Requisitioned Dreadnoughts: Sultan Osman I and Reshadieh
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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!"

The 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

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.

In 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

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.

In 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

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.

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