The enthusiasm of the natives was a pleasing part of the show. During four years of Egyptian Inspections I recall no single instance of any manifestation of friendliness to our troops, or even of interest in them, by Gyppies. But the Territorials seem, somehow, to have conquered their goodwill. As each stalwart company swung past there was a spontaneous effervescence of waving hands along the crowded street and murmurs of applause from Bedouins, Blacks and Fellaheen.
Maxwell will have a fit if I ask for them! He will fall down in a fit, I am sure. Already he is vexed at my having cabled and written Lord K. for his (Maxwell's) Brigade of Gurkhas. To him I appear careless of his (Maxwell's) position and of the narrowness of his margin of safety. For the life of him K. can't help putting his Lieutenants into this particular cart. The same old story as the eight small columns in the Western Transvaal: co-equal and each thinking his own beat on the veldt the only critical spot in South Africa: and the funny thing is that Maxwell was then running the base at Vryberg and I was in command in the field! But there my word was law; here Maxwell is entirely independent of me, which is as much as to say, that the feet are not under control of the head; i.e., that the expedition must move like a drunken man. That is my fear: Maxwell will do what lies in him to help, but in action it is better to order than to ask.
Grand lunch at the Abdin Palace with the Sultan. Most of the Cabinet present. The Sultan spoke French well and seems clever as well as most gracious and friendly. He assured me that the Turkish Forts at the Dardanelles were absolutely impregnable. The words "absolute" and "impregnable" don't impress me overmuch. They are only human opinions used to gloss over flaws in the human knowledge or will. Nothing is impregnable either—that's a sure thing. No reasons were given me by His Highness.
Have just written home about these things: midnight.
29th March, 1915. 9.30 p.m. Palace Hotel, Alexandria. Early start to the Mena Camp to see the Australians. A devil of a blinding storm gave a foretaste of dust to dust. That was when they were marching past, but afterwards I inspected the Infantry at close quarters, taking a good look at each man and speaking to hundreds. Many had been at my inspections in their own country a year ago, but most were new hands who had never worn uniform till they 'listed for the war. The troops then marched back to Camp in mass of quarter columns—or rather swept by like a huge yellow cloud at the heart of which sparkled thousands of bayonets.
Next I reviewed the Artillery, Engineers and Cavalry; winding up with the overhaul of the supply and transport column. This took time, and I had to make the motor travel getting across twelve miles or so to inspect a mixed Division of Australians and New Zealanders at Heliopolis. Godley commanded. Great fun seeing him again. These fellows made a real good show; superb physique: numbers of old friends especially amongst the New Zealanders. Another scurry in the motor to catch the 4.15 for Alexandria. Tiring day if I had it in my mind to be tired, but this 30,000 crowd of Birdwood's would straighten up the back of a pacifist. There is a bravery in their air—a keenness upon their clean cut features—they are spoiling for a scrap! Where they have sprung from it is hard to say. Not in Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne or Perth—no, nor in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington or Auckland, did I meet specimens like unto these. The spirit of War has breathed its fires into their hearts; the drill sergeant has taken thought and has added one cubit to their stature.
D'Amade has just been to make me known to a couple of Frenchmen about to join my Staff. They seem to be nice fellows. The French have been here some days and they are getting on well. Hunter-Weston landed this morning; his first batch of transports are in the harbour. I am to see the French troops in four days' time; Hunter-Weston's 29th Division on the fifth day. Neither Commander has yet worked out how long it will take before he has reloaded his transports. They declare it takes three times as long to repack a ship loaded at haphazard as it would have taken to have loaded her on a system in the first instance. Six days per ship is their notion of what they can do, but I trust to improve a bit on that.
Hunter-Weston had written me a letter from Malta (just to hand) putting it down in black and white that we have not a reasonable prospect of success. He seemed keen and sanguine when we met and made no reference to this letter: so it comes in now as rather a startler. But it is best to have the black points thrust upon one's notice beforehand—so long always as I keep it fixed in the back of my mind that there was never yet a great thought or a great deed which was not cried down as unreasonable before the fact by a number of reasonable people!
30th March, 1915. Alexandria. Have just dictated a long letter to Lord K. in the course of which I have forced myself to say something which may cause the great man annoyance. I feel it is up to me to risk that. One thing—he knows I am not one of those rotters who ask for more than they can possibly be given so that, if things go wrong, they may complain of their tools. I have promised K. to help him by keeping my demands down to bedrock necessities. I make no demand for ammunition on the France and Flanders scale but—we must have some! There must be a depot somewhere within hail. Here is the crucial para.:—
"I realise how hard up you must be for ammunition, but I hope the M.G.O. will have by now put in hand the building up of some reserves at our base in Alexandria. If our batteries or battalions now serving in France run short, something, at a pinch, can always be scraped together in England and issued to them within 24 hours. Here it would be a question of almost as many days, and, if it were to turn out that we have a long and severe struggle, with no reserves nearer us than Woolwich—well—it would not be pleasant! Moreover the number of howitzers, guns and rifles in France is so enormous that it is morally impossible they should all be hotly engaged at the same time. Thus they automatically form their own reserves. In other words, a force possessing only ten howitzers ought to have at least twice the reserves of a force possessing a hundred howitzers. So at least it seems to me."
In the same letter I tell him about "Birdwood's crowd" and of their splendid physique; their growing sense of discipline, their exceeding great keenness, and wind up by saying that, given a fair chance, they will, for certain, "render a very good account of themselves."
Confabs with d'Amade and Hunter-Weston. Hunter-Weston's "appreciation" of the situation at the Dardanelles is to be treated as an ad interim paper; he wrote it, he says now, without the fuller knowledge he is daily acquiring—knowledge which is tending to make him more sanguine. His stay at Malta and his talks with Officers there had greatly impressed him with the hardness of the nut we have to try and crack; so much so that his paper suggests an indefinite putting off of the attempt to throw open the Straits. I asked him if he had laid his view before K. in London and he said, No; that he had not then come to it and that he had not definitely come to it now.
D'Amade's own inclinations would have led him to Asia. When he left France he did not know he was to be under me and he had made up his mind to land at Adramiti. But now he waives all preconceived ideas and is keen to throw himself heart and soul into Lord K.'s ideas and mine. He would rather I did not even refer to his former views as he sees they are expressly barred by the tenor of my instructions. The French are working to time in getting ship-shape. The 29th Division are arriving up to date and about one-third of them have landed. We are fixing up our gear for floating and other piers and are trying to improvise ways and means of coping with the water problem—this ugly nightmare of a water problem. The question of the carriage and storage of water for thousands of men and horses over a roadless, mainly waterless track of country should have been tackled before we left England.
To solve these conundrums we have had to recreate for ourselves a special field service system of food, water and ammunition supply. As an instance we have had to re-organise baggage sections of trains and fit up store ships as substitutes for additional ammunition columns and parks. We are getting on fairly fast with our work of telling off troops to transports so that each boat load of men landed will be, so to say, on its own; victualled, watered and munitioned. But it takes some doing. Greatly handicapped by absence of any Administrative, or Q. Staff. The General Staff are working double shifts, at a task for which they have never been trained:—
It's a way we have in the Aaarmy! It's a way we have in the NAAAAvy!! It's a way we have in the Eeeeeempire!!! That nobody can deny!!!!
What would my friends on the Japanese General Staff say—or my quondam friends on the German General Staff—if they knew that a Commander-in-Chief had been for a fortnight in touch with his troops, engaged with them upon a huge administrative job, and that he had not one administrative Staff Officer to help him, but was willynilly using his General Staff for the work? They would say "mad Englishmen" and this time they would be right. The British public services are poisoned by two enormous fallacies: (a) if a man does well in one business, he will do equally well or better in another; (b) if a man does badly in one business he will do equally badly or worse in another. There is nothing beyond a vague, floating reputation or public opinion to enable a new Minister to know his subordinates. The Germans have tabulated the experiences and deficiencies of our leaders, active and potential, in peace and war—we have not! Every British General of any note is analysed, characterised and turned inside out in the bureau records of the great German General Staff in Berlin. We only attempt anything of that sort with burglars. My own portrait is in those archives and is very good if not very flattering; so a German who had read it has told me. This is organisation: this is business; but official circles in England are so remote in their methods from these particular notions of business that I must turn to a big newspaper shop to let anyone even begin to understand what it is to run Q. business with a G.S. team. Suppose Lord Northcliffe decided to embark upon a journalistic campaign in Canada and that his scheme turned upon time; that it was a question of Northcliffe catching time by the forelock or of time laying Northcliffe by the heels. Suppose, further, that he had no first-hand knowledge of Canada and had decided to place the conduct of the campaign in the hands of his brother who would spy out the land; choose the best site; buy a building; order the printing press; engage hands and start the paper. Well; what staff would he send with him? A couple of leader writers, a trio of special correspondents and half a dozen reporters? Probably; but would there not also be berths taken in the Cunarder for a manager trained in the business side of journalism? Quite a fair way of putting the present case, although, on the other side, it is also fair to add that British Officers have usually had to play so many parts in the charade of square pegs in round holes, that they can catch a hold anywhere, at any time, and carry on somehow.
31st March, 1915. Alexandria.—Quill driving and dictating. Have made several remonstrances lately at the way McMahon is permitting the Egyptian Press to betray our intentions, numbers, etc. It is almost incredible and Maxwell doesn't see his way clear to interfere. For the last day or two they have been telling the Turks openly where we are bound for. So I have written McMahon the following:—
"General Headquarters, "18 RUE EL CAIED GOHAR, "ALEXANDRIA, 31/3/15.
"DEAR HIGH COMMISSIONER,
"I was somewhat startled a couple of mornings ago by an article in the Egyptian Gazette giving away the arrival of the French troops, and making open references to the Gallipoli Peninsula. The very frankness of such communications may of course mislead the Turk into thinking we mean thereby to take his mind off some other place which is our real objective, but I doubt it. He knows our usual methods too well.
"Consequently as it is very important at least to throw him into some state of bewilderment as to our movements, I propose sending the following cable to Lord Kitchener:—
"'Whether of set purpose or through inadvertence articles have appeared in Egyptian Press openly discussing arrival of French and British troops and naming Gallipoli as their destination. Is there any political objection to my cautiously spreading rumour that our true objective is, say, Smyrna?'
"Before I despatch the wire, however, I think I should like you to see it, in case you have any objections. I have all the facilities for spreading any rumour I like through my Intelligence Branch, which would be less suspected than information leaking out from political sources.
"Could you kindly send me a wire on receipt of this?
"Yours sincerely, (Sd.) "IAN HAMILTON."
"I only propose to ask Lord K. in case there may be political reasons why I should not select any particular place about which to spread a rumour of our landing."
Forgot to note a step taken yesterday—to nowhere perhaps—perhaps to Constantinople. Yesterday the Doris brought me a copy of a long cable sent by Winston to de Robeck six days ago, together with a copy of the V.A.'s reply. The First Lord is clearly in favour of the Fleet going on knocking the Forts to pieces whilst the Army are getting on with their preparations; clearly also he thinks that, under rough handling from Q.E. & Co., the Turkish resistance might at any moment collapse. Then we should sail through as per Lord K.'s programme. Well; nothing would suit me so well. If we are to have an opposed landing better kill two birds with one stone and land bang upon the Bosphorus. The nearer to the heart I can strike my first blow, the more telling it will be. Cable 140 puts the case very well. Winston hits the nail on the head, so it seems to me, when he points out that the Navy is not tied to the apron strings of the Army but that it is the other way about: i.e., if the Fleet makes another big push whilst we are getting ready, they can still fall back on the combined show with us if they fail; whereas, if they succeed they will save us all the loss of life and energy implied by an opposed landing at the Dardanelles. Certainly Braithwaite and I had understood that de Robeck would work to that end; that this is what he was driving at when he said he would not be idle but would keep the Turks busy whilst we were getting ready. Nothing will induce me to volunteer opinions on Naval affairs. But de Robeck's reply to Winston might be read as if I had expressed an opinion, so I am bound to clear up that point—definitely.
"From GENERAL SIR IAN HAMILTON. "To VICE-ADMIRAL SIR JOHN DE ROBECK.
"Copy of number 140 from Admiralty received AAA I had already communicated outline of our plan to Lord Kitchener and am pushing on preparations as fast as possible AAA War Office still seems to cherish hope that you may break through without landing troops AAA Therefore, as regards yourself I think wisest procedure will be to push on systematically though not recklessly in attack on Forts AAA It is always possible that opposition may crumple up AAA If you should succeed be sure to leave light cruisers enough to see me through my military attack in the event of that being after all necessary AAA If you do not succeed then I think we quite understand one another AAA "IAN HAMILTON."
1st April, 1915. Alexandria. The Arcadian has arrived bringing my A.G. and Q.M.G. with the second echelon of the Staff. God be praised for this immense relief! The General Staff can now turn to their legitimate business—the enemy, instead of struggling night and day with A.G. and Q.M.G. affairs; allocating troops and transports; preparing for water supply; tackling questions of procedure and discipline. We are all sorry for the Q. Staff who, through no fault of their own, have been late for the fair, their special fair, the preparation, and find the show is practically over. On paper at least, the Australians and New Zealanders and the 29th Division are properly fixed up. We should begin embarking these formations within the next three days. After that will come the Naval Division from Port Said and the French Division from here.
2nd April, 1915. Alexandria. Hard at it all day in office. Am leaving to-night by special train for Port Said to hurry things along.
A cable in from the Foreign Office telling me that the Russian part of my force consists of a complete Army Corps under General Istomine—evidently War and Foreign Offices still work in watertight compartments!
Left Alexandria last night at 11 and came into Port Said at dawn. After breakfast mounted an Arab charger which seems to have emerged out of the desert to meet my wishes just as do special trains and banquets: as if I wore on my finger the magic ring of the Arabian fairy tale: so I do I suppose, in the command it has pleased K., Imperial Grand Vizier, to bestow upon this humble but lively speck of dust. Mounting we cantered through the heavy sand towards the parade ground near the docks. Here, like a wall, stood Winston's far-famed Naval Division drawn up in its battle array. General Paris received me backed by Olivant and Staff. After my inspection the Division marched past, and marched past very well indeed, much better than they did when I saw them some months ago in Kent, although the sand was against them, muffling the stamp of feet which binds a Company together and telling unevenly on different parts of the line. Admiral Pierce and his Flag Captain, Burmeister, honoured the occasion: they were on foot and so, not to elevate the stature of the Army above that of the Senior Service, I took the salute dismounted.
Next had a look round camp. Found things so, so. Saw Arthur Asquith and Rupert Brooke of the Howe Battalion, both sick, neither bad. Asked Brooke to join my personal Staff, not as a fire insurance (seeing what happened to Ronnie Brooke at Elandslaagte and to Ava at Waggon Hill) but still as enabling me to keep an eye on the most distinguished of the Georgians. Young Brooke replied, as a preux chevalier would naturally reply,—he realised the privileges he was foregoing, but he felt bound to do the landing shoulder-to-shoulder with his comrades. He looked extraordinarily handsome, quite a knightly presence, stretched out there on the sand with the only world that counts at his feet.
Lunched on the Franconia and conversed with Lieutenant-Colonel Matthews and Major Mewes of the Plymouth Battalion; also with Major Palmer. To see with your eyes; to hear with your ears; to touch with your fingers enables you to bring the truth home to yourself. Five minutes of that personal touch tells a man more than five weeks of report reading. In five minutes I gained from these Officers five times more knowledge about Sedd-el-Bahr and Kum Kale than all their own bald despatches describing their own landings and cutting-out enterprises had given me. Paris' account had not helped me much either, the reason being that it was not first hand,—was only so many words that he had heard,—was not what he had felt. Now, I do really, at last and for the first time, realistically grasp the lie of the land and of the Turks. The prospect is not too rosy, but Wolfe, I daresay, saw blue as he gazed over the water at his problem, without map or General Staff plan to help him. There lay Quebec; within cannon shot; but that enemy was thrice his strength; entrenched in a fortress—there they lay confident—a landing was "impossible!" But all things are possible—to faith. He had faith in Pitt; faith in his own bright particular star; faith in the British Fleet standing resolute at his back:—he launched his attack; he got badly beaten at the landing; he pulled himself together; he met a thousand and one mishaps and delays, and when, at the long last, he fell, he had the plum in his pocket.
The Turks lie close within a few yards of the water's edge on the Peninsula. Matthews smiled sarcastically at the War Office idea that no Turks can exist South of Achi Baba! At Sedd-el-Bahr, the first houses are empty, being open to the fire of the Fleet, but the best part of the other houses are defiladed by the ground and a month ago they were held. Glad I did not lose a minute after seeing the ground in asking Maxwell and Methuen to make me some trench mortars. Methuen says he can't help, but Maxwell's Ordnance people have already fixed up a sample or two—rough things, but better than nothing. We have too little shrapnel to be able to spare any for cutting entanglements. Trench mortars may help where the Fleet can't bring their guns to bear. The thought of all that barbed wire tucked away into the folds of the ground by the shore follows me about like my shadow.
Left Port Said for Kantara and got there in half an hour. General Cox, an old Indian friend of the days when I was A.D.C. to Sir Fred., met me at the station. He commands the Indian troops in Egypt. We nipped into a launch on the Canal, and crossed over to inspect the Companies of the Nelson, Drake, Howe and Anson Battalions in their Fort, whilst Cox hurried off to fix up a parade of his own.
The Indian Brigade were drawn up under Brigadier-General Mercer. After inspection, the troops marched past headed by the band of the 14th Sikhs. No one not a soldier can understand what it means to an old soldier who began fighting in the Afghan War under Roberts of Kandahar to be in touch once again with Sikhs and Gurkhas, those splendid knights-errant of India.
After about eighteen years' silence, I thought my Hindustani would fail me, but the words seemed to drop down from Heaven on to my tongue. Am able now to understand the astonishment of St. Paul when he found himself jabbering nineteen to the dozen in lingo, Greek to him till then. But he at least was exempt from my worst terror which was that at any moment I might burst into German!
After our little durbar, the men were dismissed to their lines and I walked back to the Fort. There I suddenly ordered the alarm to be sounded (I had not told anyone of my intention) so the swift yet smooth fall-in to danger posts was a feather in Cox's helmet.
Back to main camp and there saw troops not manning the Fort. There were the:—
Queen Victoria's Own Sappers Captain Hogg, R.E., 69th Punjabis Colonel Harding, 89th Punjabis Colonel Campbell, 14th K.G.O. Sikhs Colonel Palin, 1st Bn. 6th Gurkhas Colonel Bruce, 29th Mountain Battery and the Bikaner Camel Corps Major Bruce.
Had a second good talk to the Native Officers, shaking hands all round. Much struck with the turn-out of the 29th Mountain Battery which is to come along with the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps to the Dardanelles.
From the platform of the Fort the lines of our defences and the way the Turks attacked them stood out very clearly to a pair of field glasses. Why, with so many mounted men some effort was not made to harry the enemy's retreat, Cox cannot tell me. There were no trenches and the desert had no limits.
Now (in the train on my way back to Alexandria) I must have one more try at K. about these Gurkhas! My official cable and letter asking for the Gurkha Brigade have fallen upon stony ground. No notice of any sort has been vouchsafed to my modest request. Has any action been taken upon them? Possibly the matter has been referred to Maxwell for opinion? If so, he has said nothing about it, which does not promise well. Cox has heard nothing from Cairo; only no end of camp rumours. Most likely K. is vexed with me for asking for these troops at all, and thinks I am already forgetting his warning not to put him in the cart by asking for too many things. France must not be made jealous and Egypt ditto, I suppose. I cannot possibly repeat my official cable and my demi-official letter. The whole is most disappointing. Here is Cox and here are his men, absolutely wasted and frightfully keen to come. There are the Dardanelles short-handed; there is the New Zealand Division short of a Brigade. If surplus and deficit had the same common denominator, say "K." or "G.S." they would wipe themselves out to the instant simplification of the problem. As it is, they are kept on separate sheets of paper;
too many troops too few troops Maxwell Hamilton
* * * * *
Have just finished dictating a letter to K., giving him an account of my inspection of the Indian troops and of how "they made my mouth water, especially the 6th Gurkhas." I ask him if I could not anyway have them "as a sort of escort to the Mountain Battery," and go on to say, "The desert is drying up, Cox tells me; such water as there is is becoming more and more brackish and undrinkable; and no other serious raid, in his opinion, will be possible this summer." I might have added that once we open the ball at the Dardanelles the old Turks must dance to our tune, and draw in their troops for the defence of Constantinople but it does not do to be too instructive to one's Grandmother. So there it is: I have done the best I can.
4th April, 1915. Alexandria. Busy day in office. Things beginning to hum. A marvellous case of "two great minds." K. has proffered his advice upon the tactical problem, and how it should be dealt with, and, as I have just cabled in answer, "No need to send you my plan as you have got it in one, even down to details, only I have not shells enough to cut through barbed wire with my field guns or howitzers." I say also, "I should much like to have some hint as to my future supply of gun and rifle ammunition. The Naval Division has only 430 rounds per rifle and the 29th Division only 500 rounds which means running it fine."
What might seem, to a civilian, a marvellous case of coincidence or telepathy were he ever to compare my completed plan with K.'s cabled suggestion is really one more instance of the identity of procedure born of a common doctrine between two soldiers who have worked a great deal together. Given the same facts the odds are in favour of these facts being seen eye to eye by each.
Forgot to note that McMahon answered my letter of the 31st personally, on the telephone, saying he had no objection to my cabling K. or spreading any reports I liked through my Intelligence, but that he is not keeper of the Egyptian Gazette and must not quarrel with it as Egypt is not at war! No wonder he prefers the telephone to the telegram I begged him to send me if he makes these sort of answers. Egypt is in the war area and, if it were not, McMahon can do anything he likes. The Gazette continues to publish full details of our actions and my only hope is that the Turks will not be able to believe in folly so incredible.
5th April, 1915. Alexandria. Motored after early breakfast to French Headquarters at the Victoria College. Here I was met by d'Amade and an escort of Cuirassiers, and, getting on to my Australian horse, trotted off to parade.
Coming on to the ground, the French trumpeters blew a lively fanfare which was followed by a roll of drums. Never was so picturesque a parade, the verdict of one who can let his mind rove back through the military pageants of India, Russia, Japan, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, China, Canada, U.S.A., Australia, and New Zealand. Yes, Alexandria has seen some pretty shows in its time; Cleopatra had an eye to effect and so, too, had the great Napoleon. But I doubt whether the townsfolk have ever seen anything to equal the coup d'oeil engineered by d'Amade. Under an Eastern sun the colours of the French uniforms, gaudy in themselves, ran riot, and the troops had surely been posted by one who was an artist in more than soldiering. Where the yellow sand was broken by a number of small conical knolls with here and there a group, and here and there a line, of waving palms, there, on the knolls, were clustered the Mountain Batteries and the Batteries of Mitrailleuses. The Horse, Foot and Guns were drawn up, Infantry in front, Cavalry in rear, and the Field Artillery—the famous 75s—at right angles.
Infantry of the Line in grey; Zouaves in blue and red; Senegalese wore dark blue and the Foreign Legion blue-grey. The Cavalry rode Arabs and barbs mostly white stallions; they wore pale blue tunics and bright scarlet breeches.
I rode down the lines of Infantry first and then galloped through the heavy sand to the right of the Cavalry and inspected them, by d'Amade's request, at a trot, winding up with the six Batteries of Artillery. On reaching the Saluting Base, I was introduced to the French Minister whilst d'Amade presented colours to two Regiments (175th Regiment de marche d'Afrique and the 4th Colonial Regiment) making a short and eloquent speech.
He then took command of the parade and marched past me at the head of his forces. Were all the Houris of Paradise waving lily hands on the one side, and were these French soldiers on the other side, I would give my cold shoulder to the Houris.
The Cavalry swung along at the trot to the cadence of the trumpets and to the clink-clank and glitter of steel. The beautiful, high-stepping barbs; the trembling of the earth beneath their hoofs; the banner streaming; the swordsmen of France sweeping past the saluting base; breaking into the gallop; sounding the charge; charging; ventre a terre; out into the desert where, in an instant, they were snatched from our sight and changed into a pillar of dust!
High, high soared our hopes. Jerusalem—Constantinople? No limit to what these soldiers may achieve. The thought passed through the massed spectators and set enthusiasm coursing through their veins. Loudly they cheered; hats off; and hurrah for the Infantry! Hurrah, hurrah for the Cavalry!! Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah for the 75s!!!
At the end I said a few farewell words to the French Minister and then galloped off with d'Amade. The bystanders gave us, too, the warmest greetings, the bulk of them (French and Greek) calling out "d'Amade!" and the Britishers also shouting all sorts of things at the pitch of their voices.
Almost lost my temper with Woodward, my new A.G., and this was the thusness thereof:—
Time presses: K. prods us from the rear: the Admiral from the front. To their eyes we seem to be dallying amidst the fleshpots of Egypt whereas, really, we are struggling like drowning mariners in a sea of chaos; chaos in the offices; chaos on the ships; chaos in the camps; chaos along the wharves; chaos half seas over rolling down the Seven Sisters Road. The powers of Maxwell as C.-in-C., Egypt; of the Sultan and McMahon, High Commissioner of Egypt, and of myself, C.-in-C., M.E.F., not to speak of the powers of our police civil and military, have all to be defined and wheeled into line. We cannot go rushing off into space leaving Pandemonium behind us as our Base! I know these things from a very long experience. Braithwaite believes in the principle as a student and ex-teacher of students. And yet that call to the front!
We've got to tackle the landing scheme on the spot and quick. Luckily the problems at Alexandria are all non-tactical; pure A.G. and Q.M.G. Staff questions; whereas, at present, the problems awaiting me at the Dardanelles are mainly tactical; G.S. questions. So I am going to treat G.H.Q. as Solomon threatened to treat the baby; i.e., leave the Administrative Staff here until they knock their pidgin more or less into shape and send off the G.S. to pluck their pidgin at the Straits. The Q. people have still to commandeer offices for Woodward's men, three quarters of whom stay here permanently to do the casualty work; they have to formulate a local code of discipline; take up buildings for base hospitals and arrange for their personnel and equipment; outline their schemes for getting sick and wounded back from the front; finish up the loading of the ships, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum. Whilst the Q. Staff are thus pulling their full weight, the G. Staff will sail off quickly and put their heads together with the Admiral and his Staff. As to myself, I'm off: I cannot afford to lose more time in getting into touch with the sailors, and the scene of action.
All was well until the Commander-in-Chief said he was going, but that moment arose the good old trouble—the trouble which muddled our start for the Relief of Chitral and ruined the Tirah Campaign. Everyone wants to rush off to the excitement of the firing line—(a spasm usually cured by the first hard fight), and to leave the hum-drum business of the Base and Line of Communication to shift for itself. Braithwaite, of all people, was good natured enough to plead for the Administration. He came to tell me that it might tend towards goodwill amongst the charmed circle of G.H.Q. if even now, at the eleventh hour, I would sweeten Woodward by bringing him along. I said, yes, if he, Braithwaite, would stand surety that he, Woodward, had fixed up his base hospitals and third echelon, but if not, no! Next came Woodward himself. With great pertinacity he represented that his subordinates could do all that had to be done at the base. He says he speaks for the Q.M.G., as well as for the Director General of Medical Services, and that they all want to accompany me on my reconnaissance of the coasts of the Peninsula. I was a little sharp with him. These heads of Departments think they must be sitting in the C.-in-C.'s pocket lest they lose caste. But I say the Departments must be where their work lies, or else the C.-in-C. will lose caste, and luckily he can still put his own Staff where he will. Finally, I agreed to take with me the Assistant to the Director of Medical Services to advise his own Chief as to the local bearings of his scheme for clearing out the sick and wounded; the others stay here until they get their several shows into working order, and with that my A.G. had fain to be content.
D'Amade and two or three Frenchmen are dining with me to-night. Sir John Maxwell has just arrived.
6th April, 1915. Alexandria. Started out at 9.15 with d'Amade and Sir John to review the Mounted troops of the 29th Division. We first saw them march down the road in column of route. What a contrast between these solid looking men on their magnificent weight-carrying horses and our wiry little Allies on their barbs and Arabs. The R.H.A. were superb.
After seeing the troops I motored to Mex Camp and inspected the 86th and 87th Infantry Brigades. There was a strong wind blowing which tried to spoil the show, but could not—that Infantry was too superb! Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Napoleon; not one of them had the handling of legionaries like these. The Fusilier Brigade were the heavier. If we don't win, I won't be able to put it on the men.
Maxwell left at 4 p.m. for Cairo. I have pressed him hard about Cox's Indian Brigade and told him of my conversation with Cox himself and of how keen all ranks of the Brigade are to come. No use. He expects, so he says, a big attack on the Canal any moment; he has heard nothing from K.; the fact that K. has ignored my direct appeal to him shows he would not approve, etc., etc., etc. All this is just the line I myself would probably take—I admit it—if asked by another General to part with my troops. The arrangement whereby I have to sponge on Maxwell for men if I want them is a detestable arrangement. At the last he consented to cable K. direct on the point himself and then he is to let me know. Two things are quite certain; the Brigade are not wanted in Egypt. Old campaigners versed in Egyptian war lore tell me that the drying up of the wells must put the lid on to any move across the desert until the winter rains, and, apart from this, how in the name of the beard of their own false prophet can the Turks attack Egypt whilst we are at the gates of Constantinople?
But if the Brigade are not wanted on the Canal, we are bound to be the better for them at the Dardanelles, whatever course matters there may take. Concentration is the cue! The German or Japanese General Staffs would tumble to these truths and act upon them presto. K. sees them too, but nothing can overcome his passion for playing off one Commander against another, whereby K. of K. keeps all reins in his hands and remains sole arbiter between them.
Birdwood has just turned up. We're off to-morrow evening.
'Phoned Maxwell last thing telling him to be sure not to forget to jog K.'s elbow about Cox and his Gurkhas.
7th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." 10 p.m. D'Amade looked in to say good-bye.
On my way down to the harbour I overhauled the Assyrian Jewish Refugee Mule Corps at the Wardian Camp. Their Commander, author of that thrilling shocker, "The Man-killers of Tsavo," finds Assyrians and mules rather a mouthful and is going to tabloid bipeds and quadrupeds into "The Zion Corps." The mules look very fit; so do the Assyrians and, although I did not notice that their cohorts were gleaming with purple or gold, they may help us to those habiliments: they may, in fact, serve as ground bait to entice the big Jew journalists and bankers towards our cause; the former will lend us the colour, the latter the coin. Anyway, so far as I can, I mean to give the chosen people a chance.
Got aboard at 5.15, but owing to some hitch in the arrangements for filling up our tanks with fresh water, we are held up and won't get off until to-morrow morning.
If there drops a gnat into the ointment of the General, be sure there are ten thousand flies stinking the ointment of the troops.
8th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Sailing free to the Northwards. A fine day and a smooth sea. What would not Richard Coeur de Lion or Napoleon have given for the Arcadian to take them to St. Jean d'Acre and Jerusalem?
As we were clearing harbour a letter was brought out to us by a launch:
"UNION CLUB, "ALEXANDRIA.
"The following telephone received from General Maxwell, Cairo:—Your message re Cox, I will do my best to meet your wishes. Will you in your turn assist me in getting the seaplanes arriving here in Ganges? I have wired to Admiral de Robeck, I want them badly, so please help me if you can.
"Forwarded by ADMIRAL ROBINSON."
Cutlet for cutlet! I wish it had occurred to me sooner to do a deal with some aeroplanes. But, then I have none. No matter: I should have promised him de Robeck's! South Africa repeats itself! Egypt and Mudros are not one but two. Maxwell and I are co-equal allies; not a combine under a Boss!
CLEARING FOR ACTION
9th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Isles of the Aegean; one more lovely than the other; weather warm; wireless off; a great ship steaming fast towards a great adventure—why do I walk up and down the deck feeling a ton's weight of trouble weighing down upon my shoulders? Never till to-day has solicitude become painful. This is the fault of Birdwood, Hunter-Weston and Paris. I read their "appreciations of the situation" some days ago, but until to-day I have not had the unbroken hour needed to digest them. Birdwood begins by excusing himself in advance against any charge of vacillation. At our first meeting he said he was convinced our best plan would be to go for the South of the Gallipoli Peninsula. Now he has, in fact, very much shifted his ground under the influence of a new consideration, "(which I only learned after leaving Lemnos) that the Turks now have guns or howitzers on the Asiatic side which could actually command our transports should they anchor off Morto Bay." "As I told you," he says, "after thinking it out thoroughly, I was convinced our best plan would be to go for the South of the Gallipoli Peninsula," but now he continues, he finds his Staff "all seem to be keen on a landing somewhere between Saros Bay and Enos. For this I have no use, as though I think we should doubtless be able to effect a landing there pretty easily, yet I do not see that we shall be any 'forrarder' by doing so. We might put ourselves in front of the Bulair Lines, but there would be far less object in attacking them and working South-west with the Navy only partially able to help us, than by working up from the other end with the Navy on either flank."
Birdwood himself rather inclines towards a landing on the Asiatic side, for preference somewhere South of Tenedos. The attractive part of his idea is that if we did this the Turks must withdraw most of their mobile artillery from the Peninsula to meet us, which would give the Navy just the opportunity they require for mine-sweeping and so forcing the Narrows forthwith. They know they can give the superstition of old Forts being stronger than new ships its quietus if only they can clear a passage through the minefield. There are forts and forts, ships and ships, no doubt. But from what we have done already the sailors know that our ships here can knock out those forts here. But first they must tackle the light guns which protect the minefield from the sweepers. Birdwood seems to think we might dominate the Peninsula from the country round Chunuk. In his P.S. he suggests that anyway, if we are beaten off in our attempt to land on the Peninsula we may have this Asiatic scheme in our mind as a second string. Disembarkation plans already made would "probably be suitable anywhere with very slight modifications. We might perhaps even think of this—if we try the other first and can't pull it off?"
In my answer, I say I am still for taking the shortest, most direct route to my objective, the Narrows.
First, because "I have no roving commission to conquer Asia Minor." My instructions deny me the whole of that country when they lay down as a principle that "The occupation of the Asiatic side by military forces is to be strongly deprecated."
Secondly, because I agree that a landing between Saros Bay and Enos would leave us no "forrarder." There we should be attacked in front from Rodosto; in flank from Adrianople; in rear from Bulair; whilst, as we advanced, we would lose touch with the Fleet. But if our scheme is to be based on severance from the Fleet we must delay another month or six weeks to collect pack transport.
Thirdly, the Asiatic side does not dominate the Peninsula whereas the Kilid Bahr plateau does dominate the Asiatic narrows.
Fourthly, the whole point of our being here is to work hand-in-glove with the Fleet. We are here to help get the Fleet through the Dardanelles in the first instance and to help the Russians to take Constantinople in the second. The War Office, the Admiralty, the Vice-Admiral and the French Commander-in-Chief all agree now that the Peninsula is the best place for our first step towards these objects.
Hunter-Weston's appreciation, written on his way out at Malta, is a masterly piece of work. He understands clearly that our true objective is to let our warships through the Narrows to attack Constantinople. "The immediate object," he says, "of operations in the Dardanelles is to enable our warships, with the necessary colliers and other unarmoured supply ships—without which capital ships cannot maintain themselves—to pass through the Straits in order to attack Constantinople."
"It is evident that land operations at this stage must be directed entirely towards assisting the Fleet; and no operations should be commenced unless it is clear that their result will be to enable our warships, with their necessary colliers, etc., to have the use of the Straits."
The Fleet, he holds, cannot do this without our help because of:—
(1). Improvement of the defences. (2). The mobile howitzers. (3). The Leon floating mines.
Things being so, he sets himself to consider how far the Army can help, in the light of the following premises:—
"The Turkish Army having been warned by our early bombardments and by the landings carried out some time ago, has concentrated a large force in and near the Gallipoli Peninsula."
"It has converted the Peninsula into an entrenched camp, has, under German direction, made several lines of entrenchments covering the landing places, with concealed machine gun emplacements and land mines on the beach; and has put in concealed positions guns and howitzers capable of covering the landing places and approaches with their fire."
"The Turkish Army in the Peninsula is being supplied and reinforced from the Asiatic side and from the Sea of Marmora and is not dependent on the Isthmus of Bulair. The passage of the Isthmus of Bulair by troops and supplies at night cannot be denied by the guns of our Fleet."
After estimates of our forces and of the difficulties they may expect to encounter, Hunter-Weston comes to the conclusion that, "the only landing places worth serious consideration are:
"(1). Those near Cape Suvla, (2). Those near Cape Helles."
Of these two he advises Helles, because:—"the Fleet can also surround this end of the Peninsula and bring a concentrated fire on any Turks holding it. We, therefore, should be able to make sure of securing the Achi Baba position." Also, because our force is too weak to hold the big country round Suvla Bay and at the same time operate against Kilid Bahr.
If this landing at Helles is successful, he considers the probable further course of the operations. Broadly, he thinks that we are so short of ammunition and particularly of high explosive shell that there is every prospect of our getting tied up on an extended line across the Peninsula in front of the Kilid Bahr trenches. Should the enemy submarines arrive we should be "up a tree."
The cards in the game of life are the characters of men. Staking on those cards I take my own opinions—always. But when we play the game of death, things are our counters—guns, rivers, shells, bread, roads, forests, ships—and in totting up the values of these my friend Hunter-Weston has very few equals in the Army.
Therefore, his conclusion depresses me very much, but not so much as it would have done had I not seen him. For certainly during his conference on the 30th March with d'Amade and myself he never said or implied in any way that under conditions as he found them and as they were then set before him, there was no reasonable prospect of success:—quite the contrary. Here are the conclusions as written at Malta:—
"Conclusion. The information available goes to show that if this Expedition had been carefully and secretly prepared in England, France and Egypt, and the Naval and Military details of organisation, equipment and disembarkation carefully worked out by the General Staff and the Naval War Staff, and if no bombardment or other warning had been given till the troops, landing gear, etc., were all ready and despatched, (the troops from England ostensibly for service in Egypt and those in Egypt ostensibly for service in France) the capture of the Gallipoli Peninsula and the forcing of the Dardanelles would have been successful.
"Von der Goltz is reported to have visited the Dardanelles on 11th February and before that date it appears that very little had been done.
"Now big guns have been brought from Chatalja, Adrianople and elsewhere,—roads have been made,—heavy movable armaments provided,—troops and machine guns have been poured into the Peninsula,—several lines of trenches have been dug,—every landing place has been trenched and mined, and all that clever German Officers under Von der Goltz can design, and hard working diggers like the Turks can carry out, has been done to make the Peninsula impregnable.
"The prizes of success in this Expedition are very great.
"It was indeed the most hopeful method of finishing the war.
"No loss would be too heavy and no risks too great if thereby success would be attained.
"But if the views expressed in this paper be sound, there is not in present circumstances a reasonable chance of success. (The views are founded on the information available to the writer at the time of leaving Malta, and may be modified by further information at first hand on arrival at Force Head Quarters.)
"The return of the Expedition when it has gone so far will cause discontent, much talk, and some laughter; will confirm Roumania and Greece in the wisdom of their neutrality, and will impair the power of our valuable friend M. Venezelos. It will be a heavy blow to all of us soldiers, and will need great strength and moral courage on the part of the Commander and Government.
"But it will not do irreparable harm to our cause, whereas to attempt a landing and fail to secure a passage through the Dardanelles would be a disaster to the Empire.
"The threat of invasion by the Allies is evidently having considerable effect on the Balkan States.
"It is therefore advisable to continue our preparations;—to train our troops for landing, and to get our expedition properly equipped and organised for this difficult operation of war; so as to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity for successful action that may occur.
"But I would repeat; no action should be taken unless it has been carefully thought out in all its possibilities and details and unless there is a reasonable probability of success.
"A. HUNTER-WESTON, M.G."
Paris's appreciation gives no very clear lead. "The enemy is of strength unknown," he says, "but within striking distance there must be 250,000." He also lays stress on the point that the enemy are expecting us—"Surprise is now impossible—.... The difficulties are now increased a hundredfold.... To land would be difficult enough if surprise was possible but hazardous in the extreme under present conditions." He discusses Gaba Tepe as a landing place; also Smyrna, and Bulair. On the whole, he favours Sedd-el-Bahr as it "is the only place where transports could come in close and where the actual landing may be unopposed. It is open to question whether a landing could be effected elsewhere. With the aid of the Fleet it may be possible to land near Cape Helles almost unopposed and an advance of ten miles would enormously facilitate the landing of the remainder South of Gaba Tepe."
The truth is, every one of these fellows agrees in his heart with old Von der Goltz, the Berlin experts, and the Sultan of Egypt that the landing is impossible. Well, we shall see, D.V., we shall see!! One thing is certain: we must work up our preparations to the nth degree of perfection: the impossible can only be overborne by the unprecedented; i.e., by an original method or idea.
10th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Cast anchor at 7 a.m. After breakfast went on board the Queen Elizabeth where Braithwaite and I worked for three hours with Admiral de Robeck, Admiral Wemyss and Commodore Roger Keyes.
Last time the Admiral made the running; to-day it was my turn for I had to unfold my scheme and go through it point by point with the sailors. But first I felt it my duty to read out the appreciations of Hunter-Weston, Birdwood and Paris. Then I gave them my own view that history had never offered any nation so clean cut a chance of bringing off an immeasurably big coup as she had done by putting our Fleet and Army precisely where it was at present on the map of the war world. Half that unique chance had already been muddled away by the lack of secrecy and swiftness in our methods. With check mate within our grasp we had given two moves to the enemy. Still, perhaps; nay, probably, there was time. Were we to prolong hesitation, or, were we, now that we had done the best we could with the means under our hands, to go boldly forward? Here was the great issue: there was no use discussing detail until the principle was settled. By God's mercy the Vice-Admiral, Wemyss and Keyes were all quite clear and quite determined. They rejected Bulair; they rejected Asia; most of all they spurned the thought of further delay or of hanging about hoping for something to turn up.
So I then told them my plan. The more, I said, I had pondered over the map and reflected upon the character, probable numbers and supposed positions of the enemy, the more convinced I had become that the first and foremost step towards a victorious landing was to upset the equilibrium of Liman von Sanders, the enemy Commander who has succeeded Djavad in the Command of the Fifth Army. I must try to move so that he should be unable to concentrate either his mind or his men against us. Here I was handicapped by having no knowledge of my opponent whereas the German General Staff is certain to have transferred the "life-like picture" Schroeder told me they had of me to Constantinople. Still, sea power and the mobility it confers is a great help, and we ought to be able to rattle the enemy however imperturbable may be his nature and whatever he knows about us if we throw every man we can carry in our small craft in one simultaneous rush against selected points, whilst using all the balance in feints against other likely places. Prudence here is entirely out of place. There will be and can be no reconnaissance, no half measures, no tentatives. Several cautious proposals have been set before me but this is neither the time nor the place for paddling about the shore putting one foot on to the beaches with the idea of drawing it back again if it happens to alight upon a land mine. No; we've got to take a good run at the Peninsula and jump plump on—both feet together. At a given moment we must plunge and stake everything on the one hazard.
I would like to land my whole force in one,—like a hammer stroke—with the fullest violence of its mass effect—as close as I can to my objective, the Kilid Bahr plateau. But, apart from lack of small craft, the thing cannot be done; the beach space is so cramped that the men and their stores could not be put ashore. I have to separate my forces and the effect of momentum, which cannot be produced by cohesion, must be reproduced by the simultaneous nature of the movement. From the South, Achi Baba mountain is our first point of attack, and the direct move against it will start from the beaches at Cape Helles and Sedd-el-Bahr. As it is believed that the Turks are there in some force to oppose us, envelopment will be attempted by landing detachments in Morto Bay and opposite Krithia village. At the same time, also, the A. and N.Z. Corps will land between Gaba Tepe and Fisherman's Hut to try and seize the high backbone of the Peninsula and cut the line of retreat of the enemy on the Kilid Bahr plateau. In any case, the move is bound to interfere with the movements of Turkish reinforcements towards the toe of the Peninsula. While these real attacks are taking place upon the foot and at the waist of the Peninsula, the knife will be flourished at its neck. Transports containing troops which cannot be landed during the first two days must sail up to Bulair; make as much splash as they can with their small boats and try to provide matter for alarm wires to Constantinople and the enemy's Chief.
So much for Europe. Asia is forbidden but I hold myself free, as a measure of battle tactics, to take half a step Troywards. The French are to land a Brigade at Kum Kale (perhaps a Regiment may do) so as, first, to draw the fire of any enemy big guns which can range Morto Bay; secondly, to prevent Turkish troops being shipped across the Narrows.
With luck, then, within the space of an hour, the enemy Chief will be beset by a series of S.O.S. signals. Over an area of 100 miles, from five or six places; from Krithia and Morto Bay; from Gaba Tepe; from Bulair and from Kum Kale in Asia, as well as, if the French can manage it, from Besika Bay, the cables will pour in. I reckon Liman von Sanders will not dare concentrate and that he will fight with his local troops only for the first forty-eight hours. But what is the number of these local troops? Alas, there is the doubtful point. We think forty thousand rifles and a hundred guns, but, if my scheme comes off, not a tenth of them should be South of Achi Baba for the first two days. Hints have been thrown out that we are asking the French cat to pull the hottest chestnut out of the fire. Not at all. At Kum Kale, with their own ships at their back, and the deep Mendere River to their front, d'Amade's men should easily be able to hold their own for a day or two,—all that we ask of them.
The backbone of my enterprise is the 29th Division. At dawn I intend to land the covering force of that Division at Sedd-el-Bahr, Cape Helles and, D.V., in Morto Bay. I tack my D.V. on to Morto Bay because the transports will there be under fire from Asia unless the French succeed in silencing the guns about Troy or in diverting their aim. Whether then our transports can stick it or not is uncertain, like everything else in war, only more so. They must if they can and if they can they must; that is all that can be said at present.
As to the effort to be made to envelop the enemy's right flank along the coast between Helles and Krithia, I have not yet quite fixed on the exact spot, but I am personally bent upon having it done as even a small force so landed should threaten the line of retreat and tend to shake the confidence of any Turks resisting us at the Southernmost point. Some think these cliffs along that North-west coast unclimbable, but I am sure our fellows will manage to scramble up, and I think their losses should be less in doing so than in making the more easy seeming lodgment at Sedd-el-Bahr or Helles. The more broken and precipitous the glacis, the more the ground leading up to the objective is dead. The guns of the Fleet can clear the crest of the cliffs and the strip of sand at their foot should then be as healthy as Brighton. If the Turks down at Helles are nervous, even a handful landing behind their first line (stretching from the old Castle Northwards to the coast) should make them begin to look over their shoulders.
As to the A. and N.Z. landing, that will be of the nature of a strong feint, which may, and we hope will, develop into the real thing. My General Staff have marked out on the maps a good circular holding position, starting from Fisherman's Hut in the North round along the Upper Spurs of the high ridges and following them down to where they reach the sea, a little way above Gaba Tepe. If only Birdwood can seize this line and fix himself there for a bit, he should in due course be able to push on forward to Kojah Dere whence he will be able to choke the Turks on the Southern part of the Peninsula with a closer grip and a more deadly than we could ever hope to exercise from far away Bulair.
We are bound to suffer serious loss from concealed guns, both on the sea and also during the first part of our landing before we can win ground for our guns. That is part of the hardness of the nut. The landings at Gaba Tepe and to the South will between them take up all our small craft and launches. So I am unable to throw the Naval Division into action at the first go off. They will man the transports that sail to make a show at Bulair.
This is the substance of my opening remarks at the meeting: discussion followed, and, at the end, the Navy signified full approval. Neither de Robeck, Wemyss nor Roger Keyes are men to buy pigs in pokes; they wanted to know all about it and to be quite sure they could play their part in the programme. Their agreement is all the more precious. They (the Admirals and the Commodore) are also, I fancy, happier in their minds now that they know for sure what we soldiers are after. Rumours had been busy in the Fleet that we were shaping our course for Bulair. Had that been the basis of my plan, we should have come to loggerheads, I think. As it is, the sailors seem eager to meet us in every possible way. So now we've got to get our orders out.
On maps and charts the scheme may look neat and simple. On land and water, the trouble will begin and only by the closest thought and prevision will we find ourselves in a position to cope with it. To throw so many men ashore in so short a time in the teeth of so rapid a current on to a few cramped beaches; to take the chances of finding drinking water and of a smooth sea; these elemental hazards alone would suffice to give a man grey hairs were we practising a manoeuvre exercise on the peaceful Essex coast. So much thought; so much band-o-bast; so much dove-tailing and welding together of naval and military methods, signals, technical words, etc., and the worst punishment should any link in the composite chain give way. And then—taking success for granted—on the top of all this—comes the Turk; "unspeakable" he used to be, "unknowable" now. But we shall give him a startler too. If only our plans come off the Turk won't have time to turn; much less to bring into play all the clever moves foreseen for him by some whose stomachs for the fight have been satisfied by their appreciation of its dangers.
Units of the 29th Division have been coming along in their transports all day. The bay is alive with ships.
11th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." One of those exquisite days when the sunlight penetrates to the heart. Admiral Guepratte, commanding the French Fleet, called at 9.45 and in due course I returned his visit, when I was electrified to find at his cabin door no common sentry but a Beefeater armed with a large battleaxe, dating from about the period of Charlemagne. The Admiral lives quite in the old style and is a delightful personage; very gay and very eager for a chance to measure himself against the enemy. Guepratte, though he knows nothing officially, believes that his Government are holding up their sleeve a second French Division ear-marked Gallipoli! But why bottle up trumps; trumps worth a King's ransome, or a Kaiser's? He gives twice who gives quickly (in peace); he gives tenfold who gives quickly (in war). The devil of it is the French dare not cable home to ask questions, and as for myself, I have not been much encouraged—so far!
During the afternoon Admirals de Robeck and Wemyss came on board to work together with the General Staff on technical details. They too have heard these rumours about the second French Division, and Wemyss is in dismay at the thought of having to squeeze more ships into Mudros harbour. His anxiety has given me exactly the excuse I wanted, so I have dropped this fly just in front of K.'s nose, telling him that "There are persistent rumours here amongst the French that General d'Amade's Command is to be joined by another French Division. Just in case there is truth in the report you should know that Mudros harbour is as full as it will hold until our dash for the Peninsula has been made." We will see what he says. If the Division exists, then the Naval people will recommend Bizerta for their base; the ships can sail right up to the Peninsula from there and land right away until things on Lemnos and Tenedos have shaken themselves down.
Our first Taube: it passed over the harbour at a great height. One of our lumbering seaplanes went up after it like an owl in sunlight, but could rise no higher than the masts of the Fleet.
12th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. The Queen Elizabeth has been having some trouble with her engines and in the battle of the 18th was only able to use one of her propellers. Now she has been overhauled and the Admiral has asked me to come on board for her steam trials. These are to take place along the coastline of the Peninsula and I have got leave to bring with me a party selected from Divisions and Brigades. So when I went aboard this morning at 8.30 there were about thirty-five Officers present. Starting at once, we steamed at great pace half way up the Gulf of Saros and about 1 o'clock turned to go back, slowing down and closing in to let me take a second good look at the coast. Our studies were enlivened by an amusing incident. Nearing Cape Helles, the Queen Elizabeth went astern, so as to test her reverse turbines. The enemy, who must have been watching us like a mouse does a cat, had the ill-luck to select just this moment to salute us with a couple of shells. As they had been allowing for our speed they were ludicrously out of it, the shot striking the water half a mile ahead. We then lay off Cape Helles whilst a very careful survey of the whole of that section was being made. The Turks, disgusted by their own bad aim, did not fire again. On our way back we passed three fakes, old liners painted up, funnelled and armed with dummy guns to take off the Tiger, the Inflexible and the Indomitable. Riding at anchor there, they had quite the man-o'-war air and if they draw the teeth of enemy submarines (their torpedoes), as they are meant to do, the artists should be given decorations. At 6 p.m. dropped anchor and I transhipped myself to the Arcadian. Birdwood and Hunter-Weston had turned up during the day; the latter dined and is now more sanguine than myself. He has been getting to know his new command better and he says that he did not appreciate the 29th Division when he wrote his appreciation!
13th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Heavy squalls of rain and wind last night. Band-o-bast badly upset; boats also bottoms upwards and at dawn—here in harbour—we found ourselves clean cut off from the shore. What a ticklish affair the great landing is going to be! How much at the mercy of the winds and waves! Aeolus and Neptune have hardly lost power since Greeks and Trojans made history out yonder!
Have sent K. an electrical pick-me-up saying that the height of the Queen Elizabeth fire control station had enabled me to see the lie of the land better than on my previous reconnaissance, and that, given good luck, we hope to get ashore without too great a loss.
In the afternoon the wind moderated and I spent an hour or two watching practice landings by Senegalese. Our delay is loss, but yet not clear loss; that's a sure thing. These niggy-wigs were as awkward as golly-wogs in the boats. Every extra hour's practice will save some lives by teaching them how to make short work of the ugliest bit of their job.
14th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian," Lemnos. A day so exquisitely lovely that it should be chronicled in deathless verse. But we gaze at the glassy sea and turn to the deep blue cloudless sky, victory our only thought.
Colonel Dick, King's Messenger, has arrived bringing letters up to 3rd instant. Or rather, he was supposed to have brought them, and it was hoped the abundance of his intelligence would have borne some relation to the cost of his journey,—about L80 it has been reckoned. As a matter of fact, apart from some rubbish, he brings one letter for me; none for any of the others. Not even a file of newspapers; not even a newspaper! In India many, many years ago, we used to call Dick Burra dik hai, Hindustani for, it is a great worry. So he is only playing up to his sobriquet. The little ewe lamb is an epistle from Fitz giving me a lively sketch of the rumpus at the War Office when its pontiffs grasped for the first time the true bearing of their own orders. There was a rush to saddle poor us with the delay as soon as the Cabinet began to show impatience. They seem to have expected the 29th Division to arrive at top speed in a united squadron to rush straightway ashore. They don't yet quite realise, I daresay, that not one of their lovely ships has yet put in an appearance. That the men who packed the transports and fixed their time tables should say we are too slow is hardly playing the game.
Never lose your hair: that is a good soldier's motto. My cable of last night, wherein I tried to calm their minds by telling them the sea was rough and that, even if every one had been here with gaiter buttons complete, I must have waited for a change in the weather, has answered Fitz's letter by anticipation.
Worked all day in my office like a nigger and by mid-day had got almost as black as my simile! We are coaling and life has grown dark and noisy. In the middle of it, Ashmead-Bartlett came aboard to see me. He has his quarters on the Queen Elizabeth as one of the Admiralty authorised Press Correspondents, or rather, as the only authorised correspondent. In Manchuria he was known and his writing was well liked. When he had gone, de Robeck and I put through a good lot of business very smoothly. A little later on, Captain Ivanoff, commanding H.I.M.S. Askold, (a Russian cruiser well-known to fame in Manchurian days), did me the honour to call.
After lunch went ashore and saw parties of Australians at embarking and disembarking drill. Colonel Paterson, the very man who bear-led me on tour during my Australian inspection, was keeping an eye on the "Boys." The work of the Australians and Senegalese gave us a good object lesson of the relative brain capacities of the two races. Next I went and inspected the Armoured Car Section of the Royal Naval Division under Lieutenant-Commander Wedgwood. He is a mighty queer chap. Took active part in the South African War. Afterwards became a pacifist M.P.; here he is again with war paint and tomahawk. Give me a Pacifist in peace and a Jingo in war. Too often it is the other way about.
All this took me on to 5.30 p.m. and when I came back on board, Hunter-Weston was here. He has been out since last night on H.M.S. Dartmouth to inspect the various landing places. His whole tone about the Expedition has been transformed. Now he has become the most sanguine of us all. He has great hopes that we shall have Achi Baba in our hands by sunset on the day of landing. If so he thinks we need have no fear for the future.
All is worked out now and I do not quite see how we could improve upon our scheme with the means at our disposal. If these "means" included a larger number of boats and steam launches, then certainly, by strengthening our forces on either flank, viz., at Morto Bay (where we are sending only one Battalion) and at a landing under the cliffs a mile West of Krithia (where we are sending one Battalion), we should greatly better our chances. Also, a battery of field guns attached to the Morto Bay column, and a couple of mountain guns added to the Krithia column would add to our prospects of making a real big scoop. But we cannot spare the sea transport except by too much weakening and delaying the landing at the point of the Peninsula; nor dare I leave myself without any reserve under my own hand. I am inclined, all the same, to squeeze one Marine Battalion out of the Naval Division to strengthen our threat to Krithia. Hunter-Weston will be in executive command of everything South of Achi Baba; Birdwood of everything to the North.
I went very closely with Hunter-Weston into the question of a day or night attack. My own leanings are in favour of the first boat-loads getting ashore before break of dawn, but Hunter-Weston is clear and strong for daylight. There is a very strong current running round the point; the exact lie of the beaches is unknown and he thinks the confusion inseparable from any landing will be so aggravated by attempting it in the dark that he had rather face the losses the men in boats must suffer from aimed fire. Executively he is responsible and he is backed by his naval associates.
Birdwood, on the other hand, is of one mind with me and is going to get his first boat-loads ashore before it is light enough to aim. He has no current to trouble him, it is true, but he is not landing on any surveyed beach and the opposition he will meet with is even more unknown than in the case of Helles and Sedd-el-Bahr.
When a sportsman goes shark fishing, he should beware lest he be mistaken for the bait. Gaily I cast my fly over K. and now he has snapped off my head. That story about a second French Division was false. K. merely quotes the number of my question and adds, "The rumour is baseless." Well, "tant pis," as Guepratte would say with a shrug of his shoulders. Our first step won't have the weight behind it we had permitted ourselves for some hours to hope. Everywhere the first is the step that counts but nowhere more so than in an Oriental War.
Now that the French Division has been snuffed out, how about the Grand Duke Nicholas, General Istomine and their Russian Divisions? Are they also to prove phantoms? Certainly, in some form or another, they ought to be brought into our scheme and, even if only at a distance, bring some pressure to bear upon the Turks at the time of our opening move. I think my best way of getting into touch will be by wireless from de Robeck to the Russian Admiral in the Black Sea.
Dick dines, also Birdwood.
15th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Boarded H.M.S. Dublin (Captain Kelly) at 9.30 this morning, where Admiral de Robeck met me. Sailed at once and dropped anchor off Tenedos at noon.
Landed and made a close inspection of the Aerodrome where we were taken round by two young friends of mine, Commander Samson and Captain Davies, Naval Air Service. By a queer fluke these are the very two men with whom I did my very first flight! On that never to be forgotten day Samson took up Winston and Davies took me. Like mallards we shot over the Medway and saw the battleships as if they were little children's playthings far away down below us. Now the children are going to use their pretty toys and will make a nice noise with them in the world.
After lunch spent the best part of two hours in a small cottage with Samson and Keyes trying to digest the honey brought back by our busy aeroplane bees from their various flights over Gallipoli. The Admiral went off on some other naval quest.
Samson and Davies are fliers of the first water—and not only in the air. They carry the whole technique of their job at their finger tips. The result of K.'s washing his hands of the Air is that the Admiralty run that element entirely. Samson is Boss. He has brought with him two Maurice Farmans and three B.E.2s. The Maurice Farmans with 100 H.P. Renaults; the B.E.2s with 70 Renaults. These five machines are good although one of the B.E.2s is dead old.
Also, he brought eight Henri Farmans with 80 Gnome engines. He took them because they were new and there was nothing else new; but they are no use for war.
Two B.E.2C.s with 70 Renaults: these are absolutely useless as they won't take a passenger.
One Broguet 200 H.P. Canton engine; won't fly.
Two Sopwith Scouts: 80 Gnome engines; very old and can't be used owing to weakness of engine mounting.
One very old but still useful Maurice Farman with 140 Canton engine. That is the demnition total and it pans out at five serviceable aeroplanes for the Army. There are also some seaplanes with us but they are not under Samson, and are purely for naval purposes. Amongst those are two good "Shorts," but the others are no use, they say, being wrong type and underpowered.
The total nominal strength of Samson's Corps is eleven pilots and one hundred and twenty men. As everyone knows, no Corps or Service is ever up to its nominal strength; least of all an Air Corps. The dangerous shortage is that in two-seater aeroplanes as we want our Air Service now for spotting and reconnaissances. If, after that requirement had been met, we had only a bombing force at our disposal, the Gallipoli Peninsula, being a very limited space with only one road and two or three harbours on it, could probably be made untenable.
Commander Samson's estimate of a minimum force for this "stunt," as he calls our great enterprise, is 30 good two-seater machines; 24 fighters; 40 pilots and 400 men. So equipped he reckons he could take the Peninsula by himself and save us all a vast lot of trouble.
But, strange as it may seem, flying is not my "stunt." I dare not even mention the word "aeroplane" to K., and I have cut myself off from correspondence with Winston. I did this thing deliberately as Braithwaite reminds me every time I am tempted to sit down and unbosom myself to one who would sympathise and lend us a hand if he could: in truth, I am torn in two about this; but I still feel it is wiser and better so; not only from the K. point of view but also from de Robeck's. He (de Robeck) might be quite glad I should write once to Winston on one subject but he would never be sure afterwards I was not writing on others. On the way back I spoke to the Admiral, but I don't know whether he will write himself or not. Ventured also a little bit out of my own element in another direction, and begged him not to put off sending the submarine through the Straits until the day of our landing, but to let her go directly she was ready. He does not agree. He has an idea (I hope a premonition) that the submarine will catch Enver hurrying down to the scene of action if we wait till the day of the attack.
Even more than in the Fleet I find in the Air Service the profound conviction that, if they could only get into direct touch with Winston Churchill, all would be well. Their faith in the First Lord is, in every sense, touching. But they can't get the contact and they are thoroughly imbued with the idea that the Sea Lords are at the best half-hearted; at the worst, actively antagonistic to us and to the whole of our enterprise. The photographs, etc., I have studied make it only too clear that the Turks have not let the grass grow under their feet since the first bombardment; the Peninsula, in fact, is better defended than it was. Per contra the momentum, precision, swiftness and staying power of our actual attack will be at least twice as great now as it would have been at the end of March.
Returned to Lemnos about 7.30 p.m.
While we were away my Staff got aboard the destroyer Colne and steamed in her to the mouth of the Dardanelles. There the whole precious load of red tabs transshipped to H.M.S. Triumph (Captain Fitzmaurice), who forthwith took up her station opposite Morto Bay and began firing salvos with her 6-inch guns at the trenches on the face of the hill. At first the Staff watched the show with much enjoyment from the bridge, but when howitzers from the Asiatic side began to lob shell over the ship, the Captain hustled them all into the conning tower. The Turks seem to have shot pretty straight. The first three fell fifty yards short of the ship; the fourth shell about twenty yards over her. The next three got home. One cut plumb through the bridge (where all my brains had been playing about two minutes previously) and burst on the deck just outside the conning tower. Some cordite cartridges were lying outside of it and these went off with a great flare. Another struck the funnel and the third came in on the waterline. Fifteen more shells were then fired with just a little bit too much elevation and passed over. Only two men were wounded,—fractured legs. Captain Fitzmaurice now decided that honour and dignity were satisfied and so fell back slowly towards Cape Helles to try the effect of his guns on the barbed wire entanglements. A good deal of ammunition was expended but only one hit on the entanglement was registered, and that did not seem to do any harm. The fire was described to me as inaccurate. The fact is, as was agreed between the two services at Malta, the whole principle of naval gunnery is different from the principles of garrison or field artillery shooting. Before they will be much good at landmarks, the sailors will have to take lessons in the art.
Passed a very interesting evening, every one excited, I with my aeroplane reports; the Staff with the powder they had smelt.
Two of the Australian Commanding Officers dined and I showed them the aerial photographs of the enemy trenches, etc. The face of one of them grew very long; so long, in fact, that I feared he was afraid; for I own these photos are frightening. So I said, "You don't seem to like the look of that barbed wire, Colonel?" To which he replied, "I was worrying how and where I would feed and water the prisoners."
16th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Spent the forenoon in interviews beginning at 10 a.m. with de Robeck and Mr. Fitzmaurice, late dragoman at the Embassy at Constantinople. Mr. Fitzmaurice says the Turks will put up a great fight at the Dardanelles. They had believed in the British Navy, and, a month ago, they were shaking in their shoes. But they had not believed in the British Army or that a body so infinitely small would be so saucy as to attack them on their own chosen ground. Even now, he says, they can hardly credit their spies, or their eyes, and it ought to be easy enough to make them think all this is a blind, and that we are really going to Smyrna or Adramiti. They are fond of saying, "If the English are fools enough to enter our mouth we only have to close it." Enver especially brags he will make very short work with us if we set foot so near to the heart of his Empire, and gives it out that the whole of us will be marching through the streets of Constantinople, not as conquerors, but as prisoners, within a week from the date of our making the attempt. All the same, despite this bragging, the Turks realise that if we were to get the Fleet through the Narrows; or, if it were to force its own way through whilst we absorb the attention of their mobile guns, the game would be up. So they are straining every nerve to be ready for anything. The moral of all these rather contradictory remarks is just what I have said time and again since South Africa. The fact that war has become a highly scientific business should not blind us to the other fact that its roots still draw their nutriment from primitive feelings and methods; the feelings and methods of boy scouts and Red Indians. It is a huge handicap to us here that our great men keep all their tricks for their political friends and have none to spare for their natural enemies. There has been very little attempt to disguise our aims in England, and Maxwell and McMahon in Egypt have allowed their Press to report every arrival of French and British troops, and to announce openly that we are about to attack at Gallipoli. I have protested and reported the matter to K. but nothing in the strategic sphere can be done now although, in the tactical sphere, we have several deceptions ready for them.
Colonel Napier, Military Attache at Sofia, and Braithwaite came in after these pseudo-secrets had been discussed and joined in the conversation. I doubt whether either Fitzmaurice or Napier have solid information as to what is in front of us, and their yarns about Balkan politics are neither here nor there. John Bull is quite out of his depth in the defiles of the Balkans. With just so much pull over the bulk of my compatriots as has been given me by my having spent a little time with their Armies, I may say that the Balkan nations loathe and mistrust one another to so great a degree that it is sheer waste of time to think of roping them all in on our side, as Fitzmaurice and Napier seem to propose. We may get Greece to join us, and Russia may get Roumania to join her—if we win here—but then we make an enemy of Bulgaria, and vice versa. If they will unearth my 1909 report at the War Office they will see that, at that time, one Bulgarian Battalion of Infantry was worth two Battalions of Roumanian Infantry—which may be a help to them in making their choice. The Balkan problem is so intricate that it must be simply handled. The simple thing is to pay your money and pick the best card, knowing you can't have a full hand. So let us have no more beating about the bush and may we be inspired to make use of the big boom this Expedition has given to Great Britain in the Balkans to pick out a partner straightway.
Birdie came later and we took stock together of ways and means. We see eye to eye now on every point. Just before lunch we heard the transport Manitou had been attacked by a Turkish torpedo boat from Smyrna. The first wireless came in saying the enemy had made a bad shot and only a few men had been drowned lowering the boats. Admiral Rosy Wemyss and Hope, the Flag-Captain, of the Q.E. were my guests and naturally they were greatly perturbed. Late in the evening we heard that the Turkish T.B. had been chased by our destroyers and had run ashore on a Greek Island where she was destroyed (international laws notwithstanding) by our landing parties.
At 7.30 p.m. Hunter-Weston came along and I had the best part of an hour with him.
17th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Hunter-Weston came over early to finish off business left undone last night. Admiral Wemyss also took part in our discussions over the landing. Picture puzzles are child's play compared with this game of working an unheard of number of craft to and fro, in and out, of little bits of beaches. At mid-day the Manitou steamed into harbour and Colonel Peel, Commander of the troops, came on board and reported fully to me about the attack by the Turkish torpedo boat. The Turks seem to have behaved quite decently giving our men time to get into their boats and steaming some distance off whilst they did so. During the interval the Turks must have got wind of British warships, for they rushed back in a great hurry and fired torpedoes at so short a range that they passed under the ship. Very exciting, we were told, watching them dart beneath the keel through the crystal clear water. I can well believe it.
Went ashore in the afternoon to watch the Australian Artillery embark. Spoke to a lot of the men, some of whom had met me during my tour through Australia last year.
General Paris came to see me this evening.
18th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Working all morning in office. In the afternoon inspected embarkation of some howitzers. D'Amade turned up later from the Southland. We went over the landing at Kum Kale. He is in full sympathy and understands. Winter, Woodward and their administrative Staffs also arrived in the Southland and have taken up their quarters on this ship. They report everything fixed up at Alexandria before they sailed. We are all together now and their coming will be a great relief to the General Staff.
Quite hot to-day. Sea dead smooth. The usual ebb and flow of visitors. Saw the three Corps Commanders and many Staff Officers. We are rather on wires now that the time is drawing near; Woodward, though he has only been here one night, is on barbed wires. His cabin is next the signallers and he could not get to sleep. He wants some medical detachments sent up post haste from Alexandria. I have agreed to cable for them and now he is more calm. A big pow-wow on the "Q.E." (d'Amade, Birdie, Hunter-Weston, Godley, Bridges, Guepratte, Thursby, Wemyss, Phillimore, Vyvian, Dent, Loring), whereat the 23rd was fixed for our attack and the naval landing orders were read and fully threshed out. I did not attend as the meeting was rather for the purpose of going point by point into orders already approved in principle than of starting any fresh hares. Staff Officers who have only had to do with land operations would be surprised, I am sure, at the amount of original thinking and improvisation demanded by a landing operation. The Naval and Military Beach Personnel is in itself a very big and intricate business which has no place in ordinary soldier tactics. The diagrams of the ships and transports; the lists of tows; the action of the Destroyers; tugs; lighters; signal arrangements for combined operations: these are unfamiliar subjects and need very careful fitting in. Braithwaite came back and reported all serene; everyone keen and cooperating very loyally. D'Amade has now received the formal letter I wrote him yesterday after my interview and sees his way clear about Kum Kale.
Went ashore in the afternoon and saw big landing by Australians, who took mules and donkeys with them and got them in and out of lighters. These Australians are shaping into Marines in double quick time and Cairo high jinks are wild oats sown and buried. Where everyone wants to do well and to do it in the same way, discipline goes down as slick as Mother's milk. Action is a discipline in itself.
The three Officers forming the French Mission to my Headquarters made salaams, viz., Captain Bertier de Sauvigny, Lieutenant Pelliot and Lieutenant de la Borde. The first is a man of the world, with manners suave and distinguished; the second is a savant and knows the habits of obscure and out of the way people. What de la Borde's points may be, I do not know: he is a frank, good looking young fellow and spoke perfect English.
20th April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. A big wind rose in the night.
A clerk from my central office at the Horse Guards developed small pox this morning. No doubt he has been in some rotten hole in Alexandria and this is the result,—a disgusting one to all of us as we have had to be vaccinated.
Ready now, but so long as the wind blows, we have to twiddle our thumbs.
Got the full text of d'Amades' orders for his Kum Kale landing as well as for the Besika Bay make-believe.
21st April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Blowing big guns. The event with which old mother time is in labour is so big that her pains are prodigious and prolonged out of all nature. So near are we now to our opening that the storm means a twenty four hours' delay.
Have issued my orders to the troops. Yesterday our plans were but plans. To-day the irrevocable steps out on to the stage.
General Headquarters, 21st April, 1915.
Soldiers of France and of the King.
Before us lies an adventure unprecedented in modern war. Together with our comrades of the Fleet, we are about to force a landing upon an open beach in face of positions which have been vaunted by our enemies as impregnable.
The landing will be made good, by the help of God and the Navy; the positions will be stormed, and the War brought one step nearer to a glorious close.
"Remember," said Lord Kitchener when bidding adieu to your Commander, "Remember, once you set foot upon the Gallipoli Peninsula, you must fight the thing through to a finish."
The whole world will be watching your progress. Let us prove our selves worthy of the great feat of arms entrusted to us. IAN HAMILTON, General.
22nd April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. Wind worse than ever, but weather brighter. Another twenty four hours' delay. Russian Military Attache from Athens (Makalinsky) came to see me at 2.30 p.m. He cannot give me much idea of how the minds of the Athenians are working. He says our Russian troops are of the very best. Delay is the worst nerve-cracker.
Charley Burn, King's Messenger, came; with him a Captain Coddan, to be liaison between me and Istomine's Russians.
The King sends his blessing.
General Headquarters, 22nd April, 1915.
The following gracious message has been received to-day by the General Commanding:—
"The King wishes you and your Army every success, and you are constantly in His Majesty's thoughts and prayers."
23rd April, 1915. S.S. "Arcadian." Lemnos. A gorgeous day at last; fitting frame to the most brilliant and yet touching of pageants.
All afternoon transports were very, very slowly coming out of harbour winding their way in and out through the other painted ships lying thick on the wonderful blue of the bay. The troops wild with enthusiasm and tremendously cheering especially as they passed the warships of our Allies.
Nunc Dimittis, O Lord of Hosts! Not a man but knows he is making for the jaws of death. They know, these men do, they are being asked to prove their enemies to have lied when they swore a landing on Gallipoli's shore could never make good. They know that lie must pass for truth until they have become targets to guns, machine guns and rifles—huddled together in boats, helpless, plain to the enemy's sight. And they are wild with joy; uplifted! Life spins superbly through their veins at the very moment they seek to sacrifice it for a cause. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
A shadow has been cast over the wonders of the day by a wireless to say that Rupert Brooke is very dangerously ill—from the wording we fear there can be no hope.
Dent, principal Naval Transport Officer, left to-day to get ready. Wemyss said good-bye on going to take up command of his Squadron.
Have got d'Amade's revised orders for the landing at Kum Kale and also for the feint at Besika Bay. Very clear and good.
At 7.15 p.m. we got this message from K.:—
"Please communicate the following messages at a propitious moment to each of those concerned.
"(1) My best wishes to you and all your force in carrying to a successful conclusion the operations you have before you, which will undoubtedly have a momentous effect on the war. The task they have to perform will need all the grit Britishers have never failed to show, and I am confident your troops will victoriously clear the way for the Fleet to advance on Constantinople.
"(2) Convey to the Admiral my best wishes that all success may attend the Fleet. The Army knows they can rely on their energy and effective co-operation while dealing with the land forces of the enemy.
"(3) Assure General d'Amade and the French troops of our entire confidence that their courage and skill will result in the triumph of their arms.
"(End of message)—" Personal:
"All my thoughts will be with you when operations begin."
We, here, think of Lord K. too. May his shadow fall dark upon the Germans and strike the fear of death into their hearts.
Just got following from the Admiral:—
"H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth, "23rd April, 1915.
"My dear General,
"I have sent orders to all Admirals that operations are to proceed and they are to take the necessary measures to have their commands in their assigned positions by Sunday morning, April 25th!
"I pray that the weather may be favourable and nothing will prevent our proceeding with the scheme. 'May heaven's light be our guide' and God give us the victory.
"Think everything is ready and in some ways the delay has been useful, as we have now a few more lighters and tugs available.
"Yours sincerely, (Sd.) "J. M. de Robeck."
I have sent a reply:—
"S.S. Arcadian, 23rd April, 1915.
"My dear Admiral,
"Your note just received gives expression to my own sentiments. The sooner we get to work now the better and may the best cause win.
"Yours sincerely, (Sd.) "Ian Hamilton."
Rupert Brooke is dead. Straightaway he will be buried. The rest is silence.
Twice was "the sight" vouchsafed me:—in London when I told Eddie I would bespeak the boy's services; at Port Said when I bespoke them.
Death on the eve of battle, death on a wedding day—nothing so tragic save that most black mishap, death in action after peace has been signed. Death grins at my elbow. I cannot get him out of my thoughts. He is fed up with the old and sick—only the flower of the flock will serve him now, for God has started a celestial spring cleaning, and our star is to be scrubbed bright with the blood of our bravest and our best.
Youth and poetry are the links binding the children of the world to come to the grandsires of the world that was. War will smash, pulverise, sweep into the dustbins of eternity the whole fabric of the old world: therefore, the firstborn in intellect must die. Is that the reading of the riddle?
Almighty God, Watchman of the Milky Way, Shepherd of the Golden Stars, have mercy upon us, smallest of the heavenly Shiners. Our star burns dim as a corpse light: the huge black chasm of space closes in: if only by blood ...? Thy Will be done. En avant—at all costs—en avant!
24th April, 1915. H.M.S. "Queen Elizabeth." Tenedos. Boarded the Queen Lizzie at 1.30 p.m. Anchored off Tenedos just before 4 p.m. Lay outside the roadstead; close by us is the British Fleet with an Armada of transports,—all at anchor. As we were closing up to them we spotted a floating mine which must have been passed touch-and-go during the night by all those warships and troopships. A good omen surely that not one of them fell foul of the death that lurks in that ugly, horned devil—not dead itself, but very much alive, for it answered a shot from one of our three pounders with the dull roar and spitting of fire and smoke bred for our benefit by the kindly German Kultur.