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 31











The military situation in the Ottoman Empire, which had deteriorated throughout 1918, received a severe setback when Turkish forces in Palestine were routed by General Allenby in the Battle of Megiddo commencing on 19 September. The situation on all fronts, which was dire enough anyway, was grievously exacerbated when the Bulgarians, clearly seeing the way events were proceeding, raised a flag of truce on 27 September and concluded an armistice three days later thus exposing the Turks’ northern flank to the victorious Allied forces in the Balkans. It therefore seemed evident that Turkey’s days as an active combatant were numbered yet when the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson, sensibly asked the Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour, what the Foreign Office would do if Turkey also sued for peace, Balfour did not know. Wilson took the opportunity so provided by Balfour’s hesitancy to ‘put in a strong plea for making love to Turkey, not to Bulgaria.’[1] The Bulgarian cease-fire took effect from noon on 30 September; at the following day’s Cabinet in London Wilson explained the military situation in Bulgaria, making particular reference to the fact that, if the Bulgarian army were disarmed and demobilized the country ‘would be at the mercy of the Austrians’ and this would prevent an Allied march on Constantinople (‘as Prime Minister wants’) for some time. That afternoon, Wilson motored down to Hassocks to see Lloyd George, who was recuperating from an illness; also there was the First Sea Lord, Admiral Wemyss, and, amongst others, the ubiquitous Hankey. ‘The whole talk’, Wemyss subsequently informed the First Lord, ‘was of course, on the Bulgarian situation…The problem which is now facing us is — will Turkey follow in the footsteps of Bulgaria, and if so, what will be the Naval situation.’

                Wemyss concluded that, in such circumstances, there would be nothing to stop the Allied squadrons parading up the Dardanelles, although he had cause to wonder what they would encounter in the Sea of Marmora — which depended very much on the state of the Turkish fleet. The more immediate problem however was the galling prospect of this grand parade of allied ships being led by a French admiral! This so concerned Wemyss that he telegraphed Admiral Gough-Calthorpe, the Mediterranean C-in-C, with orders ‘to be ready to leave Malta at the very shortest notice to proceed and hoist his flag in a battleship in the Aegean if it is thought necessary to do so.’ Ironically, the old dreadnought Superb – precisely the type of ship Gough-Calthorpe had been requesting in February after Goeben made her forlorn sortie into the Aegean[2] – was sent out to reinforce Lord Nelson and Agamemnon, not against the threat from the Turks but from the French. ‘We shall then have three English battleships out there’, Wemyss confidently declared, ‘which will alter the balance somewhat considerably, especially since I hear…that the state of the French ships at Mudros is anything but satisfactory, and that the French Admiral knows it.’[3]

                Following the Bulgarian capitulation, the position of Enver and Talaat was made untenable and the Turkish Cabinet resigned on 8 October. By this time indications had already reached the Foreign Office from Berne of a desire by the Turks to engage in peace negotiations; however, Lord Robert Cecil (temporarily standing in for Balfour, who was ill) concurred with the appraisal from Switzerland which doubted the sincerity of the latest peace feelers. These, Cecil informed Lloyd George, were designed

with the object of playing the game [the Turks] have played so successfully for the last 50 years of procrastination trusting that they will be saved by Western powers ultimately quarrelling among themselves as has always been the case in the past. We are not in a position militarily to destroy rapidly Turkish armed forces and the only way therefore to disarm Turkey quickly is by an armistice. Delays will enable the Germanophil Turks to improve the Defences of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus and perhaps get German troops to take them over…[4]

Although Cecil’s prescience would shortly be confirmed when the anticipated quarrels amongst the victors did eventuate, his proselytizing activities were somewhat wasted on Lloyd George as the Prime Minister was determined upon a swift Allied advance against Constantinople. In this desire he was joined by the French Premier, Clemenceau, (‘He wants to hit Turkey as soon as possible’) whereas the respective military advisers either advocated caution (Wilson) or were entirely opposed to the idea (Foch).[5]

                Lloyd George, now recovered, travelled to Versailles on 4 October to discuss the general situation with Clemenceau and the Italian Prime Minister, Vittorio Orlando. The French put forward the ‘most fantastic proposals’, promising to isolate Turkey by occupying Bulgaria and using submarines to gain control of the Black Sea. In contrast, Wilson’s advice to Lloyd George was straightforward: ‘Occupation of as much of Serbia as we could; occupation of the least of Bulgaria we could; occupation of Maritza line…and then an attack on Constantinople and Gallipoli with Greek and British troops.’ The British delegation – Lloyd George, Hankey, Wilson and Admiral Hope – put forward a united front, at which Clemenceau, applying the old adage of divide and conquer, suggested a private meeting between the three Premiers. After half an hour of this, Wilson was summoned into the secret conclave only to find, to his horror, that the three statesmen were ‘discussing Balkan strategy on a small hand-atlas map of Europe, the whole page of Europe being about 8 inches by 6 inches! And this after four years of war.’ Wilson sensibly suggested that the meeting be opened up to include the military advisers; later that afternoon the three Premiers were joined by Wilson, Foch and Admirals Hope and Le Bon to argue over Lloyd George’s proposal to transfer troops (with Allenby at their head) from Palestine to European Turkey with a view to knocking the Turks out as soon as possible. Although nothing was settled at this meeting, Lloyd George believed that he had made his point so strongly that he authorized Wilson to wire Allenby regarding the transfer of troops. Then, the following day, news was received by telephone from the Admiralty that a Turkish envoy was on his way to Athens to discuss peace terms.

                At the subsequent meeting on 7 October the French plan to employ a French general for the attack on Turkey came to light and promptly ran into a solid wall of opposition from Lloyd George. In a hasty alteration, and only ‘after much wrangling’, it was agreed that the British General, Sir George Milne, should command operations against Turkey; the order to Allenby was cancelled .[6] The question of the naval command, which had so exercised the First Sea Lord’s mind, now assumed vital importance as the last flames of Turkish resistance flickered. Wemyss continued his campaign for a British admiral to assume control: in a closely argued memorandum of 12 October the First Sea Lord asserted that the forces at the disposal of the Allies in the Mediterranean were sufficient to cope with the situation but that political considerations had made it ‘impossible to come to a satisfactory understanding with our allies.’ Although forced to admit that the French Admiral, Gauchet, was Commander-in-Chief of the Mediterranean forces (excluding the Adriatic) Wemyss nevertheless contended that the Aegean was, and always had been, a British zone. This situation had been altered temporarily when, earlier in 1918, the French had dispatched six pre-dreadnoughts to reinforce Lemnos, under the command of a Vice-Admiral; now, the situation had changed again. ‘The operations which are about to be put into force against the Turks’, Wemyss argued, ‘require close Naval co-operation, and this co-operation may be divided into two parts…

(1) The landing of troops and stores, etc., at subsidiary bases between Salonika and Gallipoli, and the protection thereof. (2) The eventual passage of the Fleet through the Dardanelles into the Marmora, the occupation of Constantinople, and eventually defeating the Black Sea Fleet. As regards (1) there is no question but that it will be in British hands. Not only are our Allies pleased that all the spade work should be done by us, but the only forces there capable of doing the work are British.

Despite this special pleading, the first attempt by the Allies to resolve the question ended in failure; indeed the problem was exacerbated following a conference of naval representatives which had been held at Versailles on 10 October specifically to settle the issue of liaison between the land and naval forces which were set to advance on Constantinople. Admiral Hope, the British representative (acting on instructions from Wemyss) proposed that the direction of all operations should be under a British Admiral who would act generally under the command of the French C-in-C. Although supported by the Italian representative, the suggestion was firmly quashed by the French.

                Wemyss thereupon set out the ‘several reasons both practical and sentimental why the command of these Allied forces should be in British hands.’ These included the emotive appeal that it had been Great Britain which had made the ‘greatest sacrifices and undertook the greatest responsibility’ of the 1915 Gallipoli operations, and that command for these bungled operations (not, of course, that Wemyss expressed himself so) had rested with a British Admiral. Also, as the Allied land forces advancing on Turkey were commanded by a British General, Wemyss argued that ‘To ensure the closest co-operation it is essential that the General and Admiral in command should be of the same nationality. To entrust the control ashore and afloat to Officers of different nations is to place an obstacle in the way of success.’ The First Sea Lord then resorted to the first refuge of the scoundrel — statistics! — by showing that the majority of the vessels in the Aegean, including all the dreadnoughts, were British. As the Aegean had always been a British zone throughout the war Wemyss could not see what arguments could possibly be brought forward ‘in support of a change in this system which has worked well in the past.’

                All this was very reasonable in its way; then, however, Wemyss got to the crux of the matter: ‘If the command at sea in these waters were put into the hands of an Admiral of any nationality other than British, it would be possible for an uninstructed public to say that the Gallipoli operations of 1915 having failed under British command, it had been found necessary to entrust the duty to another nation.’[7] The Chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir Henry Wilson, agreed fully with Wemyss and added the further point that, after Britain had gained command of the Black Sea, it was exceedingly likely ‘that we may wish to pass troops through and send one or more Expeditionary Forces to Constanza or Odessa or Sebastopol to gain touch with the Roumanians and the friendly South Russians, or to Poti or Batoum or Trebizond to move into the Caucasus or on to the Caspian and to hold out a hand to the Czechs.’[8]

                Lloyd George used the memorandum by Wemyss as the basis for an appeal directed to Clemenceau. While accepting the First Sea Lord’s arguments, the Prime Minister could not put them to the French in the strident tones used by Wemyss; nevertheless, although watered down, the cumulative effect of the arguments employed was still, as far as the British were concerned, compelling.

We have taken [Lloyd George reminded Clemenceau] by far the larger part of the burden of the war against Turkey in the Dardanelles and Gallipoli, in Egypt, in Mesopotamia and in Palestine. The British Government has agreed that the C-in-C of the Allied Armies in France should be a French General; it has been agreed that the C-in-C of the Allied Armies in the Balkans should be a French General. I do not see how I could possibly justify to the people of the British Empire that at the moment when the final attack upon Turkey was to be delivered, the command of the Naval Forces which are overwhelmingly British, in a theatre of war associated with some of the most desperate and heroic fighting by troops from nearly every part of the British Empire, should be handed over to a French Admiral as well. I feel sure that you will agree with me in thinking that no French Government could consent to entrust the command of their forces in similar circumstances to a non-French Admiral and I am confident that you will agree that the command…should be entrusted to a British Admiral acting under the general command of the French C-in-C in the Mediterranean.[9]

The Prime Minister’s secretary, Philip Kerr, sent the appeal to the British Ambassador in Paris, Lord Derby, where it was received on the morning of 18 October. Derby immediately went to see Clemenceau who was just about to leave for the Front[10] and had, therefore, time only for a cursory look at the letter; even so, Derby reported later that day that he ‘did not take it very well.’ Clemenceau fell back on the same line of argument employed by Lloyd George — that it would be difficult to explain to the French public, and, in any event, could not commit himself until his Cabinet had met to consider the issue, which would not be until 22 October. It was Derby’s personal opinion that the initial response would be unfavourable, due to violent opposition from the Ministry of Marine and other factions within the Government, but that Clemenceau, who was personally in favour, would be able to swing the argument around, especially if it meant that the Italians could be forced into line and made to put their fleet under the control of the French Admiralissimo.[11]

                Before the French Cabinet could meet, a new Turkish Ministry was formed with the specific intention of suing for peace. Following Talaat’s hasty departure[12] General Izzet Pasha assumed the onerous mantle of Grand Vizier after no other candidate was found willing to accept the burdensome task. As an immediate indication of their good intentions (but, it should be added, at the British General’s own urging) the Turks gave General Townshend, who had been captured in 1916 after botching the Mesopotamian campaign, his liberty. Townshend had himself approached Izzet on 17 October with a request that he should be allowed to act as a go-between. ‘I flattered myself’, Townshend recorded in his apologia, ‘that they would have confidence in my ability to conduct such a mission and would have equal confidence in the genuineness of my endeavour to obtain honourable terms for their country.’[13]

                Townshend arrived at Mudros at three o’clock on the morning of 20 October with a Turkish plenipotentiary; after some initial difficulty in attracting attention, news of the General’s arrival promptly became common knowledge and word soon spread that the Turks would ‘take any terms short of absolute surrender.’ To guarantee this, according to the rumour, they were prepared to ‘massacre all the Germans and open the Dardanelles…’[14] Townshend soon briefed Gough-Calthorpe on the situation, making particular mention of his belief that the Turks were anxious to commence peace negotiations, so long as they dealt only with the British. Evidently the new Government at the Porte believed it could extract more favourable terms from the British than would be forthcoming from the French. Townshend’s message was quickly considered in London, and just as quickly dismissed: Gough-Calthorpe was informed by Wemyss on 21 October that the British Government would be prepared to consider terms of peace in due course but that nothing could be arranged without consultation with the Allies which would, clearly, take time. In the interim however, negotiations for an armistice could be discussed without delay; but these discussions, Wemyss declared, would have to be concluded promptly ‘if Turkey is to escape further military disasters and to have the benefit of British assistance in throwing off the German yoke.’[15]


Meanwhile, Clemenceau had been busy. Despite his assurance to Derby that no answer would be forth-coming before the 22nd, Clemenceau had in fact spent part of his time away from Paris in concocting a complete rebuttal of Lloyd George’s arguments. This was handed to Derby at 7.40 on the evening of the 21st; the Ambassador was so thoroughly taken aback by the French response that he sent the rebuttal immediately to Lloyd George en clair, with a covering note that it was, in Derby’s opinion, ‘a disagreeably worded document’ which ended in a blank refusal.[16] Clemenceau had attempted to answer Lloyd George point for point: thus, with regard to the preponderance of British warships in the Aegean, Clemenceau contended that ‘superiority of numbers has never been the determining factor of selection to command between the Allied Powers.’ And, although it was true that Mudros, from where command had been exercised in the Aegean throughout the war, was a British base it was still understood (by the French at least) that the general direction of operations in the Mediterranean had been under French supervision since the signing of the Anglo-French Naval Convention in London in August 1914. Clemenceau even saw fit to snub ‘the greater part of the burden of the war’ borne by the British in Gallipoli, Egypt, Mesopotamia and Palestine whose effect, he asserted undiplomatically, was first ‘to weaken your admirable effort on the Western front, and secondly, to leave us the major part of the campaign in Macedonia to carry on.’ Finally, Clemenceau declared, arguing from baser motives, France was Turkey’s principal creditor.[17] Although Derby cautioned Lloyd George against taking immediate action – as he had just heard a rumour that the Germans were on the point of accepting the Armistice terms laid down by President Wilson – he suspected that the letter was evidence of the French assuming ‘a very disagreeable attitude’ with regard to the British position in the East.[18]

                On the day following this unseemly altercation (22 October) Gough-Calthorpe was informed by the Admiralty that, ever since the initial Turkish approach earlier that month, it had been agreed by Britain, France and Italy that ‘while terms of peace would need long consideration an armistice might be concluded by any of the 3 Powers to which the Turkish Government might make advances on the following conditions.’ The C-in-C was sent a list of the conditions, arranged in order of importance; however the first four were deemed ‘of such paramount importance and if completely carried out will so inevitably make us master of the situation, that we do not wish you to jeopardize obtaining them, and obtaining them quickly by insisting unduly on all or any of the rest, or indeed by raising any particular one of the remaining 20 if you think it might endanger your success in getting the vital 4 at once.’[19] The “vital 4” conditions were held to be the following:

1.        Opening of Dardanelles and Bosphorus, and secure access to the Black Sea. Allied occupation of the Dardanelles forts and Bosphorus forts.

2.        Position of all minefields, torpedo tubes and other obstructions in Turkish waters, to be indicated, and assistance given to sweep or remove them as may be required.

3.     All available information as to mines in the Black Sea to be communicated.

4.     All Allied prisoners-of-war and Armenian interned persons and prisoners to be collected in Constantinople and handed over unconditionally to the Allies.

On the evening of the 22nd Clemenceau protested ‘against our making an armistice with the Turks simply on the basis of their handing over the Bosporus and giving us direct access to the Black Sea’. As a result Lloyd George planned to send Lord Milner, the Secretary of State for War, to Paris the following day to soothe ‘the old Tiger’ and also to try to persuade him that a British Admiral should assume command.[20]

                As it was becoming clear that the Turks would only deal with the British, Lloyd George subjected Clemenceau to one final blast on the 25th in a concerted onslaught with Milner who had arrived in the French capital the previous day. The delicate, if essential, wartime alliance was in danger of falling apart just as peace seemed in the offing: ‘I must insist’, the British Prime Minister unequivocally declared to his French colleague, ‘that the proposal we are now making is not to transfer to a British naval commander a command which has hitherto been in the hands of a French Admiral, but that the arrangement whereby a British Admiral is in command of all operations in the Aegean, subject to the control of the Allied Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, should continue in force for the forthcoming Allied attack on Constantinople.’ Clemenceau’s swipe at the British effort against Turkey, which he blamed for France having to carry the lion’s share of the Macedonian campaign, also clearly struck a responsive chord with the Prime Minister who felt ‘entitled to point out’ that the successes in the Balkans ‘have been due to British, to Italian, to Serbian and to Greek efforts in quite as great a degree as to the efforts of the gallant French troops on that front.’ Lloyd George categorically denied any British intention ‘to exercise a preponderant or dominating influence at Constantinople’ and implicitly recognized ‘to the full the special interests which France possesses in Turkey…’; indeed he went so far as to guarantee to Clemenceau that, ‘If it becomes necessary to occupy or overawe Constantinople, the forces which will accomplish this will fly the flag of France both on land and by sea.’[21] That Lloyd George could make such a sweeping pledge probably owed more to the fact that he was aware that there would be no need to ‘overawe’ Constantinople, and that the Anglo-Turkish armistice talks would shortly commence. Clemenceau’s carefully prepared position was promptly undermined by his own naval representative, Admiral de Bon, who confessed to the Deputy First Sea Lord that he had ‘not the smallest desire that Admiral Gauchet should take over S[enior] N[aval] O[fficer] Aegean from Admiral Calthorpe.’ De Bon suggested a sensible compromise to overcome the question of protocol at the Dardanelles: allow Calthorpe, with his squadron of four ships, to lead the procession through the Straits, while Admiral Amet, the French Admiral in the Aegean, would follow with his four ships.[22]

                Both this arrangement and the Lloyd George-Clemenceau tiff were rapidly in danger of being overcome by events. Precisely 24 hours after de Bon’s suggestion was made, the Turkish delegates arrived in Mudros aboard the British cruiser Liverpool. The Turkish party consisted of Raouf Bey, the Minister of Marine,[23] Reshad Hikmet Bey, a Foreign Office official, and Lieutenant-Colonel Saadullah Bey, the Military Member, accompanied by three Staff officers and two orderlies. Gough-Calthorpe received the delegation aboard Agamemnon, whence he had transferred his flag as that particular ship offered the best facilities for the purposes of a conference; the Turks were also accommodated aboard the ship. However, the desire of all to proceed with dispatch was forestalled for the simplest of reasons — some of the Turks had been seasick on the journey. It was bad enough to commit one’s country to the unknown; that punishment would have been severe enough without having had to negotiate their unhappy fate while also suffering from mal de mer.[24] Negotiations thereupon commenced with the British at 9 o’clock the following morning, Sunday 27 October, allowing the Turks one night’s sleep, which may, or may not have been, restful. It was by no means plain sailing though, as it soon became obvious that the Turks entertained the gravest reservations over clause one of the British conditions. If this were not bad enough, some five hours after the talks had commenced the French representative at Mudros, Admiral Amet, informed Gough-Calthorpe that he (Amet) had just received a wireless message from Gauchet, the French C-in-C, instructing him to act as a negotiator in conjunction with Gough-Calthorpe and to accept no conditions without first referring to the French Admiralty. Gough-Calthorpe replied that he personally had been authorized by his Government to arrange the terms of an Armistice and, more importantly, the Turkish delegates were accredited to deal solely with the British; to prove this Gough-Calthorpe helpfully showed Amet the Turks’ credentials, which had been signed by the Grand Vizier, and which clearly indicated that the talks were to be confined to the British.[25]

                Gough-Calthorpe made clear his own opinion to the Admiralty late the following night when he suggested that if Amet were permitted to join in the negotiations ‘it would create difficulty and set back the prospect of armistice.’ That prospect however was in danger of receding in any event, due to continued Turkish intransigence over clause one — the opening of the Straits and the Allied occupation of the forts. In particular, it was the prospect of the forts being occupied by Greeks or Italians which so upset the Turkish negotiators who then attempted to call Gough-Calthorpe’s bluff by maintaining that they could not agree to an occupation of the forts without reference to their own Government. The Admiral responded by threatening to break off the negotiations while at the same time secretly urging London ‘to allow me to modify first clause so that occupation of forts will be carried out by British and French troops only.’[26] The talks continued until 7 o’clock that evening, though there was little Gough-Calthorpe could do as he waited for an answer from London. When this arrived on the 28th, he was authorized to give an assurance that only British and French troops would be used but that, nevertheless, the actual form of clause one should remain unaltered unless this should lead to the talks breaking up.[27]

                Following the receipt of this message, which was ‘welcome’ to Gough-Calthorpe and ‘appreciated’ by the Turks, the talks continued on the 28th from 3 p.m. till 8 p.m., to allow time for a reply to arrive from Constantinople regarding the first clause. Although this was not received that day, the majority of the clauses had already been accepted, with the Turks requiring certain concessions only on those points which they ‘regarded as oppressive or indicative of something more than a desire for strategic security.’[28] This still left clause one however — the main point of contention between the negotiators and the last hurdle before an armistice could be agreed. The Turkish delegates earnestly requested that ‘a very small number of Turkish soldiers may remain when forts are occupied as concession to honour of Turkey and as indication of goodwill of Allies.’ This, it was claimed, would go far to remove the humiliation that was bound to follow the occupation. And second, if it could be avoided, no Greek warship should proceed to Constantinople or Smyrna — ‘This for sake of peace of country and to avoid possible bloodshed.’ If considered necessary that a Greek destroyer should participate in the planned Black Sea operations the Turks could arrange for the vessel to pass through the Bosphorus at night.[29] Despite this willingness to allow reasonable concessions, the Chief of the Naval Staff unhelpfully telegraphed Gough-Calthorpe on the 30th, ‘I hope you will be able to arrange for a Greek ship or ships to go up to Constantinople with you. Such arrangements should be made on the spot without referring to Admiralty.’[30]

                If this did not give Gough-Calthorpe enough to worry about, there was still the delicate problem with the French. However, by 30 October, Gough-Calthorpe believed he had found a way round the dilemma, and one over which the French could not argue: ‘With regard to question of Allied command in the Sea of Marmora and the entrance,’ the C-in-C assuredly declared, ‘it is observed that these are not geographically part of Mediterranean and that this arrangement might be of use to Admiralty should any difficulty arise as to the Allied command in this zone for the fact that Admiral Gauchet is Allied C-in-C Medt in no way gives him authority as Allied C-in-C in entrance to or sea of Marmora any more than it does in the Red Sea.’[31] As the French were showing signs of giving way on the question of command, the Admiralty had no desire to become embroiled in a battle over disputed zones: ‘It appears to me’, the Chief of the Naval Staff wired Gough-Calthorpe, ‘so long as Admiral Gauchet is not on the spot you have everything that we can desire.’ Furthermore, while he continued to be Senior Naval Officer in the Aegean (as he outranked Admiral Amet), Gough-Calthorpe was politely requested to refrain from referring to the Admiralty on the question of zones as the subject was a ‘ticklish’ one and, with the French about to concede, ‘it would be unwise to press the subject so long as the actual command is in your hands which it is now and apparently must remain so as long as Admiral Gauchet is not in company with you.’[32]

                It was essential therefore for Gough-Calthorpe to conclude the armistice negotiations before the French Admiralissimo could arrive on the scene. But the plans of mere mortal men were immediately upset as a natural phenomenon – in the form of a violent gale which interrupted telegraphic communications between Agamemnon and Constantinople – intervened to delay the proceedings. ‘Turkish wireless’, Gough-Calthorpe fumed, ‘has proved wholly ineffective.’[33] Finally, the necessary reply was received from the Grand Vizier and Gough-Calthorpe confidently expected to sign an agreement on the evening of 30 October. At dinner that night, when it was realized that, following the respective authorizations from London and Constantinople, the Armistice could at last be signed the British and Turkish negotiators rose from the table, shaking hands, after which drinks were served while the Captain’s coxswain of Agamemnon ‘cleared the small round table in the after cabin as they wanted to sign on that.’ Understandably, the Turks were highly emotional and Raouf in particular made a point of declaring that Turkey should never have gone to war with Britain as ‘we had always been great allies.’[34] After midnight, Gough-Calthorpe was able to wire London that the terms had been agreed, and the armistice would take effect from noon, local time, on Thursday 31 October 1918.[35]

                No sooner had the deed been done then Gough-Calthorpe received ‘a somewhat intemperate telegram’ from Gauchet complaining that Admiral Amet had been excluded from the Armistice negotiations in spite of a request that he should be present. Gough-Calthorpe replied officially to Gauchet that he had taken the course indicated by his perception of his duty and that it was a matter of the deepest regret to him that Gauchet should have considered it to be incorrect. Privately though, Gough-Calthorpe informed the Admiralty that, had Amet been admitted as a party to the negotiations, ‘he himself told me that decisions on every point would have to be transmitted to Paris for approval.’ Unsurprisingly, the Admiralty backed Calthorpe to the hilt.[36] But events rarely seemed to run to a predetermined course where the Ottoman Empire was concerned for, although the man on the spot appeared to have achieved his task simply and efficiently, the issue was not yet cut and dried. A sub-committee of the War Cabinet met in London on the evening of 31 October, some hours after the armistice had come into force, to consider the events of the previous days. The committee’s somewhat perverse conclusion was promptly delivered to Lloyd George and Balfour: the members were ‘very much averse to permitting any Turkish soldiers to remain in the Bosphorus and Dardanelles forts. Such a concession is no doubt asked for to enable Turkish Government to conceal from Eastern world in general and its own population in particular fact of Turkish defeat and to maintain to some extent Turkish prestige and power for evil.’ The sub-committee did at least conclude that, ‘in view of the bitter national animosity between Turks and Greeks’, it would be preferable to avoid any Greek participation in the proposed military action against Constantinople but this did not imply that the Ottoman capital should not be occupied at all; indeed the committee members strongly deprecated any assurance being given to the Turks which might hint that occupation would not become necessary as it was ‘only by such occupation that facts of situation can be effectively brought home to Turkish mentality.’[37]

                Nevertheless, when the French made a move early in November to occupy Constantinople with their 122nd division, Gough-Calthorpe protested vehemently to London, recommending that ‘a generous spirit’ should be applied in interpreting the terms of the armistice.[38] When the Admiral followed this with another plea, three days later, the Foreign Office was forced to act.[39] Gough-Calthorpe was put in possession of the Foreign Office position in no uncertain terms in a curt dispatch sent twelve hours after fighting had ceased on the Western front:

…we have no wish whatever to minimise the defeat and capitulation of the Turks. On the contrary in the interests of the future peace of the Near East we are determined that the Turkish domination over subject races shall irrevocably be ended. It is best that Turks realise from outset that these are the terms which we intend to impose. There is the additional consideration that the Moslems of Egypt and India should realise that Turkey has been completely defeated and we wish to give the Turkish Government no opportunity of implying that the Armistice was a mere suspension of hostilities pending amicable negotiations. You will see from the above that we wish you to observe the strictest reserve in your relations with the Turkish Government and refuse to be drawn into any discussions as to the eventual peace settlement.[40]

This warning from London coincided with the fall of the short-lived Government of Izzet Pasha which had been hastily formed solely for the purposes of obtaining the armistice; once this had been accomplished, and the opprobrium thus nobly borne by Izzet, the way was open for a new ministry to be formed with the liberal Tewfik Pasha (who had been Ambassador in London at the outbreak of war) at its head.[41] Before long, the streets of Pera once more echoed to the sounds of English and French as the Allied troops moved in to maintain order while the politicians rancorously set to work to devise a peace treaty formally to end the War to end all Wars.[42]


The heart of the Committee of Union and Progress, which had directed the affairs of the Ottoman Empire since the Young Turk revolution of 1908 – the triumvirate of Enver, Djemal and Talaat – slipped out of Constantinople on a German freighter bound for Odessa on the night of 2 November 1918. Deeply implicated in the wartime Armenian outrages, they were on the run not only from the victorious allies who sought them to stand trial for their crimes but also from Armenians out for revenge. Making their way to Berlin they remained in hiding till approached by the Bolshevik Government with an offer to go to Moscow to continue the ‘Turkish national struggle’; Enver and Djemal accepted the invitation, Talaat preferred to remain in Berlin. There, in February 1921, he was visited by Aubrey Herbert at the behest of Sir Basil Thompson of the Special Branch. Herbert found that his robust, corpulent friend from pre-war days ‘had grown thinner, and his good looks were sinister; his black hair was turning grey; his eyes were very bright. The urbanity of his manners remained the same. He was neat and well dressed, but obviously poor.’ Despite the shadow of the Armenian atrocities the pair spent two amenable days together, Talaat fondly remembering old, and better, days. Three weeks later he was dead, assassinated by a Persian Armenian on 15 March 1921.

                The self-imposed Russian exile of Enver and Djemal afforded them protection of a sort, though at best it only guaranteed a stay of execution, not a remission. Djemal spent time training the Afghan army before, while returning to Moscow, he too fell at the hands of an Armenian near Tiflis on 21 July 1922. Enver outlived him by a matter of weeks. He had left Moscow in the summer of 1921 hoping to capitalize on a Greek victory over Mustafa Kemal in the Greco-Turkish War by taking Kemal’s place in Anatolia; instead it was Kemal who prevailed. Enver retreated to Central Asia, there to proclaim an Islamic Revolution. His enemies now included the Bolsheviks and, some time in early August 1922, a red brigade caught up with him in Bokhara. As in life, so in death, the truth about Enver is hard to ascertain: that he died heroically leading a charge against the reds; that he was shot through the heart simply and unglamorously; or, more gruesome, that his head was removed from his shoulders by one strike from a sword while he drank at a fountain. The Ottoman Empire had come to an end; the Turkish Republic was about to take its place.[43]

                Throughout the whole tangled and unhappy history of this period in Mediterranean and Near Eastern affairs petty pride and importance played a more substantial rôle than reasoned diplomacy or strategical insight, significant though these factors undoubtedly were. Enver, Talaat, Djemal, Venizelos, Constantine, Isvolsky, Sazonov, Milne, Troubridge, Lowther, Mallet and Churchill — all proud men and all of whose lives were affected to a greater or lesser degree by the struggle to control the narrow waterway separating Europe from Asia: the Straits.

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[1]    Quoted in, Callwell, Sir Henry Wilson, ii, p. 127.

[2]    Miller, Superior Force, chapter 19.

[3]    Wemyss to Geddes, 3 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean 1915-1918, document 255, pp. 555-7.

[4]    Lord Robert Cecil to Lloyd George, very urgent, no. 2089, Foreign Office, 5 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[5]    Callwell, Sir Henry Wilson, ii, p. 131. Foch talked of ‘joining up with Rumania’, though as Wilson commented, ‘How he is going to join Rumania without getting command of the Black Sea I don’t quite know.’ Clemenceau was also clearly under the impression that the Germans had no more help to send the Turks, which Wilson doubted.

[6]    Ibid, pp. 132-4.

[7]    Wemyss, Admiralty Memorandum, 12 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276; see also, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 260, pp.569-73. ‘Finally,’ Wemyss concluded, ‘it is in no boastful spirit that I can affirm that it may confidently be expected that such operations are far more likely to be brought to a successful issue under the command of a British, rather than of a French, Admiral.’

[8]    Minute by Henry Wilson, 14 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276. Wilson developed this line of reasoning on 21 October: ‘…if Turkey gave in, and we had free access to the Black Sea, we could presently develop an attack from the Danube and Rumania of 50-60 divisions…this would knock out Austria, and then we could move into Germany from south and west and defeat the Boche on Boche territory.’ Quoted in, Callwell, Sir Henry Wilson, ii, p. 140.

[9]    Lloyd George to Clemenceau,15 October 1918, ibid.

[10]  Clemenceau was scheduled to meet Foch and Pétain before going on a tour of the Front, causing Derby to complain that these ‘visits to the Front are doubtless of great value but at the same time they are at times somewhat inconvenient.’

[11]  Lord Derby to Lloyd George, 18 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 261, pp. 573-4.

[12]  Talaat had succeeded Said Halim as Grand Vizier in 1917.

[13]  Townshend, My Campaign in Mesopotamia, quoted in R Braddon, The Siege, (London, 1969), p. 325.

[14]  Captain Chetwode to Kelly, 20 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 262, pp. 575-7.

[15]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 537Z, Very urgent, Secret, 21 October 1918; Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., no. 42Z, Secret and Personal, 21 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276. Henry Wilson recorded that, when the Turkish terms of peace were received in London, they were considered ‘fantastic’ necessitating a wire to Gough-Calthorpe that he was not to discuss peace terms but that if the Turkish Government sent a properly accredited representative ‘we would at once discuss armistice.’ Callwell, Sir Henry Wilson, ii, p. 139.

[16]  Lord Derby to Lloyd George, 21 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 263, pp. 577-8.

[17]  Clemenceau to Lloyd George, 21 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 264, pp. 578-80. [See note in Halpern regarding the date of this letter.]

[18]  Lord Derby to Lloyd George, 21 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 263, pp. 577-8.

[19]  Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., no. 46Z, Most Secret, 22 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[20]  Callwell, Sir Henry Wilson, ii, p. 140.

[21]  Lloyd George to Clemenceau, 25 October 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Document 265, pp. 581-3.

[22]  Deputy First Sea Lord to Chief of the Naval Staff, 25 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[23]  Raouf, it will be recalled, whose task it would have been to command the Sultan Osman had she not been embargoed, was last seen being dispatched to Afghanistan in 1914 following his open annoyance at German influence within the Turkish fleet.

[24]  C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 574Z, 26 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[25]  C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 578Z, 27 October 1918, ibid.

[26]  C-in-C, Medt to Admiralty, no. 579Z, 28 October 1918, ibid.

[27]  Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., sent 11.20 a.m., 28 October 1918, ibid.

[28]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 585Z, Secret, 28 October 1918, ibid. See Appendix vi.

[29]  Comparisons of British Terms offered to Turkey with Turkish replies, October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[30]  C.N.S. to C-in-C, Medt., no. 404, 30 October 1918, ibid.

[31]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, 30 October 1918, ibid. Gough-Calthorpe also pointed out that the Adriatic appeared to be a similar case, ‘and the Italians have always refused to admit that it is part of the Mediterranean and have given Admiral Gauchet no authority in that sea.’

[32]  C.N.S. to C-in-C, Medt., no. 404, Personal and Secret, 30 October 1918, ibid.

[33]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 591Z, 30 October 1918, ibid.

[34]  Recollections of W. T. Henson, quoted in, Liddle, The Sailor’s War, 1914-1918, p. 204. Raouf presented Henson with a Turkish treasury note as a souvenir.

[35]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 592Z, 31 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276.

[36]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 603Z, Secret, 2 November 1918; Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., no. 137Z, Secret and Personal, 4 November 1918, ibid. Both also given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Documents 268-9, pp. 584-5. The egregious General Townshend was also excluded from the negotiations.

[37]          Recommendations of a War Cabinet Sub-Committee, 8.50 p.m., 31 October 1918, PRO Adm 1 8541/276. The sub-committee was also ‘strongly of opinion that no German or Austrian civilians connected with finance and industrial affairs should be left in Turkey and altogether disbelieve in reasons put forward for that request.’

[38]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 641Z, 7 November 1918, ibid.

[39]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 663Z, 7 November 1918, ibid. Gough-Calthorpe reported that he had been informed by Lieutenant-Colonel Saadullah Bey, who had helped negotiate the armistice, that the Turkish Government, while ‘most anxious and willing to do anything required by British Government’, still wished to be spared ‘humiliating concessions to other Allied Nations.’ Saadullah also informed Gough-Calthorpe that Enver and Talaat (and other members of the C.U.P.) had left the Bosphorus in a German steamship bound for the Black Sea as soon as the Armistice had been signed.

[40]  Admiralty to C-in-C, Medt., no. 219Z, 11 November 1918, enclosing dispatch from Foreign Office, ibid.

[41]  C-in-C, Medt. to Admiralty, no. 686, 14 November 1918, ibid.

[42]  Barber, Lords of the Golden Horn, pp. 239-40.

[43]  Miller, Superior Force, pp. 326-7; Fitzherbert, Greenmantle, pp. 232-4; Shaw and Shaw, History of the Ottoman Empire, vol. II, pp. 354-5; Winstone, Illicit Adventure, p. 333.Captain Clifton Brown to A. B. Williamson, 13 November 1918, given in, Halpern (ed.), The Royal Navy in the Mediterranean, 1915-1918, Documents 270, pp. 585-6.



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