After the Russian-Ottoman War
(1877-78), Sultan Abdulhamid II withdrew the Ottoman Navy from use and left the ships to
rot. One of the important reasons of this decision was his fear of dethronement like
Sultan Abdulaziz (the Sultan established the navy and dethroned under the treat of the
navy). In 1903, First Lord of the Admiralty Earl Selbourne inspected the condition of the
Ottoman Navy and reported that "there was no navy!"
Ottoman government had to develop its navy. Greece was another country trying to renovate
its naval forces. In the beginning of the 20th century, it was important to have a strong
armada. It was the easiest and the fastest way of transportation.
Sultan Osman I
In these years, the British invented the
"dreadnought" which was faster and stronger. However, it was a very new
invention and still the tests were continuing.
the spring of 1911, in Argentina, sea rivalry was continuing and Brazil was eager to have
the strongest ship of the world. Thus, Brazil purchased a dreadnought to a British company
"the Armstrong". This ship was named as Rio de Janeiro. In 1913, Brazil solved
her conflicts with Argentina and ceased her periodic payments.
A postcard of Sultan Osman I
Brazil has decided no to buy the dreadnought.
Brazil's decision has not alarmed the Armstrong, as it was always possible to find another
customer to sell that ship.
The Ottoman government has purchased forty ships to Britain since its military restoration
period; two dreadnoughts were among them. For the dreadnoughts, the Ottoman government has
paid 4 million pounds for the start. One of the dreadnoughts was Sultan Osman I (the one
build for Brazil) and the other one was Reshadieh. Even, Sultan Osman's captain was
appointed he was the legendary hero of Hamidiye, Mr. Rauf.
that period, Ottoman government was in a financial deadlock and for the budget of these
battleships, people's donations were asked. In taverns, cafes, schools, markets everybody
donated some amount of money for the Ottoman Navy. To encourage this campaign, plentiful
donations were awarded with a medal called "Navy Donation Medal".
Sketches showing transformation or
Reshadieh to HMS Erin
However, in Britain, the situation was not as pleasant as it was in
Turkey. The British government could not risk such powerful vessels leaving British waters
while Turkey was flirting with Germany. On 27 July 1914, on behalf of the Ottoman
Government, Mr. Rauf went to Newcastle for transportation of Sultan Osman. First Lord of
Admiralty Churchill was aware that an embargo meant a diplomatic crisis but he could not
court danger his armada by leaving these enormous war machines to the hands of a customer.
No one could guarantee that one day these battleships would not destroy the British
armada. At last, on 3 August 1914, Churchill declared that the British government had
embargoed two battleships. Mr. Rauf in his memories says:
"... We paid the last instalment (700.000 Turkish liras). The manufacturer and we
agreed on that the ships would be hand over on 2 August 1914. Nevertheless, after we made
our payment and half an hour before the ceremony, the British declared that they have
requisitioned the ships... Although we have protested, nobody paid attention."
Despite all the installations have been paid, neither ship was returned to Turkey.
Moreover, the money paid by the Turkish nation has never been paid back. The Sultan Osman
was renamed HMS Agincourt, the Reshadieh, HMS Erin. Both served with the Royal Navy and
remained in British possession. In 1922, HMS Erin was broken in to pieces.