(shamelessly copied from another forum)
Apparently, despite their announcement not to assist the German ships, the Austro-Hungarian navy steamed as far as Brindisi to assist them when they learned that Souchon was in Messina with both his ships.
What if (1) the Austrians had tried to break out of the Adriatic Sea? They were not yet at war with Britain so the British could watch them but when then British detachment, consisting of four armoured cruisers and eight destroyers, saw the Austrian steaming out of the Adriatic, what would they do? Shadow them as they did with Goeben and Breslau? Engaging the Austrians would probably be futile as the Austrian fleet would be way too powerful. Even with their three battlecruisers, the British would find the numbers against them and the Austrian dreadnaughts would still outgun them.
Assuming the Italians tried to refuse coaling to the Austrians as they tried to refuse coaling the Germans, what could the Austrians (2) have done? It would be a show of force, but what else? The French were busy with their transports in the western med and the Austrians could hardly reach them there. Besides, being shadowed by the British meant that the French would probably know where each AH ship was.
However, on the evening of the 10th August, the British were still lurking around the Agean Sea when Goeben and Breslau were allowed to pass through the Dardanelles. Assuming the British didn’t immediately know about this, they would have stayed there a bit longer.
What if (3) the Austrians had steamed out again, this time to intercept the apparently weaker British squadron?
Provided the British knew about such an sortie, would they break off their attempt to reach Malta and instead sail for Alexandria? If they did, would the Austrians be able to shell Malta and sail home unhampered?
What could the Austrians have done after such an (4) engagement? Would it change anything on the Entente part?
I think I have to clarify the ideas:
1) If the Austrians had made it past the Street of Otranto and thereby alerted the RN squadron of their presence, I would imagine that the French would be even more concerned about their transports. Historically, they delayed the transport of XIXth corps because of Goeben and Breslau. Here they would also hear about the Austrio-Hungarian fleet leaving the Adriatic and possibly steaming for the western Med.
2) The Austrians decide to steam out of the Adriatic to support the German ships. While not yet at war with Great Britain, the latter would be outgunned and I doubt that the RN detachment (at the time without their three battlecruisers which had been sent to the west) would want to provoke a firefight. The Austrians would demonstrate that they were willing to use their fleet offensively in general and while they would not find French ships in the eastern med, they could still try to shell the French North African colony of todays Tunesia or the Syria, hopefully finding and sinking a few light French units. The former would be possible regardless of a British shadowing of their force, the latter would involve the risk of giving the French enough time to assemble a fleet near the Ontranto Strait and force the Austrians to battle if they tried to return to the Adriatic. However, the Austrians could in such a situation still decide to follow Goeben and Breslau to Constantinople.
3) After hostilities between Austria Hungary and Great Britain had been declared, the AH fleet, aware that the British had followed Goeben and Breslau as far as possible into the Agean Sea, could have steamed out of the Adriatic again, this time not only in a show of force but to engage the smaller British squadron. The British could either try to avoid the AH fleet or try to sail towards Alexandria. Considering that the British admiral had orders not to engage superior forces, it seems certain that he had tried to avoid the Austrians. However, the Austrians might have sunk or damaged a few of the ships watching the exit of the Adriatic Sea, increasing the strain on the RN.
4) If the RN avoided the Austrians under 3), the latter could decide not to waste more time persuing the British and instead try to damage them. Shelling Malta comes into mind here, as it would be British base next to the Adriatic Sea. Since the Austrian dreadnoughts did have 12x 305mm (12") guns, they should've been able to severly damage the port facilities of Malta.
Servicable Austro-Hungarian ships as of August 1914:
- 3 Dreadnoughts
6 pre-Dreadnoughts (three more were too old for this war and were soon dispatched to port defense duties)
4 Coast Defense Ship (obviously not usable for sorties)
3 Armored Cruisers
2 Protected Cruisers (both outdated and one of them in Tsingtao anyway)
4 Light Cruisers
25 destroyers (at least six of these had been built before 1900 and thus unlikely to take part in sorties. In fact, only the six most modern Tatra-class destroyers would be worth something in such an operation)
So an Austro-Hungarian fleet sortie would probably look like this:
- 3 Dreadnoughts
- SMS Tegetthoff
SMS Prinz Eugen
SMS Viribus Unitis. Each with 12x 305mm guns and a speed of just above 20 kts.
- SMS Erzherzog Franz Ferdinand
SMS Zrinyi. Each with 4x 305mm guns and 8x 240mm guns with a speed of just above 20 kts.
SMS Erzherzog Ferdinand Max
SMS Erzherzog Friedrich
SMS Erzherzog Karl. Each with 4x 240mm and 12x 190mm guns at just above 20 kts.
- SMS Kaiserin und Königin Maria Theresia (2x 190mm and 8x 150mm guns at just under 19 kts)
SMS Kaiser Karl VI (2x 240mm and 8x 150mm guns at just under 21 kts)
SMS Sankt Georg (2x 240mm and 5x 190mm at aroud 22kts)
- SMS Aspern
SMS Zenta, each with 8x 120mm guns and around 21 kts.
SMS Admiral Spaun, 7x 100mm guns and a speed of 27 kts.
- SMS Casikos, SMS Dinara, SMS Huszar, SMS Pandur, SMS Reka, SMS Scharfshütze, SMS Streiter, SMS Turul, SMS Ulan, SMS Uskoke, SMS Velebit, SMS Wildfang. Could not find much information about these, but apparently these ships were able to run at just under 30 kts and were equipped with two 450mm torpedoes each.
SMS Balaton, SMS Czepel, SMS Lika, SMS Orjen, SMS Tatra, SMS Triglav. Each with 2x 100mm guns, 6x 70mm guns and 2x 450mm torpedoes and a top speed of apparently 32,6 kts.
I assume that the light cruiser SMS Admiral Spaun and a few of the latest Tatra-class destroyers would be detached for scouting.
The British Med squadron consisted of the following ships. For options 3 and 4 I assume them to be present near the Agean Sea when the Austrian Fleet steams out of the Adriatic Sea as they were historically concentrating there to persue the two German ships. The Germans were allowed to pass the Dardanelles in the evening of 10th August, the United Kingdom declared war upon Austria-Hungary on 12th August, hence I assume that the British would still be around the Agean Sea and the Austrians would be in a position to potentially block the returning British squadron on their way towards Malta, leaving them the options to either engage in battle or seek refuge in Alexandria.
- 3 Battlecruisers
- HMS Inflexible
- HMS Defence
HMS Black Prince
HMS Duke of Edinburgh
- HMS Chatham
The RN Battlecruiser's main guns were similiar in calibre to the Austrian battleships. However, they were a lot less well armoured while being 5 to 7 kts faster. Basically, the British did not have the means to reasonably engage the Austrian main force, as the Austrians could field twice as many 305mm guns and had most of them on their latest battleships.