3. Developing Megalomania: The 1910 fleet programme
The rise of the Young Turks in 1908 saw the Imperial Navy in a difficult situation. Although the old government had brought the Ottoman fleet back into some kind of shape, the onset of the Dreadnought race threatened to undo their efforts. The Young Turks decided to not to stop at half measures and replace virtually all their heavy units with dreadnoughts; no less than six battleships and two battlecruisers were to be acquired, plus four light cruisers, another sixteen destroyers and eight submarines. The combined price tag exceeded that of both previous programmes almost fivefold; affordability, which had previously limited acquisitions, was no longer a defining factor for the scope of naval expansion. Even though the purchases were to be stretched over ten years, there was no way whatsoever the Ottoman Empire could pay for it, and considerable foreign loans were obtained, most of them in Germany and Austria (combined total 80%), with the rest scattered between the USA, Thiaria and France. British banks wisely kept out of this business, even though the Young Turks were mortgaging anything that was remotely valuable all across their empire. Their oil industry, which was rapidly developing into the world's third largest after Russia's and America's, would nearly completely fall under German control in case of an - eventually inevitable - Ottoman default, particularly the Libyan fields. Since the Turks ordered one battlecruiser, two battleships and two light cruisers were ordered in Germany straight away, the Germans found themselves in a win-win situation. In addition, two destroyers were ordered in Germany and two in France, to find out which design was better for the rest of the programme. After the disastrous First Balkan war (see in the next section under 4.), another two battleships and one battlecruiser were ordered in 1912, this time in Great Britain due to the ability of British industry to build both bigger and faster than the Germans; the funds still were part of the allocations made in the FY 10 programme. The last two battleships were to be built locally at Gölcük to a British design from 1914 on a pair of new 250m-slips. As the battlecruiser ordered in England would only barely fit into the floating dock of the Tersane-i Amire, it was to be strengthened as well. When the 1910 destroyers were delivered, the French design was chosen for further procurement and eight more were ordered in 1913; the final four destroyers of the programme were originally to be built at Gölcük, but to speed up their construction, they were ordered in Great Britain in 1913. Two more light cruisers were ordered in France in 1913. Two submarines each were ordered in Britain and Germany in 1912, respectively, to provide samples for further production in a similar fashion as in the destroyer programme. Only few ships of this ambitious programme were actually delivered: The two German battleships arrived in Constantinople in late 1913, after the end of the second Balkan War, together with the light cruisers and destroyers; the two 1910 French destroyers were already delivered in 1912, just after the first Balkan War. The German submarines, completed 1914, were delivered in 1917 via the Danube after Rumania's collapse. That, unfortunately, was all. Both the German-built and the British-built battlecruiser, two British-built battleships, both French cruisers, eight French- and four British-built destroyers and all four British and German submarines were seized in 1914 and incorporated into the German, British and French navies, respectively; as the Ottomans were virtually bankruoted by the Balkan wars, it is very doubtful if they would have received all of them even without the war. No dreadnought battleships were ever laid down in Gölcük.
3.1. Kanuni Sultan Suleiman class battleships
The Turks were very content with their German-built pre-dreadnoughts, and as soon as the decision was made to acquire Dreadnoughts, they again placed the order with a German Yard. They chose a reduced version of the current German Kaiser-class battleship with one less heavy turret and without the raised forecastle. Her four 305mm/50 twin turrets were arranged like on the German battlecruiser Von der Tann and augmented by twelve 150mm/45 and eighteen 88mm/45 guns. They had a 300mm KC belt and Parsons turbines with Schulz-Thornycroft boilers, developing 30.000 hp for a design speed of 22 knots. Kanuni Sultan Suleiman was laid down at the Vulkan yard in Stettin in 1910 and delivered late in 1913; her sister Hüdavendigar Sultan Murat was laid down at the Vulkan yard in Hamburg in 1911 and delivered early in 1914. They were reported to have wretched accomodation and poor seakeeping, but neither were very important features for the Turks; they were the pride of the Ottoman Navy in the first world war and were considered reliable, economic steamers and stable gun platforms with excellent protection. As completed, they looked like this:
3.2. Fetih Sultan Mehmet class battleships
Brazil had ordered the huge, slightly bizarre battleship Rio de Janeiro in Great Britain in 1911, but quickly regretted this choice; negotiations with Turkey about her sale were taken up in 1912. But Thiaria's fleet expansion programme - four dreadnoughts were approved in 1911 and two battlecruisers in 1912 - so frightened the Brazilians that they eventually decided to keep the Rio de Janeiro. The Turks, to whose faible for pomp the Rio de Janeiro quite appealed, asked Armstrong to build two copies of the Brazilian ship for them, but with a hull shortened to under 200 meters, so it would fit into Turkey's existing drydocks. During the re-design process, Armstrong prepared an alternative fit with six 343mm twins instead of seven 305mm ones, whose hull length could be cut from 204 to 197 meters, at the same beam the original Rio de Janeiro had. Speed dropped to 21 knots at 36.000 hp, but the main armament was significantly better protected with 305mm turret fronts and 279mm barbettes. Vertical armour remained feeble with 229mm maximum, although a very large area of the hull was covered. With twelve 343mm/45 guns (only one turret was mounted amidships, the rest of the armament was arranged as on Rio de Janeiro) capable of firing 635kg projectiles, these ships would outgun anything in existence or under construction at that time; secondary armament consisted of sixteen 152mm and ten 76mm, all of them LA. The Ottomans immediately jumped at the new design and ordered two of it in 1912. The first one was laid down in 1912 (Fetih Sultan Mehmet) in Armstrong's High Walker/Newcastle yard, the second in 1913 (Reshad Sultan Mahmoud) at Elswick. Construction of the first hull went ahead swiftly; she was launched in October 1913 after 15 months on stocks and fitted out within another fourteen months for delivery in January 1915. The second vessel was built less rapidly and still on stocks in July 1914; she was however advanced far enough to be completed, and she was launched in September 1914 and delivered in March 1916. As designed, both ships were to look like this:
In August 1914, both were seized and renamed Agincourt and Trafalgar, respectively. When completed, Agincourt was the most powerful battleship on the planet. Her twelve 343mm guns gave her a broadside of 7.620 kilograms, the same as Fuso, which was however completed later, and more than Queen Elizabeth's 6.920 kilograms. Agincourt, fitted as a fleet flagship under the original Ottoman order, featured luxurious flag quarters which earned her the nickname 'Gin Palace'; Trafalgar's interior was fashioned to RN requirements and much more austere. Due to their size - 28.000 tons at normal load - they were good sea boats and easily on par with contemporary RN designs as gun platforms. They exceeded their design speed (Agincourt made 22,2 knots on trials), and the sheer size of their bunkers allowed for a range of 7.000 miles at 10 knots, slightly more than on Iron Duke, despite their rather high specific fuel consumption. Accommodation was excellent, partly thanks to casual disregard of proper internal compartmentalization, which made the ships dangerously easy to sink, but nevertheless very popular with their British crews. Agincourt joined the Grand fleet only marginally altered from the original design; the only visible difference was that only four 76mm guns were aboard, all in HA mounts:
Trafalgar was completed with shortened masts, director control for her main artillery, and the same AA gun fir as Agincourt. The ponderous flying bridge for part of the boat complement was deleted, and the boats were placed around Turret Q on the upper deck; two small cranes were added abreast the forefunnel to facilitate boat handling. Agincourt received a simliar refit early in 1916. Both fought at Jutland, where Agincourt was damaged by nine 305mm shells from various German Battlecruisers during Hipper's diversionary charge of the British main line; although no critical hits were scored, her superstructure was ravaged and both forward turrets knocked out. She also suffered an embarrassing amount of flooding, as her internal compartments were unusually large even by British standards. Trafalgar remained undamaged. Agincourt was credited with a single hit on Lützow and two on Graf Schwerin; Trafalgar's green crew hit nothing. At Jutland, both ships looked like this:
After Jutland, both received strengthened protection of their turrets and magazines and various improvements to their bridge arrangements. The searchlights were regrouped and life rafts added. Agincourt also needed extensive hull repairs due to structural damages, caused not only by German shells, but also by stress effects from firing her own powerful main battery in full salvoes - Agincourt and Trafalgar were the only RN battleships which developed such problems. They remained with the Grand fleet till spring 1918, but then they were selected for South Atlantic service, for which their size, range and seakeeping made them seem ideal. They took part in the battle of Craigmiadh, where Agincourt acted as flagship of a division consisting of herself, Trafalgar, Colossus and Hercules. She came under fire from the Thiarian battlecruiser Aigean from extreme distance and was hit seven times in short succession; the last of these hits found its way through the roof of Turret Q at an angle of 70°, blasted away the flashtight door to the shell handling room and blew up the magazine; the adjacent magazines of turrets X and Y joined in and Agincourt blew apart in the largest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded in earth's southern hemisphere. All hands were lost. The Thiarians were already on the run when this hit occurred, and Trafalgar, Colossus and Hercules got no opportunity to avenge Agincourt's loss. It was the last fleet-level engagement of the first world war, and Trafalgar returned home with the fleet in December 1918. At the time of her loss, Agincourt looked like this:
Although she was still the Royal Navy's offensively most powerful warship, Trafalgar was selected to be scrapped under the WNT due to incurable weaknesses in protection and structural strength. Attempts to sell her off - she and Tiger belonged to a package offered to Brazil in exchange for Riachuelo and Aquidaban, which the Brazilians rejected - fell through; a transfer to Canada was also rejected. She looked like this postwar.
Turkish plans to build two copies at Gölcük between 1915 and 1918 never bore fruit.
3.3. Yavuz Sultan Selim class battlecruiser
Ordered alongside the Kanuni Sultan Suleiman class battleships, this battlecruiser had the same general layout, but on a larger hull with a raised forecastle. She was only slightly smaller than her German contemporary Seydlitz, carrying two heavy guns less, but of larger caliber (305mm/50), arranged as on Von der Tann. Twelve 150mm/45s and sixteen 88mm/45s were carried as secondary and tertiary armament. Her 300mm belt was as strong as that of the battleships, and they had twice the designed hp for a speed of 26 knots. Unlike the battleships, she had ample inboard volume for adequate accommodation, and in this regard was considered the most habitable of all German-built battlecruisers. As designed, she looked like this:
Yavuz Sultan Selim was laid down at Blohm&Voss in Hamburg early in 1911. Construction slowed down after launch late in 1912 due to Turkish financial difficulties following the first Balkan War, but was very nearly complete in August 1914 when the outbreak of the first world war eliminated every chance of her being delivered to Turkey as long as the hostilities lasted. As a German Squadron around the battlecruiser Goeben was trapped in the Mediterranean, on the other hand, the decision was easy to substitute Goeben for Yavuz Sultan Selim and give the former over to the Ottoman Empire, while seizing the latter for the German Navy. While Goeben received the name originally intended for the new battlecruiser, the original Yavuz Sultan Selim was renamed Graf Schwerin, for a Prussian General serving Federick the Great, from a noble family which had supplied fully two dozen Generals for Prussia over the centuries. She was in service by March 1915, the delay resulting from the requirement to reboiler her with coal-burners only; as designed, four of her boilers were oil-burners. She also had the internal fittings of her officer and flag accommodation radically simplified. As designed, these were outrageously luxurious and contained a dangerous amount of wood. Design speed dropped to 25,5 knots, but like all German battlecruisers, she had engines of exceptionally sturdy construction which allowed for considerable forcing, resulting in a trial speed of 26,2 knots, although the trials were run in shallow water. In service, she regularly was pushed to 27 knots without suffering excessive wear to her engines. Graf Schwerin missed the Dogger Bank, but was present at Jutland, where she looked like this:
During this battle, Graf Schwerin displayed outstanding gunnery and became Hipper's flagship after Lützow was crippled. Her artillery scored two simultaneous hits on HMS Inflexible, one of which penetrated her 152mm belt abreast the aft magazines, igniting them; Inflexible's loss thus was not due to a backflash from shells exploding in the handling room, but to a direct magazine hit. Together with Derfflinger, she then bombarded HMS Leopard, which was also a former Ottoman ship, and provided eleven of the seventeen hits that eventually sunk the British battlecruiser. She absorbed four 343mm hits from Leopard, and later three 381mm, two 343mm and one 305mm hits from British battleships when Hipper's battlecruisers charged them to cover the disengagement of the main battlefleet. Despite very visible damage, she remained operational and returned to Wilhelmshaven for repairs. These included the replacement of her fore pole mast with a tube mast carrying a heavy fire control top, the elimination of all but four 88mm guns and the removal of torpedo nets. After Jutland, she at first shared the relatively inactive routine of the other German battlecruisers, but together with Von der Tann was called upon to cover German naval operations in the Baltic in 1917 and 1918. Graf Schwerin was eventually interned at Scapa Flow, at which time she looked like this:
She was scuttled with the rest of the German fleet in 1919, salvaged in 1931 and scrapped.
3.4. Oruc Reis class battlecruiser
For their ultimate battlecruiser order, the Ottomans chose a reduced version of the British Tiger with less freeboard, a sickle bow and only two funnels. She was ten meters shorter and two knots slower than Tiger (her machinery developed only 70.000 hp), but had the same protection and armament. Although she was slightly too long for the existing Turkish drydocks, she could with some difficulties be accommodated by the floating dock of the Imperial Arsenal in Constantinople. She was notable for being the Royal Navy's first pure oil-burner, this feature chosen by the Ottomans due to their good oil supply situation (the battleships of the Fatih Sultan Mehmet class had mixed boilers, part oil part coal). Oruc Reis, which was considered an exceptionally handsome ship, was ordered in 1912 and laid down late that year in Barrow-on-Furness. As designed, she looked like this:
When the first world war broke out, she was well advanced and chosen for completion for the Royal Navy. She was delivered early in 1916 under the name HMS Leopard. Unlike the Yavuz Sultan Selim, whose German service as Graf Schwerin was very successful, Leopard's career was short and tragic. At Jutland, her green crew scored only four hits and proved incapable of containing the damage from 17 heavy hits scored by the Germans. Of the five British battlecruisers lost at Jutland, HMS Leopard was the only one to succumb to a damage overdose rather than being blown up by a single lucky hit, the damage being aggravated by inept damage control efforts by Leopard's inexperienced crew. As completed (and lost), she looked like this:
3.5. Preveze class light cruisers
Ordered in 1910 together with the Kanuni Sultan Suleiman class battleships, the light cruisers Preveze and Cerbe, named for Ottoman 16th century naval victories, were repeats of Germany's Kolberg class, but with a heavier armament of two 150mm and eight 120mm guns, compatible to the older Abdul Hamid/Drama classes. Both were built by Schichau between 1910 and 1913, but could not be delivered before the end of the Balkan wars. When they eventually arrived in Turkey in late 1913, they looked like this:
3.6. 1914 Scout cruiser project
Another two scout cruisers were ordered in 1912 in France. They were designed from scratch for the Ottomans; France herself was not building light cruisers at that time. Despite this obvious lack of experience of the builders (FCM) and the higher price tag compared with a British design offered under the same specification, the Ottoman Naval Ministry was won over by aggressive marketing (i.e. bribery). The cruisers, which were to be named Malazgirt and Miryakefalon after two Seljuk Turk victories over the Byzantine Empire in 1073 and 1176, respectively, were smaller than the preceding Preveze-class, and carried a somewhat reduced armament of two 150mm and six 120mm guns; the torpedo arrangement consisted of two submerged 450mm tubes. Like the Preveze-class, they lacked vertical protection, but they were higher powered and three knots faster. Externally, they resembled contemporary Thiarian light cruisers, with two distinct groups of two funnels each and rather austere superstructure with two pole masts of equal height.
Both ships were launched and fitting out when the first world war started, and the French, who had exactly zero modern light cruisers at their disposal, seized them immediately. They were named La Galissoniere and Infernet and re-armed with French weaponry (the original guns were to be delivered from Germany). They received six 138mm/55 guns and two twin 450mm deck TR sets; the submerged tubes were suppressed. They were completed in June and October 1915, respectively, and remained France's only modern light cruisers throughout the First World War. La Galissoniere could be distinguished from her otherwise very similar sister by her higher funnels.
They mostly served in the Mediterranean, together with the battlecruisers Agosta and Beveziers and eight large destroyers which were also originally ordered by the Ottomans. They saw action off Gallipoli in 1915, in the Levante and the Adriatic in 1916, were shortly deployed to the Atlantic in 1917 before returning to the Mediterranean late that year (where La Galissoniere was damaged in a short gunfight with three Austrian destroyers, which managed to escape), both taking part in the victorious Battle of Imbros against the Ottomans. They received very few changes during the war, most visibly the addition of two 75mm HA guns and six 8mm AAMGs in 1916 and of a depth-charge rack in 1917; the w/t rig was also modified, and a more modern fire control system was installed in 1918. When the war ended, they looked like this:
After the war, they rapidly became obsolete due to their utter lack of growth potential; their lightly-built hulls had already as much equipment as they could carry. They lingered in service till 1927 and 1930, respectively, without receiving any further alterations, and were scrapped in 1930 and 1932, respectively.
3.7. Asar-i Sevket class destroyer
Two 950-ton destroyers ordered from Schichau in Germany in 1910, laid down in 1911 and delivered early in 1913. Names Asar-i Sevket and Necm-i Sevket. They were identical to the contemporary Argentinian Cordoba and La Plata except for their German-sourced armament; with four 105/40 guns and four 500mm torpedo tubes, they were more powerful than their German contemporaries. Despite good performance - trial speeds exceeded 33 knots in both - they were not chosen for continued production.
3.8. Akhisar class destroyer
These two destroyers were very similar to a class of four destroyers built in France for the Argentine Navy. They had a similar armament as their German counterparts, consisting of four 100mm/50 guns and four single 450mm torpedo tubes, and also the same design speed of 32 knots. Range and accommodation were slightly better than on the German ships, but the turning radius was larger. Their names were Akhisar and Kochisar. They were laid down in 1910 at the Dyle&Bacalan yard and delivered in 1912, just in time for the first Balkan war; during their service for the Ottoman Navy, they looked like this:
Although Akhisar and Kochisar were in no way superior to the German supplied ships, the decisive factors for the Turkish decision to order eight additional units to the same design from four different French yards in 1912 was the early delivery of the first two, the slightly lower pricetag and some amount of bakshish to senior Ottoman officials. They ordered Yarhisar and Rumelihisar from Dyle&Bacalan, Sultanhisar and Anadoluhisar from Normand, Svirihisar and Demirhisar from Schneider, and Kizilhisar and Mavihisar from Loire. They were begun in 1912 and 1913, but virtually no payments were made after the initial rate, and they were seized incomplete by the French in August 1914. They were completed between December 1914 and July 1915 under the names Foudroyant, Audacieux, Superbe, Triomphant, Corsaire, Flibustier, Boucanier and Mousquetier; together, they were the most formidable French destroyer squadron during the war. They exclusively served in the Mediterranean, covering the battlecruisers Beveziers and Agosta and frequently engaged Ottoman naval forces in combat. They were very similar to Akhisar and Kochisar and externally virtually indiscernible; they were a little beamier, 50 tons heavier and had twin rather than single torpedo tubes. Despite intense wartime service - they received a larger bridge, a 75mm HA gun, four 8mm MGs, and depth charges - the class took no losses and lasted till the early 1930s in French service.
3.9. Gulbang-i Nusret class destroyers
The last four destroyers of the 1910 programme initially were to be ordered in France as well, but due to the French Navy's own requirements, start of their construction would be delayed till 1914. This was considered unacceptable as soon as the First Balkan war erupted, and the Ottomans approached the shady British arms dealer Sir Basil Zaharoff to broker a deal with the Hawthorn Leslie yard for the delivery of four modern destroyers before 1914 was over. They were somewhat larger than the earlier Ottoman destroyers of the 1910 programme and carried a powerful armament of five 102mm guns (two of them abreast on the forecastle) and four 533mm torpedo tubes. All four were begun early in 1914 and already half complete when the war broke out; their proposed names were Gulbang-i Nusret, Burc-i Zafer, Necm-i Sevket and Bekber-i Kufret.
They were seized by the British and commissioned in 1915 as HMS Talisman, Termagent, Trident and Turbulent, respectively. All served with the Home Fleet throughout the war. Turbulent was sunk at Jutland (rammed by the German battleship Westfalen), the other three were scrapped soon after the war was over.
3.10. Alp Arslan class submarines
The submarines Alp Arslan and Uluc Ali Reis were ordered from Krupp in 1912 to a design based upon the German U5 type. They were nearly complete in 1914 and requisitioned for the German Navy as UA2 and UA3. They were commissioned late in 1914 and served the German war effort till 1917.
When the collapse of Rumania in 1917 put the entire length of the Danube under German control, both boats, which were already quite worn out and considered unsuited for Atlantic operations, were transferred to Constantinople via the Danube and placed under Ottoman control. They were mostly used for training for the remainder of the war, leaving the actual fighting to smaller submarines also delivered from Germany via the Danube. They were scrapped in the 1920s.
3.11. Hamza Bey class submarines
Hamza Bey and her sister Celebi Ali Pasa were ordered from Vickers in 1912, to the then brand-new E-design. Although they were larger than the contemporary German-built Ottoman subs, they were well suited to the brown waters they were supposed to operate in.
They were complete in May 1914, but still in Britain, while Turkish crews were trained on them; they were seized in August 1914 and the Turks interned. The submarines received the designations AE3 and AE4 and were handed over to Australia in 1914; both were deployed to the Mediterranean for a while, but never got the opportunity to attack Ottoman shipping. Both survived the war and had long post-war careers; when they were scrapped in 1935, they were the last remaining vessels of their class.
There are two more chapters to come, the first dealing with the Balkan wars and the second with the Great War, including some drawings of new acquisitions (such as they are) and modifications to extant Turkish ships in this era, as well as of the opposition (Greek and Russian); as these drawings do not yet exist for the most part, this might take some time, however.