January 20

This Day in History

World War I

Jan 20, 1918:

Goeben and Breslau battle the Allies in the Aegean

On the morning of January 20, 1918, British and German forces clash in the Aegean Sea when the German battleships Goeben and Breslau attempt a surprise raid on Allied forces off the Dardanelle Straits.

The Goeben and Breslau—the same two swift, powerful cruisers that had famously eluded capture by the British in the Dardanelles in 1914 to reach Constantinople and bring Turkey into the war on the side of Germany—had attempted to leave the Dardanelles and head towards Salonika, Greece, when they encountered the British fleet. Just after sunrise on January 20, the Goeben and Breslau fired upon and sank two British monitors, the HMS Raglan and the M28, leaving 127 sailors dead.

With two British destroyers, Tigress and Lizard, in pursuit, the German ships continued heading south toward Lemnos Island. The two ships rounded Cape Kephalo and were driven into a British minefield where Breslau was sunk, killing 208 men. Goeben turned back and attempted to tow Breslau to safety, until it too suffered severe damage after striking several mines and was forced to run aground near Chanak (now Cannanakale) in the Dardanelles. Repaired and put back into action on January 26, the hardy Goeben sailed to Sevastopol for the surrender of Russia's Black Sea Fleet in early May. At the end of the war, the ship was formally turned over to the Turks and in 1930 became the flagship of the Turkish navy; it was retired in 1950.

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