Wilhelm Souchon

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Wilhelm Souchon
Admiral Souchon
Born 2 June 1864
Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony
Died 13 January 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]; 2 June 1864 – 13 January 1946) was a German and 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.


He was born on 2 June 1864 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. He therefore took his two ships, the battlecruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau into the western Mediterranean and bombarded the French-Algerian ports of Bône and Philippeville when war had begun on 4 August. He then successfully eluded British attempts to corner him (see Pursuit of Goeben and Breslau), and on 10 August 1914 his small squadron arrived at the Dardanelles.

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 enormous positive impact with the Turkish population; at the outbreak of the war, the First Lord of the Admiralty Winston Churchill had 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.) In the aftermath of Souchon's daring dash to Constantinople, Turkey on 15 August 1914 cancelled her maritime agreement with Britain and the Royal Navy mission under Admiral Limpus left by 15 September.

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

On 29 October, Souchon's fleet launched the Black Sea Raid, a naval attack which brought the Ottoman Empire into World War I. His ships shelled the Russian Black Sea ports of Sevastopol, Odessa and others, destroying the Russian minesweeper Prut in the process and laid several sea minefields. Almost simultaneously British naval units attacked Turkish merchant ships off İzmir. On 2 November 1914 Russia declared war on the Ottoman Empire, Britain followed suit on 5 November, and on 12 November 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, port and coastal installations in the Black Sea. Promoted to Vice Admiral, he was awarded the Pour le Mérite, Germany's highest military order, on 29 October 1916.

Souchon returned to Germany in September 1917 and received command of the Fourth Battleship Squadron of the High Seas Fleet during Operation Albion. At 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 3rd November 1918 Souchon didn’t turn to be the uprising Lord of the top military commanders at the home area, but directly to the Deputy General Command of adjacent corps area in Altona (<---cannot understand sentence?) So its Commanding General, the General of Infantry Falk, instructed the commander of the fortress area nearest to Kiel deputy represented Brigade general, Lieutenant general v. Wright, to collect all available infantry forces from his replacement battalions under his unified command and leave in the same night with them to Kiel. The General Command sends trains for their transports to Lübeck and Neumünster. Wright alerted the replacement battalions of the 162nd (Lübeck) and the here garrisoned one of the Reserve Regiment from Schleswig and the 163rd in Neumünster. But as the outbreak has been stopped by Souchon the action taken by Wright were reversed before midnight.

While the action revived on the next morning Souchon requested around 10 clock the Chief of General Staff of the deputy corps to help with troops from Rendsburg and Lübeck. The Chief of staff appointed Wright at 11 clock by phone to the commander of all against Kiel put in march replacement battalions.

Wrights plan was to collect all of the arriving reaction forces south from 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 the up to the Brigade staffs distributed General Staff study from 1908 about the "struggle in insurgent towns".

But there was a problem. Souchon rejected that the command of a commander's leadership of a land army should take place in the field of naval war port in Kiel. Wright's plan and the commander hadn’t been acceptable for him. So he called the military commander in Altona and pushes his opinions by using his extensive statement of his personal reputation and his special position (Immediatstellung) through. Even at noon Wright was released by a call from the General Command of his command. He had to put the intervention forces to the direct command of Souchon. Whose plan was to use his last devoted formations in addition with the new ones from the railway station to solve the problem.

However, this project was to prove in the bud as unusable. Contrary to the urgent remonstrances of the rejected army leader all occupied with Intervention forces special trains were send to the main station. This had been controlled by insurgents. There surprised the revolutionary-minded crowd the oncoming transport.[4]

He died in Bremen on 13 January 1946.


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


  1. ^ {url=http://net.lib.byu.edu/estu/wwi/comment/morgenthau/Morgen08.htm | title=Ambassador Morgenthau's Story | author=Henry Morgenthau | dateaccessed=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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