STRAITS British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © 1997-2005 Geoffrey Miller





STRAITS : British policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © Geoffrey Miller



Map of Turkey
STRAITS British Policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the Origins of the Dardanelles Campaign © 1997-2005 Geoffrey Miller



Chapter 26










The photograph above, of sailors aboard ship at the Dardanelles, was kindly loaned by Caroline Richards, whose uncle is pictured (lying, in the centre, with pipe)



The Sub-Committee to consider the Dardanelles operation duly convened at 4 p.m.; Churchill was present, but Fisher was not. The General Staff, Kitchener reported, had examined three options: an attack on Austria from the Adriatic; an attack on Austria in co-operation with the Serbs; or an attack on Turkey. The first was ruled out due to the danger posed by Austrian submarines; poor weather mitigated against the second option, though Churchill helpfully put forward the suggestion that ‘special river monitors’ could be constructed for the Danube (another sop to Fisher?). With regard to Turkey Churchill pointed out that ‘the navy can perhaps open the Dardanelles and Bosphorus to warships, which are more or less impervious to field gun and rifle fire, but they cannot open these channels to merchant ships so long as the enemy is in possession of the shores.’[1] This meant troops. Churchill further argued that, as the Zeebrugge operation was now abandoned, there was no longer any need to send out two Territorial divisions in support of it; instead, they could be kept back together with the XXIXth Division (the only regular division still available), meaning that only a Canadian division need be sent across the Channel. This was, however, felt to be beyond the competence of the Sub-Committee to decide and it was agreed that Asquith should be asked to assemble an immediate meeting of the War Council, which was ready to re-convene by 6.30 p.m.[2]

                Fisher, who was present this time, jumped at Churchill’s scheme for Danube gunboats, declaring that a conference would be held the following day at the Admiralty to consider the design! Once more Lloyd George obligingly endorsed the proposal. Kitchener put forward his preferred option, that the four divisions (two Territorials, the XXIXth and the Canadians) should be kept in Britain as a reserve; failing this they could be dispatched to France on the understanding that they might be withdrawn in a month. However the real conclusion of the meeting, in Hankey’s opinion, was the tacit acceptance of Churchill’s announcement. Assured of Fisher’s outward co-operation, Churchill declared ‘that Admiralty had decided to push on with the project approved at the meeting held on the 13th January, to make a naval attack at the Dardanelles.’[3]

                In case he had not made his point clear, Kitchener maintained once more that he had no troops to spare; he need not have worried, as Churchill was doing the army’s job for it. ‘No doubt it would be very desirable, if only it were possible,’ Balfour wrote a few days later,

to have a land force – Greek or British – co-operating with the Fleet at Gallipoli. But I understand the Admiralty view to be that with our 12 & 15 in. guns all the Turkish artillery could be silenced; and that, when silenced, such light field guns as the enemy possessed would be insufficient effectually to obstruct the passage of an armoured Fleet. If this be so (& it is a purely technical question) the co-operation of a military force is not absolutely necessary and the Fleet may for this operation be regarded as self-sufficing. I do not remember any close parallel in naval history; but it has rarely, if ever, happened before that guns mounted in ships have markedly outranged guns mounted in fortresses…[4]

For this misapprehension Churchill had only himself to blame. Similarly, it was later claimed on Kitchener’s behalf[5] that, when he protested about a purely naval attempt, Churchill alluded to the ‘marvellous potentialities of the Queen Elizabeth’ to render comparatively easy a task which had been hitherto impossible — that vessel’s ‘astounding effectiveness’ would revolutionize all previous estimates of naval warfare.[6]

                Hankey, at least, was concerned. When, on 2 February, he wrote up the minutes of the three separate meetings of 28 January he was, he confessed to Asquith, ‘immensely impressed with the cumulative effect of the arguments presented in favour of military action in the Dardanelles at the earliest possible date.’ To support this he referred to Churchill’s assertion that warships could force the passage but not guarantee to keep it open.[7] Coincidentally, the following day a Turkish force attempted to ‘throw a bridge across the Suez Canal’ with the result, sardonically recorded by Asquith, that the ‘poor things & their would-be bridge were blown into smithereens, and they have retired into the desert...’[8] Unfortunately, this did nothing other than to reinforce Asquith’s opinion of Turkish military prowess. Nevertheless Hankey’s views did eventually succeed in converting Asquith who, following a long talk with the persuasive War Council secretary on 13 February concerning the question of a military landing, declared that he, too, had been for some time coming to the same opinion![9] Fortuitously, Hankey then had a ‘faint recollection’ that the C.I.D. had considered the question some years previously and it was therefore his ‘duty to bring the papers to the notice of the War Council.’[10]

                In the meantime the question of joint Anglo-French action to assist Serbia had been inconveniently revived by Millerand with ‘scant cordiality’; yet, when Lloyd George visited Paris early in February, he found the rest of the French Cabinet unaware of the proposal. The combative Chancellor, who had always favoured this action, quickly put good the omission. As a result Delcassé then visited London to declare that, now, the French Cabinet approved the idea in principle: subject to Joffre’s consent, the French proposed to send a division to Salonica at once (or at least, as Hankey noted, ‘a non-descript equivalent force composed of 2 cavalry brigades, some Marines, & some Alpine Chasseurs’). This was, however, conditional upon Britain also sending a division; and this, in turn, was contingent upon obtaining the approval of Sir John French, who attended the War Council meeting on the evening of 9 February where the discussion was ‘as usual, rather rambling.’[11] Kitchener was adamant that if troops were to go at all to Salonica they had to be the best and this meant the XXIXth Division. French at first demurred, relying on an undertaking he had given Joffre, but eventually gave his reluctant consent after being assured that the troops would only go to Salonica on the assumption that Greece entered the war; and this was proving to be a large assumption.

                After the unsuccessful attempt in September 1914 to solicit Greek assistance in a proposed Dardanelles campaign[12] the question of Greek participation in the War remained in abeyance until the outbreak of hostilities between Britain and Turkey. Approached once more, in November, the Greek Premier, Venizelos, remarked that ‘he would be delighted to co-operate by sending troops to Egypt or in any way that H[is] M[ajesty’s] G[overnment] may desire,’ but that, as previously, before doing so he required ‘to be assured against the danger from Bulgaria.’ However, as the British Legation in Athens noted, ‘No means was found of at once effectively guaranteeing Greece against Bulgarian attack and at the same time of maintaining sufficiently friendly relations with Bulgaria to leave the door open for possible co-operation on her part, and the question of Greek co-operation was practically dropped.’[13] The subject was raised in more acute form following the launching of a major Austro-Hungarian offensive against the Serbs; by mid-November the Serbian position was desperate due to lack of ammunition. As early as September Venizelos had been unofficially asked to facilitate the passage of Allied arms to the beleaguered Serbs. He had, however, been ‘very reluctant’ to accede to the request as, he maintained, he ‘would rather break neutrality openly.’[14] Venizelos’ discomfiture was ended on 12 November when a formal request was delivered to the Premier to send ammunition from Greek stocks, which would then be replaced by the Allies.

                Following the fall of the Serbian capital, Belgrade, on 2 December the Serbian Minister in Athens sought active Greek military assistance; again Venizelos refused to aid his putative ally, once more citing his fear of Bulgaria. In a final attempt to persuade the recalcitrant Premier, Britain, France and Russia ‘guaranteed’ Greece against a Bulgarian attack and, for his assistance if forthcoming, offered Venizelos Southern Albania. ‘This communication’, the British Legation noted,

had no better success than the previous one. M. Venezelos [sic] was very hurt at the offer of S. Albania which he called “a piece of bread” as against the “substantial banquet” offered to Bulgaria, and said no guarantee by the Powers against Bulgaria could really be effective. A subsequent suggestion from Athens that Russia should threaten Bulgaria with force met with the reply that Russia did not at the moment “dispose of the forces necessary to enforce her decision on Bulgaria.” M. Venezelos practically asserted on Dec. 6 that “the only effectual guarantee would be the co-operation of Bulgaria” and this has remained the key of the problem.[15]

Fortunately for Venizelos, the ‘marvellous’ recovery of the Serbian troops later in the month (Belgrade was liberated on 14 December) eased that country’s plight. The respite, however, would be temporary. Worn out following their tremendous victory, in the New Year the Serbs would again be threatened with a fresh Austrian offensive, this time supported by German troops. By 18 January 1915 Asquith noted that, according to his informant in the Balkans, there were clear concerns ‘that the Serbs will be overwhelmed by the new attack wh[ich] Austria is preparing unless some one comes at once to their assistance; Roumania for preference, next Greece.’[16] The diplomatic offensive commenced anew. In the Cabinet that week Grey suggested that Cyprus should be ‘dangled’ before the Greeks. According to Asquith, ‘It is not worth much to us, indeed nothing’, but ‘Grey thinks it w[oul]d have a good moral effect to show that we were really prepared to part with something we have instead of merely carving out & distributing other people’s possessions.’[17] By now, Asquith was sufficiently alarmed to urge Grey ‘to put the strongest possible pressure upon Roumania & Greece to come in without delay, & to promise that if they will form a real Balkan bloc we will send troops of our own to join them & save the situation. I am sure that this is right, and that all our “side shows” — Zeebrugge, Alexandretta, even Gallipoli — ought to be postponed to this.’[18]

                Aware that Cyprus would be insufficient bait, on 23 January Grey sought to tempt Venizelos with a vague promise of territorial concessions on the coast of Asia Minor. At last the prospect of realizing the ‘Great Idea’ — ‘the claims of Hellenism on the West of Asia Minor’[19] — was enough to persuade Venizelos to drop his insistence with regard to the assured co-operation of Bulgaria. In its place he substituted another condition: Roumania must now co-operate. The Bulgarians, he argued, could be bought off with the promise of Cavalla,[20] the richest province in Macedonia, which had been occupied by the Greeks during the Balkan Wars. In attempting to win over King Constantine, Venizelos tendentiously argued that the sacrifice of 30,000 square kilometres of Cavalla would be more than offset by the acquisition of ‘125,000’ square kilometres in Asia Minor. Yet this latter figure was a deliberate invention, as Grey had intentionally made an imprecise offer. ‘I firmly believe,’ Venizelos informed the King, ‘that we ought to lay aside any hesitation. If we do not take part in the war, whatever the result, the Hellenism of Asia Minor will be lost to us finally.’[21] However, when it was put to him that the intervention of Allied troops might be a substitute for Roumanian co-operation, Venizelos replied that he would accept this proposal only if the intervention consisted of two British or French army corps; and he would still require a formal treaty with the Roumanians guaranteeing to attack Bulgaria should Bulgaria attack Greece or Serbia.[22] Venizelos was also anxious that his proposal for ceding Cavalla should ‘appear to come’ from the British. Nevertheless, it appeared, finally, as if Venizelos’ actions might actually match his rhetoric; at last there was a real possibility of active Greek participation in aid of the Allied cause. Anticipating this, Churchill wrote to Venizelos on 5 February to inform him of the impending attack and to request the use of a Greek harbour near the Dardanelles.[23] But once more events intervened. On 6 February Bulgaria accepted a large German loan, prompting Venizelos to suppose that ‘in consequence all question of making offers to her is abandoned.’[24] Grey was informed the same day that ‘Owing to attitude of Bulgaria and Roumania, Monsieur Venizelos does not wish to be drawn into war. He thinks that if Greece went to war without Roumania, there would be less chance of the latter coming in.’[25]

                After receiving this latest rebuff from Venizelos, and following the ‘rambling’ War Council meeting on 9 February, Grey sent a telegram (which Kitchener had helped to draft) to the British Minister in Athens with instructions to hand it to the Greek Government if or when the French Minister received similar instructions. Hankey found he could not do ‘full justice’ to the telegram, which contained ‘some rather subtle points’, but the general sense was that:

Every obligation of honour and of interest makes it necessary for Greece to go to the assistance of Servia. In order to assist her to do this without danger to her communications the Allies propose to send one Division apiece to Salonica. If the Russian contingent is delayed the British and French Divisions will none the less be sent forthwith…

Though there was further ‘mild criticism’ from within the War Council, Asquith swept this away by summing up the political and military advantages.[26] Even so, Hankey disliked the proposal save in one important respect, which he outlined to Balfour (who was absent from the meeting) the following day:

…Personally I disagree altogether with this Servian proposition…I am convinced that an attack on the Dardanelles is the only extraneous operation worth trying. From Lord Fisher downwards every naval officer in the Admiralty who is in the secret believes that the Navy cannot take the Dardanelles position without troops. The First Lord still professes to believe that they can do it with ships, but I have warned the Prime Minister that we cannot trust to this. I understand, though, that there are only 12,000 reserve Turkish troops in the Gallipoli peninsula, & less than 3 Army Corps, mostly reservists, in this part of Turkey. A relatively small force therefore will suffice. Nevertheless I am quite reconciled to the Salonica proposal, because I am convinced that, if only we can get troops out to the Levant on any excuse they will, if the Navy achieve any considerable measure of success, be landed at Gallipoli!! I misread Lord K[itchener] altogether, if this is not so…[27]

Hankey’s opportunism at first seemed misplaced for, having resolutely avoided being drawn into the war (despite appearances to the contrary), Venizelos was hardly likely to be swayed by the promise of two divisions.[28] Unfortunately, the offer to Venizelos was meant to have coincided with the opening of the bombardment against the Turkish forts but this was delayed and would not commence until 19 February. Without the moral effect of the bombardment, Venizelos found it easy to reject this latest offer.

                Asquith became aware of this rejection on the 16th; the result was an informal meeting[29] of the War Council (not even Hankey was present) which, nevertheless, arrived at ‘decisions of the very first importance’ — another characteristic example of Asquith’s conduct of the war. Hankey’s surmise was now proved correct: having negotiated the release of the XXIXth Division and following the Greek refusal, there was now nowhere for the Division to go. It was decided therefore, in the circumstances, to dispatch the troops to Lemnos, near the Dardanelles, at the earliest possible date. In addition, a force would be sent from Egypt which, in conjunction with four battalions of Royal Marines, would be available ‘in case of necessity to support the naval attack on the Dardanelles.’ For Hankey, who received details of the ad hoc meeting from Asquith, Lloyd George and Fisher, the decision took a considerable weight off his mind. ‘The Naval Attack on the Dardanelles forts begins on Friday morning [19 February]’, Hankey informed Balfour, adding:

It is agreed by all naval officers that sooner or later troops will be required. I calculate that the XXIXth Division can be there by about March 10th (I do not like to risk an earlier date) but at least a Division and perhaps more could arrive from Egypt about a week earlier — an extra Australian Division having recently arrived in Egypt. I am immensely relieved by this decision, though I fear it has been made rather late & I should like more men. This is a decisive operation against the decisive point of the Turkish Empire, and, if undertaken at all we ought to throw in every man we have in the East, including the garrison of Malta, all the Marines, & (though no-one agrees with me in this) the troops in Mesopotamia. Still we may bring it off with the Navy, and, if we fail, can pretend it was a feint & go to Smyrna or Alexandretta. I don’t think there is any intention to land troops except to finish off work which the Navy cannot quite complete. It is a pity we cannot get the Greeks to send man for man with us to the Dardanelles, I have been urging that they should be asked to do so, but I am told there are two objections — 1. The Russians will not have the Greeks there. 2. The Greeks would probably refuse on the ground that it would incapacitate them from fulfilling their treaty to come to the assistance of Servia in the event of the intervention of Bulgaria…P.S. Lord Fisher, who was very despondent over this Turkish business, is quite perky again now.[30]

And so had the first seed, the Grand Duke’s appeal on New Year’s Day, borne monstrous fruit. Everything was now set and the bombardment duly commenced on 19 February; however, when the War Council met the same day, to the deep chagrin of Churchill, Kitchener suddenly entertained second thoughts! He had, he now asserted, always favoured an operation at Alexandretta, an opinion shared by Lieutenant-General Birdwood at the ANZAC headquarters in Cairo. Writing to Kitchener on 14 February Birdwood could not understand the ‘very feeble & abortive attack’ the Turks had made against the Canal. ‘The sooner I can get off to Alexandretta the better’, he informed his ‘dear old Chief.’ Security was also becoming a problem: the troops in Egypt had been told they would be starting for France soon, but the number of mules being purchased resulted in speculation that the real destination might be much closer to hand.[31] Kitchener therefore argued in the War Council on the 19th that, as the Turks were retreating from the Canal, the Egyptian garrison was sufficient for repelling any further attacks. This, he maintained, meant that the 39,000 Australian and New Zealand troops training there could be freed to support the naval attack which had commenced that morning; there was therefore no necessity to dispatch the XXIXth Division. To justify his newly-found circumspection Kitchener, who had always been loathe to send the XXIXth, used the paltry excuse of the ‘recent Russian set-back in East Prussia.’

                The effect of this on Churchill can be well imagined: the First Lord expressed his ‘great disappointment’ and suggested that the Division should be sent to Alexandria rather than Lemnos as originally proposed — ‘We should never forgive ourselves if this promising operation failed owing to insufficient military support at the critical moment.’ But the problem was that the critical moment had been reached off the Straits just as Churchill was speaking in London. Kitchener then agreed, in quick succession, that if the absence of the XXIXth would jeopardize the operation he would send it; that he had every intention of supporting the operation but the ANZAC divisions on the spot were sufficient; and that there were enough troops to guarantee success without sending the XXIXth ‘providing that the navy was successful.’ Churchill again stressed the point he had raised earlier, that the navy unaided could only open the Straits for armoured ships. A passage for merchant ships could not be guaranteed unless the shores of the Dardanelles were cleared.

                Asquith and Hankey intervened at this point to circulate the eight-year-old C.I.D. paper on the subject which Hankey had located and which tended ‘to show that military co-operation was essential to success.’[32] All this must have been galling to Churchill who had spent the better part of January convincing all and sundry that the navy could do the job alone! He was in effect a prisoner of his own misguided enthusiasm.[33] But Hankey also did not have it all his own way, for, although the C.I.D. paper did acknowledge that ‘if ever an attempt to force the Dardanelles is made, the work will have to be undertaken by a Join Naval and Military expedition’, the General Staff were not prepared at the time, ‘in view of the risks involved’, to recommend its being attempted.[34] Hankey therefore had to steer the War Council into a ‘more or less desultory discussion’ as to how far the 1906 paper ‘was applicable to present conditions.’ It was pointed out that the Turks had since suffered ‘severe defeats’ in the Balkan Wars, that they were currently engaged on three fronts (the Caucasus, Mesopotamia and Egypt), and that submarines might greatly harass Turkish communications with Gallipoli. There was also the possibility that aerial reconnaissance would greatly assist the naval bombardment. This, Hankey must have hoped, would be enough to counter the General Staff’s previous reservations.[35]

                For the benefit of those around the table, Churchill (who had been forewarned about the C.I.D. paper) then ‘recalled the various phases of the question’:

The first proposal was to send no troops at all, leaving the Dardanelles to be dealt with by the Navy. The next phase was that the XXIXth Division only was to be sent to Salonica in the view of thereby involving Greece in the war. Then the situation had again changed by the Russian defeat in the East, and it became desirable to ensure success at the Dardanelles. If this operation was successful, it was possible that the Greeks might change their minds, and that a complete change might be brought about in the Balkans.

This was an elegant piece of sophistry from the First Lord. He had made the stages seem a natural progression, whereas the first proposal had occupied all of January, while Salonica and the Russian defeat had been very recent events. Although Churchill again tied in success at the Dardanelles with the question of supporting the Russians, his most revealing comment was that ‘to ensure success in the Dardanelles’ troops must be available. This was very different from his earlier arguments — arguments that had carried the day and that had resulted in the bombardment which had just commenced. Nevertheless Kitchener would not budge: he would send the XXIXth in case of necessity but ‘did not want to send it just yet.’[36] The inconclusive meeting adjourned.

                That afternoon the electrifying news of the opening bombardment was received in London and quickly flashed around the world. Carden’s initial barrage on the 19th – which achieved little and was promptly postponed when a violent storm blew up that night – created an impression out of all proportion to the damage inflicted. Wavering states reconsidered their position; Venizelos’ mouth began to water anew.[37] In Constantinople the generally held opinion was that the Straits would soon be forced and the capital threatened. Archives and gold were moved out of the city[38] and even the German Ambassador sought the protection of the American Embassy to store his valuables. Ironically, only Enver believed that the Dardanelles could not be forced; however, after his recent disastrous showing in the Caucasus, the Pasha’s opinion was discounted.[39] Even though Carden had been unable to resume operations by the time the War Council met again on 24 February success appeared to those present more or less assured. More importantly, the assumption upon which the whole enterprise was underpinned — that a failed attack could be broken off at any time — was revealed to be hollow. The French had appealed for a delay in the operations so that military arrangements could be concerted between the two Governments but Grey informed Cambon on 20 February that ‘it would be disastrous to postpone or delay these operations. So much that is important to the common cause depends upon their success.’[40] On the morning of the 24th Carden, who had been pressured in the first place to supply a plan using ships alone, was now informed by Churchill that ‘It is not proposed at this stage to use military force other than parties of Marines landed to destroy particular guns or torpedo tubes. On the other hand, if your operation is successful, we consider it necessary that ample military force should be available to reap the fruits.’[41]

                Later that day the War Council resumed the debate over the fate of the XXIXth Division. With a comparatively small number of troops Churchill argued ‘we might be in Constantinople by the end of March …Moreover, we were now absolutely committed to seeing through the attack on the Dardanelles.’ Lloyd George and Grey both uttered similar statements. Kitchener wavered only slightly: he was

prepared to send the XXIXth Division, if necessity was shown. He felt that, if the fleet would not get through the Straits unaided, the army ought to see the business through. The effect of a defeat in the Orient would be very serious. There could be no going back. The publicity of the announcement had committed us.[42]

Hankey had almost achieved his aim. From his ‘Boxing Day’ Memorandum to his attempt to influence discussions in the War Council to his behind-the-scenes activity in support of his own grand strategic conception, the one consistent element in the ‘Drift to the Dardanelles’ was provided by the egocentric figure of Maurice Hankey. Two days later, following the resumption of the bombardment, the War Council met again when further heavy pressure was applied to Kitchener;[43] the Secretary of State remained obdurate. It was not until 10 March that he finally relented and agreed to the dispatch of the XXIXth Division. At that point, following a not always natural progression, the simple expedient of a diversionary bombardment to aid the hard pressed Russians had developed into a full scale combined operation with a morbid momentum of its own. If Fisher originally turned the key in the ignition, while Hankey had his hands on the wheel, it was Churchill’s foot on the accelerator; but the vehicle they were now all travelling in was unusual in one important respect. It had no brake.

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[1]    Hankey to Asquith, 2 February 1915, PRO Cab 42/1/30.

[2]    Hankey, The Supreme Command, vol. I, p. 273.

[3]    Minutes of the War Council, 6.30 p.m., 28 January 1915, PRO Cab 41/1/28. Hankey, The Supreme Command, vol. I, p. 275. Hankey’s description of ‘tacit acceptance’ contrasts sharply with Churchill’s version, which had the War Council ‘deciding definitely and finally in favour of the naval attempt.’ The World Crisis, p. 361.

[4]    Balfour, Notes on Fisher’s memorandum, 1 February 1915, Balfour mss., BL Add MSS 49712 f.144.

[5]    Kitchener had, of course, drowned after HMS Hampshire was sunk — before the Dardanelles Commission sat.

[6]    Statement by Sir Arthur George, PRO Cab 19/28.

[7]    Hankey to Asquith, 2 February 1915, PRO Cab 42/1/30.

[8]    Asquith to Stanley, 3 February 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 288, p. 414. ‘All remained quiet [at the Canal] till the early morning of the 3rd February, when simultaneous attacks were delivered at several points on the Canal, which in every case were repulsed with considerable loss to the enemy.’ Vice-Admiral R. H. Peirse, “Defence of the Suez Canal” — Narrative of Events, January 25 to February 8, 1915, PRO Cab 37 125/15 (see appendix seven).

[9]    Asquith to Stanley, 13 February 1915, ibid., no. 303, pp. 428-30.

[10]  The paper in question was C.I.D. 92-B, dated 20 December 1906 [PRO Cab 38/12/60], which is reproduced in full in the appendices. Hankey at first could find no trace of the paper, until it was discovered by one of his assistants ‘in a strong room in the basement’ of 2, Whitehall Gardens. Hankey explained in his subsequent account [The Supreme Command, i, p. 280] that the paper had been withdrawn ‘presumably owing to [its] secrecy.’ As will be shown below, this was, as Hankey was well aware, not the real reason.

[11]  Hankey to Balfour, 10 February 1915, Balfour mss., BL Add MSS 49703 f.162.

[12]  See, Miller, Superior Force, chapters 13 and 14, passim.

[13]  George Rendel, Third Secretary, Athens Legation, Notes on the Proposed Greek Participation in the War, St Antony’s College, Centre for Middle East Studies, DR 701.G6. Entry for 1 November 1914 [hereinafter referred to as ‘Rendel, Notes’].

[14]  Ibid, entry for 25 September 1914.

[15]  Rendel, Notes, pp. 8-9.

[16]  Asquith to Stanley, 18 January 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 266, p. 386. The informant was George Trevelyan.

[17]  Asquith to Stanley, 20 January 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 268, p. 387. Kitchener, however, was ‘very loth to part with it, because it is on the high road, via Alexandretta, to Mesopotamia, where we now straddle across the Tigris and Euphrates.’

[18]  Asquith to Stanley, 21 January 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 270, pp. 388-9 [my emphasis].

[19]  Speech by Venizelos, 26 August 1917, recorded in his book, The Vindication of Greek National Policy, p. 80.

[20]  Grey had ‘purposely not referred to Cavalla’. Rendel, Notes, entry for 27 January 1915.

[21]  Venizelos quoted in Alastos, Venizelos, p. 151. Alastos also recounts [p. 13] how, in 1885, Venizelos ‘invited his student friends to his study and outlined to them his own views of how the Greek nation ought to work for the realisation of its national ideals. On a map of the Justinian Empire hanging on the wall of his study, he drew the boundaries of the Greater Greece of his vision. His boundary line included Lake Ochrida, Monastir and its plain, Constantinople and Asia Minor adding that Constantinople ought to become the political capital, while Athens remained the spiritual centre of the new Greek Empire.’

[22]  Rendel, Notes, entry for 27 January 1915 [my emphasis].

[23]  Churchill to Venizelos, 5 February 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 485. Venizelos declined to admit the King into his confidence regarding the forthcoming attack. See Elliot to Grey, 13 February 1915, ibid, p. 506.

[24]  Rendel, Notes, entry for 6 February 1915.

[25]  Elliot to Grey, 6 February 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 493.

[26]  These were, according to Hankey: Political Advantages (a) Greece is brought in to aid Servia. Ex hypothesi we cannot send troops to Salonica unless Greece is belligerent. (b) It paralyses Bulgaria, so far as hostile action is concerned. (c) The probability of Roumanian cooperation will be increased. Military Advantages (d) The Lines of communication of the Greco-Servian force will be protected, more particularly if Russia sends 10,000 men.

[27]  Hankey to Balfour, 10 February 1915, Balfour mss., BL Add MSS 49703 f.162 [my emphasis].

[28]  ‘The Greeks have declined to go into Servia’, Hankey noted a week later, ‘which does not surprise me in the least. They say that the force we offer is not sufficient to maintain their communications.’ Hankey to Balfour, 17 February 1915, Balfour mss., BL Add MSS 49703 f.167.

[29]  Grey and Kitchener had, independently, called on Asquith; they discussed financial business, so Lloyd George was summoned; then Churchill and Fisher were sent for.

[30]  Hankey to Balfour, 17 February 1915, ibid.

[31]  Birdwood to Kitchener, 14 February 1915, Kitchener mss., PRO 30/57 61.

[32]  See footnote 10 above. Hankey also told the War Council that the paper ‘had been withdrawn from circulation owing to its extreme secrecy at the time when it was written.’ However, as he was forced to point out five days later the real reason for the withdrawal was because ‘it was considered inexpedient at the time to have any document extant which indicated that coercion of Turkey was a matter of such difficulty.’ Note by the Secretary, 24 February 1915, PRO Cab 38/12/60.

[33]  James, Gallipoli, p. 41.

[34]  This decision, not wholly endorsed by the Admiralty, was nevertheless reinforced by the conclusion of the 96th meeting of the C.I.D. on 28 February 1907 that ‘the operation of landing an expeditionary force on or near the Gallipoli Peninsula would involve great risk, and should not be undertaken if other means of bringing pressure to bear on Turkey were available.’ [PRO Cab 38/13/12] The War Council was also made aware of this conclusion.

[35]  Hankey clearly had second thoughts regarding the usefulness of the C.I.D. paper. In a letter he subsequently circulated, he was at pains to point out that the paper ‘has some bearing on problems now under consideration, though a great many of the factors have changed, particularly of the development of naval guns and gunnery, so that its conclusions cannot be regarded as entirely applicable to modern conditions.’ Note by the Secretary, 24 February 1915, PRO Cab 38/12/60. See also, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 532, n. 3.

[36]  Minutes of the War Council, 19 February 1915, PRO Cab 42/1/36.

[37]  Not so Admiral Mark Kerr: when the telegram arrived at the Ministry of Marine in Athens announcing the commencement of the bombardment by ships alone, without military support, Kerr promptly observed to his Greek Flag Lieutenant, ‘That is the end of the Dardanelles expedition.’ Correspondence of Admiral Mark Kerr, 27 March 1922, PRO Adm 137/4178.

[38]  It was reported that the Turkish Government ‘was preparing to move to Konia in case of necessity’ and that the archives of all the ministries had been sent there by special train, ‘together with large sums in specie both from the German banks and from the I[mperial] O[ttoman] B[ank], which I am informed, has been forced into a loan of over a million…’ Cyril Cumberbatch to Consul Waugh, 6 March 1915, PRO Cab 37 125/23.

[39]  Morgenthau, Secrets of the Bosphorus, pp. 121-132.

[40]  Grey to Cambon, 20 February 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/57.

[41]  Churchill to Carden, 24 February 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 550.

[42]  Minutes of the War Council, 24 February 1915, PRO Cab 42/1/42; Hankey, The Supreme Command, vol. I, p. 283.

[43]  In Asquith’s opinion, ‘Winston was in some ways at his worst — having quite a presentable case. He was noisy, rhetorical, tactless, & temperless.’ Nevertheless Asquith accepted Kitchener’s argument regarding the retention of the XXIXth Division. Asquith to Stanley, 26 February 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 322, p. 459.



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