: The Conspiracy Behind the Escape of
Goeben and Breslau
© Geoffrey Miller
The First Shot
photographed later during the War
the junction of Goeben and
at Messina on 2 August, Souchon’s immediate thoughts turned to coaling. Not
only was this filthy job hated by all on board but, with
high consumption, it was a time-consuming operation made worse by the absence of
dependable sources of supply. Souchon was credited by his enemies with having
colliers scattered along the route of his most likely destination – the western
basin of the Mediterranean – and, indeed, one of these “phantom” ships would add
to the confusion of both the British and French.
The reality was
far more prosaic and depended, for the most part, on hasty improvisation.
Souchon had remembered that the German East African Line steamer
General, bound for an exhibition at Dar-es-Salaam, was in the
vicinity: he recalled it from Crete, ordered it to Messina, and requisitioned it
as a supply ship. His foresight was justified as choppy seas at Brindisi had
provided the Italians with enough of an excuse to deny Souchon coaling
facilities; he must have realized that his reception at Messina was unlikely to
prove any more welcoming.
Pressure had been growing meanwhile
for the two ships to be sent to Constantinople. Secret negotiations being
conducted there with a view to concluding a Turco-German alliance were well
advanced by 1 August when the Austrian Ambassador reported to the tremulous
Grand Vizier that the latest reliable information received from Vienna pointed
to an attack on the Bosphorus by the Russian Black Sea Fleet. As unlikely as
this was, the German Ambassador, Baron von Wangenheim, saw his chance and cabled
to his Foreign Office that if Goeben could be spared she could, by reinforcing the Turkish fleet,
hold off the Russians. This would have the effect both of assuring the cable
connection with Roumania and preventing a Russian landing on the Bulgarian coast
— and, Wangenheim need hardly have added, would have done no harm to the
alliance negotiations. The Ambassador was to be disappointed however: at 9.15
p.m. on the evening of Sunday 2 August the Kaiser replied, through his
aide-de-camp, that Goeben could not be
dispensed with at the present time. Admiral von Pohl, the Chief of the German
Admiralty Staff, not only agreed but maintained that Goeben
could provide the greatest service in the Atlantic or North Sea and had no
business in Turkish waters. Unknown to either Wilhelm or von Pohl – as
knowledge of this would not be received in Berlin until the following morning
– the Turco-German treaty of alliance had already been signed that Sunday at 4
The situation then late on the
afternoon of Sunday 2nd was that, although the Cabinet in London was still
agonizing, intervention in the war now seemed the most likely course; in Paris
uproar and confusion reigned following the breakdown of the Minister of Marine;
the German Ambassador in Constantinople had the text of the Turco-German
alliance in his pocket; at Malta, Milne had briefed Troubridge who had in turn
briefed his captains and would shortly sail; at Toulon, Lapeyrère prevaricated;
and Souchon coaled as best he could in Messina from steamers in the harbour. The
news Souchon received from Berlin was not good: hostilities had commenced
against Russia, war with France was certain and would probably begin on the 3rd,
Great Britain would ‘very probably’ be hostile and Italy neutral.
No mention was made of the attitude of Austria-Hungary and no specific orders
were given to Souchon; he therefore took matters into his own hands and drew up
a plan to bombard the ports of Philippeville and Bona on the Algerian coast in
an attempt to disrupt the passage of the French XIXth Army Corps.
After taking in a small amount of
coal of varying quality Souchon was able to slip quietly out of port under cover
of darkness at 1 a.m. on the night of 2/3 August, his two ships heading west at
17 knots. As the ships cleaved their way through the shimmering water during the
following day (Monday 3rd) Souchon framed his intentions: to harass and delay
the transportation so that the French would have ‘to make great efforts to
protect them.’ To accomplish this, at daybreak the next morning, Tuesday,
would be off Philippeville and Breslau
off Bona where they would hoist Russian colours, so as to be able to approach
the shore without raising an alarm, and ascertain what ships were lying in the
harbours. Then German colours would be broken out and the ports and ships
bombarded by gunfire (or torpedoes if necessary); ammunition was to be used
sparingly, while a gun duel between the ships and the shore batteries was to be
avoided. Afterwards the two ships would continue to steer to the west until out
of sight of land before turning to rendezvous near Cape Spartivento on the
southern edge of Sardinia.
Although Souchon’s intentions thereafter were not stated his options were
limited, and a breakout into the Atlantic does not appear to have figured
amongst them; perhaps he just wanted to play for time, to see what Admiral Haus
and the Austrian fleet would do. Ultimately, the continued necessity to obtain
coal would impose its own limitations upon Souchon’s movements, but not
without some belated direction from Berlin.
Having become aware, late on the
morning of Monday 3rd, of the signing of the alliance in Constantinople Admiral
von Pohl in Berlin began to relent in his earlier opposition to
going east, his reluctance finally being overcome by the enthusiasm of Tirpitz.
Within hours – and upon their own authority – Pohl and Tirpitz issued orders
for Goeben and
to proceed to Constantinople. Wilhelm, having subsequently been informed, agreed
and the Foreign Office duly sent a cable to Ambassador Wangenheim at 7.30 that
evening to notify him of the change in plans and suggest that Souchon should be
placed at the disposal of the Turks to command their fleet.
Souchon had already learned on the evening of the 3rd, just before his two ships
parted company on their respective missions, that war had broken out with
France. This message, transmitted via the W/T station at Vittoria on Sicily, was
delayed as both Duke of Edinburgh and
attempted to jam the signal; the German signal was also intercepted aboard
at 5.7 p.m. but all they could make out was what they assumed to be the end of
the message, which was, confusingly, in French: ‘I will give you more later
keep a good watch.’
A few hours afterwards the message
was flashed from the W/T station at Nauen that an alliance had been concluded
with Turkey and that the two ships were to proceed immediately to
Constantinople. The signal was intercepted by receiving stations in England and
telegraphed to London at 2.4 a.m. but it would not be until November that the
German codes could be read.
Souchon received the unexpected message some two hours before his ships were due
to open fire on the French North African ports. ‘To turn round immediately,’
he later wrote, ‘on the verge of the eagerly anticipated action, was more than
I could bring my-self to do.’
Instead he held to his course and to his intention. Arriving off Philippeville
at dawn, Goeben had to slow as two
suspicious steamers passed out of the harbour and it was only at 6.8 a.m. that
her guns un-leashed a short, violent bombardment. Ten minutes later she was in
flight on a westerly course, pursued in-effectively by a few shells lobbed by a
French howitzer battery. Breslau had
an even easier time of it, making her run past Bona with guns blazing and no
reply. The opening shots in the Mediterranean had been fired.
No previous account of this
bombardment has mentioned the fact that, the following day, a report was
received in London from the consul at Algiers stating that, during the shelling,
the British ship Isle of Hastings had
been seriously damaged. It would be interesting to speculate what effect this
news might have had on the deliberations in London on 4 August if it had arrived
immediately by acting as a casus belli to justify forthwith the instigation of hostilities in
the Mediterranean. There seems little doubt that Churchill would have put this
information to good use if available in time but, with the delay in reporting
and the pressure on the wires, it was not received at the Foreign Office until
just after midday on the 5th.
The Germans had been just as anxious as the British and French to avoid
committing the first act of aggression — at 8.50 on Monday evening (3 August)
the German Admiralty Staff had telephoned the Fleet Commander to warn him ‘to
avoid all movements or actions that might be construed by England as directed
against herself. Auxiliary cruisers not to be allowed to run out, therefore.’
Souchon, as unaware of this directive as the Admiralty Staff were of his own
intentions, had violated and undermined the carefully preserved position adopted
news that Goeben and
had arrived at Messina shortly after midday on Sunday 2nd became known to Milne
later that night: at 2.59 a.m. he relayed the message to Troubridge’s squadron
and also to Chatham, which had been
detailed in any event to search Messina. In an instant display of the confusion
attendant upon his dual objectives Troubridge wanted to know whether he should
continue to watch the Adriatic. Milne’s reply, passing on Churchill’s order,
was not particularly helpful: ‘Yes, but Goeben
is primary consideration…’ Milne also ordered
Chatham to go right through the Straits of Messina so that she might
be able to report if Souchon had gone north.
Having digested Milne’s orders but with no accurate knowledge as to the
present whereabouts of the German ships, which may or may not have been still in
Messina, Troubridge signalled back at 5.6 a.m. asking if he should send the two
battle cruisers to the west by way of the southern route round Sicily. Milne
considered this action premature until authentic news had been received.
Therefore, until Chatham could report,
Troubridge took up a position south-east of the Straits of Messina where he
could reasonably hope to intercept any ships coming south; if, on the other
hand, Goeben and
proceeded north out of the Straits, he intended to act, as already indicated, by
sending Indomitable and
Indefatigable round the south of Sicily as he would not risk sending
the battle cruisers through the narrow Straits in view of the uncertain attitude
however, was expendable and the light cruiser passed through the Straits at 7.30
that morning (3 August); she had missed Goeben
and Breslau by a little over six
Milne directed the cruiser to head west once out of the Straits, round the
northern coast of Sicily, and endeavour to find Goeben, if necessary by asking passing merchant ships for
He also informed the Admiralty that Troubridge’s force would now reverse
course and search to the west, ‘towards French transport line from Algiers’,
with the exception of the light cruiser Gloucester and eight destroyers which were detached to maintain a
tenuous watch on the Adriatic. The decision to order Troubridge to search to the
west apparently resulted after Milne had received intelligence that
and Breslau had been sighted off the coast of Calabria the previous day
As they were no longer in Messina Milne could not be certain that the German
ships had slipped through the Malta Channel to the south of Sicily, in which
case they would run into Troubridge who was now blocking this passage. Milne’s
message detailing these dispositions was received in London at 9.05 a.m. on the
3rd, to the apparent satisfaction of Sturdee, the C.O.S., who pencilled a note
for the benefit of the French Naval Attaché, ‘C-in-C is evidently doing all
The problem of the French troop transports would continue to cause anxiety until
the afternoon of the following day when news was first received in London that
the sailings had been postponed on Lapeyrère’s orders due to the uncertainty
as to the whereabouts of Goeben and
Souchon’s calculated decision to ignore his new orders from Berlin – at
least until he had completed his planned bombardments – thus brought an
Out at sea, Troubridge and most of
his squadron were now steaming back in the direction of Malta. Captain Kennedy
aboard Indomitable could see no
obvious reason for the about face unless it could be that the Italians had
entered the war and, as he had not been as convinced as some that they would
remain neutral, he semaphored quizzically to Defence, ‘Where is “Taranto Fleet”? Between us and Malta?’
Troubridge did not know to what fleet Kennedy was referring and asked for more
information, which Kennedy could not supply. Nevertheless, the Captain of
did not want to be caught napping and, as he was senior to Captain Sowerby in
the other battle cruiser, Indefatigable,
he signalled the latter at 10.10 a.m., ‘If we are detached and coming into
action with enemy I hope you will haul out of “line ahead” if we are in that
formation, sufficiently to use your guns without signal from me (stop) and to
save coal keep just out of our wake as a rule only getting into it when we are
As Kennedy prepared for the
possibility of action with the Italians Milne was already having second
thoughts. Worried that he had not left the entrance to the Adriatic sufficiently
covered by Gloucester and the
destroyers, Milne now ordered Troubridge to alter course again and send the
First Cruiser Squadron back to assist
in watching the Adriatic while the two battle cruisers alone were to be detached
to continue their westward passage.
Defence duly logged this signal and,
at 3.15 on the afternoon of Monday, 3 August, Troubridge detached
and Indefatigable from his flag
as he himself turned his heavy cruisers about and returned to the patrol line at
the entrance of the Adriatic. Two hours later, when 20 miles off Valletta,
Captain Kennedy was ordered to proceed at 14 knots to search for
and Breslau between Cape Bon and Cape Spartivento; the two British
battle cruisers were instructed not to separate too far and to be on their guard
against surprise attack; fires were to be lighted in all boilers.
At this time Chatham (having passed
through the Straits of Messina) was off the north-west tip of Sicily, proceeding
on her circumnavigation of the island, after having discovered no further
information about the Germans who, at the time, were further still to the west
on their way to Philippeville and Bona.
In London on the 3rd Battenberg too
had little information to go on: every sighting of Souchon had placed him
further west. France and Germany were then not yet at war, though it would only
be a matter of hours, however Prince Louis did not even know if the French fleet
had sailed or not. With no clear idea as to the intentions of the French,
Battenberg must have reasoned that Souchon was apparently either trying to
interfere with the French transports or else escape into the Atlantic, or
possibly both. That afternoon the Senior Naval Officer, Gibraltar was therefore
warned that, as Goeben and
had ‘got away from the British battle cruisers’, a patrol should be formed
to watch the Straits of Gibraltar. Having thus planted the suspicion in his own
mind the seed germinated and took root and, at 6.30 p.m., Battenberg drafted new
orders to Milne: ‘The two battle-cruisers must proceed to Straits of Gibraltar
at high speed ready to prevent Goeben
Milne received the signal at 8.30 p.m. and it was flashed immediately to Captain
Kennedy, who was handed it on his bridge 17 minutes later — steam was raised
for 22 knots, close to the maximum speed of the battle cruisers in their current
state, forcing Kennedy to use oil in addition to coal, as required. As the
battle cruisers increased speed, the Foreign Office received a report from the
Naval Attaché in Paris that the French fleet had sailed that morning ‘to
watch German cruiser Goeben and protect transport of French African troops, which will
commence tomorrow.’ Although Sturdee initialled the Admiralty copy, the
information was not relayed to Milne who had finally left Malta at 6.30 that
evening in Inflexible and now lay
stopped in the Malta Channel ‘so as to be ready for immediate action if
This new information from Paris had, to a certain extent, made redundant
Battenberg’s order less than two hours previously regarding the battle
cruisers yet no further action was taken, leaving Indomitable and
to continue that night on their new westward course.
The situation in the still, moonlit
sea as Monday 3 August passed quietly into Tuesday 4th was thus:
and Breslau, aware now of the outbreak
of war between Germany and France, had separated and were racing to the Algerian
coast to pursue their respective missions of destruction; Milne, having been
unsuccessful in his attempts to establish contact with the French, had first
detached two of his three battle cruisers to search westward while he remained
near Malta in the third, then, following Admiralty orders, he had dispatched
them with all haste to Gibraltar; the French fleet, having left Toulon early in
the morning of the 3rd, continued their unhurried, stately progress towards
Africa. The warships of three nations were con-verging in the rectangle of sea
bounded by Majorca, Sardinia and the African coast from Algiers to Bizerta.
In London, at 9.45 p.m. on the 3rd
(following the outbreak of war between France and Germany), Saint-Seine met
Battenberg at the Admiralty where it was decided that the Anglo-French agreement
should be implemented as soon as possible and that it was ‘to be clearly
understood that this implies no offensive action on the part of the British
forces, who will not carry out any warlike action unless attacked by German
This meeting had occurred as a result of an approach by Churchill to Asquith and
Grey earlier that day: ‘I must request authorisation immediately’, Churchill
demanded in a tone that left the august recipients in little doubt as to the
answer required, ‘to put into force the combined Anglo-French dispositions for
the defence of the channel. The French have already taken station & this
partial disposition does not ensure security.’ To be absolutely sure, the
First Lord added that ‘My naval colleagues & advisers desire me to press
for this; & unless I am forbidden I shall act accordingly.’ Churchill did,
however, add that this ‘implies no offensive action unless we are attacked.’
The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary gave their approval at 5 p.m.
Augustin Boué de Lapeyrère had divided his fleet at Toulon into three groups
and, early on the morning of 3 August, having already sent the old ships of the
Reserve Squadron on ahead, the main body departed to rendezvous with them near
the Balearics where the combined force would again separate: the first group, to
the east, under Vice-Admiral Chocheprat, comprised the First Battle Squadron of
six semi-dreadnoughts of the Danton
class, the first division of the Armoured Cruiser Squadron and a flotilla of
destroyers; its destination was Philippeville. The second group, in the centre,
under Lapeyrère in the new dreadnought Courbet,
comprised in addition the pre-dreadnoughts of the Second Battle Squadron, the
second division of the Armoured Cruiser Squadron and 12 destroyers; its
destination was Algiers. The third group, the Reserve Squadron, to the west,
would go to Oran.
The long delayed message from Paris informing the C-in-C of the outbreak of war
was not received on the flagship till just after one o’clock on the morning of
the 4th; this message reiterated, in no uncertain terms, the express wish that
the transports should proceed individually, each at its best speed.
Lapeyrère’s three groups steamed slowly on at an economical cruising speed on
their diverging courses until the startling news of the bombardments was
received: that first Bona, then Philippeville, had been shelled by ships which
raced off in a north-westerly direction, apparently towards the Balearics.
Souchon’s feint had succeeded, helped by the fact that the French believed
that the Germans had a collier stationed in the Balearics from which Souchon
could then base himself to launch further attacks; there was also the immediate
possibility that Souchon would resume a westerly course and bombard Algiers. To
guard against the latter at least Lapeyrère ordered Cocheprat’s first group
to alter course to the south-west, away from Philippeville, and head for Algiers
also. Neither surmise was correct: as soon as he thought he had steamed out of
sight of the coast, Souchon doubled back eastwards, towards Messina.
The first opportunity to intercept
Souchon – which fell to the French – had been lost, but how great had it
been? Although Cocheprat’s destination had originally been Philippeville he
was still well short when the order was given to change course away. Although
the Germans reported that, by their wireless traffic, parts of the French fleet
were ‘in the immediate vicinity’
this was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that wireless operators
reported enemy ships just over the horizon when, in fact, they were scores of
miles away. One mystery concerns Troubridge’s report of a conversation he
subsequently had with Lapeyrère at Malta on 16 August. Troubridge at first
recounted that Lapeyrère ‘had actually sighted Goeben
with his flagship with the First Division of the French Fleet. He was only an
hour and a half behind her himself and actually saw her smoke on the horizon.’
Troubridge later expanded on this: Lapeyrère ‘in the
with some battleships in company, had sighted the Goeben’s
masts and smoke at a distance of 25 to 30 miles from him on the morning of the
Both statements are palpable nonsense: Courbet was not with the First Division of the Fleet that morning,
but in the second, central, division heading for Algiers. It was absolutely
impossible for Lapeyrère to have sighted Goeben.
He might have seen smoke on the horizon but in all probability it was from the
ships of his own first division which were now steaming on a converging course
and, at the time, would have been about 30 miles distant. As Lapeyrère spoke no
English Troubridge was possibly misinformed, but as Troubridge also apparently
recalled that the French Admiral ‘at once decided it was futile to endeavour
to close [Goeben]’
perhaps the most charitable explanation is that Lapeyrère, knowing that
Troubridge had aborted his own attempt to intercept the Germans, was simply
consoling the Englishman along the lines of “in your place, I would have done
Having left Toulon as late as they
did the French had undeniably robbed themselves of the chance of being off the
African coast at first light on the morning of the 4th; if Lapeyrère had sailed
on the 2nd, which he could have done, could he have brought Souchon to action?
The answer must be a highly qualified “yes”. The division that
might have encountered at Philippeville – the first group – comprised as its
main striking force six semi-dreadnoughts, not one capable of exceeding 20
knots; the battle cruiser as a class did not exist in the French navy. Although
trial speed had been reduced due to her boiler problems she was still capable of
22 knots and, if pushed, up to 24 knots. If Souchon had emerged from the shadows
off Philippeville and blundered into Cocheprat’s group there is little doubt
that he could have escaped east at high speed, a belief supported by the
conclusion of the French Commission appointed to investigate the débâcle:
reason of the difference in speed and artillery existing between the ships
making up the French Fleet and the Goeben
and Breslau it is impossible to affirm that if offensive measures had
been taken from the first day of operations the enemy cruisers would have been
captured or destroyed.
highlighted one crucial fact: if Souchon were to be caught, it would not be upon
the open sea but as a result of (1) being cut off by a stronger force (without
defining, at this stage, what that might be), or, (2) by being surprised when
immobilized either while coaling or as the result of battle damage inflicted
after (1). Milne’s battle cruisers had all exceeded 26 knots on their trials
but were now capable of no better than 22 knots. Souchon, though he might not
have realized it given the state of his boilers, possessed the priceless
advantage of speed.
of the German bombardment reached Milne unofficially, via the Eastern Telegraph
Company, at 8.50 on the morning of the 4th, though this initial report stated
that only Bona had been shelled and that this had been done ‘by three of four
In the confusion however, Milne appeared to think the message referred to Bona
Oran being bombarded; by the time he passed the information on to Troubridge
at 10.15 a.m. he mentioned only that Oran had been bombed, and by three German
It is impossible to ascertain how this error was made but the significance of
the mistake was that, as Oran is closer to Gibraltar than Bona, it tended to
heighten the impression that Goeben
and Breslau would continue to escape
westwards and thereby pointed to the Atlantic as the most probable destination.
Aboard the British battle cruisers, Captains Kennedy and Sowerby passed the time
from 8.30 a.m., as they edged ever closer to Gibraltar, by swapping signals.
had just semaphored, ‘What do you imagine the situation is at present?’ to
which Indomitable replied that it was
thought England and Italy were still neutral. Kennedy also pointed out that his
ship had been using oil since 9 o’clock the previous night to be able to
maintain 22 knots and that the stokers were to be put into three watches instead
of two but, to accomplish this, 90 ratings would have to be put to work trimming
the bunkers; Kennedy then speculated as to how far west
Goeben might have been able to steam. As if a teasing spirit now
sought to provide an answer, within minutes the intercepted message from the
Eastern Telegraph Company office at Bona was handed to Kennedy on the bridge.
The Captain was dumbfounded: due to an error in coding, the message received by
him stated that the Germans were shelling Dover. Regaining his composure, he
signalled Sowerby at 10.12 a.m., ‘…I do not believe that yarn about Germans
firing on Dover do you?’
Unlike his own, the staff on
had been doing their homework and had already calculated that, if
Goeben left Messina about midnight on 2/3 August at 14 knots, she
could have been off Bona by 5 a.m.
that morning; it was just possible, they conceded, that
Goeben could make for home round the north of Scotland at 14 knots,
without coaling, though the more logical assumption was for her to put into a
neutral port to obtain further supplies of coal. Kennedy agreed that, especially
if she had taken in a deck cargo of coal, Goeben could ‘get right round North About Home’ without
recoaling, but the idea of shelling Dover on the journey ‘would be a risky and
expensive way to declare war. I think BONA was meant not DOVER.’ Twenty
minutes later, all doubt was removed when the battle cruisers intercepted a W/T
sent to Milne from Dublin which was
then moored in Bizerta harbour on her mission to establish contact with the
French; the message stated that Goeben
and Breslau had fired shots into
Philippeville and Bona and left ‘Full Speed Westward’.
It was Dublin which then proceeded to
cloud the issue by reporting news received from Paris that a German collier was
anchored at Palma, ‘Supposed idea coal 2 German cruisers.’
Milne was snatching snippets of
information out of the ether – that the German ships had bombarded Bona or
possibly Oran and headed off in a westerly direction, and that there was a
German collier in the Balearics – all of which directed his attention to the
western basin of the Mediterranean. At 9.46 that morning the Senior Naval
Officer, Gibraltar reported to London that a message had been received from
Marseilles that German men-of-war had passed along the Algerian coast during the
night, shelling Bona, and were ‘now on the way to Gibraltar.’
It is possible that this message was also intercepted and passed to Milne.
However, with the attendant irony which is never far removed from such
occasions, the most dramatic message that morning – which might have diverted
his gaze away from the west – was not initially received by Milne. At 10.32
a.m. the lookouts aboard Indomitable
spotted Breslau two points off the
starboard bow, proceeding north-east by
east at high speed and throwing up a huge bow wave.
Almost before Captain Kennedy could order ‘Look out for
the German battle cruiser appeared out of the haze off
port bow. As action stations sounded it seemed that, to rejoin her consort,
was attempting to cut across the bows of Indomitable;
Kennedy thereupon altered course to starboard to block the manoeuvre forcing
to resume her original course so that the two battle cruisers, whose countries
still remained at peace, passed each other on opposite courses, travelling at a
combined speed of close to 40 knots.
Kennedy ordered his ship’s guns
kept trained to their securing positions while Goeben
was scanned carefully to see if she flew an admiral’s flag which would require
a salute. In the circumstances, with war perhaps hours away, Kennedy was loathe
to risk an ‘incident’ resulting from the firing of his saluting cannon but
no admiral’s flag was discernible and the German’s guns were also trained
fore and aft. ‘I had well considered the question’, Kennedy admitted
afterwards, ‘and I believed that the salute was very likely to be the cause of
the German replying by shot and shell.’
The ships passed in silence. Kennedy semaphored to Indefatigable,
‘Raise steam for Full Speed and then I am going to shadow her’, and then
sent a signal to Milne at 10.40 a.m.: ‘Enemy in sight. Lat 37°44’ N., 7°56’
E. steering E. consisting of Goeben
Milne did not receive this message. When Indomitable signalled six minutes later, repeating that the enemy
was in sight and was being shadowed, Kennedy this time gave the position but
the direction in which the Germans were steering; Milne, who
receive this message, assumed they were still heading west. At 11.08 a.m. Milne
instructed Captain John Kelly in Dublin,
still at Bizerta, to inform the French Admiral that Goeben and
been found and ordered Kelly to proceed immediately to reinforce
Meanwhile Chatham would proceed to
Bizerta to maintain communications with the French.
Ten minutes later, Milne informed the Admiralty, ‘Indomitable,
Goeben, Breslau off Bona 10 a.m. They are
shadowed. Dublin ordered to assist.’
This welcome news was received in
London shortly before 11 a.m. (GMT). Then, within minutes, a further signal was
received in which Milne passed on the report of a German collier waiting at
Palma for Goeben.
Battenberg, as Milne had done, continued to look to the west, obviously unaware
that, within minutes, Milne would receive a further two signals from Captain
Kennedy both of which erroneously stated that Goeben
was heading north. Clearly in a quandary over this new information, Milne at
once sought clarification from Kennedy, which eventually arrived after midday
and, at last, correctly gave Goeben’s
course as east. Even so, to make absolutely sure that this was indeed the
correct course, Milne waited another couple of hours before notifying the
In the meantime, on the telegram reporting that the German ships were being
shadowed Battenberg minuted, ‘Very good. Hold her. War Imminent.
is to be prevented by force from interfering with French transports.’ This
went too far for Churchill to authorize contravening, as it did, the undertaking
given to Asquith and Grey the previous night; Churchill therefore circled the
first three, two-word, sentences and noted ‘This to go now’, but the final
sentence would have to await confirmation.
The truncated signal was sent at 11.20 a.m. (GMT) and was received aboard
with some disgust if only because they thought the message – apart from ‘War
Imminent’ – a waste of W/T: ‘the less one puts it to use the better.’
Churchill immediately sought approval to send the second part of the order, but
this raised two questions: under what circumstances would the British be
justified in opening fire and, given that the Navy’s responsibilities were
global and not confined solely to the Mediterranean, when was the best time at
which Anglo-German hostilities should commence? The First Lord tackled the
second question after that morning’s Cabinet (at which it had been decided to
send an ultimatum to Germany to respect Belgian neutrality) by informing
Battenberg and Sturdee that an ultimatum would be sent and, as a consequence,
the German Ambassador ‘will ask for his passports’. Churchill wanted to know
at what time the rupture should take place: ‘At what hour of daylight or
darkness would it be most convenient for us to begin hostilities. Immediate
reply is necessary in order to put hour into the ultimatum.’
Concerned that enough time should be allowed to make certain that the fleet was
at its war station, Battenberg minuted ‘Anytime after midnight tonight.’
Seeking a judgment on the first
question Churchill approached Asquith and Grey at midday to inform them that
and Breslau had been found ‘west of
Sicily’ and were being shadowed but it would be a great misfortune to lose
these vessels, as would be possible, in the dark hours:
Goeben was ‘evidently going to interfere with the French
transports’, the First Lord asserted erroneously, ‘which are crossing
today.’ Churchill informed them of the order that had already been sent to
hold Goeben and demanded an immediate
decision as to whether he could add the final sentence, ‘If
attacks French transports you should at once engage her.’
It would be another five hours before further news was received from Paris that
the transports would not sail, due to
the presence of Goeben,
and that the French Fleet had been given orders to bring
to action ‘if possible’.
Unaware of this French pusillanimity Churchill got his decision, with one
proviso: at Downing Street at 12.10 p.m. he ordered that Milne should be sent
the additional signal, ‘If Goeben
attacks French transports you should at once engage. You should give her fair
warning of this beforehand.’ This was immediately transmitted to Milne who
received it shortly after 5 p.m.
The First Lord then returned to the Cabinet room to explain the situation to his
colleagues, presumably trusting that they would acquiesce in his
accompli; however, as Grey had yet to telegraph the ultimatum to Berlin
(which would not go till 2 p.m.) the Cabinet refused to sanction any overt act
of war. Whether, if Churchill had had available the consul’s report from
Algeria concerning the damage caused by the German warships to the British
steamer Isle of Hastings, the Cabinet
may have decided differently is a moot point, but the First Lord was not overly
perturbed. In Asquith’s famous description: ‘Winston, who has got on all his
war-paint, is longing for a sea-fight in the early hours of to-morrow morning,
resulting in the sinking of the Goeben.’
Churchill had no option but to
return to the Admiralty and telegraph new orders to Milne, just five minutes
after Grey at last delivered the ultimatum to Berlin:
Admiralty to All Ships at 2 p.m. (216 out)
British ultimatum to Germany will expire at midnight G.M.T. August 4th. No Act
of War should be committed before that hour at which time the telegram to
commence hostilities against Germany will be dispatched from the Admiralty.
addition to Mediterranean, Indomitable,
Indefatigable sent at 2.5 p.m.
cancels the authorisation to Indomitable
and Indefatigable to engage
if she attacks French transports.
received one further important signal from the Admiralty which had been
dispatched from London during the fraught period between the confirmation of the
first sighting of the German ships and the Cabinet’s insistence that the time
period set by the ultimatum should first expire before any act of war could be
committed. This signal, superfluous but well-meant, would contribute to the débâcle
almost as much as Churchill’s ‘superior force’ telegram; this time
Battenberg was the chief culprit. The First Sea Lord had noted to Churchill on
the morning of the 4th that ‘In view of the Italian Declaration of Neutrality
(F.O. Rome, no. 156, 3.8.14) propose to telegraph C-in-C, Medn acquainting him
and enjoining him to respect this rigidly & not to allow a ship to come
within 6 miles of Italian Coast.’ Churchill took up the First Lord’s red
pencil and annotated ‘So proceed. FO shd intimate this to Italian Govt.’
The order was sent to Milne from the Admiralty at 12.55 p.m. and Grey was
informed shortly afterwards.
‘If this fact is notified to the Italian Government it should be made
clear’, Grey was pedantically enjoined, ‘that this order is inspired by a
desire to meet their views to the utmost, and is not to be taken as implying an
admission of their claim to territorial waters beyond the three-mile limit.’
The crucial implication contained in
the order to Milne was that his ships were now effectively debarred from passing
through the Straits of Messina which were only two miles wide at their narrowest
point. This voluntary act of supererogation was unnecessary as Italy had already
declared her neutrality; neither the Italian Government nor the Foreign Office
in London had requested it; it conformed to no clause of the 1907 Hague
Convention; and it went further than required by international law, which merely
debarred belligerents from hostile actions within three miles of the coast.
In the opinion of the British Naval Attaché in Rome not only was the order
unnecessary, it did nothing at all to increase the Italians’ opinion of the
To complicate matters further, less than two hours after Battenberg caused the
signal to be sent, Sturdee telegraphed to the Senior Naval Officer, Gibraltar
that the Straits patrol there was to include territorial waters.
On the one hand it is easy to imagine the confused and strained atmosphere of
the first days of August, yet the war itself was not unexpected: at the
Admiralty, in particular, preparations should have reached an advanced stage
during the July crisis, however the work of the Naval Staff – while it was
perhaps too much to expect it to be faultless – was instead a shambles.
Churchill’s vaunted mission of 1911, the instigation of a smoothly functioning
staff, had failed.
On 1 August the scene in the War
Room was ‘wild, thousands of telegrams littered about & no-one keeping a
proper record of them.’
A re-organization envisaged in April 1914 after two years’ experience was
hastily swept aside in August. At that time the War Staff proper numbered 33
officers which was not enough to deal with the emergency and which necessitated
a large and sudden intake once war appeared inevitable: six officers arrived
from the War College; another three who had previously been on half-pay; five
were seconded from other Admiralty Departments; but the largest number,
fourteen, were from the retired and emergency list. These additional officers
crowded into the War Room, operating in three watches around the clock. There,
with a moment to spare, an officer could stand at the window and gaze out to the
west, over Horseguards’ Parade, for the War Room was actually the First
Lord’s State Bedroom, situated on the first floor of Admiralty House. The
organizational structure in 1914 comprised the following sections:
A. British ships of war at Home and Abroad.
B. Patrol flotillas, trawlers, minesweepers.
C. (no longer existed)
D. Colliers, oilers, fleet auxiliaries.
E1. Foreign war vessels (information from the Intelligence Division).
E2. Foreign merchant ships.
differed from the original 1912 organization in one important area: previously
the movements of British and foreign
ships had been dealt with by one section, depending on location.
Now, the movements of Goeben and
would be handled by one section while the movements of Milne’s ships would be
handled by another. These sections would, independently, mark up the positions
on large charts adorning the state bedroom as the information was received. The
relevant Naval Staff Monograph
comments, without a trace of irony:
system of 5 sections working in a single room broke down after a few days and
was abandoned, apparently for reasons of space. The system was not a good one.
Each section required a staff and apparatus of its own and the sections seemed
to have got in one another’s way. The Intelligence Sections, who followed
enemy movements, went off to another room and, though they came in and marked up
the War Charts, their exodus made immediate reference more difficult.
by 4 August, an improvement had been made although it was still a strange way to
run a war, as Captain Dumas found out: ‘At last’, he recorded in his diary,
‘someone has taken in hand the organization of the war room and high time too
but it was an incongruity to go to Sturdee’s room and find him – the COS –
and Leveson – the DOD – having a tea party with their wives. Also which is
amazing there is a notice in Prince Louis’ office that no telephone message
must be sent to his house he has German servants.’
One obvious problem concerned the
flood of telegrams pouring into the War Registry and overwhelming the staff of 3
resident clerks and 30 assistants (again divided into 3 watches). Some messages
were routine, many – in all probability – a waste of W/T, others of the
utmost importance; delay was inevitable but who could say that the message
waiting in the pile to be decoded was not vital and urgent?
In addition, the Foreign Office was suborned to disseminate naval information.
As an example of the circuitous route a signal could take, at 9.10 on the
evening of 3 August the British Ambassador in Rome, Rodd, telegraphed the
Foreign Office that Goeben and
had arrived at Messina on 2 August and were reported to have taken on board
1,000 tons of coal. This information reached the Foreign Office at 9.15 the
following morning, at which time George Clerk, the Senior Clerk at the Eastern
Department, minuted that the Admiralty should be asked by telephone whether it
would be of any use to repeat this, and similar telegrams, to Paris so that they
could be communicated to the French Ministry of Marine. Clerk’s motivation,
other than saving the Admiralty’s time, was that he was aware the ‘Toulon
Fleet is reported to be on the lookout for Goeben.’
The telephone call was duly made and resulted in a further minute: the Admiralty
asked the Foreign Office to send a paraphrase
of such telegrams to the French Embassy in London. This was done, and Cambon was
handed a paraphrase later the same day, presumably to pass on to Paris himself.
Why allow clerks at the Foreign Office, with little or no experience of naval
affairs, to paraphrase information affecting naval strategy, with all the
contingent dangers that that entailed? And why then route the information
through the French Embassy?
Above all this chaos there strode
the figure of Churchill: jealous of his position; unwilling to delegate to the
Staff the functions which rightly belonged to them; unchecked by Battenberg and
Sturdee; drafting operational telegrams in his own hand and justifying this by
claiming the retrospective approval of the First Sea Lord and Chief of Staff
and, in doing so, applying the language of the politician to the orders to his
C-in-C. Battenberg did attempt to argue with Churchill on the afternoon of the
4th that immediate action should be taken against the German ships as, with
darkness approaching, they could escape in any direction but, bound by the
Cabinet, Churchill had gone as far as he could; besides, Battenberg’s own
telegram concerning the over-zealous deference to Italian neutrality would prove
a greater contributory factor to the escape than the decision to withhold
Milne’s authority to open fire.
As Churchill and Battenberg remonstrated the German ships were, in any event,
drawing away from their shadowers, swallowed by the mist that had persisted
throughout the day.
The full extent of the degree of
centralization at the Admiralty in the early stages of the war was not revealed
until 1916: ‘…there grew at once on the outbreak of war a War Staff
Group’, Churchill then stated. ‘It consisted of the First Sea Lord, the
C.O.S., the Second Sea Lord and the Secretary, under the Presidency of the First
Lord. This group met daily, occasionally with additional members, usually for an
hour and a half or 2 hours, and examined the whole situation.’ Churchill
claimed the other Sea Lords were aware of what was going on, but this did not
tally with their recollection. Lambert, the Fourth Sea Lord, claimed that ‘in
the War Room where a lot of useful information could be got without bothering
people to look at telegrams, a list was put up on the door in Mr Churchill’s
own handwriting of people who were allowed to go in there and the Junior
Lords’ names were crossed out and the names of the civil members of the Board
were crossed out.’
Churchill also admitted that ‘though in my time a large proportion of the
operative minutes and drafts of telegrams emanated personally from me, these
were the result not of my own knowledge alone, but they summed up and embodied
the results of daily consultations…’
When asked by Admiral Sir William
May, at the Dardanelles Inquiry, whether the First Lord could give an executive
order to the Fleet without the Board knowing about it at all and, if so, whether
the order would be carried out, Churchill replied that it had never been done.
Pressed by May, he admitted that, theoretically, it may be done: ‘I suppose if
the First Lord said to the Secretary, Do so and so, the Secretary would send the
orders out and it would go to the Fleet, and the Fleet would of course obey it;
but I cannot conceive such a thing being done.’
In effect, however, the Board of Admiralty had fallen into abeyance, to be
replaced by Churchill’s inner circle. When queried on this point, Fisher at
least was in complete agreement: the Board of Admiralty as a corporate body was
less consulted than before the war ‘because there was not the time to get all
these fellows together and to consult them. Besides, a junta is a bad thing for
The situation had become so bad that by 12 October 1914 the Junior Sea Lords
addressed a memorandum to Battenberg complaining that:
the beginning of the war, we were informed that it was not intended that we
should take part in councils of war. We preferred a verbal request to the
Secretary that reports on operations which may be rendered from time to time to
the Admiralty should be circulated to us confidentially for information. This
request has so far not been complied with. We do not want to raise difficulties
at this time, but we feel that it is wrong, that as naval members of the Board,
we should be kept in complete ignorance both of general policy adopted and also
of the decisions taken on proposals which are important but which in most cases
cannot be said to be either secret of confidential…
Sea Lords then requested that periodical meetings of naval members of the Board
be held at which they could be put in possession of important proposals
however, by the end of that month, Battenberg himself had been relieved of duty
and Fisher – the arch centralizer – had returned.
 Souchon, p. 484; Der Krieg Zur See, p. 39. According to Kopp, Two Lone Ships, p. 17, the Italians were concerned that the colliers might be battered against Goeben’s hull.
 Constantinople to Foreign Office, no. 396, 1 August 1914; von Mutius
to Foreign Office, 2 August 1914; Constantinople to Foreign Office, no. 408,
2 August 1914, in Max Montgelas and Walter Schücking (eds.), Outbreak
of the World War. German Documents collected by Karl Kautsky, (London,
1924), nos. 652, 683, 726, pp. 488, 505, 526 [hereinafter referred to as
Kautsky, German Documents]. Ulrich
Trumpener, The Escape of the Goeben
and Breslau: a Reassessment, The Canadian Journal of History, VI,
(1971), p. 173.
 Berlin to cruisers abroad, no. 11, 2 August 1914, Decode of Messages
sent in German VB cipher, PRO Adm 137/4065.
 Der Krieg Zur See, p. 40.
 Tirpitz, My Memoirs, vol.
II, p. 349.
 Secretary of State of the Imperial Naval Office to Secretary of State
for Foreign Affairs, 3 August 1914, Kautsky,
German Documents, no. 775, p. 552. Trumpener, Reassessment,
 Admiralty Staff of the Navy to Goeben, via Vittoria, no. 5, 3 August
1914, PRO Adm 137/4065; Kennedy, p. 5. The section in French does not appear
in the message as sent; presumably this was a French signal intercepted and
transposed with the German signal.
 The decodes can be found in PRO Adm 137/4065.
 Der Krieg Zur See, p. 39.
 Acting Consul-General, London to Sir Edward Grey, 5 August 1914, PRO
 Admiralty Staff of the Navy to Secretary of State for Foreign
Affairs, 3 August 1914, Kautsky, German
Documents, no. 808, p. 569.
 C-in-C to R-Adl and Chatham,
2.59 a.m., 3 August 1914; R-Adl to C-in-C, 3.37 a.m.; C-in-C to R-Adl,
rec’d 4.23 a.m., NSM,B; Lumby, p. 150.
 R-Adl to C-in-C, 5.6 a.m., 3 August, NSM,B; W/T Signal Log, HMS Defence, IWM MISC 64 ITEM 1009.
 R-Adl to C-in-C, 6.50 a.m., 3 August, NSM,B; Lumby, p. 151; W/T
Signal Log, HMS Defence, IWM MISC
64 ITEM 1009.
 Log of HMS Chatham, PRO Adm
 C-in-C to Chatham and First
Cruiser Squadron, rec’d 8.27 a.m., 3 August, NSM,B; Lumby, p. 151.
 Court of Inquiry, qu. 5, Lumby, p. 248.
 C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 391, 3 August 1914, and minute by
Sturdee, PRO Adm 137/HS19.
 See, Court Martial, qu. 120, Lumby, p.
288: Milne testified: ‘…looking over my war orders again, I saw that the
cruisers had to watch the mouth of the Adriatic. So I directed the
Rear-Admiral to return to watch the Adriatic.’
 C-in-C to R-Adl, 1st C.S., rec’d 2.33 p.m., 3 August 1914, NSM,B;
Lumby, p. 152; W/T Signal Log, HMS
 Admiralty to S.N.O., Gibraltar, 2.45 p.m., 3 August; Admiralty to
C-in-C, 6.30 p.m., 3 August, PRO Adm 137/HS19; Lumby, pp. 152-3.
 Bertie to Grey, no. 127, rec’d 8.18 p.m., 3 August 1914, PRO Adm
137/HS19; Milne to Admiralty, 20 August 1914, para. 13, Lumby, p. 215.
 Note by Battenberg, Battenberg mss., IWM DS/MISC/20, reel 5, item
 Churchill to Asquith and Grey, for immediate action, 3 August 1914;
note by Sir William Tyrrell, WSC Comp.
vol. III, pt. i, p. 15.
 Corbett, Naval Operations,
vol. I, p. 59.
 Halpern, Naval War in the Medt.,
 Der Krieg Zur See, pp. 39-40.
 Court of Inquiry, Statement for the Defence, Lumby, p. 256. Note: the
allegation by Troubridge that Lapeyrère had sighted the smoke of Goeben first surfaced in a letter from Troubridge to Milne on 21
August. Troubridge maintained therein that, with the French fleet blocking
the way west, it was “certain” Goeben
was coming east. This would appear to be a clear case of hindsight. See,
Troubridge to Milne, 21 August 1914, Milne mss., NMM MLN 209/7.
 Court Martial, Statement for the Defence, Lumby, p. 369.
 On the basis of Troubridge’s dubious recollection alone, van der
Vat, p. 60, maintains that Goeben
and Breslau must have passed close
to the second group and so, therefore, were trapped between the second group
in the west and the first group in the east. As a result, Lapeyrère
‘could have encircled them’ but ‘deliberately threw away the
chance’. It is beyond doubt that, whatever Lapeyrère saw that morning, it
was not Goeben. At the cruising speed of the second group, which van der Vat
acknowledges was only 11 to 12 knots, it was over 150 miles away from the
closest position on the Algerian coast as Souchon completed his bombardment.
 Commission de la Marine de Guerre, quoted in Halpern, The
Naval War in the Medt., p. 26.
 Senior Naval Officer, Malta to C-in-C, (code time 0724 GMT), 4 August
1914, NSM,B; Lumby, p. 154.
 Milne to Admiralty, 20 August 1914, para. 17, Lumby, p. 215; C-in-C
to R-Adl, 1st C.S., (code time 0915), 4 August 1914, NSM,B, Lumby, p. 154.
 Dublin to C-in-C, (code time 0930), 4
August 1914, NSM,B, Lumby, p. 155.
 S.N.O., Gibraltar to Admiralty, no. 636, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm
 Kennedy, p. 6, reports the sighting at 9.35 GMT (10.35 SMT), however
the ship’s log has 10.32 a.m. Log of HMS
Indomitable, PRO Adm 53/44830.
 Quoted in, E. Keble Chatterton, Dardanelles
Dilemma, p. 20.
 Kennedy, pp. 6-7; Indomitable
to C-in-C, 10.46 a.m., 4 August 1914, NSM,B, Lumby, p. 155; see also, Lumby,
 Indomitable to C-in-C, (0946); C-in-C
to Indomitable and Dublin,
(1008), 4 August 1914, NSM,B; Lumby, p. 155.
 C-in-C to Admiralty, no. 394, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19; Lumby,
 C-in-C to Admiralty, no. 395, ibid.;
Lumby, p. 156.
 Indomitable to C-in-C, (1015) and
(1034); C-in-C to Indomitable, (1039)
and reply by Indomitable (1110),
NSM,B; C-in-C to Admiralty, no. 396, (1329), PRO Adm 137/HS19; Lumby, pp.
 Admiralty to C-in-C,
Indomitable, Indefatigable, no. 213, minute by Churchill, 4 August 1914,
PRO Adm 137/HS19.
 Narrative from the Indomitable: the escape of the Goeben,
Naval Review, 1919, vol. 12, p. 110.
 The ultimatum sent by Grey to Berlin at 2 p.m. was a bland document
requesting an assurance regarding Belgian neutrality by 11 p.m. G.M.T.,
otherwise the British Government would ‘take all steps in their power to
uphold the neutrality of Belgium…’ A reply was not expected and none was
forthcoming, so a second document was prepared for delivery to the German
Ambassador explaining that a state of war would exist by 11 p.m. An
incorrect version of this was delivered after it was mistakenly believed
that evening that Germany had already declared war on England and, when the
error was discovered, a correct version was substituted late that night by
Harold Nicolson, the son the Permanent Under-Secretary. See,
Nicolson, Lord Carnock, pp. 423-6.
 Churchill to First Sea Lord, C.O.S., minute by Battenberg, 4 August
1914, Nicolson mss., PRO FO800/375.
 Churchill to the Prime Minister, Sir Edward Grey, 4 August 1914, PRO
 Bertie to Foreign Office, no. 132, 1.15 p.m., 4 August 1914 (rec’d
5 p.m.): ‘Following from Military Attaché:— It is hoped to bring from
Algeria a force of about 20,000; at present it is not deemed advisable to
commence transportation across Mediterranean owing to presence of German
warships; probable time for transportation 12 days; probable destination
neighbourhood of Belfort.’ Fifteen minutes later Bertie sent a dispatch
(no. 134) from the Naval Attaché which was also received in London at 5
p.m.: ‘French fleet have been given orders to bring Goeben
to action if possible. Goeben is
at present off Algerian coast.’ PRO Adm 137/HS19.
 Note by Churchill, 10 Downing Street, no. 214, 12.10 p.m., 4 August
1914, marked “for immediate action”, PRO Adm 137/HS19.
 Asquith to Venetia Stanley, Asquith
Letters, 4 August 1914, no. 115, pp. 149-51.
 Admiralty to All Ships, no. 216, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm 137/HS19.
Note: Churchill was in error concerning the time of the expiration of the
ultimatum: it was timed to expire at midnight, Central European Time, which
was 11 p.m. G.M.T. This confusion over time zones is a common feature of the
saga of the escape, as will be shown.
 Battenberg to Churchill, minute by Churchill, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm
137/879. Cf. Churchill, World Crisis,
p. 133: ‘Bearing in mind how disastrous it would be if any petty incident
occurred which could cause trouble at this fateful moment with Italy...’
 Admiralty to C-in-C and Ad. Supt., Malta, no. 215, 4 August 1914, PRO
Adm 137/HS19, Lumby, p. 157.
 Admiralty to Foreign Office, 4 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2161/35790.
 Naval Staff Monographs (Historical) Fleet Issue, 1923, vol. VIII, The
Mediterranean, 1914-1915, para. 21, PRO Adm 186/618; Alfred Dewar, Winston
Churchill at the Admiralty, Naval Review, 1923, vol. 11, p. 226.
 W. H. D. Boyle, My Naval Life,
1886-1941, (London, 1942), p. 84.
 Admiralty to S.N.O., Gibraltar, no. 397, 4 August 1914, PRO Adm
137/HS19. Either there was a lack of communication in the Admiralty or, as
the Spaniards were not viewed as a problem, their territoriality could be
 Diary of Admiral Philip Dumas, entry for 1 August 1914, IWM PP/MCR/96.
 Originally, in 1912, section C handled intercepted W/T messages. A
new section was created for deciphering German signals — the famous
 In 1912 Section A dealt with HM ships and enemy ships in Home Waters
and section E with HM ships and enemy ships abroad.
 Naval Staff Monograph, The
Naval Staff of the Admiralty, Its work and development, (1929) Naval
Historical Library, pp. 56, 59-61.
 Diary of Admiral [then Captain] Dumas, entry for 4 August 1914, IWM
 Vice-Admiral Dewar, The Navy
from Within, (London, 1939), p. 163, gives the example of a cruiser
patrolling the Atlantic which wired, on 14 August, asking for Admiralty
permission to issue an extra ration of lime juice.
 Rodd to Foreign Office, no. 161, urgent, 3 August 1914; minute by
Clerk, 4 August, PRO FO 371/2161/35670.
 Martin Gilbert, Winston S
Churchill, 1914-1916, p. 30. Milne’s authority to open fire, if
granted, would have operated only in the case where the German ships were
physically interfering in the transportation of the French troops which, as
Souchon was steering east, they were patently not doing. If Battenberg’s
arguments that afternoon had prevailed it would, in all probability, have
been too late as, by the time the authorization had been relayed to the
battle cruisers, the German ships were almost out of sight.
 Evidence of Lambert before the Dardanelles Commission, qu. 4112, PRO
 Dardanelles Commission, Statement by Churchill, War
Staff Group, PRO Cab 19/28.
 Proceedings of the Dardanelles Commission, qu. 1078-9, PRO Cab 19/33.
 Ibid., qu. 2956. Note: Sir Graham
Greene disagreed that there had been major changes after the outbreak of war
and maintained that the Junior Sea Lords could have found out what was going
on if they had wanted but, although they could read all the telegrams, they
were generally not consulted beforehand about policy decisions. He also
confirmed that the First Lord clearly had the right under Order in Council
to initiate orders: ibid., qu.
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