In 1914, on this day Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill sent a telegram congratulating Rear Admiral Ernest Troubridge for sparing "untold misery and suffering for the peoples of the East" by sinking the German Battle Cruisers Goeben and Breslau within sight of the harbor at the Golden Horn in Constantinople.
Golden HornAs usual the high drama was a problem of Churchill's own botched decision-making. At the outbreak of war, two Dreadnoughts were being built for Turkish order in British Shipyards, but he hot-headedly decided to seize them for the Royal Navy without even offering compensation. In the event, the two ships made little impact on the course of the war. But Turkish Minister of War Ismail Enver was appalled and outraged. No stranger to bad calls himself, Enver had led the Young Turks into no less than three disastrous wars since the abdication Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1908.
Even through the British Empire had supported Turkey for the previous century, this catastrophic set of misjudgements threatened to bring Turkey into the Great War on the side of the Central Powers when the Imperial German Government offered two replacements, the Goeben and Breslau.
In the event, Turkish anger was subdued by the demonstration of British mastery in the Mediterranean and diplomats rushed to Constantinople to offer compensation that would ensure Turkish neutrality for the duration of the war.
Churchill entertained hopes of saving Imperial Russia by supplying her from the south, but within months she had lost millions dead on the Eastern Front and her collapse was inevitable. Nevertheless, in his self-congratulatory biopic "The World Crisis, 1911-1918" he claimed the credit for preventing a belligerent Ottoman Turkey from bringing the same kind of nationalist pressures to the Middle East that war had brought to the Balkans.