The Rise of Torpedo against Ironclads during the Naval Operations of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878

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Dal D.

The McMullen Naval History Symposium, Maryland, United States Of America, 14 - 15 September 2017, pp.0-1

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Full Text
  • City: Maryland
  • Country: United States Of America
  • Page Numbers: pp.0-1


Following the invention of self-propelled torpedoes by the British engineer Robert Whitehead in 1866, the efficiency of large armoured fleets against fast-moving steamers reinforced with torpedoes came under question, particularly after the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878. As the neutralization of the Black Sea had been confirmed by the Treaty of Paris in 1856, the Black Sea was demilitarized under international law until 30 October 1870, when the Russian Government unilaterally denounced the neutralization clauses of the Treaty on the pretext of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. This resulted in the annulment of the articles numbered XI, XIII and XIV by the arrival of the London Convention on 13 March 1871. According to this, Russia would be permitted to build navies and fortify ports in the Black Sea. Using the advantage given by the Convention, Russia composed her Black Sea fleet of fast merchant steamers reinforced with self-propelled torpedoes, which performed a successful campaign against the far superior Ottoman Navy during the Great Eastern Crisis. Despite being doubtlessly inferior to her Turkish opponent, the Russian fleet managed to paralyze the Ottoman warships, which were compelled to go on the defensive by the fear of torpedo attacks. Accordingly, the main focus of this paper is to examine the reasons of the inefficiency of Ottoman ironclads against the power of torpedo by scrutinizing the archival documents. The consequences of the experimented effectiveness of torpedo will also be analysed to understand the changing naval strategies of world naval powers after the Russo-Turkish War.