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Kaiserliche kleine Kreuzer S.M.S. BRESLAU später MİDİLLİ

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Dimitris Galon:
100 Jahre nach dem Untergang des kleinen Kreuzers S.M.S. BRESLAU haben wir es geschafft von dem 2. bis 5.9.2018 ihn zu betauchen. Die Tauchgänge wurden von dem türkischen Kultusministerium genehmigt das die erste Tauchgenehmigung überhaupt in den letzten 100 Jahren ausstellte. Hier ein Bericht über die S.M.S. BRESLAU Expedition in englische Sprache mit dem Titel „Das Schiff das den Lauf der Geschichte änderte - Der Kaiserliche kleine Kreuzer S.M.S. Breslau, später MİDİLLİ - Die Untersuchung und Dokumentation einer Legende 100 Jahre nach Ihrem Untergang“.

Wer mehrere Informationen bzw. Fotos braucht kann mir eine PM schicken.


German Imperial Light Cruiser S.M.S. BRESLAU - Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Kruvazörü MİDİLLİ
“The ship that changed the flow of history”
Examining and documenting a legend 100 years after her sinking

More than a century after the outbreak of the First World War, there still exist at the sea bottom of the Aegean Sea, near the entrance of the Dardanelle Straits, the shipwreck of the German light cruiser S.M.S. BRESLAU. In terms of her historical significance, she is probably the most important existing historical shipwreck of the Eastern Mediterranean. On September 2-5, 2018, equipped with a dive permit from the Turkish Ministry of Culture we succeeded to dive, examine and document her, 100 years after her sinking.


The S.M.S. BRESLAU shipwreck is the last survivor of the German Imperial Mediterranean Division (Mittelmeerdivision) and one of the main warships involved not only in the “Gallipoli Campaign” but also in almost all the Black and Aegean Sea naval operations during World War I. The S.M.S. BRESLAU together with the heavy cruiser S.M.S. GOEBEN, have had a profound influence on politics in world history. Those two ships were the instigators for the Ottoman Empire´s and Bulgaria´s accession to the war, the hecatombs of the “Gallipoli Campaign” with more than 500.000 losses, the “Vardar Front”, and the troubles of the “Entente Powers” not only in Asia Minor but also in Palestine and Egypt. As the “London Times” wrote on January 22, 1918, two days after the loss of S.M.S. BRESLAU, “Despite their nefarious career, no other two ships have had such a significant impact on the war as the GOEBEN and BRESLAU”. Additionally, the first lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill, confirms this thesis with his statement, that those two ships who forced the Ottoman Empire into the war “brought more slaughter, more misery, and more ruin than has ever before been borne within the compass of a ship”.

After their legendary escape through the Mediterranean in August 1914, under the command of Vice Admiral Wilhelm Souchon, trying to avoid a direct confrontation with the British Mediterranean Fleet, they succeeded to outsmart their persecutors and rich the Strait of Dardanelles where they found shelter at the “Nağara Burnu” Naval Base protected by the neutrality of the Ottoman Empire. After agreements between the Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Government, the ships turned over to the Ottoman Navy and changed their names from S.M.S. BRESLAU to MİDİLLİ and S.M.S. GOEBEN to YAVUZ SULTAN SELİM respectively, while the crew remained German but wore distinctive Ottoman Navy insignia. The command of the ships remained under Wilhelm Souchon, who for that matter was also given the honor of becoming Ottoman Navy’s Admiral. Worth mentioning is also that the Grand Admiral, head of the German Submarine Weapon during World War II and last “Reichspresident”, Karl Dönitz (1891-1980), was officer with the rank of “Leutnant zur See” of the S.M.S. BRESLAU from 1912 to 1915.

On August 15, 1914, the Ottoman Empire announced its naval agreement with Great Britain and referred the British naval mission, which worked since 1910 on reform and modernization of the Ottoman fleet, to September 15 of the country. The Dardanelle Straits were fortified with German aid and the S.M.S. BRESLAU and S.M.S. GOEBEN secured the Bosporus Strait. On September 27, both straits were officially closed for the international shipping and on October 29, 1914, the S.M.S. BRESLAU and S.M.S. GOEBEN, sailing under Ottoman flag, bombed the Russian Naval Bases at Noworoshisk and Sevastopol in the Black Sea. Those attacks had led to Russia’s declaration of war against the Ottoman Empire on November 2, 1914, and consequently to Ottomans’ entry into the war, on the “Central Powers” side and against the “Triple Entente”, on November 12 of the same year.

Technical data

S.M.S. BRESLAU was one of the four MAGDEBURG Class light cruisers built as construction no. 312 in 1911 and commissioned for the Imperial German Navy (Kaiserliche Marine) in 1912. The vessel was named after the city of Breslau (nowadays “Wrocław”, Poland) the historical capital of Silesia, which was part of the Kingdom of Prussia since 1740 and after 1871 became part of the Imperial Germany. The key data and the construction specifications of the vessel are:

Name: 1912 Seiner Majestät kleine Kreuzer BRESLAU / 1914 Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Kruvazörü MIDILLI
Constructor: A.G. Vulcan, Stettin
Laid down: 1910
Launched: May 16, 1911
Commissioned: May 10, 1912
Displacement (tons): 4570
Length (m): 138,7
Beam (m): 13,5
Draft (m): 4,4
Propulsion: 2 AEG-Vulcan steam turbines (19000 kW), 16 water-tube boilers
Indicative speed (knots): 27,5
Propellers: 4 (2,47 m each)
Range (marine miles): 5820
Armament: 12 x 10,5 cm SK L/45 naval guns. From 1916, 10 x 10,5 cm and 2 x 15 cm SK L/45 naval guns, 120 mines and 2 x 50 cm torpedo tubes. From 1917, 8 x 15 cm SK L/45 and 2 x 50 cm torpedo tubes.
Complement: 10 officers and 336 enlisted (officially)

The sinking

After the armistice on the eastern front, due to the Russian Revolution of October 1917, there were no more tasks for the MİDİLLİ (former S.M.S. BRESLAU) and the YAVUZ SULTAN SELİM (former S.M.S. GOEBEN) therefore they were stationed in Istanbul. At the beginning of 1918 the Admiral of the Ottoman Navy, Vice Admiral Hubert von Rebeuer-Paschwitz, who had replaced Wilhelm Souchon during September 1917, intentioned to draw the “Entente” naval forces away from Palestine in support of the Ottoman forces in this area. Therefore, he organized a plan to attack the North Aegean “Entente” naval bases at the islands of Imbros and Lemnos (Greece).

On January 20, 1918, MİDİLLİ, under the command of Kapitän zur See Georg von Hippel, and YAVUZ SULTAN SELİM, under the command of Kapitän zur See Albert von Stoelzel, left the Dardanelles and succeeded to attack the British naval base of Imbros (today “Gökçeada”) and sink the British monitors H.M.S. RAGLAN and H.M.S. M28 at the northeast coast of the island. Proceeding to set out towards Lemnos and while en route, MİDİLLİ struck five mines at the “Entente” mine field no. 36 (deployed on November 8, 1917) and sank with the aft first off the island of Imbros. From the ship´s crew 330 Germans and 34 Ottomans were lost while 133 have been rescued by the British vessels H.M.S. LIZARD and H.M.S. TIGRESS, who approached the site of loss one and half hours after the sinking. 50 - 55 men of the crew lost their lives from the mine explosions, while the rest, in accordance to the German Imperial War Diaries, died due to the cold water of about six degrees Celsius. Among the casualties was also the vessel´s commander Kpt.z.S. Georg von Hippel. The rescued were brought first to Moudros (Lemnos Island) and then as prisoners of war to Alexandria and Malta, where they were held until the end of World War I.

During the same operation, the YAVUZ SULTAN SELİM hit three mines as well but remained afloat. She retreated to the Dardanelles and was intentionally beached off the “Nagara Burnu”. With the MİDİLLİ sunk and the YAVUZ SULTAN SELİM heavily damaged, the threat of the Ottoman Navy to the “Entente Powers” was greatly reduced for the remainder of the war.

The wreck

Our group member, the renowned Turkish naval researcher Selçuk Kolay, located the wreck of S.M.S. BRESLAU in 1993. The vessel rests in one piece, almost upright on her kill at 76 meters of water on a sandy bottom, while her bow points to 240 degrees. The aft section is badly damaged and partly collapsed, while the bow and the amidships section remains in extremely good condition. The two masts of the cruiser are broken and lie on the port side, while the four funnel holes are partly visible and easy recognizable. The bridge, the wave breaker at the forecastle, the two anchors at the bow, and the davits amidships are conspicuous and in good condition. 

The mine damages are not clearly visible due to the encrustation and the highly growth marine life.   The mine no. 1, that detonated on the starboard aft, the mine no. 2, that detonated on the port side between the two rearmost boiler rooms (department VII/VIII), as well as the mine no. 3, which detonated on the port side between the engine rooms (department V/VI), in combination with the violent collision of the stern with the seabed led to severe damage to the aft. The damage of the mine no. 4 could not be observed as this mine detonated under the fourth boiler room (department X). The mine no. 5 detonated under the forecastle at the level of the bridge. In accordance to the archival sources, the detonation was particularly violent and could have been caused by two simultaneously detonated mines.  All the 15 cm naval guns of the vessel are still mounted in their towers and still conspicuous.  From the four propellers of the vessel, only the two propellers at the starboard site are visible.

As a sign of respect to this legendary ship and to the great loss of life during her sinking, we left a commemorative plaque for the 100 years of the sinking of the S.M.S. BRESLAU - Osmanlı İmparatorluğu Kruvazörü MIDILLI at the tower of the bow 15 cm naval gun.

Participants (alphabetically):

Ali Ethem Keskin, Erol Öztunalı, Hasan Tan, Remzi Tuğrul Varol, Savaş Karakaş and Selçuk Kolay from Turkey

Derk Remmers, Markus Kerwath, Ralf Wissel and Wilhelm Mönnikes from Germany

Dimitri Galon from Greece


Bundesarchiv – Militärarchiv, Freiburg i.B.: RM 3/3429 “Seegefecht von Imbros 20.1.1918”, MSG 225/7 „Offiziere der Kaiserlichen Marine“

NARA Washington DC: T1022/379, T1022/380 “Kriegstagebuch des kleinen Kreuzers S.M.S. BRESLAU”

Internationales Maritimes Museum Hamburg: Mittelmeer-Division M914/26, F-1493, F-1494, F-1495, „Konstruktionsplan des kleinen Kreuzers Breslau“ (IMMH - Ro 2503)

Hagen (Korvettenkapitän): “Mine und Seestrategie - Die Verwendung der Mine nach der Erfahrung des Weltkrieges“ (Dienstschrift Nr. 14), Oberkommando der Kriegsmarine, Berlin 1935

Aksakal, Mustafa: “The Ottoman Road to War in 1914. The Ottoman Empire and the First World War”, Cambridge University Press 2008

Aßmann, Kurt: Der Krieg zur See 1914-1918, “Türkische Gewässer”, Volume I & II, Mittler & Sohn, Berlin 1938

Gröner, Erich: “Die deutschen Kriegsschiffe 1815-1945”, Band 1., Bernhard & Graefe Verlag, Koblenz, 1982 

Kraus, Th. / Dönitz, Karl: “Die Kreuzfahrten der Goeben und Breslau”, Ullstein Verlag, Berlin, 1933

Halpern, Paul G.: “The Naval War in the Mediterranean 1914-1918”, Naval Institute Press, 1987

Hallo DG ,

Danke für den interessanten Bericht , hier noch ein Foto der ex "Breslau" unter türkischer Flagge fahrend ,

                                                                                                                                  Gruss  halina

Hier noch weitere Fotos des Kreuzers , auf dem Dönitz war , bevor er zur U Bootwaffe ging :



LG  Jürgen

Hi DG,
thank you for your interesting report - sounds like a great expedition. Great to see that the Turkish government is permitting to dive this wreck.
Best regards,

Teddy Suhren:

Lässt sich was über die Hauptbewaffnung sagen?
Nach "Halbmond und Kaiseradler" bin ich etwas verwirrt was und wieviele Geschütze denn nun an Bord waren. Im Buch sind mehrere Fotos die das Schiff an einigen Positionen gänzlich ohne Geschütze zeigt. Dann wieder wird von einer Umrüstung auf 15cm geschrieben.
Alle? Welche Positionen? Unten steht was von zwei x 15cm?
Wurde dann die parallele Aufstellung auf dem Vorschiff und der Hütte beibehalten?


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