Wilhelm Souchon

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Wilhelm Souchon
Admiral Souchon
Born June 2, 1864
Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony
Died January 13, 1946(1946-01-13) (aged 81)
Bremen, Germany
Allegiance  German Empire
 Ottoman Empire
Service/branch  Kaiserliche Marine
 Ottoman Navy
Years of service 1881-1919
Rank Vice Admiral
Commands held Mittelmeerdivision

World War I

Awards Pour le Mérite
Relations Hermann Souchon

Wilhelm Anton Souchon (German pronunciation: [suˈʃɔŋ]; June 2, 1864 – January 13, 1946) was a German born Ottoman Admiral in World War I, who commanded the Kaiserliche Marine's Mediterranean squadron in the early days of the war. His initiative made him one of the most important influences on the entry of the Ottoman Empire into World War I.


Wilhelm Anton Souchon was born on June 2, 1864 in Germany to a family of Huguenot ancestry.[1]

When hostilities erupted between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Serbia in July 1914, Rear Admiral Souchon, a native of Leipzig, feared being trapped in the Adriatic Sea in the event of other nations joining in the conflict. Souchon took his two ships, the battle cruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau, into the western Mediterranean. When World War 1 started on August 4, 1914, he bombarded the French-Algerian ports of Bône and Philippeville, successfully eluded British attempts to corner him (see Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau), and on August 10, 1914, his small squadron arrived at the Dardanelles.

Admiral Souchon and His Officers

After two days of negotiations, he was allowed to take his ships to Istanbul, where they were subsequently transferred officially into the Ottoman Navy. Souchon was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Ottoman Navy and served in this position until September 1917. This gesture by Germany had an enormously positive impact with the Turkish population. At the outbreak of the war, Winston Churchill caused outrage when he "requisitioned" without compensation two almost completed Turkish battleships in British shipyards, the Sultan Osman I and the Reshadieh, that had been financed by public subscription. These ships were commissioned into the Royal Navy as Agincourt and Erin respectively. On August 15, 1914, in the aftermath of Souchon's daring dash to Constantinople, Turkey cancelled their maritime agreement with Britain and the Royal Navy mission under Admiral Limpus and left by September 15.

The Dardanelles were fortified with German assistance, the Bosporus was secured by the presence of Goeben (now Yavuz Sultan Selim) and on September 27, the Straits were officially closed to all international shipping.

On October 29, Souchon's fleet launched the Black Sea Raid, a naval attack which brought the Ottoman Empire into World War I. His ships laid several sea minefields and shelled the Russian Black Sea ports of Sevastopol, Odessa, and others, destroying the Russian minesweeper Prut in the process. Almost simultaneously, British naval units attacked Turkish merchant ships off İzmir. On November 2, 1914, Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire. On November 5, Britain followed suit and on November 12, 1914 the Ottoman government officially declared war on the Triple Entente.

For the next three years, Souchon attempted to reform the Ottoman Navy while conducting a number of raids on Russian shipping, ports, and coastal installations in the Black Sea. Promoted to Vice Admiral, Souchon was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany's highest military order, on October 29, 1916.

In September 1917, Souchon returned to Germany. There, he received command of the Fourth Battleship Squadron of the High Seas Fleet during Operation Albion. By the end of the war he was commanding officer of the Imperial Navy base at Kiel.

At the outbreak of the mutiny in Kiel on November 3,1918, Souchon directly contacted the Deputy General Command of the adjacent corps in Altona. Their Commanding General, the General of Infantry, Adalbert von Falk, instructed the commander of the fortress area nearest to Kiel, represented by Brigade general (or possibly Lieutenant general) Harry von Wright, to collect all available infantry forces from the replacement battalions under his command and leave for Kiel that same night. The Deputy General Command sent trains for their transport to Lübeck and Neumünster. Wright alerted the replacement battalions of the 162nd I.D. (Lübeck) and garrisoned one of the Reserve Regiment from Schleswig and the 163rd I.D. at Neumünster. These actions were reversed before midnight, when the mutiny seemed to have calmed down.

The mutiny revived the next morning, so around 10 a.m. Souchon asked the Chief of General Staff of the deputy corps to help with troops from Rendsburg and Lübeck. At 11 a.m., the Chief of Staff appointed Wright by phone as the commander of all replacement battalions on the way to Kiel.

Wright's plan was to collect all of the arriving forces south of Kiel and invade the town in united strength.[2][3] The plan was based not only on his "experiences during the war," but also on a General Staff study distributed to Brigade staffs in 1908 about the "struggle in insurgent towns."

Souchon rejected the concept of a commander's leadership of a land army taking place in the field of the naval war port in Kiel. Wright's plan and the commander personally were not acceptable to him. He contacted the military commander in Altona and declared his opinions in an extensive statement regarding his personal reputation and his special position as senior officer (Immediatstellung). At noon, Wright was released from command by a call from the General Command and was forced to put the intervention forces under the direct command of Souchon, who planned to use his most devoted formations together with the new ones from the railway station to solve the problem.

Contrary to the urgent remonstrances of the rejected army leader, all special trains occupied by Intervention forces were sent to Kiel's main railway station, which was controlled by insurgents. The revolutionary-minded crowd met the oncoming transports, and was able to draw many units to the side of the mutineers.[4]

Admiral Souchon died in Bremen on January 13, 1946.


His nephew Hermann Souchon (1894–1982) was the murderer of Rosa Luxemburg.[5]


  1. ^ Henry Morgenthau. "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story". Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  2. ^ Czech-Jochberg: ‘ ‘Die Politiker der Republik. ‘‘ K. F. Koehler, Leipzig 1933 , S. 20.
  3. ^ ‘‘Revolution in Kiel. ‘‘ In: Bundeszeitung der Vereinigung ehemaliger 163er. 13. Jahrgang, Nr. 11, Ausgabe vom 1. November 1936, S. 3
  4. ^ Ernst-Heinrich Schmidt: Heimatheer und Revolution 1918. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-06060-6.
  5. ^ Liebknecht – Luxemburg: Der dritte Mann. In: Der Spiegel. Nr. 8, 1967, p. 40 (German)

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