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SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim)

Battlecruiser Warship

Imperial Germany | 1912

"The SMS Goeben - having been transferred to the Ottoman Empire in 1914 - survived all of World War 1 and World War 2 only to be scrapped in 1973."

Authored By: JR Potts, AUS 173d AB | Last Edited: 07/31/2019 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
In 1909, the SMS Goeben became the second of two Moltke-class battlecruisers built in Hamburg, Germany for the Imperial German Navy ("Kaiserliche Marine") by builder Blohm & Voss, a quality shipbuilder since 1877. The technical developments brought to the table by this shipbuilder included hardened steel (by Krupp) making it possible to build a battlecruiser with armor that could survive 6-inch (150mm) fire hits while, at the same time, being able to field battleship-caliber 11.1-inch main guns when engaging enemy cruisers, destroyers and cargo ships. The design used less armor than a traditional battleship of the period, allowing more speed to help the vessel escape from larger capital ships. SMS Goeben was named for Prussian infantry General August Karl von Goeben and her keel was laid down on August 28th, 1909. Two years later on March 28, 1911 she was launched and, later, formally commissioned on July 2nd, 1912.


SMS Goeben, like many other famous warships through naval history, became witness to a pivotal historical event:

The USS. Constitution, commissioned in1797, and going on to win all of her sea battles across three wars - earning the name of "Old Iron Sides" in the process (she remains in active U.S. naval service after 216 years!). In 1805, HMS Victory served as Admiral Horatio Nelson's flagship during the famous Battle of Trafalgar when the British fleet overcame a joint Spanish-French fleet, saving England from an invasion by sea. The USS Monitor and CSS Virginia, the first two ironclad vessels built in the world, fought during the Civil War in an 1862 engagement, this event marking the end of all-wood warships. In 1864, the Confederate submarine CSS Hunley detonated a torpedo, sinking the screw sloop USS Housatonic in Charleston harbor, making her the first submarine to sink a ship with a torpedo. USS Maine (ACR-1) was the US Navy's second battleship. Anchored at Cuba in 1898, the Maine was destroyed, killing 266 of her crew, to which American papers printing the headline "Remember the Maine to Hell with Spain!" and thus pushed the US war with Spain in 1898. The World War 1 German pre-Dreadnought battleship Schleswig-Holstein was chosen by Hitler to open fire with her 40 guns at Fort Westerplatte, Poland on September 1st, 1939 - marking the first shots of World War 2 in Europe. The super-dreadnought battleship, USS Arizona, sunk during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7th, 1941, killed 1,177 crewmen to which the vessel became a rallying war cry to war - "Revenge the Arizona". USS Nautilus (SSN-571) was the world's first operational nuclear-powered submarinein 1954, making all diesel boats outmoded. These warships, and others like the battlecruiser SMS Goeben, played significant roles in ways that affected military and geopolitical thinking then - and even influencing events of the present day.


The two Moltke-class battlecruisers were ships of the Kaiserliche Marine and were two of the most modern and most powerful warships in the world in 1914. Goebens complement was 1,050 officers and men (as designed) and this was increased to a crew of 1,350 during wartime. She was 615.78 feet (186.6m) long with a beam of 97 feet (30.33m) and drauft of 29.4 feet (9.19m). Her displacement was 22,979 tons as designed and 25,400 tons under maximum load. Goeben was a trim ship with a low silhouette and carried 34 total guns as built, including a main armament of five twin-gun turrets holding 10x11.1-inch (28.3cm) SK L/50 (280mm) main guns capable of sending a 1,000lb shell a distance of 14 miles (513yd)(23km).

The mountings for the 11.1-inch guns utilized electric pumps to drive hydraulic elevation gear while the training of the guns was powered by electric generators. The positioning of the turrets had the "A" turret (or "Anton") on the bow at the center line. The "B" turret was on the starboard side between the two funnels - off center line - close to the outside railing of the deck. The "C" and "D" turrets were on the center line behind the aft mast. The "C" turret was higher with "D" below and both faced the stern on the main deck. "E" turret was stationed along the port side, aft of the amidships funnel, and forward of the aft conning tower. Three of the five main turrets were along the ship's center line for stability. This main turret placement provided maximum firepower with turrets A, C, D, and E able to fire an eight-gun broadside to port and turrets A, B, C, and D to fire a broadside to starboard. If the battlecruiser needed to flee from a battleship, she could fire eight guns aft from turrets B, C, D, and E towards the pursuing enemy battleship which, in turn, could only bring about one or two of its own main turrets to bear on the escaping Goeben. Conversely, if the German battlecruiser was chasing an enemy cruiser, turrets A, B, and E could fire a six-gun volley forward against the fleeing target.

The secondary guns mounted were 12x5.9-inch (15cm) SKL/45 150mm fast-firing guns. The placement was in barbettes on the second deck with the crews protected by armor on the inside of the hull. Six guns were placed on the port side and six on the starboard to fire broadsides against smaller surface ships - including incoming torpedo boats or escaping merchants. One gun on the port and starboard side could fire directly aft and forward if needed. Goeben had two of the guns removed in 1915 and another two of her 5.9-inch guns removed during a 1927 refit. For aircraft defense, a scant amount of 12x3.45-inch SKL/45 88mm AA (Anti-Aircraft) guns were placed onboard in various locations: Four were found on the forward conning tower main bridge area, two on the rear tower, two more on the main deck forward (protecting the bridge) and the balance of guns scattered on the decks around the bulk of the ship. 4x19.7-inch 500mm submerged torpedo tubes were installed and twelve torpedoes carried.

The battlecruiser concept allowed for more armor protection than a typical cruiser of the period though less protection when compared to a battleship. Goeben's armored deck protection ranged from 3.2-inches over the engine and ammunition spaces to 1-inch over areas needing less protection. To guard against torpedo attacks, Blohm & Voss used Krupp steel in the 10.7-inch armored belt from turret "A" to the turret "D" below the water line. The belt armor was reduced in thickness to 4-inches close to the bow and stern. Bulkhead armor was 8-inches to 4-inches in thickness while AA batteries had 8-inches to 6-inches. The 6-inch gun barbettes held 9-inches of armor in front, thinning to 1.2-inches along the sides. The main gun turrets were given 9-inch thick top protection (from plunging fire) and an angled frontal face to help deflect horizontal fire. The armor on the back of the turrets reached 2.4-inches thick and the conning towers held a maximum protection of 14-inches to a minimum of 0.2-inches.

Propulsion for the ship included 4 x Schulz Thornycroft coal-fired boilers that produced the steam required to run the 4 x Parsons steam turbines. These turbines relied on pressurized steam to generate the needed rotary motion in an effort to drive the 4 x shafts, each providing upwards of 85,782 horsepower (63,968 kW). The propellers blades themselves were 12.3 feet (3.74m) in diameter. The steering gear was connected to two rudders, one situated just ahead of the other. As designed, the propulsion arrangement allowed the Goebens to make headway at 25.5 knots (47.2 km/h; 29.3 mph) with a maximum speed of 28.4 knots (52.6 km/h; 32.7 mph) for shorter distances. Her range depended on the coal supply as well as fresh water and food for the crew. Her coal bunkers could hold 1,100 tons standard and 3,300 tons of coal maximum. Added later were tanks for 200 tons of oil. Sortie ranges also depended on her fuel supply and the weather, possibly allowing her to steam 4,120 nautical miles (7,630 km; 4,740 mi) at 14 knots (26 km/h; 16 mph) with a maximum operational range of 6,500 nautical miles(12,038km; 7,480 mi) when running at 10 knots.

Goeben was granted two cranes, one on each side of the amidships funnel. Their purpose was to lower and lift supply pallets - from coal to food - when in port and collect the two Captain's gigs and two Pinnace boats stored opposite of the "B" and "E" turrets while at sea. Two smaller Quarter Boats were hung on a pair of davits over the side of the ship opposite of the amidships funnel. The Captain's gig was a craft with smart lines, used to take the Capitan (or other officers) ashore and return them to the ship. The gig proved a vessel some 20 feet long and 3- to 6-feet wide while being manned by six to eight oars and lig sails. The Pinnace vessel was approximately 30 feet long and rowed by twelve oars, six per side, with two lig sails and used to carry sailors to and from shore when the ship could not dock (shallow waters for instance). The boats were not used as life boats for the entire crew could vary from 1,000 to 1,350 men. Instead, each man was issued a life jacket and rubber rafts were available for most.

Prelude to World War 1

SMS Goeben had only two months for her "shakedown cruise" before being sent to the Mediterranean in October of 1912 as part of the German response to the First Balkan War. She was joined by the light cruiser SMS Breslau which carried 350 and held 12 x 4-inch (10.5cm/105mm) guns as main armament. Goeben and her escort became the German Kaiserliche Marine's "Mediterranean Division" and were sent to Constantinople. On June, 29th, 1913, the Second Balkan War had broken out and Goeben and Breslau steamed Mediterranean waters through 1913 - showing the German flag under the command of Vice Admiral Wilhelm Souchon.

Admiral Souchon was ordered to sortie into the Atlantic to join the German High Seas Fleet. Expecting hostilities after June 28th, 1914 - this after the Austro-Hungarian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated at Sarajevo - Admiral Souchon sailed the squadron into the Austria-Hungarian port of Polaon on the Adriatic Sea. Souchon knew when war came that Goeben would need her maximum speed to sortie into the Mediterranean and beyond. At Pola, the vessel replaced her Schulz Thornycroft boilers with new Babcock boiler tubes.

The War of Alliances

Events moved quickly and, on July 28th, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia formally marking the start of World War 1 (1914-1918). Three days later, on August 1st, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia followed by the August 3rd declaration of war on France. On August 4th, 1914, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany, though after Germany invaded Belgium to gain the advantage on French positions. Austria-Hungary declared war on Russia on August 6th and Serbia followed by declaring war on Germany.

The Great War

With war in full swing, Goeben shelled Philippeville and Breslau fired on Bone. Afterward the two ships steamed east to Italy to take on new coal stores before heading into Ottoman Empire (Turkey) territorial waters. Admiral Souchon held secret orders to convince the still-neutral Ottoman government to side with the German Empire. The British Admiralty - not officially at war with the German Empire at this time - was aware of the two German vessels and their position somewhere in the Mediterranean, resulting in an order for Admiral Sir Berkeley Milne, commander of the British Mediterranean Fleet, to search and shadow the small German group. At his disposal, Admiral Milne had two modern battlecruisers - HMS Indefatigable and HMS Indomitable - making up a portion of his twelve-strong fleet.

The Game is On: SMS Goeben Versus the British Fleet

What followed was a cat-and-mouse game began between the two forces. The Goeben and Breslau made for the port of Messina, outrunning the British ships by way of their superior inherent speed. The German ships had a coal supply ship from Germany waiting for them at the destination and received 1,500 tons. Also in port was a collier flying a British flag. Souchon offered to purchase the coal and after a number of drinks the captain of the British ship agreed to sell. Britain and Germany were not yet at war alongside France and Russia while Souchon was aware the British Fleet had a dozen vessels in the region attempting to track him. Turkish waters were approximately 1,000 miles away from his current location and the plan was to slip out to open water at midnight on August 5th, 1914.

Souchon expected to find the British fleet blocking their exit but found only one ship - HMS Gloucestera, a light cruiser. It was a full moon and both ships sighted each other to which Gloucester gave pursuit and sent a message to Admiral Milne that the Germans had broken out and were steaming east.

Admiral Milne ordered Gloucester to close and fire on Breslau to slow the escape. By morning, Gloucester had closed and fired on Breslau with fire being returned - no hits were recorded on either side. Admiral Milne sent word to his fleet to intercept Goeben and Breslau. Admiral E.C. Troubridge was second-in-command of the fleet and moved his destroyers and armored cruisers to intercept. The Goeben's superior gun range coupled to her 11" shells could easily sink the lighter British ships. Rear Admiral Troubridge would shadow the German ships with the British 1st Cruiser Squadron consisting of four armored cruisers - Defence, Black Prince, Duke of Edinburgh and Warrior. Hoping to attack with torpedoes, Troubridge ordered the light cruiser Dublin and two destroyers, under the cover of darkness, to launch a torpedo attack on the Germans. This attack failed as the German ships were not located while Admiral Milne closed with HMS Indefatigable and HMS Indomitable.

The British had failed to stop them as dawn broke on August 10, 1914. SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau arrived in Turkish waters, near the Gallipoli Coast. Upon receiving word about the German ships, the Ottoman government provided a visa to Admiral Souchon and the two warships were allowed to stay in Turkish waters. Goeben and Breslau refilled their coal bunkers off the island of Donoussathen during the afternoon. The German ships were met by an Ottoman patrol boat. Now Goeben and Breslau followed the lead patrol boat through the Turkish naval mine fields into the Dardanelles to the Marmara Sea and onto Constantinople. The British ships did not follow fearing to push against the still-neutral Ottomans. The German diplomat Admiral Souchonmet with the Ottoman Sultan and his officials reminded them that Britain had broken a contract involving the sale of HMS Indefatigable and HMS Indomitable to the Turkish government (with war expected, British Admiralty decided to keep the two battlecruisers). The Kaiser understood he could not fight a war with Russia, France and Britain (and possibly the United States) all at once without some international support.

Reborn as the Yavuz Sultan Selim

Like the other participants, Germany needed a strong ally in the Ottoman Empire so an offer was made to the Turks concerning the cruisers Goeben and Breslau. The British had just been embarrassed as their numerically superior fleet failed to catch the Germans during a 1,000 mile chase. The two ships were tempting chess pieces in terms of the naval superiority over the Mediterranean, Marmara and Black Seas for the Sultan. It only took hours for the Turkish government to accept the offer to purchase the vessels. Germany, in turn, accepted and transferred ownership of Goeben and Breslau to the Ottoman Navy on August 16th, 1914. This new naval power made Goeben the pivotal piece that convinced the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire to walk the path of war alongside Germany.

One issue with the purchase lay in the Turkish Navy not possessing the necessary trained manpower to take over such foreign warships. To further tie the two Empires together, the Kaiser agreed to allow the Turks to maintain the German crews onboard for training Turkish crews. On September 23rd, 1914 Souchon accepted an offer to command the Turkish Fleet, becoming its commander-in-chief as directed by the Imperial German Navy. Now that the ownership had finalized, the vessels now required their names within the Turkish Fleet. SMS Goeben was named after the famous Sultan of the Ottoman Empire, Yavuz Sultan Selim while SMS Breslau was christened Midilli after the capital of the island of Lesbos in the Aegean (conquered by the Turks in 1462 and ruled by the Ottoman Empire until the First Balkan War in 1912, to which Greece took the island from the Turks).

Accordingly, Yavuz Sultan Selim now flew the Turkish naval flag and became the flagship of the Ottoman Empire Navy. Admiral Souchon docked Yavuz for resupply and to finish repairs of the new boilers at Constantinople. The new filotilla would be joined by the Turkish light cruiser Hamidiye plus a number of destroyers. Hamidiyes held a main armament of 2 x 6" (15cm) /45 Armstrong "quick-firing" guns that were mounted in single turrets - one forward and one on the stern - and held a maximum range of 8.2 miles (14,600 yards). Secondary armament was 8 x 4.7" (12cm) /50 Armstrong "quick-firing" guns mounted in single installations amidships, four guns per side. With her new, stronger navy, the Ottoman Empire aligned themselves with the Central Powers made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania. Their foes would be the Allied powers of France, Russia, Britain (along with Britain's associated empire nations in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, India, South Africa and the West Indies). Additional allies lay in Serbia and, eventually, the United States.

The Ottoman Empire, with direction from Germany, was secretly planning to enter the war by attacking Russia to Germany's East. The new commander of the Turkish Navy, Admiral Souchon, took time to mold his new fleet by taking his ships into both the Marmara Sea and Black Sea, developing communication schemes between the German and Turkish officers as well as crew members. Exercises revolved around developing naval warfighting techniques in the modern world where seconds could prove utterly crucial.

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Attack on Russia

In mid-October, Admiral Souchon sailed his fleet into harm's way toward Russian waters. On October 29th, 1914, Turkish warships fired on Russian harbors at Yavuz and Sevastopol, sinking a Russian minelayer (the Prut) and putting the destroyer, Lieutenant Puschin, out of action. Additionally, they captured the steamer Ida. Yavuz's main guns seriously damaged most of the harbor installations and destroyed military facilities and attached weapons arsenals. The Russian shore batteries returned fire on the battlecruiser, hitting her twice - once on the aft funnel - though causing minimal damage. The light cruiser Midilli was released from the side of Yavuz and laid some sixty mines at the mouth of Kertch harbor. This action sank two Russian steamers - Yalta and Kazbek.

The Black Seas Fleet

Due to the unforeseen attack on October 30th, 1914, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire. As retaliation, Russia sent the Black Seas Fleet, consisting of five pre-dreadnought battleships, three cruisers and three Derzki-class destroyers, ten older destroyers and two minelayers to attack Turkish harbors and ports. The five Russian pre-dreadnought battleships were the new Evstafii and Ioann Zlatoust, built in 1911, and both displacing 12,850 tons with armament consisting of 4 x 12", 4 x 8" and 12 x 6" guns and each having a maximum speed of 16 knots. The ships represented the most modern ships of the Black Sea Fleet when World War 1 began and were the most powerful Russian ships in service. The third battleship, Panteleimonhad, been built in 1905 and displaced at 12,900 tons with armament consisting of 4 x 12" and 16 x 6" guns while reaching speeds of 16 knots. The oldest of the group was Tri Sviatitelia - built in 1897, displacing 13,000 tons and armed with 4 x 12" and 14 x 6" guns while able to make headway at 16 knots. The fifth battleship in the fleet was the slowest - Rostislav - built back in 1900 at only 10,500 tons displacement with armament consisting of 4 x 10" main guns and 8 x 6" secondary guns. She was able to make only 15 knots at flank speed.

On November 15th, 1914, the Admiral Ebergard took the Black Sea Fleet from its main base at Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula and moved it into Turkish waters. The mission was to bombard the Turkish port of Trabizond on the coast of Anatolia because of its rich coal mines - the fuel used by modern ships. Two days later, the Russian Fleet shelled the port and then steamed parallel to the coast searching for enemy ships en route to Sevastopol. Constantinople received word of the attack and radioed Admiral Souchon who surmised the Russian strategy. To counter the Russians, the fastest ships in the Turkish Navy (Yavuz and Midilli) steamed into action towards the Black Sea. Admiral Souchon had a good idea of Russian strength and reports were received that they were headed for their main base at Sevastopol. Yavuz held a maximum speed of 28.4 knots but Souchon maintained 15 knots for he believed the Russian fleet would be cruising at only 6 knots.

The Battle of Cape Sarych

The battle was about to start with the Russian force steaming north with the three cruisers - Pamiat Merkuriia, Almaz and Kagulwere - some three of four miles ahead of the main body, sent to observe for enemy ships. The five Russian battleships were steaming in line along the coast led by the flagship, Evstafii, and followed by her sister, Ioann Zlatoust, then Panteleimon, Tri Sviatitelia and - in trail - Rostislav, the slowest of the fleet. The destroyers steamed in two long columns slightly behind and on the ocean side, protecting the battleships from that side. This formation would allow the battleships the space to turn seaward if needed. The Russian squadron was passing south of Cape Sarych when the cruiser, Almaz, sighted smoke. Admiral Ebergard then ordered his battleships and destroyers to increase speed to 14 knots and not leave Rostislav behind.

Ebergard waited to turn his battleships 90-degrees to port towards the open sea when the Turkish ships came into view, making flank speed. Lookouts located on Evstafii masts indicated the Turkish ships were about 8,000 yards ahead. The Evstafii held two pairs of 12-inch, 40-calibre Pattern 1895 guns - one forward and the other aft mounted - in hydraulic turrets. They fired a 731.3-pound (331.7 kg) shell with a maximum range of 22,200 yards (20,300 m),or 12.8 miles. Her guns were designed to fight at much greater distances and not cruiser ranges and the gun crews were not trained to fire their main guns against ships at point blank ranges.

The short engagement was, however, essentially a dual between the Russian flagship Evstafii and the Turkish flagship Yavuz. After-action reports indicated Yavuz fired nineteen 11.1in 28cm projectiles at ranges between 6,000 and 7,200 meters, (1.2 to 4.0 miles). No secondary guns were fired by Yavuz and Medillii did not fire at all as the Russian Fleet was outside the range of her 5.9in main battery. Evstafi was hit by three 11.1in (28cm) APC shells on the starboard forward 8-inch casemate, killing the 12-man gun crew. One 11.2-inch hit the 6-inch casemate penetrating its 127mm armor and detonating a number of 6-inch shells and powder charges. A shell penetrated the officer's gallery deck below and sent deadly splinters into the boiler room spaces. A third shell fell short but close enough to the ship, showering the hull at amidships with shrapnel blasting through an interior bulkhead and destroying the 75mm, 3-inch gun ammunition elevator - also killing 33 men. 25 other crewmen on board were wounded of which many later died.

Evstafi fired sixteen 12-inch, fourteen 8-inch and nineteen 6-inch at Yavuz. Turkish after-action reports indicated Yavuz was struck by a 12-inch HE shell which penetrated casemate armor on the portside No. 3 casemate. Per the report, three 9.5in, 15cm projectiles detonated along with sixteen 15cm powder cartridges catching fire. Twelve German crewmen died along with a Turkish sailor training onboard. The battleship Ioann Zlatoust fired six 12-inch shells. Panteleimon was outdistanced and did not shoot. Tri Sviatitelia fired twelve of her 12-inch rounds and the Rostislav fired a number of shells at Medillii. Admiral Souchon did not turn to engage the Russian fleet as he kept going at flank speed away from the battlezone towards Constantinople. The Russian Fleet continued north towards their base at Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula.

Battle Assessment

With the outcome of the short engagement lasting only minutes, there left a number of questions. Why did Admiral Souchon, with one battlecruiser and a light cruiser, engage a much superior Russian fleet of 5 battleships, 3 cruisers, 13 destroyers and 2 mine layers? The Turkish light cruiser Hamidiye, assigned to Souchon, had only two 6-inch guns as her main armament with a maximum speed of 22 knots - Yavuz was capable of 28.4 knots and Midillis 27.5 knots. Hamidiye would not have been able to keep up in a running fight so she was left behind. Souchon's intelligence concerning his foe was the Russian battleships were over 10 knots slower than Yavuz and Midilli. Souchon felt Midilli could hold off the Russian destroyers and cruisers while Yavuz's job was to counter the battleships. What other option did he have but to attack with what he had or allow the Russian Black Seas Fleet free reign of the Black Sea?

Reason indicates Yavuz and Midilli retired after the engagement though not for the lack of ammunition as Midilli being out of range did not fire a shot. Yavuz's secondary battery also did not fire due to a 12-inch 30.5cm shell from Evstafi exploding into her third 5.9-inch, 15cm gun casemate on the portside - blowing a large hole into her side. The ammunition and cartridges that had been stacked by the gun in the casemate for faster firing action exploded, killing the entire gun crew. The fire resulting from the exploding ammunition had expanded into the ammo hoist that connected the 5.9-inch gun to the magazine into the bottom of the ship. The smoke and fumes from the fire drove the other 5.9-inch gun crews from their stations so secondary fire against Evstafi did not occur. If the fire reached the magazine the explosion would have blown Yavuz in half. A fast decision by German crewmen opened the sea valves and this quickly flooded the magazine, probably saving the ship. It is doubtful that Admiral Souchon was informed of the magazine being flooded but he was aware of the fire in the magazine area. This possible magazine fire along with the unexpected accurate fire of the Russian ships forced his decision to retire back towards Constantinople for repairs.

Continued Black Sea Actions

Yavuz needed repairs for many weeks in her home port and some feel one of the 11.1in (28.3cm) SK L/50 (280mm) turrets had received a hit in the battle - though this was not listed in the after-action report. Following repairs on March 3, 1914, Yavuz steamed with Midilli when each sank a Russian cargo steamer off the Tarkhankut Cape. Early in April, Midilli sank a troop transport with a torpedo and sank a schooner with gun fire. Yavuz, Midilli, Hamidiye and their destroyer screen continued to operate in the Black Sea against Russian shipping but never again met the Russian Black Sea Fleet in battle. Alone, Yavuz did run up against the combined British-French fleet of twenty warships near Gallipoli and Souchon, rather correctly, did not engage this far superior force. The super-dreadnought HMS Queen Elizabeth, with her main battery of 8 x BL 15-inch Mk I guns (4x2) met Yavuz at the bloody Battle of Gallipoli. Both ships fired on the other without scoring any hits primarily due to the speed of Yavuz. In September of 1917 Souchon was ordered back to Germany, leaving the Turkish Fleet, for unknown reasons. Once back in Germany, Souchon was put in command of the Fourth Battleship Squadron of the High Seas Fleet and he lived through to the end of the war. German Vice Admiral Rebeur-Paschwitz replaced Souchon, taking command of the Turkish Fleet.

On January 20th, 1918, Yavuz and Midilli left the Dardanelles under the command of Admiral Rebeur-Paschwitz with the intention to lure the Allied naval forces away from Palestine and lift the siege of the Turkish land forces. The Battle of Imbros began outside the Dardanelles Straits when Yavuz came upon, and sank, the Russian monitors Raglan and M28 at anchor. En route to the port of Mudros to support Turkish ships, Midilli struck several mines and sank. Yavuz stayed to pull the German sailors from the sea and, doing so, struck three mines herself and was forced to retire back to the Dardanelles for repairs all the while being while shadowed at a distance by two British destroyers - HMS Lizard and HMS Tigress. Yavuz began to sink, forcing Admiral Rebeur-Paschwitz to beachYavuz close to Nagara Point near the Dardanelle Straits. Tigress radioed the position of Yavuz and British light bombers hit her twice, causing minor damage. A rescue mission was planned and the German predreadnought battleship SMS Turgut Reis was sent to tow Yavuz back to Constantinople for repairs. On September 11th, 1918, after months in port awaiting repairs, Yavuz's German crew abandoned her and returned to Germany.

The Peaceful Post War Years

Yavuz and Turkish destroyers arrived in Sevastopol in mid-July 1918 and were placed in the Sevastopol dockyard. The Yavuz was being repaired and laid up until the end of the war in November. The German Navy formally transferred ownership of the vessel to the Turkish government on November 2nd, 1918 without monetary payment. World War 1 then ended on November 11th, 1918 and the German Empire, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Ottoman Empire were all defeated. The capital ships of the Imperial German Navy were required to be interned at Scapa Flow under the direction of the British Navy. This eventually totaled some 74 warships. Arriving in British-controlled waters, the German ships were scuttled by their own crews on June 21st, 1919 by orders from the German commander - Rear Admiral Ludwig von Reuter.

Due to the Treaty of Sevres between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies, Yavuz was to be handed over to the Royal Navy as a war prize. Due to her not being seaworthy, the Royal Navy left her in Sevastopol. In 1923, after the Turkish War of Independence, the Treaty of Sevres was replaced by the Treaty of Lausanne which required Turkish warships, including Yavuz, to be repatriated back to the Turkish Navy. After the war, Yavuz was the only German-built battlecruiser still in service. From 1918 until 1926, she remained in the port city of Izmit, rusting at dockside. She could not make steam with her old propulsion arrangement having only two working boilers and her damage at the minefields had not been completely repaired. The Turkish government provided money for a floating dock so her hull could be repaired in 1927 which took over three years. Her boilers were converted to mixed-coal-fired by oil burning sprayers with some upgrades to her armament for anti-aircraft defense adding 8x1 - 88/45, 2x1 - 88/45 AA, 2x500 "PomPoms" one forward and one aft.

The Turkish Government was concerned with the growing naval superiority of her old foe Greece and the strength of the Soviet Navy in the Black Sea. The Turkish government ordered four destroyers and two submarines from Italy and again restarted work on Yavuz. During the 1930s, her hull was reduced in length by 1.5 feet and her beam increased by 4 inches. Her gross tonnage had increased by 100 tons due to the extra steel needed for her hull repair and new boilers were added. To increase stability, one 9.5in gun was removed from each side. Now re-commissioned in 1936, she again became the flagship of the revitalized Turkish Navy and was protected by her four new Italian destroyers. However, by 1937, the Turkish Navy felt her lack of anti-aircraft protection made her outdated.

Neutral Turkey

Yavuz and her flotilla of destroyers patrolled Turkish waters and showed the flag in the Black Sea. When World War 2 began in Europe during 1939, Turkey chose to remain neutral. The loss of 5 million Turks and the majority of her territory in World War 1 was the main deciding factor. Again, Germany was waging war, this time alongside Italy and Japan, against old principle foes in Britain, France, Belgium and ultimately Russia and the United States. Yavuz needed to continue upgrading her anti-aircraft armament and, in 1941, her AA battery was increased to 4 x 3.5in guns, 10 x 40mm guns and 4 x 20mm guns. In 1943, the Turkish Navy increased the AA guns to 22 x40mm guns and 24 x 20mm guns. There was no need to upgrade her main 11.2" battery or the secondary 9.5in guns due to the limited action they saw in World War 1. Turkey simply required Yavuz to protect local Turkish interests so she continued to serve throughout World War 2 in neutral waters near the homeland.

Post World War II

After the war, the American battleship USS Missouri and light cruiser USS Providence, joined by the destroyer USS Power, arrived in Istanbul on April 5th, 1946 to return the remains of the Turkish ambassador to the United States, Munir Ertegun. Yavuz, serving as flagship to the Turkish Navy, greeted the Missouri and her flotilla in the Bosphorus, a stretch of water that connects the Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara. There, Yavuz exchanged a 19-gun salute with "Big Mo".

Stationed in the Gulf of Izmit since1948, Yavuz was finally decommissioned and placed in reserve on December 20th, 1950. She remained inactive at anchor for four years and stricken from the Turkish Naval register on November 14th, 1954. Her name was painted over and she was assigned the hull number "B70". Seventeen years passed until B70 was sold for scrap to the M.K.E. Seyman company in 1971. Her last voyage was being towed by tugs to the scrapyard on June 7th, 1973 and, by February 1976, her hull had been loaded onto barges heading for steel mills to be melted down. The end of an honorable career lasting some sixty-four years, the vessel proved the last of the European dreadnoughts in existence.


The Central Powers required more manpower and Admiral Souchon, mostly on his own, used his diplomatic prowess on the Sultan and the governing body of the Ottoman Empire to encourage a signing of a pact in alliance with the German Empire. The deciding factor for the Turks was the "carrot on the end of the stick" - the powerful battlecruiser SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau. This in addition to access of two trained German crews and one experienced German Admiral. The Turks agreed to purchase the ships and sign a secret war pact with Germany.

The Ottoman Empire's army and navy, entering World War 1, helped Germany and the other Central powers by expanding the battle fronts into the Middle East and the Black Sea. Allied troops were required to confront Turkish troops from Gallipoli and the Sinai, all the way to the Caucasus. The German general staff felt they would not have been able to wage war beyond the end of 1916 if the Turks had not joined the Central Powers when they did. The United States Congress declared war on April 6th, 1917, and, if the German generals were right and the Ottoman Empire had not joined with Germany, America may not have entered the war. The Gallipoli campaign, the brainchild of Winston Churchill, became a disastrous defeat for the Allies as they were pinned down by the Turks for almost a year. Total Allied deaths at Gallipoli numbered over 70,000 British, French, Australians, New Zealanders and Indian troops and sailors, forcing Churchill to step down. Turkish deaths numbered over 60,000.

At the end of the war, the Central Powers (including the Turks) were defeated. The German Habsburg and Ottoman empires were promptly dissolved and the spoils went to the victors. The Ottoman Empire was carved to reduce her concentrated power and make her easier to control. Smaller nation-states such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon were then created and remain to this day.

Limited sea trade in the Dardanelles came about, giving the Bolsheviks their opportunity to seize power in Russia and thusly forging the rise of Communism in the East. The general optimism of previous decades was replaced with a pessimistic outlook on life since people had experienced the brutality of warfare only so recently. This disillusionment in the current forms of government developed into a trend towards governments that promised to relieve suffering and stimulate economic activity - this inevitably leading to the rise of fascism and socialism and setting the stage for World War 2.

Winston Churchill was once asked about the career of Yavuz and responded "more slaughter, more misery, and more ruin than has ever before been borne within the compass of a ship" - such was the testament of the troublesome vessel to the Allies.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one sea-going vessel design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim).
4 x Parsons shafted geared turbines developing up to 85,800 horsepower driving 4 x shafts.
28.0 kts
32.2 mph
Surface Speed
4,119 nm
4,740 miles | 7,628 km
The bow-to-stern, port-to-starboard physical qualities of SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim).
612.1 ft
186.57 meters
O/A Length
98.4 ft
29.99 meters
30.1 ft
9.17 meters
Available supported armament and special-mission equipment featured in the design of SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim).
10 x 11" SK L/50 main guns in dual mountings (5 x 2).
12 x 6" secondary guns
12 x 3.5" tertiary guns
Ships-in-Class (2)
Notable series variants as part of the SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim) family line as relating to the Moltke-class group.
SMS Moltke; SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim)
Global operator(s) of the SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim). Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national naval warfare listing.
National flag of the German Empire National flag of Turkey

[ German Empire; Ottoman Empire (Turkey) ]
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Image of the SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim)
Image from the German Federal Archives.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to seaborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
SMS Goeben (Yavuz Sultan Selim) Battlecruiser Warship appears in the following collections:
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