Despite those victories, however, there were many Ottomans who were leery of joining the war at all. Some, like Djavid Bey, the Minister of Finance, argued his country could not afford to go to war. The country was bankrupt. (The Rupture With Turkey by The Times 12/11/14) The Ottomans had another reason for refusing to fight. Their recent history indicated they were not very good at it.
In the preceding years, the Ottomans had suffered a series of defeats at the hands of the Europeans. In 1911, Italy declared war on the Ottomans in the hopes of extracting Libya from them, a goal which Italy achieved. In the First Balkan War, which began in 1912, the Ottomans lost nearly all of their territory in Europe. With their empire disappearing before their eyes, the Ottomans decided they had to ally themselves with one of the Great Powers in order to ensure their survival. (Page 48) They first asked Britain for an alliance, then France, they even asked Russia, their mortal enemy, the country which had been trying to destroy them for the past 150 years. (Page 66) None of those countries were willing to form an alliance with them. (Page 49) With seemingly no where else to turn, the Ottomans formed an alliance with Germany.
The information released, the documents which describe how the Germans and the Ottomans would come to embrace each other, those documents are filled with holes and inconsistencies. It is impossible, based on what I have read, to definitely describe how and when their alliance was formed. But that does not mean an examination of the evidence is not worthwhile. The evidence proves, conclusively, that the Ottomans were both pushed into the alliance by the actions of Britain and they were pulled into the alliance by the actions of the Germans themselves. Not only did Britain refuse to form an alliance with the Ottomans, Britain did everything in her power to provoke them, to push them away, into the hands of the Germans. The Germans, meanwhile, did everything they could to entice the Ottomans, to force the Ottomans to join the war on their side. The Germans and the English were two heads of the European monster, whose actions were meant to force the Ottomans into forming an alliance with Germany, an alliance which would destroy their empire.
The principal theater of the war was in Europe. It was the battle between the armies of France and Germany. (Mr. Churchill’s Book by The Times 2/9/23) To succeed against the Germans, the French needed to transport their troops from North Africa to Europe. Those troops would have to rely on the French Navy to protect them as they made their journey across the Mediterranean.
“But there was one ship in the Mediterranean which far outstripped in speed every vessel in the French Navy,” said Winston Churchill. “She was the Goeben.”
The SMS Goeben, a German battlecruiser built in 1911, was by all accounts the most advanced ship of its kind in the Mediterranean. The Allies had only three ships in the Mediterranean which could compete with the Goeben in terms of size and speed – the Indomitable, the Indefatigable, and the Inflexible.
The Indomitable and Inflexible each weighed 17,250 tons, had 41,000 horsepower, and could travel at 25 knots while the Goeben weighed 22,640 tons, had 70,000 horsepower, and could travel at 27 knots. (Goeben and Breslau by The Times 8/12/14) The Indefatigable was similar to the other two British warships, though slightly larger.
“This comparison shows that, on paper at any rate, the Goeben is the larger, better protected, faster and – as far as the lighter guns are concerned – better armed ship,” said the Times.
“It seemed that the Goeben, being free to choose any point on a front of three or four hundred miles, would easily be able to avoid the French Battle Squadrons and, brushing aside or outstripping their cruisers, break in upon the transports and sink one after another of these vessels crammed with soldiers,” said Churchill. “It occurred to me at this time that perhaps that was the task she had been sent to the Mediterranean to perform.”
Two days after the war began, the British Admiralty sent a message to their Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean.
“Your first task should be to aid the French in the transportation of their African army by covering and if possible bringing to action individual fast German ships, particularly Goeben, which may interfere with that transportation,” said the Admiralty.
“Except in combination with the French as part of a general battle do not at this stage be brought to action against superior forces.”
One would have expected the Germans to use the Goeben against the French Navy, in the manner envisioned by Churchill. But the Germans never used that strategy. Instead the Germans gave the Goeben to the Ottoman Empire. The Goeben was a Trojan Horse, a gift offered in malice, which once accepted, would lead to the destruction of the Ottoman Empire.
There are several accounts of what happened to the Goeben, including three published by the Times of London. One version consists of the articles published by the Times as the events happened. (Chase of the Goeben by The Times 8/7/14) Another version was based on the recollections of a German warrant officer who served aboard the Goeben. (Flight of Goeben and Breslau by The Times 4/5/15) A third version was based on the logbook of the Goeben and the words of Admiral Souchon, the German in charge of the ship. (The Goeben’s Escape by The Times 2/14/16) And we also have the account written by Fromkin in his book.
Now let’s try to figure out what happened, based on all these sources. On August 3, Germany declared war on France. The following day, two German warships, the Goeben and the Breslau, shelled two cities in Algeria, Annaba and Skikda. Back then, Algeria was part of France and the two cities were known as Philippeville and Bone.
View Northern Algeria in a larger map
After the attack, a fleet of French warships began chasing after the Goeben. (Chase of the Goeben by The Times 8/7/14) As the German ships sailed away, they encountered a fleet of English warships. Neither side fired a shot as Britain and Germany had not yet declared war on each other. A few days after this encounter, the Times reported that the English fleet contained two Inflexible class battlecruisers. This information nearly matches what the German warrant officer reported. By his recollection, the the two battlecruisers were the Indefatigable and the Inflexible and they were accompanied by two additional vessels, the Gloucester and the Weymouth.
“And now our business was to clear out, as their superiority was altogether too much for us,” he said.
Though the Goeben may have been the best ship in the Mediterranean, she would’ve had a hard time defeating two British battlecruisers by herself. The other German ship, the Breslau, was much smaller. She only weighed 4,500 tons, which was lighter than even the Gloucester, which weighed 4,800 tons. The Times didn’t think much of the Breslau. While the Times referred to the Goeben as a “great battle-cruiser,” the Time denigrated the Breslau, calling her “unimportant.” (In Battle Array by The Times 8/7/14)
The British fleet followed the Goeben throughout the day. But the Goeben was faster and managed to outrun them. At the end of the day, Britain declared war on Germany.
On August 5, the German ships sailed into Messina Straits, a narrow strip of water located between Sicily and the Italian Peninsula.
View Messina Straits in a larger map
The Allied warships could not attack them inside the straits, as the straits belonged to Italy and Italy was neutral. Nor could the German ships seek refuge inside Italian waters forever. To maintain her neutrality, Italy was required to either disarm the German ships or force them to leave within 24 hours of their arrival. (Italy’s Decision by The Times 8/7/14) The Germans loaded as much coal as they could, knowing that they had to leave the straits before the deadline.
According to a Times article published on the 7th, there was an English Fleet waiting for them at the south side of the straits and a French squadron guarding the north side. (Chase of the Goeben by The Times 8/7/14) The German ships, it seemed, were now facing imminent destruction.
“There will be much gratification at the news that the two vessels have at last been cornered,” said the Times.
“The German vessels must now be disarmed or come out and fight. In any case they can hardly be a menace to the commerce and coast towns of the Mediterranean much longer.”
The following day the Times reported that, on August 6 at 5 PM, the Goeben and the Breslau left the southern entrance of Messina. (The Goeben Chase by The Times 8/8/14) By all accounts except one, the Goeben managed to leave Messina without having to engage the British fleet. (The Fleets At Sea by The Times 8/8/14) The one exception was the account written by the German warrant officer, who claimed the Goeben and Breslau had to fight their way out. According to Admiral Souchon, instead of placing their ships at the southern entrance of Messina, the British placed them in the Straits of Otranto.
View Straits of Otranto in a larger map
“The English should have waited before the Straits of Messina and nowhere else,” said Souchon. “But so confident were they that the Goeben and Breslau must try and break through to the Adriatic in order to reach an Austrian port that they thought it safe to wait in the Straits of Otranto.”
Fromkin agrees that the British blocked the entrance to the Adriatic, though in addition, he claims they placed their vessels west of Sicily to prevent the Germans from interfering with the French transports. (Page 63) Curiously, he also cites the following quote.
“Who but an Admiral would not have put a battle-cruiser at both ends of the Messina Straits, instead of putting two at one end and none at the other?” said the British Prime Minister’s daughter. (Page 63)
The quote appears to contradict Fromkin. It implies the British blocked the north side of the straits but not the south whereas Fromkin implies they really didn’t block either side of the straits.
After leaving Messina, the German warships sailed to the Dardanelles, which was their plan all along. The Dardanelles is a narrow strip of water, controlled by the Ottomans, which separates Europe from Asia.
View The Dardanelles in a larger map
Once the ships arrived at the straits, the Ottomans faced a dilemma. They wanted to remain neutral. But they had signed several treaties which prohibited them from allowing foreign warships to pass through the Dardanelles. (The Goeben and the Dardanelles by The Times 8/14/14) If they allowed the ships to enter the straits, they were required to disarm them.
The Ottomans did not allow the ships to pass through the straits. Nor did they disarm them or refuse them entry. Instead they bought the Goeben and Breslau. The Times argued that the sale was illegal, that the ships were trying to evade capture, that the Ottoman Empire, as a neutral country, could not buy the ships under those circumstances. The sale saved the ships. Had the Ottomans forced them to sail back into the Mediterranean they would have faced a vastly superior Allied fleet.
Nevertheless, the Allies indicated they would accept the sale as long as the German officers and crew were removed from the ships. (Goeben as a Turkish Cruiser by The Times 8/15/14) The Ottomans assured the Allies they would meet their demands. (Turkey’s Naval Coup by The Times 8/13/14) But they were lying. Their sailors did not know how to operate the German warships. Only the Germans knew how, which meant the Ottomans had to keep the German crew in order to operate the ships. (Page 65)
The Ottoman government declared they bought the ships to ensure their fleet would be as strong as the Greek fleet. (Purchase of the Goeben by The Times 8/16/14)
“Greece has just added to her naval forces two battleships which were ceded to her by the United States,” said Rifaat Pasha, the Ottoman Ambassador to France. “The Balkan equilibrium was upset.”
“We know by the experience of the last Balkan war how fatal is naval inferiority and that the war might have taken another turn if we had been stronger on the sea.”
To further bolster his case for buying the ships, the ambassador noted that, as the war started, Britain was building two battleships for the Ottomans - the Reshadieh and the Sultan Osman I. (Page 54) Although the Ottomans had already paid for the ships, Winston Churchill, then the First Lord of the Admiralty, decided that his navy needed the ships for the war and so he expropriated them, an act which for the Ottomans “was a cruel disappointment,” according to their ambassador. Britain told the Ottomans they would be compensated. That was a lie. The British never compensated the Ottomans. (www.canakkale.gen.tr/eng/closer/closer5.html) Britain stole the ships. Had Britain not stolen the ships, the Ottomans would not have had to buy the other two ships from the Germans, at least that was the implication made by their ambassador.
Not only could the Goeben help the Ottomans against the Greeks, the Goeben could also help them against the Russians, who “had no vessels in the Black Sea comparable to the Goeben as regards age and power, and her battleships in commission, though powerful enough, are handicapped by the speed of the German battle cruiser, which could literally steam round any one of them,” according to the Times. (The Fleets At Sea by The Times 9/9/14)
Despite their claims to the contrary, the Ottomans never paid the Germans for the ships. Instead the money flowed in the opposite direction. Less than a month after the Germans handed over the Goeben, they delivered sixty boxes of gold to the Ottomans. (The Goeben’s Crew by The Times 9/5/14) The Ottomans had said they would join the war if Germany gave them two million Turkish pounds. (Page 71) But after receiving the payment, they changed their minds and decided to maintain their neutrality.
The Germans were desperate. They made every promise they could think of, made every argument, plausible or not, all in the hopes of convincing the Ottomans to join the war on their side.
“German success in the European war was said to be assured,” said Louis Mallet, the former British Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire. “The perpetual menace to Turkey from Russia might, it was suggested, be averted by a timely alliance with Germany and Austria. Egypt might be recovered for the Empire. India and other Moslem countries represented as groaning under Christian rule might be kindled into a flame of infinite possibilities for the Caliphate of Constantinople. Turkey would emerge from the war the one great Power of the East, even as Germany would be the one great Power of the West. Such was the substance of German misrepresentations.” (The Rupture With Turkey by The Times 12/11/14)
But despite the gifts, despite the promises, much of the Ottoman government still opposed going to war with the Allies. Unfortunately for them, after the Goeben and Breslau arrived, their voices of opposition grew weaker and weaker whereas the voices calling for war grew stronger and stronger, in part because the German warships were not empty. They were filled with German soldiers who had their own agenda.
“Not only did these ships remain under effective German control, but a strong German element was imported into the remainder of the fleet,” said Mallet.
“Large numbers of Germans were imported from Germany as unostentatiously as possible, to be employed in the forts of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus and at other crucial points.”
Another provocation from Churchill
While the Germans were exerting the greatest effort, pulling the Ottomans towards them, into the abyss, the British were pushing them in the same direction, closer and closer to the Germans. At the end of September, in accordance with the orders given to them by Churchill, the British navy prevented an Ottoman torpedo boat from leaving the Dardanelles after they discovered the boat contained German sailors. Enraged by what the British had done, the Ottomans sealed off the Dardanelles in retaliation. (Page 67)
“Once again the Ottoman authorities were violating their obligations under international law, and once again they appeared to have been provoked to do so by the actions of Winston Churchill,” said Fromkin.
The closure of the Dardanelles was a devastating blow for Russia who sent half of her exports through there. (Page 67)
Entry into War
On October 29, the Goeben and Breslau shelled Odessa, a Russian city located on the northern shore of the Black Sea. (Flight of Goeben and Breslau by The Times 4/5/15) Mallet blamed the Germans for the attack. (The Rupture With Turkey by The Times 12/11/14)
“Events have confirmed … that so long as the German admiral and crews remained on board the German warships, the German Government were masters of the situation, and were in a position to force the hand of the Turkish Government if at any given moment it suited them to do so,” he said.
After the attack, he met with the Grand Vizier.
“His Highness convinced me of his sincerity in disclaiming all knowledge of or participation in the events which had led to the rupture, and entreated me to believe that the situation was even now not irretrievable,” said the ambassador. “I replied that the time had passed for assurances.”
The British demanded the Ottomans expel the German mission or else there would be war.
“The Grand Vizier again protested that even now he could undo what the War party had done without his knowledge or consent,” said the ambassador.
Later that evening, the Turkish Council held a meeting in which the Grand Vizier asked the members to support his efforts to avoid a war against the Allies. The ministers voted in favor of peace, though no one put forth a motion to remove the German mission.
Two days after the attack, on October 31, Winston Churchill ordered his navy to begin hostilities against the Ottomans immediately. (Page 72) Churchill had finally succeeded in dragging the Ottomans into the war. This was the outcome Churchill wanted. If you don't believe me, consider his words. After the Ottomans joined the war, he openly argued that having the Ottomans as an adversary had its advantages, as that would allow Britain to chop up and consume their empire after the war. (Page 74)
The importance of the Goeben
“No two warships have had such an important effect upon the war as the Goeben and the Breslau. They will always be remembered in naval history.”
– The Times, from The Goeben and the Breslau, 1/22/18
The escape of the Goeben was the critical event which directly led to the Ottomans joining the war on the side of Germany. For the Ottomans, the Goeben was “a pledge and proof of Germany’s power.” (Goeben Visited by The Times 11/15/18) The Ottoman public “believed she was invincible.” (The Goeben and the Breslau by The Times 1/22/18) Her acquisition enormously strengthened those who wanted to join the war on the side of the Germans against those who wanted to remain neutral. (The Turk Old And New by The Times 1/16/23) The German commitment to the Ottomans seemed real, seemed substantial. The Ottomans were compelled to reciprocate.
“The arrival of the Goeben in the Dardanelles gave the war party in Turkey the upper hand, and thus led to the Turkish declaration of war,” said the Times. (Looking Things in the Face by The Times 11/23/14)
“From the moment she reached Constantinople Turkey moved steadily towards a rupture with the Allies.” (The Goeben and the Breslau by The Times 1/22/18)
Edwin Montagu, the British Secretary of State for India, believed as I believe, that the Ottomans were driven into war by the actions of both Germany and Britain. (The Near East by The Times 10/14/22)
“Turkey had entered the war against us, partly as the result of errors in British diplomacy which need not now be discussed, partly as the result of successful German efforts, partly as a direct consequence of the escape of the Goeben,” said Montagu.
An intentional mistake
“Very rarely in war has a single error had more far-reaching consequences.”
– The Times on the escape of the Goeben
The Goeben and the Breslau 1/22/18
The British Navy should have been able to sink the Goeben before she reached the Dardanelles. John Fisher, the First Sea Lord of the British Navy at the start of the war, said the Goeben “escaped because the British battle-cruisers that were in the Mediterranean were not used.” (Lord Fisher on the Navy by The Times 9/9/19) Later in the war, another British battlecruiser of the same type, the Invincible, sunk the the sister ships of the Goeben and Breslau which proves, in his mind, that his battlecruisers in the Mediterranean would have been able to sink the Goeben and Breslau, as those ships were the same as the Invincible.
The Germans too believed the British could have destroyed the Goeben if they wanted to. A few days after the Goeben escaped, the German Chancellor, Theobald von Bethmann-Hollweg, wrote, “After thorough consideration I regard it as probable that England is holding back so as to prevent any decision which would lead to the prolongation of the war.” (German Navy In the War by The Times 6/21/20)
This was the only way he could explain the escape of the Goeben. Were this explanation untrue, then the escape was, from his perspective, a “gigantic mistake of the British Admiralty.”
From the moment she arrived in Messina, the Allies had 24 hours to mass a fleet of ships on both sides of the straits to sink the Goeben upon her departure. Instead, by most accounts, when the Goeben finally left Messina, she faced no opposition whatsoever.
Instead of blocking the south entrance, the British stationed their fleet in the Adriatic Sea. This makes no sense. Even if you believe the Goeben was headed for the Adriatic, once she realized a British fleet was waiting for her there, she would chart another course, as going to the Adriatic would mean her certain destruction.
Though there was little to prevent the Goeben from leaving Messina, after the Goeben entered the Dardanelles, there was an overwhelming force outside the straits to prevent her escape. One wonders where these ships were when the Goeben left Messina. One wonders why the Allies were willing to let the Goeben leave Messina, but not the Dardanelles. Their actions indicate they wanted the Goeben to reach the Dardanelles, but not be able to leave. Their actions indicate they wanted to put the Ottomans in a bind. The Ottomans could not allow the Goeben to sail through the Dardanelles. That would have violated their treaty obligations. Nor could the Ottomans deny the Goeben entry, for then she would have faced certain destruction. The Germans would have been enraged and would have ended their relationship with the Ottomans. The Ottomans would have been completely isolated from all the major powers of Europe. Their only option was to buy the Goeben, an action, which though illegal, the Allies indicated they would accept because they wanted the Germans to expand their influence amongst the Ottomans. They wanted the Germans to take control of the Ottomans. The Goeben was a Trojan Horse, a gift offered in malice, which once accepted, would lead to the destruction of the Ottoman Empire.
Sergey Sazonov, the Russian foreign minister, argued the Ottoman entry into the war was “the result of German treachery towards the Ottoman Empire, which invited German instructors and the mission of General Liman von Sanders, hoping to perfect its army with the object of assuring its independence against the Russian danger insinuated by Berlin. Germany, however, took advantage of this penetration into the Turkish Army to make that army a weapon in realizing her political plans.” (Indictment of Germany by The Times 2/11/15)
“All the acts of the Turks since the appearance of the Goeben in the Dardanelles had been committed under the pressure of Germany,” he said.
The British Admiralty court-martialed two of their admirals for allowing the Goeben to escape. One of those admirals was Ernest Troubridge, the man who led the First Cruiser Squadron. The proceeding was closed to the public and the press. He was honourably acquitted. (Admiral Troubridge Acquitted by The Times 11/13/14) The court-martial ruled that the Goeben “was a superior force to the First Cruiser Squadron.” (The Escape of the Goeben by The Times 4/16/19) As he was ordered not to engage a superior force, the Admiralty judged his decision to allow the Goeben to pass by was the right one. It is important to note that the warships included in his squadron were all smaller than the Goeben. It included none of the three battlecruisers which were capable of sinking her.
The other admiral who was court-martialed was Archibald Berkeley Milne, the man who led the British Navy in the Mediterranean. The Admiralty exonerated him too. They declared “that the general dispositions and measures taken by him were fully approved.” (Sir B. Milne and the Nore by The Times 2/20/19)
The Times was incredulous that both men were acquitted. They demanded an explanation.
“The nation should be told quite frankly how these two blameless Admirals came to let the Goeben escape, and thus set in motion a series of events of great importance, the end of which no man can forsee,” said the Times. (Looking Things in the Face by The Times 11/23/14)
When it came to the Goeben and Breslau, the Times detected a cover-up, a plot to conceal the truth from the public.
“The story of their escape from Messina represents one of the greatest of our blunders,” said the Times. “It is also the first of a long series of unfortunate episodes about which the public have been told that no one was to blame, while the suppression of the facts has prevented any opportunity of forming an independent judgment. A blunder, a pail of whitewash, and rigid secrecy-these are the three main factors in the Goeben case.” (The Goeben and the Breslau by The Times 1/22/18)
A few months after the escape, Churchill declared that, at the present time, all the information related to their escape could not be released without prejudice to vital interests, and that a partial explanation of their escape would have no value. (The Goeben and Breslau by The Times 11/27/14)
Carlyon Bellairs, a British Conservative Parliamentarian, who had access to the finding from the Troubridge court-martial, said the Admiralty was concealing the finding because they wanted to cover up the bad arrangements they made at the start of the war. In response to the allegation, Walter Long, the First Lord of the Admiralty, made the following reply.
“The action of the Board at the time in regard to the Court-martial on Admiral Troubridge was taken in what they believed to be the highest interests of the State,” he said.
“To publish the report or anything like it without also publishing a great deal more that was not at present available for publication would be to run the gravest risk of doing injury to gallant men who ought not to be injured and would not be injured if the other vital information were made known.”
The facts would be released to the public at the right time, he insisted, which begs the question, what time is the right time? Apparently, not two and a half decades after the war, in 1933, when someone asked the British government if they would publish the proceedings of the Troubridge court-martial.
“The full proceedings of the Court-martial are much too voluminous for publication, and a large part of them is confidential,” was the reply given. (House of Commons by The Times 3/23/33)
Nor was the right time in 1966, nearly sixty years after the war. The Troubridge court-martial proceedings, the documents about the inquiry into the escape of the Goeben, those documents were still closed to the public. The British government decided that they should remain classified for 100 years. (Access To Documents by The Times 1/6/66) Next year is the 100th anniversary of the start of World War I. It will be very interesting to see if the British government declassifies the documents, and if they do, if they release the actual documents, or if they release forgeries.
As neither Milne nor Troubridge were punished for allowing the Goeben to escape, we can conclude that they were adhering to the wishes of the British Admiralty. But by all accounts, they did allow the Goeben to escape, which means that the British Admiralty wanted the Goeben to escape. The British are telling the truth when they say that releasing all the facts would prejudice their vital interests. The facts would prove to the world that Britain allowed the Goeben to escape so that she could destroy the Ottoman Empire.
Where were the French?
Many have questioned the conduct of the British Navy for allowing the Goeben to escape. Much less attention has been directed towards the French Navy, which seems odd. The Goeben was the biggest threat to the transportation of French soldiers across the Mediterranean. One would think France would have been determined to sink her.
The Times mentioned the French had their fleet stationed at the north end of Messina, which makes sense. From that position, they could prevent the Goeben from returning to Algeria, from interfering with their transportation operations. And after dealing with the Goeben, the ships could have returned to Algeria faster than had they been stationed on the south side, which would have forced them to sail a longer distance.
Two years after the incident, out of the clear blue sky, Ronald McNeill, a British Conservative Parliamentarian, asked the foreign secretary if he had any official information which indicated that a French Admiral notified the British government that he was pursuing the Goeben, that he intended to sink her before she reached the Dardanelles. But before he could do so, the French government ordered him to stop his pursuit based on a request from the British government. (House of Commons by The Times 1/21/16) The foreign secretary denied that such information existed. However, in my opinion, it is the most likely explanation for why, when the Goeben emerged from Messina, the French were nowhere to be seen.
The Ottomans should have known better
We know, in retrospect, that for the Ottomans, their alliance with Germany was a Faustian bargain. The alliance led to the destruction of their empire. One might be tempted to excuse the Ottoman leadership, to argue that they simply could not have refused the Germans, to argue that they had no idea, at the time, how badly things would go for them in the future. A thorough examination of the facts, however, indicates the Ottomans should have known the Germans did not have their best interests at heart.
The Ottomans should’ve had this epiphany when the Goeben shelled Odessa. That was not how the Ottomans should have joined the war. The bombardment made the Ottomans look like the aggressors. If the Ottomans wanted to join the war, they should have made it look like the Russians were the aggressors. That would not have been difficult.
By the end of October, the British and the Russians had declared that the sale of the Goeben was not valid, that they would attack the Goeben if she entered the Black Sea. (Goeben and Breslau by The Times 10/27/14) To make the Allies look like the aggressors then, the Ottomans could have ordered the Goeben sail into the Black Sea and wait for her to be attacked. Or the Ottomans could have sent the Goeben into the Black Sea, had her sink an Allied warship, and declare that she was acting in self defense. In fact this second option was, according to Fromkin, the plan the Ottomans ordered the Germans to implement. Two Ottoman leaders, Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha, secretly ordered the Germans to move the Goeben and Breslau to the Black Sea, have her attack Russian warships, and claim that the Russians attacked them first. (Page 72) But the Germans ignored these orders and instead fired on the Russian coast. In doing so, they prevented the Ottomans from credibly arguing that they were acting in self defense. When the Ottomans found out what the Germans had done, they ordered the ships to stop firing and sent the Russians an apology.
After this incident, the Ottomans should have known that the Germans had little concern for their fate, or even for the fate of the German Empire. The Germans attacked Odessa because they wanted the Ottomans to look like the aggressors. They gave the Allies a justification for carving up the Ottoman Empire after the war.
The narrative for the start of the war could have been: the Allies steals two battlecruisers from the Ottomans and then fire on the two warships the Ottomans got from Germany to compensate for the ships Britain stole. Instead the narrative is: the Ottomans fired on the Russian coast for no apparent reason.
The incident shows that the Germans were controlled by the British. Their actions discredited the Ottomans in the eyes of the rest of the world. The Ottomans were supposed to be their allies. It makes no sense to discredit your allies. It does make sense to discredit your enemies, which is what the Germans did. If the Germans were the enemies of the Ottomans, that means, in reality, they were on the same side as the British. The incident also showed that the Ottoman leadership were controlled by the British. Once the Goeben fired on Odessa, the Ottomans should have realized that the Germans never really gave them the Goeben. They should have realized that the Germans were trying to discredit them. They should have expelled the German mission as requested. But they didn't, which means they too were controlled by Britain.