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Ottoman Battleships Hijacked by the British and the Payment that Was Never Returned

Ottoman Battleships Hijacked by the British and the Payment that Was Never Returned

In the early stages of WWI, the Ottoman Empire hadn’t yet joined the war and commissioned three big dreadnoughts from Britain and paid for them in advance. These dreadnoughts, named ‘Sultan Osman’, ‘Sultan Reşadiye’, and ‘Fatih’, had revolutionary technology for the early 20th century. They could move quickly, and were almost like fleets on their own. They were crucial for the improvement of the Ottoman navy and to keep it from suffering defeats on the seas. In early 1900s, land transportation wasn’t as advanced and military prowess was determined by power at sea.

The Ottoman Empire was having financial difficulties and the administration started large-scale donation campaigns to fund the battleships. Fundraising stands were erected in public places and even schoolchildren contributed with their pocket money. Large donations would be rewarded with a ‘Donanma İane Madalyası‘ (Navy Donation Medal). Similarly, the ‘Donanma-i Osmanî Muavenet-i Milliyye Cemiyeti‘ (Association for the Ottoman Navy) was set up in 1909 and organized fundraising campaigns, parades and even sold products to help raise the required amount for the ships.

The dreadnought ‘Sultan Osman‘ was originally called ‘Rio de Janeiro‘, because it had been previously commissioned by Brazil. However, when Brazil failed to make payment, the British manufacturer Armstrong put the battleship on sale and the Ottomans purchased it. Even the commander was decided: Hamidiye’s legendary captain, Rauf Bey.

On July 27, 1914, Rauf Bey, on behalf of the Ottoman Empire, went to Newcastle, England to take delivery of the ‘Sultan Osman’ battleship. However, things took an unexpected turn. Having already decided that the Ottomans should be with the Central Powers, the representatives of the British deep state didn’t want to give such an advanced battleship to a country that would fight against them soon.

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Churchill was perfectly aware that requisitioning the battleship would cause an immense diplomatic scandal; nevertheless on August 3, 1914, Britain officially declared that it requisitioned the ‘Sultan Osman‘ and ‘Reşadiye‘. In other words, the British hijacked the battleships of the Ottomans, before even the Turkish flag could be raised. Not only did they confiscate them, they also –completely illegally and unlawfully– refused to return the gold paid for them, which amounted to £12 million. The money had been paid in advance. To put it more accurately, they unabashedly stole the money.

Rauf Bey (Orbay), who was nicknamed the ‘Hero of Hamidiye’ and who would later become the 3rd Prime Minister of the Turkish Republic, recalled the incident with the following words:

The final installment, seven hundred thousand liras had been paid. We wanted to get things done quickly, so decided to skip some tests and agreed with the factory that the ships would be delivered to us on August 2, 1914. However, half an hour before the flag raising ceremony, which was the day after we paid the money, the British requisitioned the Sultan Osman. Although we vehemently protested in line with the procedure, no one stirred…(SOURCE)

The ‘Sultan Osman’ battleship was immediately made a part of the British navy and was renamed ‘Agincourt’. ‘Reşadiye’ was renamed as ‘Erin’ but on the day of her test on August 22, it was seen that her firing equipment was not functioning well. Since it couldn’t be fully repaired and no one would buy it after that development, it was taken apart in 1922.

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Rauf Orbay explains:

At the onset of the World War, there was the issue of getting back our gold worth of £12 million, which we paid for our dreadnoughts Sultan Osman, Sultan Reşad and Fatih. They were built before we entered the war, but the British requisitioned although we had fully paid for them. That was clearly the debt of the British…(Rauf Orbay In His Memoirs and Things He Could Not Say], Istanbul: Sinan Matbaası, pp. 103-104)

That was indeed the debt of the British, but according to the 58th article of the Treaty of Lausanne, the Turkish side surprisingly waived this right, probably under pressure from the British deep state. The 58th article of the treaty reads as follows:

Turkey, on the one hand, and the other Contracting Powers (except Greece) on the other hand, reciprocally renounce all pecuniary claims for the loss and damage suffered respectively by Turkey and the said Powers and by their nationals (including juridical persons) between the 1st August, 1914, and the coming into force of the present Treaty, as the result of acts of war or measures of requisition, sequestration, disposal or confiscation.(SOURCE)

As a matter of fact, this article didn’t apply to the confiscation by the British. The act of theft was carried out in full view of the world and took place before the Ottomans entered the war. It was nothing more than a usual trade activity between the two countries and was therefore not a war-related loss. For this reason, this article of the Treaty of Lausanne didn’t in truth cover the said sequestration. Despite this fact, the British deep state was able to make this hijacking look like it was a war loss. In the end, the Turkish side waived the money paid in full for the dreadnoughts, which were illegally and unlawfully requisitioned by the British government. The person that was in charge of the fraud operation was none other than Winston Churchill; one of the most zealous and loyal members of the British deep state.

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