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World War I naval ships of the Ottoman Empire

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    Posted: 13 Oct 2010 at 16:18

World War I naval ships of the Ottoman Empire


The main goal of the Ottoman Navy in 1915 was to maintain a fleet that could contend with their historical enemy, the Greek Navy. Relations with Greece were tense over the issue of the islands of the Northeastern Aegean. These were occupied by Greece in late 1912 during the First Balkan War, but not until February 1914 was Greek sovereignty recognized by the Great Powers, and the Ottomans retained their claims on them even after that.

As a result, a naval race had developed in the Aegean after the end of the Balkan Wars, with the Turks ordering several ships, including two dreadnoughts, in Britain. In the event, with the outbreak of World War I, these ships, including further two scout cruisers and four destroyers, were confiscated and pressed into service with the Royal Navy. This angered the Ottomans, and the resentment contributed to their joining Germany and Austria-Hungary in the Great War.

Despite these drawbacks, during World War I the Ottoman Navy saw much action against the Russian, British, and French fleets in the Black Sea, Aegean Sea and the Sea of Marmara. The main Ottoman Navy operation in the World War I was the Gallipoli Campaign.

The ships of the Ottoman Navy in the World War I


The two dreadnoughts, Residaye and Sultan Osman I that had been ordered by Turkey, were never handed over to them despite the fact that they had both been completed in Britain. Prior to this occurrence, Sultan Osman I had been constructed by Armstrong Whitworth for the Brazilian Navy in 1911 under the name Rio de Janeiro due to naval rivalries with Argentina. These were eventually resolved in 1913. After the conflict Brazil turned down its order, but the Armstrong Whitworth company did not scrap the ship as it could be sold to other potential customers, among them Turkey.[1] In August 1915, they were both transferred to the Royal Navy. They were renamed in the British Fleet as HMS Erin and HMS Agincourt.

Battle cruisers

The German battle cruiser SMS Goeben was transferred to the Ottoman Navy in November 1914 and renamed to Yavuz Sultan Selim. She was involved from 29 October 1914 till the end of the war in bombarding Russian ports on the Black Sea coast. During the Great War, she was still largely manned and commanded by the German Imperial Navy. She remained in Turkish service after the war, was renamed Yavuz in 1936, refitted twice soon after this in 1938 and 1941 and scrapped in 1971.

Pre-dreadnought battleships

The two pre-dreadnought battleships, Barbaros Hayreddin and Turgut Reis, both played a major part in the defense of the Dardanelles during the Gallipoli Campaign. Barbaros Hayreddin was sunk by the British submarine HMS E11 whilst on patrol with two destroyers.

Coastal defense ships

Mesudiye, the Ottoman Navy’s only coastal defense ship, was torpedoed and sunk by the British submarine HMS B11, commanded by Lt Norman Holbrook, on 13 December 1914 off Chanak in the Dardanelles. When the submarine got back to base, Holbrook was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Protected cruisers

Turkey’s two protected cruisers, Hamidiye and Mecidiye, were both about 10 years old. Mecidiye was sunk in the Black Sea off Odessa while in company with Hamidiye and four torpedo boats from a single Russian mine. She was refloated by the Russians and renamed Prut in June 1915, later being returned to Turkey in May 1918 after the Germans captured Ukraine.

Light cruisers

SMS Breslau

The Ottoman Navy acquired during the Great War the light cruiser Midilli (formerly the German SMS Breslau). She served with the SMS Goeben in many raids against Russian shipping and ports from late October 1914. Midilli was sunk in the Aegean Sea on 20 January 1918 whilst with the SMS Goeben by five Allied mines.


The Ottomans' nine destroyers - four Basra class (Basra, Samsun, Tasoz, Yarhisar), four ex-German S 165 class (Gairet-I-Watanije, Jadhigar-I-Millet, Muavenet-i Milliye and Numene-I-Hamije) and the older Berk i Efsan, made up most of its navy during WW1. Yarhisar was sunk by the British submarine HMS E11 December 1915, Gairet-I-Watanije ran aground October 1916 and was abandoned, Jadhigar-I-Millet was bombed by British aircraft July 1917, raised and scrapped.

The sinking of HMS Goliath by Muavenet-i-Milliye


The destroyer Muavenet-i-Milliye sunk the British battleship Goliath during the night of May 12, 1915. The Turkish resources reveal the event as follows: "In the history of the Çanakkale Wars, sinking of the Goliath has a significant place. The French had asked the assistance of the battleships against the Turkish counterattacks targeting to recapture Kerevizdere. Thus, every night two battleships began to bombard the Turkish positions. The Turkish side, to eliminate damages caused by these battleships, assigned the Muavenet-i-Milliye.

Captain Ahmet Saffet was commanding the boat and he immediately sailed through Çanakkale from the Marmara Sea where he had been patrolling. Around 1 am on 13 May, Muavenet-i Milliye eluded the destroyers, despite having cruised as near as a few hundred meters near two of them, and closed on the battleships. Having succeeded in creating a momentary hesitation among the battleship crew on duty, Muavenet fired three torpedoes which all struck Goliath, causing a massive explosion. The Allies' casualties were enormous. Five hundred and seventy sailors drowned, and only one hundred and eighty of its crew survived.

Muavenet-i-Milliye returned to Çanakkale at 05:00 and was welcomed with joy. On the same day, it sailed to Istanbul where it was welcomed with a ceremony. Enver Pasha awarded the crew on 16 May. However, the news about the sinking of the Goliath created a crisis in the War Council, in London. Admiral Fisher, the commander of the British Naval Forces and the most feverish opponent of another naval attack resigned, two days after the sinking of the battleship, on 15 May 1915. The resignation of Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty came next.

Submarines and minelayers

French battleship Bouvet capsizing on March 18, 1915 in the Dardanelles

Turkey’s only operational submarine during WW1, Müstecip Onbaşı, was the former French Turquoise, which ran aground in the Dardanelles on 30 October 1915 and captured. She was returned to France in 1918.

Turkey also had several minelayers, Nusret being the most famous. Her mines laid on 8 March 1915 sank three Allied ships in a small minefield of 20 mines on 18 March 1915. The British pre-dreadnought battleships HMS Irresistible and HMS Ocean and the French battleship Bouvet were all sunk. The British battle cruiser HMS Inflexible was also badly damaged.

Armored Gunships

The ironclad Muin i Zafer was built in 1867-71 at Blackwall, one of a group of 7 ships. Rebuilt in 1904-07 by the Italian Naval Shipyards Ansaldo of Genoa, she was of little military value by 1914. A sister unit, the Avnijllah was sunk in Beirut during the Italo-Turkish War.

See also

References and sources


Edited by Mal Murray - 13 Oct 2010 at 16:19
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