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. Souchon commanded the Kaiserliche Marine's Mediterranean squadron in the early days of the war. His initiative played a major part in 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]

In July 1914, hostilities erupted between the Austro-Hungarian Empire and the Kingdom of Serbia. Rear Admiral Souchon, a native of Leipzig, feared being trapped in the Adriatic Sea in the event of other nations joining in the conflict. Because of this, Souchon took his two ships, the battle cruiser Goeben and the light cruiser Breslau, into the western Mediterranean. When World War 1 began on August 4, 1914, he bombarded the French-Algerian ports of Bône and Philippeville. He 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 and the Bosporus was secured by the presence of Goeben (now Yavuz Sultan Selim). On September 27th, 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. British naval units quickly retaliated on 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 out break of the Kiel mutiny on 3 November 1918, Souchon asked for outside troops, but revoked his request for military help when his staff claimed the situation was under control. Sochon had been deployed to Kiel a few days earlier on 30 October 1918 and had therefore to rely heavily on his staff. On 4 November the request had to be renewed. Altogether six infantry companies were brought to Kiel. Some units stayed in the city quarter Wik, and in the Marinestation der Ostsee. However, these troops showed signs of disintegration and some joined the revolutionaries or went back. Souchon had to negotiate and order the withdrawal of the units.[2] In the course of the events, Souchon stepped back as Governor and was replaced by the civilian socialdemocratic politician, Gustav Noske.

Admiral Souchon died in Bremen on January 13, 1946.


His nephew Hermann Souchon (1894–1982) was the murderer of Rosa Luxemburg.[3]


  1. ^ Henry Morgenthau. "Ambassador Morgenthau's Story". Retrieved 2013-12-28. 
  2. ^ Dirk Dähnhardt: Revolution in Kiel. Neumünster 1978, S. 83 f.
  3. ^ Liebknecht – Luxemburg: Der dritte Mann. In: Der Spiegel. Nr. 8, 1967, p. 40 (German)

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