SMS Breslau (1911)

Breslau, c.1912, shortly after completion. This photograph gives a good view of her bridge structure, and the two single gun mounts side-by-side just forward of it. Photo in the collection of the German Federal Archives.

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Laid Down

The Magdeburg-class light cruiser SMS Breslau, commissioned in 1912, was responsible for one of the more embarrassing moments of WWI for the Royal Navy. After the Balkan Wars, Breslau was sent to the Mediterranean in 1912 with the battlecruiser SMS Goeben, to exert german influence in the region. Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the pair bombarded Algeria, and were then pursued by the British Mediterranean Squadron for two weeks before they reached Constantinople, completely outmaneuvering the Royal Navy. "Sold" to the Ottoman Empire, the crews remained largely German, and Breslau was renamed Midilli. At the end of October, Medilli, along with the rest of the Ottoman fleet, attacked Russian ports in the Black Sea. Russia and the Ottomans were not at war, and these orders had not come from the Sultan. However, the attacks made the Russians declare War on the Ottomans, forcing them into an alliance with Germany. Midilli continued in service against the Russians for most of the war, mainly laying mines and bombarding their coast in the Black Sea, but she also functioned as a troop transport and occasionally skirmished with Russian warships. Midilli sortied to attack British warships off the Dardanelles on 20 January, 1918, but after sinking two monitors, she ran into five mines, and was sunk with 330 of her crew.