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1912 The Battle of Elli

Comparison of fleets

 
 
The four armored Ottoman ships consisted of two real battleships, which had an "almost dreadnought" design with three twin turrets and six main guns instead of four.  The middle turret had shorter gun barrels however and so firing characteristics were not identical (assuming fire control had been sophisticated enough to matter).  The third ship, the Messudieh, was a reconstructed ironclad, with its obsolete broadside cannons and worn out engines replaced by modern guns and engines and even the hull shape modified.  This ship despite its age would have been almost a match for one of the Hydra class Greek battleships--if its primary guns been installed.  The fourth armored Ottoman ship was another reconstructed ironclad, the Asar I Tevfik, but although being almost as large as a Hydra class battleship lacked heavy guns after its rebuild.  The Ottoman navy had two modern protected cruisers which were troublesome due to their speed, as only the armored cruiser Averoff could have caught them.  The Averoff could have crushed these ships but could not be spared for the chase since she was needed in the battle line, showing her status as the queen on the chessboard of the Aegean sea.
 
The names of the Ottoman Empire ships can be transcribed in different ways into English.  The battleship Heireddin Barbarossa can be seen as Barbaros Hayreddin; the Torgut Reis as Turgut Reis or Torgud Reis; the Messudieh as Mesudiye; the Asar-i Tevfik as Assari Tewfik; and the cruiser Hamidieh as Hamidiye and the Medjidieh as Mecidiye, Mejidiye or Medjidiye.
 
 
Greek Armored Cruiser Averoff, now a museum ship
 
 
Diorama map of the battle of Elli in the Hellenic Maritime Museum

The battle of Elli shown in three stages.  Click on the maps for the full-size scans. The four armored Ottoman Empire ships sortied from the Dardanelles and confronted the four Greek armored ships, in a battle between two lines moving to the North that was disrupted when the Greek armored cruiser Averoff used its superior speed to get ahead of the Ottoman ships. The maps of the Battle of Elli drawn here are based on dioramas and a poster in the Hellenic Maritime Museum in Piraeus (note: different location from the Averoff/preserved warships); the poster of the battle maps is also reproduced in books including "the Naval War of 1912-1913: 100 Years Since the Strategic Naval Victory of the Balkan Wars" by Ioannis Paloubis.
 
 
 The threat of "crossing the T" of four ships by one was enough to convince the Ottoman ships to turn South and retreat, losing their formation in the process.  The Ottoman ships masked each others' fire in the confusion after the turn. The Greeks could have targeted the Ottoman ships from two directions but while the three slower Greek battleships paralleled the enemy they were not able to close the range and get into the fight while the Averoff pounded the two strongest Ottoman battleships. In the battle of Elli four Greek destroyers operated to the west of the battleships, but did not close in for an attack, while the Ottoman protected cruiser Medjidieh and several destroyers stayed close to the shore both to the north and the south of the narrows, to defend against the Greek destroyers and a Greek submarine the Delfin. These ships also did not move out to attack even when the Averoff was closing on the Ottoman coast.  
 
 
The Heireddin Barbarossa received hits that jammed the aft turret, damaged its boilers and started a bunker fire. The Torgut Reis and Messudieh are also hit with less damage. The Ottoman fleet turned east and escaped into the safety of the Dardanelles which was covered by land fortifications. The Ottoman forts at the mouth of the Dardanelles had 11inch (280mm), 10.2 inch (260mm) and 9.4 inch (240mm) guns in 1915.  Assuming these were in place in 1912 the forts were a danger to the Averoff or any other enemy ship that got too close, holding the equivalent of a battleship's firepower.
  
 
 
Both of the German-built battleships had been damaged but not disabled.  The battle was a Greek victory, and the Greek control of the sea after this battle resulted in many formerly Ottoman-held islands in the Aegean passing into their hands.

 
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