There are poets and writers who see naught in war but carrion, filth, savagery and horror. The heroism of the rank and file makes no appeal. They refuse war the credit of being the only exercise in devotion on the large scale existing in this world. The superb moral victory over death leaves them cold. Each one to his taste. To me this is no valley of death—it is a valley brim full of life at its highest power. Men live through more in five minutes on that crest than they do in five years of Bendigo or Ballarat. Ask the brothers of these very fighters—Calgoorlie or Coolgardie miners—to do one quarter the work and to run one hundredth the risk on a wages basis—instanter there would be a riot. But here,—not a murmur, not a question; only a radiant force of camaraderie in action.
The Turks have heaps of cartridges and more shells, anyway, than we have. They have as many grenades as they can throw; we have—a dozen per Company. There is a very bitter feeling amongst all the troops, but especially the Australians, at this lack of elementary weapons like grenades. Our overseas men are very intelligent. They are prepared to make allowances for lack of shell; lack of guns; lack of high explosives. But they know there must be something wrong when the Turks carry ten good bombs to our one bad one; and they think, some of them, that this must be my fault. Far from it. Directly after the naval battle of the 18th March—i.e., over two months ago, I wrote out a cable asking for bombs. I sent this on my own happy thought, and I had hoped for a million by the date of landing five weeks later. But I got, practically, none; nor any promise for the future. In default of help from home, we have tried to manufacture these primitive but very effective projectiles for ourselves with jam pots, meat tins and any old rubbish we can scrape together. De Lothbiniere has shown ingenuity in thus making bricks without straw. The Fleet, too, has played up and de Robeck has guaranteed me two thousand to be made by the artificers on the battleships. Maxwell in Egypt has been improvising a few; Methuen at Malta says they can't make them there. But what a shame that the sons of a manufacturing country like Great Britain should be in straits for engines so simple.
Yesterday and to-day we have fired, for us, a terrible lot of shells (1,800 shrapnel) but never was shot better spent. We reckon the enemy's casualties between 1,000 and 2,000 mainly caused by our guns playing on the columns which came up trying to improve upon their lodgment in Quinn's Post. Add this to the 3,000 killed, and, say, 12,000 wounded on the 18th instant, and it is clear no troops in the world can stand it very long. But we are literally at the end of our shrapnel; and as to high explosive, according to the standards of the gunners, we have never had any!
Left on a picket boat with Birdie to board my destroyer to an accompaniment of various denominations of projectiles. One or two shells burst hard by just as we were scrambling up her side.
Vice-Admiral Nicholls called after my return. Courtauld Thomson, the Red Cross man, dined; very helpful; very well stocked with comforts and everyone likes him, even the R.A.M.C.
31st May, 1915. H.M.T. "Arcadian." Worked in the forenoon. Gouraud, Girodon and Hunter-Weston lunched and we spent the afternoon at the scheme for our next fight. Each of us agreed that Fortune had not been over kind. By one month's hard, close hammering we had at last made the tough moral of the Turks more pliant, when lo and behold, in broad daylight, thousands of their common soldiery see with their own eyes two great battleships sink beneath the waves and all the others make an exit more dramatic than dignified. Most of the Armada of store ships had already cleared out and now the last of the battleships has offed it over the offing; a move which the whole of the German Grand Fleet could not have forced them to make! What better pick-me-up could Providence have provided for the badly-shaken Turks? No more inquisitive cruisers ready to let fly a salvo at anything that stirs. No more searchlights by night; no more big explosives flying from the Aegean into the Dardanelles!
1st June, 1915. Imbros. Came ashore and stuck up my 80-lb. tent in the middle of a sandbank whereon some sanguine Greek agriculturalist has been trying to plant wheat.
We shall live the simple life; the same life, in fact, as the men, but are glad to be off the ship and able to stretch our legs.
Hard fighting in the North zone and the South. Both outposts captured by us on the 29th May at Anzac and on the French right at Helles heavily attacked. In the North we had to give ground, but not before we had made the enemy pay ten times its value in killed and wounded. Had we only had a few spare rounds of shrapnel we need never have gone back. The War Office have called for a return of my 4.5 howitzer ammunition during the past fortnight, and I find that, since the 14th May, we have expended 477 shell altogether at Anzac and Helles combined. In the South the enemy twice recaptured the redoubt taken by the French on the 29th, but Gouraud, having a nice little parcel of high explosive on hand, was able to drive them out definitely and to keep them out.
2nd June, 1915. Imbros. Working all day in camp. Blazing hot, tempered by a cool breeze towards evening. De Robeck came ashore and we had an hour together in the afternoon. Everything is fixed up for our big attack on the 4th. From aeroplane photographs it would appear that the front line Turkish trenches are meant more as traps for rash forlorn hopes than as strongholds. In fact, the true tug only begins when we try to carry the second line and the flanking machine guns. Gouraud has generously lent us two groups of 75s with H.E. shell, and I am cabling the fact to the War Office as it means a great deal to us. When I say they are lent to us, I do not mean that they put the guns at our disposal. They are only ours for defensive purposes; that is to say, they remain in their own gun positions in the French lines and are to help by thickening the barrage in front of the Naval Division.
De Robeck and Keyes are quite as much at sea as Braithwaite and myself about this original scheme of the British Government for treating a tearing, raging crisis; i.e., by taking no notice of it. I guess that never before in the history of war has a Commander asked urgently that his force might be doubled and then got no orders; no answer of any sort or kind!
When I sent K. my M.F. 234 of the 17th May asking for two Corps, or for Allies, one or the other, I got a reply by return expressing his disappointment; since then, nothing. During that fortnight of silence the whole of the Turkish Empire has been moving—closing in—on the Dardanelles. Then, by a side-wind I happen to hear of the abstraction of a Russian Army Corps from my supposed command; an Army Corps, who by the mere fact of "being," held off a large force of Turks from Gallipoli.
So I have put down a few hard truths. Unpalatable they may be but some day they've got to be faced and the sooner the better. Time has slipped away, but to-day is still better than to-morrow.
What a change since the War Office sent us packing with a bagful of hallucinations. Naval guns sweeping the Turks off the Peninsula; the Ottoman Army legging it from a British submarine waving the Union Jack; Russian help in hand; Greek help on the tapis. Now it is our Fleet which has to leg it from the German submarine; there is no ammunition for the guns; no drafts to keep my Divisions up to strength; my Russians have gone to Galicia and the Greeks are lying lower than ever.
"No. M.F. 288. From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener. With reference to my telegrams No. M.F. 274 of 29th May, and No. M.F. 234 of 17th May. If the information sent by Hanbury-Williams, to which I referred in my No. M.F. 274, is correct it is advisable that I should send you a fresh appreciation of the situation.
"I assumed in my No. M.F. 234 that you had adequate forces at your disposal, but on the other hand I assumed that some 100,000 Turks would be kept occupied by the Russians. By the defection of Russia, 100,000 Turks are set free in the Caucasus and European Turkey. After deduction of casualties there are at least 80,000 Turks now against us in the Peninsula. There are 20,000 Turks on the Bulgarian frontier which, assuming that Bulgaria remains neutral, are able to reinforce Gallipoli; some, in fact, have already arrived showing the restoration of Turkish confidence in King Ferdinand. Close by on the Asiatic side there remain 10,000 Turks, making a total of 210,000, to which must be added 65,000 who are under training in Europe.
"The movement of the Turkish troops has already begun. There are practically no troops left in Smyrna district, and there are already in the field numbers of troops from European garrisons, while recently it was reported that more are coming.
"The movement of a quarter of a million men against us seems to be well under way, and although many of these are ill-trained still with well-run supply and ammunition columns and in trenches designed by Germans the Turk is always formidable.
"As regards ammunition, the enemy appears to have an unlimited supply of small-arm ammunition and as many hand-grenades as they can fling. Though there is some indication that gun ammunition is being husbanded, it was reported as late as 27th May, that supplies of shells were being received via Roumania, and yesterday it was suggested that artillery ammunition can be manufactured at Constantinople where it is reported that over two hundred engineers have arrived from Krupp's.
"At the same time, the temporary withdrawal of our battleships owing to enemy submarines has altered the position to our disadvantage; while not of the highest importance materially this factor carries considerable moral weight.
"Taking all these factors into consideration, it would seem that for an early success some equivalent to the suspended Russian co-operation is vitally necessary. The ground gained and the positions which we hold are not such as to enable me to envisage with soldierly equanimity the probability of the large forces adumbrated above being massed against my troops without let or hindrance from elsewhere. Fresh light may be shed on the matter by the battle now imminent, but I am cabling on reasoned existing facts. Time is an object, but if Greece came in, preferably via Enos, the problem would be simplified. It is broadly my view that we must obtain the support of a fresh ally in this theatre, or else there should be got ready British reinforcements to the full extent mentioned in my No. M.F. 234, though as stated above the disappearance of Russian co-operation was not contemplated in my estimate."
3rd June, 1915. Imbros. Meant to go to Anzac; sea too rough; in the afternoon saw de Robeck and Roger Keyes. Braithwaite came over and we went through my cable of yesterday. The sailors would just as soon I had left out that remark about the enemy being bucked up by the retreat of our battleships. But the passage implied also that their mere visible presence was shown to be most valuable. Both of them agree that I am well within the mark in saying what I did about the loss of my Russian Army Corps. Roger Keyes next launched a dry land criticism. He rightly thinks that the weakness of our present units is the real weakness: he thinks we are far more in need of drafts than of fresh units; he suggests that a rider be sent now to insist that the estimates in yesterday's cable were only made on the assumption that my present force is kept up to strength. I did press that very point in my first cable of 17th May, which is referred to in the opening of this cable; further, we keep on saying it every week in our War Office cable giving strengths. After all, K. is 65. He still believes "A man's a man and a rifle's a rifle"; I still believe that half the value of every human being depends upon his environment:—we are not going to convert one another now.
As we were actually talking, Williams brought over an answer:—
"No. 5104, cipher. From Earl Kitchener to General Sir Ian Hamilton. With reference to your No. M.F. 288. Owing to the restricted nature of the ground you occupy and the experience we have had in Flanders of increased forces acting in trench positions, I own I have some doubts of an early decisive result being obtained by at once increasing the forces at your disposal, but I should like your views as soon as you can—to-day if possible. Are you convinced that with immediate reinforcements to the extent you mention you could force the Kilid Bahr position and thus finish the Dardanelles operations?
"You mentioned in a previous telegram that you intended to keep reinforcements on islands, is this your intention with regard to the Lowland Division, now on its way to you, and the other troops when sent?"
K.'s brief cable is intensely characteristic. I have taken down hundreds of his wires. We are face to face here with his very self at first hand. How curiously it reveals the man's instinct, or genius—call it what you will.
K. sees in a flash what the rest of the world does not seem to see so clearly; viz., that the piling up of increased forces opposite entrenched positions is a spendthrift, unscientific proceeding. He wishes to know if I mean to do this. To draw me out he assumes if I get the troops, I would at once commit them to trench warfare by crowding them in behind the lines of Helles or Anzac. Actually I intend to keep the bulk of them on the islands, so as to throw them unexpectedly against some key position which is not prepared for defence. But I have to be very careful what I say, seeing that the Turks got wind of the date of our first landing from London via Vienna. Least said to a Cabinet, least leakage.
That is not all. Curt as is the cable it has yet scope to show up a little more of our great K.'s outfit. His infernal hurry. "To-day":—I am to reply, to-day! He has taken some two and a half weeks to answer my request for two Army Corps and I am to answer a far more obscure question in two and a half minutes. Why, since my appeal of 17th May the situation has not stood still. A Commander in the field is like a cannon ball. If he stops going ahead, he falls dead. You can't stop moving for a fortnight and then expect to carry on where you left off; I think the Duke of Wellington said this; if he didn't he should have. To err is to be human and the troops, if sent at once, may or may not, fulfil our hopes. All we here can say is this:—
(1) If the Army Corps had been sent at once (i.e., two weeks ago) the results should have been decisive.
(2) If the Army Corps are not sent at once, there can be no early decision.
Braithwaite, De Robeck and Keyes agree to (1) and (2) but the cabled answer will not be so simple and, in spite of K.'s sudden impatience, I must sleep over it first.
Written whilst Williams waits:—
"No. M.F. 292. From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener. Secret. To-morrow, 4th June, I am fighting a general action. Therefore I feel sure that you will wish me to defer my answer to your telegram No. 5104, cipher, until I see the result."
These lofty strategical questions must not make me forget an equally vital munitions message just to hand. I have cabled K. twice in the past day or two about shells. On the 1st instant I had said, "I still await the information promised in your x. 4773, A. 5, of 19th instant. In my opinion the supply of gun ammunition can hardly be considered adequate or safe until the following conditions can be filled:—(1) That the amounts with units and on the Lines of Communication should be made up to the number of rounds per gun which is allowed in War Establishment figures of 29th Division. (2) That these full amounts should be maintained and despatched automatically without any further application from us, beyond a weekly statement of the expenditure which will be cabled to you every Saturday. (3) In view of the number and the extent of the entrenchments to be dealt with it is necessary that a high proportion of high explosive shell for 18 pounder and howitzers be included in accordance with the report of my military advisers."
We now have his reply:—
"No. 5088, cipher. From Earl Kitchener to Sir Ian Hamilton. With reference to your telegrams No. M.F. 281 and No. M.F.G.T. 967. We cannot supply ammunition to maintain a 1,000 rounds a gun owing to the demands from France, but consignments are being sent which amount to 17 rounds per gun per day for the 18 pounder and 4.5.-inch howitzer; this is considered by General Joffre and Sir John French as necessary. As much as possible of other natures will be sent. As regards quantities, you will be informed as early as possible. As available, H.E. shells will be sent for 18 pounder guns and howitzers."
If we get 17 rounds per gun per day for the 18 pounders and 4.5 howitzers we shall indeed be on velvet. To be given what satisfies Joffre and French—that sounds too good to be true. So ran my thoughts and Braithwaite's on a first reading. Then came the C.R.A. who puts another light on the proposal and points out that the implied comparison with France is fallacious. We are undergunned here as compared with France in the proportion of 1 to 3. I mean to say that, in proportion to "bayonets" we have rather less than one third of the "guns." Therefore, if we were really to have munitions on the scale "considered necessary by General Joffre and Sir John French," we ought to have three times 17 rounds per day per gun; i.e. 51 rounds per day per gun. But never mind. If we do get the 17 rounds we shall be infinitely better off than we have been: "and so say all of us!" Putting this cable together with yesterday's we all of us feel that the home folk are beginning to yawn and rub their eyes and that ere long they may really be awake.
4th June, 1915. Imbros. Left camp after breakfast and boarded the redoubtable Wolverine under that desperado Lieutenant-Commander Keyes. The General Staff came alongside and we made our way to Cape Helles through a blinding dust storm—at least, the dust came right out to sea, but it was on shore that it became literally blinding.
On the pier I met Gouraud who walked up with me. Gouraud was very grave but confident. My post of command had been "dug out" for me well forward on the left flank by Hunter-Weston. In that hole two enormous tarantulas and I passed a day that seems to me ten years. The torture of suspense; the extremes of exaltation and of depression; the Red Indian necessity of showing no sign: all this varied only by the vicious scream of shell sailing some 30 feet over our heads on their way towards the 60 pounders near the point. A Commander feels desperately lonely at such moments. On him, and on him alone, falls the crushing onus of responsibility: to be a Corps Commander is child's play in that comparison. The Staff are gnawed with anxiety too—are saying their prayers as fast as they can, no doubt, as they follow the ebb and flow of the long khaki line through their glasses. Yes, I have done that myself in the old days from Charasia onwards. Yet how faintly is my anguish reflected in the mere anxiety of their minds.
Chapters could be written about this furious battle fought in a whirlwind of dust and smoke; some day I hope somebody may write them. After the first short spell of shelling our men fixed bayonets and lifted them high above the parapet. The Turks thinking we were going to make the assault, rushed troops into their trenches, until then lightly held. No sooner were our targets fully manned than we shelled them in earnest and went on at it until—on the stroke of mid-day—out dashed our fellows into the open. For the best part of an hour it seemed that we had won a decisive victory. On the left all the front line Turkish trenches were taken. On the right the French rushed the "Haricot"—so long a thorn in their flesh; next to them the Anson lads stormed another big Turkish redoubt in a slap-dash style reminding me of the best work of the old Regular Army; but the boldest and most brilliant exploit of the lot was the charge made by the Manchester Brigade in the centre who wrested two lines of trenches from the Turks; and then, carrying right on; on to the lower slopes of Achi Baba, had nothing between them and its summit but the clear, unentrenched hillside. They lay there—the line of our brave lads, plainly visible to a pair of good glasses—there they actually lay! We wanted, so it seemed, but a reserve to advance in their support and carry them right up to the top. We said—and yet could hardly believe our own words—"We are through!"
Alas, too previous that remark. Everything began to go wrong. First the French were shelled and bombed out of the "Haricot"; next the right of the Naval Division became uncovered and they had to give way, losing many times more men in the yielding than in the capture of their ground. Then came the turn of the Manchesters, left in the lurch, with their right flank hanging in the air. By all the laws of war they ought to have tumbled back anyhow, but by the laws of the Manchesters they hung on and declared they could do so for ever. How to help? Men! Men, not so much now to sustain the Manchesters as to force back the Turks who were enfilading them from the "Haricot" and from that redoubt held for awhile by the R.N.D. on their right. I implored Gouraud to try and make a push and promised that the Naval Division would retake their redoubt if he could retake the "Haricot". Gouraud said he would go in at 3 p.m. The hour came; nothing happened. He then said he could not call upon his men again till 4 o'clock, and at 4 o'clock he said definitely that he would not be able to make another assault. The moment that last message came in I first telephoned and then, to make doubly sure, ran myself to Hunter-Weston's Headquarters so as not to let another moment be lost in pulling out the Manchester Brigade. I had 500 yards to go, and, rising the knoll, I would have been astonished, had I had any faculty of astonishment left in me, to meet Beetleheim, the Turk, who was with French in South Africa. I suppose he is here as an interpreter, or something, but I didn't ask. Seeing me alone for the moment he came along. He had quite a grip of the battle and seemed to hope I might let the Manchesters try and stick it out through the night, as he thought the Turks were too much done to do much more. But it was not good enough. To fall back was agony; not to do it would have been folly. Hunter-Weston felt the same. When Fate has first granted just a sip of the wine of success the slip between the cup and lip comes hardest. The upshot of the whole affair is that the enemy still hold a strong line of trenches between us and Achi Baba. Our four hundred prisoners, almost all made by the Manchester Brigade, amongst whom a good number of officers, do not console me. Having to make the Manchesters yield up their hard won gains is what breaks my heart. Had I known the result of our fight before the event, I should have been happy enough. Three or four hundred yards of ground plus four hundred prisoners are distances and numbers which may mean little in Russia or France, but here, where we only have a mile or two to go, land has a value all its own. Yes, I should have been happy enough. But, to have to yield up the best half—the vital half—of our gains—to have had our losses trebled on the top of a cheaply won victory—these are the reverse side of our medal for the 4th June.
Going back we fell in with a blood-stained crowd from the Hood, Howe and Anson Battalions. Down the little gully to the beach we could only walk very slowly. At my elbow was Colonel Crauford Stuart, commanding the Hood Battalion. He had had his jaw smashed but I have seen men pull longer faces at breaking a collar stud. He told me that the losses of the Naval Division has been very heavy, the bulk of them during their retreat. From the moment the Turks drove the French out of the "Haricot" the enfilade fire became murderous.
On the beach was General de Lisle, fresh from France. He is taking over the 29th Division from Hunter-Weston who ascends to the command of the newly formed 8th Army Corps. De Lisle seemed in very good form although it must have been rather an eye-opener landing in the thick of this huge stream of wounded. How well I remember seeing him galloping at the head of his Mounted Infantry straight for Pretoria; and my rage when, under orders from Headquarters, I had to send swift messengers to tell him he must rein back for some reason never made clear.
5th June, 1915. Imbros. Best part of the day occupied in a hundred and one sequels of the battle. The enemy have been quiet; they have had a belly-full. De Robeck came off to see me at 5.30, to have a final talk (amongst other things) as to the Enos and Bulair ideas before I send my final answer to K. If we dare not advertise the detail of our proposed tactics, we may take the lesser risk of saying what we are not going to attempt. The Admiral is perfectly clear against Bulair. There is no protection there for the ships against submarines except Enos harbour and Enos is only one fathom deep. After all, the main thing they want is that I should commit myself to a statement that if I get the drafts and troops asked for in my various cables, I will make good. That, I find quite reasonable.
6th June, 1915. Imbros. A very hot and dusty day. Still sweeping up the debris of the battle. Besides my big cable have been studying strengths with my A.G. The Battalions are dwindling to Companies and the Divisions to Brigades.
The cable is being ciphered: not a very luminous document: how could it be? The great men at home seem to forget that they cannot draw wise counsels from their servants unless they confide in them and give them all the factors of the problem. If a client goes to a lawyer for advice the first thing the lawyer asks him to do is to make a clean breast of it. Before K. asks me to specify what I can do if he sends me these unknown and—in Great Britain—most variable quantities, Territorial or New Army Divisions, he ought to make a clean breast of it by telling me:—
(1) What he has. (2) What Sir John French wants. (3) Whether Italy will move—or Greece. (4) What is happening in the Balkans,—in the Caucasus,—in Mesopotamia.
After all, the Armies of the Caucasus and of Mesopotamia are not campaigning in the moon. They are two Allied Armies working with me (or supposed to be working with me) against a common enemy.
The first part of my cable I discuss the cause which led to the disappointing end to the battle of the 4th already described and then go on to say, "I am convinced by this action that with my present force my progress will be very slow, but in the absence of any further important alteration in the situation such as a definite understanding between Turkey and Bulgaria, I believe the reinforcements asked for in my No. 234 will eventually enable me to take Kilid Bahr and will assuredly expedite the decision. I entirely agree that the restricted nature of the ground I occupy militates against me in success, however much I am reinforced; that was why in my Nos. M.F. 214 and M.F. 234 I emphasized the desirability of securing co-operation of new Allied Forces acting on a second line of operations. I have been very closely considering the possibility of opening a new line of operations myself, via Enos, if sufficient reinforcements should be available. The Vice-Admiral, however, is at present strongly averse to the selection of Enos owing to the open and unprotected nature of anchorage and to the presence of enemy submarines. Otherwise Enos offers very favourable prospects, both strategically and tactically, and is so direct a threat to Constantinople as to necessitate withdrawal of Turkish troops from the Peninsula to meet it. Smyrna or even Adramyti which are not open to the same objections are too far from me, but the effect of entry of a fresh Ally at either place would inevitably make itself felt before very long in preventing further massing of the Turkish army against me, and perhaps even in drawing off troops; a considerable moral and political effect might also be produced, and all information points to those districts being denuded of troops.
"With regard to the employment of the reinforcements asked for in my No. M.F. 234, General Birdwood estimates that four Brigades are necessary to clear and extend his front sufficiently to prepare a serious move towards Maidos. I should therefore allocate a corps to the Australian-New Zealand Army Corps as the other two brigades would be required to give weight to his advance. The French Force as at present constituted, and the Naval Division which has been roughly handled, would be replaced in front of the line by the other corps. This reinforcement to be exclusive of any help we may receive from Allied troops operating on a second line of operations so distant as Smyrna.
"With reference to your last paragraph I have no alternative, until Achi Baba is in my possession, but to keep reinforcements on islands or elsewhere handy. I have made arrangements at present, however, for one Infantry Brigade and Engineers of the Lowland Division on the Peninsula, one Infantry Brigade at Imbros and the remaining Infantry Brigade at Alexandria to be ready to start at 12 hours' notice whenever I telegraph for it. Besides all the reasons given above, no troops in existence can continue fighting night and day without respite."
Three weeks have passed now since I asked for two British Corps or for Allies and still no reply or notice of any sort except that message of the 3rd instant expressing doubts as to whether any good purpose will be served by sending us help "at once." Well; there hasn't been much "at once" about it but I have not played the Sybilline book trick or doubled my demand with each delay as I ought perhaps to have done. Now I think we are bound to hear something but I can't make out what has come over K. of K. In the old days his prime force lay in his faculty of focusing every iota of his energy upon the pivotal project, regardless (so it used to appear) of the other planks of the platform. A "side show" to him meant the non-vital part of the business, at that moment: it was not a question of troops or of ranks of Generals. For the time being the interests of an enterprise of five thousand would obliterate those of fifty. No man ever went the whole hog better. He would turn the whole current of his energy to help the man of the hour. The rest were bled white to help him. If they howled they found that K. and his Staff were deaf, and for the same reason, as the crew of Ulysses to the Sirens. Several times in South Africa K., so doing, carried the Imperial Standard to victory through a series of hair's breadth escapes. But to-day, though he sees, the power of believing in his own vision and of hanging on to it like a bulldog, seems paralysed. He hesitates. Ten short years ago, if K.'s heart had been set on Constantinople, why, to Constantinople he would have gone. Paris might have screamed; he would not have swerved a hair's breadth till he had gripped the Golden Horn.
7th June, 1915. Imbros. Left camp early and went to Cape Helles on a destroyer. On our little sandbag pier, built by Egyptians and Turkish prisoners, I met General Wallace and his A.D.C. (a son of Walter Long's). Wallace has come here to take up his duty as Inspector-General of Communications. About ten days ago he was forced upon us. He is reputed a good executive Brigadier of the Indian Army, but we want him, not to train Sepoys but to create one of the biggest organizing and administrative jobs in the world. His work will comprise the whole of the transhipment of stores from the ships to small craft; their dispatch over 60 miles of sea to the Peninsula, and the maintenance of all the necessary machinery in good running order. The task is tremendous, and here is a simple soldier, without any experience of naval men or matters, or the British soldier, or of Administration on a large scale, or even of superior Staff duties, sent me for the purpose. We want a competent business man at Mudros, ready to grapple with millions of public money; ready to cable on his own for goods or gear by the ten thousand pounds worth. We want a man of tried business courage; a man who can tackle contractors. We are sent an Indian Brigadier who has never, so far as I can make out, in his longish life had undivided responsibility for one hundred pounds of public belongings. I cabled to K. my objection as strongly as seemed suitable, but he tells me to carry on. He tells me to carry on and, in doing so, throws an amusing sidelight upon himself. Into his cable he sticks the words, "Ellison cannot be spared." K. believes that my protest re Wallace has, at the back of it, a wish to put in the Staff Officer he took from me when I started. He doesn't believe in my zeal for efficiency at Mudros; he thinks my little plan is to work General Ellison into the billet. Certainly, I'd like an organizer of Ellison's calibre, but he had not, it so happens, entered my mind till K. put him there!
Landing at "W" Beach, I walked over to the 9th Division and met Generals Hunter-Weston, de Lisle and Doran. As we were having our confab, the Turkish guns from Asia were steadily pounding the ridge just South of Headquarters. One or two big fellows fell within 100 yards of the Mess. After an A.1 lunch (for which much glory to Carter, A.D.C.) visited Gouraud at French Headquarters. Going along the coast we were treated to an exciting spectacle. The Turkish guns in Asia stopped firing at Headquarters and turned on to a solitary French transport containing forage, which had braved the submarines and instead of transhipping (as is now the order) at Mudros, had anchored close to "V" Beach. After several overs and unders they hit her three times running and set her on fire. Destroyers and trawlers rushed to her help. Bluejackets boarded her; got her fire under control; got her under steam and moved out. The amazing part of the affair lay in the conduct of the Turks. Having made their three hits, then was the moment to sink the bally ship. But no; they switched back once more onto the Peninsula, and left their helpless prize to make a leisurely and unmolested escape. Anyone but a Turk would have opened rapid fire on seeking his target smoking like a factory chimney, ringed round by a crowd of small craft. But these old Turks are real freaks. Their fierce courage on the defensive is the only cert about them. On all other points it becomes a fair war risk to presume upon their happy-go-lucky behaviour. If this crippled ship had been full of troops instead of hay they would equally have let her slip through their fingers.
I stayed the best part of an hour with Gouraud. He can throw no light from the French side upon the reason for the strange hesitations of our Governments. As he says, after reporting an entirely unexpected and unprepared for situation and asking for the wherewithal to cope with it, a Commander should get fresh orders. Either: we cannot give you what you ask, so fall back onto the defensive; or, go ahead, we will give you the means. Taking leave we came back again by the 29th Headquarters where I saw Douglas, commanding the 42nd Division. Got home latish. As I was on my way to our destroyer took in a wireless saying that submarine E.11 had returned safely after three fruitful weeks in the Marmora.
A most singular message is in:—
"From Earl Kitchener to General Sir Ian Hamilton.
"With reference to your telegram No. M.F. 301, instead of sending such telegrams reporting operations, privately to Earl Kitchener, will you please send them to the Secretary of State. A separate telegram might have been sent dealing with the latter part about Doran."
May the devil fly away with me if I know what that means! Braithwaite is as much at a loss as myself. No one knows better than we do how much store K. sets on having all these messages addressed to him personally. There's more in this than meets the common or garden optic!
Very heavy firing on the Peninsula at 8 o'clock; a ceaseless tremor of the air which—faint here—denotes tremendous musketry there.
A DECISION AND THE PLAN
8th June, 1915. Imbros. We are getting "three Divisions of the New Army"! The Cabinet "are determined to support" us! And why wouldn't they be? Thus runs the cable:—
"(No. 5217, cipher). Your difficulties are fully recognized by the Cabinet who are determined to support you. We are sending you three divisions of the New Army. The first of these will leave about the end of this week, and the other two will be sent as transport is available.
"The last of the three divisions ought to reach you not later than the first fortnight in July. By that time the Fleet will have been reinforced by a good many units which are much less vulnerable to submarine attack than those now at the Dardanelles, and you can then count on the Fleet to give you continuous support.
"While steadily pressing the enemy, there seems no reason for running any premature risks in the meantime."
In face of K.'s hang-fire cable of the 3rd, and in face of this long three weeks of stupefaction, thank God our rulers have got out of the right side of their beds and are not going to run away.
The first thing to be done was to signal to the Admiral to come over. At 2 p.m. he and Roger Keyes turned up. The great news was read out and yet, such is the contrariness of human nature that neither the hornpipe nor the Highland Fling was danced. Three weeks ago—two weeks ago—we should have been beside ourselves, but irritation now takes the fine edge off our rejoicings. Why not three weeks ago? That was the tone of the meeting. At first:—but why be captious in the very embrace of Fortune? So we set to and worked off the broad general scheme in the course of an hour and a half.
Just as the Admiral was going, Ward (of the Intelligence) crossed over with a nasty little damper. The Turks keep just one lap ahead of us. Two new Divisions have arrived and have been launched straightway at our trenches. At the moment we get promises that troops asked for in the middle of May will arrive by the middle of July the Turks get their divisions in the flesh:—so much so that they have gained a footing in the lines of the East Lanes: but there is no danger; they will be driven out. We have taken some prisoners.
Dined on board the Triad. Sat up later than usual. Not only had we news from home and the news from the Peninsula to thresh out, but there was much to say and hear about E.11 and that apple of Roger Keyes' eye, the gallant Nasmith. Their adventures in the sea of Marmora take the shine out of those of the Argonauts.
Coming back along the well-beaten sandy track, my heart sank to see our mess tent still lit up at midnight. It might be good news but also it might not. Fortunately, it was pleasant news; i.e., Colonel Chauvel, commanding 1st Australian Light Horse Brigade, waiting to see me. I had known him well in Melbourne where he helped me more than anyone else to get the hang of the Australian system. He stays the night.
9th June, 1915. Imbros. A cable saying the new Divisions will form the 9th Corps and asking me my opinion of Mahon as Corps Commander. I shall reply at once he is good up to a point and brave, but not up to running a Corps out here.
Have been sent a gas-mask and a mosquito-net. Quite likely the mask is good bizz and may prolong my poor life a little bit, but this is problematical whereas there's no blooming error about the net. This morning instead of being awakened at 4.30 a.m. by a cluster of house-flies having a garden party on my nose I just opened one eye and looked at them running about outside my entrenchments, then closed it and fell asleep again for an hour.
10th June, 1915. Imbros. Nothing doing but sheer hard work. The sailors the same. Sent one pretty stiff cable as we all agreed that we must make ourselves quite clear upon the question of guns and shell. After all, any outsider would think it a plain sailing matter enough—a demand, that is to say, from Simpson-Baikie at Helles that he should be gunned and shell supplied on the same scale as the formations he quitted on the Western Front only a few weeks ago. Simpson-Baikie has been specially sent to us by Lord K., who has a high opinion of his merits. A deep-thinking, studious and scientific officer. Well, Baikie says that to put him on anything like the Western Front footing he wants another forty-eight 18-pounders; eight 5-inch hows.; eight 4.5. hows.; eight 6-inch; four 9.2 hows.; four anti-aircraft guns and a thousand rounds a month per field gun; these "wants" he puts down as an absolute minimum. He also wishes me at once to cable for an aeroplane squadron of three flights of four machines each, one flight for patrol work; the other two for spotting.
There is no use enraging people for nothing and "nothing" I am sure would be the result of this demand were it shot in quite nakedly. But I have pressed Baikie's vital points home all the same, vide attached:—
"(No. M.F. 316).
"Your No. 5088. After a further consideration of the ammunition question in light of the expenditure on the 4th and 5th June, I would like to point out that I have only the normal artillery complement of two divisions, although actually I have five divisions here. Consequently, each of my guns has to do the work which two and a half guns are doing in Flanders. Any comparison based on expenditure per gun must therefore be misleading. Also a comparison based on numbers of troops would prove to be beside the point, for conditions cannot be identical. Therefore, as I know you will do your best for me and thus leave me contented with the decision you arrive at, I prefer to state frankly what amount I consider necessary. This amount is at least 30 rounds a day for 18-pr. and 4.5 howitzer already ashore, and I hope that a supply on this scale may be possible. The number of guns already ashore is beginning to prove insufficient for their task, for the enemy have apparently no lack of ammunition and their artillery is constantly increasing. Therefore I hope that the new divisions may be sent out with the full complement of artillery, but, if this is done, the ammunition supply for the artillery of the fresh divisions need only be on the normal scale.
"Since the above was written, I have received a report that the enemy has been reinforced by 1,300 Germans for fortress artillery; perhaps their recent shooting is accounted for by this fact."
As to our Air Service, the way this feud between Admiralty and War Office has worked itself out in the field is simply heart-breaking. The War Office wash their hands of the air entirely (at the Dardanelles). I cannot put my own case to the Admiralty although the machines are wanted for overland tactics—a fatal blind alley. All I could do I did this afternoon when the Admiral came to tea and took me for a good stiff walk afterwards.
11th June, 1915. Imbros. Sailed over to Anzac with Braithwaite. Took Birdwood's views upon the outline of our plan (which originated between him and Skeen) for entering the New Army against the Turks. To do his share, durch und durch (God forgive me), he wants three new Brigades; with them he engages to go through from bottom to top of Sari Bair. Well, I will give him four; perhaps five! Our whole scheme hinges on these crests of Sari Bair which dominate Anzac and Maidos; the Dardanelles and the Aegean. The destroyers next took us to Cape Helles where I held a pow wow at Army Headquarters, Generals Hunter-Weston and Gouraud being present as well as Birdwood and Braithwaite. Everyone keen and sanguine. Many minor suggestions; warm approval of the broad lines of the scheme. Afterwards I brought Birdie back to Anzac and then returned to Imbros. A good day's work. Half the battle to find that my Corps Commanders are so keen. They are all sworn to the closest secrecy; have been told that our lives depend upon their discretion. I have shown them my M.F. 300 of the 7th June so as to let them understand they are being trusted with a plan which is too much under the seal to be sent over the cables even to the highest.
Every General I met to-day spoke of the shortage of bombs and grenades. The Anzacs are very much depressed to hear they are to get no more bombs for their six Japanese trench mortars. We told the Ordnance some days ago to put this very strongly to the War Office. After all, bombs and grenades are easy things to make if the tails of the manufacturers are well twisted.
12th June, 1915. Imbros. Stayed in camp where de Robeck came to see me. I wonder what K. is likely to do about Mahon and about ammunition. When he told me Joffre and French thought 17 rounds per gun per day good enough, and that he was going to give me as much, there were several qualifications to our pleasure, but we were pleased, because apart from all invidious comparisons, we were anyway going to get more stuff. But we have not yet tasted this new French ration of 17 rounds per gun.
Are we too insistent? I think not. One dozen small field howitzer shells, of 4.5. calibre, save one British life by taking two Turkish lives. And although the 4.5. are what we want the old 5-inch are none so bad. Where would we be now, I wonder, had not Haldane against Press, Public and four soldiers out of five stuck to his guns and insisted on creating those 145 batteries of Territorial Field Artillery?
A depressing wire in from the War Office expressing doubt as to whether they will be able to meet our wishes by embarking units complete and ready for landing; gear, supplies, munitions all in due proportion, in the transports coming out here from England. Should we be forced to redistribute men and material on arrival, we are in for another spell of delay.
Altogether I have been very busy on cables to-day. The War Office having jogged my elbow again about the Bulair scheme, I have once more been through the whole series of pros and cons with the Admiral who has agreed in the reply I have sent:—clear negative. Three quarters of the objections are naval; either directly—want of harbours, etc.; or indirectly—as involving three lines of small craft to supply three separate military forces. The number of small craft required are not in existence.
13th June, 1915. Imbros. The War Office forget every now and then other things about the coastline above the Narrows. I have replied:
"Your first question as to the fortification of the coast towards Gallipoli can be satisfactorily answered only by the Navy as naval aeroplane observation is the only means by which I can find out about the coast fortifications. From time to time it has been reported that torpedo tubes have been placed at the mouth of Soghan Dere and at Nagara Point. These are matters on which I presume Admiral has reported to Admiralty, but I am telegraphing to him to make sure as he is away to-day at Mudros. I will ask him to have aeroplane reconnaissance made regarding the coast fortifications you mention, to see if it can be ascertained whether your informant's report is correct, but there are but few aeroplanes and the few we have are constantly required for spotting for artillery, photographing trenches, and for reconnaissances of the troops immediately engaged with us."
I am being forced by War Office questions to say rather more than I had intended about plans. The following cable took me the best part of the morning. I hope it is too technical to effect a lodgment in the memories of the gossips:—
"(No. M.F. 328). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to War Office. With reference to your No. 5441, cipher. From the outset I have fully realized that the question of cutting off forces defending the Peninsula lay at the heart of my problem. See my No. M.F. 173, last paragraph, and paragraphs 2 and 7 of my instructions to General Officer Commanding Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, of 13th April, before landing. I still consider, as indicated therein, that the best and most practicable method of stopping enemy's communications is to push forward to the south-east from Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
"The attempt to stop Bulair communications further North than the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps position would give the Turks too much room to pass our guns. An advance of little more than two miles in a south-eastern direction would enable us to command the land communications between Bulair and Kilid Bahr. This, in turn, would render Ak Bashi Liman useless to the enemy as a port of disembarkation for either Chanak or Constantinople. It would enable us, moreover, to co-operate effectively with the Navy in stopping communication with the Asiatic shore, since Kilia Liman and Maidos would be under fire from our land guns.
"It was these considerations which decided me originally to land at Australian and New Zealand Army Corps position, and in spite of the difficulties of advancing thence, I see no reason to expect that a new point of departure would make the task any easier. I have recently been obliged by circumstances to concentrate my main efforts on pushing forward towards Achi Baba so as to clear my main port of disembarkation of shell fire. I only await the promised reinforcements, however, to enable me to take the next step in the prosecution of my main plan from the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps.
"I cannot extend the present Australian position until they arrive. See my No. M.F. 300, as to estimate of troops required, and my No. 304, 7th June, as to state of siege at Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. If I succeed the enemy's communications via Bulair and, with the Navy's help, via Asiatic coast should both be closed, as far as possible, by the one operation. If, in addition, submarines can stop sea communications with Constantinople the problem will be solved.
"With regard to supplies and ammunition which can be obtained by the enemy across the Dardanelles, since Panderma and Karabingha are normally important centres of collection of food supplies, both cereals and meat, and since the Panderma-Chanak road is adequate, it would be possible to provision the peninsula from a great supply depot at Chanak where there are steam mills, steam bakeries and ample shallow draught craft. If land communications were blocked near Bulair, ammunition could only be brought by sea to Panderma, and thence by road to Chanak or by sea direct to Kilid Bahr.
"Either for supplies or ammunition, however, the difficulty of effectively stopping supply by sea may be increased by the large number of shallow craft available at Rodosto, Chanak, Constantinople and Panderma. But as soon as I can make good advance south-east from Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, my guns, plus the submarines, should be able to make all traffic from the Asiatic shore very difficult for the enemy.
"It is vitally important that future developments should be kept absolutely secret. I mention this because, although the date of our original landing was known to hardly anyone here before the ships sailed, yet the date was cabled to the Turks from Vienna."
The message took some doing and could not, therefore, get clear of camp till 11 o'clock when I boarded the destroyer Grampus, and sailed for Helles. Lunched with Hunter-Weston at his Headquarters, and then walked out along the new road being built under the cliffs from "W" Beach to Gurkha Gully. On the way I stopped at the 29th Divisional Headquarters where I met de Lisle. Thence along the coast where the 88th Brigade were bathing. In the beautiful hot afternoon weather the men were happy as sandboys. Their own mothers would hardly know them—burnt black with the sun, in rags or else stark naked, with pipes in their mouths. But they like it! After passing the time of day to a lot of these boys, I climbed the cliff and came back along the crests, stopping to inspect some of the East Lancashire Division in their rest trenches.
Got back to Hunter-Weston's about 6 and had a cup of tea. There Cox of the Indian Brigade joined me, and I took him with me to Imbros where he is going to stay a day or two with Braithwaite.
14th June, 1915. Imbros. K. sends me this brisk little pick-me-up:—
"Report here states that your position could be made untenable by Turkish guns from the Asiatic shore. Please report on this."
No doubt—no doubt! Yet I was once his own Chief of Staff into whose hands he unreservedly placed the conduct of one of the most crucial, as it was the last, of the old South African enterprises: I was once the man into whose hands he placed the defence of his heavily criticized action at the Battle of Paardeburg. There it is: he used to have great faith in me, and now he makes me much the sort of remark which might be made by a young lady to a Marine. The answer, as K. well knows, depends upon too many imponderabilia to be worth the cost of a cable. The size and number of the Turkish guns; their supplies of shell; the power of our submarines to restrict those supplies; the worth of our own ship and shore guns; the depth of our trenches; the moral of our men, and so on ad infinitum. The point of the whole matter is this:—the Turks haven't got the guns—and we know it:—if ever they do get the guns it will take them weeks, months, before they can get them mounted and shells in proportion amassed.
K. should know better than any other man in England—Lord Bobs, alas, is gone—that if there was any real fear of guns from Asia being able to make us loosen our grip on the Peninsula, I would cable him quickly. Then why does he ask? Well—and why shouldn't he ask? I must not be so captious. Much better turn the tables on him by asking him to enable us to knock out the danger he fears:—
"(No. M.F. 331). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener. With reference to your telegram No. 5460. As already reported in my telegram, fire from the Asiatic shore is at times troublesome, but I am taking steps to deal with it. Of course another battery of 6-inch howitzers would greatly help in this."
By coincidence a letter has come in to me this very night, on the very subject; a letter written by a famous soldier—Gouraud—the lion of the Ardennes, who is, it so happens, much better posted as to the Asiatic guns than the Jeremiah who has made K. anxious. The French bear the brunt of this fire and Gouraud's cool decision to ignore it in favour of bigger issues marks the contrast between the fighter who makes little of the enemy and the writer who makes much of him. I look upon Gouraud more as a coadjutor than as a subordinate, so it is worth anything to me to find that we see eye to eye at present. For, there is much more in the letter than his feelings about the guns of Asia: there is an outline sketch, drawn with slight but masterly touches, covering the past, present and future of our show:—
Q.G. le 13 juin 1915.
Corps Expeditionnaire d'Orient.
CABINE DU GENERAL.
N. Cab. SECRET.
Le General de Division Gouraud, Commandant le Corps Expeditionnaire d'Orient, a Sir Ian Hamilton, G.C.B., D.S.O., Commandant le Corps Expeditionnaire Mediterraneen. QUARTIER GENERAL.
Vous avez bien voulu me communiquer une depeche de Lord Kitchener faisant connaitre que le Gouvernement anglais allait envoyer incessamment aux Dardanelles trois nouvelles divisions et des vaisseaux moins vulnerables aux sous-marins. D'apres les renseignements qui m'ont ete donnes, on annonce 14 de ces monitors; 4 seraient armes de pieces de 35 a 38 m/ 4 de pieces de 24, les autres de 15.
C'est donc sur terre et sur mer un important renfort.
J'ai l'honneur de vous soumettre ci-dessous mes idees sur son emploi.
Jetons d'abord un coup d'oeil sur la situation. Il s'en degage, ce me semble, deux faits.
D'une part, le combat du 4 juin, qui, malgre une preparation serieuse n'a pas donne de resultat en balance avec le vigoureux et couteux effort fourni par les troupes alliees, a montre que, guides par les Allemands, les Turcs ont donne a leur ligne une tres grande force. La presqu'ile est barree devant notre front de plusieurs lignes de tranchees fortement etablies, precedees en plusieurs points de fil de fer barbeles, flanquees de mitrailleuses, communiquant avec l'arriere par des boyaux, formant un systeme de fortification comparable a celui du grand Front.
Dans ces tranchees les Turcs se montrent bons soldats, braves, tenaces. Leur artillerie a constamment et tres sensiblement augmente en nombres et en puissance depuis trois semaines.
Dans ces conditions, et etant donne que les Turcs ont toute liberte d'amener sur ce front etroite toute leur armee, on ne peut se dissimuler que les progres seront lents et que chaque progres sera couteux.
Les Allemands appliqueront certainement dans les montagnes et les ravins de la presqu'ile le systeme qui leur a reussi jusqu'ici en France.
D'autre part l'ennemi parait avoir change de tactique. Il a voulu au debut nous rejeter a la mer; apres les pertes enormes qu'il a subi dans les combats d'avril et de mai, il semble y avoir renonce du moins pour le moment.
Son plan actuel consiste a chercher a nous bloquer de front, pour nous maintenir sur l'etroit terrain que nous avons conquis, et a nous y rendre la vie intenable en bombardant les camps et surtout les plages de debarquement. C'est ainsi que les quatre batteries de grosses pieces recemment installees entre Erenkeui et Yenishahr ont apporte au ravitaillement des troupes une gene qu'on peut dire dangereuse, puisque la consommation dans dernieres journees a legerement depasse le ravitaillement.
Au resume nous sommes bloques de front et pris par derriere. Et cette situation ira en empirant du fait des maladies, resultant du climat, de la chaleur, du bivouac continuel, peut etre des epidemies, et du fait que la mer rendra tres difficile tout debarquement des la mauvaise saison, fin aout.
Ceci pose, comment employer les gros renforts attendus. Plusieurs solutions se presentent a l'esprit.
Primo, en Asie.
C'est la premiere idee qui se presente; etant donne l'interet de se rendre maitre de la region Yenishahr-Erenkeui, qui prend nos plages de debarquement a revers.
Mais c'est la une mesure d'un interet defensif, qui ne fera pas faire un pas en avant. Il est permis d'autre part de penser que les canons des monitors anglais, qui sont sans doute destines a detruire les defenses du detroit, commenceront par nous debarrasser des batteries de l'entree. Enfin nous disposerons d'ici peu d'un front de mer Seddul-Bahr Eski Hissarlick, dont les pieces puissantes contrebattront efficacement les canons d'Asie.
Secundo, vers Gaba-Tepe.
Au Sud de Gaba Tepe s'etend une plaine que les cartes disent accessible au debarquement. Des troupes debarquees la se trouvent a 8 kilometres environ de Maidos, c'est a dire au point ou la presqu'ile est la plus etroite.
Sans nul doute, trouveront elles devant elles les memes difficultes qu'ici et il sera necessaire notemment de se rendre maitre des montagnes qui dominent la plaine au Nord. Mais alors que la prise d'Achi Baba ne sera qu'un grand succes militaire, qui nous mettra le lendemain devant les escarpements de Kilid-Bahr, l'occupation de la region Gaba Tepe-Maidos nous placerait au dela des detroits, nous permettrait d'y constituer une base ou les sous-marins de la mer de Marmara pourraient indefiniment s'approvisionner.
Si le barrage des Dardanelles n'etait pas brise, il serait tourne.
Tertio, vers Boulair.
Cette solution apparait comme le plus radicale, celui qui dejouerait le plan de l'ennemi. Constantinople serait directement menace par ce coup retentissant.
Toute la question est de savoir si, avec leurs moyens nouveaux, les monitors, les Amiraux sont en mesure de proteger un debarquement, qui comme celui du 25 avril necessiterait de nombreux bateaux.
En resume, j'ai l'honneur d'emettre l'avis de poser nettement aux Amiraux la question du debarquement a Boulair, d'y faire reconnaitre l'etat actuel des defenses par bateaux, avions et si possible agents, sans faire d'acte de guerre pour ne pas donner l'eveil.
Au cas ou le debarquement serait juge impossible, j'emet l'avis d'employer les renforts dans la region Gaba-Tepe, ou les Australiens ont deja implante un solide jalon.
Concurremment, je pense qu'il serait du plus vif interet pour hater la decision, de creer au Gouvernement Turc des inquietudes dans d'autres parties de l'Empire, pour l'empecher d'amener ici toutes ses forces.
Dans cet ordre d'idees on peut envisager deux moyens. L'un, le plus efficace, est l'action russe ou bulgare. La Grece est mal placee geographiquement pour exercer une action sur la guerre. Seule la Bulgarie, par sa position geographique, prend les Turcs a revers. Sans doute, a voir la facon dont les Turcs amenent devant nous les troupes et les canons d'Adrianople, ont ils un accord avec la Bulgarie, mais la guerre des Balkans prouve que la Bulgarie n'est pas embarrassee d'un accord si elle voit ailleurs son interet. La question est donc d'offrir un prix fort a la Bulgarie.
L'autre est de provoquer des agitations dans differentes parties de l'Empire, d'y faire operer des destructions par des bandes, d'obliger les Turcs a y envoyer du monde. Cela encore vaut la peine d'y mettre le prix.
Je suis, avec un profond respect, mon General,
Votre tres devoue, (Sd.) GOURAUD.
Boarded a destroyer at 11.15 a.m. and sailed straight for Gully Beach. Then into dinghy and paddled to shore where I lunched with de Lisle at the 29th Divisional Headquarters. Hunter-Weston had come up to meet me from Corps Headquarters.
With both Generals I rode a couple of miles up the Gully seeing the 87th Brigade as we went. When we got to the mouth of the communication trench leading to the front of the Indian Brigade, Bruce of the Gurkhas was waiting for us, and led me along through endless sunken ways until we reached his firing line.
Every hundred yards or so I had a close peep at the ground in front through de Lisle's periscope. The enemy trenches were sometimes not more than 7 yards away and the rifles of the Turks moving showed there was a man behind the loophole. Many corpses, almost all Turks, lay between the two lines of trenches. There was no shelling at the moment, but rifle bullets kept flopping into the parapet especially when the periscope was moved.
At the end of the Gurkha line I was met by Colonel Wolley Dod, who took me round the fire trenches of the 86th Brigade. The Dublin Fusiliers looked particularly fit and jolly.
Getting back to the head of the Gully I rode with Hunter-Weston to his Corps Headquarters where I had tea before sailing.
When I got to Imbros the Fleet were firing at a Taube. She was only having a look; flying around the shipping and Headquarters camp at a great height, but dropping no bombs. After a bit she scooted off to the South-east. Cox dined.
15th June, 1915. Imbros. Yesterday I learned some detail about the conduct of affairs the other day—enough to make me very anxious indeed that no tired or nervy leaders should be sent out with the new troops. So I have sent K. a cable!—
"(No. M.F. 334). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to Earl Kitchener.
"With reference to the last paragraph of your telegram No. 5250, cipher, and my No. M.F. 313. I should like to submit for your consideration the following views of the qualities necessary in an Army Corps Commander on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In that position only men of good stiff constitution and nerve will be able to do any good. Everything is at such close quarters that many men would be useless in the somewhat exposed headquarters they would have to occupy on this limited terrain, though they would do quite good work if moderately comfortable and away from constant shell fire. I can think of two men, Byng and Rawlinson. Both possess the requisite qualities and seniority; the latter does not seem very happy where he is, and the former would have more scope than a cavalry Corps can give him in France."
Left camp the moment I got this weight off my chest; boarded the Savage, or rather jumped on her ladder like a chamois and scrambled on deck like a monkey. It was blowing big guns and our launch was very nearly swamped. Crossing to Helles big seas were making a clean sweep of the decks. Jolly to look at from the bridge.
After a dusty walk round piers and beaches lunched with Hunter-Weston before inspecting the 155th and 156th Brigades. On our road we were met by Brigadier-Generals Erskine and Scott-Moncrieff. Walked the trenches where I chatted with the regimental officers and men, and found my compatriots in very good form.
Went on to the Royal Naval Division Headquarters where Paris met me. Together we went round the 3rd Marine Brigade Section under Brigadier-General Trotman. These old comrades of the first landing gave me the kindliest greetings.
Got back to 8th Corps Headquarters intending to enjoy a cup of tea al fresco, but we were reckoning without our host (the Turkish one) who threw so many big shell from Asia all about the mound that, (only to save the tea cups), we retired with dignified slowness into our dugouts. Whilst sitting in these funk-holes, as we used to call them at Ladysmith, General Gouraud ran the gauntlet and made also a slow and dignified entry. He was coming back with me to Imbros. As it was getting late we hardened our hearts to walk across the open country between Headquarters and the beach, where every twenty seconds or so a big fellow was raising Cain. Fortune favouring we both reached the sea with our heads upon our shoulders.
An answer is in to our plea for a Western scale of ammunition, guns and howitzers. They cable sympathetically but say simply they can't. Soft answers, etc., but it would be well if they could make up their minds whether they wish to score the next trick in the East or in the West. If they can't do that they will be doubly done.
A purely passive defence is not possible for us; it implies losing ground by degrees—and we have not a yard to lose. If we are to remain we must keep on attacking here and there to maintain ourselves! But; to expect us to attack without giving us our fair share—on Western standards—of high explosive and howitzers shows lack of military imagination. A man's a man for a' that whether at Helles or Ypres. Let me bring my lads face to face with Turks in the open field, we must beat them every time because British volunteer soldiers are superior individuals to Anatolians, Syrians or Arabs and are animated with a superior ideal and an equal joy in battle. Wire and machine guns prevent this hand to hand, or rifle to rifle, style of contest. Well, then the decent thing to do is to give us shells enough to clear a fair field. To attempt to solve the problem by letting a single dirty Turk at the Maxim kill ten—twenty—fifty—of our fellows on the barbed wire,—ten—twenty—fifty—each of whom is worth several dozen Turks, is a sin of the Holy Ghost category unless it can be justified by dire necessity. But there is no necessity. The supreme command has only to decide categorically that the Allies stand on the defensive on the West for a few weeks and then Von Donop can find us enough to bring us through. Joffre and French, as a matter of fact, would hardly feel the difference. If the supreme command can't do that; and can't even send us trench mortars as substitutes, let them harden their hearts and wind up this great enterprise for which they simply haven't got the nerve.
If only K. would come and see for himself! Failing that—if only it were possible for me to run home and put my own case.
16th June, 1915. Imbros. Gouraud, a sympathetic guest, left for French Headquarters in one of our destroyers at 3.30 p.m. He is a real Sahib; a tower of strength. The Asiatic guns have upset his men a good deal. He hopes soon to clap on an extinguisher to their fire by planting down two fine big fellows of his own Morto Bay way: we mean to add a couple of old naval six-inchers to this battery. During his stay we have very thoroughly threshed out our hopes and fears and went into the plan which Gouraud thinks offers chances of a record-breaking victory. If the character of the new Commanders and the spirit of their troops are of the calibre of those on his left flank at Helles he feels pretty confident.
Talking of Commanders, my appeal for a young Corps Commander of a "good stiff constitution" has drawn a startling reply:—
"(No. 5501, cipher). From Earl Kitchener to Sir Ian Hamilton. Your No. M.F. 334. I am afraid that Sir John French would not spare the services of the two Generals you mention, and they are, moreover, both junior to Mahon, who commands the 10th Division which is going out to you. Ewart, who is very fit and well, would I think do. I am going to see him the day after to-morrow.
"Mahon raised the 10th Division and has produced an excellent unit. He is quite fit and well, and I do not think that he could now be left behind."
So the field of selection for the new Corps is to be restricted to some Lieutenant-General senior to Mahon—himself the only man of his rank commanding a Division and almost at the top of the Lieutenant-Generals! Oh God, if I could have a Corps Commander like Gouraud! But this block by "Mahon" makes a record for the seniority fetish. I have just been studying the Army List with Pollen. Excluding Indians, Marines and employed men like Douglas Haig and Maxwell, there are only about one dozen British service Lieutenant-Generals senior to Mahon, and, of that dozen only two are possible—Ewart and Stopford! There are no others. Ewart is a fine fellow, with a character which commands respect and affection. He is also a Cameron Highlander whose father commanded the Gordons. As a presence nothing could be better; as a man no one in the Army would be more welcome. But he would not, with his build and constitutional habit, last out here for one fortnight. Despite his soldier heart and his wise brain we can't risk it. We are unanimous on that point. Stopford remains. I have cabled expressing my deep disappointment that Mahon should be the factor which restricts all choice and saying,
"However, my No. M.F. 334 gave you what I considered to be the qualities necessary in a Commander, so I will do my best with what you send me.
"With regard to Ewart. I greatly admire his character, but he positively could not have made his way along the fire trenches I inspected yesterday. He has never approached troops for fifteen years although I have often implored him, as a friend, to do so. Would not Stopford be preferable to Ewart, even though he does not possess the latter's calm?"
I begin to think I shall be recalled for my importunity. But, in for a penny in for a pound, and I have fired off the following protest to a really disastrous cable from the War Office saying that the New Army is to bring no 4.5-inch howitzers with it; no howitzers at all, indeed, except sixteen of the old, inaccurate 5-inch Territorial howitzers, some of which "came out" at Omdurman and were afterwards—the whole category—found so much fault with in South Africa. Unless they are going to have an August push in France they might at least have lent us forty-eight 4.5 hows. from France to see the New Army through their first encounter with the enemy. They could all be run back in a fast cruiser and would only be loaned to us for three weeks or a month. If the G.S. at Whitehall can't do those things, they have handed over the running of a world war to one section of the Army. I attach my ultimatum: I cannot make it more emphatic; instead of death or victory we moderns say howitzers or defeat:—
"(No. 5489, cipher, M.G.O.) From War Office to General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Your No. M.F. 316. It is impossible to send more ammunition than we are sending you. 528 rounds per 18-pr will be brought out by each Division. Instead of 4.5-inch howitzers we are sending 16 5-inch howitzers with the 13th Division, as there is more 5-inch ammunition available. By the time that the last of the three Divisions arrive we hope to have supplied a good percentage of high explosive shells, but you should try to save as much as you can in the meantime. Until more ammunition is available for them, we cannot send you any 4.5-inch howitzers with the other two Divisions, and even if more 5-inch were sent the fortnightly supply of ammunition for them would be very small."
"(No. M.F. 337). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to War Office. With reference to your No. 5489, cipher. I am very sorry that you cannot send the proper howitzers, and still more sorry for the reason, that of ammunition. The Turkish trenches are deep and narrow, and only effective weapon for dealing with them is the howitzer. I realize your difficulties, and I am sure that you will supply me with both howitzers and ammunition as soon as you are able to do so. I shall be glad in the meantime of as many more trench mortars and bombs as you can possibly spare. We realize for our part that in the matter of guns and ammunition it is no good crying for the moon, and for your part you must recognize that until howitzers and ammunition arrive it is no good crying for the Crescent."
The Admiral and Godley paid me a visit; discussed tea and sea transport, then a walk.
There is quite a break in the weather. Very cold and windy with a little rain in the forenoon.
17th June, 1915. Imbros. Smoother sea, but rough weather in office. A cable from the Master General of the Ordnance in reply to my petition for another battery of 6-inch howitzers:—
"(No. 5537, cipher, M.G.O.) From War Office to the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. Your telegram No. M.F. 331. We can send out another battery of 6-inch howitzers, but cannot send ammunition with it. Moreover, we cannot increase the present periodical supply, so that if we send the additional howitzers you must not complain of the small number of rounds per gun sent to you, as experience has shown is sometimes done in similar cases. It is possible that the Navy may help you with 6-inch ammunition. Please say after consideration of the above if you want the howitzers sent."
My mind plays agreeably with the idea of chaining the M.G.O. on to a rock on the Peninsula whilst the Asiatic batteries are pounding it. That would learn him to be an M.G.O.; singing us Departmental ditties whilst we are trying to hold our Asiatic wolf by the ears. I feel very depressed; we are too far away; so far away that we lie beyond the grasp of an M.G.O.'s imagination. That's the whole truth. Were the Army in France to receive such a message, within 24 hours the Commander-in-Chief, or at the least his Chief of the Staff, would walk into the M.G.O.'s office and then proceed to walk into the M.G.O. I can't do that; a bad tempered cable is useless; I have no weapon at my disposal but very mild sarcasm:—
"(No. M.F. 343). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to War Office. Your No. 5537, cipher, M.G.O. Please send the battery of 6-inch howitzers. Your admonition will be borne in mind. Extra howitzers will be most useful to replace pieces damaged by enemy batteries on the Asiatic side of the Dardanelles. No doubt in time the ammunition question will improve. Only yesterday prisoners reported that 14 more Turkish heavy guns were coming to the Peninsula."
Have written another screed to French. As it gives a sort of summing up of the state of affairs to-day I spatchcock (as Buller used to say) the carbon:—
"GENERAL HEADQUARTERS, "MEDITERRANEAN EXPEDITIONARY FORCE, 17th June, 1915.
"MY DEAR FRENCH,
"It must be fully a month since I wrote you but no one understands better than you must do, how time flies under the constant strain of these night and day excursions and alarms. Between the two letters there has been a desperate lot of fighting, mostly bomb and bayonet work, and, except for a good many Turks gone to glory, there is only a few hundred yards of ground to show for it all at Anzac, and about a mile perhaps in the southern part of the Peninsula. But taking a wider point of view, I hope our losses and efforts have gained a good deal for our cause although they may not be so measurable in yards. First, the Turks are defending themselves instead of attacking Egypt and over-running Basra; secondly, we are told on high authority, that the action of the Italians in coming in was precipitated by our entry into this part of the theatre; thirdly, if we can only hold on and continue to enfeeble the Turks, I think myself it will not be very long before some of the Balkan States take the bloody plunge.
"However all that may be, we must be prepared at the worst to win through by ourselves, and it is, I assure you, a tough proposition. In a manoeuvre battle of old style our fellows here would beat twice their number of Turks in less than no time, but, actually, the restricted Peninsula suits the Turkish tactics to a 'T.' They have always been good at trench work where their stupid men have only simple, straightforward duties to perform, namely, in sticking on and shooting anything that comes up to them. They do this to perfection; I never saw braver soldiers, in fact, than some of the best of them. When we advance, no matter the shelling we give them, they stand right up firing coolly and straight over their parapets. Also they have unlimited supplies of bombs, each soldier carrying them, and they are not half bad at throwing them. Meanwhile they are piling up a lot of heavy artillery of very long range on the Asiatic shore, and shell us like the devil with 4.5, 6-inch, 8, 9.2 and 10-inch guns—not pleasant. This necessitates a very tough type of man for senior billets. X—Y—, for instance, did not last 24 hours. Everyone here is under fire, and really and truly the front trenches are safer, or at least fully as safe, as the Corps Commander's dugout. For, if the former are nearer the Infantry, the latter is nearer the big guns firing into our rear.
"Another reason why we advance so slowly and lose so much is that the enemy get constant reinforcements. We have overcome three successive armies of Turks, and a new lot of 20,000 from Syria are arriving here now, with 14 more heavy guns, so prisoners say, but I hope not.
"I have fine Corps Commanders in Birdwood, Hunter-Weston and Gouraud. This is very fortunate. Who is to be Commander of the new corps I cannot say, but we have one or two terrifying suggestions from home.
"Last night a brisk attack headed by a senior Turkish Officer and a German Officer was made on the 86th Brigade. Both these Officers were killed and 20 or 30 of their men, the attack being repulsed. Against the South Wales Borderers a much heavier attack was launched. Our fellows were bombed clean out of their trenches, but only fell back 30 yards and dug in. This morning early we got maxims on to each end of the place they had stormed, and then the Dublins retook it with the bayonet. Two hundred of their dead were left in the trench, and we only had 50 casualties—not so bad! A little later on in the day a d——d submarine appeared and had some shots at our transports and store ships. Luckily she missed, but all our landing operations of supplies were suspended. These are the sort of daily anxieties. All one can do is to carry on with determination and trust in providence.
"I hope you are feeling fit and that things are going on well generally. Give my salaams to the great Robertson, also to Barry. Otherwise please treat this letter as private. With all kind remembrance.
"Believe me, "Yours very sincerely, "(Sd.) IAN HAMILTON."
BOMBS AND JOURNALISTS
Our beautiful East Lancs. Division is in a very bad way. One more month of neglect and it will be ruined: if quickly filled up with fresh drafts it will be better than ever. Have cabled:—
"(M.F.A. 871). From General Sir Ian Hamilton to War Office. The following is the shortage of officers and rank and file in each Brigade of the XLIInd East Lancashire Division including the reinforcements reported as arriving:—
125th Brigade 50 Officers, 1,852 rank and file. 126th Brigade 31 Officers, 1,714 rank and file. 127th Brigade 50 Officers, 2,297 rank and file.
"A stage of wastage has now been reached in this Division, especially in the 127th Manchester Brigade, when filling up with drafts will make it as good or better than ever. If, however, they have to go on fighting in their present condition and suffer further losses, the remnants will not offer sufficiently wide foundation for reconstituting cadres.
"Lord Kitchener might also like to know this, that a satisfactory proportion of the officers recently sent out to fill casualties are shaping very well indeed."
An amalgam of veterans and fresh keen recruits, cemented by a common county feeling as well as by war tradition, makes the best fighting formation in the world. The veterans give experience and steadiness;—when the battle is joined the old hands feel bound to make good their camp-fire boastings to the recruits. The recruits bring freshness and the spirit of competition;—they are determined to show that they are as brave as the old fighters. But, if the East Lancs. go on dwindling, the cadre will not retain strength enough to absorb and shape the recruits who will, we must suppose, some day be poured into it. A perishing formation loses moral force in more rapid progression than the mere loss of members would seem to warrant. When a battalion which entered upon a campaign a thousand strong,—all keen and hopeful,—gets down to five hundred, comrades begin to look round at one another and wonder if any will be left. When it falls to three hundred, or less, the unit, in my experience, is better drawn out of the line. The bravest men lose heart when, on parade, they see with their own eyes that their Company—the finest Company in the Army—has become a platoon,—and the famous battalion a Company. A mould for shaping young enthusiasms into heroisms has been scrapped and it takes a desperate long time to recreate it.
I want to be sure K. himself takes notice and that is why I refer to him at the tail end of the cable. We have also cabled saying that the idea of sending so many rounds per gun per day was excellent, but that "we have received no notice of any despatch later than the S.S. Arabian, which consignment" (whenever it might arrive?) "was only due to last until the day before yesterday"! So this is what our famous agreement to have munitions on the scale deemed necessary by Joffre and French pans out at in practice. Two-fifths of their amount and that not delivered!
Dined with the Admiral on board the Triad. A glorious dinner. The sailormen have a real pull over us soldiers in all matters of messing. Linen, plate, glass, bread, meat, wine; of the best, are on the spot, always: even after the enemy is sighted, if they happen to feel a sense of emptiness they have only to go to the cold sideboard.
Coming back found mess tent brilliantly lit up and my staff entertaining their friends. So I put on my life-saving waistcoat and blew it out; clapped my new gas-mask on my head and entered. They were really startled, thinking the devil had come for them before their time.
Just got a telegram saying that M. Venezelos has gained a big majority in the Greek Election. Also, that the King of Greece is dying, and that, therefore, the Greek Army can't join us until he has come round or gone under.
18th June, 1915. Imbros. Went over to Kephalos Camp to inspect Rochdale's 127th (Manchester) Brigade. The Howe Battalion of the 2nd Naval Brigade were there (Lieutenant-Colonel Collins), also, the 3rd Field Ambulance R.N.D. All these were enjoying an easy out of the trenches and, though only at about half strength, had already quite forgotten the tragic struggles they had passed through. In fattest peace times, I never saw a keener, happier looking lot. I drew courage from the ranks. Surely these are the faces of men turned to victory!
Some twenty unattached officers fresh from England were there: a likely looking lot. One of the brightest a Socialist M.P.
The inspection took me all forenoon so I had to sweat double shifts after lunch. Hunter-Weston came over from Helles at 7.15 p.m. and we dined off crayfish. He was in great form.
The War Office can get no more bombs for our Japanese trench mortars! A catastrophe this! Putting the French on one side, we here, in this great force, possess only half a dozen good trench mortars—the Japanese. These six are worth their weight in gold to Anzac. Often those fellows have said to me that if they had twenty-five of them, with lots of bombs, they could render the Turkish trenches untenable. Twice, whilst their six precious mortars have been firing, I have stood for half an hour with Birdie, watching and drinking in encouragement. About one bomb a minute was the rate of fire and as it buzzed over our own trenches like a monstrous humming bird all the naked Anzacs laughed. Then, such an explosion and a sort of long drawn out ei-ei-ei-ei cry of horror from the Turks. It was fine,—a real corpse-reviving performance and now the W.O. have let the stock run out, because some ass has forgotten to order them in advance. Have cabled a very elementary question: "Could not the Japanese bombs be copied in England?"
Being the Centenary of Waterloo, the thoughts and converse of Hunter-Weston and myself turned naturally towards the lives of the heroes of a hundred years ago whose monument had given us our education, and from that topic, equally naturally, to the boys of the coming generation. Then wrote out greetings to be sent by wire on my own behalf and on behalf of all Wellingtonians serving under my command here: this to the accompaniment of unusually heavy shell fire on the Peninsula.
Later.—Have just heard that after a heavy bombardment the Turks made an attack and that fighting is going on now.
19th June, 1915. Imbros. The Turks expended last night some 500 H.E. shells; 250 heavy stuff from Asia and some thousands of shrapnel. They then attacked; we counter-attacked and there was some confused in-and-out Infantry fighting. We hear that the South Wales Borderers, the Worcesters, the 5th Royal Scots and the Naval Division all won distinction. Wiring home I say, "If Lord Kitchener could tell the Lord Provost of Edinburgh how well the 5th Bn. Royal Scots have done, the whole of this force would be pleased." The Turks have left 1,000 dead behind them. Prisoners say they thought so much high explosive would knock a hole in our line: the bombardment was all concentrated on the South Wales Borderers' trench.
Writing most of the day. Lord K. has asked the French Government to send out extra quantities of H.E. shell to their force here; also, he has begged them to order Gouraud to lend me his guns. In so far as the French may get more H.E. this is A.1. But if K. thinks the British will directly benefit—I fear he is out of his reckoning: it would be fatal to my relations with Gouraud, now so happy, were he even to suspect that I had any sort of lien on his guns. Unless I want to stir up jealous feelings, now entirely quiescent, I cannot use this cable as a lever to get French guns across into our area. Gouraud's plans for his big attack are now quite complete. A million pities we cannot attack simultaneously. That we should attack one week and the French another week is rotten tactically; but, practically, we have no option. We British want to go in side by side with the French—are burning to do so—but we cannot think of it until we can borrow shell from Gouraud; and, naturally, he wants every round he has for his own great push on the 21st. Walked down in the evening to see what progress was being made with the new pier. Colonel Skeen, Birdwood's Chief of Staff, dined and seems clever, as well as a very pleasant fellow.
20th June, 1915. Imbros. Rose early. Did a lot of business. The King's Messenger's bag closed at 8 a.m. Told K. about the arrival of fresh Turkish troops and our fighting on the 18th. The trenches remain as before, but the Turks, having failed, are worse off.
I have also written him about war correspondents. He had doubted whether my experiences would encourage me to increase the number to two or three. But, after trial, I prefer that the public should have a multitude of councillors. "When a single individual," I say, "has the whole of the London Press at his back he becomes an unduly important personage. When, in addition to this, it so happens, that he is inclined to see the black side of every proposition, then it becomes difficult to prevent him from encouraging the enemy, and from discouraging all our own people, as well as the Balkan States. If I have several others to counterbalance, then I do not care so much."