"Sarrail, backed by General Bailloud, is greatly in favour of the French expedition being employed independently on the Asiatic shore.
"Joffre greatly doubts the wisdom of this course, and Millerand requested me to ask you to state fully and confidentially, for his personal information, your opinion on this matter.
"Joffre's objections appear to be that a landing in Asia opens up a very wide field if the force be not immediately successful, and that in that case more troops, munitions and drafts would be eventually required than he could spare with due regard to the safety of France.
"Secondly, he is not very confident of Sarrail's leadership, particularly as the plans Sarrail has made seem to be worthless. Joffre is having careful plans worked out by his Staff for the expedition on the Asiatic shore which, he says, though unfinished, do not look promising. The same objection on his part would not, I gather, be felt if the French troops were given a definite area and objective on the Gallipoli Peninsula, where the scope of their activities, and consequently the support required from France, could be limited."
Where's the use of M. Millerand's consulting me over what lies on the far side of a dead wall? Had he asked me to show why action here should have priority over action in France, then I might have been of some use. But that is settled: the four French Divisions earmarked for the East will not now be sent until after "the results of the coming offensive in France have been determined." "If the success of this push equals expectations you will reap the benefit." If indecisive then, "by the 10th October," two British Divisions and four French Divisions will be at Marseilles ready to sail out here: "about the middle of November would be the time when everything would be ready." There are altogether too many ifs and ands and pots and pans about Millerand's question. When a man starts going West who can foretell how long it will take him to arrive at the East?
(1) If the push in the West is victorious we will score, says K. That is so. Far as the Western battlefield lies from the scene of our struggle, the report of a German defeat in France would reverberate Eastwards and would lend us a brave moral impetus. But the point I would raise is this:—did K., as representing a huge Eastern Empire, press firmly upon Millerand and Joffre the alternative,—if the push in the East is victorious the West will score?
What express strategical gain do they expect from pushing back the Germans? A blow which merely destroys a proportion of men and material without paralysing the resources of the enemy is a blow in the air. War cannot be waged by tactics alone. That is a barbaric method. To bend back the German lines in the West, or to push the first line back on to the second or third, or twentieth, has of itself but slight strategical or economic import.
Here, on the other hand, we have literally in our grasp a clear cut gift offered us by the Gods. The impossible part, the landing, is done. All that remains is so many fresh men and so many thousand shell. The result is not problematical, but mathematical. Napoleon is the only man who has waged a world war in the world as we know it to-day. Napoleon said, I think it was on the famous raft, "Who holds Constantinople is master of the world." And there it lies at the mercy of the Briton—could he only convince Joffre that the shortest cut to freeing his country from the Germans lies through the Dardanelles.
The principles which should underlie Entente strategy will be clear to military historians although obscured to-day by jealousies and amateurishness: just the usual one, two, three they are, in this order:—
* * * * *
(a) Hold the sea.
(b) Hold the West.
(c) Smash the Turk.
A couple of miles won by us here gives England wheat and Russia rifles; gives us the whip hand in the Balkans plus security in a couple of Continents. A couple of miles lost by us here leaves the German with a strengthened grip upon all the real world objectives for which he went to war: it leaves us with a ruined prestige in Asia. But what is all that to Joffre to whom, as a good Frenchman, the Balkans; the bracing up of the Russian Army; all the Odessa corn; Asia and Africa thrown in, do not count against one departement of la Patrie.
(2) If the push in the West is indecisive then our push is only to be postponed. Postponed! The word is like a knell. To write it gives me a feeling of sick despair. Only postponed! As well cable at once, only ruined!!
(3) But there is a third eventuality not mentioned by Lord K. How if our attack upon the main strength of the entrenched Germans is beaten off? To Joffre France comes first and the rest nowhere—every time: that is natural. But our Higher Direction are not Frenchmen—not yet! Armageddon is actually being fought here, at the Dardanelles, and the British outlook is focused on France. We are to sit here and rot away with cholera, and see the winter gales approach, until the big push has been made in the West where men can afford to wait—where they are healthy—where time is all on their side. And this push in the West is against the whole German Empire linked to all its own vast resources by a few miles of the best railways in the world. We can attack here with more men and more munitions than the enemy the very moment we care to accept the principle that, at this moment, Constantinople and the heartening up of Russia and ascendency amongst the Balkan States are not only the true positive objectives of our strategy, but are the sole strategical stunts upon the board. We can do so because of our sea power. We can borrow enough howitzers, aeroplanes, munitions and drafts from the West; apply them here and then, if necessary, return them. We are not exploiting our own special characteristics, mobility and sea power!
Easy to preach patience to a nation in agony? Yes, for the whole agony of the whole world is more important even than the agonies of France. We've got to win the war and win it quick. There's only one way to do that. The resources of the Entente are not equal to carrying on two offensives at the same moment. If our Army in the West will just sit tight awhile, we here will beat the Turks, and snip the last economic lien binding the Central Powers to the outside world.
Once more, our game is to defend in the West until the attack in the East has borne economic fruit in the shape of ships and corn: political fruit in the sentiment of the Balkans: military fruit in the fillip given to the whole force of the Entente by actual tactical contact between the British soldiers and the rank and file of the Ruskies. The collapse of the Central Powers,—eclipsed in full view of all Asia and Africa by the smoke from the funnels of the British Fleet at anchor in the Golden Horn is what we are after here. Even if French and Joffre do drive the German main hordes back to the Rhine the scope of their scoop would be far less than ours, for we by getting to Constantinople can starve those main armies stiff.
How few of our people know anything of the Russians. At least, I have been attached for eight months to the Armies which fought against them in the field; have visited Russia and Siberia and have done two peace manoeuvres as their guest. To send superior officers to Russia only produces jealousy; to send supplies only breeds dishonesty. But with 50,000 British soldiers as yeast we could leaven 5,000,000 Muscovites; we could fire their inert masses with our ardour; this is the best of all uses to which 50,000 British soldiers could at present be put.
From the early days when he told me the New Army should go to Salonika, K. had an intuition at the back of his big mind that victory would dawn in the East. But he is no longer the K. of K., the old K. of Khartoum and Pretoria. He still has his moments of God-sent intuition. First, he had absolute knowledge that the Germans would come through Belgium: I repeat this. The assumption was not uncommon perhaps, but he knew the fact! Secondly, when everyone else spoke of a six weeks' war; when every other soldier I can think of except Douglas Haig believed he'd be back before the grouse shooting was over; K. went nap on a three years' war. Pray heaven he was wrong; but, right or wrong, he has already proved himself to have been nearer the mark than anyone else. Thirdly, he had a call (by heavenly telepathy, I suppose) that his New Armies must go out to the East. There is no more question about this than there is about Belgium and the three years' duration. He has told me so; time and again.
Why then does he not act accordingly if he's in the Almighty know? Because he can't. With the one exception of the Battle of Paardeberg, he never in his palmiest days pretended to be a man of action. But now he has lost his faculty of forcing others to act. He makes a spurt but he can't stay the distance. He has met Millerand, French and Joffre in Council and allowed the searchlights of his genius to be snuffed out! That is what surprises me:—He, who once could deflect Joe Chamberlain and Milner from their orbits; who twisted stiff-necked Boers round his little finger; who bore down Asquith, Winston, Prince Louis and Beatty in Valetta Harbour—East versus West—Mediterranean versus North Sea—who, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., withstood, wrestled with and overthrew Haldane's arguments in favour of his taking up the succession to the Duke of Connaught, and that although he had one arm tied to his side by having taken the King's shilling. What a marvel he was and now—
There is something so tragical in what home letters let us guess that the pity of it almost makes me forget our own stillborn projects.
15th September, 1915. Imbros. Altham and Major Hood left G.H.Q. for L. of C. Headquarters. Had another hour with Altham before he got aboard his destroyer. Gave an interview to Buchanan, A.M.S. After lunch, Braithwaite, Val, Wells, Deedes, Freddie and myself went off to Suvla aboard H.M.S. Scourge (Lieutenant-Commander Tupper). On landing, Braithwaite branched off to see the G.S. Byng has a keen sense of humour; is energetic and by his looks and manner attracts all ranks. No one could wish a better corps commander and I have never in all my experience known anyone take greater and more minute trouble with his field days and manoeuvres than he did in Egypt the year before the war. But his sojourn on the Western front has given him inflated standards as to the number of guns and stocks of H.E. shell which are essential to success; especially with troops who have suffered heavy losses. Perhaps he is right. This para. from a letter written to the great man to-night explains more generally what I feel:—
* * * * *
"Maude is burning to get on and do something and I heard him myself ask Byng when he was going to let him have a dash. As to Byng, I think myself he is not quite sure yet about the spirit of his men. I have been trying to spur him on for the last day or so, although only by very gentle hints, as I think, with a man of Byng's great reputation, one must leave him to himself for as long as possible. I daresay he may be quite right and very wise. Still, these reinforcements have brought the Suvla Bay troops up to no less than 37,000 men, and I am most anxious they should do something soon a little more rapid than sapping out slowly towards the enemy's lines—which they are doing."
After my talk with Byng, we went on to meet Fanshawe and de Lisle. Maude came along with me as far as the crestline. I asked him about his Division. He replied: "Sir Ian, may I be frank with you about the Division?" At these ominous words I shivered. They positively gave me the shivers. So I braced myself up when I answered, "But of course!" Maude then said, "If you give the order now, and will arrange for a little artillery support, my Division will storm and hold on to any thousand yards of Turkish trench you like to point out; to-morrow." I could have embraced him, but I had to go steady and explain to him that a Corps Commander must judge all his Divisions and that, taking the situation as a whole, Byng did not think it fair on the men to let them have a dart yet—not, at least, till they had more munitions at their back. Byng has had wide experiences in the West and he looks on it as trying the men unfairly to ask them to attack without a preliminary bombardment on a scale which we cannot at present afford. "Yes," said Maude, "that is all very well but after all you must remember the Turks have neither the artillery nor the munitions the Germans have at their command on the Western front."
"Well," I replied, "you put your points to Byng and you know I am a man who never yet in my life refused a good brave offer like yours." He has a great admiration for Byng and so, though sadly, he went away.
Fanshawe met me at the South end of the Division trenches, as bright and keen as a new nail. His men, too, seem full of go. Fanshawe hopes to carry the whole ridge whenever he gets the order. The 11th Division promise to be as fine a unit as any in the Army once they get their gaps filled in.
16th September, 1915. Imbros. We had quite a lively morning here. At 7.30 an enemy's biplane dropped four bombs on our Headquarters camp and got away with hardly a shot fired at it. At 7.50 an enemy's Taube came over and dropped bombs near my Signal Tent, also a little summer shower of small steel darts: five men were wounded. At 8.10 a.m. yet another enemy biplane circled round but was kept at a respectful distance by the ship's guns.
Gave an interview to Colonel Stewart, Armoured Car Squadron.
Vice-Admiral Foumet and Staff called on me in the forenoon. He replaces Admiral Nicol gone sick. Mails went out this evening. Freddie and I gave tone to our debilitated constitutions by dining with the ever hospitable V.A. on the Triad.
A cable from Dawnay saying Lord K. "would not regard unfavourably" a withdrawal from Suvla Bay.
Dawnay left under the cloud of the 21st August. He it was who rough-drafted the cable (in very much stronger terms than my final version) suggesting that we might have to draw in our horns if we were not kept up to strength. Since then our skies have cleared; the spirit of the men has risen to set fair and we have got drafts enough, not for a big push but certainly to enable us to be delighted should the Turks attempt any sort of an attack, either at Suvla or anywhere else. The Turks, in fact, are strictly on the defensive both actually and in their spirit.
17th September, 1915. Imbros. Had been going to Anzac to inspect and then to bring Birdie back to stay with me. But the weather was too bad. He got here all right as the wind is from the North and he was able to climb aboard under the lee of Nibrunesi Point. Just as well, perhaps, we did not go, for one way or another a good deal of extra work had to be got through. One thing; two cables from Maxwell to the War Office have been repeated to us here; inadvertently we think; divertingly for sure. The story is this:—
* * * * *
A few days ago we were offered the 51st and 53rd Sikhs who, despite their titles, are half Mahomedan. After consulting Cox, Birdie and other Indian Army Officers I cabled back saying we would gladly have them "as soon as transport can be arranged," unless French is willing to exchange them for two purely non-Mahomedan units. Here are the collateral cables from Maxwell to the War Office:—
* * * * *
"Both the 51st and 53rd Sikhs have already been disembarked. They had better remain off ship as long as possible, I think, since they are reported to be feverish. The troopship can wait at Port Said. The men on the canal, I should like to point out, barely get two nights in bed per week."
"I have been asked by Hamilton to send him a double Company of Patiala Sikhs to reinforce the 14th Sikhs. I can do this, and if you concur I think it is a better arrangement than to send him the 51st and 53rd Sikhs."
The Sikhs meant for Gallipoli are gone; we shall never see them more; they mount guard by night against the ghosts of the Suez Canal.
Another thing; a Correspondent writes in and tells us that for the honour of his profession he feels bound to let us know that Mr. Ashmead-Bartlett has secretly sent home an uncensored despatch per, of all people in the world, Mr. Murdoch!
I had begun to wonder what had come over Mr. Murdoch and now it seems he has come over me!
The next paper on the table was my draft cable of advice for M. Millerand. Joffre wants his four Divisions to land on the Peninsula; Sarrail wishes them to work along the Asiatic side. No doubt the views of the French Generals are being coloured by their wish to stand as clear as they can of British command. So I have been careful to sweep away that obstacle by offering to stand down. Now they can fix up the problem on its merits:—
* * * * *
"Closest consideration has been given to your No. 7843, cipher. Until now I have consistently opposed a landing on the Asiatic side of the Straits with less than 6 divisions—see my telegram No. M.F. 349 of 19th June. On Gallipoli Peninsula area and difficulties of supply limited liabilities of the opposing forces whereas mainland of Asia gave scope for the deployment of large forces by the enemy. Now, however, the situation is clearing up and there has been a great change in the conditions.
"The Turks had formerly 10,000 to 12,000 men on Asiatic shore with large reserves on the Peninsula available to cross over there if necessary. Now Anatolia and Syria have been drained of troops to oppose us on the Peninsula where the Turks have far longer front to hold, namely, 9-1/2 miles instead of 2-1/2, whilst our position and strength at Suvla and Anzac are more threatening to their communications than was our position at Anzac in June. If, therefore, we can be strong enough to maintain pressure on whole Turkish line on the Peninsula it is unlikely that Turks could detach troops to oppose French landing on Asiatic shore. Assuming even that the Turks were enabled to release every soldier from Thrace by a definite understanding being arrived at with Bulgaria, I calculate they might gather a total of five divisions but of these probably only one or at most two would be on Asiatic side at beginning of the operations and would probably be scattered so that opposition in strength to surprise landing is improbable. Moreover, only one of the divisions is composed of good Nizam troops, others believed to be not up to establishment. The Asiatic coast down to Yukeri Bay is now heavily trenched but I do not think much has been done below that point. Supposing, therefore, French bring good divisions at war strength and succeed in keeping their destination secret, they appear to have a good chance of obtaining good covering positions without much loss and of thence advancing on Chanak defeating any Turkish forces sent against them. Degree of their success would depend on whether the entrenched positions which have been prepared on the Kum Kale—Ehren Keui road could be turned by the good road which leads from Yukeri through Ezine and Ishiklar to Chanak, as it is unlikely that Turks would be able to quickly organize new defensive positions with entirely new line of supply. The distance of landing place from objective is a secondary consideration. It is easier to march and fight 100 miles than to take three lines of trenches. In the one case there is room for manoeuvre at which Turks are bad while in the other case siege warfare results at which the Turks stand supreme. Once Ehren Keui reached, the Turks between that place and Kum Kale would be forced to retire and Kum Kale would become our base, thereby greatly shortening line of supply. Supposing Turks endeavoured to make bridgehead on Chanak promontory, the country is so big that large forces would be necessary and once the Turks were cut off from North their supply difficulties would be most serious. French possession of Chanak should be equivalent to victory, but as Turks are stubborn fellows it is better to confine anticipations to commencement of results which I consider would be as follows:—Cutting off of Turkish supply line Chanak to Akbashi Liman. Narrows would be useless to Turks. Nagara communications could be cut. Our 15-inch howitzer could be used to batter Kilid Bahr forts. Allied Fleets should be able to enter Marmora without loss.
"Turning to alternatives. If French were held up and unable to reach Chanak, at least the last Turkish reserves would have been used up and I think happy termination of operations though postponed would begin to come clearly into view. Supposing the worst happened and that the French were compelled to fall back after landing. In that case a clear road for retirement to a bridgehead would be open. Positions covering landing could be taken up and there they would continue to draw towards them considerable Turkish forces which would otherwise be available for use on Peninsula.
"Finally, greater difficulties beset all other schemes. The notorious military disadvantages of independent command would be less harmful if the respective armies were separated by the Straits than if they were mixed up together on Peninsula. As Achi Baba is now one of the strongest fortresses in Europe, it would be unpopular to palm off the Cape Helles end upon the French. Moreover, all the French here are, and always have been, dead set on Asia. If the French were employed at Suvla they would have to fight side by side with the British, a situation which, with co-equal commanders, would be a military absurdity. Were that course decided upon, I would ask the Allied Governments to make up their minds which General had the most daring, brains and experience, and if it were the Frenchman I would serve under him loyally.
"As to making the attempt to the North of the Gulf of Xeros: a landing there is certain to be opposed, and the Turkish reinforcements which are always held ready in the neighbourhood of Uzunkiupru and Keshan could arrive in strength very quickly and imperil the whole project. A further objection lies in the distance of the French intermediate base and great strain it would throw on Allied Fleets. Finally, it is all-important that absolute secrecy should be maintained. I suggest that it should be allowed to leak out that the destination of the French is Enos, this would probably have the effect of tricking Turkish troops in Thrace, as Enos is a destination which would gain most credence."
Birdie has at last worn off the fine edge of his keenness; he looks a little tired: General Russell, the New Zealander, dined also and was in great form.
18th September, 1915. Imbros. A cable to say that the French Government are anxious to form two bases each capable of supplying three Divisions: one to be at Mudros, the other at Mitylene. Is it business? In spite of delay, in spite of lost chances, is it business?
LOOS AND SALONIKA
Left G.H.Q. at noon to-day, 18th, sailed to Helles; lunched with Davies; went up to inspect the East Lanes Division. The trenches are in apple-pie order and the men are in good heart, but the stomach has always been held to be the mainstay of the fighting man, and theirs are in the grip of enteritis. Stopped at 5th Corps Headquarters on my way back.
De Putron and la Borde came back with me. Struck an interesting scientist called Lawes whilst I was in the Lancashire trenches. As we were entering the harbour at Kephalos an enemy Taube tried to drop a bomb aboard. No harm.
Dined with the V.A. together with Birdie, Lord Anglesey and Freddie.
When we got back found this from War Office. Rather amusing to be in the know of the counter moves and to see their outcome:—
* * * * *
"The exchange of battalions mentioned in No. 7873, cipher, of 14th September cannot be effected, so that at present the 51st and 53rd Sikhs will not proceed to France. From the General Officer Commanding, Egypt's, telegram No. 1854. E. of 15th September, it is understood that he can send you another double company of Patiala Sikhs to reinforce the 14th Sikhs. Possibly this will suffice for your requirements in the meantime, and the 51st and 53rd Sikhs will be left at the disposal of General Officer Commanding, Egypt. If so, will you please make arrangements with him accordingly?
"Repeated to General Officer Commanding, Egypt."
Our defeat is a foregone conclusion: the Senoussi is too strong for us. All the same I am determined to press the matter to an issue, if only to have a clean cut precedent as to whether we do have a first call on troops in Egypt or whether it is the other way about. We want these men so badly. They don't get sick here; are worth four European Battalions at present, and Birdie has become most anxious to get them, especially the 53rd. So I am cabling to Maxwell just to send us our troops (for they are ours) forthwith and have cabled to the War Office:—
* * * * *
"With reference to your telegram No. 8012, cipher. In accordance with your telegram No. 8711, of 11th September, I am asking General Officer Commanding, Egypt, to send here, at once, the 51st and 53rd Sikhs, as I cannot do without them. I shall be very glad to receive the Patiala Sikhs as well, as the 14th Sikhs are badly in need of a reinforcement."
Imagine had we been sent Indian Divisions for Suvla and if the New Army, Territorials and Yeomen had been sent instead to France! Each category would have given (let me put it mildly) double value. The heat, the thirst, the scrub, the snipers, all so disconcerting to our fresh contingents would have been commonplaces of frontier warfare to our Indian troops. See what the handful with us here have achieved. Yet in vain do I write and cable my personal entreaties to Beauchamp Duff, the all-powerful Commander-in-Chief in India, and a very old friend, for two hundred Sikhs: first he offers me a couple of hundred Brahmins wherewith to fill the ranks of the famous 14th Sikhs and then, when I hesitate before a proposal which appears monstrous, withdraws even that offer. Again, I beg for 200 recruits for the 14th, saying I will train them myself; I am refused—very politely and at great length—refused, because it would be "politically inexpedient" to send them. In vain do we try to get our own two battalions through the Egyptian morass; they are going to stick and do sentry go over nothing. Why; were there any real trouble in Egypt I could land a whole Division there within four and a half days!
As for the New Army and Territorials, gradually entered with their veteran comrades in the trenches of France and Flanders, they too would have had more familiar surroundings and fairer play—as everyone here now recognizes, too late!
The crystals of history take shape while we fight. As in a glass darkly the outlines begin to appear to anyone who has a moment wherein to peer beyond the end of the war. Everything has gone by the contrary. Our people have done as well as their neighbours, and better, with their imaginations, whether in diplomacy, strategy or tactics. Where the Gibbon or Plutarch who survives the War Office Censor is going to damn their reputations into heaps is over their failure in business commonsense. Under their noses, parts of their system, were two great live organisms; the Indian Army and the Territorial Force. From the moment the mobilization flag was dropped it was up to them to work tooth and nail to treble or quadruple these sound, vigorous existing entities. What have they done? After a year of war, the Indian Army and the Territorial Army are staggering on their last legs instead of being the best part of our forces. Compare the East Lanes Division, who had the good fortune to escape from War Office clutches by getting right out to Egypt at the outbreak of the war, with Territorial Divisions which have remained since then under the eyes and in the hands of the War Office!
The Turks are still withdrawing troops from the Caucasus front to ours. Good for the Russians. Whilst I was at Helles, the enemy guns started a heavy bombardment along the whole of our nine mile front from the right of Anzac to the left of Suvla; a heavy musketry fire also along the Turkish trenches. An attempt was then made to launch infantry assaults against our lines, but these fizzled out, the rank and file having no heart for the job. There is no doubt the Turks have had enough of it. They can still hold on, but that's about all.
19th September, 1915. Imbros. News in to say that the Turkish rank and file at Suvla are not equal to any attack. At the end of the bombardment yesterday a few officers jumped on to the parapet and waved their swords; the men shouted from the safety of the trenches—that was all. Alec McGrigor arrived from Alexandria as A.D.C. vice Brodrick. At 9 p.m. an enemy aeroplane dropped a couple of bombs. Very jolly having Birdie here. He says that his latest returns show a daily sick list of ten per battalion of British or Australian troops and of one per battalion of Indian troops.
20th September, 1915. Imbros. Nothing doing. There is still scope for action at Suvla but we can't get them to take up any little schemes we may suggest. Shell shortage is the invariable answer. At 5 p.m. Birdie and Anglesey went back to Anzac.
21st September, 1915. Imbros. Further development of the Sikh comedy:—Maxwell cables, "No. 1883 E. Your No. M.F. 648. I have received no orders to send these regiments. According to my last information from the War Office they were to remain here, as I require them, but that I should send you a double company of Patiala Sikhs to reinforce the 14th Sikhs."
I have cabled this on to the War Office, saying, "As I understand it, your No. 8012 of 18th September does not mean that the War Office have withdrawn the offer of these two regiments, which are urgently required here. I therefore hope that you will give early authority to General Officer Commanding, Egypt, to send them on to Mediterranean Expeditionary Force."
The battalions were thrown at my head when that grand statement was made as to the grand army I commanded; now where are they?
Started off with Taylor, Freddie and Colonel Napier (British Military Attache to Bulgaria) for Anzac. No shelling. Went round the whole left centre and left of Birdie's position to right and left of Cheshire Point, and saw the new Australian Division—very fine fellows. Bullets were on the whistle and "the boys" were as keen and happy as any real schoolboys. Memories of the Khyber, Chitral and Tirah can hardly yield samples of a country so tangled and broken. Where the Turks begin and where we end is a puzzler, and if you do happen to take a wrong turning it leads to Paradise. Met various Australian friends—a full-blown Lord Mayor—many other leading citizens both of Melbourne and of Sydney.
At 5 p.m. re-embarked. Napier gave birth to a happy thought on our way back. His idea is that we should transfer the troops on the Gallipoli Peninsula to Salonika so as to hearten up the Serbians and Greeks and dishearten our enemies at Sofia. He has pressed his view, he said, on the Foreign Office. I asked him if his Chief, the Minister at Sofia, stood behind him. He said he could not vouch for his Minister's views, but that he, Napier, had power in his capacity as Military Attache to correspond with the British Government direct.
K. himself did at one time toy with the thought of sending his New Army to Serbia either under Rundle or myself, and was only restrained by the outbreak of typhus in that country. But, keen as I was for the warpath, a very little study of the terrain and supply question was enough to cool my ardour.
Salonika is ruled out by history. In all the campaigns waged of old in these very regions the part played by Salonika has been naval, not military. There must have been some reason for this: there was; it still exists—geography! You could not, and cannot, carry out anything big via a couple of narrow cracks through a trackless labyrinth of mountains. The problem is a repetition of the Afghanistan dilemma. A big army would starve at Nisch and along the Danube; a small army would be swallowed up by the enemy. Unless they are going to trust to Bulgaria and Roumania for supplies, one British Army Corps is about as much as can manage to live and fight in Serbia. If they want to make Serbia safe their only possible chance is to push through to Constantinople! There is no other way. I said all this to Napier and a lot more besides and left him keener on Salonika than ever.
He actually thinks that from Salonika we could do what could be done by us at any time at the Dardanelles! Salonika is no alternative to the Dardanelles. I wish the War Office could hear Gouraud; Gouraud, that big sane man with local knowledge. How strong he used to be on the point that Greece lay altogether outside the sphere of any military action by the Entente. We can't feed Russia with munitions through Salonika, nor can we bring back Russian wheat via Salonika,—not much, seeing we would not be able to feed ourselves were we fifty miles into the mountains. Salonika is a military mare's nest.
Scatters Wilson and Captain Cheape dined and stayed the night. The King's Messenger arrived with the Mails.
* * * * *
"(No. M.F. 654). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to War Office. Only two machine guns per battalion are being brought by the City of London battalions, the balance, by order of General Officer Commanding, Egypt, being handed over to Chief Ordnance Officer, Egypt. The former telegraphs that this has been done by your order. There is nothing that is more important to my force than an ample supply of these guns. I would therefore request that early authority should be given to General Officer Commanding, Egypt, to send on these guns."
"(No. I.D. 116). From General Headquarters, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, to War Office. My No. I.D. 110. Please inform me whether Murdoch has arrived, and whether my information was correct as regards his carrying a despatch for Sir Harry Lawson from Ashmead-Bartlett."
"(No. 8108, cipher). From War Office to General Headquarters, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Your No. I.D. 116. A despatch answering the description has been taken from Murdoch at Marseilles. You should delay action, however, until we have seen it and you hear from us further."
The despatch should have been censored here and ought, therefore, to be sent back here for censoring. The War Office, I suppose, want to have first look in!
22nd September, 1915. Scatters and Cheape sailed back for Suvla at 6.45 a.m.—just in good time to avoid a raid on our Headquarters carried out by three Taubes between 7.50 and 8 a.m. A dozen bombs dropped; no serious harm done.
Heseltine, King's Messenger, came to dinner.
Bad news from Bulgaria. She is mobilizing, not, we may be sure, for the sake of helping those who do not help themselves. Well do I remember Ferdinand, as long ago as 1909, turning to me and saying as he pointed to a picture of himself in the robes of a Byzantine Emperor, "Quand vous arrivez au Bosphore, pensez a moi." Well, there is one good side to working over a narrow Peninsula, under the guns of your own Fleet, all the Bulgars in the Balkans cannot add a rifle to the number of enemy troops on Gallipoli, who already, can only be munitioned, watered and fed with the greatest difficulty. The more targets the enemy cram on to their present narrow front the merrier for our gunners; the better the chance for our submarines starving the lot of them. So long as our Fleet holds the AEgean, we may snap our fingers at the Bulgarians, whereas they, were they fools enough to come here, would live on tenter hooks lest haply some fine morning our Fleet should sail into the Marmora.
Yes, two or three battleships in the Marmora! Think of it! The sea communications, Constantinople-Gallipoli and Asia-Gallipoli, would cease, ipso facto, to exist. The railways between Europe and Constantinople and Asia and Constantinople must shut down. In a fortnight the Turks on the Peninsula begin to pack up; in a month the Turks in Constantinople move bag and baggage from Europe to Asia. Ferdinand watching the cat's jump, prepares to turn those 400,000 bayonets of his against the Kaiser. So wags my world in the might-be; very much "might-be" for the Navy are turning down the "to be" for the third time of asking. Three times the Sibyl makes her prodigious offer: May—August—September a new world for old battleships:—two—four—six!
23rd September, 1915. Stormy weather: the Imogene could hardly crawl out. Have written K. to tell him how day succeeds day, never without incident, but never with achievement; how we are burnt up with longing to get on and how we know that he is as anxious. Yet, as I tell him, we "can't force the pace." How can we? We have not the wherewithal—the stuff. "Byng would like to have four days' successive bombardment for an hour, and then attack, and speaks of one H.E. shell per yard as pat as if they were shells we could pick up on the seashore. I have assured him it is no earthly use; that he shall have his share of what I have got, but that stuff for bombardment is simply not in existence,—not here, at least."
24th September, 1915. Imbros. Fought against exasperation all day. As I thought:—
* * * * *
"(No. 8193, cipher). From Earl Kitchener to General Sir Ian Hamilton. In the existing situation, the two battalions referred to in your No. M.F. 655 of 21st September, should remain for the present in Egypt. I have informed Maxwell to this effect."
K. has re-opened the idea of giving up Suvla, saying, "it might become necessary in certain eventualities to abandon that area." In my reply I have said, "I hope there will be no question now of the abandonment of Suvla.... In the Northern zone I have now more troops than at the time of my telegram, my line is stronger, the old troops are resting, the new troops are improving, and preparations are being made for a local advance. At this stage withdrawal will be a great moral victory for the Turks. Moreover, it would release a large number of enemy divisions to oppose the Russians in Asia, or for other enterprises."
Another cable also sent dealing with the ever present, ever pressing, ever ghastlier shortage upon the Peninsula generally:—
* * * * *
"My present shortages, 21st September, of infantry rank and file are 2,645 in the XXIXth Division, 17,166 in the three New Army Divisions, and 23,986 in the four Territorial Divisions, totalling 43,797; out of respective establishments of 11,652, 37,869 and 44,824, total, 97,345."
Were the Royal Naval Division included the percentage would be worse.
Peter Pollen and I dined with the Admiral. After dinner, we discussed Fox-Ferdinand's little tricks. The Admiral had heard a lot about his flirtations with the Duke of Mecklenburg lately sent from Berlin on some sort of an ambassadorial mission to the Balkans. I told him of my visit to Sofia during the interval which took place between Prince Ferdinand proclaiming himself Tsar, and the tardy and unenthusiastic recognition of his new rank by Great Britain. Ferdinand's Court Chamberlain asked me to dine. I wanted to refuse as I had meant to go on to Constantinople, but Sir George Buchanan, our Minister, begged me to accept. Diplomatic relations were broken off; he had not seen Ferdinand for a month: he wanted to know what that Prince would say to me: "but," he added, "you must on no account go in uniform. Seeing you are on the Army Council it would almost amount to a recognition of his Kingship if you went there in uniform." I thought this a little far-fetched; however, I wrote back and said that I had the honour to accept, but that, as I was travelling, I had only my kleine Uniform; i.e., undress kit, handy. I proposed, therefore, with permission to take the liberty of presenting myself in evening dress, wearing miniature medals and decorations and the ribbon of the Grand Cross of the Bath. By return messenger an answer came back, "His Majesty particularly wished once more to see the admirable British uniform:" would I come in kleine Uniform; meanwhile, to put me quite at my ease, H.M. had commanded the Court also to wear undress. I showed this to Sir George, who laughed and said, "He is too sharp; he has done us; you must go now—there is no help for it." So I went in my grubby blue serge and found Ferdinand and the whole of his Court blazing with orders in the fullest of full dress!
25th September, 1915. To Anzac in the Arno. Birdie met me and we walked along the lower part of the left of the Australian trenches until we reached the New Zealanders and were joined by Godley. Lunched with General Inglefield; then plodded through the trenches held by his Division (the 54th; nice-looking boys) and by the Indian Brigade. On the left of the Indian Brigade I was met by Peyton who did pilot to me through the Scottish Horse section. The Bard joined us here and was in great form, full of administrative good works as in South Africa. The Scottish Horse are as keen as schoolboys out for their first shoot. They were very proud of themselves and of the effect their rifles with telescopic sights had produced when put into the hands of gillies and deer stalkers, and at every twenty yards or so there was a Scottish Horseman looking along his sights, finger on trigger, and by his side a spotter whose periscope was fixed on the opposite loophole. The moment a Turkish shadow darkened the loophole the word was given, the bullet sped. Not a very big mark a loophole at over 100 yards but they got it, they said, one try out of three.
At the end of the Scottish Horse we came to the Worcester Yeomanry trench. But time was up and I had to make tracks for Anzac where we had tea with Birdie, who had stuck to us throughout the tour. Imbros by dinner-time. The quietest day, bar none, we have had on the Peninsula since we first landed. Not a shot was fired anywhere except by our own snipers.
26th September, 1915. Imbros. Last night, after dinner, Braithwaite came across with a black piece of news in his pocket:—
* * * * *
"(No. 8229, cipher). From Earl Kitchener to General Sir Ian Hamilton. On account of the mobilization of the Bulgarian Army Greece has asked the Allies to send a force to Salonika in order to enable her to support Serbia should the latter be attacked by Bulgaria, as well as by German forces from the North. No doubt you realize that if by such action Bulgaria joins hands with the Central Powers they will have a clear road to Constantinople and Gallipoli, and be able to send large quantities of ammunition or troops, rendering your position very hazardous.
"Both France and ourselves have promised to send between us the troops asked for, viz., 150,000 men, and urgency is essential. It is evident that under these circumstances some troops will have to be taken from the Dardanelles to go to Salonika, but it must be clearly understood that there is no intention of withdrawing from the Peninsula or of giving up the Dardanelles operations until the Turks are defeated. Your staff officer has suggested to me that you saw no difficulty in reducing the length of your line and concentrating your forces by withdrawing from the position now held around Suvla Bay to the neighbourhood of the Kaiajik Aghala position whence a line might be drawn to the sea.
"Before the situation was changed by the Bulgarians' action we considered that, owing to the marshy nature of the country now occupied at Suvla and the approaching winter, this reduction of front would be strategically advantageous. Hence my telegram No. 8162 to which your No. M.F. 664 replies.
"An offensive along practically the whole line in France has now commenced. The infantry are attacking to-day. Far-reaching results are anticipated which, if secured, should greatly affect your situation.
"The projected dispatch of reinforcements of French and British divisions for Asiatic operations must be in abeyance until a decision in the Western theatre can be reached. The troops now at the Dardanelles which are required for Salonika would be two divisions, preferably the Xth and XIth. The French would also have to withdraw either a brigade or a division from their force at Helles for the same purpose. The Yeomanry now en route to you would also have to be diverted to Salonika and we should have to arrange to mount them from Egypt after their arrival.
"Cable me at once your ideas as to meeting these requirements. The Dardanelles Committee consider a withdrawal from Suvla to be advisable under the circumstances, but they had not seen your telegram No. 664. We have been asked to send the 15-inch howitzer, now on board ship at Mudros, to Belgrade as soon as possible."
Amen—so be it! Our mighty stroke at the vitals of the enemy is to break itself to pieces against the Balkans. God save the King! May the Devil fly away with the whole of the Dardanelles Committee!!
What arguments—what pressure—I wonder can have moved K. to swap horse in mid-Dardanelles? In December K. as good as told me I was "for it" if the day should come along for his New Army to help the Serbians. G.H.Q. in France had belittled his effort to create it; they had tried to throw cold water on it (the New Army) and now we should see how they liked it going to Salonika! The reason why K., at that time, turned the project down was his view that one Army Corps was too small a force to launch into those regions of great armies and that, if the Germans turned seriously in that direction, it would be gobbled up. But two Army Corps would starve, seeing we had no pack transport and that the railway would only feed 40,000 men. Nor had we any mountain guns. In February he resurrected the question but that time he was put off by the typhus. "Whatever destroys my New Army," he said, "it shall not be the Serbian lice." Now he cables as if he was being quite consistent and sensible, now, when in every aspect, the odds have turned against the undertaking. As to the Bulgarians having "a clear road to Constantinople and Gallipoli" my memorable dinner with Ferdinand, and his insistence on his "pivotal" position, makes me perfectly certain that the bones of no Bulgarian grenadier will fertilize the Peninsula—whatever happens. And if the inconceivable were conceivable and Ferdinand were to work for anything but his own immediate gain—there is no room for them here! That fact is cast iron. The Turkish Empire is here in full force. Enver can't feed more! These numbers cause us no alarm. Since the last abortive effort of the Turkish Command to get their men to attack every soldier in the trenches knows well that the enemy are afraid of us. They dare not attack, they will not attack, and they cannot attack. We know that quite well. If K. would only come out here he would realize that the Turk has lost his sting. I don't mean to say he is not still a formidable fellow to turn out of his trench, but he can't attack any more: and that is just the moment we have chosen to sit down and do nothing; now, when the enemy has been brought to a standstill!
During my absence Bailloud has wired saying he had received orders from his own Minister of War to arrange for sending away one Division of the C.E.O. and Braithwaite has cabled the startling news to our S. of S. for War.
Well, well. If the Greeks and ourselves are going to push through the mountains to help the Serbs to hold Belgrade and the line of the Danube, why then, no doubt, we are embarking upon something that would be fine were it feasible—something more hopeful than sitting at Salonika and in its salubrious suburbs, the "political" advantages of which were preached to us by Napier.
But let no man hereafter talk of Dardanelles adventures. Mon Dieu!
Once again see the dupes of maps preparing to dash out their brains, or rather the brains of others, against the rocks. If only Joffre and K. had looked at Belgrade over the guns of an Austrian Battery in Semlin, as I did in 1909! The line of the Danube is untenable except by a very large force against the very large forces that can, and will, be brought against it and there is no Fleet there to feed a large force. Also, the communications of such a defending force will not only be mechanically rotten but will also be strategically at the tender mercy of the most cunning Prince in Europe. We may think we have squared Ferdinand. But it is easier to square the circle than square a fox.
On the Danube, the Central Powers can put and keep six men to our one, unless we control the river from its mouth to Belgrade. This we can only do by forcing the Dardanelles.
After outlining an answer for Braithwaite to draft, I started off at 10.45 for Anzac and Suvla. With me were Taylor, Gascoigne, Lieutenant Moore and Freddie. From Anzac I walked along the old communication trench for a couple of miles, and then went round General Taylor's Brigade along the front by Green Hill and the Chocolate Hills. The heat was very exhausting.
Yesterday's calm has proved to be the prelude to an attempted storm. At 5 a.m. there was a big bombardment of the front line trenches, and the Turks made a gesture of defiance. The gesture did not go beyond fixing bayonets and shouting "Allah!" and the only result has been to render Suvla more convinced than ever that the Turks are absolutely fed up.
After invigorating myself with a good draught of regimental spirit, set forth to walk back to Anzac. Half way I halted at the Indian Brigade Headquarters, and, on the invitation of the hospitable Colonel Palin, had a square meal. Met Allanson, the brave commander of the 6th Gurkhas; Allanson who scaled the heights of Sari Bair and entered for a few hectic hours into the promised land. Oh, what a wonderful adventure his has been! To have seen the Dardanelles and their defences lying flat at his feet! To feel—as he says he did—that he held the whole Turkish Army by the throat!
To-day's inspection has once more brought me into personal touch with the perfect confidence felt both at Anzac and Suvla in the demoralization of the Turks. This has nerved me to cable agreeing to spare the 10th and 53rd Divisions from Suvla as well as a Brigade of French from Helles and four and a half Brigades of British Field Artillery:—
* * * * *
"(No. M.F. 675). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Secretary of State for War. Reference your No. 8229. Let me begin by saying that I quite realize that, to you, playing for your large stakes, the Dardanelles operation may temporarily become of a secondary nature. In spite of the Salonika scheme I am, however, particular to note that it is not intended to withdraw from the Gallipoli Peninsula, nor to give up here until the Turks are beaten. Bearing this in mind it becomes my duty to point out the objection to the abandonment of Suvla Bay, the consequences of which at this stage would, I consider, be so grave that I am warranted in running much risk to get you your two divisions by other means. The situation has greatly changed since I first suggested the possibility of abandoning the Bay, and its abandonment at this stage would, I feel convinced, enormously accentuate the difficulties of any subsequent attempt to capture the Narrows; unless, as a result of our landing troops at Salonika, Bulgaria were induced to side with us and not against us. Even when I told you in my No. M.F. 578 of 23rd August that the diminution of my forces might compel me to contract my line, I could not view the project without misgiving, in spite of the fact that, at that time, I had landed few reinforcements and little artillery in the new zone, and my views are not rightly interpreted when it is said that I saw no great difficulty in the enterprise. After I had received the reassuring news of reinforcements I sent you my No. M.F. 589 of 26th August and I have from that date been pouring in large quantities of reinforcements and supplies in anticipation of winter, and have landed a large additional amount of artillery. Therefore, I could not hurriedly evacuate the Bay without sacrificing the majority of supplies and warlike stores. I might also have very considerable losses, for the Turks, who were previously 700 yards away, are now within bombing distance in places. They have a large number of guns in the northern zone and a retirement could only be effected under heavy fire, which with unseasoned troops would make the retreat a hazardous one. As explained in my No. M.F. 664 evacuation of the Bay would involve with it the eventual evacuation of all but the original Anzac position. But even if this last step were not necessary the withdrawal of British soldiers from Suvla would be an overwhelming victory for the Turks. Our position in the Dardanelles would be entirely altered for the worse and even the effect of our landing of troops at Salonika might be discounted in Bulgarian eyes. At the present moment the Turkish commissariat difficulties and tales of starving families which the wounded bring back from Constantinople are having a bad effect on their moral and the number of desertions is on the increase. Two Turkish attempts at the offensive have broken down completely during the last week as their troops refused to leave cover. If I give ground the Turkish moral will immediately recover and instead of containing over 60,000 Turks in the Northern Zone there would be large numbers set free to go elsewhere. All these arguments seem to prove plainly that to evacuate a yard of Suvla would be a most serious, and might prove a disastrous step. I would therefore prefer to run the risk of holding the line defensively with fewer troops in order to spare two divisions for the new enterprise.
"I have at present one division in Corps Reserve at Suvla and the 1st Australian Division resting at Mudros and also one brigade resting at Imbros. By bringing the tired Australians back and making them replace the Mounted Division in the section north of Susak Kuyu I could spare Xth and LIIIrd Divisions or else Xth and XIth. I could also spare one French brigade from Cape Helles without replacing it by troops from Suvla, and a total of 4-1/2 British Field Artillery brigades. This would at any rate enable me to postpone any evacuation at Suvla and if the withdrawal became necessary later on there would be less loss involved in supplies and stores, as I could gradually make necessary preparations for this deplorable contingency.
"The 15-inch howitzer is at Alexandria and can be sent whenever you desire on the receipt of instructions. To-morrow I am having a conference here with the Corps Commanders concerned to consider the details. I hope that you realize that though the IXth Corps consists of Xth, XIth and XIIIth Divisions there are attached to it LIIIrd Welsh Division, Mounted Division and XXIXth Division, and I therefore sincerely trust you will not contemplate the withdrawal of the Corps Staff and Corps Commander to accompany the two divisions destined for Salonika, for I have absolutely no one to replace them."
27th September, 1915. After breakfast a dove, the German sort, flew across from Chanak and dropped four bombs on our Headquarters; all wide; no damage. At 11 o'clock Birdwood and Byng came over for a confab on the last upset. Both Generals went word by word through my M.F. 657 of the 26th September,—(1) as to drawing in our horns at Suvla,—(2) as to our power of holding on after we lose the 10th and 53rd Divisions. They concur in my cables and are emphatic as to the futility of making a gift of ground to any enemy who are shaking in their shoes. What the Turks want is a gift, not of ground but of high explosive shell. A few thousand pounds worth of that and Byng would go ahead and settle their hash for good. Birdie stayed to lunch during which meal I got a message from Bailloud telling me flat that he had orders from his Government to get one Division over to Mudros forthwith. As long as I am in command no soldier but myself shall handle the troops entrusted to me. I have sent the following reply:—"Sorry that as my orders already telegraphed to you this morning are specific, I cannot permit any movement of troops away from the Peninsula pending further instructions."
Ross and Nevinson (Press Correspondents), who have been away on a jaunt, called on me and had tea. Lord William Percy and Sir Walter Barttelot dined.
28th September, 1915. Office. At midnight an enemy aeroplane let us have a taste of his high explosive—no harm done. At 10.30 this morning another came over and dropped a couple of bombs into the aerodrome close by—two men hit.
Colonel Dorling reported himself to me as Senior Paymaster.
A cable from K. saying he is glad to meet me as to holding on at Suvla. He agrees in fact that to draw in our horns would merely set free six Turkish Divisions to attack us elsewhere. He agrees also with my choice of Divisions for Salonika. K. seems astonished at the behaviour of the French Government in sending tactical orders direct to Bailloud. Most extraordinary, he calls it. He wants Byng to go to Salonika and winds up gloriously by telling me of the great things they are doing in France; that, up to the present, 23,000 prisoners and over 40 guns have been taken, and that he hopes there are more of each to follow. This fine success, he says, should help us along in the East. So it should. I have cabled the good news across and ordered a feu de joie to be fired everywhere on the Peninsula in honour of the victory. The ball was opened at Helles at 7 p.m., the Turks replied vigorously with every gun and rifle they could bring to bear, and rarely, I imagine, has a "furious joy" expressed itself more furiously.
Nowhere in the Empire has this fine victory brought more heartfelt relief and joy than at the Dardanelles: to have been brought to a standstill, for the third time of asking, for nothing; that was the fear which had haunted us.
29th September, 1915. Work. At 11 a.m. tore myself away from my papers to play principal part in a gay little ceremony. Outside my office a guard of honour of Surrey Yeomanry, Naval Division and Australians formed three sides of a square. Bertier, de la Borde and Pelliot were led in smiling like brides going up to the altar, and, after a tiny speech, I decorated the first with the D.S.O. and the other two with the Military Cross. All three Officers are most popular, and there were loud cheers. De la Borde had tea and Mitchell came in at the same time to say good-bye. We are all distressed at losing Mitchell. He is a very fine specimen of the sailor of the modern school. Efficient, modest, untiring at his work. He has collaborated in the most loyal and devoted manner with the G.S., and I don't know how we should ever have got on without him.
Nevinson, the Correspondent, came again with Maxwell, the Press Censor. Nevinson wants to find out whether it would be worth his while to go to Salonika. I would like to lend him a hand for he is such a nice fellow, but the matter is about as secret as can be, and I don't feel myself free to say much. The Captains of H.M.S. Cornwall and Cornwallis dined; also Flight Commander Samson and Ward, King's Messenger. The last named starts to-morrow night and carried off with him my letter to K. Amongst other things I write:—"In the cables which have passed between us, I have found it anything but an easy business to strike the happy mean between executing your wishes promptly and cheerfully on the one hand, and, on the other, giving you a faithful impression of how we should stand here once your orders had been carried out.
"If I make too little of the dangers which surround me, then you may be encouraged to weaken me still further, thereby jeopardizing the whole of this enterprise. But if I allow my anxieties to get too much the upper hand, why then I may be ruining some larger enterprise, the bearing of which I have no means of gauging."
I then explain the situation and wind up:—"In the small hours of the morning, before I have had my matutinal cup of tea, the immediate outlook gives me a feeling of cold feet in a more aggravated form than I have hitherto experienced. The whole plan of the French Asiatic subsidiary operation has gone, for the meantime, by the board. England and France between them cannot find men enough, I should think, to send considerable forces to Asia as well as run an entirely new show elsewhere. Indeed, Naval requirements alone would seem entirely to forbid it. But I must not worry you any more with surmises. After all, nothing great in this world was ever easily accomplished. Never has there been such an example of that as in the Dardanelles Expedition. How many times has success seemed to be on the point of crowning our efforts, and yet, on each occasion, just as we are beginning to see light through the tangle of obstacles, preparing for an assault, or whatever it may be, something occurs to upset the apple-cart. None the less we do advance, and we will succeed in the end. I feel I am playing it rather low down inflicting on you the outline of my own trouble at a moment when your own must be infinitely greater.
"Reading over this letter which I have not now time to re-write or correct, it strikes me that in concentrating my mind purely on the Dardanelles I may have given a wrong impression of my general attitude towards your latest demand. No one can realize, I believe, more clearly than I do that the Dardanelles operations themselves hinge for their success to a very large extent upon the maintenance of a barrier between the Central Powers and Constantinople. As far as reinforcements of men to the enemy in the field are concerned, such inter-communication would not be so fatal as might perhaps be imagined. The Gallipoli Peninsula is a limited area, and if the Germans had a million men at Constantinople they could not, under present conditions, add many, if any, to the numbers already opposed to us. But the free transit of coal, flour, ammunition and big guns might well put us all in the cart—the cart being in this instance, the sea."
My A.D.C. has brought me an irritated message from the A.G., War Office:—
* * * * *
"Your No. M.F.A. 4003 of the 24th instant. Are you aware that your telegram was really a demand for 60,000 men with a weekly supply in addition. We do not see how to meet such large numbers in view of the present situation in France. Have the numbers at Base, Alexandria, and men returning from hospital, etc., been taken into account? Please state what are your minimum requirements to carry on with."
Am I aware, etc.? Why certainly; and so is the A.G. To ignore facts is one thing; to be ignorant of them is another. These facts are, or should be, the daily bread of his Department. I resent this surprise; it is not genuine. If, as the A.G. says, they have not got the men to send, why in God's name do they go on telling the people they have got them?
Have drafted out this answer:—
* * * * *
"A.G. My telegram No. M.F.A. 4003 told you the number required to bring and keep all formations up to establishment and, as an estimate, the numbers given therein are accurate. There is nothing new in that telegram; it is only the culmination of many demands, the deficiency, which was serious enough before, being aggravated by the prevailing epidemic. I took into account the numbers in Base depots and men returning from hospital. I certainly hope that there may be a decrease in the sick rate and that there will be an increase in the numbers returning from hospital, but that cannot make any difference to my present shortage of establishment though it would affect the strength of monthly drafts required.
"I would like further to point out that only 750 of the 20,000 drafts now coming are for the Territorial Force, the remainder being for the Regulars. Hence assuming that wastage will be equally distributed over all the eight divisions, the estimated shortage of 30,490 on 9th October will be constituted as follows:—Four Territorial Force divisions, 26,583; four Regular divisions, 3,907.
"When my No. M.F.A. 4003 was sent no question had arisen of denuding my force for a fresh expedition elsewhere. I fully realize that you cannot send what does not exist and I will do the best possible with what you, knowing my situation, are able to send; but I do not consider that it is possible to view my position in winter with any equanimity unless I am to receive substantial drafts and unless a normal flow of reinforcements for all divisions can be arranged so as to counter the difficulties that are inherent in keeping a force operating so far from England up to establishment."
30th September, 1915. Imbros. Peace on the Peninsula; trouble at G.H.Q. The 10th Division is taking its departure from Suvla undisturbed by the enemy. Not a shot is being fired. Some say this denotes extraordinary skill in the conduct of the withdrawal; others, extraordinary delight on the part of the Turks to see them clearing out. I don't believe in either theory. The Turks have been fought to a standstill and there is no attack left in them—not under any circumstances or temptation; that is what I believe in my heart, otherwise I would refuse point blank to strip myself of two full divisions under their noses. Still, it is nervous work presuming to this extent upon their fatigue and I will not agree to the 53rd going too, as the loss of three Divisions would leave an actual hole in our line. Meanwhile, it is a relief to hear that the move is going on just like peacetime. As to G.H.Q., all is held up by uncertainty. Our whole enterprise hangs still in the balance. No date for the sailing of our troops for Salonika can yet be fixed, and we may get them back. Am glued to the cable terminus waiting, waiting, waiting. I have agreed to let the 2nd Brigade of the French go!
This cable sent to-day to Lord K. explains itself:—
* * * * *
"The following has just been received from Bailloud:—'I have the honour to inform you that I have received a telegram from the French Minister of War ordering me (1) to embark one division of the Corps Expeditionnaire immediately for Salonika; (2) to organize this division, which will be placed under my command, into two brigades of Metropolitan Infantry with two groups of 75 mm., one group of mountain artillery, one battery of 125 mm. howitzer and four 120 mm. guns. I am taking steps to execute this order and to hold the present section of the French line with the force remaining in the Peninsula, which will be placed under General Brulard.'
"I said in my telegram No. M.F. 675, that I could only spare one brigade of the French. I desire to place on record that if this order of the French Government is carried out the LIIIrd Division cannot possibly be spared without seriously endangering the safety of this force and the whole future of the Dardanelles enterprise. Even if I were to keep the LIIIrd Division it would not relieve me of intense anxiety. The fact will not escape your notice that the division to go is being re-constructed so that nothing but European troops are included, thus leaving an undue proportion of Senegalese. This constitutes such a grave danger that, if I had the power, I would refuse to allow Bailloud to carry out this order of his Government. It need hardly be pointed out that all your hopes of success in the Balkans would be upset by a disaster at Cape Helles. Even when I said that I could spare one French Infantry Brigade the Commander of the VIIIth Corps, who is one of the last men in the Army to express alarmist views, represented to me, in view of the physical condition of a large proportion of his troops, the gravity of the case in the strongest terms."
A reminder of mine re the Ashmead-Bartlett incident has drawn an amusing and highly unexpected answer from the War Office:—
* * * * *
"Murdoch was found to be carrying a despatch for the Prime Minister criticizing military operations in Gallipoli. He carried nothing for Lawson."
I could not help laughing heartily at the blue looks of Tyrrell, the Head of our Intelligence. After all, this is Asquith's own affair. I do not for one moment believe Mr. Asquith would employ such agencies and for sure he will turn Murdoch and his wares into the wastepaper basket. I have reassured Tyrrell. Tittle-tattle will effect no lodgment in the Asquithian brain.
Lieutenant Moore from the Military Secretary's office in London dined. He has been useful to us. During the night there was rain and heavy fog. The evacuation of Suvla by the 10th Division goes on without the smallest hitch and is almost finished—all except the guns. Whether the Turks have fallen asleep or only closed an eye is the question of the hour but Birdwood's Intelligence are certain they are stone cold and cannot be dragged to the attack.
1st October, 1915. Imbros. S. of S. cables he will not overlook our wants in the matter of ammunition but that "at the present moment all he can get has to be sent to France." I have thanked him. Not a word from France since we fired the feu de joie.
K. believes in the East and sends shell to the West. The reason is that K.'s beliefs are only intuitions; he believes in the same sort of way that Elijah knew certain things.
The principle underlying the world war seems to me this:—that wherever the new system of trenches, dug-outs, barbed wire, can reach its fullest development, there we should prefer the defensive. Wherever this new system cannot be fully developed, there the old ideas hold good and there are the theatres for the offensive. In France and Flanders where both sides are within a few hours' run, on good railways, from their own chief arsenals and depots the new system attains prodigious power. In the Turkish Empire almost all the conditions; railways, material, factories, etc., are favourable to the old and unfavourable to the new conditions.
To me these views appear as clear as crystal and as unanswerable as Euclid. The tenacity of the new system of defence; the pressure of France; the apathy of a starved military opinion; the fact that all our most powerful soldiers are up to their necks in the West, combine to keep us ramming our heads against the big pile of barbed wire instead of getting through by the gate called strait.
Next Braithwaite with the following electrical bombshell:—
* * * * *
"By Bailloud's report I see that he considers that the French line can be held by one division. If, on reconsideration, you agree with this view can you spare the LIIIrd Division?"
K. has pounced like a hawk on Bailloud's statement (which I cabled to him yesterday) that he is taking steps for Brulard to hold the French section with one division.
* * * * *
"(No. M.F. 703). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener. Your No. 8409, cipher. Not one word of my No. M.F. 693 can I take back. The situation at Cape Helles cannot be fully realized. May I remind you that when on 20th August I moved the XXIXth Division to Suvla, I left at Cape Helles only the minimum garrison compatible with safety. Since that date the total British troops there have decreased in strength from 15,300 to 13,300 rifles, and now I am losing a French composite division which is made up of the only troops of the Corps Expeditionnaire on whom I can rely, as well as 44 guns. It is my considered opinion that to leave protection of Cape Helles to one division of Colonial troops, plus 13,300 worn-out British Territorials and Naval Volunteers, is running too serious a risk. To-day, therefore, I am moving one brigade of XXIXth Division back from Suvla to reinforce VIIIth Corps in order to have some regular troops there on whom I can rely. This makes it impossible to spare the LIIIrd Division. The change of opinion on the part of Bailloud, when he gets away from a position which I have found it difficult to persuade him to hold with two divisions, and which he now, as you say, thinks can be held with one division composed largely of blacks, is startling enough to need no comment. If you want to get at his real opinion, suggest that he stays here with one division while Brulard goes to Salonika.
"A despatch from Bailloud has just reached me on the situation in French section after his own departure with one division. It is as follows:—
* * * * *
"'One division will then be defending our present line with an effective strength reduced by half, and with Infantry which comprises only Colonial contingents, half European and half native. I feel it to be my duty to expose the situation to you in order that you may be able to decide whether the time has not now arrived to reduce the present section of the C.E.O., making part of it occupied by British troops and holding a solid reserve in rear of the Allies' first line capable of dealing with any situation.'
"I believe this indicates Bailloud's real opinion; it is a curious contrast to that quoted in your No. 8409, cipher, dated 30th September."
At 11.30 crossed to "K" and inspected the 87th Brigade of the 29th Division. Lucas, of the Berks Regiment, commanded. Saw the Border Regiment under Colonel Pollard; then the renowned Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers under Major Pierce, the full strength of the Battalion on parade "all present" was 220! Next the K.O.S.B.s; they were under the command of Major Stoney; last the South Wales Borderers under the command of Captain Williams.
The men were in rags and looked very tired. This is the first time in the campaign our rank and file have seemed sorry for themselves. Ten days of rest had been promised them and now they are being hurried back to the trenches before they have had a week. My heart goes out to them entirely. Were I they I would feel mad with me. The breaking of my word to the 29th Division has to be shouldered by me just like all the other results of this new Balkan adventure; the withdrawal of the Irish and the French for Salonika leaves no margin of rest for what's left.
Inspected also the West Riding Field Company of Royal Engineers under Major Bayley, and the West Lancashire Field Ambulance.
A long letter from Maxwell putting his point of view about the 51st and 53rd Sikhs. Were we both sealed-pattern Saints we'd be bound to fall foul of one another working under so perverse a system. He has written me very nicely; nothing could be nicer. I have replied by return:—
* * * * *
"Yours of 24th just received. As to the wires about the 51st and 53rd between myself and the War Office, and your remarks thereon, we stand so much on one platform, and are faced so much by the same difficulties, that I think it ought to be fairly easy for us to come to an understanding in most conceivable circumstances, as indeed our co-operation up to date has shown.
"If Egypt goes, then I shall not last very long. If I am wiped out, I think it will be the preface to trouble in Egypt.
"As to myself I am 60,000 below strength. I had a cable from the War Office a day or two ago expressing naive astonishment at this figure. I replied that the figure was accurate and that there was nothing new about it as it only denoted the accumulation of a state of things which had been continuously reported since the very first day when we started off from England minus the ten per cent. margin of excess given to every unit going across to France. This is the essential cause of our repeated failure to make that last little push which just differentiates partial from conclusive success. In every case this has been so. Had I been able to throw in my ten per cent. margin on the third day after landing, there is no doubt in the world we would have got right up on to Achi Baba. Afterwards, each engagement we fought, although our total numbers may have been largely increased, the old formations were always at half strength or something less. However, I won't bother you about this as your time is too precious to enter into 'might-have-beens' and so is mine.
"Meantime, my line is very, very thin, and the men are getting entirely worn out. In the midst of this I am called upon to send away two Divisions, the French and the Irish, to —— you know where. I have done so without a murmur, although it puts me into a ticklish position. Reinforcements are now to be diverted elsewhere and my command is not an enviable one. I quite understand the necessity of trying to maintain a barrier between Essen and Constantinople. I quite understand also the danger of doing so at the expense of this attenuated, exhausted force. I have represented the facts home, and it is for them to decide."
Dined with the Admiral.
2nd October, 1915. The despatch of the Salonika force and their outfit are absorbing all my energies. Our whole Expeditionary Force is being drawn upon to send the 10th Division creditably turned out to the new theatre. The twenty-four hours' delay caused by the political crisis at Athens has been a godsend in enabling me to reclothe and re-equip the detachment from top to toe. The supplies for my own force are now exhausted, but,—on the principle of the starving garrison who threw loaves over the ramparts at the besiegers, we must try and make a good first impression on the Greeks.
The submarine catcher, or the "Silver Baby" as the men call it, has been flying about all day, without luck. Gascoigne and Bertier dined. Blazing hot; quite a setback to August temperatures.
[Footnote 12: We had to get into Kephalos Harbour before dark; otherwise the submarine indicator nets were damaged.—IAN H.]
[Footnote 13: The last time this subject was broached between Lord Kitchener and myself was immediately after the evacuation of Helles. Everyone was intensely relieved, especially Lord Kitchener, for he had realized better than our politicians the desperate stakes we had planked down in our gamble with the Clerk of the Weather. Yet in that very moment when the burden of an intolerable anxiety had just been lifted from his shoulders he took the occasion to declare to me that he stood by every word he had said. What he "had said," was that any withdrawal from the Dardanelles must react in due course upon Islam, and especially upon Egypt. Cairo, he held to be the centre of the Mahomedan doctrine and the pivotal point of our great Mahomedan Imperium. An evacuation of the Dardanelles would serve as an object lesson to Egypt just as our blunders in the Crimea had served as a motive to the Indian mutineers. Ultimate success was not the point in either case. The point was that the legend of the invincibility of British troops should be shattered in some signal and quite unmistakable fashion. "The East," he said, "moved slowly in the fifties, and it will move slowly now. We've had a wonderful delivery but—depend upon it—the price has yet to be paid!"—IAN H., 1920.]
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
3rd October, 1915. Imbros. Church Parade. Inspected escort, men of the Howe and Nelson Battalions and a contingent from the 12th and 26th Australian Infantry. At 12.15 Bailloud, Brulard and Girodon arrived from Mudros for a last conference. Everything is fixed up. We are going to help the derelict division of French in every way we can. Bailloud, for his part, promises to leave them their fair share of guns and trench mortars. Whenever I see him I know he is one of the best fellows in the world. We went down and waved farewells from the pier. He was quite frank. He does not think the Allies have either the vision or the heart to go through with Gallipoli: he begins to suspect that the big push on the Western Front is going to yield no laurels: so Salonika hits his fancy.
Lieutenants Weston and Schemallach of the Australians and Lieutenant Gellibrand of the Naval Division lunched. A Mr. Unsworth came to talk over gifts for the Australian troops. He seems a capital chap; full of go and goodwill to all men.
4th October, 1915. Imbros. Vague warnings have taken shape in an event. A cable from K. telling me to decipher the next message myself. I have not drafted out an average of fifty telegrams a day for Lord K. for six months at a stretch without knowing something of his modus scribendi. The Staff were pleasantly excited at the idea that some new move was in the wind. I knew the new move—or thought I did.
Well, not that: not exactly that; not this time. But the enemies of our enterprise have got our range to a nicety and have chucked their first bomb bang into the middle of my camp.
A "flow of unofficial reports from Gallipoli," so K. cables to me, is pouring into the War Office. These "unofficial reports" are "in much the same strain" (perhaps they spring from the same source?). "They adversely criticize the work of the Headquarters Staff and complaints are made that its members are much out of touch with the troops. The War Office also doubt whether their present methods are quite satisfactory." K. therefore suggests "some important changes in your Headquarters Staff; for instance, if you agreed, Kiggell from home to take Braithwaite's place with you. Should you, however, decline and desire to remain as at present, may we assume that we are quite safe in regarding these unofficial reports as not representing the true feelings of the troops?"
So——! On the face of it this cable seems to suggest that a man widely known as a straight and capable soldier should be given the shortest of shrifts at the instance of "unofficial reports"; i.e., camp gossip. Surely the cable message carries with it some deeper significance!
I am grateful to old K. He is trying to save me. He picked out Braithwaite himself. Not so long ago he cabled me in his eagerness to promote him to Major-General; he would not suggest substituting the industrious Kiggell if he didn't fear for me and for the whole of this enterprise.
K. wants, so he says, "some important change"; that cannot mean, surely, that he wants a sufficiently showy scapegoat to feed the ravenous critics—or does it? Perhaps, he's got to gain time; breathing space wherein to resume the scheme which was sidetracked by the offensive in France and smashed by the diversion to Salonika. Given time, our scheme may yet be resumed. The Turks are in the depths. Sarrail with his six divisions behind him could open the Narrows in no time. I see the plan. K. must have a splendid sacrifice but by the Lord they shan't have the man who stood by me like a rock during those first ghastly ten days.
The new C.R.E., General Williams, and Ellison turned up for lunch. Williams gave us the first authentic news we have had about those Aden excursions and alarms.
An amusing aftermath of the evacuation by the French and Irish Divisions. When the last of Bailloud's troops had embarked the Turks dropped manifestoes from aeroplanes along the lines of the Senegalese calling upon these troops to make terms and come over now that their white comrades had left them to have their throats cut. I have cabled this queer item to the S. of S. Evidently the enemy were quite well aware of our withdrawal. Then why didn't they shell the beaches? At French Headquarters they believe that the Turks were so glad to see our backs that they hardly dared breathe (much less fire a shell) lest we should change our minds.
5th October, 1915. First thing another cable from K. saying, "I think it well to let you know" that it is "quite understood by the Dardanelles Committee that you are adopting only a purely defensive attitude at present." Also:—"I have no reason to imagine you have any intention of taking the offensive anywhere along the line seeing I have been unable to replace your sick and wounded men." But, if he knows I can't take the offensive, why trouble to cable me that the Dardanelles Committee expect me to adopt "only a purely defensive attitude"? I realize where we stand; K., Braithwaite and I,—on the verge. We are getting on for two months now since the August fighting—all that time we have been allowed to do nothing—literally, allowed to do nothing, seeing we have been given no shell. What a fiasco! The Dardanelles is not a sanatorium; Suvla is not Southend. With the men we have lost from sickness in the past six weeks we could have beaten the Turks twice over. Now Government seem to be about to damn everything—themselves included.
But after all, who am I to judge the Government of the British Empire? What do I know of their difficulties, pledges, and enemies—whether outside or inside the fold?
I have no grouse against Government or War Office—still less against K.—though many hundred times have I groused.
Freely and gratefully do I admit that the individuals have done their best. Most of all am I indebted—very deeply indebted—to K. for having refrained absolutely from interference with my plan of campaign or with the tactical execution thereof.
But things are happening now which seem beyond belief. That the Dardanelles Committee should complacently send me a message to say we "quite understand that you are adopting only a purely defensive attitude at present" is staggering when put side by side with the carbon of this, the very last cable I have sent them. "I think you should know immediately that the numbers of sick evacuated in the IXth Corps during the first three days of October were 500 men on the 1st instant; 735 men on the 2nd instant and 607 men on the 3rd instant. Were this rate kept up it would come to 45 per cent. of our strength evacuated in one month."
Three quarters of this sickness is due to inaction—and now the Dardanelles Committee "quite understand" I am "adopting only a purely defensive action at present." I have never adopted a defensive attitude. They have forced us to sit idle and go sick because—at the very last moment—they have permitted the French offensive to take precedence of ours, although, on the face of it, there was no violent urgency in France as there is here. Our men in France were remarkably healthy; they were not going sick by thousands. But I feel too sick myself—body and soul—to let my mind dwell on these miseries.
Sealed my resolution (resignation?) by giving my answer about Braithwaite. Though the sins of my General Staff have about as much to do with the real issues as the muddy water had to do with the death of the argumentative lamb, I begin by pointing out to the War Office wolf that "no Headquarters Staff has ever escaped similar criticism."
Grumblings are an old campaigner's vade mecum. Bred by inaction; enterprise and activity smother them. A sickness of the spirit, they are like the flies that fasten on those who stay too long in one place. Was Doughty Wylie "much out of touch with the troops" when he led the Dublins, Munsters and Hampshires up from "V" beach and fell gloriously at their head? Was Williams "out of touch" when he was hit? Was Hore Ruthven? "As to Braithwaite," I say, "my confidence in that Officer is complete. I did not select him; you gave him to me and I have ever since felt most grateful to you for your choice."
Now—I feel better.
The plot thickens. A cable just come in from the S. of S. for War:—
* * * * *
"The following statement has been made in letter to Prime Minister, Australia, by Mr. Murdoch: 'The fact is that after the first day at Suvla an order had to be issued to officers to shoot without mercy any soldier who lagged behind or loitered in advance.' Wire me as to the truth or otherwise of this allegation."
Murdoch must be mad. Or, is there some method in this madness?
Mr. Murdoch was not a war correspondent; he is purely a civilian and could hardly have invented this "order" on his own. No soldier could have told him this. Someone not a soldier—someone so interested in discrediting the Dardanelles Campaign that he does not scruple to do so even by discrediting our own troops must have put this invention about, per Murdoch. Doubtless we strike here upon the source of these "unofficial statements" which have been flowing into the War Office. All I remember of his visit to me here is a sensible, well-spoken man with dark eyes, who said his mind was a blank about soldiers and soldiering, and made me uncomfortable by an elaborate explanation of why his duty to Australia could be better done with a pen than with a rifle. He was one week at the Press Correspondents' camp and spent, so they tell me, a few hours only at Anzac and Suvla, never once crossing to Helles. If then his letter to his Prime Minister is a fair sample of the grounds upon which Braithwaite has been condemned, Heaven help us all!
As a relief to these disagreeable thoughts, a Taube dropped a couple of bombs into camp. She flew so high that she was hard to see until the bursting shrapnel gave us her line. As she made tracks back through the trackless blue, the ships gave her a taste of some big projectiles, 12-inches or 9.2. The aerial commotion up there must have been considerable.
At noon, sailed over to Suvla in H.M.S. Savage. We took our lunch on board. As we came into harbour the Turks gave us a shell or two from their field guns, then stopped. Young Titchfield, the Duke of Portland's son, met us at the beach and brought us along to Byng's Headquarters, where I met also de Lisle and Reed. After hearing their news I started off with the whole band to make a tour of the trenches held by the 88th Brigade, under General Cayley. On the way I was taken up to "Gibraltar" observation post to get a bird's-eye view of the line. Besides my old friends of the 29th Division I saw some of the new boys, especially the 1st Newfoundland Battalion under Colonel Burton, and the 2/1st Coy. of the London Regiment. This was the Newfoundlanders' first day in the trenches and they were very pleased with themselves. They could not understand why they were not allowed to sally forth at once and do the Turks in. The presence of these men from our oldest colony adds to the extraordinary mix-up of people now fighting on the Peninsula. All the materials exist here for bringing off the biblical coup of Armageddon excepting only the shell.
In the course of these peregrinations I met Marshall of the 53rd Division, Beresford, commanding the 86th Brigade, and Colonel Savage, R.E.
After tea with Byng, including the rare treat of a slice of rich cake, we went down to our friend H.M.S. Savage. The wind had risen to a fairly stiff gale, and the sea was beginning to get very big. Those field gun shells had caused the Savage to lie a desperate long way out to sea; we had a very stiff pull in the teeth of the waves, and every one of us began to think that salt water rather than the bullet was going to end our days. However, we just managed by the skin of our teeth and the usual monkey tricks, to scramble up on board. As I said in my wrath when I first stood on the firm deck, I would sooner have a hundred shells fired at me by the Turks.
Captain Davidson commanding H.M.S. Cornwallis dined; everyone liked him very much.
6th October, 1915. Left General Headquarters soon after 11 o'clock for Helles, taking with me Aspinall and Freddie. Lunched with Davies at 8th Corps Headquarters.
Afterwards rode across to Royal Naval Division and saw Paris. Then went with Bertie Lawrence, commanding 52nd Division, to his lines. Our route lay up Achi Baba Nallah and along the trenches to the Horse Shoe; then along Princes Street trench up the Vineyard, and back along the Krithia Nallah to the Headquarters of the 156th Brigade. There we mounted our horses and rode back to Corps Headquarters. I brought Steward back with me to dine and sleep the night. Colonel Tyrrell and Major Hunloke (King's Messenger) also dined.
7th October, 1915. Wasted energy brooding over the addled eggs of the past. Are the High Gods bringing our new Iliad to grief in a spirit of wanton mischief? At whose door will history leave the blame for the helpless, hopeless fix we are left in—rotting with disease and told to take it easy?
That clever fellow Deedes dined; also Rowan Hamilton, son of my old Simla friend the Colonel of that name.
8th October, 1915. Imbros. At 11 a.m. Ellison, Taylor, Gascoigne and Freddie sailed with me for Anzac. There we lunched with the ascetic Birdie and Staff off bully beef, biscuits and water. Then, the whole lot of us, together with de Crespigny, Birdie's Staff Officer, hurried five miles an hour down the communication trench to the Headquarters of the Indian Brigade. After greetings we shoved on and saw the 2nd Lovat Scouts under Lieutenant-Colonel Stirling and met, whilst going round their line, Major Morrison Bell and Captain Oppenheim. They seemed in very good fettle, and it would have been hard to find a finer lot of men. Taking leave of the 2nd Lovat Scouts, we worked along the trenches of the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry, under Colonel Mitchell, until we came to the 1st Lovat Scouts under Colonel Bailey. Lovat himself was sick, but Peyton commanding the 2nd Mounted Division turned up just when the inspection was at an end. He had got lost in the trenches, or we had. Next time the way was lost there was no mistake as to who had made the mistake. Birdie and I were pushing along as fast as we could leg it back towards Anzac. In the maze of trenches we came to a dividing of the ways. Two jolly old Sikhs were sitting at the junction. I asked if the road to the left led to the Headquarters of the Indian Brigade. They said, "Yes," so on we went, I leading, Birdie following. The trench got shallower and shallower until, in a little grove of trees, it petered out entirely. But it seemed to begin again in the other side and so we crossed through the trees. Once there we found that the supposed trench was only a shallow scratching up of the earth, and that we were standing within a hundred yards of the Turkish lines just about half way between them and the Lovat Scouts! I shouted to Birdie and we turned and ran for it—for our lives, I mean. Luckily the Turks were slow at spotting us, all except one who was a rank bad shot: so tumbling back into the trenches from which we had emerged, we saved ourselves by the skin of our teeth. I could not have been smarter about dodging two or three bullets had it been the beginning of our enterprise and had the high minarets of Constantinople glittered before my eyes.
When we got back to where the two old Sikhs were sitting, as placid as idols, Birdie gave them his opinion of their ancestors. On reaching the Australian and New Zealand Division we were done to a turn, but Godley revived us with tea and then we made our way back to our destroyer and to Headquarters. It was dark when we arrived and a bad storm was setting in—wind and rain—which went on till midnight.
Replies have come in to our enquiries as to Mr. Murdoch's statement to the Prime Minister of Australia that British Officers had been ordered to "shoot without mercy any soldier who lagged behind or loitered." As the Secretary of State seems to take this charge seriously, I thought it well, before I sent my answer, just to make sure that no subordinate had said, or done, or written anything which could plausibly be twisted into this lie. The Generals have denied indignantly; are furious, in fact, at the double insult to their men and to themselves.
Have cabled accordingly:—
* * * * *
"(No. M.F.A.B. 4491). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Secretary of State for War. With reference to your No. 8554 M.O. 414 of the 5th inst. I have pro forma made full enquiries and I find that there is no truth whatever in the allegation made by Murdoch."
9th October, 1915. Had made my band-o-bast for running over to Helles, but the Vice-Admiral cabled he wanted to see me if he could at 11.45. Anyway the sea is still a bit rough for the crossing and landing. A lot of damage was done last night to the Anzac piers, two of them being clean washed away. Peter Pollen is off colour. Freddie and I dined on board the Triad.
Whilst at dinner got full reports both from Suvla and Anzac as to the effects of the storm. The southerly gale, which not only washed away the piers but sunk the water lighters at Anzac, has done no harm at Suvla except that three motor lighters have been driven ashore. The Admiral is clear that, during southerly gales we shall have to supply both Anzac and Suvla by the new pier just north of Ari Burnu. The promontory is small but last night it gave complete protection to everything in its lea. By sinking an old ship we can turn Ari Burnu into quite a decent little harbour.
10th October, 1915. Made my deferred visit to Helles, going over this morning in the Arno with Braithwaite, Val and Alec McGrigor. Looked in at the Clearing Hospital and cast an eye over Lancashire Landing. Then, in company with Jimmy Watson and Colonel Ayres, walked up to Corps Headquarters where we had a fine lunch with Davies, de Rougemont and the melancholy Yarr. Afterwards rode across to the Headquarters of the Royal Naval Division and on to their trenches, some 3-1/2 miles. Generals Mercer and Paris followed us through their trenches. The Hood and Hawke Battalions were in the firing line where we talked to great numbers of old comrades of all ranks. Glad to meet Freyberg again (the man who swam to light the flares at Enos). Kelly of the Hood Battalion too, I saw, and Fairfax of the Hawke, also Commander King of the Drake Battalion and Burrows, a gunner who was running a bombing school with much zeal on a piece of ground specially patronized by the Turks as a target for their own shelling practice. Got back to Helles by the Saghur Dere and the Gulley. Going down the Gulley, nearly lost two of our attendant Generals, a shrapnel bursting between them with a startling loud report caused by the high banks of the Gulley on either side.