of Germany—an unusual request—Kerr’s advice ignored—the Greek naval build-up—Balkan tensions—the formation of the Balkan League—the Balkan Wars—Greece victorious at sea—Wilhelm plays a lone hand— Greece and Turkey take matters into their own hands.
10 The Battleship Summer
The Aegean naval race—the Turks buy a dreadnought—Greece desperately seeks ships— conflict between Greece and Turkey appears inevitable—Minister and Ambassador come home on leave—a poor deal in America—fears that war would result in the closure of the Straits—Venizelos’ bluff—stalling for time—a meeting with the Turks—the greater conflict intervenes—Venizelos discovers a let-out—Germany woos and wins Turkey.
11 The Nocturnal Aberration of Eleutherios Venizelos
Constantine plumps for neutrality—Wilhelm’s furious reaction—the German threat—the destination of the German ships revealed—Kerr’s knowledge of this—a circuitous route— the mystery of Syra—Venizelos is less than forthright—coal for Souchon—Venizelos seeks retrospective approval—his motives.
12 The Case Against Kerr
The atmosphere in Athens—Compton Mackenzie and the campaign of disinformation— how much did Kerr know?—was Kerr deliberately planted?—his association with the Kaiser—did the plan backfire?—the perils of informal networks—Kerr tries to be too clever—his post-war reticence.
13 The Sweeping Offer
Venizelos’ confederation scheme—an enthusiastic response—Venizelos wants more—an approach to Russia—a difference of opinion in the Foreign Office—the problem of Bulgaria—Sazonov more concerned about Turkey—this concern mirrored in London— the clash between Venizelos and his Foreign Minister—a sweeping offer—a disappointing reply—Venizelos plays for time—the talks with Turkey reconvened—Talaat’s ulterior motive—a bribe to Bulgaria?—the return of Sir Francis Elliot—Sazonov takes the bait— the question of action against Turkey—the report of the Military Attaché—Churchill intervenes—the prospect of Greek co-operation.
14 A Question of Semantics
The irreconcilable problem—Kerr formulates his plan—Russian intransigence—the Entente fully committed—the King and Venizelos—a difference in emphasis—Streit intervenes—Kerr is carried away—Venizelos’ reaction—the threat of resignation—Kerr’s discouraging telegram—the prospect of Greek participation founders—the threat from Bulgaria—the aftermath—Kerr’s position—the difficulty of placing him—a fortuitous opportunity arises—conclusion.
PART THREE THE AFTERMATH
15 ‘Letting the Goeben Escape’
The effect of Goeben’s presence—the options available to the Turks—the extent of Enver’s and Souchon’s accountability—the search for a scapegoat—Churchill’s initial responsibility—the cause of his enmity—a mitigating factor—Mallet’s undiplomatic assertion—an alternative theory—Grey and the fate of Constantinople—fear of Russian incursion into Persia—the march of military operations—the Indian Expeditionary Force—the War Council meets—action against Turkey—the Foreign Office exonerated.
16 The Terrible ‘ifs’
Churchill’s invocation of a higher authority—Churchill’s "if’s" considered—other "if’s" to be considered—the battle cruiser concept—French inaction—the problem of coal— Souchon and the Adriatic—Milne’s pre-conceptions—faulty staff work—Churchill’s early moves—the board changes—Battenberg’s unfortunate war—the Greek responsibility —the actions and omissions of Venizelos, Constantine and Kerr—a chain of events—fate or the work of man?
17 Court Martial
Milne’s recall—Troubridge and Milne lay the groundwork for their defence—Milne’s frosty reception—questions to answer—a friend at Court—official approbation—a scapegoat is found—the awkward report of Captain Howard Kelly—a Court of Inquiry —its finding—the charge as framed—pressure on the Prosecutor—the Court Martial—the verdict—the Prosecutor’s personal opinion—Admiralty reactions.
18 Epitaph
Admiral Hamilton’s unguarded comment—what was discussed at the Admiralty?— Troubridge’s astounding allegation—the mystery of Captain Vere—a possible answer— Troubridge’s personality—a tenuous interpretation—who was to have the battle cruisers? —Troubridge’s dubious recall—the convenient timing of an important signal—the abandonment of Fawcet Wray—Mallet’s defence.
19 The Last Sortie
The dire military position—Enver is less assured—the Aegean Squadron—various contingencies—a moral raising demonstration—should the British have known?—Admiral Hayes-Sadler’s unfortunate decision—the separation of the British forces—Rebeur-Paschwitz frames his orders—dubious intelligence—the raid against Imbros on 20 January 1918—surprise is achieved—the damage inflicted—the aerial attacks—the minefield— Rebeur-Paschwitz’s blunder—Breslau is lost—Goeben marooned—further aerial attacks —a want of initiative—the efforts to refloat the battle cruiser—Goeben escapes again— aerial reconnaissance—the aftermath—Hayes-Sadler’s contentious apologia—analysis of the aerial operations—another reputation ruined—the end for Enver, Djemal and Talaat.
APPENDICES
i. The part played by the Opposition in the decision for war.
ii. Identity of alleged British collier from which Goeben coaled, Messina, 4-5 August.
iii. The Lost Day — Information received and processed in London on Sunday 9 August 1914.
iv. The Blücher Mystery
v. Extracts from the Courts-Martial convened to investigate the sinkings of Raglan and M28.
vi. The reason for the absence of Invincible from the Mediterranean, 1914.
vii. Mediterranean War Orders.
viii. Pre-war Activities of British Naval Intelligence.
BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

 

Eleutherios Venizelos

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