Souchon has not been able to transfer enough coal to his ships to make it all the way to Constantinople, but he can stay in Messina no longer. At 5.00 pm he sails out of the harbour, heading south and then east. Many of his officers suspect they are sailing to their deaths. But the British have stationed their big ships to the north and west, expecting Souchon to head that way. The one small cruiser waiting to the south is too puny to engage them.
A cruiser squadron under Rear Admiral Troubridge is patrolling in the Adriatic. As the afternoon turns into evening Troubridge takes up the chase of the Goeben and Breslau.