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Wilhelm Souchon
Admiral Souchon
Born (1864-06-02)June 2, 1864
Died 13 January 1946(1946-01-13) (aged 81)
Place of birth Leipzig, Kingdom of Saxony
Place of death 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.

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 SMS Goeben and the light cruiser SMS Breslau into the western Mediterranean and bombarded the French-Algerian ports of Bone 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 Constantinople, 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 HMS Agincourt and HMS 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. He died in Bremen.

His nephew Hermann Souchon (1894–1982) was the murderer of Rosa Luxemburg.[1]


  1. Liebknecht – Luxemburg: Der dritte Mann. In: Der Spiegel. Nr. 8, 1967, p. 40 (German)

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