Danmark’s voyage to become Alemdar, hero of a town

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I have been researching about stories behind ships for a long time and when it comes to local ships, can’t say that it’s an easy work. Turkish archives do not provide so much and many valuable items are not protected, or taken to private collections by some people if they are not destroyed.

Alemdar gemisi DANMARK kdz ereğli zonguldak

I raised up in a small Blacksea village called Kandilli, which is located in bounds of Zonguldak’s Ereğli town. The town is known with the rich coal mines, a special kind of strawberry which parfumes the city every spring, Erdemir, one of the largest steel factories in Europe, and the only sea battle of Turkish independence war took place in the shores of Ereğli.

karadeniz ereğli kuş bakışı

Ereğli today

But before telling the battle story, we have to go to back in time, to 1898,to Denmark. In the shipyard Helsingør Skibsværft & Maskinbyggeri , a salvage tugboat with keel number 70 was launched and named DANMARK. She was built for EM.Z. SVITZERs Bjergningsentreprise A/S. She was 49.5m long and 7.95m wide and equipped with a triple expansion steam engine fed by two boilers which produced 750 HP to speed her up to 12 knots. It is stated in a source that her hull plates were galvanized steel. Her operating crew were 28 people.

She served on different waters till 1915. In the beginning of WW1, all the Turkish ships out of Turkish waters were captured and kept, so Ottoman empire did the same and kept the ships in Turkish waters. Danmark was one of them. In May 1915, Danmark was renamed as Alemdar. She continued her duties in Turkish waters with Turkish crew from that day on.

Alemdar gemisi DANMARK kdz ereğli zonguldak 7

Photo is taken from Gürdal Özçakır’s archive who is a local historian and was my history teacher back in high school.

When Ottoman Empire took its place among the losers of WW1, Ottoman Navy was prisoned in Haliç bay (Golden Horn) and sentenced to rust. The civillian ships were also being operated under a tightly inspected environment. In those days, Turkish Independence War was about to be born. There was a huge need of everything including ships. In a stormy weather, ottoman vessel Tir-i Müjgan ran aground in Samsun and  Alemdar headed towards there. While the salvage was going on, independence forces saw Alemdar and thought she would be so useful for them. Because to carry supplies, they only had small boats and some traditional boats called “taka”.

The weather did not allow salvage and Alemdar went back to Istanbul. There, the crew started making plans to escape back to Blacksea. 7 men onboard, used the stormy weather as a reason and told the inspectors that they were going to tow a ship. On 5th of February 1921 around midnight, they headed towards Blacksea again. Their plan was to reach Ereğli, because they were going to get more coal and Ereğli was an easy place to find more experienced crew.

Alemdar gemisi DANMARK kdz ereğli zonguldak

The crew who brought Alemdar to Ereğli were Üsküdarlı Osman Efendi, Trabzonlu Hikmet Efendi, Üsküdarlı Ali Reis, Trabzonlu Rıfat Reis, Rizeli Recep Kahya, Göreleli Yusuf and Erzincanlı Salih. In ereğli, 12 new sailors joined the crew. They were Tevfik Tetik (He is grand grand father of my close friends Aykut and Erkut Tetik)  Hasan Canver, Yakup Tofta, Fikri Ulusulu, Çırakların Hilmi, Çekirgeoğlu İsmail, İstanbullu Reşat, Hacı Yakup’un Tahsin, Tahsildar Hasan, İstanbullu Ömer, Ortaköyden Şaban, Ketenciler köyünden Tahir. And also Captain İsmail Hakkı , Ali Dursun Tevetoğlu as second officer, Beykozlu Adil Bey as chief engineer.  Some of the names that i listed above include the place the person is from, or their family name. At that time, a lastname was not a mandatory thing.

On 8th of February, Alemdar refilled coal and supplies, and headed towards Trabzon. But the agents in Ereğli spread the news so the French gunboat C-27 was sent to intercept Alemdar. (I couldn’t find any info about C-27 yet) C-27 crew turned off her lights and waited for Alemdar, then caught her and got armed soldiers onboard. The veapons of Alemdar crew were taken except two guns which the captain and chief engineer managed to hide.

Alemdar was then forced to head Istanbul with armed French soldiers onboard and C-27 following behind. Turkish crew started to make plans to get the control back. Their first idea was to start a fight and wait for the French soldiers to react, then to get their weapons. But this didn’t work because the French didn’t care about the fight. Then they made a second plan, which sounds like a joke. One of the crew started playing kemençe, a local Blacksea instrument (Also Pontus Greeks have this instrument. click here to hear ) and the others started to dance. The French were surprised to see  the crew dancing after a short time they were fighting. And they didn’t decline the invitation to dance. Then of course, the Turkish crew got their weapons, tied them up and locked them in crew’s mess room.

Alemdar gemisi DANMARK kdz ereğli zonguldak 2

Then they made a sharp manuever towards Ereğli port. The C-27 followed and made a warning shot with guns. Alemdar did not change course. So the battle started between two ships. C-27 wanted to board Alemdar but the Turkish crew prevented this with the two pistols that captain and chief engineer managed to hide and 3 pistols and 2 rifles. There was a machine gun and a cannon but nobody on C-27 dared to use them because whoever went to use them were shot. Recep Kahya was steering Alemdar on the open deck at that time and during this battle, he was shot from his heart. He did not let the steering wheel go while he was falling so this made Alemdar make sharp manuevers and c-27 backed off for a while.

The battle was heard from Ereğli and many people ran to help. Some went to the foreland called “Baba burnu” and started fire when two ships entered the harbor. Also others rushed to the sea to support from little boats. The names of some people rushed with row boats are Boatman Hüda and his brother Hüseyin, Local boatman Ahmet, boatman Mahir Fındık, boatman Hasan, Ölüsünün Muharrem and Mülazımzade Cevat.

alemdar römorkörü kdz ereğli tugboat danmark

C-27 came too close to the shore and was under a heavy gun fire. So with a full astern manuever, C-27 got out of the fire span of the locals. Then the French started to bomb the town with their cannons. One of them hit Alemdar from her funnel and local hospital got hit two times. C-27 waited for a while and then disappeared. Then the locals beached Alemdar stem on shore and opened bilge valves to prevent it to be taken by French again. Recep Kahya became the only sea battle loss of Turkish independence war at this event. Also few others were severely injured. The French hostages were taken to local army office to get them safe and away from angry locals. Then official communication with French started. They wanted the hostages, their weapons and Alemdar. Turkish officers did not give Alemdar back, and they agreed to give the hostages and weapons only if France leave the Turkish flagged ships in Blacksea free. In the agreement, French stated that Alemdar won’t be salvaged.

Despite the statement in the agreement, locals pumped the water out of Alemdar and anchored her in the harbor. And then France and new Turkish government settled and this restriction was over. The locals got Alemdar back ready for sailing and during the independence war, Alemdar made many voyages to support logistics and helped the nation to build their republic.

After the war, Alemdar worked on salvage and towing duties till 1959. In 1951, she had a major over haul, got her boiler renewed, modern salvage equipment were added. In 1959, she was used as a floating platform for tankers to board on. In 1964, she was sold to İsi Kurt company and in 1980 to Aksoy company. In 1982, she was sold to scrap, and unfortunately scrapped in Istanbul. Unfortunately we do not respect our history and do not preserve anything. Almost nothing left from Alemdar. To see other examples of our habbits with our maritime history, read S/S Ankara (AH-5 Solace) and Gülcemal’s (S/S Germanic) story.

Alemdar gemisi DANMARK kdz ereğli zonguldak 5

Then in 2008 they built a replica of Alemdar in Ereğli. The idea was good in my opinion if they could build the ship according to the plans. The only plans that i know at that time was drawn by RIP Cemil Akçe. And they were drawn for model ship makers. I don’t know the original reference source for this plan set. But it seems like the builders of the replica didn’t really take a look at the plan. The replica seems like built by eye reference from a photo. But still, it is a good thing to have a 1/1 replica ship as a memorial museum, to preserve the legacy.

We did not have so much left from Alemdar, at least i didn’t know untill my friend Laura Berivan Nilsson gave me the chance to search Danish Maritime Museum’s photo archive. Then i found photos from Alemdar’s earlier life as S/S DANMARK. So here they are for you, especially for the people of Ereğli. And thank you Laura, for giving this chance to me…

Emrah Başkan
Just a maritime enthusiast.

Click on the images to see full size.

DANMARK helping S/S Larium

DANMARK helping S/S Larium

S/S DANMARK

alemdar gemisi kurtarma çalışması danmark tugboat salvage

Danmark on a salvage mission

alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark 4

Crew

alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark 7

Danmark seen with flags painted on freeboard

alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark kdz ereğli kdz ereğli alemdar römorkörü yeni fotoğraflar alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark 8 alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark 9 alemdar gemisi yeni fotograflar SS danmark 10

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