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 30




The Great Prize







The attempt to purchase Turkey’s neutrality had originated in the fertile mind of the Director of Naval Intelligence, Captain Hall, was undertaken on his own initiative, and received no higher sanction. First however, Hall’s plan required a catalyst and this took the form of George Griffin Eady, a civil engineer who had been engaged in railway construction in Turkey before the war and who had links with, and acted as technical adviser to, the Foreign Officer. Eady was also well known at the Embassy in Constantinople. He left there on 7 September 1914 (just before the Limpus’ mission withdrew) but prior to his departure he had a long interview with Prince Said Halim and became convinced, as Mallet, of the Grand Vizier’s good intentions and friendly disposition towards Britain. In London Eady went to work for the War Office until, in January 1915, he crossed paths with Hall.

                The search for alternative strategies to break the ‘remarkable deadlock’ on the Western front had already begun[1] and, by early January, Churchill had started to badger the unfortunate Vice-Admiral Carden regarding the attempt to force the Straits. Understandably, in the circumstances, Hall wanted more information on Turkey and he turned to Eady; in particular, he wanted to know if Eady carried any weight with the leading Turks. Eady replied truthfully that, while he knew most of them, the best people to approach were Edwin Whittall, who had spent most of his life in Turkey, and (according to Hall’s biographer[2]) none other than the Turks’ old bête noire, the former dragoman Gerald Fitzmaurice, who had maintained his contacts with dissident Turks. Whether or not Fitzmaurice was mentioned in this context (Eady’s diary apparently does not refer to him) Grey would shortly have other work lined up for the irrepressible intriguer. ‘In view of the attack on the Dardanelles and probable developments’, Grey informed his Minister in Sofia, Bax-Ironside,

I want Fitzmaurice to be on the spot in the Near East. I am therefore sending him to Sofia as attached to the Legation with the rank of First Secretary. But the title is nominal as he should go wherever he can be of most use from time to time in getting information or utilizing his knowledge and experience of Balkan and especially Turkish affairs. When operations against the Dardanelles begin to be successful he may be able most usefully at Sofia to get in touch with the Turkish party at Constantinople who are anti-German and well-known to him. I have asked him to send me his views of the Balkan situation through you and through Minister of Legation wherever he may be, but have authorized him to communicate direct to the British Admiral at the Dardanelles any information or suggestions which his knowledge of Turkish affairs may enable him to give when it is likely to be helpful in the naval and military operations there.[3]

                With Fitzmaurice thus engaged, the two emissaries, Eady and Whittall, arrived in Athens on 1 February 1915 where they were to try to make contact with a prominent Turkish minister, preferably Talaat; their intermediary would be the Grand Rabbi — a strong Anglophile, known to Whittall and who had employed his nephew. Preliminary negotiations were not promising and Hall’s agents were refused permission to travel to Constantinople for talks. The war against the Russians was going well for the Turks and they saw little point in listening to British propositions at that time — however the commencement of the bombardment against the outer forts of the Dardanelles on 19 February soon forced a change in their attitude. Faced with this new threat, the Turks relented and agreed to send an emissary to Dedeagatch. Eady carried with him to this meeting a blank cheque from Hall guaranteeing the Turks £3 million if they met the British demands; if absolutely necessary, Eady was authorized by Hall to go up to £4 million!

                Eady wrote, after the war, that the Turks were sick of the almost continuous fighting of one sort or another which had occupied them since the 1908 revolution, and genuinely desired peace. ‘Moreover,’ he added, ‘their leaders, Talaat Pasha and Co., mostly self-made men, had acquired power and wealth which they wished to conserve.’ As others before him, Eady had misread Talaat’s motives: it was not money the Pasha was after. If Eady, Whittall or Fitzmaurice had been able to guarantee to Talaat that Constantinople would remain in Turkish possession, money would have been unnecessary. Realizing that the future of the city was bound to figure prominently in the talks, Eady had repeatedly telegraphed London for instructions which would allow him greater flexibility on this crucial issue; none were forthcoming. Eady was reduced to demanding the withdrawal of Turkey from the war, coupled with her strict neutrality thereafter and the immediate opening of the Dardanelles to allied shipping. He offered only money in return.

                As preparations commenced for troops to be sent to support the Allied naval attack, the talks assumed greater urgency. Still on the wrong track, Hall informed his agents early in March that, to try to speed things along, the sum on offer would be decreased for every day that passed. By 5 March the offer was of £500,000 for the complete surrender of the Dardanelles, and a further £500,000 for Goeben, undamaged;[4] three days later the price for Goeben had dropped to £100,000. The critical meetings were scheduled to take place at Dedeagatch on 15/16 March at which, despite Hall’s bluster, Eady was apparently still authorized to go to £4 million if it would buy the Turks. He did not get the chance. On the evening of 13 March Hall’s “Room 40” at the Admiralty intercepted a message from Nauen to Constantinople — just as they had done in the first days of the war. The difference this time was that, by now, the German cipher had been broken and the message revealed its secret to the British:[5] ‘12.3.15. Most Secret. For Admiral Usedom. HM the Kaiser has received the report and telegram relating to the Dardanelles. Everything conceivable is being done to arrange the supply of ammunition. For political reasons it is necessary to maintain a confident tone in Turkey. The Kaiser requests you to use your influence in this direction. The sending of a German or Austrian submarine is being seriously considered.’ So, the Turks were thought to be short of ammunition. This startling, if over-optimistic, appraisal[6] was immediately passed to Fisher, who had become increasingly sceptical of the Dardanelles operation. It transformed him. There was no need for the Turks to be bribed when the same result now looked certain to be achieved by force of arms.

                Hall had informed Hankey of the private negotiations on 4 March[7] but no-one else in London was in on the secret — until, that is, Churchill casually inquired, at the time of the receipt of the intercepted telegram, whether Hall was in touch with Constantinople. Hall then told the First Lord of the negotiations and of the overall sum (£4 million) involved: ‘Who authorised this’, Churchill demanded? Hall later recorded an account of the conversation that ensued:

‘I did, First Lord.’

‘But — the Cabinet surely knows nothing about it?’

‘No, it does not. But if we were to get peace, or if we were to get a peaceful passage [of the Dardanelles] for that amount, I imagine they’ll be glad enough to pay.’

It was one of those moments [Hall continued] when dropped pins are supposed to be heard. Then Mr Churchill turned to Lord Fisher who was still busily writing.

‘D’you hear what this man has done? He’s sent out people with four millions to buy a peaceful passage! On his own!’

‘What!’ shouted Lord Fisher, starting up from his chair. ‘Four millions? No, no. I tell you I’m going through tomorrow.’[8]

Hall was ordered by Fisher to instruct Eady to break off the negotiations; Fisher then changed his mind and agreed that the talks could continue though only on the basis of an attempt to buy Goeben and Breslau. Eady’s hands were tied. The talks dragged on desultorily until 16 March after which the British agents departed for Salonica where they arrived on the morning of the 18th, just as the great naval attack commenced at the Narrows with such disastrous results. Eady later lamented of Turkey that ‘The whole country desired peace and their leaders would have accepted almost any terms had we been able to reassure them of their retention of Constantinople.’[9]

                This was not the only attempt at peace negotiations: parallel talks were also in progress at Smyrna between Admiral Peirse, in command of a small detached squadron, and the powerful Rahmi Bey, Vali of Smyrna, who had been partly responsible in October 1914 for misleading Mallet as to the extent of the German menace.[10] Churchill revealed in the War Council on 3 March that orders had been issued the previous evening for the pre-dreadnoughts Triumph and Swiftsure and the armoured cruiser Euryalus to bombard Smyrna.

The primary object of this operation [Churchill explained] was to smash the forts and prevent Smyrna from being used as a base for submarines. It was feared that Austrian submarines might come from Pola, and a submarine, the nationality of which was uncertain, had been seen off Tangier. The delays caused by bad weather in the bombardment of the Dardanelles increased the anxiety regarding the possible appearance of submarines. The orders for the forces attacking Smyrna were to destroy the forts deliberately by long-range bombardment, but to land no troops.[11]

Admiral Peirse, who had to come from Egypt in Euryalus, reached the rendezvous at dawn on 5 March; the bombardment commenced that afternoon and demonstrated only too well the problems experienced by naval artillery against land targets. Although the British fire was accurate, mines and hidden guns greatly contributed to the hazards of the operation, resulting in hits being taken by both Triumph and Euryalus. Operations continued throughout the 6th; that night, however, Peirse received the following message from Churchill:

Secret. Friendly disposition towards the British and French subjects has recently been displayed by the Vali of Smyrna, who has openly deplored the war. You should get into touch with him by flag of truce or otherwise after destroying the forts. He should not be informed that we have no intention of landing, nor should any limit to your further operations be suggested, but he should be allowed to feel that we recognise his friendly attitude, and are well-disposed towards him and do not wish to harm the city. You should negotiate with him for the diversion of all small craft, barges, and steamers likely to be of the least use for landing troops elsewhere. All these vessels should be sent to Lemnos. Try and persuade him to collect as much rolling-stock as possible from both railways, and arrange for sweeping a good channel through the mines. No threat of bombarding the city should be made in any case, but if your wishes are met promise not to do so may be made. He should be invited to continue discharging his duties of maintaining order, and our desire to spare the vilayet of Smyrna the horrors of war should be emphasised. He should be told that the fall of Constantinople cannot be long delayed. You can spend £50,000 without further reference here if money is likely to be useful in dealing with him or other Turkish officials. Our intention is not to get involved in military operations at Smyrna, but you may be able to acquire a very large measure of control by persuasion following the destruction of the forts and events in Dardanelles. Your tact must guide you in this matter. Until further orders remain on the spot yourself. Act in the name of the Allies. Full and frequent reports should be made.[12]

As ordered, Peirse resumed the destruction of the forts on 7 March though he soon came to realize the extent of the task which was, in effect, a Dardanelles in miniature. The Turkish guns held their fire until the British ships closed to clear the minefield, then opened up. As had happened at the Dardanelles, the minefield had become the main offensive weapon, protected by the shore-based guns; Peirse could not get close enough to sweep the mines by daylight and, with the mines unswept, he was unable to bombard the forts at a range sufficiently short to ensure their destruction.

                An attempt on the night of 8/9 March to sweep the mines resulted in the sinking of one of the trawlers adapted for the task and Peirse was, presumably, relieved to be given a chance to suspend operations on the 9th as a reply from the Vali was expected. As no envoy appeared, at three that afternoon, Triumph ventured inshore to try to establish communications, and had been promptly fired upon. Peirse’s ships opened up at once in reply. Within half an hour a boat emerged flying a white flag and – after promising that negotiations could be commenced – a truce was duly arranged till the morning of the 11th. In the talks that followed two obstacles immediately became apparent: whatever the Vali promised, he seemed unable to control the military elements, who did more or less as they pleased; and, second, despite his inability to deliver, the Vali’s demands were simply too great. By the 15th the operation was at an end; some damage had been done and the Turks themselves had sunk a number of steamers in the channel when the British minesweepers appeared to be achieving their objective. As the port now seemed denied to submarines, Peirse was recalled.[13]

                In addition to these attempts, the commander of the First Army Corps at Constantinople – also hungry for power – offered to stage a coup in February, the signal being the bombardment of the Dardanelles. The news was revealed in the Cabinet in London on 16 February that ‘we are promised a military rising and ultimate revolution on the fall of the first forts.’[14] As Nicolson had indicated on the 3rd, the Russians were in no position to strike a blow at Constantinople, and he believed therefore that the offer had some merit in helping to prevent what he referred to as the ‘strenuous task’ of liquidating the Ottoman Empire, but Grey was boxed in by his November promise to Sazonov. Consequently, Buchanan was informed by Grey that he would ‘not propose to negotiate any conditions which impair or qualify what I said to [Sazonov] about the Straits and Constantinople after Turkey attacked Russia in October.’[15] Nevertheless, within days, Grey had arranged for Gerald Fitzmaurice to be on hand in the Balkans ready to take advantage of any upheaval that might occur in Constantinople following the commencement of operations at the Dardanelles.[16] On 1 March Hankey argued that once the Dardanelles had been taken and Constantinople isolated the Admiral in charge would need a first rate diplomatist, versed in Turkish methods, to assist him in the negotiations, ‘unless Mr Fitzmaurice is considered to have sufficient weight.’[17] By this time, then, there were three concurrent attempts being made to achieve, by money and promises, what Carden was having such a hard job doing at the Dardanelles. The Eady/Whittall, Fitzmaurice and Peirse negotiations all failed for a variety of reasons, paramount of which was the inability to make any commitment to the Turks on the future of Constantinople.

                Simultaneously, while these nefarious attempts were under way to remove Turkey, renewed attempts were made to bring Greece in: ‘I can see every advantage in Greece coming in and no disadvantage’, Churchill had informed Grey in January.[18] Following the initial bombardment on 19 February bad weather hampered operations for six days; when the shelling resumed the Foreign Office received – predictably – a telegram from the British Minister in Athens that the operations were being followed ‘with intense interest’ and that there was ‘a rapidly growing feeling that capture of Constantinople ought not to take place without Greek co-operation.’[19] It beggars belief that Churchill had not anticipated Russian misapprehension over the very mention of Greece in the same breath as Constantinople. These various charades in Turkey and Greece achieved nothing other than to rouse Russian suspicions; paradoxically the fatal blow was dealt not by Churchill, but, unintentionally, by Grey who had done so much to accommodate the Russians.

                After war was declared the Russian Duma did not meet (other than a patriotic demonstration in August 1914) till 9 February 1915 at which time passions with regard to the Straits overflowed. Sazonov carefully avoided mentioning Constantinople, referring instead to the approaching moment ‘when the economic and political problem will be solved as a result of obtaining access to the high seas.’[20] These sentiments were reported in London, and resulted in a question being asked in the House as to whether Russia intended permanently to occupy Constantinople. Grey rose to deliver an innocuous statement that had been vetted both by Asquith and the Russian Ambassador, and in which he referred to the fact ‘that the events on the Russo-Turkish frontier will bring Russia nearer to the realisation of the political and economic problems bound up with the question of Russia’s access to the open sea. That is an aspiration with which we are in entire sympathy. The precise form in which it will be realised will no doubt be settled in the terms of peace.’[21] The Russian press characterized this declaration as ‘evasive’ coming, as it did, on the very day of the resumption of the naval attack (25 February) and in the light of the French proposals for the neutralization of the Straits. Eventually the Official Telegraphic Agency in Petrograd was forced to issue a communiqué to exonerate the British from any underhand dealings, blaming the whole episode on ‘the inexactness of the question’ addressed to Grey;[22] but the damage had been done. Grey was forced to admit to the Russian Ambassador on 2 March:

I am more disappointed than I can express to hear from Sazonow that my statement in the House of Commons about the Straits has been unfavourably received in Russia. I wish I had said nothing at all. I have telegraphed to Buchanan to explain that I cannot be more Russian than the Russian Government in my public utterances. I have not told Buchanan that I had shown you the answer [to the Commons’ question] before I gave it, but I should be very pleased if you could telegraph something to Sazonow to explain how the answer came to be given and what I said to you about my desire to say in public what I said to Sazonow in private; and if you could explain this to the Emperor it would be very useful, for I hear he is upset.[23]

With Carden hard-pressed off the Dardanelles this was no time to be upsetting the Russians; particularly when Bertie was informed by Delcassé, also on 2 March, that the Germans were making frantic efforts to detach Russia from the allies. Although Delcassé was sure this would not succeed, Bertie noticed ‘some nervousness’ on the part of the French unless Russia was humoured about Constantinople and the Straits.[24] The future of Constantinople therefore became a principle item on the agenda of the War Council which met the following day. Churchill made his position clear to Grey before the meeting — the First Lord had been annoyed at talk of the Russians ‘giving’ Egypt to Britain as part of a general territorial settlement. ‘We have had it for years in fact’, Churchill complained, ‘& wanted no victorious war to give it to us in form. Certainly we must not let ourselves be pushed out of all interest here by the statement that Egypt is our prize. That would be paying for Egypt twice over.’ Churchill promised to have an Admiralty paper prepared on the subject of Russian control of Constantinople and the Straits and hoped that nothing would be settled until this was ready: ‘English history’, he pleaded, ‘will not end with this war.’[25]

                At the War Council Churchill therefore held out for abiding to the general principle that territorial questions should be resolved at the end of the war; this Grey could not afford to do. ‘It was very important’, in Grey’s view, ‘to avoid anything in the nature of a breach with Russia, or any action which would incline Russia to make a separate peace…It would never do for us to drift into a position of again checking Russian aspirations in the Dardanelles as we had in the past.’ Finally however Grey did agree to try to stave off the question of a permanent Turkish territorial settlement; Hankey’s minutes recorded him as proposing to approach Sazonov along the following lines —

You say that Russian sentiment will insist on the occupation of Constantinople by Russia. My personal opinion is that the British Government will not interpose a veto. But public opinion in this country will insist on all sorts of economic questions being settled. France will say that Syria must be earmarked for her. We ourselves have up to now asked for nothing, and have only declared a protectorate over Egypt. We should have to consider our claims in Asia Minor. British opinion, however, had entirely changed in regard to a Russian occupation of Constantinople, and [I] personally did not anticipate any veto to it.[26]

This, naturally, avoided any reference to Greek aspirations; in fact Greek participation had been discussed only fragmentarily at the meeting, with Churchill a keener advocate than Grey. Grey explained to Buchanan the following day that the operations at the Dardanelles were being undertaken in the common cause and that no offer of assistance should be spurned: it was, then, ‘unreasonable and impossible’ to hamper the operations by refusing Greek aid if it were offered, ‘especially military assistance, which may be important and which might prove essential on the Gallipoli peninsula to ensure complete success.’ While the Government agreed that the Greeks ‘must not have a footing on the Straits which would conflict with Russian interests’ the Russian Government should, nevertheless, bear in mind the ‘disastrous consequences’ that would ensue if the operations did not succeed. Besides, added Grey, he had never contemplated the annexation of any part of the Straits to Greece — for her co-operation, if it came about, that country would receive Smyrna.[27]

                All the ambitions of Venizelos had been re-aroused by the allied operations. On 1 March he offered the co-operation of three Greek divisions for service on the Gallipoli peninsula; as usual, the offer was backed by the threat of resignation if the King did not agree.[28] By now quite used to the Prime Minister’s blustering Constantine could afford to be more cautious and deliberate; still concerned about a Bulgarian stab in the back, he delayed the Council of Ministers that day to await the latest news from the Dardanelles. Although the prospect of a quick victory and ensuing glorious march on Constantinople was enticing, in the absence of a progress report from the Allied fleet, Constantine could not afford to take the chance.[29] As Lloyd George would later admit, ‘the reason why Greece did not intervene was not the personal opposition of the King, but the fact that by the most competent military judges in Greece Germany was still expected to win — a rather serious fact…since Neutrals can form a more judicial estimate…’[30] The offer of the Greek Army Corps was debated by the Cabinet in London on 2 March and was, Asquith noted, ‘gladly accepted by us, with the suggestion that the Greeks should also contribute their Navy (four good ships) & their excellent flotilla of Destroyers.’[31] Grey informed both Buchanan and Bertie the same day of the Greek offer, to try to prepare the ground with the Russians and French; yet, within 24 hours, the proposal was dead in the water.

                The Russians had soon learned, from Athens, of the Greek offer and imposed an immediate veto upon it on 3 March. Elliot, the British Minister in Athens, argued that the Russians should be made to withdraw their veto as he was ‘convinced that prospect of entering Constantinople as conquerors weighs more with the King and his people than that of any material advantage to be obtained by the war.’[32] In an attempt both to assuage the Russians as to the extent of Greek participation and also allay the fears of the Greek General Staff who did not relish the prospect of denuding the border of troops Elliot himself suggested a compromise whereby only one Greek division plus the Greek fleet (which Churchill was eager to have) should be engaged. But the cracks had already started to appear in Athens. Rather than participate at all, in view of the risk from Bulgaria, the Acting Chief of the Greek General Staff resigned on 3 March. The following day rumours of the Russian reaction appeared in the Athens’ press leading to a further estrangement between the King and Prime Minister.[33] At the Council of Ministers on the 5th Venizelos could not make his arguments prevail. Desperate, he cabled London and Paris that ‘without having any political views on Constantinople and the Straits, we have such interests of a moral and commercial order there that we could not be disinterested in their fate.’ All he wished to do was enter Constantinople – if only temporarily – along with the victors. Greece, he breathtakingly exclaimed, ‘would not accept the city if offered to her’![34]

                The French had already expressed their reservations: they knew Venizelos’ ‘enthusiasms’ only too well. Delcassé informed Bertie on the evening of the 4th of previous Greek offers to the Entente, adding that for ‘one pretext or another Monsieur Venizelos every time backed out of his assurances.’ Delcassé considered therefore ‘that if the Greek Government offer co-operation in the Dardanelles expedition they should be told that co-operation of Greece in war must be entire and she must give active support to Serbia.’[35] Elliot realized that insistence on this condition would be fatal. By 6 March, with Venizelos in danger of running out of control and still no news from the Dardanelles, Constantine withdrew his support. Venizelos resigned, though in a matter of days he had again stirred up a hornet’s nest. Certain signs from London had been encouraging: Churchill was as enthusiastic as ever for Greek participation, while Venizelos received an overly optimistic appraisal which appeared to indicate that Lloyd George, at least, favoured keeping the Russians out of Constantinople.[36] However opinion at the Foreign Office had modified: Nicolson now advised Grey that ‘unless Greek aid is essential from a military point of view, we had better drop it. We are it is clear getting into difficulties both with Russia and Greece, and if it be possible it would be far better to carry through the enterprise ourselves with France and Russia alone.’[37]

                Late on the evening of the 6th Churchill tried to rectify what he considered to be the failings of the Foreign Office which would result, he believed, in a million more men dying through the prolongation of the war. Taking up his pen he beseeched Grey to meet Russian aspirations generously and sympathetically, ‘But no impediment must be placed in the way of Greek co-operation. We must have Greece and Bulgaria, if they will come. I am so afraid of your losing Greece, and yet paying all the future into Russian hands. If Russia prevents Greece helping, I will do my utmost to oppose her having Constantinople. She is a broken power but for our aid: & has no resource open but to turn traitor — & this she cannot do…’ Churchill fully intended to hand this to Grey the following morning; before he could do so Grey received a ‘laconic’ telegram from Elliot which bluntly announced that, ‘The King having refused to agree to Monsieur Venizelos’ proposals, the Cabinet has resigned.’ Churchill held on to his letter.[38] ‘As Sir E. Grey says,’ Asquith noted,

the moment the military & naval situation improves the diplomatic sky begins to darken. Russia, despite all our representations & remonstrances, declines absolutely to allow Greece to take any part in the Dardanelles business, or the subsequent advance on Constantinople; and the French appear inclined to agree with her. On the other hand the Greeks are burning to be part of the force which enters Constantinople, and yet wish to avoid committing themselves to fighting against anybody but the Turks & possibly the Bulgarians. They won’t raise a finger for Serbia, and even want all the time to keep on not unfriendly terms with Germany & Austria! We have of course told them that this is nonsense, that you can’t make war on limited liability terms, & that therefore they must come in with us ‘all in all or not at all’...[39]

If it achieved anything, the very idea of Greek participation at least spurred the Russians. Sazonov informed Buchanan on 3 March that hasty preparations were being made at Batoum to embark an Army Corps to assist the Allies should the Dardanelles be forced![40] Churchill was quickly apprised of this and mentioned it at that day’s War Council, ascribing the move as being in consequence of the success of the preliminary bombardments. ‘Russia’, he stated with a certain lack of candour, ‘had always been favourable to the proposed attack on the Dardanelles’

                At the same time, however, in Petrograd, Sazonov was preparing his own diplomatic offensive. On 3 March the French Ambassador, Paleologue, learned during an audience with the Tsar that ‘His decision was taken, and he must insist on a radical solution of the question of Constantinople and the Straits.’ The following afternoon Buchanan and Paleologue received an aide-mémoire written by Sazonov in the name of the Emperor:

                Course of events leads His Majesty the Emperor Nicholas to think that the question of Constantinople and the Straits must be definitely solved in accordance with traditional aspirations of Russia. Any solution would be unsatisfactory and precarious if it did not incorporate henceforward in Russian Empire the city of Constantinople, western shore of the Bosphorus, of the Sea of Marmora, and of the Dardanelles, as well as Southern Thrace up to the Enos-Midia line. Ipso facto and by strategic necessity, part of Asiatic shore included between the Bosphorus, River Sakharia, and a point to be fixed on the Gulf of Ismid, islands of the Sea of Marmora, islands of Imbros and Tenedos, ought to be incorporated in the empire.

The special interests of Britain and France in the regions mentioned, Buchanan noted, would be ‘scrupulously respected’. The Russian Government hoped that these considerations would meet with sympathy in London and Paris and assured the other Allied Governments that they, in turn, would receive from the Russians ‘the sympathy for realisation of desiderata which they may form in other regions of Ottoman Empire and elsewhere.’[41] The final two words were added specifically at Buchanan’s request as this, so he informed Grey, would enable a linkage between the Straits question and that of Persia.[42]

                Sazonov claimed that the impression of the French that Russia wanted both sides of the Straits was mistaken; they had never intended to claim the Asiatic side ‘provided it was left in the possession of Turkey, and on the understanding that no fortifications were to be erected on it.’ Paleologue argued in turn that freedom of the Straits demanded that neither shore be fortified; Russian public opinion, Sazonov countered, would never accept such a restriction. When Paleologue persisted Sazonov ‘adopted a more serious tone’ and threatened that, unless the French and British Governments sanctioned the settlement of the question of the Straits and Constantinople ‘in accordance with Russia’s national aspirations consequences might be incalculable, as, regardless of himself, he would be obliged to place his resignation in the hands of the Emperor and to request His Majesty to replace him by Minister more capable of protecting Russia’s national interests.’[43] In the second of three letters he wrote to Venetia Stanley on Saturday 6 March Asquith reiterated his favourable opinion of Russia’s claims — but ‘subject to proper conditions as to non-fortification of the Straits.’[44] Clearly, the latest Russian initiative would require detailed discussion.

                The debate was originally scheduled for the War Council on the following Monday (8 March), but this would not have allowed sufficient time for the Russian aide-mémoire to be properly circulated. Instead, the debate commenced in the Cabinet on Tuesday 9 March. Both Churchill and Kitchener maintained that ‘neither on military nor on naval grounds did our interests require us to resist the Russian proposal’ and it was generally agreed that the special circumstances pointed to the desirability of an informal meeting by the three Allied Foreign Ministers ‘preferably on board of a British man of war at or near Lemnos’ — a suggestion that was anathema to Grey, but which he resolved to endorse with the reservation that he doubted such a meeting would lead to any practical results. Churchill and Kitchener were also in agreement that, in response to the Russian offer to view with sympathy Allied desiderata in Turkey, Britain should occupy and hold Alexandretta while the French should be content with Syria.[45]

                At the War Council the following day, Asquith read a telegram sent by Delcassé to the Russians proposing a Conference in Paris to settle the ultimate terms of peace. Lloyd George then revived the idea of the Lemnos meeting though, in the intervening 24 hours, Grey had come up with another excuse: it would be very difficult, he explained, for all the Foreign Ministers to absent themselves from their own countries for two or three weeks — the Foreign Secretary had lost his stamina for conferences. The importance of the issue to be discussed also necessitated the presence of some token Conservatives (Andrew Bonar Law and Lord Lansdowne) who, in the end, ‘did not contribute very much’;[46] instead, Grey led the way. The principal idea of Russia’s claim, he explained, was to obtain an outlet to the sea. After a wide-ranging discussion Grey ‘said he proposed to suggest to Russia to keep secret for the present the arrangement proposed as regards the future of Constantinople, otherwise the Balkan States might be alienated.’ There were three other stipulations which he considered necessary: free passage of the Straits to the commerce of all nations; Constantinople to be a free port for goods in transit; Arabia and the holy places to remain in Mussulman hands. The conclusion reached was that the Russian proposals should be agreed to, ‘subject to the war being prosecuted to a victorious conclusion, and to Great Britain realizing the desiderata referred to in the last sentence of the Russian aide-mémoire.’[47]

                Grey already had some ideas about these desiderata. As Churchill pointed out, at the end of the war British naval and military strength would be ‘very great indeed’ and yet, having given Constantinople to Russia and Syria to France, was Britain to receive nothing in return other than what she already possessed? Asquith, who had kept quiet during the meeting, told his colleagues that, in the end, ‘the discussion had resembled that of a gang of buccaneers.’ No more definite conclusion was reached, he admitted, ‘than to send a reply that our assent to Russia’s proposal was subject to the reservation that both we & France should get a substantial share of the Carcase of the Turk.’[48] The ultimate fate of Constantinople and the Straits, Nicolson conceded to Hardinge the following day, could now be safely discounted as Britain would raise no objections to the Russian claims provided adequate guarantees were given of free passage and that Constantinople would become a free port. ‘Of course,’ he continued,

if we are amiable towards Russia in this respect we must expect her to be equally conciliatory towards us when we put forward our desiderata elsewhere. What these desiderata exactly will be we have not yet quite thought out. But as regards Persia I imagine that we shall require practically the whole of the neutral zone to be placed within our sphere…Of course it will bring our sphere and that of Russia to be co-terminus, but I do not think that we can avoid this, & moreover I do hope that one consequence of this war will be that our relations with Russia will not only be more intimate & cordial but that they will be definitely settled by a proper treaty alliance…[49]

Grey instructed Buchanan to make sure the Russians were well aware that British agreement to the March 4 proposals was the greatest proof of friendship in the power of the British Government to give, particularly as, before they had even had a chance of deciding upon their own desiderata, ‘Russia is asking for a definite promise that her wishes shall be satisfied with regard to what is in fact the richest prize of the entire war.’ Grey wanted the Russians to do all they could to bring Bulgaria and Roumania in on the Allied side and more — for, although consultations with the French would be required to reach a concise formulation of the desiderata, one of the points definitely to require revision was the Anglo-Russian Agreement of 1907 so as to recognize the present neutral sphere in Persia as a British sphere.[50] Buchanan had to work fast as the Emperor was due to leave for the front on 14 March; Sazonov promptly arranged for Buchanan to accompany him to Tsarkoe Selo for an audience the evening before the departure. Buchanan conveyed his Government’s assent to the Russian aide-mémoire, subject to Grey’s conditions, at which the Tsar wished to know the existing arrangement with regard to the neutral zone. Buchanan:

told him in general terms, and said that arrangement had not worked satisfactorily, and had on several occasions given rise to friction between the two Governments. Its incorporation in British zone would mark a great step towards a final and friendly settlement of the Persian question, and I was sure that His Majesty would admit that Constantinople was well worth this small sacrifice on Russia’s part. The Emperor laughed, and said that he quite agreed.

Buchanan at once tentatively inquired if he could then inform Grey that this meant His Majesty accepted the condition in principle. The Tsar replied in the affirmative at which Sazonov promptly intervened to declare that Russia must still be allowed complete freedom of action in the north; this did not imply annexation, only that Britain should ‘desist from representations which we were so constantly making’ about Russian action there. Buchanan assured Sazonov that, equally, Britain had no intention of annexing the neutral zone but that her aim was to secure the maintenance of Persian integrity. On the return journey that night Sazonov intimated to Buchanan that, now Britain had ‘acquiesced in Russia’s wishes respecting Constantinople and the Straits, his Excellency might be disposed to relax some of the conditions which he attached to co-operation of Greece…’ With Venizelos now safely out of the way, it was an offer the Russians could afford to make.[51]

                To consider the British desiderata an interdepartmental committee was constituted, under the chairmanship of Maurice de Bunsen, which met thirteen times in the spring of 1915 before delivering its report on 30 June 1915.[52] The Admiralty soon made its position known when Admiral Jackson stated at the second meeting that ‘one essential in view of the Admiralty…was that Lower Mesopotamia should be occupied and held.’ This area, in Jackson’s opinion, meant the vilayets of Baghdad and Basra, both of which were of the first importance ‘owing to the oil supplies which the Admiralty drew through those regions.’ Admiral Slade, though hardly a disinterested witness as he was the Admiralty-nominated director on the board of the APOC, was called to give evidence at the third meeting when he ‘explained that the subject must be looked at specially from the point of view of safeguarding the interests of the Anglo-Persian concession.’[53]

                Meanwhile, the formulation of the desiderata was also discussed in the War Council on 19 March in the knowledge that the French were laying claim to a ‘very large part’ of Turkey-in-Asia including Cilicia, Syria and Palestine, which raised strong Russian objections. Grey, supported by Haldane, cautioned against being too greedy. ‘If we acquire fresh territory’, the Foreign Secretary asked pertinently, ‘shall we make ourselves weaker or stronger?’ The other great question of principle revolved around acknowledging the ‘very strong feeling in the Moslem world that Mohammedanism ought to have a political as well as a religious existence.’ In that case, Arabia, Syria and Mesopotamia were the only possible territories for an Arab Empire. Even the India Office was split on the question: the Military Department and the Viceroy favouring a Turkey-in-Asia as strong as possible; the Political Department believing Turkey should be sacrificed and Arabia made as strong as possible. The benefit of the latter scheme, Kitchener was quick to point out, was that the Khalifate transferred to Arabia ‘would remain to a great extent under our influence.’

                It was generally agreed however (and with this the India Office was in harmony) that the Basra vilayet at least must form part of the British Empire; the position with regard to Baghdad was more complex, and a protectorate was suggested instead of outright annexation. Churchill was violently opposed to any plan encompassing the preservation of Turkey: it was time to make a clean sweep, he demanded, of ‘this inefficient and out-of-date nation, which had long misruled one of the most fertile countries [in] the world…’ Ultimately, Asquith decided the issue by default. In a breathtaking statement, whose perverse logic helps to explain the great colonial expansion of the previous fifty years, the Prime Minister

said that he had great sympathy with Sir Edward Grey’s first proposition that we have already as much territory as we are able to hold, but the fact was we were not free agents. Russia intended to take a good slice of Turkey. France, Italy, and Greece each demanded a piece. If, for one reason or another, because we didn’t want more territory, or because we didn’t feel equal to the responsibility, we were to leave the other nations to scramble for Turkey without taking anything ourselves, we should not be doing our duty.[54]

And so the various schemes continued to be examined.

                In their separate deliberations, the de Bunsen committee discussed the advantages to be gained from a British hold on Mesopotamia that could be achieved by partition; in doing so they usefully summarized the considerations that had weighed on the Foreign Office, the India Office, and, to a lesser extent, the Admiralty in the years leading up to the war and, more particularly, in the months since its outbreak. The attractions following from a permanent British presence were described as:

(1) Greater freedom to restore and develop the swamped and buried wealth of Mesopotamia than would be possible under a scheme of zones of interest…It would be no small claim to the gratitude of posterity to have given back to cultivation 12,000,000 acres of fertile soil.

(2) If Mesopotamia were British territory, it would in time of emergency provide a British granary which should go far to relieve us of dependence on foreign harvests.

(3) It would give an unrestricted opening for British commerce and industry, and we could develop oilfields and establish Indian colonists with reference solely to our own interests and convenience.

(4) It would mark a definite limit to any Russian advance southwards — even unconscious, or semi-conscious, such as is inevitable if Mesopotamia is left under a weak Government.

(5) It would put an end, once for all, to the German dream of a high road to India from Berlin…

(6) It should form a basis for a definite and lasting settlement.

(7) It would settle the fate of German concessions without more ado.[55]

Oil, therefore, although a primary consideration, was not the sole imperative behind the British desire to maintain their paramount position at the head of the Gulf. For Churchill, price was a greater determinant than location; nevertheless, the very fact of the oil reserves did provide a convenient excuse to hold and exercise control over the region.

                The Committee on Asiatic Turkey delivered its report on the British desiderata on 30 June 1915. Throughout, the Committee had realized the necessity

of maintaining a just relation between the prospective advantages to the British Empire by a readjustment of conditions in Asiatic Turkey, and the inevitable increase of Imperial responsibility. Our Empire is wide enough already, and our task is to consolidate the possessions we already have, to make firm and lasting the position we already hold…It is then to straighten ragged edges that we have to take advantage of the present opportunity, and to assert our claim to a share in settling the destiny of Asiatic Turkey. That claim is valid because it springs from one of the cardinal principles of our policy in the East, our special and supreme position in the Persian Gulf. From that principle, and from the developments, often unconscious, of the policy necessary to maintain it, other claims and aspirations have arisen; but therein lies their justification.[56]

This, at least, was an honest appraisal – realistic in acknowledging that many considerations of policy arose to meet events, rather than the reverse – and led the Committee finally to the enumeration of the desiderata:

(i)   final recognition and consolidation of our position in the Persian Gulf

(ii)   the prevention of discrimination…against our trade…and the maintenance of the existing important markets for British commerce there…

(iii)   maintenance of the assurances given to the Sherif of Mecca and the Arabs

(iv)    security for the development of undertakings in which we are interested, such as oil production, river navigation, and construction of irrigation works

(v)    development of the corn supply which an irrigated Mesopotamia is expected to supply, and of a possible field for Indian colonisation

(vi)    maintenance of our strategic position in the Eastern Mediterranean and in the Persian Gulf, and security of our communications, with the minimum increase of naval and military expenditure and responsibility

(vii)   to ensure that Arabia and the Moslem Holy Places remain under independent Moslem rule. Dependent upon this, we should seek for a settlement which will appeal to, or at least not antagonise, Indian Moslem feeling…

(viii)   a satisfactory solution of the Armenian problem

(ix)   a settlement of the question of Palestine and the Holy Places of Christendom.[57]

Although the formulation of the desiderata had been ‘comparatively easy’, in a telling portent, the Committee admitted that ‘it is very difficult to lay down how to shape the opportunity now at hand for attaining them.’ The difficulties then foreshadowed would bedevil the Near East for generations.


In August 1914 British interests in the Ottoman Empire were firmly centred on the Persian Gulf. The Foreign Secretary was eager to maintain Turkish neutrality for as long as possible to avoid Muslim agitation in India and Egypt; he made his position on this known to the French and Russians as early as 15 August.[58] The Russians were also separately informed on 13 August that, should Turkey accrue Russian territory as a result of a successful attack, the position would be rectified in the terms of peace. Grey, however, was running ahead of Sazonov; late in September the Russian Foreign Minister, more concerned with carving out a slice of Germany and Austria-Hungary, was still talking about allowing the Turks to remain in Constantinople. Sazonov would have been content with free passage of the Straits for all time, subject to certain conditions: no forts being permitted on the shores of the Dardanelles; an international commission to police the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmora with its own naval forces; and a Russian coaling station at the entrance to the Bosphorus.[59] These were, though, Sazonov’s personal thoughts and did not necessarily reflect the prevailing mood in Petrograd where Ambassador Buchanan had reported a few days previously that ‘Opinion seems to be gaining ground that it can only be at the expense of Turkey that Russia can obtain any material as the result of the war, for it is not regarded as adding to her strength that she should acquire territory on her western frontier…M Sazonof’s references to the Dardanelles question in his conversations with me have been merely academic, but they left the impression that the Russians will insist on settling this question once and for all, though they will not raise the question of the status of Constantinople.’[60] No sooner had Sazonov’s desiderata been announced than the closure of the Straits following the incident of 26 September, when a Turkish torpedo boat was turned back into the Straits by the patrolling British squadron, put the fate of Constantinople firmly back on the agenda.

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                Sazonov had already outlined Russia’s preliminary war aims, which consisted of the partition of the German colonies, with a share for Britain, France and Japan; the break-up of the Hapsburg Empire with Russia, Roumania, Serbia and Italy sharing the spoils; a redistribution in the Balkans; and, for France and Russia, large chunks of Germany. These aims had limited appeal in London and depended for their realization on the military defeat of the Central Powers, a situation which would become more complex with the entry of Turkey into the war as this threatened to impinge directly upon British interests.[61] To attempt to reconcile the conflicting interests of the Entente Powers as the situation in the Ottoman Empire deteriorated British eyes turned to Constantinople. By the end of October Asquith felt constrained to write that ‘Few things would give me greater pleasure than to see the Turkish Empire finally disappear from Europe, & Constantinople either become Russian (which I think is its proper destiny) or if that is impossible neutralised and made a free port.’[62]

                If Britain did have a genuine sphere of interest, which it wanted maintained at all costs, it was in Southern Persia and Mesopotamia: to guarantee this Grey was prepared to sacrifice Constantinople. When Grey became aware that the launching of the Russian offensive against the Ottoman Empire would involve a violation of Persian neutrality he immediately took the initiative in suggesting to Sazonov, on 9 November, that, with the defeat of Germany, the fate of Constantinople and the Straits would be decided in conformity with Russia’s interests.[63] Five days later Grey confirmed his message to the Russians with, however, one important rider: while the conduct of the Turkish Government would ‘render inevitable the complete solution of the Turkish problem, including the question of the Straits and Constantinople, in agreement with Russia’ this solution could only come after the defeat of Germany and ‘independently of a prior breakup of the Turkish state, which is possible as a result of march of military operations.’[64] To claim the prize, the Russians would first have to direct all their attention towards the defeat of Germany. But Grey did not reveal the full position, which was that just such a ‘march of military operations’ was already under way. The Military Secretary of the India Office, Sir Edmund Barrow, had warned on 26 September 1914 that, in the event of war with Turkey, the call for a jihad would create a serious danger to India. Barrow suggested that, to prepare for this eventuality, a force should be sent at once from India to the Shatt-el-Arab: ‘On arrival the troops can be landed on Persian soil at Muhammerah or at Abadan Island, ostensibly to protect the oil installations, but in reality to notify the Turks that we meant business and to the Arabs that we were ready to support them…’.[65] After some initial hesitancy, the expeditionary force had occupied the key strategic town of Basra by early November.

                Whether Grey was cynical enough to gamble that the ‘prior breakup of the Turkish state’ would relieve him of the necessity to honour his promise, the Straits and Constantinople had become a suitable bait to lure Russia away from interfering in Persia, with the additional bonus of giving the Russians something worthwhile to fight for. This consideration was particularly important to Grey following disturbing rumours from Buchanan that a section of the Russian Foreign Ministry was seeking a negotiated peace with Germany.[66] French uneasiness about Russian aims[67] did not faze the Foreign Secretary and he was not overly keen to support Churchill’s proposals when the question of action against Turkey was further debated on 25 November at what became the first meeting of the War Council.[68] At this meeting Churchill suggested that the defence of Egypt should begin at the Gallipoli Peninsula. An attack there, he argued, if successful, ‘would give us control of the Dardanelles, and we could dictate terms at Constantinople.’ This was, he admitted (perhaps remembering Callwell’s strictures), ‘a very difficult operation requiring a large force’ and, if found to be impracticable, a feint at Gallipoli should be considered to mask an attack on the Syrian coast. Kitchener was cool towards these ideas but when Churchill suggested that, in any case, transports should be collected as an initial measure, Grey promptly sided with Kitchener. There was already a large shortage of tonnage for mercantile purposes, Grey pointed out, and it was not expedient to aggravate this; what he did not mention was the apprehension which a British assault on the Dardanelles would cause in Petrograd.[69]

                Grey’s actions, therefore, which included his pledge to Sazonov and his coolness towards Greek participation, combined with his constant anxiety regarding Muslim disturbances and the paramountcy of British interests in Southern Persia and Mesopotamia all point towards the supposition that the Foreign Office was not involved in a conspiracy to allow the German ships to escape. The last thing Grey wanted was a scramble amongst the Powers to partition the Ottoman Empire following its collapse; for this reason he would have been loathe to adopt the cynical French strategy of actively seeking to throw Turkey into the arms of the Triple Alliance to be able, then, to do away with her after the hoped-for Entente victory. Furthermore, if the presence of the German ships in the Bosphorus diverted Russian attention away from Constantinople the most probable result was likely to have been a Russian strike at Turkey through Persia which was to be avoided at all costs. Grey was able to lure the Russians away from that region and assure their full commitment elsewhere with the bait of Constantinople in August and November 1914, before finally being forced to give the firm commitment of March 1915. Constantinople was expendable. Does this fit the hypothesis that the Foreign Office connived at the escape of Goeben and Breslau? It is impossible to reconcile that theory to the oft-stated desire of Grey to resolve the question of Constantinople in favour of Russia. He rebuffed the tentative Turkish peace feelers of January 1915, when Enver’s Government appeared to be tottering: although this was much to be desired, he informed Buchanan, ‘whatever changes take place there or whatever happens during the war all that I said to MFA [Sazonov] about Constantinople and the Straits holds good as far as we are concerned.’[70] These were hardly the thoughts of someone who could have actively conspired to shepherd the German ships on their way, with all the attendant dangers of that course of action, simply to forestall the Russians. Similarly, none of the conspiratorial motives sometimes ascribed to Churchill fits the bill; a string of coincidences remains just that and it is difficult at times to accept this central fact rather than working up a grand conspiracy theory. Only with regard to Greece do the explanations fall short — both Venizelos and Constantine had motives they preferred to keep secret but, above all, stands the enigma of Admiral Kerr.

                When all is said and done, the Germans themselves often debated whether they had in fact secured a bargain by having Turkey as an active ally for the price of two ships and the promise of gold. According to General Erich von Falkenhayn, Turkey’s adherence to the Central Powers was ‘absolutely indispensable’ in the struggle against Russia and, additionally, added ‘a certain counterpoise to Bulgaria’s attitude, which had become rather doubtful.’ Against this must be set the fact that Turkey’s achievements in the World War were hampered by the ‘six years of almost uninterrupted war’ that preceded it, leaving the country deeply exhausted, and that she was ‘altogether dependent on Germany’s support in all technical matters and questions of equipment.’[71] This notion of a mixed blessing was not shared by Marshal von Hindenburg, for whom the Turkish Army ‘seemed equal to the task which Main Headquarters set it — the defence of the Turkish territorial possessions. Indeed, it was to prove possible gradually to employ a considerable number of Turkish units in the European theatre. Our military help to Turkey was practically limited to the delivery of war material and the loan of a large number of officers.’[72] The opposite, and more generally accepted, view was voiced by General Ludendorff who stated simply that ‘it was fatal for us that we were allied with decaying states like Austria-Hungary and Turkey.’[73]

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[1]     Generally accepted to have commenced in earnest with Hankey’s ‘Boxing Day Memorandum’ of December 1914.

[2]     James, Eyes of the Navy, p. 60. Note: There has been some previous confusion between Captain Maurice Fitzmaurice, RN who was also Deputy DID, and Gerald Fitzmaurice, the former dragoman. Of the three references supposedly to the former in WSC Comp. vol III, [pp. 489, 599, 802] only the first applies to Maurice; the next two are in fact references to Gerald.

[3]     Grey to Bax-Ironside, 21 February 1915, Personal, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/43.

[4]     The battle cruiser had struck a mine in the Black Sea late in December 1914.

[5]     It should be noted that Room 40 was only set up in November 1914 after the Russians had handed over a copy of the German code book that had been recovered from the body of a sailor after the Magdeburg was wrecked on 26 August 1914.

[6]     The Admiralty had read too much into the German signal. The ammunition situation was not as desperate as it implied, helped, for example, by a Turkish munitions factory near Constantinople which had been effectively transformed with German assistance. Marder, From the Dardanelles to Oran, pp. 15, 18; Robertson, Anzac & Empire, p. 57.

[7]     Hankey decided to start a diary on 4 March: his first entry records the meeting with Hall and the attempt to bribe the Turks which, Hankey claims, he had proposed! See, Roskill, Man of Secrets, p. 159.

[8]     Quoted in, Gilbert, Winston S Churchill, vol. III, p. 359. Note: Gilbert states that Fisher, having at first instructed Hall to stop all negotiations then relented and authorized the payment of £2 million for Goeben and £1 million for Breslau, but nothing else. According to the account of Hall’s biographer [James] the figures were, as already mentioned, £200,000 and £100,000 — much more believable figures, especially if Fisher was convinced he was going to get through anyway.

[9]     Captain G. R. G. Allen [Eady’s son-in-law], A Ghost from Gallipoli, (RUSI Journal, vol. CVIII, no. 630) pp. 137-8; James, Eyes of the Navy, pp. 60-4 [Note: these two sources complement each other. James, the earlier version, mentions Fitzmaurice in addition to Eady, but omits Whittall. Allen, conversely, has Whittall but does not mention Fitzmaurice]; Gilbert, Winston S Churchill, vol. III, pp. 357-60. See also, R R James, Gallipoli, pp. 48-9; French, British Strategy and War Aims, pp. 79, 84; Halpern, The Naval War in the Medt., p. 68 and Beesley, Room 40, pp. 80-2.

[10]    Heller, British Policy, p. 150 and note 81.

[11]    Minutes of the War Council, 3 March 1915, PRO Cab 42/2/3.

[12]    Churchill to Peirse, 6 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 647.

[13]    Corbett, Naval Operations, II, pp. 195-200, 209-10; Weber, Eagles on the Crescent, pp. 134-5.

[14]    Quoted in, French, British Strategy and War Aims, p. 79.

[15]    Quoted in, Ekstein, “Russia and the Straits”, in Hinsley (ed.), op. cit., p. 431.

[16]    Grey to Bax-Ironside, 21 February 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/43.

[17]    Memorandum by Hankey, 1 March 1915, para. 30, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 593-602. [Note: the index entry wrongly attributes this as referring to Captain Maurice Fitzmaurice.] Gerald Fitzmaurice was still busy in the summer when visited by Mark Sykes who found him living in Sofia between two German spies convinced that they listened at the doors on either side! See, Adelson, Mark Sykes, p. 186.

[18]    Churchill to Grey, 16 January 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/88. See above, chapter 26.

[19]    Elliot to Grey, 28 February 1915, ibid., p. 590.

[20]    Phillipson and Buxton, The Question of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, (London, 1917), p. 204.

[21]    Quoted in, Renzi, Great Britain, Russia and the Straits, 1914-15, (JMH, 1970), p. 10.

[22]    Phillipson and Buxton, The Question of the Bosphorus and Dardanelles, pp. 206-7.

[23]    Grey to Benckendorff, 2 March 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/75.

[24]    Bertie, Diary entry for 2 March, vol. I, p. 125.

[25]    Churchill to Grey, 2 March 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/88.

[26]    Minutes of the War Council, 3 March 1915, PRO Cab 42/2/3.

[27]    Grey to Buchanan, 4 March 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/57.

[28]    Elliot to Grey, 1 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 603.

[29]    Notes on Proposed Greek Participation in the War, Rendel mss., St Antony’s College.

[30]    C. P. Scott, diary entry for 15 March 1915, in Wilson (ed.), The Political Diaries of C. P. Scott, p. 120.

[31]    Asquith to the King, 2 March 1915, PRO Cab 37/125/5.

[32]    Elliot to Grey, 3 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 623.

[33]    Notes on Greek Participation, Rendel mss., St Antony’s College; Cuninghame to Grey, 3 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, p. 624.

[34]    Notes on Greek Participation, p. 13, Rendel mss; Elliot to Grey, 5 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol III, pt. i, pp. 638-9; Howard, The Partition of Turkey, p. 123.

[35]    Bertie to Grey, 4 March 1915, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 631-2.

[36]    Stavridi to Venizelos, 5 March 1915, in, Howard, The Partition of Turkey, pp. 124-5.

[37]    Nicolson to Grey, 5 March 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/95.

[38]    Churchill, The World Crisis, p. 379.

[39]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 6 March 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 334, p. 460.

[40]    Buchanan to Grey, 3 March 1915, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/75.

[41]    Buchanan to Grey, no. 249, 4 March 1915, Lowe & Dockrill, Mirage of Power, vol. III, pp. 510-1; WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 630-1.

[42]    Renzi, Great Britain, Russia and the Straits, 1914-15, pp. 11-12.

[43]    Buchanan to Grey, no. 257, 5 March 1915, PRO Cab 37/125/19.

[44]    Asquith to Stanley, 6 March 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 335, pp. 462-3.

[45]    Asquith to the King, 9 March 1915, PRO Cab 37/125/28.

[46]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 10 March 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 341, pp. 468-70. Note: Five days later Bonar Law decided he could no longer attend such meetings without losing the support of his own party. ibid., footnote 2, p. 469.

[47]    Minutes of the War Council, 10 March 1915, PRO Cab 42/2/5.

[48]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 10 March 1915, Asquith Letters, no. 341, pp. 468-70.

[49]    Nicolson to Hardinge, private, 11 March 1915, Nicolson mss., PRO FO 800/377.

[50]    British aide-mémoire, 12 March 1915, Lowe & Dockrill, Mirage of Power, vol. III, pp. 512-4.

[51]    Buchanan to Grey, no. 54, Private and Secret, 13 March 1915, PRO Cab 37/126/5.

[52]    The Committee comprised, in addition to de Bunsen, George Clerk from the Foreign Office, Sir T. Holderness of the India Office, Admiral Sir Henry Jackson and Major-General C. Callwell representing the Admiralty and War Office, Sir H. Llewellyn Smith from the Board of Trade, and Sir Mark Sykes. The Secretary was the ubiquitous Hankey, assisted by Lieutenant-Colonel Dally Jones.

[53]    British Desiderata in Turkey, Minutes of the 2nd meeting, 13 April 1915, and 3rd meeting, 15 April 1915, PRO Cab 27/1. Slade had introduced Greenway to the Director of Naval Intelligence, Hall, with whom he soon struck up a friendship; Greenway had little trouble in putting his point across — when Gertrude Bell, the renowned Arabist, saw Hall in London in 1915 he pointed to Baghdad on the map of the world and remarked, ‘that the ultimate success of the war depended on what we did there.’ See, Jones, Admirals and Oilmen, p. 119; Rothwell, Mesopotamia in British War Aims, p. 287.

[54]    Minutes of the War Council, 19 March 1915, PRO Cab 42/2/14.

[55]    British Desiderata in Turkey, Report of the Committee on Asiatic Turkey, 30 June 1915, Course A (Partition), para. 46, PRO Cab 27/1. Compare with Lewis Harcourt’s Cabinet Memorandum of 25 March 1915 entitled The Spoils: ‘I assume that we shall retain some part of Mesopotamia possibly as far as from the Persian Gulf to Bagdad mainly on the ground stated by Lord Crewe that this fertile land would give an outlet for Indian emigration…’ PRO Cab 63/3.

[56]    Report of the Committee on Asiatic Turkey, 30 June 1915, paras. 10-11, PRO Cab 27/1 [my emphasis].

[57]    Ibid., para. 12.

[58]    Grey to Bertie, no. 533, 15 August 1914, PRO FO 371/2138.

[59]    Robert Kerner, Russia, the Straits and Constantinople, p. 406.

[60]    Quoted in, William Renzi, Great Britain, Russia and the Straits, 1914-1915, (JMH, vol. 42, 1970), p. 4.

[61]    C. Jay Smith, 1914-1915 Straits Agreement, pp. 1021-5.

[62]    Asquith to Venetia Stanley, 31 October 1914, Asquith Letters, no. 196, pp. 299-300.

[63]    Howard, The Partition of Turkey, p. 120; Renzi, Great Britain, Russia and the Straits, 1914-1915, p. 6; Kerner, Russia, Straits & Constantinople, p. 407; Michael Ekstein, “Russia and the Straits, 1914-1915”, in Hinsley (ed.), op. cit., chapter 25 passim.

[64]    C. Jay Smith, The 1914-1915 Straits Agreement, pp. 1031-2; Grey expressed himself somewhat differently to Buchanan who was informed that the inevitable settlement in agreement with Russia would ‘of course be effected after Germany is defeated and whether or not Turkish rule is overthrown in the course of present hostilities.’ Quoted by Ekstein, “Russia and the Straits, 1914-1915”, in Hinsley (ed.), op. cit., p. 429.

[65]    Quoted in, C. Jay Smith, The 1914-1915 Straits Agreement, p. 1024.

[66]    David French, British Strategy and War Aims, 1914-1916, pp. 44-5.

[67]    See, Bertie to Grey, 22 November 1914, Grey mss., PRO FO 800/56A.

[68]    Present at the meeting were: Asquith, Lloyd George, Churchill, Fisher, Grey, Balfour, Kitchener, Wolfe Murray and Hankey in his capacity as secretary. See also, above, chapter 22, note 9.

[69]    Meeting of War Council held 25 November 1914, minutes, PRO Cab 42 1/4; see also, WSC Comp. vol. III, pt. i, pp. 276-80.

[70]    Quoted in, Ekstein, “Russia and the Straits, 1914-1915,” in Hinsley (ed), op. cit., p. 431.

[71]    Erich von Falkenhayn, General Headquarters 1914-16 and its Critical Decisions, (London, 1919), pp. 49-51.

[72]    Marshal von Hindenburg, Out of My Life, (London, 1920), p. 176.

[73]    General Ludendorff, My War Memories, 1914-1918, (London, 1919), p. 117.



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As the range of our activities is so diverse, we have a number of different websites. The site you are currently viewing is wholly devoted to the second of the three non-fiction books written by Geoffrey Miller, and deals specifically with British policy towards the Ottoman Empire and the origins of the Dardanelles Campaign. The main Flamborough Manor site focuses primarily on accommodation but has brief details of all our other activities. To allow for more information to be presented on these other activities, there are other self-contained web-sites. All our web-sites have a LINKS page in common, which allows for easy navigation between the various sites. To find out where you are, or to return to the main site, simply go to the LINKS page.

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HMS Berwick : Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller
HMS Berwick
[Original artwork © 2004 Geoffrey Miller]

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Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9
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