Prior to the fighting of World War 1 (1914-1918), the German Empire entered into a naval arms race with Great Britain. This involved an expansion of the Navy budget as well as completion of a canal running through Kiel that gave the nation access to the North Sea. In 1910, work began on a new four-strong class of light cruisers known as the Magdeburg-class. This group ultimately encompassed SMS Magdeburg herself as well as sisters SMS Breslau, SMS Strassburg and SMS Stralsund.
SMS Breslau was built by A.G.Vulcan and laid down in 1910. She was launched on May 16th, 1911 and formally commissioned for service on May 10th, 1912. Named after the then-German city of Breslau (now Polish Wroclaw), SMS Breslau managed a fighting career into early 1918 when she was serving under the Ottoman Empire flag.
As built, SMS Breslau displaced 4,570 tons (short) and held a length of 455 feet, a beam of 44.2 feet and a draught of 14.4 feet. Power was from 16 x water-tube boilers feeding 2 x AEG-Vulcan steam turbines developing 25,000 horsepower to 2 x Shafts. The vessel could make headway at over 27knots and range was out to 5,820 nautical miles. Onboard were 336 enlisted personnel along with 18 officers. Armor protection ranged from 2.4" at the belt to 3.9" at the conning tower.
Her original armament scheme involved 12 x 10.5cm (105mm) SK L/45 main guns and this was backed by 2 x 500mm torpedo tubes. She also carried some 120 mines for mine laying.
Assigned to Mediterranean waters, her first posting was in response to the two Balkan Wars fought by multiple parties. Both Germany and Austria-Hungary had interest in the outcome of these wars which began to rewrite the geographic and political landscape of Europe and push the continent ever-closer to war. From there, World War 1 arrived in the summer of 1914 and Breslau continued to operate in the theater, namely to thwart any French naval movement between North Africa (Algeria) and France proper. Along with SMS Goeben, the warship shelled Bone and Philippeville (August 3rd, 1914) though little damage was reported. From there the pair were chased down by British warships and were forced to seek the relative safety of Ottoman waters. To help sway Ottoman entry into the war on the side of the Central Powers, both SMS Breslau and SMS Goeben were transferred to Ottoman Navy service at which point they were renamed "Midilli" and "Yavuz Sultan Selim", respectively.
In Ottoman Navy service, the two powerful cruisers were charged with actions in the Black Sea against the Russia Empire. Various attack sorties were had involving the ships and some missions included mining of strategic waterways like the mouth of the Danube River. At the end of 1916, the Ottoman Navy lacked the coal reserves necessary to keep the two warships as active as they wanted so offensive-minded sorties were curtailed. During 1917, the warship lost four of her 150mm main guns. In May of 1917, Midilli's mining of the mouth of the Danube River eventually claimed a Russian destroyer. The last recorded actions the warship and the Russians was in June of 1917.
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German Empire; Ottoman Empire (Turkey) (as Midilli) Operators
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