- Nekrasov, G., Commander, RAN
- WWI operations
- None noted.
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1976 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
On the 18th November 1914, both fleets were returning from bombardment of enemy coast, when off Balaclava in dense but patchy fog they met at a range of less than 8,000 yards – or rather Goeben and SV Evasffi (flag of Admiral Eberhard) sighted each other.
Following the Battle of Tushima the Russian doctrine called for the second in line to control the firing, by WT, using special boom aerial on the disengaged side. Seconds ticked by and Zlatoust (second in line) did nothing – ‘He can’t see him’, snapped the Admiral, ‘open fire at once’. At 1218 Evasffi fired. For some reason Goeben replied a whole minute later – at 1219 and a unique duel followed; Goeben firing her 10 x 11″ guns (but not her secondary armament and SV Evasffi firing all she had – 4 x 12″, 2 x 8″, 6 x 6″. Both ships scored hits very quickly. Evasffi’s aerials were shot away so she could not control the squadron shooting either, Zlatoust fired by guessing and her range was proven wrong, Panteleimon did not fire at all as she was not in the running. However, in the Battleship Tri-Sviatie LA a Lieutenant in charge of secondary armament caught a glimpse of Goeben through a break in the fog and opened fire with 7 x 6″ guns using his binoculars to estimate the range – this was the only help that SV Evasffi had.
At 1232 Goeben (after 14 minutes of firing) altered course and disappeared in the fog. This engagement was a tonic to the Russian Navy as a whole. After this battle Souchon concentrated on hit-and-run operations while Eberhard became a stalking hunter.
On the 26th December Goeben struck a Russian mine off Bosphorus and had to be dry docked. Eberhard had won the first round by skilfully handling his obsolescent fleet.
Lesson No. 3: A determined inferior force may prove hard to beat.
1915 was a crucial year, for the Russian Army had run out of ammunition, the production had not yet caught up with the demand and the German ‘Iron Phalanx’ started to roll forwards. It is against this background that the Dardenelles operations had to be viewed. There was a real danger that Germany would win the war by beating Russia first and then throwing all her forces against the Western Front. The need for a supply from the UK and France was pressing. The shortest route was through the Black Sea.
The following new developments took place on the Black Sea.
- The establishment of several radio direction finding stations to track Goeben.
- Bulgaria’s entry into the war – on Germany’s side.
- Appearances of U-boats in the Black Sea.
- The introduction of two converted cargo liners, now seaplane carriers (hydro-cruisers) Imperator Nikolai and Imperator Alexander I and, later, the commissioning of the first pair of Russian dreadnoughts.
Early in the year both antagonists continued the same pattern of operations. Eberhard maintained raids to interdict the sea routes between Istanbul and the port of Zunguldak – the main source of coal supply to the Turkish fleet. The hero of these raids proved to be a certain Destroyer Squadron Commander, Captain Prince Trubetskoy – an aristocratic pirate, seldom seen without his golden pipe. One raid by three destroyer groups resulted in sinking of 450 small coastal craft; Breslau and two other Turkish cruisers Medjideih and Hamideih in return raided the Russian coast. Both sides engaged in mining, offensive and defensive.
In March or April Goeben re-entered the Black Sea. At the same time the Black Sea Commander commenced a series of bombardments on Bosphorus in an attempt to draw some of the Turkish attention away from the Dardanelles. The following tactics were employed: two or three pre-dreadnoughts preceded by mine sweepers would carry out the bombardment, closing to 8,000 yards. In case Goeben would venture out to attack, a submarine was stationed nearby. Newer battleships, cruisers and the seaplane carriers remained to seaward with seaplanes maintaining patrol and spotting. During the February to May period there were six such bombardments. However continued blockade could not be maintained, splitting the force of pre-dreadnoughts would invite their piecemeal destruction by Goeben. So the sorties of the opposing fleet alternated. Thus on 3rd April Medjideih and Hamidieh sailed to bombard Odessa but Medjidieh hit a Russian mine and sank. She was later salvaged by the Russians and commissioned as the Prut.
The above is only an outline of operations; there were numerous destroyer and cruiser actions.