BY GENERAL SIR IAN HAMILTON, G.C.B.
AUTHOR OF "A STAFF-OFFICER'S SCRAP-BOOK," ETC.
WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND MAPS
IN TWO VOLUMES
NEW YORK GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY 1920 PRINTED BY UNWIN BROTHERS, LTD.—WOKING—ENGLAND
On the heels of the South African War came the sleuth-hounds pursuing the criminals, I mean the customary Royal Commissions. Ten thousand words of mine stand embedded in their Blue Books, cold and dead as so many mammoths in glaciers. But my long spun-out intercourse with the Royal Commissioners did have living issue—my Manchurian and Gallipoli notes. Only constant observation of civilian Judges and soldier witnesses could have shown me how fallible is the unaided military memory or have led me by three steps to a War Diary:—
(1) There is nothing certain about war except that one side won't win.
(2) The winner is asked no questions—the loser has to answer for everything.
(3) Soldiers think of nothing so little as failure and yet, to the extent of fixing intentions, orders, facts, dates firmly in their own minds, they ought to be prepared.
Conclusion:—In war, keep your own counsel, preferably in a note-book.
The first test of the new resolve was the Manchurian Campaign, 1904-5; and it was a hard test. Once that Manchurian Campaign was over I never put pen to paper—in the diary sense—until I was under orders for Constantinople. Then I bought a note-book as well as a Colt's automatic (in fact, these were the only two items of special outfit I did buy), and here are the contents—not of the auto but of the book. Also, from the moment I took up the command, I kept cables, letters and copies (actions quite foreign to my natural disposition), having been taught in my youth by Lord Roberts that nothing written to a Commander-in-Chief, or his Military Secretary, can be private if it has a bearing on operations. A letter which may influence the Chief Command of an Army and, therefore, the life of a nation, may be "Secret" for reasons of State; it cannot possibly be "Private" for personal reasons.
At the time, I am sure my diary was a help to me in my work. The crossings to and from the Peninsula gave me many chances of reckoning up the day's business, sometimes in clear, sometimes in a queer cipher of my own. Ink stands with me for an emblem of futurity, and the act of writing seemed to set back the crisis of the moment into a calmer perspective. Later on, the diary helped me again, for although the Dardanelles Commission did not avail themselves of my formal offer to submit what I had written to their scrutiny, there the records were. Whenever an event, a date and a place were duly entered in their actual coincidence, no argument to the contrary could prevent them from falling into the picture: an advocate might just as well waste eloquence in disputing the right of a piece to its own place in a jig-saw puzzle. Where, on the other hand, incidents were not entered, anything might happen and did happen; vide, for instance, the curious misapprehension set forth in the footnotes to pages 59, 60, Vol. II.
So much for the past. Whether these entries have not served their turn is now the question. They were written red-hot amidst tumult, but faintly now, and as in some far echo, sounds the battle-cry that once stopped the beating of thousands of human hearts as it was borne out upon the night wind to the ships. Those dread shapes we saw through our periscopes are dust: "the pestilence that walketh in darkness" and "the destruction that wasteth at noonday" are already images of speech: only the vastness of the stakes; the intensity of the effort and the grandeur of the sacrifice still stand out clearly when we, in dreams, behold the Dardanelles. Why not leave that shining impression as a martial cloak to cover the errors and vicissitudes of all the poor mortals who, in the words of Thucydides, "dared beyond their strength, hazarded against their judgment, and in extremities were of an excellent hope?"
Why not? The tendency of every diary is towards self-justification and complaint; yet, to-day, personally, I have "no complaints." Would it not be wiser, then, as well as more dignified, to let the Dardanelles R.I.P.? The public will not be starved. A Dardanelles library exists—- nothing less—from which three luminous works by Masefield, Nevinson and Callwell stand out; works each written by a man who had the right to write; each as distinct from its fellow as one primary colour from another, each essentially true. On the top of these comes the Report of the Dardanelles Commission and the Life of Lord Kitchener, where his side of the story is so admirably set forth by his intimate friend, Sir George Arthur. The tale has been told and retold. Every morsel of the wreckage of our Armada seems to have been brought to the surface. There are fifty reasons against publishing, reasons which I know by heart. On the other side there are only three things to be said:—
(1) Though the bodies recovered from the tragedy have been stripped and laid out in the Morgue, no hand has yet dared remove the masks from their faces.
(2) I cannot destroy this diary. Before his death Cranmer thrust his own hand into the flames: "his heart was found entire amidst the ashes."
(3) I will not leave my diary to be flung at posterity from behind the cover of my coffin. In case anyone wishes to challenge anything I have said, I must be above ground to give him satisfaction.
Therefore, I will publish and at once.
A man has only one life on earth. The rest is silence. Whether God will approve of my actions at a moment when the destinies of hundreds of millions of human beings hung upon them, God alone knows. But before I go I want to have the verdict of my comrades of all ranks at the Dardanelles, and until they know the truth, as it appeared to me at the time, how can they give that verdict? IAN HAMILTON.
LULLENDEN FARM, DORMANSLAND. April 25, 1920.
LETTER FROM GENERAL D'AMADE TO THE AUTHOR
Dans la guerre Sud Africaine, ensuite en Angleterre, j'avais en spectateur vecu avec votre armee. Avec elle je souhaitais revivre en frere d'armes, combattant pour la meme cause.
Les Dardanelles ont realise mon reve. Mais le lecteur ne doit pas s'attarder avec moi. Lire le recit de celui meme qui a commande: quel avantage! L'Histoire, comme un fleuve, se charge d'impuretes en s'eloignent de ses sources. En en remontant le cours, dans votre Journal, j'ai decouvert les causes de certains effets demeure, pour moi des enigmes.
Au debut je n'avais pas cru a la possibilite de forcer les Dardanelles sans l'intervention de l'armee. C'est pour cela que, si la decision m'eut appartenus et avant d'avoir ete place sous vos ordres, j'avais songe a debarquer a Adramit, dans les eaux calmes de Mithylene, a courir ensuite a Brousse et Constantinople, pour y saisir les clefs du detroit.
En presence de l'opiniatre confiance de l'amiral de Robecq j'abaissai mon pavillion de terrien et l'inclinai devant son autorite de marin Anglais. Nous fumes conquis par cette confiance.
Notre theatre de guerre de Gallipoli etait tres borne sur le terrain. Ce front restreint a permis a chacun de vos soldats de vous connaitre. Autant qu'avec leurs armes, ils combattaient avec votre ardeur de grand chef et votre inflexible volonte.
Dans le passe ce theatre qui etait la Troade, venait se souder aux eternels recommencements de l'Histoire.
Dans l'avenir son domaine etait aussi vaste. "Si nos navires avaient pu franchir les detroits, a dit le Premier Ministre Loyd Georges le 18 decembre 1919 aux Communes, la guerre aurait ete raccourcie de 2 ou 3 ans."
Il y a pire qu'une guerre, c'est une guerre qui se prolonge. Car les devastations s'accumulent. Le vaincu qui a eu l'habilete de les eviter a son pays, se donnera, sur les ruines, des manieres de vainqueur. Le premier but de guerre n'est il pas d'infliger a l'adversaire plus de mal qu'il ne vous en fait?
Si nous avions atteint Constantinople dans l'ete 1915 c'etait alors terminer la guerre, eviter la tourmente russe et tous les obstacles dresses par ce cataclysme devant le retablissement de la paix du monde. C'etait epargner a nos Patries des milliards de depenses et des centaines de milliers de deuils.
Que nous n'ayons pas atteint ce but ne saurait etablir qu'il n'ait ete juste et sage de le poursuivre.
Voila pour quelle cause sont tombes les soldats des Dardanelles. "Honneur a vous, soldats de France et soldats du Roi! ainsi que vous les adjuriez en les lancant a l'attaque.
"Morts heroiques! il n'a rien manque a votre gloire, pas meme une apparence d'oubli. Des triomphes des autres vous n'avez recueilli que les rayons extremes: ceux qui ont franchi la cime des arcs de triomphe pour aller au loin, coups egares de la grande gerbe, eclairer vos tombes.
"Mais 'Ne jugez pas avant le temps.' Le crepuscule eteint, laissez encore passer la nuit. Vous aurez pour vous le soleil Levant."
Vous, Mon General, vous aurez ete l'ouvrier de cette grande idee, et l'annonciateur de cette aurore. Gen. A. d'Amade.
Fronsac, Gironde, France. 22 decembre, 1919.
LETTER FROM GENERAL D'AMADE TO THE AUTHOR x
I. THE START 1
II. THE STRAITS 21
III. EGYPT 54
IV. CLEARING FOR ACTION 86
V. THE LANDING 127
VI. MAKING GOOD 159
VII. SHELLS 196
VIII. TWO CORPS OR AN ALLY? 219
IX. SUBMARINES 243
X. A DECISION AND THE PLAN 283
XI. BOMBS AND JOURNALISTS 314
XII. A VICTORY AND AFTER 343
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
SIR ROGER KEYES, VICE-ADMIRAL DE ROBECK, SIR IAN HAMILTON, GENERAL BRAITHWAITE Frontispiece
LIEUT.-GEN. SIR J.G. MAXWELL, G.C.B., K.C.M.G 58
REVIEW OF FRENCH TROOPS AT ALEXANDRIA 78
S.S. "RIVER CLYDE" 132
"W" BEACH 176
GENERAL D'AMADE 222
VIEW OF "V" BEACH, TAKEN FROM S.S. "RIVER CLYDE" 254
MEN BATHING AT HELLES 294
THE NARROWS FROM CHUNUK BAIR 330
GENERAL GOURAUD 346
KEY MAP Inside front cover
CAPE HELLES AND THE SOUTHERN AREA At end of volume
In the train between Paris and Marseilles, 14th March, 1915.
Neither the Asquith banquet, nor the talk at the Admiralty that midnight had persuaded me I was going to do what I am actually doing at this moment. K. had made no sign nor waved his magic baton. So I just kept as cool as I could and had a sound sleep.
Next morning, that is the 12th instant, I was working at the Horse Guards when, about 10 a.m., K. sent for me. I wondered! Opening the door I bade him good morning and walked up to his desk where he went on writing like a graven image. After a moment, he looked up and said in a matter-of-fact tone, "We are sending a military force to support the Fleet now at the Dardanelles, and you are to have Command."
Something in voice or words touched a chord in my memory. We were once more standing, K. and I, in our workroom at Pretoria, having just finished reading the night's crop of sixty or seventy wires. K. was saying to me, "You had better go out to the Western Transvaal." I asked no question, packed up my kit, ordered my train, started that night. Not another syllable was said on the subject. Uninstructed and unaccredited I left that night for the front; my outfit one A.D.C., two horses, two mules and a buggy. Whether I inspected the columns and came back and reported to K. in my capacity as his Chief Staff Officer; or, whether, making use of my rank to assume command in the field, I beat up de la Rey in his den—all this rested entirely with me.
So I made my choice and fought my fight at Roodewal, last strange battle in the West. That is K.'s way. The envoy goes forth; does his best with whatever forces he can muster and, if he loses;—well, unless he had liked the job he should not have taken it on.
At that moment K. wished me to bow, leave the room and make a start as I did some thirteen years ago. But the conditions were no longer the same. In those old Pretoria days I had known the Transvaal by heart; the number, value and disposition of the British forces; the characters of the Boer leaders; the nature of the country. But my knowledge of the Dardanelles was nil; of the Turk nil; of the strength of our own forces next to nil. Although I have met K. almost every day during the past six months, and although he has twice hinted I might be sent to Salonika; never once, to the best of my recollection, had he mentioned the word Dardanelles.
I had plenty of time for these reflections as K., after his one tremendous remark had resumed his writing at the desk. At last, he looked up and inquired, "Well?"
"We have done this sort of thing before, Lord K." I said; "we have run this sort of show before and you know without saying I am most deeply grateful and you know without saying I will do my best and that you can trust my loyalty—but I must say something—I must ask you some questions." Then I began.
K. frowned; shrugged his shoulders; I thought he was going to be impatient, but although he gave curt answers at first he slowly broadened out, until, at the end, no one else could get a word in edgeways.
My troops were to be Australians and New Zealanders under Birdwood (a friend); strength, say, about 30,000. (A year ago I inspected them in their own Antipodes and no finer material exists); the 29th Division, strength, say 19,000 under Hunter-Weston—a slashing man of action; an acute theorist; the Royal Naval Division, 11,000 strong (an excellent type of Officer and man, under a solid Commander—Paris); a French contingent, strength at present uncertain, say, about a Division, under my old war comrade the chivalrous d'Amade, now at Tunis.
Say then grand total about 80,000—probably panning out at some 50,000 rifles in the firing line. Of these the 29th Division are extras—division de luxe.
K. went on; he was now fairly under weigh and got up and walked about the room as he spoke. I knew, he said, his (K.'s) feelings as to the political and strategic value of the Near East where one clever tactical thrust delivered on the spot and at the spot might rally the wavering Balkans. Rifle for rifle, at that moment, we could nowhere make as good use of the 29th Division as by sending it to the Dardanelles, where each of its 13,000 rifles might attract a hundred more to our side of the war. Employed in France or Flanders the 29th would at best help to push back the German line a few miles; at the Dardanelles the stakes were enormous. He spoke, so it struck me, as if he was defending himself in argument: he asked if I agreed. I said, "Yes." "Well," he rejoined, "You may just as well realize at once that G.H.Q. in France do not agree. They think they have only to drive the Germans back fifty miles nearer to their base to win the war. Those are the same fellows who used to write me saying they wanted no New Army; that they would be amply content if only the old Old Army and the Territorials could be kept up to strength. Now they've been down to Aldershot and seen the New Army they are changing their tune, but I am by no means sure, now, that I'll give it to them. French and his Staff believe firmly that the British Imperial Armies can pitch their camp down in one corner of Europe and there fight a world war to a finish. The thing is absurd but French, plus France, are a strong combine and they are fighting tooth and nail for the 29th Division. It must clearly be understood then:—"
(1) That the 29th Division are only to be a loan and are to be returned the moment they can be spared.
(2) That all things ear-marked for the East are looked on by powerful interests both at home and in France as having been stolen from the West.
Did I take this in? I said, "I take it from you." Did I myself, speaking as actual Commander of the Central Striking Force and executively responsible for the land defence of England, think the 29th Division could be spared at all? "Yes," I said, "and four more Territorial Divisions as well." K. used two or three very bad words and added, with his usual affability, that I would find myself walking about in civilian costume instead of going to Constantinople if he found me making any wild statements of that sort to the politicians. I laughed and reminded him of my testimony before the Committee of Imperial Defence about my Malta amphibious manoeuvres; about the Malta Submarines and the way they had destroyed the battleships conveying my landing forces. If there was any politician, I said, who cared a hang about my opinions he knew quite well already my views on an invasion of England; namely, that it would be like trying to hurt a monkey by throwing nuts at him. I didn't want to steal what French wanted, but now that the rifles had come and the troops had finished their musketry, there was no need to squabble over a Division. Why not let French have two of my Central Force Territorial Division at once,—they were jolly good and were wasting their time over here. That would sweeten French and he and Joffre would make no more trouble about the 29th.
K. glared at me. I don't know what he was going to say when Callwell came into the room with some papers.
We moved to the map in the window and Callwell took us through a plan of attack upon the Forts at the Dardanelles, worked out by the Greek General Staff. The Greeks had meant to employ (as far as I can remember) 150,000 men. Their landing was to have taken place on the North-west coast of the Southern part of the Peninsula, opposite Kilid Bahr. "But," said K., "half that number of men will do you handsomely; the Turks are busy elsewhere; I hope you will not have to land at all; if you do have to land, why then the powerful Fleet at your back will be the prime factor in your choice of time and place."
I asked K. if he would not move the Admiralty to work a submarine or two up the Straits at once so as to prevent reinforcements and supplies coming down by sea from Constantinople. By now the Turks must be on the alert and it was commonsense to suppose they would be sending some sort of help to their Forts. However things might pan out we could not be going wrong if we made the Marmora unhealthy for the Turkish ships. Lord K. thereupon made the remark that if we could get one submarine into the Marmora the defences of the Dardanelles would collapse. "Supposing," he said, "one submarine pops up opposite the town of Gallipoli and waves a Union Jack three times, the whole Turkish garrison on the Peninsula will take to their heels and make a bee line for Bulair."
In reply to a question about Staff, Lord K., in the gruff voice he puts on when he wants no argument, told me I could not take my own Chief of Staff, Ellison, and that Braithwaite would go with me in his place. Ellison and I have worked hand in glove for several years; our qualities usefully complement one another; there was no earthly reason I could think of why Ellison should not have come with me, but; I like Braithwaite; he had been on my General Staff for a time in the Southern Command; he is cheery, popular and competent.
Wolfe Murray, the Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was then called in, also Archie Murray, Inspector of Home Forces, and Braithwaite. This was the first (apparently) either of the Murrays had heard of the project!!! Both seemed to be quite taken aback, and I do not remember that either of them made a remark.
Braithwaite was very nice and took a chance to whisper his hopes he would not give me too much cause to regret Ellison. He only said one thing to K. and that produced an explosion. He said it was vital that we should have a better air service than the Turks in case it came to fighting over a small area like the Gallipoli Peninsula: he begged, therefore, that whatever else we got, or did not get, we might be fitted out with a contingent of up-to-date aeroplanes, pilots and observers. K. turned on him with flashing spectacles and rent him with the words, "Not one!"
15th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Phaeton." Toulon Harbour. Embarked at Marseilles last night at 6 p.m. and slept on board. Owing to some mistake no oil fuel had been taken aboard so we have had to come round here this morning to get it. Have just breakfasted with the Captain, Cameron by name, and have let the Staff go ashore to see the town. We do not sail till 2 p.m.: after special trains and everything a clean chuck-away of 20 hours.
I left off in the S. of S.'s room at the War Office. After the bursting of the aeroplane bomb K. did most of the talking. I find it hard to remember all he said: here are the outstanding points:—
(1) We soldiers are to understand we are string Number 2. The sailors are sure they can force the Dardanelles on their own and the whole enterprise has been framed on that basis: we are to lie low and to bear in mind the Cabinet does not want to hear anything of the Army till it sails through the Straits. But if the Admiral fails, then we will have to go in.
(2) If the Army has to be used, whether on the Bosphorus or at the Dardanelles, I am to bear in mind his order that no serious operation is to take place until the whole of my force is complete; ready; concentrated and on the spot. No piecemeal attack is to be made.
(3) If we do start fighting, once we have started we are to burn our boats. Once landed the Government are resolved to see the enterprise through.
(4) Asia is out of bounds. K. laid special stress on this. Our sea command and the restricted area of Gallipoli would enable us to undertake a landing on the Peninsula with clearly limited liabilities. Once we began marching about continents, situations calling for heavy reinforcements would probably be created. Although I, Hamilton, seemed ready to run risks in the defence of London, he, K., was not, and as he had already explained, big demands would make his position difficult with France; difficult everywhere; and might end by putting him (K.) in the cart. Besika Bay and Alexandretta were, therefore, taboo—not to be touched! Even after we force the Narrows no troops are to be landed along the Asian coastline. Nor are we to garrison any part of the Gallipoli Peninsula excepting only the Bulair Lines which had best be permanently held, K. thinks, by the Naval Division.
When we get into the Marmora I shall be faced by a series of big problems. What would I do? From what quarter could I attack Constantinople? How would I hold it when I had taken it? K. asked me the questions.
With the mud of prosaic Whitehall drying upon my boots these remarks of K.'s sounded to me odd. But, knowing Constantinople, and—what was more to the point at the moment—knowing K.'s hatred of hesitation, I managed to pull myself together so far as to suggest that if the city was weakly held and if, as he had said, (I forgot to enter that) the bulk of the Thracian troops were dispersed throughout the Provinces, or else moving to re-occupy Adrianople, why then, possibly, by a coup de main, we might pounce upon the Chatalja Lines from the South before the Turks could climb back into them from the North. Lord K. made a grimace; he thought this too chancy. The best would be if we did not land a man until the Turks had come to terms. Once the Fleet got through the Dardanelles, Constantinople could not hold out. Modern Constantinople could not last a week if blockaded by sea and land. That was a sure thing; a thing whereon he could speak with full confidence. The Fleet could lie off out of sight and range of the Turks and with their guns would dominate the railways and, if necessary, burn the place to ashes. The bulk of the people were not Osmanli or even Mahomedan and there would be a revolution at the mere sight of the smoke from the funnels of our warships. But if, for some cause at present non-apparent, we were forced to put troops ashore against organized Turkish opposition, then he advocated a landing on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus to hold out a hand to the Russians, who would simultaneously land there from the Black Sea. He only made the suggestion, for the man on the spot must be the best judge. Several of the audience left us here, at Lord K.'s suggestion, to get on with their work. K. went on:—
The moment the holding of Constantinople comes along the French and the Russians will be very jealous and prickly. Luckily we British have an easy part to play as the more we efface ourselves at that stage, the better he, K., will be pleased. The Army in France have means of making their views work in high places and pressure is sure to be put on by them and by their friends for the return of the 29th and Naval Divisions the moment we bring Turkey to book. Therefore, it will be best in any case to "let the French and Russians garrison Constantinople and sing their hymns in S. Sophia," whilst my own troops hold the railway line and perhaps Adrianople. Thus they will be at a loose end and we shall be free to bring them back to the West; to land them at Odessa or to push them up the Danube, without weakening the Allied grip on the waterway linking the Mediterranean with the Black Sea.
This was the essence of our talk: as it lasted about an hour and a half, I can only have put down about one tenth of it.
At odd times I have been recipient of K.'s reveries but always, always, he has rejected with a sort of horror the idea of being War Minister or Commander-in-Chief. Now by an extreme exercise of its ironic spirit, Providence has made him both.
In pre-war days, when we met in Egypt and at Malta, K. made no bones about what he wanted. He wanted to be Viceroy of India or Ambasssador at Constantinople.
I remember very well one conversation we had when I asked him why he wanted to hang on to great place, and whether he had not done enough already. He said he could not bear to see India being mismanaged by nincompoops or our influence in Turkey being chucked out of the window with both hands: I answered him, I remember, by saying there were only two things worth doing as Viceroy and they would not take very long. One was to put a huge import duty on aniline dyes and so bring back the lovely vegetable dyes of old India, the saffrons, indigoes, madders, etc.; the other was to build a black marble Taj at Agra opposite the white and join the two by a silver bridge. I expected to get a rise, but actually he took the ideas quite seriously and I am sure made a mental note of them. Anyway, as Viceroy, K. would have flung the whole vast weight of India into the scale of this war; he would have poured Army after Army from East to West. Under K. India could have beaten Turkey single-handed; aye, and with one arm tied behind her back. With K. as Ambassador at Constantinople he would have prevented Turkey coming into the war. There is no doubt of it. Neither Enver Pasha nor Talaat would have dared to enrage K., and as for the idea of their deporting him, it is grotesque. They might have shot him in the back; they could never have faced him with a war declaration in their hands. As an impresser of Orientals he is a nonesuch. So we put him into the War Office in the ways of which he is something of an amateur, with a big prestige and a big power of drive. Yes, we remove the best experts from the War Office and pop in K. like a powerful engine from which we have removed all controls, regulators and safety valves. Yet see what wonders he has worked!
Still, he remains, in the War Office sense, an amateur. The Staff left by French at the W.O. may not have been von Moltke's, but they were K.'s only Councillors. An old War Office hand would have used them. But in no case, even had they been the best, could K. have had truck or parley with any system of decentralization of work—of semi-independent specialists each running a show of his own. As late (so-called) Chief of Staff to Lord K. in South Africa, I could have told them that whatever work K. fancies at the moment he must swipe at it, that very moment, off his own bat. The one-man show carried on royally in South Africa and all the narrow squeaks we had have been completely swallowed up in the final success; but how will his no-system system work now? Perhaps he may pull it through; anyway he is starting with a beautifully cleaned slate. He has surpassed himself, in fact, for I confess even with past experience to guide me, I did not imagine our machinery could have been so thoroughly smashed in so short a time. Ten long years of General Staff; Lyttelton, Nicholson, French, Douglas; where are your well-thought-out schemes for an amphibious attack on Constantinople? Not a sign! Braithwaite set to work in the Intelligence Branch at once. But beyond the ordinary text books those pigeon holes were drawn blank. The Dardanelles and Bosphorus might be in the moon for all the military information I have got to go upon. One text book and one book of travellers' tales don't take long to master and I have not been so free from work or preoccupation since the war started. There is no use trying to make plans unless there is some sort of material, political, naval, military or geographical to work upon.
Winston had been in a fever to get us off and had ordered a special train for that very afternoon. My new Staff were doubtful if they could get fixed up so quickly and K. settled the matter by saying there was no need to hustle. For myself, I was very keen to get away. The best plan to save slips between cup and lip is to swallow the liquor. But K. thought it wisest to wait, so I 'phoned over to Eddie to let Winston know we should not want his train that day.
Next morning, the 13th, I handed over the Central Force Command to Rundle and then, at 10.30 went in with Braithwaite to say good-bye. K. was standing by his desk splashing about with his pen at three different drafts of instructions. One of them had been drafted by Fitz—I suppose under somebody's guidance; the other was by young Buckley; the third K. was working on himself. Braithwaite, Fitz and I were in the room; no one else except Callwell who popped in and out. The instructions went over most of the ground of yesterday's debate and were too vague. When I asked the crucial question:—the enemy's strength? K. thought I had better be prepared for 40,000. How many guns? No one knows. Who was in command? Djavad Pasha, it is believed. But, K. says, I may take it that the Kilid Bahr Plateau has been entrenched and is sufficiently held. South of Kilid Bahr to the point at Cape Helles, I may take it that the Peninsula is open to a landing on very easy terms. The cross fire from the Fleet lying part in the Aegean and part in the mouth of the Straits must sweep that flat and open stretch of country so as to render it untenable by the enemy. Lord K. demonstrated this cross fire upon the map. He toiled over the wording of his instructions. They were headed "Constantinople Expeditionary Force." I begged him to alter this to avert Fate's evil eye. He consented and both this corrected draft and the copy as finally approved are now in Braithwaite's despatch box more modestly headed "Mediterranean Expeditionary Force." None of the drafts help us with facts about the enemy; the politics; the country and our allies, the Russians. In sober fact these "instructions" leave me to my own devices in the East, almost as much as K.'s laconic order "git" left me to myself when I quitted Pretoria for the West thirteen years ago.
So I said good-bye to old K. as casually as if we were to meet together at dinner. Actually my heart went out to my old Chief. He was giving me the best thing in his gift and I hated to leave him amongst people who were frightened of him. But there was no use saying a word. He did not even wish me luck and I did not expect him to, but he did say, rather unexpectedly, after I had said good-bye and just as I was taking up my cap from the table, "If the Fleet gets through, Constantinople will fall of itself and you will have won, not a battle, but the war."
At 5 o'clock that afternoon we bade adieu to London. Winston was disappointed we didn't dash away yesterday but we have not really let much grass grow under our feet. He and some friends came down to Charing Cross to see us off. I told Winston Lord K. would not think me loyal if I wrote to another Secretary of State. He understood and said that if I wanted him to be aware of some special request all I had to say was, "You will agree perhaps that the First Lord should see." Then the S. of S. for War would be bound to show him the letter:—which proves that with all his cleverness Winston has yet some points to learn about his K. of K.!
My Staff still bear the bewildered look of men who have hurriedly been snatched from desks to do some extraordinary turn on some unheard of theatre. One or two of them put on uniform for the first time in their lives an hour ago. Leggings awry, spurs upside down, belts over shoulder straps! I haven't a notion of who they all are: nine-tenths of my few hours of warning has been taken up in winding up the affairs of the Central Force.
At Dover embarked on H.M.S. Foresight,—a misnomer, for we ran into a fog and had to lie-to for a devil of a time. Heard far-off guns on French front,—which was cheering.
At 10.30 p.m. we left Calais for Marseilles and during the next day the French authorities caused me to be met by Officers of their Railway Mobilization Section. Had my first breathing space wherein to talk over matters with Braithwaite, and he and I tried to piece together the various scraps of views we had picked up at the War Office into a pattern which should serve us for a doctrine. But we haven't got very much to go upon. A diagram he had drawn up with half the spaces unfilled showing the General Staff. Another diagram with its blank spaces only showed that our Q. branch was not in being. Three queried names, Woodward for A.G., Winter for Q.M.G. and Williams for Cipher Officer. The first two had been left behind, the third was with us. The following hurried jottings by Braithwaite:—"Only 1600 rounds for the 4.5 Howitzers!!! High Explosive essential. Who is to be C.R.E.? Engineer Stores? French are to remain at Tunis until the day comes that they are required. Egyptian troops also remain in Egypt till last moment. Everything we want by 30th (it is hoped). Await arrival of 29th Division before undertaking anything big. If Carden wants military help it is for Sir Ian's consideration whether to give or to withhold it." These rough notes; the text book on the Turkish Army, and two small guide books: not a very luminous outfit. Braithwaite tells me our force are not to take with them the usual 10 per cent. extra margin of reserves to fill casualties. Wish I had realised this earlier. He had not time to tell me he says. The General Staff thought we ought certainly to have these and he and Wolfe Murray went in and made a personal appeal to the A.G. But he was obdurate. This seems hard luck. Why should we not have our losses quickly replaced—supposing we do lose men? I doubt though, if I should have been able to do very much even if I had known. To press K. would have been difficult. Like insisting on an extra half-crown when you've just been given Fortunatus' purse. Still, fair play's a jewel, and surely if formations destined for the French front cross the Channel with 10 per cent. extra, over and above their establishment, troops bound for Constantinople ought to have a 25 per cent. margin over establishment?
17th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Phaeton." At sea. Last night we raced past Corfu—my birthplace—at thirty knots an hour. My first baby breath was drawn from these thyme scented breezes. This crimson in the Eastern sky, these waves of liquid opal are natal, vital.
Thirty miles an hour through Paradise! Since the 16th January, 1853, we have learnt to go the pace and as a result the world shrinks; the horizons close in upon us; the spacious days are gone!
Thoughts of my Mother, who died when I was but three. Thoughts of her refusal as she lay dying—gasping in mortal pain—her refusal to touch an opiate, because the Minister, Norman Macleod, had told her she so might dim the clearness of her spiritual insight—of her thoughts ascending heavenwards. What pluck—what grit—what faith—what an example to a soldier.
Exquisite, exquisite air; sea like an undulating carpet of blue velvet outspread for Aphrodite. Have been in the Aegean since dawn. At noon passed a cruiser taking back Admiral Carden invalided to Malta. One week ago the thunder of his guns shook the firm foundations of the world. Now a sheer hulk lies poor old Carden. Vanitas vanitatum.
Have got into touch with my staff. They are all General Staff: no Administrative Staff. The Adjutant-General-to-be (I don't know him) and the Chief Medico (I don't know who he is to be) could not get ready in time to come off with us, and the Q.M.G., too, was undecided when I left. There are nine of the General Staff. I like the looks of them. Quite characteristic of K., though, that barring Braithwaite, not one of the associates he has told off to work hand in glove with me in this enterprise should ever have served with me before.
Only two sorts of Commanders-in-Chief could possibly find time to scribble like this on their way to take up an enterprise in many ways unprecedented—a German and a Britisher. The first, because every possible contingency would have been worked out for him beforehand; the second, because he has nothing—literally nothing—in his portfolio except a blank cheque signed with those grand yet simple words—John Bull. The German General is the product of an organising nation. The British General is the product of an improvising nation. Each army would be better commanded by the other army's General. Sounds fantastic but is true.
Cast anchor at Tenedos at 3 p.m., 17th March, 1915, having entered the harbour at the very same instant as le general d'Amade.
Hurried over at once to a meeting aboard that lovely sea monster, H.M.S. Queen Elizabeth.
Admiral de Robeck, Commodore Roger Keyes, Admiral Guepratte, cmdg. French Fleet, General d'Amade, General Braithwaite, Admiral Wemyss, Captain Pollen, Myself.
De Robeck greeted me in the friendliest fashion. He is a fine looking man with great charm of manner. After a word or two to d'Amade and being introduced to Wemyss, Guepratte and Keyes, we sat down round a table and the Admiral began. His chief worry lies in the clever way the enemy are now handling their mobile artillery. He can silence the big fortress ordnance, but the howitzers and field guns fire from concealed positions and make the clearing of the minefields something of a V.C. sort of job for the smaller craft. Even when the Fleet gets through, these moveable guns will make it very nasty for store ships or transports which follow. The mine-sweepers are slow and bad with worn out engines. Some of the civilian masters and crews of the trawlers have to consider wives and kids as well as V.C.s. The problem of getting the Fleet through or of getting submarines through is a problem of clearing away the mines. With a more powerfully engined type of mine-sweeper and regular naval commanders and crews to man them, the business would be easy. But as things actually stand there is real cause for anxiety as to mines.
The Peninsula itself is being fortified and many Turks work every night on trenches, redoubts and entanglements. Not one single living soul has been seen, since the engagement of our Marines at the end of February, although each morning brings forth fresh evidences of nocturnal activity, in patches of freshly turned up soil. All landing places are now commanded by lines of trenches and are ranged by field guns and howitzers, which, thus far, cannot be located as our naval seaplanes are too heavy to rise out of rifle range. There has been a muddle about these seaplanes. Nominally they possess very powerful Sunbeam engines; actually the d——d things can barely rise off the water. The naval guns do not seem able to knock the Turkish Infantry out of their deep trenches although they can silence their fire for awhile. This was proved at that last landing by Marines. The Turkish searchlights are both fixed and mobile. They are of the latest pattern and are run by skilled observers. He gave us, in fact, to understand that German thoroughness and forethought have gripped the old go-as-you-please Turk and are making him march to the Parade-schritt.
The Admiral would prefer to force a passage on his own, and is sure he can do so. Setting Constantinople on one side for the moment, if the Fleet gets through and the Army then attacks at Bulair, we would have the Turkish Army on the Peninsula in a regular trap. Therefore, whether from the local or the larger point of view, he has no wish to call us in until he has had a real good try. He means straightway to put the whole proposition to a practical test.
His views dovetail in to a hair's breadth with K.'s views. The Admiral's "real good try" leads up towards K.'s "after every effort has been exhausted."
That's a bit of luck for our kick-off, anyway. What we soldiers have to do now is to hammer away at our band-o-bast whilst the Navy pushes as hard, as fast and as far as its horsepower, manpower and gunpower will carry it.
The Admiral asked to see my instructions and Braithwaite read them out. When he stopped, Roger Keyes, the Commodore, inquired, "Is that all?" And when Braithwaite confessed that it was, everyone looked a little blank.
Asked what I meant to do, I said I proposed to get ready for a landing, as, whether the Fleet forces the passage and disembarked us on the Bosphorus; or, whether the Fleet did not force the passage and we had to "go for" the Peninsula, the band-o-bast could be made to suit either case.
The Admiral asked if I meant to land at Bulair? I replied my mind was open on that point: that I was a believer in seeing things for myself and that I would not come to any decision on the map if it were possible to come to it on the ground. He then said he would send me up to look at the place through my own glasses in the Phaeton to-morrow; that it would not be possible to land large forces on the neck of Bulair itself as there were no beaches, but that I should reconnoitre the coast at the head of the Gulf as landing would be easier with every few miles we drew away towards the North. I told him it would be useless to land at any distance from my objective, for the simple reason that I had no transport, mechanical or horse, wheeled or pack, to enable me to support myself further than five or six miles from the Fleet and it would take many weeks and many ships to get it together; however, I ended, I would to-morrow see for myself.
The air of the Aegean hardly differs so much from the North Sea haze as does the moral atmosphere of Tenedos differ from that of the War Office. This is always the way. Until the plunge is taken, the man in the arm chair clamps rose coloured spectacles on to his nose and the man on the spot is anxious; but, once the men on the spot jump off they become as jolly as sandboys, whilst the man in the arm chair sits searching for a set-back with a blue lens telescope.
Here, the Peninsula looks a tougher nut to crack than it did on Lord K.'s small and featureless map. I do not speak for myself for I have so far only examined the terrain through a field glass. I refer to the tone of the sailors, which strikes me as being graver and less irresponsible than the tone of the War Office.
The Admiral believes that, at the time of the first bombardment, 5000 men could have marched from Cape Helles right up to the Bulair lines. (Before leaving the ship I learnt that some of the sailors do not agree). Now that phase has passed. Many more troops have come down, German Staff Officers have grappled with the situation, and have got their troops scientifically disposed and heavily entrenched. This skilful siting of the Turkish trenches has been admired by all competent British observers; the number of field guns on the Peninsula is now many times greater than it was.
After this the discussion became informal. Referring again to my instructions, I laid stress on the point that I was a waiting man and that it was the Admiral's innings for so long as he could keep his wicket up. Braithwaite asked a question or two about the trenches and all of us deplored the lack of aeroplanes whereby we were blinded in our attack upon an enemy who espied every boat's crew moving over the water.
The more I revolve these matters in my mind, the more easy does it seem to accept K.'s order not to be in too great a hurry to bring the Army to the front. I devoutly hope indeed (and I think the fiercest of our fellows agree) that the Navy will pull us out the chestnuts from the fire.
At the close of the sitting I made these notes of what had happened and drafted a first cable to Lord K., giving him an epitome of the Admiral's opening statement about the enemy's clever use of field guns to hinder the clearing of the minefields; his good entrenchments and the nightly work thereon; our handicap in all these matters because the type of seaplanes sent us "are too heavy to rise out of effective rifle range"—(one has to put these things mildly). I add that the Admiral, "while not making light of dangers was evidently determined to exhaust every effort before calling upon the soldiers for their help on a large scale"; and I wind up by telling him Lemnos seems a bad base and that I am off to-morrow on an inspection of the coasts of the Peninsula. Having got these matters off my chest on to the chest of K., was then taken round the ship by the Flag Captain, G.P.W. Hope. By this time it was nearly 7 so I stayed and dined with the Admiral—a charming host. After dinner got back here.
18th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Phaeton." Cleared Tenedos Harbour at 4 a.m. and reached Lemnos at 6 a.m. I never saw so many ships collected together in my life; no, not even at Hong Kong, Bombay or New York. Filled up with oil fuel and at 7 a.m. d'Amade and Major-General Paris, commanding the Royal Naval Division, came on board with one or two Staff Officers. After consulting these Officers as well as McLagan, the Australian Brigadier, cabled Lord K. to say Alexandria must be our base as "the Naval Division transports have been loaded up as in peace time and they must be completely discharged and every ship reloaded," in war fashion. At Lemnos, where there are neither wharfs, piers, labour nor water, the thing could not be done. Therefore, "the closeness of Lemnos to the Dardanelles, as implying the rapid transport of troops, is illusory."
The moment I got this done, namely, at 8.30 a.m., we worked our way out of the long narrow neck of Mudros Harbour and sailed for the Gulf of Saros. Spent the first half of the sixty mile run to the Dardanelles in scribbling. Wrote my first epistle to K., using for the first time the formal "Dear Lord Kitchener." My letters to him will have to be formal, and dull also, as he may hand them around. I begin, "I have just sent you off a cable giving my first impressions of the situation, and am now steaming in company with Generals d'Amade and Paris to inspect the North-western coast of the Gallipoli Peninsula." I tell him that the real place "looks a much tougher nut to crack than it did over the map,"—I say that his "impression that the ground between Cape Helles and Krithia was clear of the enemy," was mistaken. "Not a bit of it." I say, "The Admiral tells me that there is a large number of men tucked away in the folds of the ground there, not to speak of several field Batteries." Therefore, I conclude, "If it eventually becomes necessary to take the Gallipoli Peninsula by military force, we shall have to proceed bit by bit." This will vex him no doubt. He likes plans to move as fast as his own wishes and is apt to forget, or to pretend he has forgotten, that swiftness in war comes from slow preparations. It is fairer to tell K. this now, when the question has not yet arisen, than hereafter if it does then arise.
Passing the mouth of the Dardanelles we got a wonderful view of the stage whereon the Great Showman has caused so many of his amusing puppets to strut their tiny hour. For the purpose it stands matchless. No other panorama can touch it. There, Hero trimmed her little lamp; yonder the amorous breath of Leander changed to soft sea form. Far away to the Eastwards, painted in dim and lovely hues, lies Mount Ida. Just so, on the far horizon line she lay fair and still, when Hector fell and smoke from burning Troy blackened the mid-day sun. Against this enchanted background to deeds done by immortals and mortals as they struggled for ten long years five thousand years ago,—stands forth formidably the Peninsula. Glowing with bright, springtime colours it sweeps upwards from the sea like the glacis of a giant's fortress.
So we sailed on Northwards, giving a wide berth to the shore. When we got within a mile of the head of the Gulf of Saros, we turned, steering a South-westerly course, parallel to, and one to two miles distant from, the coastline. Then my first fears as to the outworks of the fortress were strengthened. The head of the Gulf is filled in with a horrible marsh. No landing there. Did we land far away to the Westward we must still march round the marsh, or else we must cross it on one single road whose long and easily destructible bridges we could see spanning the bog holes some three miles inland. Opposite the fortified lines we stood in to within easy field gun range, trusting that the Turks would not wish prematurely to disclose their artillery positions. So we managed a peep at close quarters, and were startled to see the ramifications and extent of the spider's web of deep, narrow trenches along the coast and on either front of the lines of Bulair. My Staff agree that they must have taken ten thousand men a month's hard work from dark to dawn. In advance of the trenches, Williams in the crow's nest reported that with his strong glasses he could pick out the glitter of wire over a wide expanse of ground. To the depth of a mile the whole Aegean slope of the neck of the Peninsula was scarred with spade work and it is clear to a tiro that to take these trenches would take from us a bigger toll of ammunition and life than we can afford: especially so seeing that we can only see one half of the theatre; the other half would have to be worked out of sight and support of our own ships and in view of the Turkish Fleet. Only one small dent in the rockbound coast offered a chance of landing but that was also heavily dug in. In a word, if Bulair had been the only way open to me and I had no alternative but to take it or wash my hands of the whole business, I should have to go right about turn and cable my master he had sent me on a fool's errand.
Between Bulair and Suvla Bay the coastline was precipitous; high cliffs and no sort of creeks or beaches—impracticable. Suvla Bay itself seems a fine harbour but too far North were the aim to combine a landing there together with an attack on the Southern end of the Peninsula. Were we, on the other hand, to try to work the whole force ashore from Suvla Bay, the country is too big; it is the broadest part of the Peninsula; also, we should be too far from its waist and from the Narrows we wish to dominate. Merely to hold our line of Communications we should need a couple of Divisions. All the coast between Suvla Bay and for a little way South of Gaba Tepe seems feasible for landing. I mean we could get ashore on a calm day if there was no enemy. Gaba Tepe itself would be ideal, but, alas, the Turks are not blind; it is a mass of trenches and wire. Further, it must be well under fire of guns from Kilid Bahr plateau, and is entirely commanded by the high ridge to the North of it. To land there would be to enter a defile without first crowning the heights.
Between Gaba Tepe and Cape Helles, the point of the Peninsula, the coastline consists of cliffs from 100 to 300 feet high. But there are, in many places, sandy strips at their base. Opinions differ but I believe myself the cliffs are not unclimbable. I thoroughly believe also in going for at least one spot that seems impracticable.
Sailing Southwards we are becoming more and more conscious of the tremendous bombardment going on in the Straits. Now and then, too, we can see a huge shell hit the top of Achi Baba and turn it into the semblance of a volcano. Everyone excited and trying to look calm.
At 4 p.m., precisely, we rounded Cape Helles. I had promised de Robeck not to take his fastest cruiser, fragile as an egg, into the actual Straits, but the Captain and the Commander (Cameron and Rosomore), were frightfully keen to see the fight, and I thought it fair to allow one mile as being the mouth of the Straits and not the Straits. Before we had covered that mile we found ourselves on the outskirts of—dream of my life—a naval battle! Nor did the reality pan out short of my hopes. Here it was; we had only to keep on at thirty knots; in one minute we should be in the thick of it; and who would be brave enough to cry halt!
The world had gone mad; common sense was only moonshine after all; the elephant and the whale of Bismarckian parable were at it tooth and nail! Shells of all sizes flew hissing through the skies. Before my very eyes, the graves of those old Gods whom Christ had risen from the dead to destroy were shaking to the shock of Messrs. Armstrong's patent thunder bolts!
Ever since the far-away days of Afghanistan and Majuba Hill friends have been fond of asking me what soldiers feel when death draws close up beside them. Before he charged in at Edgehill, Astley (if my memory serves me) exclaimed, "O, God, I've been too busy fixing up this battle to think much about you, but, for Heaven's sake, don't you go and forget about me," or words to that effect.
The Yankee's prayer for fair play just as he joined issue with the grizzly bear gives another glimpse of these secrets between man and his Maker. As for myself, there are two moments; one when I think I would not miss the show for millions; another when I think "what an ass I am to be here"; and between these two moments there is a border land when the mind runs all about Life's workshop and tries to do one last bit of stock-taking.
But the process can no more be fixed in the memory than the sequence of a dream when the dew is off the grass. All I remember is a sort of wonder:—why these incredible pains to seek out an amphibious battle ground whereon two sets of people who have no cause of quarrel can blow one another to atoms? Why are these Straits the cockpit of the world? What is it all about? What on earth has happened to sanity when the whale and elephant are locked in mortal combat making between them a picture which might be painted by one of H.M.'s Commissioners in Lunacy to decorate an asylum for homicides.
Whizz—flop—bang—what an ass I am to be here. If we keep on another thirty seconds we are in for a visit to Davy Jones's Locker.
Now above the Queen Elizabeth, making slowly backwards and forwards up in the neck of the Narrows, were other men-o'-war spitting tons of hot metal at the Turks. The Forts made no reply—or none that we could make out, either with our ears or with glasses. Perhaps there was an attempt; if so, it must have been very half-hearted. The enemy's fixed defences were silenced but the concealed mobile guns from the Peninsula and from Asia were far too busy and were having it all their own way.
Close to us were steam trawlers and mine-sweepers steaming along with columns of spray spouting up close by them from falling field gun shells, with here and there a biggish fellow amongst them, probably a five or six inch field howitzer. One of them was in the act of catching a great mine as we drew up level with her. Some 250 yards from us was the Inflexible slowly coming out of the Straits, her wireless cut away and a number of shrapnel holes through her tops and crow's nest. Suddenly, so quickly did we turn that, going at speed, the decks were at an angle of 45 deg. and several of us (d'Amade for one) narrowly escaped slipping down the railless decks into the sea. The Inflexible had signalled us she had struck a mine, and that we must stand by and see her home to Tenedos. We spun round like a top (escaping thereby a salvo of four from a field battery) and followed as close as we dared.
My blood ran cold—for sheer deliberate awfulness this beat everything. We gazed spellbound: no one knew what moment the great ship might not dive into the depths. The pumps were going hard. We fixed our eyes on marks about the water line to see if the sea was gaining upon them or not. She was very much down by the bows, that was a sure thing. Crew and stokers were in a mass standing strictly at attention on the main deck. A whole bevy of destroyers crowded round the wounded warrior. In the sight of all those men standing still, silent, orderly in their ranks, facing the imminence of death, I got my answer to the hasty moralizings about war, drawn from me (really) by a regret that I would very soon be drowned. On the deck of that battleship staggering along at a stone's throw was a vindication of war in itself; of war, the state of being, quite apart from war motives or gains. Ten thousand years of peace would fail to produce a spectacle of so great virtue. Where, in peace, passengers have also shown high constancy, it is because war and martial discipline have lent them its standards. Once in a generation a mysterious wish for war passes through the people. Their instinct tells them that there is no other way of progress and of escape from habits that no longer fit them. Whole generations of statesmen will fumble over reforms for a lifetime which are put into full-blooded execution within a week of a declaration of war. There is no other way. Only by intense sufferings can the nations grow, just as the snake once a year must with anguish slough off the once beautiful coat which has now become a strait jacket.
How was it going to end? How touching the devotion of all these small satellites so anxiously forming escort? Onwards, at snail's pace, moved our cortege which might at any moment be transformed into a funeral affair, but slow as we went we yet went fast enough to give the go-by to the French battleship Gaulois, also creeping out towards Tenedos in a lamentable manner attended by another crowd of T.B.s and destroyers eager to stand to and save.
The Inflexible managed to crawl into Tenedos under her own steam but we stood by until we saw the Gaulois ground on some rocks called Rabbit Island, when I decided to clear right out so as not to be in the way of the Navy at a time of so much stress. After we had gone ten miles or so, the Phaeton intercepted a wireless from the Queen Elizabeth, ordering the Ocean to take the Irresistible in tow, from which it would appear that she (the Irresistible) has also met with some misfortune.
Thank God we were in time! That is my dominant feeling. We have seen a spectacle which would be purchased cheap by five years of life and, more vital yet, I have caught a glimpse of the forces of the enemy and of their Forts. What with my hurried scamper down the Aegean coast of the Peninsula and the battle in the Straits, I begin to form some first-hand notion of my problem. More by good luck than good guidance I have got into personal touch with the outer fringes of the thing we are up against and that is so much to the good. But oh, that we had been here earlier! Winston in his hurry to push me out has shown a more soldierly grip than those who said there was no hurry. It is up to me now to revolve to-day's doings in my mind; to digest them and to turn myself into the eyes and ears of the War Office whose own so far have certainly not proved themselves very acute. How much better would I be able to make them see and hear had I been out a week or two; did I know the outside of the Peninsula by heart; had I made friends with the Fleet! And why should I not have been?
Have added a P.S. to K.'s letter:—
"Between Tenedos and Lemnos. 6 p.m.—This has been a very bad day for us judging by what has come under my own personal observation. After going right up to Bulair and down again to the South-west point looking at the network of trenches the Turks have dug commanding all possible landing places, we turned into the Dardanelles themselves and went up about a mile. The scene was what I believe Naval writers describe as 'lively.'" (Then follows an account based on my Diary jottings). I end:
"I have not had time to reflect over these matters, nor can I yet realise on my present slight information the extent of these losses. Certainly it looks at present as if the Fleet would not be able to carry on at this rate, and, if so, the soldiers will have to do the trick.":
"The Irresistible, the Ocean and the Bouvet are gone! The Bouvet, they say, just slithered down like a saucer slithers down in a bath. The Inflexible and the Gaulois are badly mauled."
19th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia."—Last night I left H.M.S. Phaeton and went on board the Franconia. To-day, we have been busy fixing things up. The chance sailors, seen by the Staff, have been using highly coloured expletives about the mines. Sheer bad luck they swear; bad luck that would not happen once in a hundred tries. They had knocked out the Forts, they claim, and one, three-word order, "Full steam ahead," would have cut the Gordian Knot the diplomats have been fumbling at for over a hundred years by slicing their old Turkey in two. Then came the big delay owing to ships changing stations during which mines set loose from up above had time to float down the current, when, by the Devil's own fluke, they impinge upon our battleships, and blow de Robeck and his plans into the middle of next week—or later! These are ward-room yarns. De Robeck was working by stages and never meant, so far as we know, to run through to the Marmora yesterday.
Cabled to Lord K. telling him of yesterday's reconnaissance by me and the battle by de Robeck. Have said I have no official report to go upon but from what I saw with my own eyes "I am being most reluctantly driven to the conclusion that the Straits are not likely to be forced by battleships as at one time seemed probable and that, if my troops are to take part, it will not take the subsidiary form anticipated. The Army's part will be more than mere landings of parties to destroy Forts, it must be a deliberate and progressive military operation carried out at full strength so as to open a passage for the Navy."
To be able, if necessary, to act up to my own words I sent another message to the Admiral and told him, if he could spare the troops from the vicinity of the Straits, I would like to take them right off to Alexandria so as to shake them out there and reship them ready for anything. He has wirelessed back asking me, on political grounds, to delay removing the troops "until our attack is renewed in a few days' time."
Bravo, the Admiral! Still; if there are to be even a few days' delay I must land somewhere as mules and horses are dying. And, practically, Alexandria is the only port possible.
Wemyss has just sent me over the following letter. It confirms officially the loss of the three battleships:—
"My Dear General,
"The enclosed is a copy of a Signal I have received from de Robeck. I sincerely hope that the word disastrous is too hard. It depends upon what results we have achieved I think. I gather from intercepted signals that the Ocean also is sunk, but of this I am not quite certain. I am off in Dublin immediately she comes in and expect I may be back to-night. This of course depends a good deal upon what de Robeck wants. Captain Boyle brings this and will be at your disposal. He is the Senior Naval Officer here in my absence.
"Believe me, Sir, "Yours sincerely, (Sd.) "R. Wemyss."
Copy of Telegram enclosed:—
"From V.A.E.M.S. "To S.N.O. Mudros. "Date, 18th March, 1915.
"Negative demonstration at Gaba Tepe, 19th. Will you come to Tenedos and see me to-morrow. We have had disastrous day owing either to floating mines or torpedoes from shore tubes fired at long range. H.M.S. Irresistible and Bouvet sunk. H.M.S. Ocean still afloat, but probably lost. H.M.S. Inflexible damaged by mine. Gaulois badly damaged by gunfire. Other ships all right, and we had much the best of the Ports."
20th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." Mudros Harbour. Stormy weather, and even here, inside Mudros harbour, touch with the shore is cut off.
After I was asleep last night, an answer came in from K., straight, strong and to the point. He says, "You know my view that the Dardanelles passage must be forced, and that if large military operations on the Gallipoli Peninsula by your troops are necessary to clear the way, those operations must be undertaken after careful consideration of the local defences and must be carried through."
Very well: all hinges on the Admiral.
21st March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." A talk with Admiral Wemyss and General d'Amade. Wemyss is clear that the Navy must not admit a check and must get to work again as quickly as they can. Wemyss is Senior Naval Officer at the Dardanelles and is much liked by everyone. He has put his seniority in his pocket and is under his junior—fighting first, rank afterwards!
A letter from de Robeck, dated "Q.E. the 19th," has only just come to hand:—
"Our men were splendid and thank heaven our loss of life was quite small, though the French lost over 100 men when Bouvet struck a mine.
"How our ships struck mines in an area that was reported clear and swept the previous night I do not know, unless they were floating mines started from the Narrows!
"I was sad to lose ships and my heart aches when one thinks of it; one must do what one is told and take risks or otherwise we cannot win. We are all getting ready for another 'go' and not in the least beaten or downhearted. The big forts were silenced for a long time and everything was going well, until Bouvet struck a mine. It is hard to say what amount of damage we did, I don't know, there were big explosions in the Forts!"
Little Birdie, now grown up into a grand General, turned up at 3 p.m. I was enchanted to see him. We had hundreds and thousands of things to talk over. Although the confidence of the sailors seems quite unshaken by the events of the 18th, Birdie seems to have made up his mind that the Navy have shot their bolt for the time being and that we have no time to lose in getting ready for a landing. But then he did not see the battle and cannot, therefore, gauge the extent to which the Turkish Forts were beaten.
22nd March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." At 10 a.m. we had another Conference on board the Queen Elizabeth.
Admiral de Robeck, Admiral Wemyss, General Birdwood, General Braithwaite, Captain Pollen, Myself.
The moment we sat down de Robeck told us he was now quite clear he could not get through without the help of all my troops.
Before ever we went aboard Braithwaite, Birdwood and I had agreed that, whatever we landsmen might think, we must leave the seamen to settle their own job, saying nothing for or against land operations or amphibious operations until the sailors themselves turned to us and said they had abandoned the idea of forcing the passage by naval operations alone.
They have done so. The fat (that is us) is fairly in the fire.
No doubt we had our views. Birdie and my own Staff disliked the idea of chancing mines with million pound ships. The hesitants who always make hay in foul weather had been extra active since the sinking of the three men-of-war. Suppose the Fleet could get through with the loss of another battleship or two—how the devil would our troopships be able to follow? And the store ships? And the colliers?
This had made me turn contrary. During the battle I had cabled that the chances of the Navy pushing through on their own were hardly fair fighting chances, but, since then, de Robeck, the man who should know, had said twice that he did think there was a fair fighting chance. Had he stuck to that opinion at the conference, then I was ready, as a soldier, to make light of military croaks about troopships. Constantinople must surrender, revolt or scuttle within a very few hours of our battleships entering the Marmora. Memories of one or two obsolete six inchers at Ladysmith helped me to feel as Constantinople would feel when her rail and sea communications were cut and a rain of shell fell upon the penned-in populace from de Robeck's terrific batteries. Given a good wind that nest of iniquity would go up like Sodom and Gomorrah in a winding sheet of flame.
But once the Admiral said his battleships could not fight through without help, there was no foothold left for the views of a landsman.
So there was no discussion. At once we turned our faces to the land scheme. Very sketchy; how could it be otherwise? On the German system plans for a landing on Gallipoli would have been in my pocket, up-to-date and worked out to a ball cartridge and a pail of water. By the British system (?) I have been obliged to concoct my own plans in a brace of shakes almost under fire. Strategically and tactically our method may have its merits, for though it piles everything on to one man, the Commander, yet he is the chap who has got to see it through. But, in matters of supply, transport, organisation and administration our way is the way of Colney Hatch.
Here am I still minus my Adjutant-General; my Quartermaster-General and my Medical Chief, charged with settling the basic question of whether the Army should push off from Lemnos or from Alexandria. Nothing in the world to guide me beyond my own experience and that of my Chief of the General Staff, whose sphere of work and experience lies quite outside these administrative matters. I can see that Lemnos is practically impossible; I fix on Alexandria in the light of Braithwaite's advice and my own hasty study of the map. Almost incredible really, we should have to decide so tremendous an administrative problem off the reel and without any Administrative Staff. But time presses, the responsibility cannot be shirked, and so I have cabled K. that Lemnos must be a wash-out and that I am sending my troops to get ship-shape at Alexandria although, thereby, I upset every previous arrangement. Then I have had to cable for Engineers, trench mortars, bombs, hand grenades, periscopes. Then again, seeing things are going less swimmingly than K. had thought they would, I have had to harden my heart against his horror of being asked for more men and have decided to cable for leave to bring over from Egypt a Brigade of Gurkhas to complete Birdwood's New Zealand Division. Last, and worst, I have had to risk the fury of the Q.M.G. to the Forces by telling the War Office that their transports are so loaded (water carts in one ship; water cart horses in another; guns in one ship; limbers in another; entrenching tools anyhow) that they must be emptied and reloaded before we can land under fire.
These points were touched upon at the Conference. I told them too that my Intelligence folk fix the numbers of the enemy now at the Dardanelles as 40,000 on the Gallipoli Peninsula with a reserve of 30,000 behind Bulair: on the Asiatic side of the Straits there are at least a Division, but there may be several Divisions. The Admiral's information tallies and, so Birdie says, does that of the Army in Egypt. The War Office notion that the guns of the Fleet can sweep the enemy off the tongue of the Peninsula from Achi Baba Southwards is moonshine. My trump card turns out to be the Joker; best of all cards only it don't happen to be included in this particular pack!
As ideas for getting round this prickly problem were passing through my mind, two suggestions for dealing with it were put forward. The sailors say some lighters were being built, and probably by now are built, for the purpose of a landing in the North: they would carry five hundred men; had bullet-proof bulwarks and are to work under their own gas engines. If I can possibly get a petition for these through to Winston we would very likely be lent some and with their aid the landing under fire will be child's play to what it will be otherwise. But the cable must get to Winston: if it falls into the hands of Fisher it fails, as the sailors tell me he is obsessed by the other old plan and grudges us every rope's end or ha'porth of tar that finds its way out here.
Rotten luck to have cut myself off from wiring to Winston: still I see no way out of it: with K. jealous as a tiger—what can I do? Also, although the sailors want me to pull this particular chestnut out of the fire, it is just as well they should know I am not going to speak to their Boss even under the most tempting circs.: but they won't cable themselves: frightened of Fisher: so I then and there drafted this to K. from myself:—
"Our first step of landing under fire will be the most critical as well as the most vital of the whole operations. If the Admiralty will improvise and send us out post haste 20 to 30 large lighters difficulty and duration of this phase will be cut down to at least one half. The lighters should each be capable of conveying 400 to 500 men or 30 to 40 horses. They should be protected by bullet-proof armour."
Everyone agreed but Birdwood pointed out that, by sending this message, we implied in so many words, that we would not land until the lighters came out from England. He assumed that we had definitely turned down any plan of scrambling ashore forthwith, as best we could? I said, "Yes," and that the Navy were with me in that view, a statement confirmed by de Robeck and Wemyss who nodded their heads. Birdwood said he only wanted to be quite clear about it, and there the matter dropped.
Actually I had thought a lot about that possibility. To a man of my temperament there was every temptation to have a go in and revenge the loss of the battleships forthwith. We might sup to-morrow night on Achi Baba. With luck we really might. Had I been here for ten days instead of five, and had I had any time to draft out any sort of scheme, I might have had a dart. But the operation of landing in face of an enemy is the most complicated and difficult in war. Under existing conditions the whole attempt would be partial, decousu, happy-go-lucky to the last degree. There are no small craft to speak of. There is no provision for carrying water. There is no information at all about springs or wells ashore. There is no arrangement for getting off the wounded and my Principal Medical Officer and his Staff won't be here for a fortnight. My orders against piecemeal occupation are specific. But the 29th Division is our piece de resistance and it won't be here, we reckon—not complete—for another three weeks.
All the same, I might chance it, for, by taking all these off chances we might pull off the main chance of stealing a march upon the Turks. What puts me off is not the chances of war but the certainties of commonsense. If I did so handle my troops on the spot as to sup on Achi Baba to-morrow night, I still could not counter the inevitable reaction of numbers, time and space. The Turks would have at least a fortnight to concentrate their whole force against my half force; to defeat them and then to defy the other half.
I must wait for the 29th Division. By the time they come I can get things straight for a smashing simultaneous blow and I am resolved that, so far as in me lies, the orders and preparations will then be so thoroughly worked out—so carefully rehearsed as to give every chance to my men.
If the 29th Division were here—or near at hand—I could balance shortage against the obvious evils of giving the Turks time to reinforce and to dig. Could I hope for the 29th Division within a week it might be worth my while to fly in the face of K. by grasping the Peninsula firmly by her toe: or,—had my staff and self been here ten days ago, we could have already got well forward with our plans and orders, as well as with the laying of our hands upon the thousand odds and ends demanded by the invasion of a barren, trackless extremity of an Empire—odds and ends never thought of by anyone until the spur of reality brought them galloping to the front. Then the moment the Fleet cried off, we might have had a dash in, right away, with what we have here. The onslaught could have been supported from Egypt and the 29th Division might have been treated as a reserve.
But, taking things as they are:—
(1). No detail thought out, much less worked out or practised, as to form or manner of landing;
(2). Absence of 29th Division;
(3). Lack of gear (naval and military) for any landing on a large scale or maintenance thereafter;
(4). Unsettled weather; my ground is not solid enough to support me were I to put it to K. that I had broken away from his explicit instructions.
The Navy, i.e., de Robeck, Wemyss and Keyes, entirely agree. They see as well as we do that the military force ought to have been ready before the Navy began to attack. What we have to do now is to repair a first false step. The Admiral undertakes to keep pegging away at the Straits whilst we in Alexandria are putting on our war paint. He will see to it, he says, that they think more of battleships than of landings. He is greatly relieved to hear I have practically made up my mind to go for the South of the Peninsula and to keep in closest touch with the Fleet. The Commodore also seems well pleased: he told us he hoped to get his Fleet Sweeps so reorganised as to do away with the danger from mines by the 3rd or 4th of April; then, he says, with us to do the spotting for the naval guns, the battleships can smother the Forts and will alarm the Turkish Infantry as to that tenderest part of an Army—its rear. So I may say that all are in full agreement,—a blessing.
Have cabled home begging for more engineers, a lot of hand grenades, trench mortars, periscopes and tools. The barbed wire bothers me! Am specially keen about trench mortars; if it comes to close fighting on the Peninsula with its restricted area trench mortars may make up for our lack of artillery and especially of howitzers. Luckily, they can be turned out quickly.
23rd March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." At 9 a.m. General d'Amade and his Staff came aboard. D'Amade had been kept yesterday by his own pressing business from attending the Conference. I have read him these notes and have shown him my cable of yesterday to Lord K. in which I say that "The French Commander is equally convinced that a move to Alexandria is a practical necessity, although a point of honour makes it impossible for him to suggest turning his back to the Turks to his own Government." But, I say, "he will be enchanted if they give him the order." D'Amade says I have not quite correctly represented his views. Not fantastic honour, he says, caused him to say we had better, for a while, hold on, but rather the sense of prestige. He thought the departure of the troops following so closely on the heels of the naval repulse would have a bad moral effect on the Balkans. But he agrees that, in practice, the move has now become imperative; the animals are dying; the men are overcrowded, whilst Mudros is impossible as a base. My cable, therefore, may stand.
At 10 o'clock he, Birdie and myself landed to inspect a Battalion of Australians (9th Battalion of the 3rd Brigade). I made them carry out a little attack on a row of windmills, and really, they did not show much more imagination over the business than did Don Quixote in a similar encounter. But the men are superb specimens.
Some of the troop transports left harbour for Egypt during the afternoon. Bad to see these transports sailing the wrong way. What a d——d pity! is what every soldier here feels—and says. But to look on the bright side, our fellows will be twice as well trained to boat work, and twice as well equipped by the time the 29th turn up, and by then the weather will be more settled. As d'Amade said too, it will be worth a great deal to us if the French troops get a chance of working a little over the ground together with their British comrades before they go shoulder to shoulder against the common enemy. All the same, if I had my men and guns handy, I'd rather get at the Turks quick than be sure of good weather and good band-o-bast and be sure also of a well-prepared enemy.
In the afternoon Braithwaite brought me a draft cable for Lord K. re yesterday's Conference. I have approved. In it I say, "on the thoroughness with which I can make the preliminary arrangements, of which the proper allocation of troops, etc., to transports is not the least important, the success of my plans will largely depend." Therefore, I am going to Alexandria, as a convenient place for this work and, "the Turks will be kept busy meanwhile by the Admiral."
24th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." D'Amade and Staff came aboard at 10 a.m. He has got leave to move and will sail to Alexandria forthwith. Roger Keyes from the Flagship came shortly afterward. He is sick as a she-bear robbed of her cubs that his pets: battleships, T.B.s, destroyers, submarines, etc., should have to wait for the Army. Well, we are not to blame! Keyes has been shown my cables to K. and is pleased with them. He accepts the fact, I think, that the Army must tackle the mobile artillery of the Turks before the Navy can expect to silence the light guns protecting the mine fields and then clear out the mines with the present type of mine sweeper. But the Admiral's going to fix up the mine sweeper question while we are away. Once he has done that, Keyes believes the Fleet can knock out the Forts; wipe out the protective batteries and sweep up the mines quite comfortably. He said one illuminating and encouraging thing to Braithwaite; viz., that he had never felt so possessed of the power of the Navy to force a passage through the Narrows as in the small hours of the 19th when he got back to the Flagship after trying in vain to salve the Ocean and the Irresistible.
Keyes brought me a first class letter from the Admiral—very much to the point:—
"H.M.S. Q.E. 24th March, 15.
"My Dear General,
"I hear the Authorities at 'Home' have been sending hastening telegrams to you. They most unfortunately did the same to us and probably if our work had been slower and more thorough it would have been better. If only they were on the spot, they would realise that to hurry would write failure. In my very humble opinion, good co-operation and organisation means everything for the future. A great triumph is much better than scraping through and poor results! We are entirely with you and can be relied on to give any assistance in our power. We will not be idle!
"Believe me, "Yours sincerely, (Sd.) "J.M. de Robeck."
11-15. Admiral Thursby (just arrived with the Queen and Implacable) came to make his salaams. We served together at Malta and both broke sinews in our calves playing lawn tennis—a bond of union.
Have cabled to Lord K. telling him I am just off to Alexandria. Have said that the ruling factor of my date of landing must be the arrival of the 29th Division "(see para. 2 of your formal instructions to me the foresight of which appeals to me with double force now we are at close quarters with the problem)." I have pointed out that Birdwood's Australians are very weak in artillery; that the Naval Division has none at all and that the guns of the 29th Division make that body even more indispensable than he had probably realised. I would very much like to add that these are no times for infantry divisions minus artillery seeing that they ought to have three times the pre-war complement of guns, but Braithwaite's good advice has prevailed. As promised at the Conference I express a hope that I may be allowed "to complete Birdwood's New Zealand Division with a Brigade of Gurkhas who would work admirably in the terrain" of the Peninsula. In view of what we have gathered from Keyes, I wind up by saying, "The Admiral, whose confidence in the Navy seems to have been raised even higher by recent events, and who is a thruster if ever there was one, is in agreement with this telegram."
Actually Keyes will show him a copy; we will wait one hour before sending it off and, if we don't hear then, we may take it de Robeck will have endorsed the purport. Of course, if he does not agree the last sentence must come out, and he will have to put his own points to the Admiralty.
Later.—Have sent Doughty Wylie to Athens to do "Intelligence": the cable was approved by Navy; duly despatched; and now—up anchor!
25th March, 1915. H.M.S. "Franconia." At Sea. A fine smooth sea and a flowing tide. Have written to K. and Mr. Asquith. Number two has caused me fikr. The P.M. lives in another plane from us soldiers. So it came quite easily to his lips to ask me to write to him,—a high honour, likewise an order. But K. is my soldier chief. As C.-in-C. in India he refused point blank to write letters to autocratic John Morley behind the back of the Viceroy, and Morley never forgave him. K. told me this himself and he told me also that he resented the correspondence which was, he knew, being carried on, behind his (K.'s) back, between the army in France and his (K.'s) own political Boss: that sort of action was, he considered, calculated to undermine authority.
I have had a long talk with Braithwaite re this quandary. He strongly holds that my first duty is to K. and that it is for us a question of K. and no one but K. Were the S. of S. only a civilian (instead of being a Field Marshal) the case might admit of argument; as things are, it does not. So have written the P.M. on these lines and shall send K. the carbons of all my letters to him. To K. himself I have written backing up my cable and begging for a Brigade of Gurkhas. Really, it is like going up to a tiger and asking for a small slice of venison: I remember only too well his warning not to make his position impossible by pressing for troops, etc., but Egypt is not England; the Westerners don't want the Gurkhas who are too short to fit into their trenches and, last but not least, our landing is not going to be the simple, row-as-you-please he once pictured. The situation in fact, is not in the least what he supposed it to be when I started; therefore, I am justified, I think, in making this appeal:—"I am very anxious, if possible, to get a Brigade of Gurkhas, so as to complete the New Zealand Divisional organisation with a type of man who will, I am certain, be most valuable on the Gallipoli Peninsula. The scrubby hillsides on the South-west face of the plateau are just the sort of terrain where those little fellows are at their brilliant best. There is already a small Indian commissariat attached to the Mountain Batteries, so there would be no trouble on the score of supply."
"As you may imagine, I have no wish to ask for anything the giving of which would seriously weaken our hold on Egypt, but you will remember that four Mounted Brigades belonging to Birdwood's force are being left behind to look after the land of the Pharaohs, and a Mounted Brigade for a battalion seems a fair exchange. Egypt, in fact, so far as I can make out, seems stiff with troops, and each little Gurkha might be worth his full weight in gold at Gallipoli."
Wrote Fitz in much the same sense:—"We are desperately keen to extract a Gurkha Brigade out of Egypt and you might lend a hand, not only to us, but to all your own Sikh and Dogra Regiments, by making K. see that the Indian Army was never given a dog's chance in the mudholes. They were benumbed: it was not their show. Here, in the warm sun; pitted against the hereditary dushman who comes on shouting 'Allah!' they would gain much izzat. Now mind, if you see any chance of an Indian contingent for Constantinople, do everyone a good turn by rubbing these ideas into K."
Braithwaite has already picked up a number of useful hints from Roger Keyes. His old friendship with the Commodore should be a help. Keyes is a fine fellow; radiating resolve to do and vigour to carry through—hereditary qualities. His Mother, of whom he is an ugly likeness, was as high-spirited, fascinating, clever a creature as ever I saw. Camel riding, hawking, dancing, making good band-o-bast for a picnic, she was always at the top of the hunt; the idol of the Punjab Frontier Force. His Father, Sir Charles, grim old Paladin of the Marshes, whose loss of several fingers from a sword cut earned him my special boyish veneration, was really the devil of a fellow. My first flutter out of the sheltered nest of safe England into the outer sphere of battle, murder and sudden death, took place under the auspices of that warrior so famoused in fight when I was aged twenty. Riding together in the early morning from the mud fort of Dera Ismail Khan towards the Mountain of Sheikh Budin, we suddenly barged into a mob of wild Waziri tribesmen who jumped out of the ditch and held us up—hand on bridle. The old General spoke Pushtu fluently, and there was a parley, begun by him, ordinarily the most silent of mankind. Where were they going to? To buy camels at Dera Ghazi Khan. How far had they come? Three days' march; but they had no money. The General simulated amazement—"You have come all that distance to buy camels without money? Those are strange tales you tell me. I fear when you pass through Dera Ismail you will have to raise the wind by selling your nice pistols and knives: oh yes, I see them quite well; they are peeping at me from under your poshteens." The Waziris laughed and took their hands off our reins. Instantly, the General shouted to me, "Come on—gallop!" And in less than no time we were going hell for leather along the lonely frontier road towards our next relay of horses. "That was a narrow squeak," said the General, "but you may take liberties with a Waziri if only you can make him laugh."
26th March, 1915. H.M.8. "Franconia." At Sea. Inspected troops on board. A keen, likely looking lot. All Naval Division; living monuments, these fellows, to Winston Churchill's contempt for convention.
Reached Port Said about 3.30 p.m. Nipped into a "Special" which seems to have become my "ordinary" vehicle and left for Cairo. Opened despatches from London. "Bullet-proof lighters cannot be provided." "I quite agree that the 29th Division with its artillery is necessary." Not a word about the Gurkhas. Arrived at 10 p.m., and was met by Maxwell.
27th March, 1915 Cairo. Working hard at Headquarters all day till 6.15 p.m., when I made my salaam to the Sultan at the Abdin Palace. A real Generals' dinner—what we used to call a burra khana—at Maxwell's hospitable board:—
General Birdwood, General Godley, General Bridges, General Douglas, General Braithwaite, Myself.
28th March, 1915. Cairo. Inspected East Lancashire Division and a Yeomanry Brigade (Westminster Dragoons and Herts). How I envied Maxwell these beautiful troops. They will only be eating their heads off here, with summer coming up and the desert getting as dry as a bone. The Lancashire men especially are eye-openers. How on earth have they managed to pick up the swank and devil-may-care airs of crack regulars? They are Regulars, only they are bigger, more effective specimens than Manchester mills or East Lancashire mines can spare us for the Regular Service in peace time. Anyway, no soldier need wish to see a finer lot. On them has descended the mantle of my old comrades of Elandslaagte and Caesar's Camp, and worthily beyond doubt they will wear it.