The Southern Flank—The Russian Appeal—Lord Kitchener’s Letter of January 2—Lord Fisher’s Letter of January 3—A Consensus of Opinion—Telegram to Vice-Admiral Carden, January 3—Minutes of the First Lord and the First Sea Lord—Our General Agreement—Vice-Admiral Carden’s Reply—Views of the Staff—Lord Fisher’s Position at this Stage—Vice-Admiral Carden’s Plan, January 11—Its Favourable Reception—The Queen Elizabeth—The Technical Aspect—The Two New Factors in the Dardanelles Problem—Accuracy of Naval Artillery—Sir Arthur Wilson’s Views—The Gunnery Question—I Call for Definite Plans—The Available Fleet—The War Council of January 13—The Decision—Proposed Action in the Adriatic—Minute of January 13—Ammunition Reserves—Sir Henry Jackson’s Memorandum of January 15—Negotiations with the French and Russian Governments—Minute of January 20—The Alexandretta Loophole—Genesis of the Naval Plan—The Responsibilities.
At the end of the year 1914 various attempts were made to survey the general situation and make plans for the spring. On January 1 the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Lloyd George, circulated a paper of the highest importance, drawing attention to the unfounded optimism which prevailed about the war situation, to the increasing failure of Russia as a prime factor, and to the need for action in the Balkan Peninsula to rally Greece and Bulgaria to the cause of the Allies. There was also a pregnant and prescient Memorandum by Colonel Hankey, which is referred to in the Report of the Dardanelles Commission. Both these papers pointed to the Near East as the true field for our action and initiative in 1915. After reading advance copies of these documents I forwarded the latter on December 31 to the Prime Minister, saying:—
‘We are substantially in agreement, and our conclusions are not incompatible.
‘I wanted Gallipoli attacked on the declaration of war…. Meanwhile the difficulties have increased…. I think the War Council ought to meet daily for a few days next week. No topic can be pursued to any fruitful result at weekly intervals.’
On January 2 I received the following letter from Lord Kitchener:—
You have no doubt seen Buchanan’s telegram about the Russians and Turks; if not Fitzgerald is taking it over.
Do you think any naval action would be possible to prevent [the] Turks sending more men into the Caucasus and thus denuding Constantinople?
With this note, Colonel Fitzgerald brought the telegram from which the following extract is relevant:—
‘Early this week the position of Russians in the Caucasus gave cause for grave anxiety, Turks having commenced enveloping movement seriously threatening Russian forces. Commander-in-Chief of the Army in the Caucasus pressed most urgently for reinforcements, many Caucasian troops being now employed against Germans, but Grand Duke has told him he must manage to keep on as he is. Grand Duke sent for General Williams on Wednesday and officially informed him of above, and told him he was determined to proceed with his present plans against Germany and keep them unaltered.
‘IVth Siberian Army Corps is now on the way to Warsaw, and will be joined by Guard Army Corps, when it is hoped to continue active operations against Germans, and thus help to ease position of Allies, although in ordinary course it would be natural to send Caucasians to Turkish front.
‘Grand Duke, however, asked if it would be possible for Lord Kitchener to arrange for a demonstration of some kind against Turks elsewhere, either naval or military, and to spread reports which would cause Turks, who he says are very liable to go off at a tangent, to withdraw some of the forces now acting against Russians in the Caucasus, and thus ease the position of Russians.
‘Grand Duke added that, even if Lord Kitchener was unable to help, he should stick to his present plans.’
Later in the day Lord Kitchener came over himself to see me at the Admiralty, and we had a full discussion on the Russian telegram and whether the Navy could do anything to help. All the possible alternatives in the Turkish theatre were mentioned. We both had in mind our discussions of November on the possibilities of a descent from Egypt upon Gallipoli. We both saw clearly the far-reaching consequences of a successful attack upon Constantinople. If there was any prospect of a serious attempt to force the Straits of the Dardanelles at a later stage, it would be in the highest degree improvident to stir them up for the sake of a mere demonstration. I put this point forward, and suggested alternative diversions to help the Russians. Lord Kitchener did not dissent from the argument, but he returned steadily and decidedly to the statement that he had no troops to spare, and could not face a large new expansion of our military commitments. I have no record of this conversation, but my recollection of it is confirmed by the second letter which I received from Lord Kitchener on this same day (January 2).
Lord Kitchener to Mr. Churchill.
January 2, 1915.
I do not see that we can do anything that will very seriously help the Russians in the Caucasus.
The Turks are evidently withdrawing most of their troops from Adrianople and using them to reinforce their army against Russia, probably sending them by the Black Sea.
In the Caucasus and Northern Persia the Russians are in a bad way.
We have no troops to land anywhere. A demonstration at Smyrna would do no good and probably cause the slaughter of Christians. Alexandretta has already been tried, and would have no great effect a second time. The coast of Syria would have no effect. The only place that a demonstration might have some effect in stopping reinforcements going East would be the Dardanelles. Particularly if, as the Grand Duke says, reports could be spread at the same time that Constantinople was threatened.
We shall not be ready for anything big for some months.
On the same day Lord Kitchener, as the result no doubt of the conversation which he had had with me, sent through the Foreign Office the following telegram to Petrograd:—
‘Please assure the Grand Duke that steps will be taken to make a demonstration against the Turks. It is, however, feared that any action we can devise and carry out will be unlikely to seriously affect numbers of enemy in the Caucasus, or cause their withdrawal.’
This telegram committed us to a demonstration against the Turks of some kind or another, but it did not commit us in respect of its direction, character or scope. It was the least that could have been said in answer to a request of a hard-pressed Ally.
The next morning (January 3) Lord Fisher entered the field. He had been considering all these matters, had read the various Cabinet papers and the Russian telegram, and had full knowledge of my conversation with Lord Kitchener. The letter which he now sent me is of great importance. It reveals Lord Fisher’s position fully and clearly. The turbulence of its style in no way affects the shrewdness and profundity of its vision. I do not think that Lord Fisher ever took any action or expressed any opinions which were irreconcilable with the general principles of these first thoughts. He was always in favour of a great scheme against the Turks and to rally the Balkans. He always believed that Bulgaria was the key to the situation in this quarter. He was always prepared to risk the old battleships as part of a large naval, military and diplomatic combination. In all this we were, as his letter shows, in entire agreement. That these large schemes were not carried into effect was not his fault nor mine.
January 3, 1915.
I’ve been informed by Hankey that War Council assembles next Thursday, and I suppose it will be like a game of ninepins! Every one will have a plan and one ninepin in falling will knock over its neighbour! I CONSIDER THE ATTACK ON TURKEY HOLDS THE FIELD!—but ONLY if it’s IMMEDIATE! However, it won’t be! Our Aulic Council will adjourn till the following Thursday fortnight! (N.B. When did we meet last? and what came of it???)
We shall decide on a futile bombardment of the Dardanelles which wears out the irreplaceable guns of the Indefatigable which probably will require replacement. What good resulted from the last bombardment? Did it move a single Turk from the Caucasus? And so the war goes on! You want ONE man!
This is the Turkey plan:—
I. Appoint Sir W. Robertson the present Quartermaster-General to command the Expeditionary Force.
II. Immediately replace all Indians and 75,000 seasoned troops from Sir John French’s command with Territorials, etc., from England (as you yourself suggested) and embark this Turkish Expeditionary Force ostensibly for protection of Egypt! WITH ALL POSSIBLE DESPATCH at Marseilles! and land them at Besika Bay direct with previous feints before they arrive with troops now in Egypt against Haifa and Alexandretta, the latter to be a REAL occupation because of its inestimable value as regards the oil fields of the Garden of Eden, with which by rail it is in direct communication, and we shove out the Germans now established at Alexandretta with an immense Turkish concession—the last act of that arch-enemy of England, Marschal von Bieberstein!
III. The Greeks to go for Gallipoli at the same time as we go for Besika, and the Bulgarians for Constantinople, and the Russians, the Servians, and Roumanians for Austria (all this you said yourself!).
IV. Sturdee forces the Dardanelles at the same time with ‘Majestic’ class and ‘Canopus’ class! God bless him!
But as the great Napoleon said, ‘CELERITY’—without it—‘FAILURE’!
In the history of the world—a Junta has never won! You want one man!
There never was the slightest chance of the whole of the Fisher plan being carried into effect. Sir William Robertson, to whom he proposed to entrust it, would presumably have advised strongly against it, his policy being, concentration in the main, or, as he would no doubt have described it, the decisive theatre. The withdrawal of the Indian Corps and 75,000 seasoned troops from Sir John French’s command and their replacement by Territorial Divisions would have been resisted to the point of resignation by the Commander-in-Chief, supported by his whole staff. General Joffre and the French Government would have protested in a decisive manner. Lord Fisher’s third paragraph about the Greeks, Bulgarians, Serbians and Roumanians expressed exactly what everybody wanted. It was the obvious supreme objective in this part of the world. The question was, How to procure it? This was the root of the matter. It was in connection with this that Lord Fisher’s fourth paragraph made its impression upon me. Here for the first time was the suggestion of forcing the Dardanelles with the old battleships.
This series of weighty representations had the effect of making me move. I thought I saw a great convergence of opinion in the direction of that attack upon the Dardanelles which I had always so greatly desired. The arguments in its favour were overwhelming. And now the highest authorities, political, naval and military, were apparently ready to put their shoulders to the wheel. All Mr. Lloyd George’s advocacy and influence seemed about to be cast in the direction of Turkey and the Balkans. Though his method was different, the ultimate object, namely, the rallying of the Balkan States against Austria and Turkey, was the same, and all his arguments applied equally to either method. I knew from my talks with Mr. Balfour that he too was profoundly impressed by the advantages which might be reaped by successful action in this South-Eastern theatre. Lastly, the Foreign Office and Sir Edward Grey were, of course, keenly interested. Here was a great consensus of opinion. Here it seemed at last was a sufficient impulse and unity for action. But was there a practicable scheme? This I determined to find out, and on January 3, with the active agreement of Lord Fisher and after a talk with Sir Henry Jackson who was specially studying this theatre and advising us thereupon, I telegraphed to Vice-Admiral Carden, commanding at the Dardanelles, as follows:—
Admiralty to Vice-Admiral Carden.
January 3, 1915.
From First Lord:
Do you consider the forcing of the Dardanelles by ships alone a practicable operation?
It is assumed older battleships fitted with mine-bumpers would be used, preceded by colliers or other merchant craft as mine-bumpers and sweepers.
Importance of results would justify severe loss.
Let me know your views.
All this was purely exploratory. I did not commit myself at this stage even to the general principle of an attack upon Turkey. I wanted to see the alternatives weighed and to see what support such projects would in fact command. All our affairs at this time were complicated with the plans which, as has been explained in the last chapter, were under discussion for the advance of the Army along the coast and for the closing up of Zeebrugge.
I was still thinking a great deal of the Northern theatre, of Borkum and of the Baltic. ‘We had better,’ I wrote on January 4 in a note to the First Sea Lord on various points that would come up for discussion at the War Council the next day, ‘hear what others have to say about the Turkish plans before taking a decided line. I would not grudge 100,000 men, because of the great political effects in the Balkan Peninsula.’
‘The naval advantages,’ he replied the same day, ‘of the possession of Constantinople and the getting of wheat from the Black Sea are so overwhelming that I consider Colonel Hankey’s plan for Turkish operations vital and imperative and very pressing.’
There is no doubt we could have worked together unitedly and with the utmost enthusiasm for the Southern amphibious plan, if it had been pressed forward by the War Council on a great scale and with the necessary drive and decision.
On January 5 the answer from Admiral Carden arrived. It was remarkable.
Vice-Admiral Carden to First Lord.
January 5, 1915.
With reference to your telegram of 3rd instant, I do not consider Dardanelles can be rushed.
They might be forced by extended operations with large number of ships.
At the War Council that afternoon the question of an attack on Turkey and a diversion in the Near East was one of the principal subjects discussed. Every one seemed alive to all its advantages, and Admiral Carden’s telegram, which I read out, was heard with extreme interest. Its significance lay in the fact that it offered a prospect of influencing the Eastern situation in a decisive manner without opening a new military commitment on a large scale; and further it afforded an effective means of helping the Grand Duke without wasting the Dardanelles possibilities upon nothing more than a demonstration. On my return to the Admiralty I found that the idea of a gradual forcing of the Straits by extended operations was viewed with favour both by Admiral Oliver, the Chief of the Staff, and by Sir Henry Jackson. I had a conversation with Sir Henry Jackson, who had that day completed a memorandum upon the question (which I read some days later). Sir Henry Jackson deprecated any attempt to rush the Straits, but he spoke of the considerable effects of the brief bombardment of November 3, and he was attracted by the idea of a step-by-step reduction of the fortresses, though troops would be needed to follow up and complete the naval attack and especially to occupy Constantinople. So here we had the Chief of the Staff, the Admiral studying this particular theatre, and the Admiral in command, all apparently in general accord in principle. This coincidence of opinion in officers so widely separated and so differently circumstanced impressed me very much, and I therefore telegraphed on January 6 to Vice-Admiral Carden as follows:—
First Lord to Admiral Carden.
January 6, 1915.
Your view is agreed with by high authorities here. Please telegraph in detail what you think could be done by extended operations, what force would be needed, and how you consider it should be used.
The ‘high authorities’ I had in mind were Sir Henry Jackson and the Chief of the Staff. Lord Fisher had expressed no opinion on the technical question: but of course he saw the telegram. He seemed at this time not merely to favour the enterprise in principle, but to treat it almost as a matter practically decided. On this same day he sent me a formal minute through the Chief of the Staff about the bombardment of Zeebrugge which very clearly indicates his position.
January 6, 1915.
Chief of Staff.
I think before the proposed bombardment of Zeebrugge is again discussed it should be carefully considered what certain losses we have to face in capture of Borkum: in attack on Dardanelles and forcing the passage; in Baltic operations—and (I HOPE) in landing and covering a British Army landed in the spring in Schleswig-Holstein to advance on the Kiel Canal. No one can question that whatever damage is inflicted at Zeebrugge can be quickly repaired by the Germans, unless the Army join with the Fleet to hold it. Are we going to bombard it every three weeks?
P.S. I strongly supported the previous bombardment at Zeebrugge and I would strongly support it now, but have we the margin of ships in view of impending great operations? and the men and officers!
There was another meeting of the War Council on January 8 and prolonged discussion of the Eastern theatre. Dealing with the various alternatives, Lord Kitchener expressed an opinion in favour of an attack on the Dardanelles. He told the Council that the Dardanelles appeared to be the most suitable military objective, as an attack there could be made in co-operation with the Fleet. He estimated that 150,000 men would be sufficient for the capture of the Dardanelles, but reserved his final opinion until a close study had been made. He offered no troops and made it clear that none were available. His contribution was therefore, and was intended to be, purely theoretic.
On January 11 arrived the detailed Carden plan. It was in its details largely the work of a very able officer of Marines—Captain Godfrey (who was one of the Vice-Admiral’s Staff)—and of the gunnery experts of the Inflexible. I set it out in full.
Vice-Admiral Carden to Admiralty.
January 11, 1915.
For First Lord:—
In reply to your telegram of 6th instant.
Reference to Naval Intelligence Department report No. 838, Turkey Coast Defence, 1908. Possibility of operations:—
(A.) Total reduction of defences at the entrance.
(B.) Clear defences inside of Straits up to and including Kephez Point Battery No. 8.
(C.) Reduction of defences at the Narrows, Chanak.
(D.) Clear passage through minefield, advancing through Narrows, reducing forts above Narrows, and final advance to Marmora.
Term defences includes permanent, semi-permanent, and field works, also guns or howitzers whose positions are not yet known.
Whilst (A) and (B) are being carried out a battleship force would be employed in demonstration and bombardment of Bulair lines and coast and reduction of battery near Gaba Tepe. Force required, 12 battleships, of which 4 fitted with mine-bumpers. Three battle-cruisers—2 should be available on entering Marmora—3 light cruisers, 1 flotilla leader, 16 destroyers, 1 depot repairing ship, 6 submarines, 4 seaplanes, and the Foudre, 12 mine-sweepers, including, perhaps, 4 fleet sweepers, 1 hospital ship, 6 colliers at Tenedos Island, 2 supply and ammunition ships. The above force allows for casualties.
Details of action:—
Frequent reconnaissance by seaplanes indispensable.
(A.) Indirect bombardment of forts, reduction completed by direct bombardment at decisive range; torpedo tubes at the entrance and guns commanding minefield destroyed; minefield cleared.
(B.) Battleships, preceded by mine-sweepers, enter Straits, working way up till position reached from which battery No. 8 can be silenced.
(C.) Severe bombardment of forts by battle-cruisers from Gaba Tepe spotted from battleships; reduction completed by direct fire at decisive range.
(D.) Battleships, preceded by sweepers, making way up towards Narrows. Forts 22, 23, 24 first bombarded from Gaba Tepe, spotting for 22 by seaplanes, then direct fire. Sweep minefields in Narrows, the fort at Nagara reduced by direct fire, battle force proceeds to Marmora preceded by mine-sweepers.
Expenditure on ammunition for (C) would be large, but if supplies sufficient, result should be successful. Difficulty as to (B) greatly increased if Goeben assisting defence from Nagara. It would, unless submarine attacks successful, necessitate employment of battle-cruisers from Gaba Tepe or direct.
Time required for operations depends greatly on moral of enemy under bombardment; garrison largely stiffened by the Germans; also on the weather conditions. Gales now frequent. Might do it all in a month about.
Expenditure of ammunition would be large. Approximate estimate of quantity required being prepared.
Disposition of squadron on completion of operations: Marmora, 2 battle-cruisers, 4 battleships, 3 light cruisers, 1 flotilla leader, 12 torpedo-boat destroyers, 3 submarines, 1 supply and ammunition ship, 4 mine-sweepers collier.
Remainder of force keeping Straits open and covering mine-sweepers completing clearing minefield.
This plan produced a great impression upon every one who saw it. It was to me in its details an entirely novel proposition. My telegram had contemplated something in the nature of an organized ‘rush’ in accordance with Lord Fisher’s suggestion about Admiral Sturdee forcing the Straits with the ‘Canopus’ class of battleships. I sent a copy of the plan at once to the Prime Minister and some others, and it was freely discussed among those who were informed. Both the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Staff seemed favourable to it. No one at any time threw the slightest doubt upon its technical soundness. No one, for instance, of the four or five great naval authorities each with his technical staff who were privy said, ‘This is absurd. Ships cannot fight forts,’ or criticized its details. On the contrary they all treated it as an extremely interesting and hopeful proposal; and there grew up in the secret circles of the Admiralty a perfectly clear opinion favourable to the operation. It was then that the War Staff made a suggestion which certainly greatly affected the issue.
The Queen Elizabeth, the first in order of the five fast battleships armed with 15-inch guns, was now ready. It had been decided to send her to fire her gunnery trials and calibration exercises in the safe, calm waters of the Mediterranean. She was actually under orders to proceed thither. The Staff now proposed that she should test her enormous guns against the Dardanelles and pointed out that she could fire at ranges far outside those of the Turkish forts. This had not occurred to me before. But the moment it was mentioned, its importance was apparent. We all felt ourselves in the presence of a new fact. Moreover, the Queen Elizabeth came into the argument with a cumulative effect. Vice-Admiral Carden had never dreamed of having her. Our previous discussions and his detailed plan had ignored any help that she might give.
I must at this point interrupt the narrative in order to examine the technical questions which were involved and particularly those relating to the power and accuracy of naval guns.
The established opinion at the Admiralty was that the days when the British Fleet could force the Dardanelles without the aid of an army had ended in the ’seventies and ’eighties. The increased power of artillery, the development of the torpedo and of the submerged mine, added to the simultaneous increase in the cost of ironclad ships, had rendered such an operation injudicious, if not indeed quite impossible. Moreover, the general principle that ships are at the gravest disadvantage in fighting forts, that a ‘6-gun battery could fight a 100-gun ship,’ etc., was also greatly strengthened by the march of technical science.
Most people will say, These are very sensible views: they were believed to be right before the war and they were proved right during the war. To this opinion, both as to theory and experience, I entirely demur. No general or absolute rule can be laid down about fighting between ships and forts. It depends on the ship; it depends on the fort. If, for instance, the ship has a gun which can smash the fort, and the fort has no gun which can reach the ship, it is hard to prove that the ship is at a great disadvantage. In the case of the Dardanelles the two great modifying factors that had appeared were, first, the existence of naval guns which far outranged the guns in the forts, and which were at the same time of immeasurably increased destructive power; secondly, the existence of a large class of heavily armed and heavily armoured ships which must inevitably pass out of commission in the course of a few months.
Upon this latter point there can be no dispute. The ‘old battleship’ stood at this period in naval architecture on a far lower plane of value than at any previous time. Until the Dreadnought era the type and value of the British capital ship had altered very little for many years. Two big guns at each end and six medium guns on either side was the uniform system of the armament. Not many ships were built each year. Only minor improvements were effected in their design. Therefore up till 1905 at least the ‘old ships’ were not unfit to be put in the line with the newest ships. They were older and weaker variants of the same principle. But once the Dreadnoughts began to multiply, all relation between the oldest and the newest was lost. Every year had seen a large new construction. Every year had seen an immense advance. The early Dreadnoughts, with ten big guns instead of four, were superseded by the later ones, and both were far inferior to the super-Dreadnoughts of 1909, and these again had no chance, ship for ship, against the Queen Elizabeths. In guns, mechanism, armour, speed, subdivision, this advance was so great at each step that no proportion held between the oldest and the newest ships. We therefore had a class of ships which stood in a different category from any other ships we had had before in the Royal Navy—ships, that is to say, which could not be used in a Fleet action until all their betters-had been destroyed, but which were actually, though not relatively, powerful instruments of war. This was a new fact in regard to all bombarding operations.
There was another. All these old ships were doomed to be scrapped in 1915. Their crews were needed to man the great fleets and flotillas of new ships which were now coming into the water and requiring to be commissioned. All the Majestics, all the Canopuses, all the Formidables, all the Duncans, were inexorably marked for final extinction within the next year or fifteen months. How could they be used meanwhile? Although they had fallen so far behind the modern battleship, they were at least the contemporaries of the Turkish forts. In 1905 no one would have risked them in trying to force the Dardanelles. They were our latest vessels and all we had. In 1915 they were surplus and moribund. Yet related to the forts their strength was unimpaired.
The gunnery question is more technical, but not less plain. The popular view inculcated in thousands of newspaper articles and recorded in many so-called histories is simple. ‘Mr. Churchill having seen the German heavy howitzers smash the Antwerp forts, being ignorant of the distinction between a howitzer and a gun, and overlooking the difference between firing ashore and afloat, thought that the naval guns would similarly smash the Dardanelles forts. Although the highly competent Admiralty experts pointed out these obvious facts, this politician so bewitched them that they were reduced to supine or servile acquiescence in a scheme which they knew was based upon a series of monstrous technical fallacies.’ These broad effects are however capable of refinement.
In October, 1916, when the Dardanelles Commission was inquiring into these matters, Sir Arthur Wilson prepared a paper setting forth his views upon the technical issues. Considering the atmosphere which prevailed in the aftermath of a failure, it was characteristic of the old Admiral that he should have advanced to assume a direct share in the burden of responsibility. He was not committed like others by anything he had written at the time—indeed he had another policy—and he could without impropriety have remained silent. He however thought it his duty to explain the views he had held at the time, from which he had since in no way departed. Commenting on the evidence of an adverse witness, who had admitted that ‘he had no knowledge of the forts in the Dardanelles,’ Sir Arthur Wilson wrote:—
‘He’ (the witness) ‘assumed that the personnel are protected by more or less powerful overhead cover of concrete and earth, which is not the case in any of the forts; that the old forts would have the guns in casemates, whereas all the guns were in open embrasures. That there might be disappearing guns or guns in cupolas, which was not the case, etc.; so that the whole argument as to the advantages of high-angle fire is based on false premises.
‘As a matter of fact, all the larger forts in the Dardanelles in which the heavy guns are mounted have high parapets with open embrasures, which are better targets for high-velocity guns with low trajectory than for howitzers.
‘Against any kind of horizontal target, such as trenches, or howitzers, or mortars in pits, high-angle fire has the advantage, but against such a target as a high parapet or a definite small object, such as a gun, the high-velocity gun has a great advantage, as it is more accurate, it has a greater striking velocity, and much greater range. For instance, the extreme range of a 12-inch howitzer is about 11,000 yards, and striking velocity 970 f.s.; whereas the striking velocity of the 12-inch Mark X, at the same range would be 1,369 f.s., and the maximum range of this gun, as mounted in the Lord Nelson and Agamemnon, is 16,000 yards.
‘As the striking force is proportioned to the square of the velocity, the striking force of the 12-inch gun is about double that of the howitzer at this range.
‘It is quite a debatable question whether high-velocity guns of the same calibre as the howitzers used by the Germans against Liège and Namur, if they could have been brought up and worked, would not have been more effective than the howitzers even then, but it is certain that against the high parapets and exposed guns and personnel of the Dardanelles forts, the high-velocity guns would have the advantage. The shells which passed over the parapet and burst behind it would have little effect in either case, except on stores, etc., in rear, while those from the high-velocity guns, which either struck the parapet or fell in front of it, would have much more effect in actual injury to the parapet and in scattering debris than those from the howitzers. The parapets could not be penetrated, but the scattering of debris might be expected to drive the men from the guns, and there was always the possibility of exploding the ready magazines which were in the parapets. The gun might also be expected to make more hits than the howitzer.
‘The parapets of the principal Dardanelles forts must have been about 16 feet high, as the platforms of the guns were 10 feet above the terre pleine, so that, allowing for their width, 50 to 90 feet, they would give with an angle of descent of 15 degrees the equivalent of a target 30 to 40 feet high, that is, a rather higher target than that used for our ordinary battle practice.
‘The conditions for firing against the forts near the water’s edge were easier than those in battle practice, as the target was not moving and the land gave the means of accurately fixing the position of the ship in relation to the fort, while the conditions for spotting were very similar. In the case of the forts on higher land the spotting was expected to be much more difficult unless cross observations from two points could be made, or observations made by aircraft, but these forts had nothing heavier than 6-inch guns.’
Subject to certain qualifications which will presently appear these conclusions are, in general, confirmed by the experience and full knowledge of the present day.
The 15-inch naval gun fired from a warship at anchor in calm weather and with perfect observation had, in fact, a greater chance of hitting the targets in question than the contemporary 15-inch howitzer. The actual expectation of hitting one of the Dardanelles 14-inch fortress guns may be calculated from the confidential Tables issued to the Fleet which show the ascertained degrees of accuracy of the various guns at all ranges. These prove, for instance, that the Queen Elizabeth’s 15-inch guns would for the same number of rounds at 12,000 yards be capable of hitting three and a half times as often as the contemporary 15-inch British howitzer fired on land at 10,800 yards—the full range of the howitzer. This may appear surprising to many people, but it is nevertheless incontestable. The bursting effect of a 15-inch naval shell is not, however, equal to that of a 15-inch howitzer. Owing to the stronger structure required by the naval shell to resist the high pressures to which it is subjected, only two-thirds of the explosive charge of the howitzer can be carried. Moreover we had not at that time manufactured a 15-inch common shell to carry a high explosive (lyddite) burster, and the Queen Elizabeth had only powder-filled shells of this class during the Dardanelles operations. All this was taken into consideration by the War Staff. Broadly speaking, therefore, the Queen Elizabeth’s 15-inch guns could at suitable ranges and under proper conditions hit their target at least three times as often as the 15-inch howitzer fired ashore, but the explosive effect of each hit would be less than a third that of the land weapon. So precise are the naval guns and so exact is the naval gunnery, granted the proper observation, that it was not only possible to hit forts like those of the Dardanelles from ranges at which they could not reply, but to hit in succession every single gun in them. In fact on February 26 the Queen Elizabeth scored two hits in 18 rounds, and destroyed the two guns of No. 1 Fort in 31 rounds; and even the old 12-inch guns of the Irresistible put the two guns of No. 4 Fort out of action in 35 rounds.
Coming to closer ranges and smaller guns the theoretical results are even more impressive. The various marks of 6-inch guns in the Fleet are (and were) capable, at under 2,000 yards range, of hitting the individual guns in the Dardanelles forts fifty times out of every hundred shots. In some marks of guns the percentage is even higher. For instance, a 6-inch Mark VII gun should hit a 9.4-inch (24 cm.) Turkish gun sixty-two times out of a hundred at 2,000 yards range, and ninety-seven times out of a hundred at 1,000 yards range, provided always that the attacking gun is new, the ship is at anchor, the range has been determined, and the laying is accurate. In so far as these last conditions were not present, the percentage would be reduced. But it would still remain amply sufficient to destroy any gun in the forts for a reasonable expenditure of ammunition at close quarters. There was no fallacy in the technical arguments of the Admiralty so far as the gunnery was concerned. The difficulties which frustrated the plan lay in the absence of the good conditions of observation at the long ranges, or of the opportunity of coming to close quarters.
As the result of all our discussions, I now called for definite plans and orders to be worked out by the Staff, and I outlined the fleet that was evidently available for the operation.
First Sea Lord.
Chief of Staff.
(1) The forcing of the Dardanelles as proposed, and the arrival of a squadron strong enough to defeat the Turkish Fleet in the Sea of Marmora, would be a victory of first importance, and change to our advantage the whole situation of the war in the East.
(2) It would appear possible to provide the force required by Admiral Carden without weakening the margins necessary in home waters, as follows:—
Ocean, Swiftsure and Triumph (already in or assigned to this theatre).
Vengeance, Canopus (from the Atlantic).
Albion (from the Cape).
Cæsar and Prince George (from Gibraltar).
Victorious, Mars, Magnificent, Hannibal (already ordered to be dismantled at home).
Queen Elizabeth (detailed for gunnery preparation at Gibraltar).
Inflexible (ordered to Mediterranean to relieve Indefatigable).
Indefatigable (already on the spot).
Thus no capital ship would be ordered from home waters, except four already ordered to be dismantled.
(3) The above takes no account of four French battleships on the spot, and six others reported available….
(4) Operations could begin on February 1, by long-range fire from Queen Elizabeth on forts at the entrance. It is not necessary to develop the full attack until the effect of the first stage of the operation has become apparent. All arrangements should be secretly concerted for carrying the plan through, the seaplanes and ancillary craft being provided. Admiral Carden to command….
Definite plans should be worked out accordingly.
W. S. C.
Lord Fisher approved this minute, and himself at a later date (February 9) added to the proposed fleet the two quasi-Dreadnought battleships, the Lord Nelson and the Agamemnon. This was a great reinforcement, and involved a diminution to that extent in the margin of the Grand Fleet.
On January 13 I brought the project before the War Council. I circulated Admiral Carden’s telegram twenty-four hours beforehand to its principal members, including, of course, the Prime Minister and Lord Kitchener. The record made of this meeting by Sir Maurice Hankey is as follows:—
‘Mr. Churchill said he had interchanged telegrams with Vice-Admiral Carden, the Commander-in-Chief in the Mediterranean, in regard to the possibilities of a naval attack on the Dardanelles. The sense of Admiral Carden’s reply was that it was impossible to rush the Dardanelles, but that, in his opinion, it might be possible to demolish the forts one by one. To this end Admiral Carden had submitted a plan. His proposal was first to concentrate his fire on the entrance forts. When they were demolished he would proceed to deal with the inner forts, attacking them from the Straits and from the seaward side of the Gallipoli Peninsula. This plan was based on the fact that the Dardanelles forts are armed mainly with old guns of only thirty-five calibre. These would be outranged by the guns of the ships, which would effect their object without coming into range. Three modern ships, carrying the heaviest guns, would be required for reducing some of the more modern works, and about twelve old battleships would deal with the remainder. These could now be spared for the task without reducing our strength in the main theatre of war. Among others, he mentioned the Triumph, Swiftsure, Goliath, Glory and Canopus, all of which had been employed hitherto for trade protection. Four of the “Majestic” class, which were to have been “scrapped,” their 12-inch guns being utilized for monitors, could also be made available, though this would entail a delay in the completion of the monitors. Two battle-cruisers were, he said, already in the Mediterranean. The new battle-cruiser Queen Elizabeth was already to be sent to Gibraltar for gun trials, and it would be feasible to allow her to conduct her trials against the Dardanelles forts, instead of against a target.
‘The Admiralty were studying the question, and believed that a plan could be made for systematically reducing all the forts within a few weeks. Once the forts were reduced the minefields would be cleared, and the Fleet would proceed up to Constantinople and destroy the Goeben. They would have nothing to fear from field guns or rifles, which would be merely an inconvenience.
‘Lord Kitchener thought the plan was worth trying. We could leave off the bombardment if it did not prove effective.’
Lord Fisher and Sir Arthur Wilson were both present. Neither made any remark and I certainly thought that they agreed. The decision of the Council was unanimous, and was recorded in the following curious form:—
‘That the Admiralty should consider promptly the possibility of effective action in the Adriatic at Cattaro or elsewhere—with a view (inter alia) of bringing pressure on Italy.
‘That the Admiralty should also prepare for a naval expedition in February to bombard and take the Gallipoli Peninsula with Constantinople as its objective.’
After the Council I sent the following telegram with Lord Fisher’s concurrence to Admiral Carden.
First Lord to Vice-Admiral Carden.
January 15, 1915.
Your scheme was laid by the First Sea Lord and myself before the Cabinet War Council yesterday, and was approved in principle.
We see no difficulty in providing the force you require, including the Queen Elizabeth, by February 15.
We entirely agree with your plan of methodical piecemeal reduction of forts as the Germans did at Antwerp.
We propose to entrust this operation to you.
Admiral de Robeck will probably be your second in command.
The sooner we can begin the better.
You will shortly receive the official instructions of the Board.
Continue to perfect your plan.
At this same War Council of January 13 the Admiralty had been repeatedly pressed to consider some naval action in the Adriatic, preferably the bombardment of Cattaro with a view to influencing the attitude of Italy. The momentous importance of exciting the interest and ultimately obtaining the adhesion of Italy was ever in my mind. But I felt that the Dardanelles and Turkey were the real ‘motor muscles’ of Italian resolve. If in addition to all her anti-Austrian feelings, Turkey, with whom Italy had only just ceased to be at war, and from whom she had newly wrested the Tripoli province, was to be vigorously attacked and possibly overthrown; if the whole Turkish Empire was to be cast on to the board, plunged into the centre of the struggle, with all its rich provinces and immense Italian interests perhaps an easy prey, could Italy afford to remain indifferent? I was sure that the Dardanelles, not Cattaro, was the key to Italian action. I therefore drew up the following minute to the Prime Minister in which Lord Fisher and the Chief of the Staff concurred.
January 14, 1915.
We consider that no useful means can be found of effective naval intervention in the Adriatic at the present time. The French have a large superiority of naval force there now, including Dreadnoughts and large numbers of destroyers. Their operations make no progress through the absence of a friendly army and the presence of hostile submarines. The bombardment of the forts at Cattaro would be a sterile operation attended by great risk from submarines and some damage from gunfire. The entry of the harbour would lead to nothing by itself. Unless, therefore, adequate military force is forthcoming to storm and hold the forts after bombardment, there are no means of producing good results. The same is true of Pola, but in a greater degree. The attempt at a demonstration would probably lead to waste of ammunition and loss of ships, and would produce an effect the exact opposite of what is desired. While the French have ample force for any practicable step in this quarter, we cannot provide any squadron comparable to theirs.
The attack on the Dardanelles will require practically our whole available margin. If that attack opens prosperously it will very soon attract to itself the whole attention of the Eastern theatre, and if it succeeds it will produce results which will undoubtedly influence every Mediterranean Power. In these circumstances we strongly advise that the Adriatic should be left solely to the French, and that we should devote ourselves to action in accordance with the third conclusion of the War Council, viz., the methodical forcing of the Dardanelles.
W. S. C.
I had now become deeply interested in the enterprise, and nothing but new facts and reasons, the merit of which might convince me, would turn me from pressing it forward. In full harmony with the Chief of the Staff, and with the steady and written concurrence of Lord Fisher, I issued the following minutes:—
First Sea Lord. (Intld.) ‘F.’ 15.1.15 (received and sent on same date).
January 13, 1915.
Chief of Staff.
In future, the Mediterranean plan discussed to-day will always be referred to as ‘Pola.’
2. Sir Percy Scott has been cautioned as to secrecy. He is going out to assist in regulating the Director in Queen Elizabeth, but wishes to return from Gibraltar.
3. As Sir H. Jackson is sick, the detailed proposals should be worked out by the Chief of the Staff and orders drafted both as regards the concentration of the ships and the regulation of the gunnery.
4. The orders for concentrating the Fleet required cannot be delayed. It is not necessary to delay the preliminary bombardment of the entrance until all the ships have arrived; but the ships should start for the various Mediterranean ports at once.
5. The question of a base on a Turkish island should be considered. We also want a landing-place for aeroplanes on Tenedos.
6. The Director of the Air Division should be instructed to hold Ark Royal with eight seaplanes and aeroplanes in readiness for service ‘in Egypt.’ We cannot rely on French seaplanes for our spotting. The Army have developed a system of wireless telephone from aeroplanes spotting for artillery, which is most effective. Full details of this should be at once obtained, and some of the machines fitted accordingly. Meanwhile the French should be asked not to fly over the Pola area, as it will only lead to the mounting of Anti-Aircraft guns and complicate spotting later. Admiral Carden should be informed of this.
7. The auxiliary vessels asked for by Carden should be specified and put under orders. He has already Sapphire and Dublin. Doris will make the third Light Cruiser. As the river-boats come home from China, they must stop with the 7 ‘Beagles’ already available. One ‘E’ [submarine] boat from home, or if suitable, the ‘S’ boat, and 2 ‘Cs,’ should be sent to meet ‘A.E.1’ [the Australian submarine]. Let a regular scheme of movement and concentration be prepared.
8. Proposals for mine-sweepers should be made, and Malta Dockyard should prepare to fit mine-bumpers.
9. Admiral Carden’s proposals should be carefully analysed by an officer of the War Staff in order to show exactly what guns the ships will have to face at each point and stage of the operations, the character of the guns, and their range; but this officer is to assume that the principle is settled, and all that is necessary is to estimate the force required.
10. This enterprise is regarded by the Government as of the highest urgency and importance. A telegram should be drafted to Admiral Carden approving his proposals and informing him of the forces which will be placed at his disposal. No order should go out to him or anyone else until his answer about ammunition expenditure is received, and until the whole scheme can be considered finally in draft.
Commodore de Bartolomé will keep in touch with the details on my behalf. I hope that definite orders may be issued in two or three days.
In view of the danger of enemy submarines being sent from the Adriatic, speed and secrecy are essential. The mine-sweepers should take a supply of Bircham indicator nets.
W. S. C.
I also made inquiries into our reserves of ammunition.
Director of Naval Ordnance.
January 15, 1915.
1. Let me have—
(a) The number of projectiles of all kinds in hand on the declaration of war;
(b) The number delivered since the declaration of war; and
(c) The number expended.
Use in all cases… simple categories….
2. I should be glad if the War Office could tell me what projectiles they had in hand on the outbreak of war for different marks of guns.
3. We cannot rest content with 15-inch shells being powder-filled only. The Germans are able to fill their 15-inch shells with high explosives, and if the Ordnance Board are not able to solve the problem for us, and solve it promptly and safely, changes will have to be made. Has any attempt been made to use T.N.T. [Tri-nitro-toluene] in shells of the larger guns?
4. (a) Is there sufficient propellant now in store for all the projectiles on this list; and (b) what amount of propellant will be delivered in the next six months for the new orders?
5. Show, in addition to your total expenditure on each head since the war began, an approximate statement of the expenditure on each service, i.e. the various actions, armoured trains, monitors, etc. I do not want too much detail, but only seven or eight main heads.
6. Let me have a forecast of deliveries in the next two months.
W. S. C.
The replies showed that ample ammunition was available. In fact, when I left the Admiralty at the end of May, in spite of all the bombardments on the Belgian coast and at the Dardanelles, we had received four times as much heavy and twice as much medium shell as we had fired away; and our gigantic reserves were not only intact but largely augmented.
Meanwhile Sir Henry Jackson had completed his detailed examination of the Carden scheme. Having taken four days to study it, he furnished on January 15 a full report upon it. This report, although technical, cannot be omitted. I have never considered that Sir Henry Jackson had what may be called ‘accountable responsibility’ at this time. He was a high officer serving in an advisory capacity and specially charged with the study of the Turkish theatre. He is not responsible for the decisions which were taken, but he is certainly responsible for the opinions which he expressed in so much detail. These opinions were of first importance coming from an officer of great experience and marked distinction who had recently filled the position of Chief of the War Staff and was subsequently for a year and a half of the War to be First Sea Lord.
MEMORANDUM OF SIR H. JACKSON.
REMARKS ON VICE-ADMIRAL CARDEN’S PROPOSALS AS TO OPERATIONS IN DARDANELLES.
January 15, 1915.
Chief of Staff.
Concur generally in his plans. Our previous appreciations of the situation differed only in small details.
(A) and (B) Reduction of defences at the entrance and inside the Straits up to Kephez battery and the destruction of minefields.
The French and British armoured vessels at the Dardanelles, and the Foudre with seaplanes, should be able to deal with (A), i.e. defences at the entrance, on similar lines to the previous bombardment which under unfavourable conditions of light seems to have been effective.
Reconnaissance is, however, necessary after every series of attacks, as it may result in the saving of large quantities of ammunition.
In the previous bombardment, four rounds per turret gun were allowed in the British ships, i.e. sixty-four total. If these succeeded in putting Fort Sedd-el-Bahr, with its six heavy guns, out of action, the result is satisfactory, and gives us some data to go on; say, ten rounds per gun at extreme range, as an average.
It is noticeable that the guns of the fort succeeded in dropping projectiles alongside our battle-cruisers, up to a range of 12,300 yards.
This may be taken as near their extreme limit of range, and is good for the old pattern of guns mounted.
It would not, therefore, be prudent to close to less than 13,000 yards in future bombardments of forts with similar guns, in the early stages.
It will be essential to close them in the latter stages to ensure every gun being destroyed.
A reconnaissance by seaplane should be made before getting to close range.
For (B) the necessary sweepers, munitions, etc., should be despatched without delay; and the minefields should be cleared, mostly at night, under the cover of the guns of the squadron, before risking a new battleship in these mined waters, i.e., if it be decided to send one out to assist in the reduction of the batteries. She might, with advantage, commence her operations from outside, off Gaba Tepe, destroying the signal station, and bombarding any fort which is situated on the top of the ridge, and visible from the sea. The experience thus gained would show the practicability of continuing this indirect attack on other forts in the Narrows, as proposed in (C); or whether it would be necessary to resort solely to direct attack at 15,000 yards, and above, from ships anchored in Aren-Kioi Bay, until the forts at the Narrows and the batteries on the surrounding heights are silenced.
There will probably be at least 200 guns of 6-inch and above to be silenced, and many of these will be concealed and probably protected from direct gun fire.
If it requires ten rounds per gun on board to put each gun on shore out of action, 2,000 rounds will, at least, be required, and this must be from heavy guns with long range. In addition to this the final destruction of the forts and field artillery in entrenchments at short range will require a considerable quantity of ammunition for the smaller as well as the larger guns.
I do not think the operation should be attempted unless we are prepared to expend 3,000 rounds of ammunition for the primary armament, and a similar number of rounds for the secondary armament, besides the loss of some vessels.
Seaplanes with incendiary and other bombs should be in readiness to assist by every means in their power in the work of destruction and reconnaissance.
I would suggest (A) [i.e. the attack on the Outer Forts] might be approved at once, as the experience gained would be useful. It should be carried out under favourable conditions of light, and with spotting ships, and continued till all guns at the entrance are permanently silenced.
H. B. JACKSON, Admiral.
I now proceeded to open the matter to the French Government with whom among other things the question of the command in the Mediterranean required readjustment.
ARRANGEMENTS WITH THE FRENCH.
1. The British Government find it necessary to take offensive action against Turkey in the near future. The Admiralty have in consequence decided to attack the Dardanelles forts, and force, if possible, a passage into the Sea of Marmora. It is proposed to achieve this by a gradual and methodical reduction of the forts by naval bombardment, taking three or four weeks if necessary, and using a number of the older battleships, supported by 2 battle-cruisers and the very long-range fire of the 15-inch guns of the Queen Elizabeth. In all, 15 battleships or battle-cruisers, 3 light cruisers, 16 destroyers, 6 submarines, 1 seaplane ship, and a large number of mine-sweepers and auxiliaries are required, having regard to the expected casualties and the need of fighting the Turco-German Fleet immediately on entering the Sea of Marmora. This fleet will be assembled between February 7 and 15, and it is hoped that the attack will follow immediately. The scheme of these operations has been prepared by Vice-Admiral Carden, now commanding the Allied fleets at the Dardanelles.
The Admiralty do not wish, in view of this very important operation, that any change in the local command in that portion of the Mediterranean should be made at the present time. They hope, however, that the squadron of French battleships, together with the French submarines and destroyers and the seaplane ship Foudre, will co-operate under a French rear-admiral.
As the degree of the opposition to be met with cannot be anticipated, it is most undesirable to announce the full scope of the operations beforehand, and secrecy is, of course, vital.
2. The War Office also consider it necessary during the month of February to occupy Alexandretta and the surrounding district in order to cut the Turkish railway communicating at this most important strategic point. If this operation should take place it would be convenient that the disembarkation at Alexandretta and the maintenance of the British force on shore should be covered by British ships, and some of the older vessels now in Egyptian waters would probably be used for this purpose….
Before handing this note to the French naval attaché I took care to have the draft formally countersigned by the Prime Minister, Lord Kitchener, and Sir Edward Grey, as well as by the First Sea Lord and the Chief of the Staff. This precaution was appropriate to a matter of grave importance, about which it was essential there should be no subsequent misunderstanding.
I made a similar communication to the Grand Duke Nicholas.
The First Lord of the Admiralty to H.I.H. The Grand Duke Nicholas.
January 19, 1915.
The Admiralty have considered with deep attention the request conveyed through Lord Kitchener from Your Imperial Highness for naval action against Turkey to relieve pressure in the Caucasus. They have decided that the general interests of the Allied cause require a great effort to be made to break down Turkish opposition in addition to the minor demonstration of which Lord Kitchener has telegraphed to you. It has therefore been determined to attempt to force the passage of the Dardanelles by naval force…. [The method and the available forces were then again described.]
…The Admiralty hope that the Russian Government will co-operate powerfully in this operation at the proper moment by naval action at the mouth of the Bosphorus, and by having troops ready to seize any advantage that may be gained for the allied cause. It would probably be better to defer Russian action until the outer forts of the Dardanelles have been destroyed, so that if failure should occur at the outset, it will not have the appearance of a serious reverse. But it is our intention to press the matter to a conclusion, and at the right moment the intervention of the Russian Fleet will be most desirable.
Finally as the result of continued discussion and continued united agreement, I issued the following minute, in which Lord Fisher concurred:—
January 20, 1915.
First Sea Lord.
Chief of the Staff.
The attack on the Dardanelles should be begun as soon as the Queen Elizabeth can get there. Every effort will be made to accelerate her departure, so that fire can be opened on February 15. It is not desirable to concentrate the whole fleet of battleships required for the operation at the Dardanelles at the outset. This would only accentuate failure, if the forts prove too strong for us. Indefatigable, Queen Elizabeth, and three or four other British battleships, with the mine-sweepers and the Ark Royal, will be sufficient at the outset, having regard to the French ships available. The rest of the fleet should be distributed between Malta, Alexandria and Alexandretta, from which points they can be readily concentrated as soon as progress begins to be made.
As soon as the attack on the Dardanelles has begun, the seizure of Alexandretta should take place. Thus if we cannot make headway in the Dardanelles, we can pretend that it is only a demonstration, the object of which was to cover the seizure of Alexandretta. This aspect is important from an Oriental point of view.
All preparations for the attack on the Dardanelles are to proceed in general accordance with my minutes of January 12 and 13. The Chief of the Staff has already given the necessary orders, and the ships are moving. Sir H. Jackson will study, and advise the Board upon, this operation, raising all points of detail which require attention. He will also watch and study the naval part in the seizure of Alexandretta, and will confer with the War Office as may be necessary.
As soon as Indefatigable is relieved by Inflexible, Vice-Admiral Carden may proceed as he proposes to Malta, refit Indefatigable, and make all necessary preparations of special appliances for protection against mines, mine-sweeping, etc., returning to the Dardanelles about the 12th, when Inflexible will immediately rejoin the Grand Fleet.
Rear-Admiral de Robeck will hoist his flag in one of the battleships detailed for the Dardanelles as soon as possible, and will proceed to Malta to concert the operation with Vice-Admiral Carden.
W. S. C.
The First Sea Lord concurs.
At the same time, while giving decided orders and allowing no doubt or uncertainty to appear in the Admiralty attitude, I was careful to preserve the means of breaking off the operation, if it began to miscarry.
First Lord to Lord Kitchener.
January 20, 1915.
Until the bombardment of the Dardanelles forts has actually begun, we cannot tell how things will go. We must guard against the appearance of a serious rebuff; and we shall therefore at the outset, only use the battleships needed for the initial stage, keeping the rest of the fleet spread between Malta, Alexandria, and Alexandretta, whence they can concentrate very quickly. It is also very desirable that the Alexandretta operation should be so timed as to be practically simultaneous with the attack on the Dardanelles, so that if we are checked at the Dardanelles we can represent that operation as a mere demonstration to cover the seizure of Alexandretta. I believe this aspect is important from an Oriental point of view.
Could you therefore arrange this and let me have your Alexandretta dates? We are aiming at February 15 for opening fire on the Dardanelles.
P.S. I am sending a copy of this to the Prime Minister to keep him informed.
It will be seen that the genesis of this plan and its elaboration were purely naval and professional in their character. It was Admiral Carden and his staff gunnery officers who proposed the gradual method of piecemeal reduction by long-range bombardment. It was Sir Henry Jackson and the Admiralty staff who embraced this idea and studied and approved its detail. Right or wrong, it was a Service plan. Similarly the Admiralty orders were prepared exclusively by the Chief of the Staff and his assistants. I outlined the resources at our disposal in the old battleships. But it was the staff who proposed the addition of the Queen Elizabeth, with all the possibilities that that ship opened out. It was the First Sea Lord who added the other two most powerful vessels, the Lord Nelson and the Agamemnon, to the Dardanelles Fleet. At no point did lay or civilian interference mingle with or mar the integrity of a professional conception.
I write this not in the slightest degree to minimize or shift my own responsibility. But this was not where it lay. I did not and I could not make the plan. But when it had been made by the naval authorities, and fashioned and endorsed by high technical authorities and approved by the First Sea Lord, I seized upon it and set it on the path of action; and thereafter espoused it with all my resources. When others weakened or changed their opinion without adducing new reasons, I held them strongly to their previous decisions; and so in view of the general interest of the Allies, thrust the business steadily forward into actual experiment.
Thus is completed the account of the first phase in the initiation of the enterprise against the Dardanelles. There can be very little dispute about the facts in the face of the documents. For twenty days the project has been under discussion among the leading naval authorities of the day, and among the members of the War Council. At the Admiralty it has been the question most debated in our secret circle. So far all opinions are favourable. So far no voice has been raised and no argument advanced against it. The writer of the Australian official history has thought it right to epitomize the story in the following concluding sentence:—
‘So through a Churchill’s excess of imagination, a layman’s ignorance of artillery, and the fatal power of a young enthusiasm to convince older and slower brains, the tragedy of Gallipoli was born.’
It is my hope that the Australian people, towards whom I have always felt a solemn responsibility, will not rest content with so crude, so inaccurate, so incomplete and so prejudiced a judgment, but will study the facts for themselves.