The first deaths of the GOEBEN

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“The people remember us from “the Goeben” very well. That was on the last visit when we came from Corfu. One day there were a few hundred chaps, black like negroes, wrapped in dirty, old clothes going like a wild mob through the streets of Constantinople. Armed with hooks, crowbars and pokers they stormed the summits near Pera. A great fire had broken out in a barracks full of troops. Fire in Constantinople with its crammed-together buildings and flimsy, wooden houses is the worst thing that can happen and almost always means a catastrophe, nearly always finishing with the destruction of whole streets. -Like wild men the black spirits went towards the conflagration. Black because they had just come from re-fueling the Goeben with coal as the news of the fire at the barracks arrived. The refueling was stopped immediately. “Volunteers needed to put out the fire!” There was no holding them back. Black as they were, they jumped in the boats, headed to land and ran uphill to the barracks. For hours they fought with the unleashed inferno, extinguished, rescued. No dangerous duty was shirked and without fear of their own lives they continued to fight the fire. Suddenly with a mighty sound a wall collapsed and four dear comrades were buried beneath. We recovered them from ash and flaming debris. - Four German sailors had given their lives at the Turkish barracks fire. All of Constantinople deeply mourned these four brave souls from the “Goeben”. The funeral was unforgettable. The whole city paid its respects. Unforgotten was the sacrifice and bravery of the “Goeben” crew. They had saved hundreds of houses from destruction” [2]           

                                                

    

The beginning of 1914 brought the struggle of the European powers for the favour and influence of the Ottoman Empire, which had not been decided. However, the German Empire had been constantly growing its military mission in size and military influence under the control of General Liman von Sanders’. It was important for its military mission to achieve the conditions for a German-Ottoman alliance as German foreign policy made this possible alliance dependent on the condition of the Ottoman army. However, first the Ottoman army was to be put into a war-ready state. But the Ottoman navy was not ready; despite the British training aid they had received. For the Ottoman Empire, it was highly important that they counterweighted Russia and had to be strengthened quickly. For this reason, in February 1914, Enver Paşa asked the military attaché von Strempel whether or not the Ottoman Empire could purchase two ready-made cruisers from Germany, which would be superior to the Russian cruiser Averoff [2] The request was considered, but there were no ships that met this criteria. However, to emphasize the value of the Ottoman Empire as an ally and to prove the military strength of Germany, the Mediterranean Division (MMD), was sent on October 23, 1913 under the command of Admiral Souchon to Istanbul. On May 15th 1914, the Goeben was anchored at Golden Horn, located in Bosphorus near the German embassy in Pera. This was followed by a series of complex mutual receptions on board and in the German embassy, ​​but also for the officers of the Goeben as guests of the Sultan. When visiting the flagship of this association was coming to an end and coal reserves were just being replenished, a fire broke out in the Taşkışla barracks in Pera and a third of the team, some hundreds of men, were offered as fire-extinguishing troops. Three sailors lost their lives, which was cynically commented on by the British Ambassador, Lois Mallet, who hadn't liked the political success of Admiral Souchon's visit: "When trying to extinguish a fire in the Tache Kéchla barracks, it was his destiny, to sacrifice the lives of three young sailors on the altar of the Turkish-German friendship. If one remembers the saying of Bismarck, that the whole Eastern question would not be worth the life of a single Prussian grenadier, one knows that times have changed.” [3]

This visit of the MMD to Istanbul led to a ship visit by the Commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, de Robeck, to Istanbul with the flagship Invincible. The presence of the Goeben was interpreted by the British forces not as a courtesy visit, but as a tactical demonstration of German power. However, this was not possible as the Turkish supported the victims and the German sailors who had died served as a clear reminder. But who were these three sailors of the Goeben who were killed in the fire fighting? The names and the exact date were not known until 2013. There was only a picture from a newspaper report that shows the funeral of the soldiers in Istanbul. It is not known at which Christian cemetery in Istanbul the funeral was held, because the military cemetery in Tarabya and the cemetery in Scutari at that time did not exist. The three Sailors must have been later reburied at Tarabya. There, since 2013, the sailors rest but their names could not be linked with the events of May 1914. On early cemetery lists the names were not recorded. I only discovered in July 2013 by coincidence that there were two tombs in the extension part of the cemetery, on both sides of the comrade’s tomb of 121 soldiers from Scutari, in which three sailors lie: Stoker Otto Fahr, Sailor Julius Kallinka and Chief Petty Officer Richard Arndt. They all died on the 32rd of May 1914. These three sailors could only be those from the crew of the Goeben who were killed in the operations in Taşkışla.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Georg Kopp, Das Teufelsschiff und seine kleine Schwester, S. 116 ff, bei dieser Beschreibung wird von vier Opfern geschrieben, was im Widerspruch zu anderen Aufzeichnungen und den Gräbern in Tarabya steht.

[2] AA/PA, Türkei 142, R 13319, von Mutius an AA 2. Februar 1914

[3] Miller, Superior Force The conspiracy behind the escape of the Goeben and Breslau, Kapitel 1

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