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Greece and the Allies 1914-1922
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GREECE AND THE ALLIES

1914-1922



BY

G. F. ABBOTT



BY THE SAME AUTHOR

SONGS OF MODERN GREECE MACEDONIAN FOLKLORE THE TALE OF A TOUR IN MACEDONIA GREECE IN EVOLUTION (ED.) TURKEY IN TRANSITION TURKEY, GREECE, AND THE GREAT POWERS UNDER THE TURK IN CONSTANTINOPLE



WITH A PREFACE BY

ADMIRAL MARK KERR, C.B., M.V.O.

LATE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE ROYAL HELLENIC NAVY AND HEAD OF THE BRITISH NAVAL MISSION TO GREECE



METHUEN & CO. LTD.

36 ESSEX STREET W.C.

LONDON



First published in 1922



{v}

PREFACE

The late convulsions in Greece and Turkey, and the consequent revival of all the mis-statements which, during the War, flowed from ignorance or malice, render the publication of this book particularly opportune.

Mr. Abbott deals with his subject in all its aspects, and presents for the first time to the British public a complete and coherent view of the complicated circumstances that made Greece, during the War, the battle-ground of rival interests and intrigues, from which have grown the present troubles.

In this book we get a clear account of the little-understood relations between the Greek and the Serb; of the attitude of Greece towards the Central Powers and the Entente; of the dealings between Greece and the Entente and the complications that ensued therefrom. Mr. Abbott traces the evil to its source—the hidden pull of British versus French interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, and the open antagonism between M. Venizelos and King Constantine.

All these subjects are of acute interest, and not the least interesting is the last.

The persecution of King Constantine by the Press of the Allied countries, with some few good exceptions, has been one of the most tragic affairs since the Dreyfus case. Its effect on the state of Europe during and since the War is remarkable. If King Constantine's advice had been followed, and the Greek plan for the taking of the Dardanelles had been carried out, the war would probably have been shortened by a very considerable period, Bulgaria and Rumania could have been kept out of the War, and probably the Russian Revolution and collapse would not have taken place; for, instead of having Turkey to assist Bulgaria, the Allied forces would have been between and separating these two countries. {vi}

In this case King Constantine would not have been exiled from his country, and consequently he would not have permitted the Greek Army to be sent to Asia Minor, which he always stated would ruin Greece, as the country was not rich enough or strong enough to maintain an overseas colony next to an hereditary enemy like the Turk.

It is illuminating to remember that the Greek King's policy was fully endorsed by the only competent authorities who had a full knowledge of the subject, which was a purely military one. These were the late Field-Marshal Lord Kitchener of Khartoum, the British Admiral at the head of the Naval Mission in Greece, and Colonel Sir Thomas Cuninghame, British Military Attache in Athens; but the advice tendered by these three officers was disregarded in favour of that given by the civilians, M. Venizelos and the Allied Ministers.

Mr. Abbott's book will do much to enlighten a misled public as to the history of Greece during the last nine years, and many documents which have not hitherto been before the public are quoted by him from the official originals, to prove the case.

For the sake of truth and justice, which used to flourish in Great Britain, I hope that this book will be read by everyone who has the welfare of the British Empire at heart.

MARK KERR

4 October, 1922



{vii}

AUTHOR'S PREFACE

As this work goes to press, the British Empire finds itself forced to vindicate its position in the East: a position purchased at the cost of much blood and treasure during the war, to be jeopardized after the conclusion of peace by the defeat of Greece and the defection of France.

In the following pages the reader will find the sequence of events which have inevitably led up to this crisis: an account of transactions hitherto obscured and distorted by every species of misrepresentation and every known artifice for manipulating public opinion.

The volume is not a hasty essay produced to exploit an ephemeral situation. It embodies the fruit of investigations laboriously carried on through six years. A slight account of the earlier events appeared as far back as the winter of 1916 in a book entitled, Turkey, Greece, and the Great Powers: that was my first effort to place the subject in its true perspective. The results were interesting. I was honoured by the reproaches of several private and by the reprobation of several public critics; some correspondents favoured me with their anonymous scurrility, and some bigots relieved me of their acquaintance. On the other hand, there were people who, in the midst of a maelstrom of passion, retained their respect for facts.

I pursued the subject further in a weekly journal. Two of my contributions saw the light; the third was suppressed by the Authorities. Its suppression furnished material for a debate in Parliament: "This is a cleverly written article," said Mr. John Dillon, "and I cannot find in it a single word which justifies suppression. All that one can find in it is that it states certain facts which the Government do not like to be known, not that they injure the military situation in the least, but that they show that the Government, in the opinion of the writer, made certain very bad blunders." The Home Secretary's answer was {viii} typical of departmental dialectics: "It is inconceivable to me," he declared, "that the Government would venture to say to the Press, or indicate to it in any way, 'This is our view. Publish it. If you do not, you will suffer.'" What the Government did, in effect, say to the Editor of the National Weekly was: "This is not our view. Publish it not. If you do, you will suffer."

With an innocence perhaps pardonable in one who was too intent on the evolution of the world drama to follow the daily development of war-time prohibitions, I next essayed to present to the public through the medium of a book the truth which had been banned from the columns of a magazine. The manuscript of that work, much fingered by the printer, now lies before me, and together with it a letter from the publisher stating that the Authorities had forbidden its publication on pain of proceedings "under 27 (b) of the Defence of the Realm Regulations."

And so it came about that not until now has it been possible for the voice of facts to refute the fables dictated by interest and accepted by credulity. The delay had its advantages: it gave the story, through the natural progress of events, a completeness which otherwise it would have lacked, and enabled me to test its accuracy on every point by a fresh visit to Greece and by reference to sources previously inaccessible, such as the Greek State Papers and the self-revealing publications of persons directly concerned in the transactions here related.

I venture to hope that so thorough an inquiry will convey some new information respecting these transactions even to those who are best acquainted with their general course. If they find nothing attractive in the style of the book, they may find perhaps something useful, something that will deserve their serious reflection, in the matter of it. For let it not be said that a story starting in 1914 is ancient history. Unless one studies the record of Allied action in Greece from the very beginning, he cannot approach with any clear understanding the present crisis—a struggle between Greeks and Turks on the surface, but at bottom a conflict between French and British policies affecting the vital interests of the British Empire.

G. F. A.

5 October, 1922



{ix}

Besides information acquired at first hand, my material is mainly drawn from the following sources:

Greek State Papers now utilized for the first time.

White Book, published by the Government of M. Venizelos under the title, "Diplomatika Engrapha, 1913-1917," 2nd edition, Athens, 1920.

Orations, delivered in the Greek Chamber in August, 1917, by M. Venizelos, his followers, MM. Repoulis, Politis, and Kafandaris, and his opponents, MM. Stratos and Rallis. The Greek text ("Agoreuseis, etc.," Athens, 1917) and the English translation ("A Report of Speeches, etc.," London, 1918), give them all, though the speech of M. Stratos only in summary. The French translation ("Discours, etc., Traduction de M. Leon Maccas, autorisee par le Gouvernement Grec," Paris, 1917) curiously omits both the Opposition speeches.

Skouloudis's Apantesis, 1917; Apologia, 1919; Semeioseis, 1921. The first of these publications is the ex-Premier's Reply to statements made in the Greek Chamber by M. Venizelos and others in August, 1917; the second is his Defence; the third is a collection of Notes concerning transactions in which he took part. All three are of the highest value for the eventful period of the Skouloudis Administration from November, 1915, to June, 1916.

Journal Officiel, 24-30 October, 1919, containing a full report of the Secret Committee of the French Chamber which sat from 16 June to 22 June, 1916.

Next in importance, though not inferior in historic interest, come some personal narratives, of which I have also availed myself, by leading French actors in the drama:

Du Fournet: "Souvenirs de Guerre d'un Amiral, 1914-1916." By Vice-Admiral Dartige du Fournet, Paris, 1920.

Sarrail: "Mon Commandement en Orient, 1916-1918." By General Sarrail, Paris, 1920.

Regnault: "La Conquete d'Athenes, Juin-Juillet, 1917." By General Regnault, Paris, 1920.

{x}

Deville: "L'Entente, la Grece et la Bulgarie. Notes d'histoire et souvenirs." By Gabriel Deville, Paris, 1919. The author was French Minister at Athens till August, 1915, and the portions of his work which deal with his own experiences are worth consulting.

Jonnart: "M. Jonnart en Grece et l'abdication de Constantin." By Raymond Recouly, Paris, 1918. Though not written by the High Commissioner himself, this account may be regarded as a semi-official record of his mission.

The only English publications of equal value, though of much more limited bearing upon the subject of this work, which have appeared so far are:

The Dardanelles Commission Reports (Cd. 8490; Cd. 8502; Cmd. 371), and the Life of Lord Kitchener, by Sir George Arthur, Vol. III, London, 1920.

Some trustworthy contributions to the study of these events have also been made by several unofficial narratives, to which the reader is referred for details on particular episodes. The absence of reference to certain other narratives is deliberate.



{xi}

CONTENTS

PAGE INTRODUCTION - - - - - 1 CHAPTER I. - - - - - 7 CHAPTER II. - - - - - 17 CHAPTER III. - - - - - 21 CHAPTER IV. - - - - - 33 CHAPTER V. - - - - - 50 CHAPTER VI. - - - - - 65 CHAPTER VII. - - - - - 76 CHAPTER VIII. - - - - - 85 CHAPTER IX. - - - - - 95 CHAPTER X. - - - - - 105 CHAPTER XI. - - - - - 114 CHAPTER XII. - - - - - 123 CHAPTER XIII. - - - - - 139 CHAPTER XIV. - - - - - 152 CHAPTER XV. - - - - - 162 CHAPTER XVI. - - - - - 172 CHAPTER XVII. - - - - - 177 CHAPTER XVIII. - - - - - 186 CHAPTER XIX. - - - - - 200 CHAPTER XX. - - - - - 207 CHAPTER XXI. - - - - - 217 AFTERWORD - - - - - - 230 INDEX - - - - - - 239



{1}

GREECE AND THE ALLIES

1914-1922

INTRODUCTION

Ingenious scholars, surveying life from afar, are apt to interpret historical events as the outcome of impersonal forces which shape the course of nations unknown to themselves. This is an impressive theory, but it will not bear close scrutiny. Human nature everywhere responds to the influence of personality. In Greece this response is more marked than anywhere else. No people in the world has been so completely dominated by personal figures and suffered so grievously from their feuds, ever since the day when strife first parted Atreides, king of men, and god-like Achilles.

The outbreak of the European War found Greece under the sway of King Constantine and his Premier Eleutherios Venizelos; and her history during that troubled era inevitably centres round these two personalities.

By the triumphant conduct of the campaigns of 1912 and 1913, King Constantine had more than effaced the memory of his defeat in 1897. His victories ministered to the national lust for power and formed an earnest of the glory that was yet to come to Greece. Henceforth a halo of military romance—a thing especially dear to the hearts of men—shone about the head of Constantine; and his grateful country bestowed upon him the title of {2} Stratelates. In town mansions and village huts men's mouths were filled with his praise: one dwelt on his dauntless courage, another on his strategic genius, a third on his sympathetic recognition of the claims of the common soldier, whose hardships he shared, and for whose life he evinced a far greater solicitude than for his own.

But it was not only as a leader of armies that King Constantine appealed to the hearts of his countrymen. They loved to explain to strangers the reason of the name Koumbaros or "Gossip," by which they commonly called him. It was not so much, they would say, that he had stood godfather to the children born to his soldiers during the campaigns, but rather that his relations with the rank and file of the people at large were marked by the intimate interest of a personal companion.

In peace, as in war, he seemed a prince born to lead a democratic people. With his tall, virile figure, and a handsome face in which strength and dignity were happily blended with simplicity, he had a manner of address which was very engaging: his words, few, simple, soldier-like, produced a wonderful effect; they were the words of one who meant and felt what he said: they went straight to the hearer's heart because they came straight from the speaker's.

Qualities of a very different sort had enabled M. Venizelos to impose himself upon the mind of the Greek nation, and to make his name current in the Chancelleries of the world.

Having begun life as an obscure lawyer in Crete, he had risen through a series of political convulsions to high notability in his native island; and in 1909 a similar convulsion in Greece—brought about not without his collaboration—opened to him a wider sphere of activity. The moment was singularly opportune.

The discontent of the Greek people at the chronic mismanagement of their affairs had been quickened by the Turkish Revolution into something like despair. Bulgaria had exploited that upheaval by annexing Eastern Rumelia: Greece had failed to annex Crete, and ran the risk, if the Young Turks' experiment succeeded, of seeing the {3} fulfilment of all her national aspirations frustrated for ever. A group of military malcontents in touch with the Cretan leader translated the popular feeling into action: a revolt against the reign of venality and futility which had for so many years paralyzed every effort, which had sometimes sacrificed and always subordinated the interests of the nation to the interests of faction, and now left Greece a prey to Bulgarian and Ottoman ambition. The old politicians who were the cause of the ill obviously could not effect a cure. A new man was needed—a man free from the deadening influences of a corrupt past—a man daring enough to initiate a new course and tenacious enough to push on with inexorable purpose to the goal.

During the first period of his career, M. Venizelos had been a capable organizer of administrative departments no less than a clever manipulator of seditious movements. But he had mainly distinguished himself as a rebel against authority. And it was in the temper of a rebel that he came to Athens. Obstacles, however, external as well as internal, made a subversive enterprise impossible. With the quick adaptability of his nature, he turned into a guardian of established institutions: the foe of revolution and friend of reform. Supported by the Crown, he was able to lift his voice for a "Revisionist" above the angry sea of a multitude clamouring for a "Constituent Assembly."

All that was healthy in the political world rallied to the new man; and the new man did not disappoint the faith placed in him. Through the next two years he stood in every eye as the embodiment of constructive statesmanship. His Government had strength enough in the country to dispense with "graft." The result was a thorough overhauling of the State machinery. Self-distrust founded on past failures vanished. Greece seemed like an invalid healed and ready to face the future. It was a miraculous change for a nation whose political life hitherto had exhibited two traits seldom found combined: the levity of childhood and the indolence of age.

For this miracle the chief credit undoubtedly belonged {4} to M. Venizelos. He had brought to the task a brain better endowed than any associated with it. His initiative was indefatigable; his decision quick. Unlike most of his countrymen, he did not content himself with ideas without works. His subtlety in thinking did not serve him as a substitute for action. To these talents he added an eloquence of the kind which, to a Greek multitude, is irresistible, and a certain gift which does not always go with high intelligence, but, when it does, is worth all the arts of the most profound politician and accomplished orator put together. He understood, as it were instinctively, the character of every man he met, and dealt with him accordingly. This tact, coupled with a smile full of sweetness and apparent frankness, gave to his vivid personality a charm which only those could appraise who experienced it.

Abroad the progress of M. Venizelos excited almost as much interest as it did in Greece. The Greeks are extraordinarily sensitive to foreign opinion: a single good word in a Western newspaper raises a politician in public esteem more than a whole volume of home-made panegyric. M. Venizelos had not neglected this branch of his business; and from the outset every foreign journalist and diplomatist who came his way was made to feel his fascination: so that, even before leaving his native shores, the Cretan had become in the European firmament a star of the third or fourth magnitude. Reasons other than personal contributed to enlist Western opinion in his favour. Owing to her geographical situation, Greece depends for the fulfilment of her national aspirations and for her very existence on the Powers which command the Mediterranean. A fact so patent had never escaped the perception of any Greek politician. But no Greek politician had ever kept this fact more steadily in view, or put this obvious truth into more vehement language than M. Venizelos: "To tie Greece to the apron-strings of the Sea Powers," was his maxim. And the times were such that those Powers needed a Greek statesman whom they could trust to apply that maxim unflinchingly.

{5}

With the recovery of Greece synchronized, not by chance, the doom of Turkey: a sentence in which all the members of the Entente, starting from different points and pursuing different objects, concurred. The executioners were, naturally, the Balkan States. Russia began the work by bringing about an agreement between Bulgaria and Servia; England completed it by bringing Greece into the League. There ensued a local, which, in accordance with the old diplomatic prophecy, was soon to lead to the universal conflagration. Organized as she was, Greece succeeded better than anyone expected; and the national gratitude—the exuberant gratitude of a Southern people—went out to the two men directly responsible for that success: to King Constantine, whose brilliant generalship beat the enemy hosts; and to M. Venizelos, whose able statesmanship had prepared the field. Poets and pamphleteers vied with each other in expatiating on the wonders they had performed, to the honour and advantage of their country. In this ecstasy of popular adoration the spirit of the soldier and the spirit of the lawyer seemed to have met.

But the union was illusive and transient. Between these two men, so strangely flung together by destiny, there existed no link of sympathy; and propinquity only forced the growth of their mutual antagonism. The seeds of discord had already borne fruit upon the common ground of their Balkan exploits. Immediately after the defeat of Turkey a quarrel over the spoils arose among the victors. King Constantine, bearing in mind Bulgaria's long-cherished dream of hegemony, and persuaded that no sacrifices made by Greece and Servia could do more than defer a rupture, urged a Graeco-Servian alliance against their truculent partner. He looked at the matter from a purely Greek standpoint and was anxious to secure the maximum of profit for his country. M. Venizelos, on the other hand, aware that the Western Powers, and particularly England, wanted a permanent Balkan coalition as a barrier against Germany in the East, and anxious to retain those Powers' favour, was prepared to concede {6} much for the sake of averting a rupture. Not until the Bulgars betrayed their intentions by actual aggressions in Macedonia did he withdraw his opposition to the alliance with Servia, which ushered in the Second Balkan War and led to the Peace of Bucharest. He yielded to the pressure of the circumstances brought to bear upon him; but the encounter represented no more than the preliminary crossing of swords between two strong antagonists.



{7}

CHAPTER I

From the moment when the rupture between Austria and Servia, in July, 1914, came to disturb the peace, Greece deliberately adopted an attitude of neutrality, with the proviso that she would go to Servia's assistance in case of a Bulgarian attack upon the latter. Such an attitude was considered to be in accordance with the Graeco-Servian Alliance. For, although the Military Convention accompanying the Treaty contained a vague stipulation for mutual support in case of war between one of the allied States and "a third Power," the Treaty itself had as its sole object mutual defence against Bulgaria.[1]

In the opinion of M. Venizelos, her pact did not oblige Greece to go to Servia's assistance against Austria, but at most to mobilize 40,000 men.[2] Treaty obligations apart, neutrality was also imposed by practical considerations. It was to the interest of Greece—a matter of self-preservation—not to tolerate a Bulgarian attack on Servia calculated to upset the Balkan balance of power established by the Peace of Bucharest, and she was firmly determined, in concert with Rumania, to oppose such an attack with all her might. But as to Austria, M. Venizelos had to consider whether Greece could or could not offer her ally effective aid, and after consideration he decided that she {8} should not proceed even to the mobilization of 40,000 men, for such a measure might provoke a Bulgarian mobilization and precipitate complications. For the rest, the attitude of Greece in face of Servia's war with Austria, M. Venizelos pointed out, corresponded absolutely with the attitude which Servia had taken up in face of Greece's recent crisis with Turkey.[3] On that occasion Greece had obtained from her ally merely moral support, the view taken being that the casus faederis would arise only in the event of Bulgarian intervention.[4]

Accordingly, when the Servian Government asked if it could count on armed assistance from Greece, M. Streit, Minister for Foreign Affairs under M. Venizelos, answered that the Greek Government was convinced that it fully performed its duty as a friend and ally by adopting, until Bulgaria moved, a policy of most benevolent neutrality. The co-operation of Greece in the war with Austria, far from helping, would harm Servia; by becoming a belligerent Greece could only offer her ally forces negligible compared with the enemy's, while she would inevitably expose Salonica, the only port through which Servia could obtain war material, to an Austrian attack; and, moreover, she would weaken her army which, in the common interest, ought to be kept intact as a check on Bulgaria.[5]

A similar communication, emphasizing the decision to keep out of the conflict, and to intervene in concert with Rumania only should Bulgaria by intervening against Servia jeopardize the status quo established by the Bucharest Treaty—in which case the action of Greece would have a purely Balkan character—was made to the Greek Ministers abroad after a Council held in the Royal Palace under the presidency of the King.[6]

This policy brought King Constantine into sharp collision with one of the Central Powers, whose conceptions in regard to the Balkans had not yet been harmonized. Vienna readily acquiesced in the Greek Government's declaration that it could not permit Bulgaria to compromise {9} the Bucharest Treaty, and since by an eventual action against Bulgaria Greece would not quarrel with Austria, the Austrian Government, on its part, promised to abstain from manifesting any solidarity with Bulgaria in the event of a Graeco-Bulgarian war.[7] Not so Berlin.

The German Emperor egotistically presumed to dictate the course which Greece should pursue, and on 31 July he invited King Constantine to join Germany, backing the invitation with every appeal to sentiment and interest he could think of. The memory of his father, who had been assassinated, made it impossible for Constantine to favour the Servian assassins; never would Greece have a better opportunity of emancipating herself, under the protection of the Central Powers, from the tutelage which Russia aimed at exercising over the Balkan Peninsula; if, contrary to the Kaiser's expectations, Greece took the other side, she would be exposed to a simultaneous attack from Italy, Bulgaria and Turkey, and by the same token all personal relations between him and Constantine would be broken for ever. He ended with the words: "I have spoken frankly, and I beg you to let me know your decision without delay and with the same absolute frankness."

He had nothing to complain of on that score. King Constantine on 2 August replied that, while it was not the policy of Greece to take an active part in the Austro-Servian conflict, it was equally impossible for her "to make common cause with the enemies of the Serbs and to fall upon them, since they are our allies. It seems to me that the interests of Greece demand an absolute neutrality and the maintenance of the status quo in the Balkans such as it has been created by the Treaty of Bucharest." He went on to add that Greece was determined, in concert with Rumania, to prevent Bulgaria from aggrandizing herself at the expense of Servia; if that happened, the balance in the Balkans would be upset and it would bring about the very Russian tutelage which the Kaiser feared. "This way of thinking," he concluded, "is shared by the whole of my people."

What the Kaiser thought of these opinions was summed up in one word on the margin, "Rubbish." This, however, was not meant for his brother-in-law's ears. To him he {10} used less terse language. On 4 August he informed King Constantine through the Greek Minister in Berlin that an alliance had that day been concluded between Germany and Turkey, that Bulgaria and Rumania were similarly ranging themselves on Germany's side, and that the German men-of-war in the Mediterranean were going to join the Turkish fleet in order to act together. Thus all the Balkan States were siding with Germany in the struggle against Slavism. Would Greece alone stand out? His Imperial Majesty appealed to King Constantine as a comrade, as a German Field Marshal of whom the German Army was proud, as a brother-in-law; he reminded him that it was thanks to his support that Greece was allowed to retain Cavalla; he begged him to mobilize his army, place himself by the Kaiser's side and march hand in hand against the common enemy—Slavism. He made this urgent appeal for the last time, convinced that the King of Greece would respond to it. If not, all would be over between the two countries—this being a slightly attenuated version of another marginal note: "I will treat Greece as an enemy if she does not adhere at once."

King Constantine's answer was tactful but final: His personal sympathies and his political opinions, he said, were on the Kaiser's side. But alas! that which the Kaiser asked him to do was completely out of the question. Greece could not under any conceivable circumstances side against the Entente: the Mediterranean was at the mercy of the united French and British fleets, which could destroy the Greek marine, both royal and mercantile, take the Greek islands, and wipe Greece off the map. Things being so, neutrality, he declared, was the only policy for Greece, and he ended up by meeting the Kaiser's threat with a counter-threat, none the less pointed for being veiled under the guise of an "assurance not to touch his friends among my neighbours (i.e. Bulgaria and Turkey) as long as they do not touch our local Balkan interests." [8]

{11}

Germany did not immediately resign herself to this rebuff. The Kaiser's Government thought King Constantine's attachment to neutrality reasonable—for the present; but at the same time urged Greece to enter as soon as possible into a secret understanding with Bulgaria and Turkey for eventual action against Servia, describing the latter country as the bear's skin of which it would be a good stroke of business for Greece to secure a share. The German Minister at Athens, better acquainted with Greek views and feelings, took a less naive line. He did not want Greece to attack her ally, but was content to advise that she should free herself from the ties that bound her to Servia, and in the event of Bulgarian aggression just leave her ally in the lurch. But, if he went less far than his chief in one direction, he went farther in another, threatening, should Greece move on Servia's behalf, to ask for his passport. This threat, like all the others, failed to move the Athens Government;[9] and, unable to gain Greece as an ally, Germany was henceforth glad enough not to have her as an enemy.

So far all those responsible for the policy of Greece appeared to be unanimous in the decision not to be drawn prematurely into the European cataclysm, but to reserve her forces for the defence of the Balkan equilibrium. Under this apparent unanimity, however, lay divergent tendencies.

King Constantine, a practical soldier, estimated that the European War would be of long duration and doubtful issue: in this battle of giants he saw no profit for pygmies, but only perils. At the same time, he did not forget that Greece had in Bulgaria and Turkey two embittered enemies {12} who would most probably try to fish in the troubled waters. If they did so, he was prepared to fight; but to fight with a definite objective and on a definite military plan which took into account the elements of time, place, and resources.

The King's standpoint was shared by most Greek statesmen and soldiers of note: they all, in varying degrees, stood for neutrality, with possible intervention on the side of the Entente at some favourable moment. But it did not commend itself to his Premier. Caution was foreign to M. Venizelos's ambitious and adventurous temperament. Military considerations had little meaning for his civilian mind. Taking the speedy victory of the Entente as a foregone conclusion, and imbued with a sort of mystical faith in his own prophetic insight and star, he looked upon the European War as an occasion for Imperialist aggrandizement which he felt that Greece ought to grasp without an instant's delay.

It was not long before the underlying divergence came to the surface.

In the morning of 18 August, at a full Cabinet Meeting, M. Streit mentioned that the Russian Minister had privately referred to the possibility of Greece sending 150,000 men to fight with Servia against the Austrians on the Danube—far away from the Greek Army's natural base in Macedonia. On hearing this M. Venizelos impulsively declared that he was ready to place all the Greek forces at the disposal of the Entente Powers in accordance with their invitation. M. Streit remonstrated that there had been no "invitation," but at most a sounding from one of the Entente Ministers, which Greece should meet with a counter-sounding, in order to learn to what extent the suggestion was serious. Further, he objected that, before Greece committed herself, it was necessary to find out where she would be expected to fight, the conditions under which she would fight, and the compensations which she would receive in the event of victory. As a last resort he proposed to adjourn the discussion until the afternoon. But M. Venizelos answered that there was no time to lose: the War would be over in three weeks.[10] Whereupon {13} M. Streit resigned, and M. Venizelos offered to the Entente Ministers the adhesion of Greece forthwith.

The terms in which this offer was couched have never been divulged; but from the French Minister's descriptions of it as made "a titre gracieux" and "sans conditions," [11] it seems to have been unconditional and unqualified. On the other hand, M. Venizelos at a later period explained that he had offered to place Greece at the disposal of the Entente Powers, if Turkey went to war with them.[12] And it is not improbable that the primary objective in his mind was Turkey, who still refused to relinquish her claims to the islands conquered by the Greeks in 1912, and had just strengthened her navy with two German units, the Goeben and the Breslau. However that may be, King Constantine seconded the offer, expressing himself quite willing to join the Entente there and then with the whole of his army, but stipulating, on the advice of the General Staff, that the Greek forces should not be moved to any place where they could not, if need arose, operate against Bulgaria.

The King of England telegraphed to the King of Greece, thanking him for the proposal, which, he said, his Government would consider. The French and Russian Governments expressed lively satisfaction, France, however, adding: "For the moment we judge that Greece must use all her efforts to make Turkey observe her promised neutrality, and to avoid anything that might lead the Turkish Government to abandon its neutrality." The British answer, when it came at last, was to the same effect: England wished by all means to avoid a collision with Turkey and advised that Greece also should avoid a collision. She only suggested for the present an understanding between the Staffs with a view to eventual action.

This suggestion was apparently a concession to Mr. Winston Churchill, who just then had formed the opinion that Turkey would join the Central Powers, and had arranged with Lord Kitchener that two officers of the Admiralty should meet two officers of the War Office to work out a plan for the seizure, by means of a Greek army, of the {14} Gallipoli Peninsula, with a view to admitting a British fleet to the Sea of Marmara.[13] But it no way affected the British Government's policy. The utmost that England and France were prepared to do in order to meet the offer of Greece, and that only if she were attacked, was to prevent the Turkish fleet from coming out of the Dardanelles; France also holding out some hope of financial assistance, but none of war material on an adequate scale.[14]

Such a reception of his advances was not very flattering to M. Venizelos—it made him look foolish in the eyes of those who had pleaded against precipitancy; and he took the earliest opportunity to vent his ill-humour. King Constantine, in a reply to the British Admiralty drafted with Vice-Admiral Mark Kerr, stated that he would not fight Turkey unless attacked by her—a statement in strict consonance with the wishes of the Entente Powers at the time. But M. Venizelos objected. After his own declarations to the Entente Ministers, and after the exchange of telegrams with the King of England, he told his sovereign he did not consider this reply possible. Turkey was their enemy, and was it wise for them to reject a chance of fighting her with many and powerful allies, so that they might eventually have to fight her single-handed?[15]

Thus M. Venizelos argued, in the face of express evidence that those allies did not desire the immediate participation of Greece in a war against Turkey—because, anxious above all things to establish close contact with them, he wanted the offer to remain open: "a promise that, should at any time the Powers consider us useful in a war against Turkey . . . we would be at their disposal." [16] And he professed himself unable to understand how a course which appeared so clear to him could possibly be obscure to others. But he had a theory—a theory which served him henceforward as a stock explanation of every difference of opinion, and in which the political was skilfully mixed {15} with the personal factor. According to this theory, when face to face with M. Venizelos, the King seldom failed to be convinced; but as soon as M. Venizelos withdrew, he changed his mind. This happened not once, but many times.[17] We have here a question of psychology which cannot be casually dismissed. M. Venizelos's persuasive powers are notorious, and it is highly probable that King Constantine underwent the fascination which this man had for others. But behind it all, according to the Venizelist theory, lurked another element:

"What, I think, confuses things and begets in the mind of your Majesty and of M. Streit tendencies opposed to those supported by me, is the wish not to displease Germany by undertaking a war against Turkey in co-operation with Powers hostile to her." Although M. Streit had laid down his portfolio, he continued to be consulted by the King, with the result, M. Venizelos complained, that the difference of opinions between the ex-Minister for Foreign Affairs and himself was fast developing into a divergence of courses between the Crown and the Cabinet: such a state of things was obviously undesirable, and M. Venizelos, "in order to facilitate the restoration of full harmony between the Crown and its responsible advisers," offered his resignation.[18]

M. Venizelos did not resign after all. But his letter marks an epoch none the less. At first, as we have seen, the avowed policy of the Premier, of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, and of the King was the same. The difference which now emerges is that M. Venizelos desired to throw Greece into the War immediately, without conditions and without any invitation from the Entente, while the King and M. Streit were more circumspect. M. Venizelos chose to interpret their circumspection as prompted by regard for Germany, and did not hesitate to convey this view to Entente quarters. It was, perhaps, a plausible insinuation, since the King had a German wife and M. Streit was of German descent. But, as a matter of fact, at the moment when it was made, King Constantine voluntarily presented to the British Admiralty through Admiral Kerr the plans for the taking of the Dardanelles which his Staff had {16} elaborated, and for a long time afterwards continued to supply the British Government, through the same channel, with information from his secret service.[19]



[1] See Art. 1 of the Military Convention. As this article originally stood, the promise of mutual support was expressly limited to the "case of war between Greece and Bulgaria or between Servia and Bulgaria." It was altered at the eleventh hour at Servia's request, and not without objections on the part of Greek military men, into a "case of war between one of the allied States and a third Power breaking out under the circumstances foreseen by the Graeco-Servian Treaty of Alliance." But the only circumstances foreseen and provided for by that Treaty relate to war with Bulgaria, and it is a question whether any other interpretation would stand before a court of International Law, despite the "third Power" phrase in the Military Convention. All the documents are to be found in the White Book, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 6.

[2] See Art. 5 of the Military Convention.

[3] White Book, Nos. 19, 20, 22.

[4] White Book, Nos. 11, 13, 14.

[5] White Book, No. 23.

[6] Streit to Greek Legations, Paris, London, Petersburg, Berlin, Vienna, Rome, Constantinople, Bucharest, Sofia, Nish. (No. 23,800.)

[7] Ibid.

[8] Part of the correspondence is to be found in Die deutschen Dokumente zum Kriegsausbruch, by Count Mongelas and Prof. Walter Schuking; part in the White Book, Nos. 24 and 26. As much acrimonious discussion has arisen over King Constantine's last dispatch, it is worth while noting the circumstances under which it was sent. Vice-Admiral Mark Kerr, Chief of the British Naval Mission in Greece, relates how the King brought the Kaiser's telegram and read it to him: "He was indignant at the interference in his country's affairs. However, to stop such telegrams coming in daily, he determined to send on this occasion a sympathetic answer." (See The Times, 9 Dec., 1920.) The communication, therefore, was no secret from the British Government. Nor was it from M. Venizelos; for the King's dispatch is but a summary of an identical declaration made by M. Venizelos's Government itself to the German Government: Streit to Greek Legation, Berlin, 26 July/8 Aug., 1914. Though omitted from the White Book, this document may now be read in the Balkan Review, Dec., 1920, pp. 381-3.

[9] White Book, Nos. 28, 29, 30.

[10] My authority for this glimpse behind the scenes is M. Streit himself.

[11] Deville, pp. 119, 128.

[12] Orations, pp. 93-4.

[13] Dardanelles Commission. Supplement to First Report, par. 45.

[14] Gennadius, London, 20 Aug./2 Sept.; 21 Aug./3 Sept.; 23 Aug./5 Sept.; Romanos, Paris, 16/29 Aug., 1914.

[15] White Book, No. 31.

[16] See Orations, p. 103.

[17] Ibid, pp. 41-2, 98.

[18] White Book, No. 31.

[19] See the Admiral's statements in the Weekly Dispatch, 21 Nov., and in The Times, 9 Dec., 1920. Though the plans in question were not used, they were among the very few sources of reliable information with which Sir Ian Hamilton left England to take up the command of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force.—Dardanelles Commission, Final Report, par. 17.



{17}

CHAPTER II

Before proceeding any further with the development of the position in Greece, it will be well to cast a glance on the attitudes maintained by the other Balkan States and the views entertained towards them by the Entente Powers. One must know all the possible combinations on the Balkan chess-board before one can profitably study or estimate the real place of the Greek pawn.

Bulgaria proclaimed her firm intention to remain neutral; but, to judge from the Greek diplomatic representatives' reports, there was every indication that she only awaited a favourable opportunity, such as some brilliant military success of the Central Powers, in order to invade Servia without risk. Meanwhile, well-armed irregular bands, equipped by the Bulgarian Government and commanded by Bulgarian officers "on furlough," made their appearance on the Servian frontier, and the Bulgarian Press daily grew more hostile in its tone.[1]

Alarmed by these symptoms, the Greek General Staff renewed the efforts which it had been making since the beginning of 1914, to concert plans with the Servian military authorities for common action in accordance with their alliance, and asked the Servian Minister of War if, in case Bulgaria ordered a general mobilization, Servia would be disposed to bring part of her forces against her, so as to prevent the concentration of the Bulgarian army and give the Greek army time to mobilize. The reply was that, if Bulgaria did order mobilization, the Serbs were obliged to turn against her with all their available forces. Only, as Austria had just started an offensive, nobody could know how many forces they would have available—perhaps they could face the situation with the 25,000 or 30,000 men in the new provinces; but, in {18} any case, it did not seem that Bulgaria meant to mobilize, or, if she did, it would be against Turkey. A little later, in answer to another Greek step, M. Passitch, the Servian Premier, after a conference with the military chiefs, stated that, as long as there was no imminent danger from Bulgaria, Servia could not draw troops from the Austrian frontier, because of her engagements towards the Entente, and that, should the danger become imminent, Servia would have to consult first the Entente.[2] By Entente, he meant especially Russia, for M. Sazonow had already told the Greek Minister at Petrograd that it was all-important that the Servian army should be left free to devote its whole strength against the Austrians.[3]

Rumania, on whose co-operation Greece counted for restraining Bulgaria and preserving the balance established by the Treaty of Bucharest, maintained an equivocal attitude: both belligerent groups courted her, and it was as yet uncertain which would prevail.[4] For the present Rumanian diplomacy was directed to the formation of a Balkan bloc of neutrality—between Rumania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece—which might enable those four States to remain at peace with each other and the whole world, exempt from outside interference. The first step to the realization of this idea, the Rumanian Government considered, was a settlement of the differences between Greece and Turkey; and, in compliance with its invitation, both States sent their plenipotentiaries to Bucharest.

The only result of this mission was to enlighten the Hellenic Government on Turkey's real attitude. At the very first sitting, the Turkish delegate, Talaat Bey, in answer to a remark that the best thing for the Balkan States would be to keep out of the general conflagration, blurted out: "But Turkey is no longer free as to her movements"—an avowal of the Germano-Turkish alliance which the Greeks already knew from the Kaiser's own indiscretions. After that meeting, in a conversation with the Rumanian Minister for Foreign Affairs, which that gentleman reported to the Greeks, Talaat said that, in his opinion, Greece could ignore her Servian alliance, for, {19} as things stood, she might find herself at war, not only with Bulgaria, but also with Turkey—a contingency not foreseen when that alliance was made. From these utterances the Greeks derived a clear impression that Talaat acted on a plan drawn up in Berlin.[5] For the rest, the despatch of the Goeben and the Breslau to Constantinople, followed by the continued arrival of German officers and sailors for the Ottoman Navy, spoke for themselves. M. Sazonow shared the Greek conviction that Turkey had made up her mind, and that no amount of concessions would avail: "It is," he said to the Greek Minister at Petrograd, "an abscess which must burst." [6] The Greeks had even reason to suspect that Turkey was secretly negotiating an agreement with Bulgaria, and on this point also the information of the Russian Government confirmed theirs.[7]

It was his intimate knowledge of the Balkan situation that had inspired King Constantine's proposal to the Entente Powers in August for common action against Turkey, qualified with the stipulation of holding Bulgaria in check. The proposal took cognizance of Balkan difficulties and might perhaps have solved them, had it been accepted: an advance of the Greek army on Thrace, combined with a naval attack by the British Fleet, early in September, might have settled Turkey, secured Bulgaria's neutrality, if not indeed her co-operation, or forced her into a premature declaration of hostility, and decided Rumania to throw in her lot with us.

But the Entente Powers were not yet ripe for action against Turkey: they were still playing—with what degree of seriousness is a delicate question—for the neutrality of Turkey, and for that Greek neutrality was necessary. As to Bulgaria, our diplomacy harboured a different project: the reconstruction of the Balkan League of 1912 in our favour, on the basis of territorial concessions to be made to Bulgaria by Servia and Greece, who were to be compensated by dividing Albania between them. Greece also had from England an alternative suggestion—expansion in Asia Minor: a vague and {20} unofficial hint, destined to assume imposing dimensions later on. At this stage, however, the whole project lacked precise outline. One plan of the reconstructed League included Rumania—who also was to make concessions to Bulgaria and to receive compensations at the expense of Austria; and the League was to be brought into the field on the side of the Entente. Another plan had less ambitious aims: Servia and Greece by conciliating Bulgaria were to prevent a combination of Rumania, Bulgaria, and Turkey, or of Bulgaria and Turkey, on the side of the Central Powers. The more sanguine plan was especially cherished by Great Britain; the other by Russia, who feared a Rumano-Bulgaro-Turkish combination against her. But the key-stone in both was Bulgaria, whose co-operation, or at least neutrality, was to be purchased at the cost of Servia and Greece.[8] Meanwhile, the less serious the Entente Powers' hopes for Turkey's neutrality, the more lively their anxiety must have been about Bulgaria's attitude; and it is not improbable that in repelling King Constantine's offer, they were actuated not so much by the wish to avoid Turkish hostility—the reason given—as by the fear lest the stipulation which accompanied his offer, if accepted, should provoke Bulgaria.

Highly speculative as this project was, it might have materialized if Serbs and Greeks were willing to pay the price. But neither Serbs nor Greeks would think of such a thing. At the mere report that they were about to be asked to cede Cavalla, the Greeks went mad, and M. Venizelos himself, though he favoured the reconstruction of the Balkan League, loudly threatened, if the demand was formulated, to resign. Whereupon, his consternation having been transmitted to the Entente capitals, he received an assurance that no demand of the sort would be made[9]—for the present.



[1] Naoum, Sofia, 11, 20 Aug. (O.S.); Alexandropoulos, Nish, 19 July, 19 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[2] Alexandropoulos, Nish, 31 July, 19, 26 Aug. (O.S.) 1914.

[3] Dragoumis, Petersburg, 20 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[4] Politis, Bucharest, 27 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[5] Politis, Bucharest, 15 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[6] Dragoumis, Petersburg, 17 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[7] Dragoumis, ibid.

[8] Gennadius, London, 8, 10, 15, 23 Aug.; Romanos, Paris, 31 July, 16 Aug.; Dragoumis, Petersburg, 31 July, 12, 20 Aug.; Naoum, Sofia, 31 July, 11, 20, 23 Aug.; Alexandropoulos, Nish, 18 Aug.; Papadiamantopoulos, Bucharest, 25 July (O.S.), 1914.

[9] Venizelos to Greek Legations, Petersburg, Bordeaux, London, 2 Sept. (O.S.), 1914.



{21}

CHAPTER III

Two tasks now lay before the Allies in the East: to help Servia, and to attack Turkey, who had entered the War on 31 October. Both enterprises were "under consideration"—which means that the Entente Cabinets were busy discussing both and unable to decide on either. Distracted by conflicting aims and hampered by inadequate resources, they could not act except tentatively and in an experimental fashion.

At the beginning of November the representatives of France, England, and Russia at Athens collectively seconded a Servian appeal for assistance to M. Venizelos, which the Greek Premier met with a flat refusal. He gave his reasons: such action, he said, would infallibly expose Greece to aggression from Bulgaria, and it was more than probable that an automatic agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey might engage the Greek army in a struggle with the forces of three Powers at once. Even if the attack came from Bulgaria alone, he added, the Greek army needed three weeks to concentrate at Salonica and another month to reach the theatre of the Austro-Servian conflict, and in that interval the Bulgarian army, invading Servia, would render impossible all contact between the Greek and Servian armies. The Entente Ministers endeavoured to overcome these objections by assuring M. Venizelos that Bulgaria could not possibly range herself against Russia, France, and England; and besides, they said, their Governments could ask Rumania to guarantee Bulgarian neutrality. M. Venizelos replied that, if the co-operation of Bulgaria with Rumania and Greece were secured, then the Greeks could safely assist Servia in an effective manner; or the next best thing might be an undertaking by Rumania to guarantee the neutrality of Bulgaria; and he proceeded to ascertain the Rumanian Government's views on the subject. He learnt that, in {22} answer to a question put to the Rumanian Premier by the Entente Ministers at Bucharest, "whether he would undertake to guarantee the neutrality of Bulgaria towards Greece if the latter Power sent succour to the Serbs," M. Bratiano, while professing the greatest goodwill towards Greece and the Entente, declined to give any such undertaking.[1] Add another important fact to which the Greek Government had its attention very earnestly drawn about this time—that not only Servia, but even Belgium, experienced the greatest difficulty in procuring from France the munitions and money necessary for continuing the struggle.[2]

In the circumstances, there was no alternative for M. Venizelos but to adopt the prudent attitude which on other occasions he was pleased to stigmatize as "pro-German." True, his refusal to move in November was hardly consistent with his eagerness to do so in August; but, taking into account his temperament, we must assume that he had made that rash a titre gracieux offer blindfold. Events had not borne out his predictions of a speedy victory, and, though his faith in the ultimate triumph of the Entente remained unshaken, he had come to realize that, for the present at any rate, it behoved Hellas to walk warily.[3]

Some ten weeks passed, and then (23 January, 1915) Sir Edward Grey again asked M. Venizelos for assistance to Servia in the common interest; as Austria and Germany seemed bent on crushing her, it was essential that all who could should lend her their support. If Greece ranged herself by Servia's side as her ally, the Entente Powers would willingly accord her very important territorial concessions on the Asia Minor Coast. The matter was {23} urgent, for, were Servia crushed, though the ultimate defeat of Austria and Germany would not be thereby affected, there would during the War come about in the Balkans accomplished facts which would make it difficult or even impossible for either Servia or Greece to obtain afterwards arrangements as favourable as those actually in view. Conversely, the immediate participation of Greece and Rumania in the War would, by bringing about the defeat of Austria, secure the realization of Greek, Rumanian and Servian aspirations. To render such participation effective, it was desirable that Bulgaria should be assured that, if Servian and Greek aspirations elsewhere were realized, she would obtain satisfactory compensations in Macedonia, on condition that she came in or at least maintained a not malevolent neutrality. But the question of compensations affected chiefly Servia: all he asked of M. Venizelos on that point was not to oppose any concessions that Servia might be inclined to make to Bulgaria.

Whether this semi-official request amounted to a proposal or was merely in the nature of a suggestion is hard to determine. But M. Venizelos seems to have understood it in the latter sense, for in speaking of it he made use of the very informal adjective "absurd." No one, indeed, could seriously believe that Bulgaria would be induced to co-operate, or even to remain neutral, by the hypothetical and partial promises which Sir Edward Grey indicated; and with a potentially hostile Bulgaria in her flank Greece could not march to Servia's aid. So M. Venizelos, under the impulse of ambition, set his energetic brain to work, and within a few hours produced a scheme calculated to correct the "absurdity" of the British notion, to earn the gratitude of the Entente to himself, and an Asiatic Empire for his country. It was nothing less than a complete reversal of his former attitude: that Greece should not only withdraw her opposition to concessions on the part of Servia, but should voluntarily sacrifice Cavalla to the Bulgars, provided they joined the Allies forthwith. This scheme he embodied in a lengthy memorandum which he submitted to the King.

M. Venizelos recognized how painful a sacrifice the cession of Cavalla would be, and therefore he had to use very strong arguments to commend it to his Majesty. In the {24} first place, he emphasized the imperative need of helping Servia, since, should Servia be crushed, the Austro-German armies might be tempted to advance on Salonica, or Bulgaria might be invited to take possession of Servian Macedonia, in which case Greece would have either to let the Balkan balance of power go by the board, or, in accordance with her Treaty, go to Servia's assistance under much more disadvantageous conditions. In the second place, he argued that the sacrifice of Cavalla was well worth making, since Greece would eventually receive in Asia Minor compensations which would render her greater and more powerful than the most sanguine Greek could even have dreamt a few years before; and in Macedonia itself the loss of Cavalla could be partially compensated for by a rectification of frontiers involving the acquisition from Servia of the Doiran-Ghevgheli district.

In the event of Bulgaria accepting Cavalla and the Servian concessions as the price of her alliance, M. Venizelos argued that the outcome would be a reconstructed League of the Balkan States which would not only ensure them against defeat, but would materially contribute to the victory of the Entente Powers: even the ideal of a lasting Balkan Federation might be realized by a racial readjustment through an interchange of populations. Should Bulgarian greed prove impervious, Greece must secure the co-operation of Rumania, without which it would be too risky for her to move.[4]

Sacrifices of territory, in King Constantine's opinion, were out of the question; but he thought that, if Rumania agreed to co-operate, it might be possible for Greece to go to Servia's assistance, as in that case Bulgaria could perhaps be held in check by Rumanian and Greek forces left along her northern and southern frontiers. The Bucharest Government was accordingly sounded, and returned an answer too evasive to justify reliance on its co-operation. So M. Venizelos fell back on the scheme of buying Bulgarian co-operation by the cession of Cavalla, and submitted a second memorandum to the King.

If the first of these documents was remarkable for its optimism, the second might justly be described as a {25} masterpiece of faith pure and undefiled by any contact with sordid facts. Its theme is the magnitude of the compensations which Greece might expect in return for her entry into the War: "I have a feeling," says the author, "that the concessions in Asia Minor suggested by Sir Edward Grey can, especially if we submit to sacrifices to the Bulgars, assume such dimensions as to double the size of Greece. I believe that if we demanded"—he specifies in detail a vast portion of Western Asia Minor—"our demand would probably be granted." He calculated that the surface of this territory exceeds 125,000 (the figure was soon raised to 140,000) square kilometres, while the area to be ceded in Macedonia did not exceed 2,000 square kilometres, and that loss would be further halved by the acquisition from Servia of the Doiran-Ghevgheli district, which covered some 1,000 square kilometres. Thus, in point of territory, Greece would be giving up a hundred and fortieth part of what she would be getting. In point of population also Greece would be receiving twenty-five times as much as she would be sacrificing—an accretion of 800,000 as against a loss of 30,000 souls; and that loss could be obviated by obliging Bulgaria to buy up the property of the Cavalla Greeks, who, he had no doubt, would gladly emigrate en masse to Asia Minor, to reinforce the Greek element there. How was it possible to hesitate about seizing such an opportunity—an opportunity for the creation of a Greece powerful on land and supreme in the Aegean Sea—"an opportunity verily presented to us by Divine Providence for the realization of our most audacious national ideals"—presented to-day and never likely to occur again?

M. Venizelos did not doubt but that a transaction which appeared so desirable and feasible to him must appear equally desirable and feasible to others: and great was his surprise to find that such was by no means the case. The General Staff, he complained, "seem, strangely, not attracted strongly by these views." And the same might be said of everyone who judged, not by the glow of prophetic insight, but by a cold examination of facts. When Asia Minor was first mentioned to the Greek Minister in London, that shrewd diplomat answered: "Greece would not commit such a folly, for the day she set foot in {26} Asia Minor she would find herself up against Great Powers as well as against Turkey." [5] At Athens to this objection were added others not less weighty. The General Staff pointed out that Greece had neither the men nor the money required for the permanent occupation and efficient administration of that distant region. They feared both the difficulties of defending those Turkish territories in Asia and the danger of future attack from Bulgaria in Europe. In short, they held that Greece by embarking on what they aptly termed a Colonial policy would be undertaking responsibilities wholly incommensurate with her resources.[6]

Dangers and difficulties! cried M. Venizelos: can you allow such things to stand in the way of national ideals? And he proceeded to demolish the obstructions: the administrative success achieved in Macedonia proved that the resources of Greece were equal to fresh responsibilities; the Turks of Asia Minor—after the total disappearance of the Ottoman Empire, which he deemed inevitable—would become contented and law-abiding Greek subjects, and at all events the local Greek population would in a very short space of time supply all the forces needed to maintain order in Asia, leaving the main Greek army free for the defence of the European frontiers. During that brief period of transition, he thought it easy to form an agreement with the Entente Powers for military assistance against a Bulgarian attack, or, even without the Entente, "should the Bulgars be so demented by the Lord as to attempt aggression, I have not the slightest doubt that Servia, moved by her treaty obligations, her interests, and her gratitude for our present aid, would again co-operate with us to humble Bulgarian insolence." [7]

Thus at a moment's notice M. Venizelos became an impassioned advocate of the policy of which he had hitherto been an impassioned opponent, and he would have us believe that the King, persuaded by his eloquence, authorised him to carry out his new plan. Be that as it may, M. Venizelos did not avail himself of this permission. {27} For almost simultaneously came the news of a Bulgarian loan contracted in the Austro-German market—an event which made him abandon all hopes of conciliating Bulgaria and profiting by the British overture. During the months when the revival of the Balkan League was perhaps still practicable, he had combated the only expedient which might have given it a chance of realization: by the time he became a convert, it was too late.

The Balkan situation remained as it was before Sir Edward Grey's suggestion: so much so that, when a few days later the Entente Powers again asked Greece to go to Servia's relief, offering her as security against the Bulgarian danger to transport to Macedonia a French and a British division, M. Venizelos, considering such security insufficient, again refused;[8] a refusal which, justified though it was, gave great umbrage.[9]

While the Greek Premier was going through these mental evolutions, the scene of Entente activity shifted: and his flexible mind perforce veered in a new direction.

As far back as 3 November, the outer forts of the Dardanelles had been subjected to a brief bombardment with the object of testing the range of their guns; and by 25 November the idea of a serious attack on the Straits had engaged the attention of the British War Council. But no decision was arrived at until January, when Russia, hard pressed by the Turks on the Caucasus, begged for a demonstration against them in some other quarter. In compliance with this appeal, the British War Council then decided to attempt to force the Dardanelles by means of the Navy alone. After the failure of the naval attack of 19 February, however, it was realized that the operations would have to be supplemented by military action;[10] and as the magnitude of the enterprise became clearer and the troops at the disposal of England and France were very limited, the need of securing Balkan allies became more obvious.

From the first greater importance was attached to Bulgarian co-operation than to Greek. Even the grant of {28} a loan to Sofia by the Central Powers appears to have produced little or no impression upon those concerned. Long afterwards it was admitted as a self-evident proposition that belligerents do not lend to neutrals without being satisfied that their money will not be used against themselves. But at the time, after a momentary shock, the Entente Governments were deluded, either by Bulgarian diplomacy or by their own wishes, into the belief that "Bulgaria would not commit the stupidity to refuse the advantages offered." [11] Nor, in thus reckoning on enlightened bad faith, were they alone. M. Venizelos, who a moment before had declared that the loan had opened his eyes to the fact "that Bulgaria was definitely committed to the Central Powers," now felt quite sure that, "notwithstanding the loan, Bulgaria was capable of betraying her then friends and turning towards those who promised her greater profits." [12] Anxious, therefore, to forestall the Bulgars, and concerned by the thought that he had been obliged on three occasions to decline requests from the Entente, he spontaneously proposed, on 1 March, to offer three Greek divisions for the Dardanelles expedition, stating that this proposal was made with King Constantine's assent.[13]

As a matter of fact, neither the King nor his General Staff approved of M. Venizelos's strategy. Having made a systematic study of the Dardanelles problem, they judged that the Allies' enterprise, even under the most skilful handling, presented but few chances, and those chances had been discounted in advance by utter want of skilful handling: the bombardment of the Straits in the previous November had given the Turks warning of the blow and ample time to prepare against it—and the Turks were no longer the happy-go-lucky fellows upon whose inefficiency one might formerly have counted; they now mounted guard over the gates of their capital equipped with German guns and commanded by German officers. The enterprise was likely to become more hazardous still by arousing the jealousy of the Bulgars. If, therefore, Greece did join in, besides all the other risks, she would expose herself to a {29} Bulgarian assault; and with a considerable portion of her forces engaged in Gallipoli, and no prospect either of Servian or of Rumanian assistance, how was she to face that assault?

The King's disapproval was known to no one better than to M. Venizelos himself. But, for all that, he felt entitled to tell the British Minister at Athens that he had the King's assent. Here is his own explanation: "The King was opposed to the enterprise. I sought another interview in order to speak to him again on the subject, and took with me a third memorandum"—which has never been published, and cannot yet be published. "I asked him to let me read it to him, for in it were set forth fully all the arguments which, in my opinion, imposed co-operation. I read it. I saw that the King became agitated. For—I must do him that justice—he rarely remained unconvinced when face to face with me. So profound was the emotion with which I spoke, so powerful were the arguments which I used that the King, greatly moved, said to me: 'Well, then, in the name of God.' That is, he assented." [14]

However, the General Staff remained unconvinced; and Colonel Metaxas, a brilliant soldier, then Acting-Chief of the Staff, resigned as a protest against military proposals being made by a Greek minister to other countries without previous consultation with the military experts of his own. M. Venizelos, on his part, was indignant that mere soldiers should presume to meddle with the plans of statesmen; his view being that the Staff's business was simply to carry out the policy of the Government. Nevertheless, impressed by this resignation, he suggested the meeting of a Crown Council composed of all the ex-Premiers, that their opinions might be heard. The Council met on 3 March and again on 5 March. At the first sitting M. Venizelos admitted that the objections of the military experts, without altering his own convictions, might still inspire doubt as to which policy was preferable: neutrality or intervention. Should the policy of neutrality be adopted, it must be carried on by a new Cabinet, to which he would accord his parliamentary support. At the second sitting he endeavoured to remove the objections of the military experts by reducing his proposed contribution to the {30} Gallipoli expedition from three divisions to one, which should be replaced in the existing cadres by a division of reserves, so as to leave the Greek Army practically intact against a possible attack from Bulgaria. And having thus modified the conditions of intervention, he refused to entertain any other policy or to support a Cabinet pledged to neutrality.[15]

Momentarily infected by the Cretan's enthusiasm, nearly all present urged upon the King the acceptance of his proposal; one of them, M. Rallis, even going so far as to say: "Sire, pray consider that you have a Government clothed with the full confidence of the nation. Let it carry out its policy. Else, you will incur undue responsibility." The King's answer was: "If you wish it, I will abdicate." [16] He would rather give up his crown than assume the responsibility of sanctioning a policy which his whole military training and experience told him was insane and suicidal: how justly, the event soon showed. The losses of men and ships which Gallipoli cost far exceeded the whole of Greece's military and naval resources; and if that cost proved more than embarrassing to England and France, it would have literally ruined Greece. M. Rallis and the other ex-Premiers in less than a fortnight gratefully recognised the justness of the King's opposition to their views,[17] and thenceforth parted company with M. Venizelos.

Meanwhile M. Venizelos hastened from the Palace to the British Legation, and, "in order to save time till he could make an official demarche," he made to the Entente Ministers there assembled a semi-official communication to this effect: "Following the natural evolution of its policy of solidarity with the Entente Powers, the Royal Government has judged that the Dardanelles operations afford it a favourable occasion to translate its sentiments into deeds by abandoning its neutrality and offering its co-operation in that enterprise with the whole of its Fleet and one division of its army." All this, "though the King {31} has not yet given his adhesion." [18] His hurry arose from the belief that the Allies would reach Constantinople in a few days.

But the General Staff still remained unconvinced. Yes, they said, one division to begin with; but what if the Allies get stuck in the Straits, as we believe they will be, and call upon us for more? And, once we join them, how can we refuse to supply their needs? We shall be incurring unlimited liabilities. So the King, who had full confidence in his military advisers, and who could not bring himself to look upon the Gallipoli adventure as a "serious enterprise," [19] declined his adhesion to M. Venizelos's plan; and M. Venizelos resigned in wrath (6 March).

Then came the Entente replies to his communication; from which it appeared that, as in August, 1914, so now the impetuous Cretan ran ahead of the Powers: that, whilst he was inveighing against everyone who would not let Greece co-operate with them, they had not yet even agreed as to whether they desired her co-operation.

England regarded the communication as a merely preliminary and preparatory step, and waited for a definite proposal after the King's decision, when she would consult with her allies. France and Russia insisted on the impossibility of Greece limiting her participation to a war against Turkey alone: to be an effective partner of the Entente, Greece must be prepared to fight Austria and Germany also. France added that the question of the participation of Greece in the Dardanelles enterprise could not be a useful subject of discussion between the Allies until a definite decision by the Greek Government was taken. Russia did not even envisage the usefulness of such a discussion. M. Sazonow pointedly declared that he did not consider Greek co-operation in the Dardanelles at all necessary, that the question of the Straits and of Constantinople ought to be settled by the Entente Powers alone without the intervention of third parties, and that Russia did not desire the entry of a Greek army into Constantinople, though she had no objection to its operating against Smyrna or elsewhere.[20]

{32}

Some days later, it is true, M. Delcasse affirmed that he had overcome Russia's repugnance;[21] but, though it is probable that Russia, yielding to pressure, would have accepted the participation of Greek troops, she made no secret of her satisfaction at not having had to do so: "We heartily consent to your receiving large compensations in Asia Minor," said the Russian Minister at Athens, in the presence of his British colleague, to a high official of the Greek Ministry for Foreign Affairs. "But as to Constantinople, we prefer that you should not come there; it would afterwards be painful for you and disagreeable for everybody to turn you out." [22]

M. Venizelos knew these views perfectly well, and did not covet Constantinople: what he coveted, so far as material gains went, were the large compensations in Asia Minor.[23] There lay the chief objective of his strategy, and its net outcome was to widen the breach between him and those elements in the country which still believed that the policy of Greece must be governed by the solid necessities of the Balkan situation, not by nebulous visions of Imperialist expansion.



[1] Psycha to Venizelos, Bucharest, 23 Oct./6 Nov.; Venizelos to Greek Legations, London, Bordeaux, Petersburg, 24 Oct./7 Nov., 1914.

[2] Romanos, Bordeaux, 19 Nov., 1914.

[3] He explained, three years afterwards, that at the time of making his offer of 18 Aug., 1914, he bore in mind "the impossibility of going to Servia's assistance on account of the danger from Bulgaria."—Orations, p. 93. But precisely similar was the objection to going against Turkey without a guarantee of Bulgarian neutrality: only the Bulgars, in the one case, would have been on Greece's left flank and in the other on the right. The truth seems to be that the vision of M. Venizelos lacked the penetration which, in matters of this sort, can only come from long study and reflection.

[4] First Memorandum, 11/24 Jan., in the Nea Hellas, 21 March (O.S.), 1915.

[5] Gennadius, London, 10 Aug. (O.S.), 1914.

[6] Orations, p. 43.

[7] Second Memorandum, 17/30 Jan., in the Nea Hellas, 22 March (O.S.), 1915.

[8] See his own statement in the Nea Hellas, 22 March (O.S.), 1915.

[9] Dragoumis, Petrograd, 16 Feb., 1915.

[10] Dardanelles Commission, First Report, pp. 14-5, 31-3; Final Report, pp. 6-8.

[11] Deville, pp. 163, 215.

[12] Orations, pp. 103, 104.

[13] Dardanelles Commission, Supplement to First Report, p. 3.

[14] Orations, pp. 105-6.

[15] See Extracts from the Crown Council Minutes, in the Balkan Review, Dec., 1920, pp. 384-5, which supplement M. Venizelos's very meagre account of these proceedings in Orations, pp. 107-8.

[16] Orations, pp. 266-7.

[17] Ibid, pp. 267-8.

[18] Venizelos to Greek Legations, London, Paris, Petrograd, 20 Feb./5 March, 1915.

[19] Orations, p. 267.

[20] Gennadius, London, 21 Feb.; Sicilianos, Paris, 22 Feb.; Dragoumis, Petrograd, 22 Feb. (O.S.), 1915.

[21] White Book, No. 37.

[22] "Conversation with M. Demidoff," Politis, Athens. 25 Feb./10 March, 1915.

[23] Orations, pp. 108, 113-14.



{33}

CHAPTER IV

Immediately after the resignation of M. Venizelos it was decided to dissolve the Chamber and to have General Elections, in which for the first time the territories conquered in 1912-13 would participate. Meanwhile, the King called upon M. Gounaris, a statesman of considerable ability, though with none of the versatility of mind and audacity of character which distinguished his predecessor, to carry on the Government and to preside over the elections. Under ordinary circumstances these would have taken place at once. But owing to the need of preparing electoral lists for the new provinces, they were delayed till 13 June, and owing to a serious illness of King Constantine which supervened—causing intense anxiety throughout the nation and bringing political life to a standstill—two more months passed before the new Parliament met. The interval proved fruitful in developments of far-reaching importance.

On its accession to power, the new Government issued a communique, announcing that it would pursue the policy adopted at the beginning of the War: a policy of neutrality qualified by a recognition of the obligations imposed by the Servian Alliance, and a determination to serve the interests of Greece without endangering her territorial integrity.[1] And as the Entente representatives at Athens expressed a certain disappointment at not finding in the communique any allusion to the Entente Powers,[2] M. Zographos, Minister for Foreign Affairs, in order to remove all uneasiness on that score, instructed the Greek representatives in London, Paris, and Petrograd to assure the respective Governments categorically that the new Ministry did not intend to depart in any way from the pro-Entente attitude dictated by hereditary sentiments and interests alike. The only {34} difference between the Venizelos and the Gounaris Cabinets—the difference which brought about the recent crisis and the change of Government—was one regarding the danger of immediate action, but did not affect the basis of Greek policy.[3]

That, by all the evidence available, was the truth. M. Gounaris thought as M. Venizelos thought, as King Constantine thought, as, indeed, every Greek capable of forming an opinion on international affairs thought—namely that, if Greece were to fight at all, interest and sentiment alike impelled her to fight on the side of the Entente.[4] The only question was whether she should enter the field then, and if so, on what conditions.

M. Venizelos persisted in declaring that the Dardanelles expedition presented "a great, a unique opportunity," which he prayed, "God grant that Greece may not miss." [5] His successors had no wish to miss the opportunity—if such it was. But neither had they any wish to leap in the dark. M. Gounaris and his colleagues lacked the Cretan's infinite capacity for taking chances. Even in war, where chance plays so great a part, little is gained except by calculation: the enterprise which is not carefully meditated upon in all its details is rarely crowned with success.

And so when, on 12 April, the representatives of the Entente signified to M. Gounaris their readiness to give Greece, in return for her co-operation against Turkey, the "territorial acquisitions in the vilayet of Aidin," suggested {35} to his predecessor, M. Gounaris tried to ascertain exactly the form of the co-operation demanded and the extent of the "territorial acquisitions in the vilayet of Aidin" offered. The British Minister replied as to the first point that, having no instructions, he was unable to give any details; and as for the second, that it referred to the "very important concessions on the Asia Minor coast" mentioned in Sir Edward Grey's communication of January. On being further pressed, he said it meant "Smyrna and a substantial portion of the hinterland"—a definition with which his Russian and French colleagues were inclined to concur, though both said that they had no instructions on the subject. Then M. Gounaris asked whether their Excellencies had transmitted to their respective Governments M. Venizelos's interpretation of Sir Edward Grey's offer regarding its geographical limits. The British Minister replied that he had no official knowledge of that interpretation; he had only heard of it semi-officially and had transmitted it to his Government, but had received no answer. The Russian Minister replied that he had transmitted nothing on the subject to his Government, as he had been informed of it in but a vague way by the late Cabinet. The French Minister stated that the subject had never been mentioned to him, and consequently he had not been in a position to make any communication to his Government.[6] Thus the grandiose Asiatic dominion of which M. Venizelos spoke so eloquently dwindled to "Smyrna and a substantial portion of the hinterland."

However, the King, the General Staff, and the Cabinet went on with their work, and were joined by Prince George, King Constantine's brother, who had come from Paris to Athens for the express purpose of discussing with the Government the question of entering the war against Turkey on the basis of guarantees to be determined by negotiations of which Paris might be the centre. In that order of ideas, they had already indicated as the best guarantee the simultaneous entry of Bulgaria, who, according to news from the Entente capitals, was on the point of joining. But this condition having proved {36} unrealisable—Bulgaria refusing to be bought except, if at all, at a price of Greek territory which Greece would on no account pay—they dropped it and set about considering by what other combinations they could come in without compromising their country's vital interests. The upshot of their deliberations was a proposal, dated 14 April, to the following effect:

If the Allies would give a formal undertaking to guarantee during the War, and for a certain period after its termination, the integrity of her territories, Greece would join them with all her military and naval forces in a war against Turkey, the definite objective of which would be the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire; for, unless the Ottoman Empire disappeared, the Greek hold on Smyrna would not be very firm. It was further stipulated that the Allies should define the territorial compensations as well as the facilities regarding money and war material which they would accord Greece in order to enable her to do her part of belligerent efficiently. On these conditions Greece would assume the obligation to enter the field as soon as the Allies were ready to combine their forces with hers. All military details were to be settled between the respective Staffs and embodied in a joint Military Convention, with this sole reservation that, if Bulgaria continued to stand out, the Greek Army's sphere of action could not be placed outside European Turkey. In an explanatory Note added a few days later, at the instance of the General Staff, stress was laid upon the ambiguous attitude of Bulgaria, on account of which the opinion was expressed that the Allies should be prepared to contribute forces which, combined with the Greek, would equal the united Turkish and Bulgarian forces, and that the sphere of Greek action should be limited to the west of the Gallipoli Peninsula; but it was agreed that, if the Allies wished it, they should have the military assistance of Greece on the Gallipoli Peninsula too, provided that they landed their own troops first.[7]

Of these proposals, which were not put forward as final, but rather as a basis of discussion, the Entente Powers did not condescend to take any notice. Only unofficially {37} the Greek Minister in Paris, on approaching M. Delcasse, was told that, since the Hellenic Government viewed the Dardanelles enterprise in a different light from them, an understanding seemed impossible and discussion useless; for the rest, that enterprise, for which England had desired the co-operation of the Greeks, was now carried on without them, and the situation was no longer the same as it was some days before. Alarmed by this snub, and anxious to dissipate any misunderstandings and doubts as to its dispositions towards the Entente, the Hellenic Government assured M. Delcasse that it continued always animated by the same desire to co-operate and would like to make new proposals, but before doing so it wished to know what proposals would be acceptable. M. Delcasse replied that he could not even semi-officially say what proposals would be acceptable.[8] But M. Guillemin, his former collaborator and later French Minister at Athens, then on a flying visit there, advised M. Zographos to abandon all conditions and take pot luck with the Allies.

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