Naval Support Command
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On August 14th, Tirpitz wrote to Souchon about how he hoped that the German fleet in the Black Sea would act quickly, and he confirmed the posting of the required personnel reinforcements. “You can not imagine how important it is for the Navy that you succeed in the Black Sea [...] The Russians in the Black Sea are not to be overestimated. Do not be swayed by the size of their boilers. The top speed of the great Russians is not over 18, so in reality, their marksmanship will be bad. I pray to God that the Turks and Bulgarians get there first so that they don’t interfere. It is of utmost importance to capture the Balkans. We will send out everything you need - men and materials. Breathe life into the Turkish fleet! If all hopes of Turkey end up being in vain, you will let out a mock battle from the Bosphorus with a coal steamer. Then you can at least get a round trip without using much ammunition. One more thing, for both our Navy and our position in the world - which we are fighting for - it will be of utmost importance that a Turkish army threatens the Suez Canal. Without the Russians and Turks there it would be no good; all our efforts would have to be focused there. I’m not sure if General Liman understands that. You could discuss this matter again with Humann and then with the ambassador and Liman. God be with you, and us.” (i) This interesting assessment of the allegedly limited strategic capabilities and political foresight of the Army General Liman von Sanders was valid to a certain extent, though the pessimism about Baron von Wangenheim was not.
Obviously inspired by the grandiose promises of the commander of the German Navy, the Fleet Commander called , just one day later, on August 15, about the transfer of additional staff. On August 19, Souchon received news that his desire for a transfer of officers and men had been met, for the service of the Dardanelles and the Bosphorus:
"The intention is to place following teams in Turkey, in March:
1. For the seawall, two admirals, 10 naval officers, 100 artillery gunners, 50 sea gunners, 30 rangefinders, 20 commissioned officers, 30 locksmiths.
2. For vessels: 10 naval officers, 10 engineers, a shipwright, 17 gunners, 12 Pipe Masters, 12 signal parties, 50 torpedo technicians.
3. 200 mines with torpedos officers, warrant officers and several Depot officials." (ii)
The soldiers were ordered to march on 18 August, which meant an astonishingly short warning time for the staff concerned. Hardly anyone would have guessed at the time how long the deployment in Turkey would be. Lieutenant Firle, who transported the soldiers disguised as civilians, reported: “The next morning - it was August 18 1914 - a special train was ready for transport, filled with Marine departments, primarily Marine Artillery, from Cuxhaven, Lehe and Wilhelmshaven. We travelled at 50 km/h and arrived in Berlin at noon; Lehrter Station. We waited for representatives from the Navy Office, then led the whole group to a guard barrack. Here there were civil clothes and materials spread out on long tables and representatives of several warehouses came to fit us into civilian suits. I let some warrant officers distribute stiff hats, so there was at least a small difference from civilians. Then the command was issued: This evening’s assembly point was at 7 o’clock, at Görlitzer Station. I went to the Imperial Navy Office for more detailed instructions, where I expected more commands and information about the real objective. I learned that the destination is Istanbul and that all the staff should now serve Souchon, who has received control of the Turkish fleet, with Goeben and Breslau [...] The Federal Foreign Office issued everyone with a false passport, with them as engineers, shipbuilders, mechanical fitters etc. [...] Romania was extremely hostile and we had to surrender our passports and get off the train. Only when we distributed a bag full of gold for broken light bulbs and some damage to the train, did things run more smoothly." (iii) (Translated by Edie)
[i] Langensiepen, Halbmond und Kaiseradler, S. 19
[ii] Yavuz Celalettin, Die türkisch-deutschen Marinebeziehungen
[iii] BA/MA, N 155, Tagebuch Firle
[iv] Yavuz Celalettin, Die türkisch-deutschen Marinebeziehungen
[v] Langensiepen, Halbmond und Kaiseradler, S. 15
[vi] Langensiepen, Halbmond und Kaiseradler, S. 17
[vii] Langensiepen, Halbmond und Kaiseradler, S. 14